In India, it was called tuft of Shiva, the Shiva God of destruction. Dancing girls sometimes drugged wine with its seeds, and whoever drank of the potion, appearing in possession of his senses, gave answers to questions, although he had no control of his will, was ignorant of whom he was addressing, and lost all memory of what he did when the intoxication wore off. For this reason, many Indians called the plant drunkard, madman, deceiver, foolmaker.
Shiva is God of destruction, Datura metel
The British traveler Hardwicke found this plant common in mountain villages in India in 1796 and reported that an infusion of the seeds was used to increase the intoxication from alcoholic drinks. During the Sanskritic period, Indian medicine valued Datura metel for treating mental disorders, various fevers, tumors, breast inflammations, skin diseases. In other parts of Asia, Datura metel was valued and similarly employed in native medicine and as an intoxicant. Even today, seeds or powdered leaves of this plant are often mixed with Cannabis or Tobacco and smoked in Indochina.
Datura Metel, native Indian medicine
In 1578, its use as an aphrodisiac in the East Indies was reported. From earliest classical times, the dangers of Datura were recognized. The English herbalist Gerard believed that Datura was the Hippomanes that the Greek writer Theocritus mentioned as driving horses mad. Datura stranzonium var. ferox, a species now widely distributed in the warmer parts of both hemispheres, has uses almost identical with those of Datura metel. It is employed especially in parts of Africa.
In Tanzania, it is added to Pombe, a kind of beer, for its inebriating to induce visual hallucinations but also for a great variety of medicinal uses, especially when applied to the body to relieve rheumatic pains and to reduce swellings. Writing shortly after the conquest of Mexico, Hernández mentioned its medicinal value but warned that excessive use would drive patients to madness with “various and vain imaginations.” Neither its magico religious nor its therapeutic use has diminished in Mexico.
Among the Yaqui, for example, it is taken by women to lessen the pain of childbirth. It is considered so powerful that it can be handled only by “someone of authority.” One ethnobotanist wrote: “My collecting these plants was often accompanied with warnings that I would go crazy and die because I was mistreating them. Some Indians refused to talk to me for several days afterward effects”
A common medical use in Africa is smoking the leaves to relieve asthma and pulmonary problems. In the New World, the Mexicans call Datura Toloache, a modern version of the ancient Aztec Toloatzin. It was also known in the Nahuatl language as Tolohuaxihuitl and Tlapatl. It was employed not only Toloache is rather widely added to mes- cal, a distilled liquor from A gave, or to Tesguino, a fermented maize drink, as an added intoxicant as a catalyst and to induce a good feeling and visions.
Some Mexicans prepare a fatty ointment containing seeds and leaves of Toloache, which is rubbed over the abdomen to in duce visual hallucinations. Datura innoxia has assumed extraordinary importance as a sacred element and is the most widely used plant to induce hallucinations.
The Zunis believe that the plant belongs to the Rain Priest Fraternity and rain priests alone may collect its roots. These priests put the powdered root into their eyes to commune with the Feathered Kingdom at night, and they chew the roots to ask the dead to intercede with the spirits for rain. These priests further use Datura innoxia for its analgesic effects, to deaden pain during simple operations, bone- setting, and cleaning ulcerated wounds.
The Yokut, who call the plant Tanayin, take the drug only during the spring, since it is considered to be poisonous in the summer; it is given to adolescent boys and girls only once in a lifetime to ensure a good and a long life.
Boys and girls of the Tubatulobal tribe drink Datura after puberty to “obtain life,” and adults use it to obtain visions. The roots are macerated and soaked in water for ten hours; after drinking large amounts of this liquor, the youths fall into a stupor accompanied by hallucinations that may last up to twenty-four hours. If an animalan eagle, a hawk, for example is seen during the visions, it becomes the child’s “pet” or spiritual mascot for life: if “life” is seen, the child acquires a ghost. The ghost is the ideal object to appear, since it cannot die.
Children never may kill the animal “pet” that they see in their Datura vision, for these “pets” may visit during serious illness and ef- fect a cure. The Yuman tribes believe that the re- action of braves under the influence of Toloache may foretell their future. These people use the plant to gain occult power. If birds sing to a man in a Datura trance, he acquires the power to cure. The Navajo take Datura for its visionary properties, valuing it for diagnosis, healing, and purely intoxicating use.
Navajo use is magic oriented. Visions induced by this drug are especially valued, since they reveal certain animals possessing special significance. Upon learning from these visions the cause of a disease, a chant may be prescribed. If a man be repulsed in love by a girl, he seeks revenge by putting her saliva or dust from her moccasins on a Datura, then the singing of a chant will immediately drive the girl mad. Datura stramonium is now believed to be native to eastern America, where the Algonquins and other tribes may have employed it as a ceremonial hallucinogen.
Indians of Virginia used a toxic medicine called wysoccan in initiatory rites: the Huskanawing ceremony. The active ingredient was probably Datura stramonium. Youths were confined for long periods, given no other substance but the infusion or decoction of some poisonous, intoxicating roots and they became stark, staring mad, in which raving condition they were kept eighteen or twenty days. During the ordeal, they “unlive their former lives” and begin manhood by losing all memory of ever having been boys.
Shiva hallucinogen God of destruction.