Because I'm sick with bronchial asthma and my brain is fried from all the meds I'm taking, I asked permission from McKenna Gebhard to use a post she wrote for Stilettoes at High Noon. She graciously agreed to let me use it.
I had hoped to broach the same topic since I had planned to post more from Lakota Woman, and her experiences with her husband, Leonard Crow Dog, who happened to be the peyote priest who introduced Mary to the "medicine".
I noticed Mckenna's warning at the beginning of her post, and I might be one of those who isn't in total agreement with the use of Peyote as I'm seeing in Lakota Woman, the ingestion of the plant provides a mental escape from reality by inducing hallucinations, very much UNLIKE Christian Communion where we delight in partaking simply because it's a celebration of our belief. The taste of what we are offered does not cause visions nor does it taste bitter or invoke vomiting. Of course, McKenna has offered a very viable comparison, but even other Indians criticize those who participated in Crow Dog's peyote ceremonies. In the peyote priest's words..."Grandfather Peyote,he has no mouth, but he speaks; no eyes, but he sees; no ears but he hears and he makes you listen."
Warning, the below presented views may be offensive to some and are not necessarily the shared views of the readers and or authors of this website.
So, picture this, you are in a church and it is time to take communion. You wait patiently in line, hands folded, praying you will be worth of such a heavenly gift. It’s your turn, you step up to the priest, he is flanked by two altar boys. You look up into his eyes, he says “This is the body of Christ” and you reply ‘Amen.” He places a thin wafer upon your tongue, you close your mouth step to the side, make the sign of the cross and go back to your seat. Once you arrive back in the wooden pew you take the serene moment to kneel before God, thanking him for his blessing and asking for his grace.
Now take this entire scenario, but replace the wafer with a button of cactus or a sip of tea. I can hear all of the gasps of horror and the shock of what I propose, however the two instances are remarkably similar despite their cultural gaps. To the Christian, the wafer is a gift from God, the body of Christ. According to the Christian Sacrament, ‘When Our Lord said, "This is My body," the entire substance of the bread was changed into His body; and when He said, "This is My blood," the entire substance of the wine was changed into His blood.
Peyote is also regarded as a gift from God. “To us it is a portion of the body of Christ, even as the communion bread is believed to be a portion of Christ's body by other Christian denominations. Christ spoke of a Comforter who was to come. It never came to Indians until it was sent by God in the form of this Holy Medicine." - Albert Hensley, a Winnebago.
Peyote is not eaten to induce visions, it heals and teaches righteousness. It is eaten, or consumed as a tea, according to a formal ritual and offers the opportunity for self-understanding through self-examination. This experience can lead an individual to new understandings about their situation in life and the repercussions of their actions. Road men (Road Man, or Road Chief, is a title given to the leader of the peyote ceremony in the Native American Church) encourage participants to ‘ask the medicine’ or ‘listen to what the medicine tells you’ about a certain problem. They point out how the ‘power of the peyote healing experience can set a person on another course – a life of dedication in a deeper sense’.
Does anyone else see the similarities? Both rituals are meant for self enlightenment and healing. Of course the wafer doesn’t really have the same side-effects. I am sorry as I do not want to offend anyone but can you imagine a congregation of people experiencing the effects of peyote on a Sunday morning? According to the research, the participants could be starting out their week right, as it has been noted that an ‘afterglow’ effect can many times be experienced for 7 to 10 days after ingestion, humming the song ‘Because I’m Happy'...
The peyote cactus contains buttons that can be cut from the root and dried. The buttons can be chewed or soaked in water to produce an digestible liquid. They can also be ground into a powder and smoked in conjunction with the leaves of cannabis or tobacco.
The effects of ingestion of peyote varies from user to user but among the most common are; vivid heightened sensory experiences (i.e. brighter colors, sharper visual definition, increased hearing acuity, more distinguished taste), difficult focusing, maintaining attention, concentrating, and thinking, loss of sense of reality; melding past experiences with present, preoccupation with trivial thoughts, experiences, or objects, highly adverse reactions ("bad trip"), including frightening hallucinations, confusion, disorientation, paranoia, agitation, depression, panic, and/or terror. – This last one would totally be my
personal reaction to it! Surprisingly, no physical dependence or psychological dependence has been reported, although it may be possible.
mental images and distorted vision, perception of seeing music or hearing colors, altered space and time perception, joy, exhilaration, panic, extreme anxiety, or terror, a distorted sense of body (users can feel either weighed down or weightless),
Because of the intense psychological effects of the consumption, the use of peyote in spiritual ceremonies has been present in many cultures for over 10,000 years. From the very beginning, ‘modern” society has misunderstood the Native American adoration of peyote. Fear and lack of knowledge has led to denouncing the spiritual journey as diabolic and satanic.
Serious study of its use, however, began 1890 when James Mooney, an anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institution, researched Peyote meetings among the Kiowa in Oklahoma. He extended his studies of Peyote rituals to other American reservations as well as its use by the Tarahumara in Mexico. In 1918, Mooney testified in favor of Native American at Congressional hearings in an effort to obtain a legal charter to protect their religious freedom and the use of peyote within those rights. The Native American Church or NAC was officially incorporated in 1918. Currently supporting eighty chapters and members belonging to some seventy Native American Nations.
In the present day, peyote is very effective is in the treatment of alcoholism. Acceptance into the NAC requires abstinence from alcohol and drugs. The community is also seemingly close knit offering the consistent support a recovering addict will need in recovery. The peyote itself is empowering in its own right. The ceremonies help the addict mentally have power over the alcohol. During ceremonies, the road man will ask the creator to help the person by speaking to them through the peyote, as it acts as a messenger between the individual and the creator. By absorbing the healing power behind the ritual, and the experience, hope in a transformation and new ways of living becomes much more attainable and sustainable.
Whether you are receiving holy communion or looking for spiritual enlightenment through a ritual of faith, in the end, we are all looking for answers to the greater questions. Thus we are all the same. Methodology of enlightenment should not matter, as the intent of enlightenment is the growth of one’s own soul.