Title : The use of entheogens in pre-Columbian meso-America: Ancestral obedience to sacrificial empowerment?
This lecture presents a historical account of the use of entheogens by Aztec en Maya people in the cultural context of pre-Columbian meso-America. Social control limited the use of mind-expanding products according nobility status, cultural festivities, commemorations and inter-state relationships as alliances or hostilities and agricultural fertility rites. The user of entheogens acted as medium assisted by interpreters of dream-like apparitions of ancestors and spiritual manifestations. The outcome of prediction about the personal future within a problematic state relationship was predominant, not a personal trip into ecstatic pleasure. Cosmology and planetary constellations enshrined a belief in the metaphysical existence of Gods and ancestral spirits who transformed into mythological landmarks, avatar animals or chimeric monsters.
We present pharmacologic molecules contained in mushrooms, fermented bark or agave, toad skin, plants and flowers. Cannabis (pipilzinzintli) was unknown in pre-Columbian Mexico and was imported by the Spanish conquistadores. Indians had no knowledge of alcoholic distillation into liquor.
We discuss also the vector of entheogen administration like the cacao bean drink, coffee bean drink, smoking a tobacco mixture, inhalation with an aerosol device or rectal enema.
We describe the context in which entheogens were used. Warriors feasted in celebration of a military victory, rulers performed bloodletting rites during enthronement, weddings or funerals. Nobility combined sessions with divination with smoking mirrors. Priesthood activities punctuated cosmological events and court ruling by revelations through the ancestors of the ruler. Frequently a mixture of entheogen products were combined. Medical use was granted during pregnancy, for nursing mothers and for elderly care. The people at large only used entheogens or alcoholic beverages during the yearly five days for the dead.