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The venom of the female black widow, present in Australia, contais strong neurotoxins that causes the destabilization of cell membranes on vertebrates and insects, damaging the cellular tissues and resulting on an alteration on the organ functions and in the partial desintegration of nerve terminal, causing the release of neurotransmiters acetylcholine, norephedrine, and GABA. In insects and small vertebrates causes a very severe, oftenly mortal paralysis, but in larger vertebrates, like humans, it produces only strong pain and some hallucinations.
SWIM read on internet some reports about the recreational use of redback black widow venom. In all of the experiences an intense pain is described, and hospitalization in two of them, so SWIM wouldn't recommend the use of spider venom as a recreational drug, and only it's infrequent use as an experimental one because of very dangerous the long term effects that could have the constant degranulation of the nervous system terminals.
For more details, in erowid there's a special section about the venoms, toxins and psychoactive compounds produced by animals.
kambo sticks. toad venom. bamboo worm. dream fish [ ( kyphosus vaigiensis) brass bream].
many many animals have been, and still are used for visionary purposes. have to check out that erowid vault now....
It was more than likely a female redback which bit her. They are the most common venomous spider here in WA. The males are not venomous, and they are distinguished by the females red stripe on her back which the male doesn't have.
Animals Used As Drugs
By Richard Rudgley
From the Encyclopaedia of Psychoactive Substances
Although it is common knowledge that many plants contain psychoactive substances, the fact that certain animals also do is barely known. Modern research into the psychoactive fauna is still in its infancy.
The seventeenth-century alchemist and physician J.B. van Helmont described alchemical research with animals as a quest for the 'Animal Stone' which is a 'mineral vertue' obtainable from the 'natural superfluities and excrements' of animals. Excrements should here be understood to mean all bodily secretions, not just faeces and urine.
Early scientists and alchemists experimented with all kinds of animals. One such experimenter, Nicholas of Poland, is known to have made extensive use of toads, snake skins and scorpions.
Christian Ratsch has noted that scorpion-bite victims report hallucinogenic symptoms and that their poisons still await scientific analysis to determine whether or not they have psychoactive properties.
There are a number of reports of the use of poisonous and other insects for their alleged psychoactive properties.
Bees that have taken the nectar of the psychoactive plant Atropa belladonna thereby transfer the tropane alkaloids contained in it and these remain active in the resulting honey, which if eaten by humans has mind-altering effects.
Multiple wasp stings are known to induce mildly hallucinogenic effects, such as increasing the intensity of colors and the perception of geometric forms. The use of ants for their apparent hallucinogen properties was once a common tradition among various Californian Indians.
A nineteenth-century French explorer named Augustin de Saint-Hilaire (1779—1853) has left behind descriptions of the use of bicho de tacuara, a 'bamboo grub' (which seems actually to be the larva of a certain type of moth) by the Malalis, an indigenous people of eastern Brazil, and some Portuguese residents who had 'gone native'.
He describes its use as follows: When strong emotion makes them sleepless, they swallow, they say, one of these worms dried, without the head but with the intestinal tube; and then they fall into a kind of ecstatic sleep, which often lasts more than a day, and similar to that experienced by the Orientals when they take opium in excess.
They tell, on awakening, of marvelous dreams; they saw splendid forests, they ate delicious fruits, they killed without difficulty the most choice game; but these Malalis add that they take care to indulge only rarely in this debilitating kind of pleasure.
As Saint-Hilaire did not actually witness the hallucinogenic effects he describes, this single anecdotal reference cannot be taken as definitive.
Mention should be made of the infamous aphrodisiac 'Spanish Fly' or cantharides. Cantharides is made from the wings of a beetle (Cantharis vesicatoria) and used to prolong erections, but in high doses it can be dangerous.
The English physician William Salmon wrote in 1693 of the efficacy of distilled cantharides oil mixed together with other ingredients which if: 'annointed upon the soles of the Feet, Testicles, and Perineum, provokes and stirs up Lust, to a miracle, in both Sexes, and invigorates the feeble Instruments of Generation.'
The scarab beetle, that was sacred to the ancient Egyptians, has been reported by the Egyptologist Wallis Budge to be ground up and drunk with water by Sudanese people.
The Aztecs made a psychoactive salve or ointment which had among its ingredients poisonous insects, tobacco and the hallucinogenic morning glory ololiuqui.
Whether these insects contributed to the psychoactive effects of these Aztec mixtures is impossible to say as the species cannot be identified from the early, and unfortunately vague, accounts of these practices.
Toxic species of puffer fish have been identified as the key psychoactive ingredient in the making of the zombi drug.
A number of species of fish found as far afield as South Africa, Hawaii and Norfolk Island in the Pacific have been reported as 'dream fish' or 'nightmare fish' on account of the fact that they cause hallucinations.
Eating the so-called 'dream fish' of Norfolk Island. A species of Kyphosus (it has been suggested that it may be K. fuseus or more likely K. vaigiensis) is reputed to cause dreadful nightmares. Christian Ratsch, the German anthropologist, states that the 'dream fish' contains large amounts of the hallucinogen DMT.
Reports by the local people of Hawaii of fish having psychoactive effects led researchers from the University of Hawaii to investigate this unusual phenomenon.
They toyed with the idea of calling the syndrome ichthyosarcephialtilepsis but thankfully decided on the more straightforward 'hallucinatory mullet poisoning'!
In fact, four species of fish are known to cause such symptoms, two of the mullet family (Mugilidae), Mugil cephalus and Neomyxus chaptalli, and two belonging to the goatfish or surmullet family (Mullidae), Mulloidichthys samoensis and Upeneus arge.
The last of these is known locally as weke pahala ('the night- mare weke') and a report from 1927 states that about thirty or forty Japanese labourers unwittingly ate the fish and suffered 'mental paralysis' and delirium. Not all those who eat it report having nightmares; some seemed to have enjoyed the hallucinatory effects.
The symptoms vary from person to person. In the case of one family who shared the same fish, some members experienced intoxication whilst others were completely unaffected.
That this could be due to some kind of allergic reaction has been rejected, as individuals who experience hallucinations and other effects when eating the toxic variety of fish happily consume the non-toxic variety regularly without any problems.
Neither can the intoxication be explained away as psychosomatic; infants who have eaten it wake up screaming and try to get out of their cots, showing all the signs of having nightmares.
What causes the psychoactive effects is something of a mystery; it is unlikely to be bacterial in origin since the fish is often eaten straight from the sea, allowing no time for decay to set in.
Some local fishermen think that it may be due to the fish eating a certain kind of algae but researchers consider this unlikely.
Hallucinogenic effects from these species of fish have been reported from two of the Hawaiian islands, Kauai and Molokai, and the toxins in question are apparently only present in the fish during June, July and August.
Hawaiian fishermen reported that the nightmare- inducing fish could be distinguished by distinctive red blotches on the lips and sides of the head but others said that they looked the same as the non-toxic fish.
It is not clear which parts of the fish contain the toxins; some say it is only the brain or head, the head and the tail, whilst others maintain the entire fish is psychoactive.
Two further species of fish found in Hawaii are rumoured to cause similar effects - the tang or surgeonfish (Acanthurus sandvicensis), and the rudder fish (Kyphosus cinerascens), the latter being a close relative of the Norfolk Island 'dream fish'.
There is no real evidence that these various different kinds of poisonous fish were ever used systematically for their dream inducing properties.
Most reported cases indicate that such intoxication was, and still is, almost always accidental.
Dr Bruce Halstead of the World Life Research Institute stated in 1959 that he had discovered the presence of a hallucinogenic substance in a fish, but did not name either the species in question or the location at which it was found for fear that the Russians would make use of it for developing nerve drugs.
Ratsch has suggested that the yellow stingray (Urolophus jamaicensis) was used for its inebriating and aphrodisiac venom in pre-Columbian times by the Maya.
Amphibian toxins and venoms have also been attributed with psychoactive properties. Zoologists classify the Amphibia into Anura, the tailless amphibians (frogs and toads), and Urodela, the tailed amphibians, including newts and salamanders.
Traditionally the venoms of a number of toxic species of frog have been used to provide hunting poisons which are applied to arrows and other projectiles. The reported uses of frog toxins for their purported psychoactive effects is still largely circumstantial and inconclusive.
Nevertheless, the question of the use of frogs for their possible psychoactive effects is still open and as Richard Schultes, an expert on the hallucinogens of the Amazon, has said, the frog is a powerful and widespread symbol of intoxication in numerous native societies in South America.
The Amahuaca people of the Peruvian Amazon are reported to use the poison from a frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor) to induce states of trance. The poison is rubbed into self-inflicted burns and believed to allow the hunters to communicate with animal spirits.
Although this frog poison is dismissed as a 'pseudo-hallucinogen' by Andrew Weil and Wade Davis, these two researchers have, however, done more than anyone else to demonstrate beyond doubt that certain toads contain hallucinogenic drugs.
For a discussion of the possibility of psychoactive substances being found in salamanders, see Salamanders. Some newts have interesting toxic properties.
Californian species belonging to the Taricha genus contain taricha toxin, which is analogous to tetrodotoxin, found in octopuses and puffer fish. European newts of the genus Tritums may also contain tarichatoxin.
Holy men in India are reported to smoke cobra venom for its psychoactive effects.
Both the king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) and common cobra (Naja naja) are used in this way; their dried venom glands or crystallized venom is often mixed with cannabis when smoked.
There are possible indications that this practice may be of considerable antiquity. The Samgadham Samhita, an Indian text of the eighth century AD, likens the drug bhanga (i.e. bang, see Mang) to 'the saliva of a snake', perhaps a hint that snake venom was known not just as a poison but also-as-a psychoactive substance.
Stories of psychotropic birds are extremely rare. A sixteenth century account of the Aztecs by Diego Munoz Camargo describes how eating the flesh of the bird named oconenetl induces visions. It is not known to which kind of bird this refers, beyond the description of it as being fed and black.
It is possible that either the bird itself produced a psychoactive substance or it ingested the drug from a plant source.
Batrachotoxins (i.e. amphibian poisons) have been recently discovered in the feathers and skin of South American birds of the genus Pitohui Richard Schultes has reported that the bones of a certain bird that ate the fruits of a plant that was used as an additive to ayahuasca were known to be poisonous to dogs.
It is not only laboratory animals that experience drug states, some wild and domestic varieties seem to seek out such experiences.
A Russian traveller in eastern Siberia in the late eighteenth century, whilst among the Chukchi people, reported a strange case of animal intoxication: In the last few days the Chukchi have had two dead reindeer and take the cause to be that they had given them too much human urine to drink.
They give them some from time to time in order to make them strong and improve their staying-power.
The fluid has the same effect on the reindeer as intoxicating drink has on people who have fallen victim to the drinking habit. The reindeer become just as drunk and have just as great a thirst.
At night they are noisy and keep running around the tents in the expectation of being given the longed-for fluid. And when some is spilled out into the snow, they start quarrelling, tearing away from each other the clumps of snow moistened with it.
Every Chukchi saves his urine in a sealskin container which is especially made for the purpose and from which he gives his reindeer to drink.
Whenever he wants to round up his animals, he only has to set this container on the ground and slowly call out 'Girach, Girach!', and they promptly come running towards him from afar.
The Chukchi are known to consume the fly-agaric mushroom and sometimes they also drink their own or others' urine after eating this fungus, as its psychoactive properties are still effective in the urine.
It seems that the above account must be referring to this urine as it is hard to believe that the reindeer would behave so irrationally if they had simply been drinking normal urine.
Reindeer are also known to eat the fly-agaric of their own volition (as are Siberian bears in the rutting season who, according to native opinion, do so in order 'not to fear') and Siberians who find them in such a state bind them with ropes and quickly slaughter them to consume their flesh, which is psychoactive for a short time after death.
Such reindeers are, of course, only psychoactive because of the mushrooms that they have eaten but there may be other mammals that are themselves psychoactive. In Russia it was apparently a custom that if a cat ate mukhomor (i.e. the fly-agaric mushroom) it was given the hemp or cannabis plant to sober it up!
To my knowledge there is no clearly proven case for the use of mammal parts for their own psychoactive properties. There are, however, some instances which would benefit from further investigation.
The apparently hallucinogenic properties of the giraffe were first brought to my attention during a conversation with Professor Wendy James of the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford.
The Humr tribe of Baggara Arabs who live in south-western Kordofan in the Sudan are keen hunters of the elephant and the giraffe. After killing a giraffe the hunters make camp and prepare a drink called umm nyolokh from its liver and bone marrow.
The hunters say that the making of this drink is the main reason for hunting the giraffe.
Ian Cunnison, an anthropologist who took part in one of their hunting expeditions, reported that among the Humr: 'it is said that a person, once he has drunk umm nyolokh, will return to giraffe again and again.
Humr, being Mahdists, are strict abstainers and a Humrawi is never drunk (sakran) on liquor or beer. But he uses this word to describe the effects which umm nyolokh has upon him.'
After drinking it, dreams of giraffes are commonly reported and Cunnison said that he actually heard a man wake up shortly after drinking it shouting 'giraffe on your left'. Waking hallucinations experienced under the influence of the drink also typically involve giraffes.
The anthropologist did not really consider the possibility that this was a genuine hallucinogen (presumably because a psychoactive animal was too strange to even contemplate) and tried to explain it all away saying: 'I can only assume that there is no intoxicating substance in the drink and that the effect it produces is simply a matter of convention, although it may be brought about subconsciously.'
Cunnison's explanation seems weak and we may well be dealing with a genuine case of a hallucinogenic mammal. DMT may be a psychoactive substance possibly present in the bone marrow of the giraffe.
The magic potions of numerous indigenous peoples of Africa, New Guinea and the Americas which are known to contain mind-altering plants also include diverse animal parts among their ingredients, few of which have ever been investigated for their possible psychoactive properties.
Extant recipes that were used by the European witches often include faunal additives such as cats' brains and bats' blood, thus showing the famous witches' scene Macbeth to be anything but purely poetic licence.
Human body parts and substances have long been used in medical practices, something which, of course, continues in our own times (such as organ transplants, skin grafts and blood transfusions).
Yet because we tend to think of early medical practitioners as embroiled in superstition, many of the traditional uses of body parts seem to reek of witchcraft, which may often blind us to the practical and efficacious knowledge contained in the annals of ancient medicine.
The corpses of young men who suffered a violent end were often sought out because they had not died due to illness, thus their flesh and organs were in a healthy state.
The use of a dead young man's brain pounded in a mortar and mixed with the powder of a man's skull 'never buried' is a medicine mentioned by the seventeenth-century chemist John Hartman.
Robert Boyle, one of the key figures in the foundation of modern chemistry, is often portrayed as releasing chemistry from the superstitious garb of alchemy, yet he also mentions the efficacy of remedies involving grated human skull (one of the constituents of the Haitian zombi poisons).
Oswald Crollius, one of the disciples of the great sixteenth- century physician and alchemist Paracelsus, describes what his master meant by the term 'mummy' in his writings on longevity:
By mummy in this place our author means not that liquid matter which is found in the Egyptian sepulchers, in which Humane Bodies, embalmed with Aromaticks, have been kept for many years: But according to Paracelsus it is the flesh of a Man, that perishes by a violent death, and kept for some time in the Air.
Crollius goes on to tell us that Paracelsus also calls it Mumia patibuli (i.e. the flesh of a hanged man). The sixteenth-century physician William Bulleyn recommends that mumia (which to him meant 'dead bodies from Arabia') be beaten into the form of a powder, mixed into water and then squirted up the nose by means of a syringe in order to treat falling sickness and injuries!
The potent hallucinogens DMT and 5-MeO-DMT that are found in a number of psychoactive plants also occur in various mammals and in the cerebrospinal fluid of human beings. Scientific studies have found that the quantities of these psychoactive substances seem to be slightly higher in schizophrenic patients than in control groups of 'normal' subjects.
However, these differences are marginal and no simple conclusions regarding a direct link between these substances and schizophrenic disorders can be made; 5-MeO-DMT has also been reported as being present in the blood of some schizophrenics. A story by the American writer Terry Southern called The Blood of a Wig is about a man who, in search of a new drug 'kick', consumes the blood of a schizophrenic.
Whether Southern was aware of the scientific literature on this topic is unclear but the presence of DMT suggests that his bizarre story may not be pure fiction. That such hallucinogens can be made endogenously in the human organism suggests that the ancient alchemical quest for internal elixirs may have involved the stimulation of such substances to achieve altered states of consciousness without introducing chemicals from outside the body.
The kundalini serpent of the traditions of yoga and other similar descriptions of an 'energy' moving between the base of the spine and the head (e.g. among the Rung Bushmen of southern Africa) may also be references to the workings of such psychoactive substances.
What? This little tidbit was glossed over rather quickly. What kinds of ants? Any ants? Does anyone know anything more about this?
Looking into this a little further, the use of ants as an entheogen is actually fairly well documented... Here's some of the more interesting stuff.
A Query Regarding the Possible Hallucinogenic Effects of Ant Ingestion in South-Central California
Blackburn, Thomas, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
1976: Journal of California Anthropology, The, UC Merced Library, UC Merced
An increasing number of anthropologists have turned their attention in recent years to the topic of altered states of consciousness, with the result that an extensive list of pharmacologically active substances capable of inducing such states has now been compiled. However, virtually all hallucinogenic materials reported so far in ethnographic contexts have been botanical in origin, even though the wide range of substances and techniques (e.g., sensory deprivation, pain, etc.) used in various areas of the world argues for lengthy and extensive experimentation with most facets of the environment on the part of many generations of native scholars. Reports of apparent hallucinogenic agents of a non-botanical nature should therefore be of more than passing interest, particularly when the ethnographic context involved is California.
An increasing number of anthropologists have turned their attention in recent years to the topic of altered states of consciousness, with the result that an extensive list of pharmacologically active substances capable of inducing such states has now been compiled. However, virtually all hallucinogenic materials reported so far in ethnographic contexts have been botanical in origin, even though the wide range of substances and techniques (e.g., sensory deprivation, pain, etc.) used in various areas of the world argues for lengthy and extensive experimentation with most facets of the environment on the part of many generations of native scholars. Reports of apparent hallucinogenic agents of a non-botanical nature should therefore be of more than passing interest, particularly when the ethnographic context involved is California.
In 1917, John P. Harrington of the Smithsonian Institution worked extensively with two Kitanemuk informants (Eugenia Mendez and Magdalena Olivas) at Tejon Ranch, and recorded some 1500 pages of ethnographic and linguistic field notes. These notes (which are presently on file in the Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley) contain a number of references to means of acquiring supernatural power. In common with most groups in the southern half of the state, the Kitanemuk employed both Datura and Nicotiana species as narcotic substances with useful medicinal and mind-altering properties. But they also seem to have utilized certain species of ants in a similar fashion, as the following passage attests:
You cannot get to be ataswinic by eating well—you have to go three days without eating or drinking. They do this to save the boys from getting killed. They gave them red ants to eat. For long ago there used to be lots of fighting... Sometimes did it to several boys at a time. Sometimes a sole boy merely requested it—went to an old man who knew how to talk and that old man would take the boy to the hills at some secluded place and pray for him there... The boy does not eat nor drink for three days. On the morning of the third day the old man goes with the boy out into the hills, to any place (not to a shrine, but to a place where he will be alone, will hear no one talking), and there gives him the ants, the boy lying down as he takes them, the old man throwing them into the boy's mouth with his fingers while the boy inhales.The old man gives the boy many thus. The bear or whatever animal desires to kill the boy (that is the expression, means he has like a dream or sleep). This animal gives the boy the boy's virtud. Along in the late afternoon the old man returns to the place in the hills where the boy is. During the day the boy has either been sleeping all the time, or has awakened but stayed in the same place. The old man now returns to the place and prays there for the boy.. .The old man in praying states that the boy has a suerie. He mentions the word for God, also tuskit [Harrington n.d.:l 168-1170].
Ants were used medicinally, of course, over a rather wide area and were frequently swallowed live as an emetic or were allowed to bite the exterior ofthe body (e.g., cf Kroeber 1953:516, 628; Drucker 1937:43; Voegelin 1938:60; Driver 1937:99; Aginsky 1943:440; Steward 1941:331; Stewart 1941:373). Ants also played a prominent role in the antinic or "ant ordeal" of the Luiseiio a rite which followed temporally (and had suggestive parallels with) the ritual drinking of Datura (Strong 1929:317). That the ingestion of live ants might also have had hallucinogenic or mind-altering effects as well under certain circumstances seems to have been generally overlooked in discussions on the shamanistic behavoir or medical knowledge of native peoples. Naturally, a single apparent report of such effects like the one just cited is far from persuasive, and 1 must admit that my own initial reaction to the above passage was one of skepticism. However, a cursory examination of some of the ethnographic literature on nearby California Indian groups has caused me to modify my thinking on the subject, and has led me to present this brief comment in the hope of eliciting further information or stimulating discussion. Voegelin, for example, reports that the Tiibatulabal utilized ants in much the same way as did the Kitanemuk:
Youths of about 18 or more also took ants to gain power; SM said younger women did not take ants, not being strong enough. but FP had been given them. Taking of ants individual matter; done in wintertime; youth fasted as for jimsonweed; on third day was taken into sweat house by either of his grandfathers and about 7 balls of eagle down, each containing 5 yellow ants, given him with water, "like pills." When the boy's eyeballs turned red person administering ants knew he had had enough, and shook him so that ants would bite him inside. Youth then fell into stupor which lasted all day; usually re-gained consciousness in evening; next morning was given hot water to induce vomiting; "the ants came out alive, in those little balls." In the evening grandfather took youth outside, questioned him about what he had seen in trance; boy told old man what life he had obtained, if any. All youths could take ants thus; "manv of them did" [Voegelin 1938:67-68].
The Kawaiisu, adjacent to both the Kitanemuk and Tiibatulabal, also swallowed live ants in balls of eagle down on occasion as an alternate means of inducing visions and acquiring supernatural power (Zigmond 1977). In the Culture Element Distribution lists compiled by Driver for the southern and Aginsky for the central Sierra Nevada, the ingestion of ants as a method of acquiring power or in connection with a vision quest is attributed to the following groups as well: Wukchamni, Yaudanchi, Yauelmani, Paleuyami, Bankalachi, "Valley Yokuts," North Fork Mono, and some ofthe northern Miwok (Driver 1937:99, 103; Aginsky 1943:440). One of Harrington's Kitanemuk informants suggests additionally that the practice extended to the south and might have been incorporated into the more formally structured religious system of the Chumash and Gabrielino:
The religion of coast -that religion in which they knew c\erything was not here [Tejon]. It was at Ventura and reached to San Gabriel -it was \er\ strong in San Gabriel. It did not pass on to .San Luis, for those were different people. .And it followed up the coast Santa Barbara way, informant nescit how far. In that religion you take ants or toloache and they advise you and teach you everything. You do not learn them merely as I am here now (full of coffee). Here a few knew -were wise men — but the Kitanemuk did not have the religion of over there. Informant nescit G. cinicnic [Harrington n.d,: I 140],
In view of the information just presented, it seems reasonable to conclude that certain species of ants were routinely swallowed live as one means of obtaining supernatural power by most groups living in south-central California, and that a trance-like state similar to that induced by Datura inoxia was apparently engendered in persons who did so. But three primary questions remain unanswered: (1) What species of ants were employed? (2) What physiological or psychopharmacological effects might have resulted from their ingestion? and (3) Were similar practices followed anywhere else? 1 am personally unable to provide any kind of authoritative answer to these questions, nor indeed am trying to do anything more than pose them at this time; however, other investigators might find the following bits of data useful in trying to reach more definitive conclusions. Dr. Roy Snelling, myrmecologist at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, has suggested (personal communication, 1975) that the ants utilized might have been some species of the genus Myrmacomecocyslus, perhaps M. lesiaceus (the yellow honey ant). Dr. Murray Blum, however, a biochemist at the University of Georgia who is presently investigating the chemistry of this genus, reports (personal communication, 1975) that he has not as yet isolated any compounds in the toxin of these particular ants that he feels would be especially stimulative. But recent analyses of toxins from some of the few ant species so far examined by biochemists have demonstrated the presence (in addition to the expected formic acid) of many compounds of a type previously known only from plant sources. Among these are three lactones related to ncpetalactone (the active agent in catnip, and a possible hallucinogenic in man—see Jackson and Reed 1969) as well as several alkaloids related to coniine (Pavane 1959; Blum, personal communication 1975). Thus a number of potentially hallucinogenic or mind-altering substances have been isolated from ant toxins to date, and ants producing all of these compounds are common in the western United States—the implications, 1 believe, warrant further research. It will certainly be interesting to see what other compounds are discovered when studies are undertaken of the toxins of some of the other 12,000 or so species of ants estimated by entomologists to exist on earth.
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Aginsky, B. W. 1943 Culture Element Distributions: XXIV, Central Sierra. University of California Anthropological Records 8.
Driver, Harold 1937 Culture Element Distributions: VI, Southern Sierra Nevada. University of California Anthropological Records 1.
Drucker, Philip 1937 Culture Element Distributions: V, Southern California. University of California Anthropological Records 1.
Harrington, John P. n.d. Unpublished field notes on the Kitanemuk. Box 705, Department of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley.
Jackson, B., and A. Reed 1969 Catnip and the Alteration of Consciousness. Journal of the American Medical Association 207:1349-1350.
Kroeber, Alfred L. 1953 Handbook ofthe Indians of California. Berkeley: California Book Company.
Pavan, Mario 1959 Biochemical Aspects of Insect Poisons. Proceedings ofthe Fourth International Congress of Biochemistry. Symposium XII: Biochemistry of Insects. New York: Pergammon Press.
Steward, Julian H. 1941 Culture Element Distributions: XIII, Nevada Shoshone. University of California Anthropological Records 4.
Stewart, Omer C. 1941 Culture Element Distributions: XIV, Northern Paiute. University of California Anthropological Records 4,
Strong, William D, 1929 Aboriginal Society in Southern California, University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 26.
Voegelin, Erminie 1938 Tiibatulabal Ethnography. University of California Anthropological Records 2.
Zigmond, Maurice L. 1977 The Supernatural World ofthe Kawaiisu. In: Flowers of the Wind, Thomas C. Blackburn (ed.). Ramona: Ballena Press. (In press).
TAXONOMIC IDENTITY OF "HALLUCINOGENIC” HARVESTER ANT (Pogonomyrmex californicus) CONFIRMED
KEVIN P. GROARK
Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90024
The use of California harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex califomicus) for visionary and therapeutic ends was an important but poorly-documented tradition in native south-central California. In this brief report, a conﬁrmation of the taxonomic identity of the red ant species used in California is presented, and the descriptive record of its use is supplemented with additional ethnographic accounts. This taxonomic identiﬁcation of this species is of particular importance, as visionary red ant ingestion provides the only well-documented case of the widespread use of an insect as an hallucinogenic agent.
RESUMEN.—La utilizacion de hormigas granivoras rojas (Pogonomyrmex calzfornicus) con fines alucinogenos y terapéuticos, fue una tradicién de mucha importancia pero mal documentada en el sur y centro-sur de California. Este breve artfculo conﬁrma la identidad taxonomica de dicha especie y la descripcién de su uso se hace a través de datos etnograficos adicionales. Esta identificacion taxonomica es de especial interés, puesto que es el unico ejemplo etnografico debidamente documentado de un agente alucinogeno derivado de un insecto.
RESUME.—L'utilisation des fourmis moissonneuses rouges (Pogonomyrmex californicus) a des desseins religieux et thérapeutiques était une tradition peu documentée mais irnportante dans la vie de plusieurs groupes autochtones du centresud de la Califomie. Dans ce bref expose on trouve ‘la conﬁrmation de Yidentification taxonomique de la fourmi eta la description de la méthode de son utilisation s’ajoute des données ethnographiques suplémentaires. L’intérét de ce sujet est considerable car il s’agit la du premier exemple ethnographique bien documenté d’un agent halluncinatoire que provient d’un insecte.
This report supplements an article previously published in this joumal under the title, "Ritual and Therapeutic Use of ’Hallucinogenic’ Harvester Ants (Pogonomyrmex) in Native South-Central California" (Groark 1996). In this earlier paper, I presented an overview of a widespread, but poorly documented, tradition of visionary and curative red ant ingestion among native southern Californian Indians. Building on several key ethnohistoric accounts from the unpublished fieldnotes of Smithsonian ethnologist and linguist John P. Harrington (as well as a number of obscure published sources), I reconstructed the general details of this "ant ingestion tradition,” outlining its cultural distribution and probable origins. The paper closed with a discussion of ant venom bioactivity and toxicology, as well as preliminary suggestions concerning likely biochemical bases for the psychoactive effects reported in the ethnographic record.
Recently, another early account written by ].P. Harrington has come to my attention. In addition to supplementing our understanding of ritual ant use with additional ethnographic details from the Luiseﬁo-Iuaneﬁo Indians, Harrington also provides us with a precise taxonomic identity for the red ant species used in native southem California. This “new” account is particularly significant in its conﬁrmation of the speculative taxonomic identification offered in Groark (1996). In addition, a set of Pogonomyrmex specimens collected by Harrington has been located in the ant collection of the Smithsonian Institution, further increasing the certainty of the identification.
In the present report, I provide a brief summary of the major features and distribution of ritual and therapeutic red ant use, followed by a presentation and discussion of the aforementioned Harrington account (which is currently accessible only in a very rare edition), as well as a description of the newly located specimens. The paper closes with a discussion of the signiﬁcance of this taxonomic confinnation for future toxicological studies of Pogonomyrmex species and their utilization in visionary contexts. This identiﬁcation is of particular importance, as it provides the onlywell-documented case of the widespread use of an insect as an hallucinogenic agent.
OVERVIEW OF CULTURAL DISTRIBUTION
Visionary Use of Red Ants.—Ingestion of red ants for visionary and shamanic ends was most highly developed among the indigenous groups of south-central Califomia, seven of which are known to have engaged in the practice. The ants were swallowed alive and unmasticated, in massive quantities (often exceeding 400 ants), in order to induce a prolonged state of unconsciousness during which tutelary spirits (usually referred to as "dream helpers" or ”suertes”) appeared to the aspirant, often becoming life-long supematural allies. These visions, which often took the form of animals or personiﬁed natural forces, were highly sought after by young men——quite apart from any specific skills they might confer, dream helpers (and the power they embodied) were critically important in leading a safe, healthy, and prosperous life. In addition, men who aspired to be shamans would ingest repeatedly red ants or the potently hallucinogenic toloache (more commonly known as Iimsonweed; Datura wrightii Regel) over a period of months or years. If they were fortunate, they gradually acquired multiple or specialized dream helpers who bestowed extraordinary shamanic skills upon them. (See Groark [1996: 7-11] for detailed accounts of the ritual administration and"resulting visions.).
The ingestion of red ants in visionary contexts appears to have been strongest among the Shoshonean groups occupying the southeastem edge of the south- central region of California—the Kitanemuk (Harrington 1986b:rl.98, frs.-149-450), Kawaiisu (Zigmond 1977162, 1986:405), Tiibatulabal (Voegelin 193825, 46, 67-68), and the various Hokan-speaking Chumash groups, particularly the Interior Chumash (Harrington 1986b:rl.98, frs.608—609, 648-652). In the Central Valley to the north, some of the neighboring Southern Valley Yokuts (particularly the Yawelmani) and Southern and Central Foothill Yokuts (Wikchamni, Yawdanchi, Bokninwad, Yokod, and Palewyami) also swallowed ants in order to gain dream helpers and shamanic power (Harrington 1986a:rl.94, fr.387; Driver 1937299), but the practice among these latter groups appears in a somewhat attenuated form. The Northern Miwok are also reported to have ingested ants ”for vision or power" (Aginsky 19432440).
Collectively, these groups constitute the core of the visionary ant ingestion tradition. Based on the reported distribution, the practice appears to have developed among the Shoshonean-speaking groups of the southern Sierra Nevada region, spreading to the Interior Chumash to the west, then on to the various Yokutsan groups occupying the southem end of the San Ioaquin Valley. Interestingly, this distribution is largely coextensive with the Toloache-Dream Helper complex, an egalitarian religion stressing individual contact with the supernatural and the acquisition of one or more dream helpers (usually mediated through the ingestion of Datum wrightii Regel).
Boys’ Ant Ordeal.-——A number of groups in southem California also administered the ants externally (and on occasion, internally as well) in the "ant ordeals" of boys’ initiation ceremonies. These ordeals were ubiquitous among the Takicspeaking Cupan groups in southern Califomia (Gabrielino-Fernandeﬁo, Luiseﬁ0-Iuaneﬁo, Cahuilla, Cupeﬁo), especially those involved in the protohistoric Chingichngish religion.‘ It should be emphasized, however, that these ”ordeals" lacked the visionary component that formed such an important part of ritual ant use as reported from the south-central groups.
In 1852, Hugo Reid described the ant ordeal of the Gabrielino as follows:
To make them hardy and endure pain without wincing (for cowardice as to corporeal suffering was considered even among the women as disgraceful) they would lie down on the hill of the large red ant, having handfuls of them placed in the region of the stomach and about the eyes. Lastly, to ensure a full dose, they swallowed them in large quantities, alive! [Reid 1968 (1852): 36].
In a revealing comment, one of Harrington's Kitanemuk informants identified these ants as being identical to the vision-inducing red ants used by the south-central groups described above (Harrington 1986a:rl.98, fi-.443). A number of ethnographic accounts indicate that similar ant ordeals were found further to the north among the Chumash (Hudson 1979:73), the Tubatulabal (Driver 1937298), the Northem Miwok (Aginsky 1943:440), and possibly the Monache (Driver 1937:99). Among these groups, the ordeal often lacked the formal initiatory function found among the groups that were integrated into the Chingichngish religion. Instead, the practice served to mark the transition from youth to adulthood.
It is interesting to note that, although visions are not reported to have manifested, loss of consciousness was common during these ordeals and appears to have been an explicit goal. Profound loss of consciousness was considered essential to shamanic, visionary, and initiatory practice throughout the region, and was understood to represent a sort of "smal1 death" in which the aspirant was "killed" by the supernatural agents which he wished to contact. Despite the lack of associated visions, the goal of the ant ordeal was largely identical to that of visionary ant ingestion——augmentation of individual strength and fortitude, and the establishment of a personal connection with supernatural power. Both visionary ingestion and the ant ordeal of boys’ initiation ceremonies represent the individual's first personal contact with supernatural power—a connection which he could then draw on in daily life for vigorous health, luck in hunting or gambling, or for more esoteric purposes (see Groark [1996: 9-10, 16-17] for additional details).
Therapeutic Uses.—In addition to the esoteric uses outlined above, the ants played an important role in both curative and preventative medicine, treating a diverse inventory of common ailments, including: paralysis, gastrointestinal ailments, severe colds, pain, arthritis, and gynecological disorders (particularly those occasioned by childbirth). Ethnohistoric accounts indicate that initiatory and therapeutic ant ingestion persisted through the Mission Period (in some cases, surviving until at least the mid-1850's), but these practices appear to have been abandoned by the turn of the century (see Groark 1996: 11-16 for a detailed discussion).
A NOTE ON INDIGENOUS NOMENCLATURE
A brief survey of indigenous nomenclature reveals striking homogeneity in
the name applied to this ant among Takic-speakers of both the Serran and Cupan branches. The ant used in these ceremonies was referred to by the Kitanemuk as ’aneqt or 'aneht (pl. anem). Zigmond records the Kawaiisu name as aanat (”big red ant—eat for pain") (Unpublished 1937 fieldnotes of M.L. Zigmond; quoted in Anderton 1988:270), while the Luiseno-Juaneno term was anut ("red ant”) (Kroeber 19252672). It should be noted that this name was not a generic term for "red ant". Rather, it applied specifically to the "medicinal red ant" used in ritual and therapeutic contexts, with other local species being referred to by distinct names (see Anderton 1988: 597; Harrington 1933:164, note 128).
Neighboring non-Takic groups had very different names for this ant—the Chumashan groups appear to have used the term shutilhil (Walker and Hudson 1993), while various Yokutsan speakers of the Tule-Kaweah dialects (Yawdanchi, Wikchamni, Gawia, Bokninwad, Yokod), referred to these ants as k’awk'aw, ”crazy ants," possibly in reference to their intoxicating potential (Harrington 1986a: r1.94, fr.382).
WAS POGONOMYRMEX THE SPECIES USED IN CALIFORNIA?
Despite the surprising detail and high quality of many of the sources cited above, these early accounts provide neither the common nor scientific name for the ant species in question. As a result, I was forced to assume a somewhat speculative tone in the previously published article (Groark 1996). Based on an analysis of the biological and behavioral details provided in the ethnographic literature, I concluded that the ant was most likelya Pogonomyrmex species, but acknowledged the problems inherent in any precise identification:
The taxonomic status of the red ant species used in aboriginal Californiais uncertain. All ethnographic accounts describe them merely as "largered ants”. . . . The accounts uniformly emphasize their large size, the fact that they build small moimded nests, and the excruciating pain of their sting... Unfortunately, no voucher specimens were collected when the ethnographic accounts were recorded, and the precise taxonomic identity of the ant species must therefore remain tentative. However, the taxonomic and toxicological literature strongly support the assertion that a Pogonomyrmex species was indeed the red ant referred to in the ethnographic accounts. Of all the ant genera present in California and the Great Basin, Pogonomyrmex is distinguished by the large size, exceptionally painful sting, and highly biodynamic venom of its representative species. [Groark 1996:3]
Based on the ecological distribution of the various Pogonomyrmex species present in California, it seemed probable that the most common and conspicuous species, R calzfornicus, was the ant referred to in the accounts. Based on this inference, I proceeded to examine the ethnographic accounts in light of general biology and toxicology in order to assess possible pharmacological underpinnings for the reported visionary and therapeutic effects.
While the results were far from conclusive, a survey of the toxicological literature indicated that the Pogonomyrmex species present in California possess potently toxic venom containing a number of highly bioactive compounds, including: kinins, peptides, and neurotoxins, as well as complex alkaloids previously known only from certain higher plant taxa. In large quantities, these venom constituents are capable of acting on the mammalian central nervous system, triggering a wide range of psychophysiological reactions that includes highly altered metabolic states resembling those reported ethnographically.
In addition, Harvester ants of the genus Pogonomyrmex have been shown to possess the most toxic insect venom recorded to date. Their venom has the highest known mammalian lethality of any arthropod—it is 5 times more toxic than the venom of the Oriental homet, and 8 to 10 times more toxic than honeybee venom (Schmidt and Blum 1978a,b,c). Based on unpublished venom lethality data for R calzfomicus provided to me by Iustin Schmidt, I determined that the doses employed in visionary contexts by Califomia Indians were clearly within the range of pharmacological activity, representing approximately 35% of a lethal dose for an individual with a body weight of 100 lb. (45.5 kg). (See Groark [1996: 17-22] for a full discussion of venom toxicology and complete LDSO calculations).
Despite these compelling data, my argument was weakened by the.uncertainty of the taxonomic identity of the ant. I was therefore extremely pleased to come across a key reference which resolved this ambiguity—a footnote written by John P. Harrington in his 1933 annotation of the Relacién Historica, Fray Geronimo Boscana's classic Mission Period account of the Luiseno-Juaneno Indians of Southem California. '
In this extensive note, Harrington clearly identifies the ant species in question as Pogonomyrmex calzfornicus Buckley, and provides additional ethnographic details based on his own field research with surviving Luiseno-Iuaneno individuals (the bulk of which was carried out intermittently between 1919 and 1933). Due to the rarity of these accounts, I will reproduce two variant versions of Boscana's original text as well as Harrington's annotation in full.
The "New" Accounts: Two Versions and an Annotation. —The author of these accounts, Geronimo Boscana, was a Franciscan friar who lived among the predominantly Luiseno-Juaneno amalgamation of Indians at Mission San Juan Capistrano from May 1814 to Ianuary 1826. While there, he assiduously recorded all details of life in the pre-mission period with the help of three Luiseno-Juaneno men—two of whom were local chiefs, and the other a shaman. The resulting account, properly known as the Relacion Historica, was probably first compiled around 1822, and remains one of the earliest and most detailed descriptions of aboriginal life in native southern California.
In several brief passages Boscana mentions the therapeutic use of large red ants by the local Indians when they were still "in their heathen state.” The ants were applied externally in the treatment of unspecified “pains":
. . . the most frequent and commonest practice, especially when in pain, was to whip the place where the pain was with nettles, and to put them right on the place of the pain, and likewise ants, and these latter especially on sores, and in this manner they cured themselves. [Harrington 1934: 49]’
Boscana's most extensive description relates to the ”ant ordeal” that formed the conclusion of the boys’ initiation ceremony into the Chingichngish religion of the Gabrielino, Luiseno, and Juaneno Indians. All boys were subjected to this ordeal, which was performed during early adolescence in order to “harden” the youths, to provide luck and skill in hunting, and to ensure a long life. Robinson's 1846 translation of the Relacion Historica describes it in the following terms:
The Indians were obliged to undergo still greater martyrdom to be called men, and to be admitted among the already initiated, for, after the ceremony of the potense [ritual initiatory branding with Artemisia vulguris L.], they were whipped with nettles and covered with ants that they might become robust. This inﬂiction was always performed in summer, during the months of Iuly and August when the nettle was in its most fiery state. They gathered small bunches which they fastened together and the poor deluded Indian was chastised by inflicting blows with them upon his naked limbs until he was unable to walk. He was then carried to the nest of the nearest and most furious species of ants, and laid down among them, while some of his friends, with sticks, kept annoying the insects to make them still more violent. What torments did they not undergo! What pain! What hellish inﬂictions! Yet their faith gave them power to endure all without a murmur, and they remained as if dead. Having undergone these dreadful ordeals, they were considered as invulnerable, and believed that the arrows of their enemies could no longer harm them. [Robinson 1846; reproduced and annotated in Harrington 1933: 47]
A slightly different account of this event is found in ].P. Harrington's translation of the "Cessac manuscript" of the Relacion, which reads as follows:
After this sacriﬁce [the potense ceremony], having been well lashed with nettles, they placed the patient on a nest of ﬁerce ants, and another one was stirring them up to make them still fiercer, and since the patient had no more clothes on than what he brought from the belly of his mother, we can imagine in what condition he must have been, after having been thoroughly lashed with nettles, as a result of those fierce ants, which even cause fever. And so great was their patience, that they seemed like dead, without a groan or movement. These were the ones called cured. There were some who suffered through this torture several times over, and many went through it alone or with some companion, for they believed that when thus cured, they were from that time on more agile, and that the arrows of their enemies could not harm them." [Harrington 1934: 19]
In his annotation to the first of these two passages, Harrington elaborates on Boscana’s basic account, including observations derived from his own ethnographic research among the Luiseno and Juaneno Indians:
The ants used in the ant stinging of the boys’ ceremony were [called] ’aanat,. pl. 'antum, Pogonomyrmex californicus Buckley, California Harvesting Ant. This is a good-sized red ant, the medicinal ant of these people. It is plentiful throughout the region, making large nests in the ground, and is not much of a climber, being unable to climb out of a bottle. When irritated, it stings with its abdomen, injecting formic acid, and bites with its mandibles at the same time. The ant dies after a time, his carcass still clinging to the skin of the person stimg if the attachment is successful. The sting is claimed by the Indians to be as painful as a European bee sting, and hurts noticeably for fifteen minutes or more.‘ Doubtless when the Indians lay about the camps naked they were stung much more frequently than at present.
When these ants were used as medicine, to relieve rheumatism, internal pains,- and the like, one method was to pick a number of the ants, one after another, and place them on the afflicted part, where they stung and were allowed to remain until they dropped off or got accidentally brushed off; Eustaquio [Lugo] once cured himself by putting a dozen or more of them on his bosom thus and leaving them on for hours. Another and evidently more modem method is to put a goodly number of the ants in a piece of cheesecloth and press it against the afﬂicted part, where upon the ants sting through the cheesecloth. This cloth method is said to have been used in the boys’ ceremony, but the earlier method was undoubtedly to seat and lay the named boy on a nest of these ants, or better to dig out the nest and seat and lay him in the teeming hole. There was not a part of the boy that was not stung and the ordeal was continued until the boy fainted or weakened, and all this without a murmur on the part of the boy. The ants were also administered as medicine given to sick people internally, being swallowed alive, but I have not found an informant who recalled that they were swallowed in the boys’ ceremony. . . [Harrington 1933:1641, note 128]‘
Later in the note, Harrington indicates that the Luiseﬁo-Iuaneﬁo referred to this ritual as 'antush (’aanat ”red ant")-——literally, "an anting" (Harrington 1933: 164, note 128)!
Although this account was published in 1933, Harrington's notes indicate that he had been collecting data on ritual and initiatory ant ingestion intermittently since at least 1910 among the Kitanemuk, Interior Chumash, and various Yokutsan groups. Unfortunately, the descriptions contained in his manuscript ﬁeldnotes contain only indigenous names for the ants-—no common name or Latin binomial was provided. The above account is therefore of great importance, as it provides us with the ﬁrst proper taxonomic identiﬁcation of the species involved.
Harringtons Identiﬁcation: Inference or Scientiﬁc Determination?—Despite the excitement of ﬁnding Harrington's note conﬁrming my earlier speculative identiﬁcation, a nagging question remained: How did Harrington arrive at this identiﬁcation? Was it merely an inference derived from a general familiarity with the southern. California environment, or was it based on properly determined voucher specimens?
We know that Harrington was an obsessively meticulous ﬁeldworker. In addition to collecting careful data on indigenous nomenclature and usage, he was also a conscientious collector of botanical and zoological specimens (most of which, unfortunately, have not survived in an identiﬁable state). In an interesting twist to this story, Dr. Ted Shultz—a myrmecologist at the Smithsonian Institution—discovered a set of Harrington's vouchers in the Smithsonian's ant collection after reading a draft version of this paper.
Stored just 15 feet from his office door, Dr. Schultz found a specimen set consisting of six pins holding four workers, one male, and one female. The specimens are collectively identiﬁed as ”Pogonomyrmex californicus (Buck) sp. det Roh.", and each bears an identical label reading: "J.P. Harrington, Collector." According to Schultz, the identiﬁcation label indicates that the species determination was made by Sievert Allen Rohwer, a hymenopterist who worked at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History from 1909 to 1951. From 1925 to 1937, most ant identiﬁcations were referred to Rohwer, suggesting that Harrington deposited the specimens during this period.
Although the specimen labels indicate that the ants were collected in Cottonia, Arizona (and not southem Califomia), their discovery—when considered along with their probable date of deposit—strongly suggests that Harrington's 1933 identiﬁcation was indeed based on properly doctunented and determined voucher specimens (or at the ‘ﬁery least, that his published identiﬁcation derived from voucher specimens collected after his Luisefio-Iuaneﬁo ﬁeldwork, but before his 1933 Boscana annotation).
The combination of three lines of evidence-—the physical and ecological description of the species, Harrington's precise 1933 entomological identiﬁcation, as well as the discovery of his Pogonomyrmex voucher specimens—allows us to make a strong argument that Pogonomyrmex californicus was, in fact, the ant species used for visionary and medicinal purposes in native California. That such an identification can be confirmed more than a century after the species’ last known use is eloquent testimony to the importance of voucher specimens in anthropological research, as well as to the importance of the collections that preserve such materials.
Despite the fact that our knowledge of red ant ingestion comes principally from a patchwork of early ethnohistoric accounts, these narratives-—when considered in their entirety-—provide us with a remarkably complete and well-attested ethnographic example of the use of an insect as an hallucinogenic agent. Although there have been scattered references to non-botanical hallucinogens, most prior claims have suffered from a lack of documentation—either inadequate ethnographic descriptions or a confusion surrounding the identity of the species in questions With the publication of this report, the taxonomic identity of the red ant used in native California has been confirmed, and the descriptive record of its use is supplemented with several additional ethnographic accounts. This new taxonomic certainty places future toxicological investigations on a much ﬁrmer footing, adding a key piece to our reconstruction of “hallucinogenic” harvester ant use in native south-central California.
1. The Chingichngish religion is classified as one of two major religious subsystems that developed out of the Datum-based toloache cult of southern California (Kroeber 1925; Blackburn 1974). The Chingichngish religion appears to have originated among the Gabrielino during the proto-historic period, then spread to neighboring groups, possibly through indigenous evangelization (Bean and Vane 1978). Its doctrine centered around mythic accounts of a shaman-like culture hero named Chingichngish who taught the people a new set of beliefs, which appear to have become integrated with older local traditions. Unlike the toloache cult——an egalitarian religion based on vision seeking and the acquisition of "dream helpers" through the ceremonial ingestion of Datum wrightii—the Chingichngish religion was characterized by esoteric doctrine, highly formalized rituals and initiations, and the construction of ceremonial enclosures into which only the initiates were admitted (hence the frequent reference to the Chingichngish ”Cult”). For more detailed information, see Johnson (1962) on the Gabrielino, and Sparkman (1908), DuBois (1908), and White (1963) on the Luiseno.
2. There were at least three versions of Boscana's original account, only one of which is known to have survived. Based on the surviving copy, the original title appears to have been ”ReIaci6n histérica de la creencia, usos, costumbres, y extramgancias de Ios indios dc esta Mission de San Iuan Capistrano llamado la nacién Acagchemem.” The first full published version of Boscana's account was Robinson's (1846) English translation, retitled "Chinigchinich" and published as an appendix to the first-edition of his book Life in California. (Robinson chose the title "Chinigchinich" because of the prominence of this mythical figure in Bos- cana's account, and it has since become the defacto name for this document.) His translation appears to have relied upon two slightly different original manuscripts, both of which have been lost (however, stylistic peculiarities suggest that the Cessac manuscript described below was one of the source versions). In 1933, ].P. Harrington republished Robinson's translation, supplementing it with 132 pages of ethnographic annotations (as a result, this edition is often referred to as "Harrington’s Chinigchinich.") Sometime during this period, Harrington also succeeded in locating a ”new lost original Boscana” manuscript in the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris. This version-—now known as the ”Cessac Manuscript"—is written in Boscana's own hand, providing us with the only surviving original manuscript. This version, which differs in some details from Robinson's translation, was published in English by Harrington (1934) and in the original Spanish by Reichlen and Reichlen (1971). For the sake of clarity, I will refer to all versions of the text as Boscana’s Relncidn Histérica, but I cite them under the sumame of the translator or editor in order to distinguish between the numerous variant editions.
3. This practice appears to have been based on the principle of counter irritation, and was widespread among southern and south-central Californian groups. Interestingly, the venom of the ant Pseudomyrmex has been shown to be an efficacious treatment for chronic rheumatoid arthritis (Schultz and Arnold 1978), and there is evidence that a component in honey-bee venom alleviates arthritic pain and associated symptoms (Dr. Roy Snelling, Los Angeles Museum of Natural History: personal communication 1995).
4. Pogonomyrmex stings are exceedingly painful and long-lasting, and have been described as approximating "ripping muscles or tendons" or ”turning a screw in the ﬂesh around the sting site"—and all of this accompanied by a nervous, chilling sensation that sweeps upward from the site of the sting (Schmidt 1986).
5. The only well-documented hallucinogen of non-botanical origin comes from the Sonoran Desert Toad (Bufo alvarius Girard), which accumulates prodigious quantities of 5-MeO-DMT in its venom glands (Weil and Davis 1994). A number of neotropical toads and frogs (mostly Dendrobates, Phyllobates, and Phyllomedusa) also secrete toxins which are used by the Amahuaca and Matsés Indians of the Peruvian Amazon in hunting magic, although visions are usually not reported (Cameiro 1970, Amato 1992). Interestingly, these intoxicating cutaneous alkaloids are not endogenously produced—-rather, they are sequestered from dietary sources which include alkaloid-rich myrmicine ant species (Daly 1994). The only reference to an insect-based hallucinogen is an anecdotal report by Saint-Hilaire (1824) referring to a larval moth (Myelobia smerintha Huebner) used by the Malali Indians of Brazil to produce an opium-like, dream-filled sleep. While Britton (1984) has proposed that the gut or salivary glands of this larval moth be classiﬁed as a new hallucinogen, Ott (1993: 414) argues that, if confirmed, the moth is more accurately regarded as an ”oneirogenic” or ”dream-inducing" agent, and classifies all of these cases as "putative" hallucinogens.
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inna bug conference: Bad Shaman Interview
Posted on: 2006-02-09 23:03:40
Insectoidal Nourishment and the Bad Shaman
The Bad Shaman, while barely known, needs nor wants little introduction. He's a hard-working American ayahuascero. A successful entrepreneur. Conscientious psychonaut. Researcher of arcane plants, animals and insects. He remains perfectly comfortable surfing the edge of obscurity. Like the shaman in many of history's archaic societies, he lives and works on the outskirts. We visit the shaman as a last resort. His ways elude sense and nonsense. His mojo works, but never as we expect and always at a price. He would be the first to push you down the stairs, if it might cure what ailed you. He may even ask to eat your brains, but that's another story.
humans eating bugs
Trip: What's the history of bug eating?
Bad Shaman: Primates and humans have consumed insects since Neolithic and Prehistoric times. Only recently, within the last 100 years, has insect eating gone out of fashion, except in small rural areas of Mexico, China and a handful of other remote areas. Throughout history, insect eating has been a main source of food for most mammals and birds.
How do bugs taste?
Of the 70 species of insects that I've sampled, the only ones that weren't very appetizing were ladybugs. And I've eaten grubs, larvae, beetles, wasps, sow bugs (roly-poly bugs), mealworms, pine grubs, post beetles, earwigs... Insects are surprisingly tasty and comprise the spectrum of flavors, from nuts to vegetables.
Earwigs couldn't be too tasty.
They are surprisingly tasty. Stir fried with rice and snow peas. Very yummy. I'd like to order some take-out right now.
Which bugs are the yummiest?
The roly-poly bugs. They can taste like anything from spinach to oysters depending upon habitat. And if you cook them, they can be made to taste like just about anything.
If folks could get over the base level aversion, it sounds like roly-poly bugs could usurp tofu.
Yep, and that leads me to my basic assertion: If you eat shrimp and you can't eat grasshoppers, you better re-examine your taxonomy and zoology.
Tell us about psychoactive insects.
Psychoactivity in insects is esoteric at best. Certainly there have been reports of psychoactive honeys from bees in the new world and the old world. Rumors and stories abound. There is a tradition in southern California and the Southwest of eating red harvester ants for their hallucinogenic psychoactivity in the acquisition of spirit helpers.
How did you come upon such esoteric knowledge?
I have been interested in ant consumption by humans in different cultures around the world for over 25 years, and I read scientific papers. For example, ants are no longer an imaginary food source. There are serious papers being presented by entomologists suggesting that eating more insects may solve some world hunger problems and be an excellent source of nutrients for humans.
Traditionally, insect information and lore have been considered a female knowledge since the hunter-gatherer societies didn't share equally in the vertebrate proteins. That is, men would kill the animals and thus procure most of the vertebrate proteins, leaving women to gathering plants. In doing so the women would also learn about what bugs you could eat. They knew that since insects and plants co-evolved in such a similar environment and parallel evolutionary scheme, their ability to transform plant products into insect poisons is an evolutionary strategy that nature has tried again and again successfully. Insect and arachnid poisons are currently being researched in venom therapies, much like the bee venom therapies used by the Greeks and Romans for thousands of years.
Where do the ants come in?
Primarily in central and southern California. Several tribes used the Pogo for their spirit helper acquisition powers. A person ate a prescribed number of ants and went into a dream state for a couple of hours in which (God willing) a spirit helper would appear in the form of an animal.
So this isn't recreational bug use.
No, their use was mostly therapeutic. Ants have had therapeutic values with the tribes in southern California and other native peoples throughout the Americas. I met a Dr. Rodriguez from the University of California at Irvine who told me, 25 years ago, that there are 20,000 species of ants in Columbia. And Columbia is already the mother source of many of the poisons that the world is aware of today: tobacco, coca, those sorts of things...
How have you used the red harvester ants?
Over the years I have eaten ants both therapeutically and for the psychoactive effects. I had heard tales of ants being used for arthritis and rheumatism for years. And I have found sources indicating that indigenous cultures from South, Central, and North America have used ants in that way. So I would capture and eat a small quantity of ants for their beneficial effects with rheumatism. The ant that we have in New Mexico is a particular harvester ant in the species Pogonomyrmex californicus, which is specifically known for its venom. There are so many types of ants and each ant has a different ability to produce different types of chemicals and venoms.
Ants have the oldest history of farming. They invented agriculture over 60,000 years ago. They are able to grow funguses on harvested plant materials and control the growth of unwanted fungi and microorganisms with antiseptic sprays that they produce with their bodies.
The particular ant of which I currently speak has a historical tradition, and people at the turn of the last century knew about it. J.P. Harrington, a researcher who worked and lived at that time in the Santa Barbara area, documented two matching ceremonial accounts of ant consumption.
Have the venoms been analyzed for their active constituents?
To a small degree. But since there are so many compounds in ant venoms, it's a process that's ongoing. I suspect that even in the back annals of scientific literature, this is probably not a popular subject. But it is becoming more popular (see references).
Please explain the traditional ceremonial techniques.
In the recorded anecdotes of native peoples giving ants in a prescribed way, that is, ceremonially, eagle down or cotton is used. The ants would be collected from the ant hive, four or five per cotton ball or feather. The cotton ball was then bitten and swallowed. The person would then wait a period of time, and then with the help of an administrator, would go into a sleep state for a couple of hours, after which they would be administered warm water which would help them regurgitate whatever ants might be left in their stomach. It was important that they consume ants while they were still alive.
I've eaten a couple of hundred ants and I find that there certainly is a neurotoxic or psychoactive effect. But as far as going into a dream state, passing out, and acquiring spirit helpers, I have yet to reach that level of saturation.
Can one obtain the same prescribed effect from dead ants or the extract? What has been your most successful experimental technique to date?
Ants are plentiful and easy to collect. I've found that using a glass pie pan with beer, water, juice or mescal, one can collect a rather large amount of ants in a short amount of time. The LD50, i.e., the lethal dose of ants, is about 1000, swallowing live ants, so a participant would want to consume about a third to half that amount. Be aware that there is a lethal toxicity to the harvester ants which have been traditionally used, and which I have been consuming.
It's a bit like walking towards death...
People who are interested should research the literature before attempting to consume any ants. Again, it can be fatal and I don't recommend it. The bite from this ant is extremely painful and will linger for hours, sometimes days.
Why are you using these particular liquids as the base for your extractions?
This is how we find out what solution is more likely to extract the ant's psychoactive properties. The beer may extract qualities with alcohols that mescal doesn't have. It may turn out that eating live ants is ultimately what has to be done to get them to exude their compounds in the time that you want and the quantity that you need.
Are the compounds oil-based?
There are high molecular weight compounds and low molecular weight ones. So I would think that they would have an affinity to many things because it is such a complex mix of proteins and histamines and seratonin-like compounds.
About an hour after I sampled the mescal extract, I was overcome with a severe heaviness. It was rather dark, but not particularly scary. Definitely a meet-your-maker heaviness. Is this typical?
I'm sure there's a dose-response curve where at lower doses one could have physical benefits while at higher doses you could have psychoactivity, and at even higher doses one could have hallucinogenic activity. But this is an area of avant-garde research. Very basic work still needs to be done, but certainly here is an open field of potential for beginning to understand psychoactive insects as we have with psychoactive plants.
In Mexico, centipedes and wasps were commonly revered for their poisonous qualities and there were often beverages made from them.
How would you compare the ant buzz to a more commonly known psychoactive plant-based poison like datura?
Oh, it's nothing like datura. And actually that's not a fair comparison at all. It's much more like the poison of the tarantella, the wolf spider of Europe.
Would you like to see some ants that I've collected?
<The Bad Shaman displays his dead ant collection and the extracts. He takes a sip from one beaker, and offers it to me.>
This one has a very peculiar taste...
<Spiros gulps some ant beer.>
How would you describe the taste of ants?
Different ants have different tastes. These particular ants have a lemon-lime, Sprite-like taste. Not the formaldehyde and formic acid tastes of other types of ants. Nor the sweet buttery taste of black ants. Or the honey taste of honey pod ants.
While this is unexplored territory, it's not for the faint or foolhardy.
No. It's literally like playing in a wasp's or hornet's nest. Ants pack as powerful a venom and sting as those insects.
You've been bitten a few times playing in the nest.
When the ants bit my tongue it took about four or five hours for the burning sting to dissipate.
What about other psychoactive bugs?
<The Bad Shaman opens another neatly packaged box containing dried iridescent beetles.>
These were gathered in the Mexican province of Chululah near Puebla. Terence McKenna speculated that the iridescent green was a signature of psychoactivity in bugs. These guys lived in an acacia tree at night and were attracted to the local poppies during the daytime. So I thought that may be a good indication that they were sequestering some psychoactive properties from the trees and flowers.
Have you tried them?
Well, we've smoked them and eaten them and there's mild psychoactivity. But we really haven't jumped into these bugs with both feet yet. We're still trying to collect more background information before I start consuming something that could always be potentially lethal in its poison.
How does it compare to the ants?
That's comparing apples and oranges. Beetles and wasp-like ants. I was reading, however, that there's a beetle in Brazil that is raised in peanuts and eaten for rheumatism and arthritis. So I suppose there are a few parallels. Insects are often medicine in traditional cultures; the problem is the scarcity of professionally trained ethno-entomologists that can ask the question, "What insects were/are you using for medicines?" Interestingly, Merck currently has an agreement with Costa Rica to categorize not only all their plants but all of their insects, aware that insects are a possible source for chemicals and medicine. And why wouldn't they be? Plants are certainly a source of medicine. Perhaps this is just the tip of an iceberg that we've yet to explore scientifically. It could hold a cure... perhaps even the cockroach holds the cure for cancer or some other unimaginable terminal disease.
Even so, do you have any moral issues with ant eating?
I do. I am concerned with the taking of life for certain solely psychoactive purposes, but for therapeutic purposes I find that it's a medicine that's worthwhile.
There's a theory that the ant colony is a collective consciousness and that the living anima rests not within the individual ant, but with large groups of them...
Within their collective brain the ability to learn advances with each generation. The ants on this mound probably exist over a quarter acre or so. They know this environment so intimately because they are constantly searching to see what's out there and what's available. And the sheer quantity of them. We have no idea what it's like. They've dug underneath all of this area. There are literally tens of thousands of them.
Hell, it's more crowded in New York City, so humans do actually have an idea of what it's like. What do you think about the ol' role reversal, HG Wells' Empire of the Ants and perhaps ants eating humans?
How do we know they don't? Fuck this article, we should do a movie.
Spiros Antonopoulos was a contributing editor for the dearly departed Fringeware Review.