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 Rare Cactus History of cacti as Human Allies

 Some Cactus History

The word cactus or cactos was used by Tbeophrastus for a spring plant of Sicily, probably the garden artichoke. Linnaeus used the word as a generic name, and made all the kinds which he knew species of it. Some of the species have been long in cultivation. The Opuntia vulgaris was recorded as a cultivated plant by Gerarde in 1596. In 1716 Bradley described five kinds of cactuses. In 1796, 29 species were known to botanists. In 1807, 20 species were described, and in 1811, 24 kinds were grown at Kew. In 1819, nearly 50 species were known, and in 1826, 94 were in cultivation. The explorations of Mexican and adjacent regions early in the century resulted in great additions to the numbers in European collections. In 1850 Labouret described 670 species. About 1,000 species are now known, of which perhaps over one-third are in cultivation. - L. H. B.

 Cactus From Wikipedia

A cactus is a kind of plant. The plural of cactus is cacti or cactuses or cactus. Cacti are members of the plant family Cactaceae, within theorder Caryophyllales.

Cacti are native to the Americas, ranging from Patagonia in the south to parts of western Canada in the north—except for Rhipsalis baccifera, which also grows in Africa and Sri Lanka.[1] Many people like to grow cactus in pots or gardens. Now cacti have spread to many other parts of the world. They are part of an important food chain.

Many cacti live in dry places, such as deserts. Most cacti have and sharp thorns (stickers) and thick skin. There are many shapes and sizes of cacti. Some are short and round; others are tall and thin. Many cactusflowers are big and beautiful. Some cactus flowers bloom at night and are pollinated by moths and bats. Some cactus fruits are brightly coloured and good to eat. Goats, birds, ants, mice, bats and people eat cactus fruits.

Cactus in History

The ancient Aztecs of South America held cactus to be very important. Cactus can be found in many of their sculptures and drawings. The national coat of Mexico shows an eagle, a snake, and cactus.

Christopher Columbus brought the first cactus to Europe. Scientists and gardeners became very interested in cactus.

Prickly pears were taken to Australia in the 19th century for use as a natural fence and for use in the cochineal industry. The cactus spread out of control. Now it has made 40,000 km² of land useless for farming.

From the start of the 20th century interest in cactus has grown. Every year, scientists discover new kinds of cactus. A bad effect of this bigger interest has been the digging up of many cacti from the wild, making some kinds endangered.

 All about cacti. Rare Cactus description History of cacti as Human Allies. The investigation cover from 10,000 years before present. The Indians once believed, and still do, that Peyote is a God, or at least a messenger of the Gods

 Some Cactus History #1

Dr. George Engelman wrote in 1856 as follows concerning the knowledge of American cactus : "The only cactus known to Linnaeus from the countries north of Mexico was his "Cactus Opuntia" (Opuntia vulgaris). Long after him, more than forty years ago, Nuttall, the pioneer of west American botany, discovered two mamillarias and two opuntias on the upper Missouri, and again, twenty years later, in California, a new echinocactus. About ten years ago we became acquainted with numerous new cactaceae in Texas through Mr. F. Lindheimer; in New Mexico, through Dr. A. Wislizenus, and in northern Mexico through the same explorer and Dr. J. Gregg ; some others (and among them the giant of cactuses) were indicated in the Gila country by the then Lieutenant W. H. Emory. Soon afterwards Mr. A. Fendler collected several new species about Santa Fe. Mrs. Charles Wright, a few years later (1849), discovered in western Texas and southern New Mexico, still other undescribed cactuses.

"But the greatest addition to our knowledge of the cactaceae of the northern part of the United States was made by the gentlemen connected with the United States and Mexican Boundary Commission, at first under Coloner Graham, and subsequently under Major Emory. Science is indebted principally to Dr. C. C. Parry, Mr. Charles Wright, Dr. J. M. Bigelow, Mr. George Thurber and Mr. A. Schott, for valuable collections of living, as well as dried specimens, and for full notes taken on the spot. About the same time, M. A. Trecul, of France, and after him Dr. H. Paselger, of Prussia, traversed southern Texas and northern Mexico, collecting many cactaceae, and increasing our knowledge of this interesting branch of botanical science.

"The Pacific railroad expeditious since 1853 have opened fields not before explored, and Dr. Bigelow, the botanist and physician of Captain A. W. Whipple's expedition along the thirty-fifth parallel, availed himself of these opportunities in a most successful manner ; while Dr. F. V. Hayden, almost unaided in his adventurous expedition, has extended our knowledge of the northernmost cactaceae in the regions of the upper Missouri and Yellowstone rivers.

* The last, but by no means least addition, was made in 1854 and 1855, by Mr. Arthur Schott, during the exploration under Major Emory of the country south of the Gila river, known as the Gadsden Purchase".


" The white man goes into his church house and talks about Jesus; The Indian goes into his tepee and talks to Jesus." J. S. Slotkin

The Indians once believed, and still do, that Peyote is a God, or at least a messenger of the Gods, sent to communicate directly with the individual worshiper.

( BP = before present )

[ 10,000 BP ]

In several Northern Indian tribes, the Peyote ceremony is descended from the mescal bean ceremony. The mescal bean is the highly toxic seed of the Sophora secundiflora tree. The odd thing is that other than Cacti, the mescal bean tree is about the only other thing that blooms in that part of the desert. It is also associated with Peyote in that both species often are found growing together. There is evidence that the mescal bean has been used as an oracle for upwards of 10,000 years. Its use was however very dangerous, as just eating a little too much would have very fatal consequences. One quarter to one half seed would be roasted by the fire until yellowish brown. It was then consumed causing a sleepy delirium that lasted three days. (Not really my idea of a party)

Fortunately the Peyote ceremony has completely replaced the use of the mescal bean. Do not confuse the bean with Peyote, or the mescal plant which is a Maguey (source of pulqua liquor). All three are separate and unrelated entities. Some Peyotists still use mescal beans as amulets.

[ 6000 BP ]

Legend has it that Peyote was discovered when a lost, and starving man came across it in the deep desert. A voice was heard to emanate from the plant, saying that it was good and should be eaten. The man ate of the bitter, unpalatable plant, regained his strength, and returned to his village bearing this divine gift, and relating his adventures.

[ 3300 BP ]

Engraved stone carvings of a figure holding Cacti were found in Chavin, Mexico.

[ 3000 BP ]

Archeological evidence pointsts to Peyote being used ceremonially for at least 3000 years. Still psychoactive specimens of Peyote have been recovered from dry caves and rock shelters as far North as Texas after 3 millenia. It has even been suggested that Peyote use is more ancient still. A symbol used by current day Tarahumara Indians is similar to ancient ritualistic lava rock carvings found in mesoamerica. San Pedro representations have been found on Moche and Chimu ceramics, as well as Nazca urns.

[ 2700 BP ]

A ceramic snuffing pipe in the form of a deer with a Peyote in its mouth was found in the Oaxaca region of Mexico. In the Huichol culture, deer, maize and Peyote form a holy trinity.

[ 2200 BP ]

It has been suggested that San Pedro has been cultivated as a crop in Peru around this time period.

[ Ca. 1550 ]

Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, an early Spanish chronicler, estimated that the Chichimeca and Toltec Indians used Peyote at least 1890 years before the arrival of the Europeans. Sahagun lived with and studied the indigenous Indians from 1499 to 1590.

[ 15th - 17th century ]

Persecution of Peyote began soon after the Spanish invaders conquered the indigenous peoples. The European ecclesiastics were very intolerant of any cult but their own and soon tried to crush native beliefs, subjecting the Indians to unspeakable tortures and acts of barbarism. ( sounds kind of like the drug wars of the late 20th century ) In an all too familiar attempt to erase knowledge, the Spanish oppressor engaged in " an orgy of unparalleled destruction, burning thousands of Aztec documents and other items".

To the narrow, Christian minds of the invaders, Peyote was associated with the bloody Aztec sacrificial rites and condemned as " Riaz diabolica" (the Devils root). Several seventeenth century Jesuit priests stated that the Indians used Peyote medicinally and ceremonially. They reported that the inebriated Indians "would see terrible visions".

When the hysteria of witchcraft peaked in Europe, it was not long till it spilled over into the conquered territories. In an all too familiar attempt by the Church to break the will of the people, the Holy Office of the Inquisition imposed the first drug law in the new world. Peyote was formally denounced as an act of superstition on June, 29th 1620 as a source of divining, and foretelling future events.

The Spanish persecutors, under the aegis of the Catholic Church, made every effort to totally stamp out Peyote use, subjecting the Indians to floggings, beatings, cruel tortures and even death if they persisted. One account states that as a continuation of three days of torture, a disobedient Indian had his eyes gouged out. The self-righteous Spanish then cut a crucifix into the flesh of his chest, and turned loose starving dogs to dine on his innards.

[ 18th century ]

As late as 1760, the Catholic church still equated Peyote with cannibalism. Some of the questions asked of converts was, hath thou eaten of the flesh of man? Hath thou eaten of the flesh of Peyote? Dost thou suck the blood of others? Dost thou call upon demons for aid?

After bearing two centuries of savage oppression, and the decimation and breakup of mesoamerican civilization, the Peyote ritual was driven underground, to be silently preserved in the Chihuahuan desert. No anthropologists ever bothered to investigate or observe a Peyote ritual until well in the 1960's.

It is believed that the contemporary ceremonies of the Huichol, Cora, Yaqui, Tepecano and Tarahumara are close to the original format used during pre-Columbian times.

Traditionally, Peyote has been used to treat ailments, in shamanic rituals, and even in games. The Tarahumara consume Peyote prior to engaging in 20 or 40 mile long foot races.

[ 18 sentury ]

Modern scientific pharmacological studies of Peyote started in the late 1880's. In 1887, Parke Davis & Co. began to distribute dried Peyote buttons. In 1888, botanist Paul Hennings published a report on Lophophora chemistry, leading to other investigations. The principal active ingredient (mescaline) was first isolated in 1897 by a German chemist, A. Heffter. In 1892, the German explorer Lumhotz described ceremonial Peyote use among the Huichol and Tarahumara, and sent samples to Harvard for Botanical analysis.

During the later part of the 1800's, at the close of the Indian wars, Indians brought back knowledge of Peyote from raids on Mexico. As a part of the "ghost dance", Peyote use spread quickly among the Indian tribes of America after 1880. Indian prophets like Quanah Parker added Christianity to traditional beliefs and formed the basis of the Peyote ritual practiced today.

[ 20th century ]

Ernst Spath was the first person to create mescaline synthetically, in his laboratory in 1919. The last extensive study of mescaline's effects was Der Meskalinrausch ( The Mescaline High), published in 1927. Studies of Peyote and mescaline lay almost dormant until Aldous Huxley experimented with it in 1953, and later wrote The Doors of Perception. This controversial book sparked a mass of interest, helping start the Psychedelic revolution.

It was first discovered in 1945 that Cacti other than Peyote contained mescaline when San Pedro was found to be used by Indians of Ecuador. In 1950, Tricocereus pachanoi was analyzed and discovered to contain 1 - 2% mescaline, dry weight.

Mescaline was used around this time in early experiments into chemically induced psychosis, hence the archaic name of hallucinogens developed, psychotomimetic. It was also studied widely for the treatment of alcoholism, neurosis and other mental disorders, until the discovery of LSD. I personally find it interesting that at least 2500 years ago, the two widely separated cultures of Northern Texas and the South American Andes, embraced mescaline at about the same times. Even though neither culture had any contact with the other, and the fact that Tricocereus and Lophophora look nothing alike, both cultures developed a shamanistic use for their respective teacher plants.