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Lophophora williamsii

Lophophora williamsii (Peyote) is also called mescal.

Peyote (Lophophora williamsii) is a small (less than 12 cm in diameter), round cactus with fuzzy tufts instead of spines. It rarely rises more than an inch or two above the soil surface. The fleshy, grayish-green to chalky blue "button" sits atop a massive, underground carrot-like taproot. Tiny pinkish to creamy white flowers are borne atop the button. The button is cut and consumed either fresh or dried. Usually, anywhere from four, to a dozen buttons, are eaten or made into tea. Myths concerning the presence of strychnine in the flesh or fuzz of are often circulated in the common lore, but this substance is completely absent from peyote.

Peyote has a long history of use as a medicinal and sacramental herb. Prehistoric trade in and knowledge of the sacred cactus was apparently well established prior to the European conquest of Mexico. At that time, Spanish Inquisitors declared its use to be a punishable crime against God. Ironically, native peyotists, relying on the humble cactus for divine guidance and inspiration, became targets of oftentimes ruthless evangelism.

Peyote is something of an alkaloid factory, producing more than 50 chemically related compounds. The principal active ingredient is the hallucinogen mescaline. The effects experienced after consuming this unique medicine range from a feeling of physical energy and well being when taken in small amounts (though this is often preceded by a brief period of lethargy), to actual visionary experience when larger quantities are consumed. Often, individuals may experience stomach discomfort or nausea during the first few hours though this is not always the case. Noticeable psychic effects usually last 10 hours or so after they begin. Experienced peyotists recognize and welcome the feeling of the medicine working with them as a spiritual and physical blessing.

Lophophora williamsii is the most famous of the hallucinogenic mescaline-producing cacti. Peyote was declared illegal by the Spanish Inquisition in 1620. Spanish priests burned Aztec herbalists at the stake, and the Inquisition prosecuted peyote possession as far north as Santa Fe and as far west as Manila. Later, the U.S. government continued this campaign under the guise of trying to stamp out a "dangerous narcotic." In 1906, local organizations arose in Oklahoma to oppose anti-peyote legislation. The first peyote church was incorporated as a legal defense in 1914. Peyote (lophophora williamsii) is now Schedule I in the United States. This means it is illegal to buy, sell, or possess without a DEA license. Many states allow "bona fide religious use" of peyote as an exception to the controlled substance laws. Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming all offer some limited exceptions to the peyote laws for religious use. Canadian law states mescaline is listed as a schedule III drug, while peyote is specifically exempted from Canada's Controlled Substances list: "17. Mescaline (3,4,5--trimethoxybenzeneethanamine) and any salt thereof, but not peyote (lophophora)".

The religious use peyote is very ancient. One cache of dried peyote found in a Texas cave, has been dated at approximately 7000 years old. The use of peyote in ceremonies among Mexican tribes was a well established tradition by the time of the European entrance into the continent. This pre-historical religious use eventually diffused into the North American regions. Along with this evangelistic migration came changes in the basic ceremonies associated with peyote.

The Native American Church (NAC), and its various sub-groups, has more recently become the most well known form of the peyote religion. It is estimated that the NAC has at least 250,000 members. The Peyote Way church has about 300 members of all races.

The positive, life enhancing benefits of the peyote medicine are probably as diverse as the many people who have found it to play an extremely important role in their lives.

Peyote Cultivation Instructions

"You ever have that feeling where you're not sure if you're awake or still dreaming?
Mmm, all the time. It's called mescaline. It's the only way to fly!" - Neo & Choi - The Matrix


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