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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

A Field Guide to Rock Art Symbols of the Greater Southwest

Patterson, Alex. (1992).
Boulder, CO: Johnson Printing Co.

ISBN: 1-55566-091-6

Description: Paperback, xvi + 256 pages.

Contents: Acknowledgments, 6 unnumbered chapters, recommended reading, organizations to join and events to attend, bibliography, credits.

Note: Includes maps and directions to some cites. The excerpts following each category of drawing, e.g., "Concentric Circles") are themselves quotations from numerous sources Patterson has compiled. One medicine bag (page 144) seems to have a mushroom growing out of its handlebar.

Excerpt(s): The Field Guide is an ambitious, wide-ranging, yet properly cautious attempt to begin to define recurrent rock art elements in the Greater Southwest and to assemble published accounts of possible interpretations of these elements. For the student and incipient scholar, it is a useful introduction to the vast and scattered literature on rock art interpretation in this large area. For the rock art viewer, it will promote intelligent reflection on the endlessly fascinating question of how (and if) human minds can communicate across barriers erected by time and cultural differences. (Foreword. William D. Lipe, page vii)

To some Native American people rock art is very special. The anthropologist M. Jane Young describes an elderly religious leader of the Zuni people, visiting a local rock art site. He spent three hours, mostly in silence, looking at the symbols. Often he approached a figure and gently traced its outline with his fingertips (touching permitted here C the original artist was undoubtedly his ancestor). Finally the elderly man said, "I don't know what it means, but I know it is important).

We agree with the Zuni religious leader C the rock art of the Southwest is important. We have a duty to preserve these intriguing symbols for future generations to see and ponder. Who knows what they say? We should encourage their study. With patient research, our grandchildren and their grandchildren may be able to read, understand, and profit by these messages from the ancients. We believe this is a worthwhile goal. (page xiv)

Concentric Circles

. . . "phosphene" refers to the images perceived by the human brain as visual images in the absence of visual stimuli. . . . (They) are associated with altered states of consciousness.

According to Floyd Buckskin, a Pit River Indian (personal communication 1981) the concentric circles shown above mark the place where spirit beings or very powerful shamans can pass through the rock from one world to the next. (page 67)

Datura or Jimson Weed

Possible example of symbol associated with the use of Datura. It is quite reasonable to assume that a certain number of these symbols were the result of drug-induced vision questing, which emphasized inversions and reversals of normative standards and the distortion of reality. Datura was one such substance well known among the Chumash and used in the acquisition of power.

Comment on the use of Datura - Chumash
A student who ingested Datura described the physiological effects to Dr. Thomas Blackburn (personal communication). Following a state of vivid hallucinations, the student perceived large, brightly colored mandala forms on a dark background which spontaneously appeared over his normal vision. For weeks afterward, everything he looked at appeared to be surrounded by tiny white dots. Any one familiar with Chumash rock art designs will immediately recognize the implications of these phenomena. The mandala (usually red) on a dark background is a common motif in the Chumash area. Outlining with small white dots is one of the distinctive features of their rock art.

Comment on use of Datura C Zuni
In 1879 the writer discovered that the Zunis employed a narcotic ... found to be Datura stramonium or jimson weed ... when the rain priests go out at night to commune with the feathered kingdom, they put a bit of powdered root into their eyes, ears and mouth so that the birds may not be afraid and will listen to them when they pray to the birds to sing for the rains to come. (page 80) Dots

Entopic phenomena (phosphenes) ... mean ... visual sensations derived from the structure of the optic system anywhere from the eyeball to the cortex. ... Although there are numerous entopic forms, certain types recur. (page 84)


... Phosphenes can result from a variety of causes, including gentle pressure on closed eyes, migraine headaches, ... fasting, physical tests of endurance, meditation, or the ingestion of hallucinogenic substances ... As an example (above figures) illustrate a phosphene pattern consisting of combined and super imposed checkerboards and arrays of triangles reminiscent of the patterns on the body of an anthropomorph from Little Petroglyph Canyon. (page 155)

Compilation copyright © 1995 – 2001 CSP

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