Council on Spiritual Practices About CSP | Site Map | ©
Search CSP:   










Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

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


In Xochitl, In Cuicatl: Hallucinogens and Music in Mesoamerican Amerindian Thought.

Caceres, Abraham D. (1984).
Bloomington, IN: Indiana University.


ISBN: none

Description: Hardcover, unpublished doctoral dissertation, printed on right-hand pages only, xi + 339 pages.

Contents: 7 chapters, postscript, bibliography, appendices: 1. Illustrations, 2. Texts of the Mushroom Ceremony, 3. Music Transcriptions, 4. English Translations of Spanish Passages.

Note: Available from UMI, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI., in full page or half-page size, both in softcover or hardcover, also in microfilm.

Excerpt(s): I discovered in 1978 that there was an Aztec glyph which Western Naguatl scholars called "music." The most well known representation of this glyph appears on page four of the Codex Borbonicus. Part of the glyph consists of a flower which I was fortunate to be able to identify as sinicuichi, Heimia salicifolia (H.B.K.) Link.

I was surprised to discover that sinicuichi is a psychodysleptic which purportedly affects audition. My initial hypothesis was that sinicuichi and music were interrelated elements in the mystical experience. The logic was as follows. An altered state of consciousness (ASC) was interpreted as communication with the supernatural world. Sinicuichi was the flower that created ASC, and that somehow sinicuichi created "musical" sounds associated with this experience. Furthermore, there was historical evidence that music and dance were also used to create an ASC. (pages 2-3)

A review of the data revealed that sinicuichi was not the only xochitl, flower, associated with cuicatl, song or music. Ololiuhqui and teonanacatl were also associated with cuicatl. In fact it may be that psychodysleptics in general, metaphorically referred to as xochitl, and music were and are interrelated elements in the mystical experience. It appears that all three of the psychodysleptics discussed in this dissertation are conceived of as being auditory stimulants, and furthermore, that music as an "auditory stimulant" is conceived of being a psychodysleptic. The dimensions and details of this hypothesis are the subject of this dissertation. (pages 4-5)

Although we have no recorded examples of pre-hispanic music, and though there was no system of music notation, there did exist a glyph which approximates in some ways our term "music," and which is associated with psychodysleptics. This dissertation therefore revolves around the analysis of this glyph. I attempt to uncover the dimensions or levels of meaning which this glyph had for the Aztecs. (page 15)

Having reviewed the literature concerning these three psychodysleptics, sinicuichi, ololiuhqui and teonanacatl, several common ideas seem to emerge. First of all, it is clear that the Amerindians recognize the "visionary" aspect of the psychodysleptic experiences, but tend to emphasize the auditory component more greatly and in fact, seem to place greater value on he latter. We can infer this from the continuous emphasis on "hearing voices" and the acquisition of information via the auditory channel. Through sinicuichi one is able to remember prenatal events and hear the voices of ancestors. Through ingestion of ololiuhqui and teonanacatl one is able to hear the voices of deities. (page 114)

In each case, the glyph consists of two basic elements, a psychodysleptic and speech scroll. We can now assert at least three meanings of the glyph cuicatl. First, the individual components represent the speech or communication possible with the supernatural world upon ingestion of the psychodysleptic. Second, all partakers of a psychodysleptic can see a vision, but the primary goal of the nonspecialist is to hear the voice of the deity. Third, when the individual components of the glyph are combined, they represent another glyph, related to , but distinct form its components. This composite glyph is cuicatl. Cuicatl is the song-invocation-formula which one may receive while under the influence of a psychodysleptic. (pages 115-116)

It has often been said that Western cultures are visually oriented whereas "traditional" cultures are auditory oriented. Whereas this dichotomy is obviously somewhat simplistic, there is some truth to this idea. Various authors, such as Walter J. Ong, for example, have suggested that the invention of writing and the proliferation of literacy are some of the more important changes which pushed Western cultures towards the emphasis of the written and the visual ...

The end result is what Westerners, or at least Western scholars, for the most part have suppressed the auditory component of the hallucinogenic experience in favor of the visual, whereas the Amerindians have interpreted this experience with their greater auditory propensity, which is, of course, culturally determined. It is for these reasons that the ideas of morning glories that speak or mushrooms that sing sound rather strange to our ears, but are perfectly natural to the Nahuatl or Mazatec.

When I first applied Ong's idea of the auditory-visual dichotomy to the present material, I expressed it in two terms. I suggested that one may speak of the cosmovision Occidental, Western worldview, but should probably speak about the cosmoaudicion Indigena, the Amerindian worldaudition, or auditory perspective. I coined the term cosmoaudicion to express the greater value which the Amerindians place on the auditory component of the psychodysleptic experience. ... For the Westerner, psychodysleptics are "hallucinogens," for the Amerindian they are medicine. Many of the medicinal properties attributed by the Amerindians to sinicuichi and several of those attributed to ololiuhqui have been duplicated in the laboratory. Whereas ololiuhqui awaits to be more closely examined from this perspective, teonanacatl remains virtually virgin territory in this area. Yet, experience has taught us that we must not take lightly the Amerindian claim that the psychodysleptics are medicine. The Huichol have for centuries called peyote medicine, but it was not until recent years that biologists identified an antibiotic, hordenine, in the cactus. (pages 117-119)

For example, Wasson focuses on in xochitl. I agree with Wasson's interpretation of Xochipilli as the God of Rapture, of Ecstasy. But he is only partially correct, because for him Xochipilli is the God of the flower induced rapture. He ignores completely the fact that Xochipilli is also the deity of song and dance.

Likewise, Leon-Portilla offers his interpretation and insights in the following paragraph:

The idiomatic expression, in xochitl, in cuicatl, which literally means 'flower and song', has a metaphorical sense of poem, poetry, artistic expression, in a word, symbolism. Poetry and art, 'flowers and songs', are for 'those-who-know' [wisemen, Magi, soothsayers] an occult and veiled term that may sweep man off on the wings of symbol and metaphor, stammering, may project him beyond himself, thus perhaps in a mysterious manner bringing him nearer to his origins. 'Flower and song' seem to affirm that true poetry implies a peculiar way of knowledge, the fruit of an authentic interior experience.....[Italics mine. -Translation by Wasson] As Wasson implies in his analysis of Leon-Portilla's interpretation, the latter conveys the feeling of the metaphysical, mystical nuances of the phrase in xochitl, in cuicatl, although he prefers to emphasize the poetic nature of the phrase. Both Wasson and Leon-Portilla overlook, however, that the poetry to which in xochitl, in cuicatl refers, consists primarily of texts of songs.

By bringing together the foci of these two important interpretations and juxtaposing them as in the original metaphorical construct, we approach a more complete understanding of its meaning. In xochitl and in cuicatl represent the rapture, ecstasy: they are interrelated elements in the mystical experiences in all the dimension discussed in this work. Xochipilli is the deity of the flower induced ASC, but he is also the deity of the song induce ASC. In xochitl can produce in cuicatl and vice versa. Together they are the juncture between the existence of the supernatural on earth, the man's earthly existence amidst the supernatural. As such, according to the mesoamerican cosmoaudicion, each is incomplete without the other, hence the metaphorical construct, in xochitl, in cuicatl. (pages 207-209)

The first scholars to depict the "receiver" as an active participant in a hallucinogenic experience were Dobkin de Rios and Katz. They suggest that the songs provide a series of bannisters and pathways which enable one who partakes of a psychodysleptic (a client) to negotiate his experience. I add the concept of the songs as aural signposts which enable the client to know where in the trip he may be at any given time. I also demonstrated that the shaman taps the background knowledge that a client brings with himself to a mushroom ceremony, and how the client actively strives to be in concert with the suggestions made by the shaman. The client is therefor and active participant in a mushroom ceremony. (pages 213-214)

Although this pychopharmocological data was of import to me, my resulting concept of the Amerindian cosmoaudicion may be of use to psychopharmacologists. Much of the work on psychodysleptic induced changes in perception currently focuses primarily on changes in visual perception. However, it is important to recognize that if the active principle of the psychodysleptics in question affect both the visual and auditory channels, then the result of a double blind laboratory test in which a psychodysleptic is administered to a Westerner will not only reflect that individual's reaction to the active principles, but his culturally determined bias vis a vis one channel or another. (page 215)



Compilation copyright © 1995 – 2001 CSP

[Error Creating Counter File -- Click for more info]