Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
Slotkin, J. S. (1975).
- The Peyote Religion:
- A Study in Indian-White Relations.
New York: Octagon - Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Description: Hardcover, viii + 195 pages.
Contents: Preface, 7 chapters, Appendix: Some Important People in the
History of Peyotism, notes keyed to text pages, bibliography, illustrations.
Note: The notes section, pages 81-141, will be of great use to
anthropological researchers. This is a reprint of an earlier edition with
The Free Press.
Excerpt(s): This chapter is an attempt to present Peyotism from the
viewpoint of Peyotists, but in a way Whites can understand. ...
No officially promulgated Peyotist doctrine can be presented, for
the religion is relatively individualistic. So the following account is based
upon my own knowledge about, and acquaintance with, Peyotism. (My
qualifications are six years of study and writing on the subject. I have
surveyed the literature; discussed Peyotism with lay members and most
of the important leaders throughout the country, as well as with other
anthropologists who have studies the matter; and participated myself,
first as an observer, later as a member, and finally as a local and
international officer.) In addition, this account has been reviewed by all
officers of the Native American Church of North America. (page 68).
Jesus plays various roles. In some tribes he is the cultural hero
(often equated with the traditional culture hero) who gave the White
version of Christianity to the Whites and Peyotism to the Indians. in other
tribes he is a guardian spirit who, rejected by the Whites who murdered
him, now looks after the equally rejected Indians. Another of Jesus' roles
is that of intercessor spirit between God and man. (page 69)
There are intertribal and intratribal variants of the Peyote rite, but
from the point of view of the Native American Church of the United
States these are inconsequential. As Allen Dale (Omaha) once said, All
fireplaces [i.e., alter variants] are man made. The different fireplaces
are the equivalent of White Protestant denominations. But one point all
Peyotists agree upon and emphasize: irrespective of variants, the Peyote
rite is an Indian form of worship. In fact, a common statement is, The
Peyote Religion is the only thing left to us Indians. (page 72)
As in the case of any other sacrament, the worshipper eats
Peyote under the proper ritual conditions in order to obtain power to
commune effectively with God and the other spirits. That is way the
amount of Peyote taken during a rite depends upon the solemnity of the
occasion; the more serious the rite, the greater the amount of Peyote
imbibed. (page 74)
In the culture under consideration, the traditional Indian means of
obtaining the power needed for a successful and healthy life was
through the vision quest. The individual went off in isolation, often
subjected himself to ordeals so that he would be pitied, and prayed for
assistance, until some spirit appeared in a vision and gave him personal
power. Peyotism changes the traditional pattern somewhat. The
individual participates in a collective rite, but he spends most of the time
in contemplation he is in a collective isolation, as it were. Two features
exist which are Peyotist equivalents of the traditional ordeal. Most people
do not find Peyote pleasant to take, It is hard to eat Peyote . In addition,
they find it difficult to sit on the ground all night in one position, It is hard
to sit through a meeting . (page 74)
Peyotist revelations should not be strange to Whites. Mysticism
has been an important tradition throughout the history of White western
culture, and visions have the authority of both the Old and New
Testaments behind them.
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all
flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men
shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions (Joel 2.28: quoted
in Acts 2.17)
(c) Peyote is also eaten as an aid to contemplation; through it one
obtains increased powers of concentration and introspection.
(1) The worshipper concentrates on communion and revelation in
order to obtain the maximum from them.
(2) On behalf of himself an others, he prays silently or aloud,
concentrating as hard as he can in order to procure the attention and
acquiescence of the spirits to whom the prayer is directed. ...
(3) Peyote heightens introspection and sensitizes the conscience.
The worshipper examines his life meticulously to see where he has
strayed from the Peyote Road because of evil thoughts and deeds. He
then confesses his sins, and promises to repent and discipline himself.
(At present this confession is usually made in silence, but occasionally
aloud; a few decades ago open confession prevailed.) (pages 75-76)
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