During the summer of 1935 the writer made an attempt to salvage as much ethnographic data as possible from the few surviving Lipan Apache living on the Mescalero Indian Reservation in New Mexico.1
Among the most interesting materials coming out of this effort were those which had to do with the use of peyote, for they involved an account purporting to be a description of a Carrizo peyote meeting which indicated that the use of peyote had diffused from the Carrizo Indians to the Tonkawa and Lipan Apache. In the first half of the nineteenth century, according to Lipan informants, their tribe claimed a home in the Texas gulf region around Houston and Galveston. Their neighbors to the east were the Carrizo. In the third quarter of the century, the pressures of warfare and epidemic divided the Lipan, forcing the segments west across the Rio Grande and north, respectively.
Only one Lipan man who had lived under aboriginal conditions could be found at the time of the field researches. Lipan women were barred from most activities concerning peyote, so the entire account had to be recorded from this man, Antonio Apache. There is a manifest danger in accepting the account of one man in respect to the peyote rite of another tribe and his own, but since one of the tribes under consideration is extinct and the other is nearly so, and since these notes are very likely the last we shall obtain about these peoples on this subject, they are offered without further apology.
If 1. The field-work was made possible by the generous financial support of Columbia University, the National Research Council, the Social Science Research Committee of the University of Chicago, and the Southwest Society. the picture given below is accurate, it is plain that with Lipan and Carrizo peyote we are close to the source of this interesting cult within the present boundaries of the United States. There is no reason to believe that this Lipan’s account is not highly authentic. He proved to be a very patient, intelligent, and careful informant whose descriptions checked perfectly with such scraps concerning peyote as other Lipan were able to give me. The information is rendered in the informant’s own words. The only liberties taken have been to organize the material a bit more logically in view of the anthropological interest and to omit a few asides and irrelevancies.
There was a lot of peyote in Lipan country, both in Mexico and in Texas. It grows around the Rio Grande near the border.
The Lipan were not the first people who found out about peyote. It was learned first by other people and later the Lipan learned about it too. The way I heard it, the Carrizo people2 2. The Carrizo were called “Enemy Camped about Water” by the Lipan. started it.
One Lipan man heard the sound of a drum. When he heard that he went over to the place from which the sound was coming. This was near morning, when the morning light was breaking. He followed the sound. He got there. He stood a little distance away. Some people were there. They saw him. He stood there. One motioned to him to come over and asked what he wanted. He replied that he wanted to watch what they were doing. They motioned him in. He came forward and lifted the log which acted as the door [the gate] and entered. They placed him at the south of the “door” next to a woman. The leader of the meeting was the one who invited him in. He sat there and watched what they were doing.
Right in there they had a wooden bowl. The peyote was mashed up in there with water. Some drank of this. And they had buttons in there too for those who wanted to use the buttons. They had the peyote both ways.
When the peyote was passed, it began at the door with the woman at the south. The Lipan did not take any. He was just there to visit and watch. No matter who asked for it or where he sat, the bowl or the buttons had always to be passed from the southeast around to him.
All the ground had been swept clean, and all over the ground was covered with sage. These people who were carrying on this ceremony were the Carrizo. They were not in a tipi but in a clearing out in the open. The fire was in the center. A big peyote was back of this, to the west of it. Sticks were laid around to form a little circle which stood for the tipi.
The men were all naked except for a gee-string. The two women at the door were dressed differently. The one at the south of the door was covered with a red blanket. It was fastened at the top with a red feather of a flicker. The woman on the north side of the door also had a red blanket, but it was fastened at the top with a woodpecker’s feather.
The leader sat in back, at the west. Toward morning he told his men, “All right now. We have a visitor here. He came here to see what we are doing. Now all you men do your best; do it in the right way. Do no foolish things, so that when he goes home to his people he will tell them what we saw and what we did in a good way.”
They were getting visions now. The Lipan was watching pretty closely. The leader told his men to entertain the Lipan with their power. The leader began to do it himself too. He knelt down. He breathed hard four times and the fourth time out of his mouth came downy feathers. They floated around and covered the inside. The Lipan could hardly see the people in there. He watched and pretty soon, while all the other feathers were in the air, just one feather fell to the ground. The leader sucked in his breath just once and all the feathers except this one which was on the ground came back into his mouth.
The leader made a sign to the Lipan to take that one on the ground. He said, “Keep it. Some day when your people eat peyote like this you can use it. It will remind you of me, your friend.”
After the leader did the magical trick with the feathers, the other men did all sorts of magical tricks. One made a bear appear, another a turtle, another a buffalo. They did many wonderful things, more than we could mention.3 3. In reference to such exhibitions on the part of Lipan, the informant said, “Perhaps the old Lipan did magical tricks formerly at peyote meetings, but I never saw any in my day.”
Among the Carrizo the peyote leader speaks. He says, “I’m going to hold a meeting tonight.” Then he takes charge of it and sees that all goes in the right way. It is just like a man holding a party. He has charge of it then. It was this kind of a man who showed the Lipan all about peyote. He was the leader, the one who arranged the meeting. The Lipan learned it from these people, the Carrizo.
After he got back, the Lipan kept his knowledge secret. Finally someone noticed that he was eating peyote and told him he was eating something very dangerous. Then he told the people of his knowledge and they began to use it. Since then it has been known by the Lipan.
The Mescalero already had the ceremony before I came here to the Mescalero Reservation. The Mescalero used to go down and meet the Lipan.4 4. This refers to the time span just before the reservation period, when the Lipan were being driven north and the Mescalero south. Many Mescalero accounts attribute the introduction of peyote among them to the Lipan. At this point the informant hinted that the Mescalero were instrumental in establishing the peyote cult among the Kiowa Apache. He said, ”At peyote meetings the Kiowa Apache used to sing any kind of songs, dance songs or anything they knew. Then Nayohogaf (‘Coming after Property’) went there and put up a tipi in the right way. He was a Mescalero. Then they learned the right way.” That is how it started. They got it from the Lipan.
The Lipan learned it from the Carrizo before they had had any experience with white people or Mexicans. They were by themselves then. The Tonkawa got it from the Carrizo people too.
The eastern tribes hardly know how to use peyote. They got it recently. They use dancing songs in there now.
The Tonkawa tell of a time some Indians from the north came with peyote. The Tonkawa already knew it, but they kept quiet. These Indians said, “Let’s put up a ceremony.” “What kind?” “Oh, a medicine ceremony.” “With what?” “Peyote.” Then they had a big meeting. The northern people said, “It’s this way, this way.” They started with their gourd and drum. But they could not do much. The songs were about half and half. It did not sound like much. Then it was the turn of a Tonkawa to sing. They did it right. They shook the rattle. They sang four songs in the right way. The others were ashamed. They stopped at midnight and went on their way.
The northern tribes think they know more about peyote. They put up a peyote meeting and always quarrel about it.5 5. The Mescalero and Lipan, realizing that they and the Tonkawa represent an early stratum of peyote usage, are contemptuous of the tardy enthusiasm with which northern and eastern tribes have accepted the use of the plant.
The peyote tipi leader furnishes all the peyote that is eaten. There is a lot of it there. He gets it and provides all of it. He is the one who puts it up. He has to get a whole big sack full. The real eaters did not take just four or eight for fun. They took forty or fifty or more.
When a man goes out to gather peyote, he stops before taking any and prays. Then sometimes he sings peyote songs right in the middle of the field. Among the Indians, when they pray at this time they first take out a cigarette and pray with the smoke. They do not use pollen or red paint, though.
When the peyotes are growing, there will be a big one with several little ones around. They cut off the tops without bothering the roots. The plants are not dug up. The only one they dig up whole is the big one they are going to use for the chief peyote.6 6. The Lipan call peyote “cactus that one eats.” The chief peyote is simply termed “peyote lying.” Then they cut off about an inch. But the best way to fix it, and the way it is usually done, is to cut off the top of this too. They cut it thicker. Then when it is drying they keep working it to make it round. It dries really round then. The chief peyote is supposed to be perfectly round.
All peyotes are good to eat whether they are big or small. They do not like to take the very large ones for eating. They want them just big enough so that a whole one can be eaten at once. I never heard of anyone picking peyote when the flower was on it.
Peyote is pretty hard to find when you are looking for it. A person who has been there picking it before finds it easily, but a person who is not used to it does not recognize it though he is in the middle of a whole clump of peyote. Once he sees one, another appears and so on till they all come out just like stars.
If you are having a hard time finding them, you do this. When you find just one by itself you eat it. When it takes effect, when you get a little dizzy, you will hear a noise like the wind from a certain direction. Go over there. You will find many of them. From the place where the noise is coming you will get many peyote plants.
If a man has never been to a peyote meeting and eaten peyote before and he finds some growing out on the flats, he can handle it but should not eat it by himself. He should go to a peyote meeting and have it fed to him in the right way by the peyote leader or one of the experienced men present. If he should eat it by himself it would not do him any great harm, but he is not supposed to do it.
If you want to learn power from peyote you have to go out by yourself and stay away from women. You learn at the peyote meeting. You go and eat many peyote buttons. You study it. You study your dreams and visions. Perhaps you will learn something, a little, one little word at first. Then you will learn more.
Before they go to the meeting, they have to take a good bath, clean themselves nicely, and comb their hair with a brush of agave leaf. A man perfumes himself with mint. He uses soapweed to wash his hair. He gets all cleaned up. If you want to learn anything about peyote you have to wash your hair and your whole body. You cannot use common soap. You have to use yucca root. If you have soap of any other kind, Peyote will smell it all the time and will not work for you.
And, after a little breakfast, you cannot have water or food all day before the peyote meeting. In the morning breakfast is eaten; then they do not eat anything all day if they are going to a meeting that night. That is the way it is with the Lipan.
If you want to try it, you must wash in yucca. You tell your relatives first. You cleanse your clothes. You tell people not to bother you when you roll over; tell them not to bother you after the ceremony even if you sleep four days. That is the way you will travel somewhere. You might learn something, some power, something good, even an herb. Before you go in to eat it you must pray, not only for yourself, but for your people, your relatives, your children. You pray for your crops if you have any, your stock, for all good things. Then you may learn something. That is what the great peyote ceremony man told the others after he had been asleep those four days. “Tell your people not to bother you, not to wake you, that you will come back.”7 7. This is a reference to a Lipan peyote tale which recounts how a peyote eater was led by Peyote Old Man to the camp of the Peyote People (the personifications of peyote). There he watches the Peyote People conduct a peyote meeting of their own at which they assume human form and eat one another. They grant power of invulnerability to the Lipan and return him to his fellows. “After he got back, at each meeting he learned more about peyote, about its rules, until at length he had all of it, every bit of it.” This story will be published in due course in a collection of Lipan myths and tales now being arranged by the writer. It follows the usual Chiricahua-Mescalero-Lipan pattern of the supernatural encounter leading to the acquisition of supernatural power. For details of this pattern see The Influence of Aboriginal Pattern and White Contact on a Recently Introduced Ceremony, the Mescalero Peyote Rite (Journal of American Folk-Lore, Vol. 49, Jan.-June, 1936). 8. The leader of the peyote meeting is termed “one who makes the peyote camp.”
The peyote has two roads. When a fellow is honest and good natured it is easy for him. But when a fellow is rough and ill-tempered he will have a hard time learning from peyote. It will scare him and make it hard for him. But the good man gets help easily from peyote.
In the old days the Lipan did not throw up when they ate peyote. Now they do. The reason is that they do not fast. And they drink water. Peyote cannot get along with water. Now they eat three meals a day and then go in. Peyote does not agree with what they eat. But formerly the Lipan used to fast. They ate breakfast and that was all.
In the old days those who had already tried it, once in a while kept up a meeting for four nights. They would gather every night. They could stand it. But usually when the Lipan held the ceremony it was for one night.
It is the fellow who knows a lot about peyote, who has had long experience, who puts up a camp.8 A young fellow who does not know much about it would not do it. He had better keep his hands off it.
One who knows much about peyote can put up a tipi. He and his helpers get the place ready just as soon as the sun sets. When they put up the tipi, the drum has to be ready. They fix it while it is still light, in the daytime. When they first started, back in the early days, they did not have a drum which made a loud noise; it was just loud enough to make a good time there.9
9. In regard to the drum the informant had this to add: “There is no figure on the Lipan peyote drum. At the very first they did not use a drum. They used a bow, a regular bow instead of the drum. They hit it with a stick, not with an arrow. Later the tambourine drum, covered on one side, came in. The bow used to be passed around just as the drum was later. Recently they began to use the kettle drum too. The iron kettle with three legs is used. It is covered with buckskin but not decorated. They got it from the Mexicans. They did not put charcoal or anything else in the kettle, nothing but a little water.”
From Yeyu, an old Lipan woman, I obtained an account of a wooden bucket drum which was used on occasion for peyote Her account runs: “They used a wooden bucket. There was a little water in the bucket. But there was nothing inside when it was used for dancing. It had a buckskin cover tied with rope. Before it was tied, the skin was soaked. Such a drum was called ’bucket that sounds.’ The bucket drum was used for peyote. When making a peyote drum they put four pieces of charcoal inside, but that is the only time it is done.” Possibly the use of this type of drum led to the ready acceptance of the Mexican kettle drum when part of the Lipan crossed the Rio Grande.
The Carrizo had their ceremony out in the open because they had no skins or cloth with which to make a tipi, but the Lipan had skins and so put up a tipi. They put it up just at sundown for the peyote meeting. But they swept it very well inside, just as they had seen the Carrizo do. They put sage on the floor all around. They made a little pit about four inches deep for the fire. It was just a little hollow. They had the door facing the east. They had a regular door to take the place of the log of the Carrizo people. The large peyote was put back of the fire. The man in charge sat in back to the west. The Lipan had to follow the same instructions which that Lipan had learned from the Carrizo leader. The Lipan could use any tipi for the ceremony; it might belong to anyone. They could use their own tipi poles too. There were no special designs on the tipi and nothing was put on top. The peyote tipi had twelve poles, two more, fourteen in all, with smoke flap poles. It had a three-pole base.
When the men hear the drum they come in. They come in of their own accord. You do not have to tell them to come in there. Those who are interested come. It is for anyone who wants to come. Anyone who wants to come in and try it may. When they put up the tipi they fix everything. Then the men come in, and they can go and sit where they want to; they do not have to go around clockwise.
The peyote leader starts the fire, but after that the man at the right of the door takes care of it. In the old days it was started with the fire drill, but later on, after matches came in, they were used. The leader tells someone, someone who is brave, to take care of the fire. This man has to go out at night to get wood and it is a frightening job sometimes; especially when one is under the influence of peyote. Peyote is sure a joker! The fire tender takes care of all the work that goes on in the tipi.10 10. The fire tender is known as “he who builds fire.”
The Lipan did not have the two women at the door. They did not allow any women in there. The Lipan who first saw the ceremony of the Carrizo never found out why the women were there, whether they were bringing the water or what. He never learned the rule about this and so he did not start it that way. The two women must have been there to do some work around there, but he never learned what their duties were.
The Lipan do not allow women to handle the tipi or put it up for the peyote ceremony. Only men do this. They do not allow women around.11 11. Yeyu, the Lipan woman who acted as my informant, corroborated the account of the disqualification of women in Lipan peyote. She said: “I never heard of women and children picking them [peyotes]. The women do not take a hand in it when they gather peyote. It is men’s work. Among the Lipan they did not allow women to take part in it.” She likewise gave similar information in respect to the difficulty of finding the peyote plants. On this point she averred: “The plant is just the color of the ground and is hard to see. You might be right in the center of some plants and not know it. Then you see one and then you discover you are in the midst of them.” Peyote wants all to be pure and to go well. He does not want any dirty thing or anything bad to be around. They do not want the women around. They do not put up the tipi nearer than a hundred yards or so to any camp. But the women know that they are not supposed to be there, and keep away. This is because it is dangerous to have women there. When a man is under the influence of peyote, when he has eaten quite a bit and feels good, he notices the body odor of women. You smell it then; peyote makes you smell things easily. When a man smells this he gets upset. It makes him throw up the peyote and that is bad. It is all right for the women to touch the plant out in the fields. Even if a woman cut some, it would do no harm. But she cannot be around the meeting. This is to safeguard the men at the meeting. But it is not dangerous to have the buttons around camp where the women and children are. It is only when they are used in a meeting that women should not be around.
Those Carrizo people hardly ever wore many clothes. But the Lipan people were different. They dressed up nicely. So some Lipan kept to their own ways and wore good clothes in the peyote meeting. Some came in with only a loin-cloth on and even without moccasins as the Carrizo did in that first meeting that the Lipan saw.
When the men come in, the leader furnishes tobacco and oak leaf or corn husk for cigarettes. Each man rolls a cigarette. Then each man prays and puffs in the direction of the chief peyote. The chief peyote is not on buckskin; it is just on the ground which is covered with sage. Peyote said that he did not want anything else around. The only thing that he looks upon as his friend among the plants is sage. That is why sage is put on the floor. Some tribes later discovered other things and think it is better to use red paint and pollen on the chief peyote, but the Lipan use only those two, sage and peyote, together. The Lipan always have the big peyote there. Some of the old Lipan say that even the Mexicans use it this way.
The leader puts the peyote buttons back of the fire at the beginning, west of the fire, behind the chief peyote. They are kept in a bag. When anyone wants some he asks for some; he says he wants one or two. The bag is passed directly to him, or he may reach out and get the bag. In some Lipan ceremonies they put peyote buttons in a circle around the fire pit and the chief peyote.12 12. The informant remarked, “There is no mound near the fire pit. This is something which other Indians have put in later.”
Before the singing, after they say their prayer, they eat peyote. The peyote leader does not have to eat it first. They eat any number they want. When that Lipan saw the Carrizo that first time, he watched and watched. They ate and drank it right along. Some had as many as a hundred buttons and drank a great deal. But the Lipan did not use peyote in the liquid form as the Carrizo people did. They just kept it in the button form. They used the peyote buttons green or dry. It is all the same either way.
The peyote leader is the one in charge there. But the chief peyote is the main one to look to. This chief peyote is pretty tough. It watches what is going on. It keeps everything straight. It is a plant, but it can see and understand better than a man. If someone has wrong thoughts, he had better look out or he will go crazy.
There are two kinds of peyote, male and female. The male blooms red when it blossoms. The female bears white flowers. Both kinds are used. When they are singing at the meeting they often hear a woman’s voice singing. Then they listen. It sounds to some as if it is a woman’s voice far away. They hear it come right from the chief peyote. Then they know that the chief peyote is a woman. It may be man or a woman. You cannot tell which it is till it sings. Sometimes a gruff voice is heard, a man’s voice. Then they know it is a male. You cannot tell by the appearance, but when a man sits there steadily and looks and looks and listens to it, he finds out. Sometimes some men hear a voice coming from the top of the tipi, from the place where the poles are tied together. They say it is the voice of Changing Woman singing there.13 13. Changing Woman is the mother of the culture hero and one of the most important supernaturals to whom prayers and requests are addressed.
To start the singing the leader takes the gourd rattle and a staff. Later they used a ramrod instead of the staff. The staff, “peyote stick,” is a piece of wood peeled off smoothly but not painted nor marked with designs. Mulberry, oak, or any sturdy wood that would make a good rod is used. The staff is just to lean against, to help you, as a man needs a cane to hold him up when he grows old. The staff stands for what holds you up in the ceremony. The leader holds the gourd rattle, called “peyote rattle,” in his other hand.14 14. A buffalo horn peyote rattle was described by the informant also. In summarizing the uses of the buffalo he said: “The horn was used for a rattle too. They blocked up the big end, cut it about half way down, and blocked up that end the same way They drilled a little hole in it and put stones inside. They used it as a rattle for a dance or ceremony. They put half inch stones in and it made a big noise. This was used for a peyote rattle too if they could not find a gourd. But they put smaller pebbles in if it was used for the peyote ceremony.” Yeyu, the Lipan woman, offered an independent account of this horn rattle as follows: “If you have no gourd rattle, use buffalo horn. Cut the tip off. Plug it at both ends with wood. Have a stick going through, coming out a little at the top. This is used in peyote.” According to Yeyu it is “up to the owner to put any kind of design he wants” on the peyote rattle. “Rattles were marked with sun, moon, stars, and animal figures. Buckskin was put on the projection which comes out of the top.” 15. In response to direct questions concerning the paraphernalia used in the rite the informant said: “In the old days they did not use the eagle bone whistle in peyote. Lately men began to bring these in. It was not mentioned in the very old descriptions or stories. No musical rasp is used in peyote meetings. The Lipan have no musical rasp at all. There are no feathers in the tipi or beside the door to take out with you when you go out.” (This is the Mescalero practice.-M. E. 0.)
There is one on the leader’s right side who has the drum and keeps time while the leader sings. The gourd rattle and the drum always go together. The rattle always leads. The one to the right has the drum and they pass it clockwise all the time. The leader sings four songs. Then the man to the left is the singer and the leader is the drummer. But if the leader does not want to be the drummer he does not have to, and in that case the man to the right of the one next to the leader is the drummer. Then the one to the left of the man who sang last is the singer, and the drum is passed back to the one next to the leader. From there on the teamwork continues and the drum and rattle follow one another.
They have only one rattle that is passed and one drum. These are passed around clockwise for the whole evening. Some men may be present with their own rattles and they can use them, but these are not supposed to be passed around. Only the rattle of the leader is passed. The staff which the leader has is passed too. It is held in the left hand and the rattle in the right hand of the singer. Each man who wishes to sings four songs. A good many do not sing; the drum is just passed to the next man and the one who did not sing drums for him.15
They usually sit cross-legged in the peyote meeting. They do not lie down. They cannot shift the position for comfort. There is no water in the tipi. They are not supposed to drink. There is no food in the tipi. They should not eat till morning, till breakfast. Those in the tipi are not allowed to talk. They are just supposed to sing; that is all. If anyone wants to leave, he may. If anyone wants to enter, he may. A man does not have to stay in the tipi once he is in there. When the peyote meeting runs smoothly, then everyone has a good time. When one man sings, another may get up and dance. Anyone who wants to can get up and dance.
It is great fun when the men are in a big meeting and all are of one mind, when all are singing and all is running smoothly. There is a good time there when there are no hard feelings and you can see it going well. The chief peyote man, the leader, has to keep everything straight. He tells those present to keep to one road and one mind, not to interfere or disturb the thought of others. He is supposed to keep the ceremony going in the right way without trouble. The chief peyote is the one who tells the peyote leader what is going on, whether anyone is working against the others in a way which he should not.
The head man is supposed to stop all arguments in there. He has to watch all the men. He sees that they obey the peyote rules. He wants them to go on in a good way. All the Lipan, the old Lipan, did not care much for supernatural power. Just recently, when they drifted into northern country, they have gotten interested more in that, and then the trouble started. But before, they did not make a lot of trouble so that the peyote chief had always to tell them, “Stop this; stop that.”16 16. Peyote was used principally as a curative rite by the Mescalero and as such took its place among the shamanistic ceremonies with all the individual rivalry which this implied. Doubtless Lipan peyote took on more of a curative and shamanistic coloring after contact with the Mescalero. For an account of the development in this direction and its probable causes see the article referred to in footnote 7.
When they first start eating peyote they put their thoughts on something good, something they want, for they say that whatever you are thinking about when you start is what you will see all during the night in your vision. Your mind cannot stray even a little. You must be thinking in a good even way. Then you will learn all about peyote.
Some people, if they eat four, or just a few, or even as many as twenty buttons, do not feel good. It just makes them dizzy. But when they eat fifty or more the good time is right there, if they are not afraid of it.
Sometimes a man sees a vision and it scares him and he goes out running. But he is all right the next day. The thing that frightened him will not happen unless he thinks about it all the time and it frightens him continually. Then he begins to be afraid of it and thinks it will happen. But if he holds it off—holds off the bad thoughts that frighten him—nothing will occur.17 17. At this point the informant said: “Once way back peyote made me cry, gave me a bad dream. Sometimes it makes you dream something pleasant; sometimes it makes you dream something dangerous.”
If a fellow is not afraid of it, he will surely have a good time. A fellow who is afraid of it just gets dizzy and frightened. He sees things that frighten him. What he sees is not true, but is just playing a joke on him. If he is not afraid and keeps on and eats up to fifty buttons, the bad visions will go away and nothing but good times will take their place.
A young fellow was at a meeting once. He was a member of the Northern Lipan.18 18. Literally the “No Water People,” a group which moved north and therefore away from the gulf area. Later they lived between the Rio Grande and the Pecos River, near the juncture of the two. There they became much mixed with the Mescalero. The “Big Water People,” those Lipan who tried to remain nearer their old territory on the gulf but who were finally driven over into Mexico, are sometimes quite critical of the “No Water People” because of their apostacy and mixture and classify them as a Mescalero or part-Mescalero group. He was just a young man. He had been at meetings before. The peyotes, which are about the size of a dollar when they are green, are small like pebbles when they are dry. This boy decided to eat many of these. He counted out fifty of them and put them in his mouth at once. He got dizzy. It was towards morning. He was leaning back on his elbows and crying, with his mouth in a funny position.
If a new member comes in, a person who has never been there before or who has never eaten peyote, he must go to one of the men present who he thinks has a good head and a good “road” and ask that man to fix the peyote for him. He might go to the leader of that meeting, but not necessarily. After that he eats it like the others. This man sometimes chews it first and then passes it to the new man, or sometimes he just breathes on it four times and gives it to him.
If a man does not know the peyote songs he must keep quiet and keep his ears open. He learns the songs. He tries to pick up four. Then at the next peyote meeting he can sing them. He can sing songs of a personal ceremony, such as bear songs. But he must not mix up these two;19 19. I. e., personal power songs and peyote songs. they each have their rules. The songs of the masked dancers should not be mentioned in the peyote meeting nor should a masked dancer come in there.20 20. There is some evidence to show, for the Mescalero at least, and in this remark for the Lipan, that the masked dancer cult and the peyote cult were competitors and that the leaders of one were not enthusiastic about the claims of the other.
They do not smoke during the night; just at the beginning and at the end of the ceremony.
When the peyote buttons are still green, the fuzz from the top is hard to get off. When the buttons are dry some scrape the fuzz off before eating them; others chew the buttons with the fuzz on. The Lipan say that the fuzz from the top of the peyote is bad for the eyes and will give you sore eyes. Some, when they eat peyote, peel off the fuzz and put it aside, mixing it with the sage, so that it will not fly around. At first the men begin by taking the fuzz off. After midnight they feel good and do not care any more. They just chew them up.
In the morning, when the sun comes up, or just before the sun is up, they are still in there. They are quiet. Each man rolls a cigarette and prays and smokes, saying, “May all be well. May no enemies bother us. May we have good health and long life.” Then they untie the drum. A man goes after water and brings it in anything that will hold water. Women cannot bring it in. They drink at daybreak. Water comes before food even. They drink all they want then. They wash their hands and faces, all of them.
Then food is brought in. The first food to come in is corn, roasted corn. Next is some kind of wild fruit, like yucca fruit, and then any other dish of wild fruit. And the fourth is meat. Four things are eaten. Women bring these in; they can come now, for it is all over. The food comes from several camps whose men are in the ceremony. The women provide the food. If the women want to feed the men, they can contribute it from the camps. The men eat alone in there. The women bring the food and go out. When the food comes in, they pass it around. First the corn is passed clockwise, then the other dishes. Each man takes a little out in turn. Then it is put in the middle and each man helps himself as he wants to after that. The food remains there all day and while the tipi is standing.
After the men eat they have to remain in there for the day, resting, sleeping, and telling their visions. After the meeting is over, you can tell others what you saw during it. You should not do it while the meeting is going on because it will disturb the other people. The men cannot leave the tipi where the meeting was held until the sun goes down. They can go out to urinate or defecate but they must come back. The idea is that a man should not go back to his own camp under the influence of the peyote. That same evening, as soon as the men get out, the tipi is taken down. They take it down in no special fashion, but just as any tipi is taken down here. There are no restrictions, food or any other kind, on men when they get out of the peyote meeting.
In the early days they just had a good time for one night. It was not used as a curing ceremony then. Later they began to use it for curing and put up all kinds of rules. At first they wanted to have good visions; that is what they were after. But then, recently, they began to use it as medicine for sick people. They brought them in and tried to cure them. What they have done recently is this. They bring the sick person in. Then the men there try to get some good vision from the chief peyote about it. They pray to the chief peyote to help the patient. In those early days down in old Lipan country there was no sickness. You could get soaking wet and would not get sick. But lately there have been all kinds of sickness.
If a sick person comes in the tipi, they see what is the matter with him. Perhaps a witch has shot something into him, a bone or something like that. It is seen. Then the sick one rolls a cigarette and gives it to someone there who he thinks can cure him. Perhaps some man present says, “I think I can take that out with the help of peyote and these other men.” So he does his ceremonial work in there and extracts what is bothering the patient. He sucks it out usually. He sucks it out with his own lips, not with a tube. It is nasty work right there. It might be dirty and full of pus. But the shaman does not think of it that way. To him it is just as if he is sucking nice juice out of something. Yet it will look terrible to others.
The shaman wants to cure that person. He wants to get rid of the thing at once. He does not want it to come up again. All the bad things in the peyote meeting have to go into the fire and burn down to ashes. That is what the fire is kept burning for in the peyote meeting. The object is put in the fire at once and burned up as soon as it is extracted. If a person wants to be a shaman he has to learn it thoroughly. He has to be very careful. If he does not want to learn it thoroughly, he will get into trouble himself. He will get sick.
The man who cures in a peyote meeting has to use peyote songs if he sings. In his own camp he might use bear songs or whatever he knows, but here in the peyote meeting he is supposed to use peyote songs only for curing. Sometimes he sucks right away without singing. He just looks and sees what it is and then sucks. Sometimes they suck out things like insects which have been shot into the patient and these things pop when burned. Sometimes when they throw the evil object in the fire, it blazes up blue but does not pop.
This doctoring in the peyote meeting has been done only recently. Before that there was not much sickness among the Lipan and the ceremony was not used that way for that reason.21 21. See footnote 16 for a hint in regard to the growth of the curative phase.
After the ceremony was used for curing, women were allowed to come for curing purposes. The woman patient must cleanse herself and wear clean clothes. Then she can come in. Beforehand she must have seen a shaman to whom she has already been going and must have been instructed by him to come to the meeting. The shaman, if he gets a vision from the chief peyote that it is all right, might give her peyote and cure her in there. But a woman could not come in just to eat peyote like a man. Women do not come in unless they are sick, and then they have to take a good bath in soapweed suds beforehand.
It is all right for a man to eat peyote by himself. Eat as many as you can, about fifty, and you will have good dreams [visions]. You might start by yourself. You might try twelve. It might not affect you. You take ten more and some more. You get to fifty. Then you get there. You get into a good land. When you get dizzy, when it takes effect, your mind is where you see things you never saw before. Peyote has a medicinal value apart from the peyote meeting. It was put on wounds of all kinds. Anyone could do it. It is eaten as a medicine too for almost any illness.
This article originally appeared in American Anthropologist April-June 1938, New Series 40(2):271-285.
Dr. MORRIS EDWARD OPLER (1907–1996) was an American cultural anthropologist.
Best known for his work on the folklore and cultural history of Apaches, Opler also developed an interest in Asian studies. During his ethnographic work with Japanese internees in a California War Relocation Center, he spoke up for the civil rights of the Japanese Americans, just like he strongly advocated the rights of the Apache peoples.