Peyote was originally described in 1560, however it was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that botanists were able to conduct field research and correctly classify the cactus (Anderson, 1980). Field studies have concluded that there are two distinct populations of peyote which represent two species. The first and most common, Lophophora williamsii extends from southern Texas reaching south to the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi. The second and least common of the two species is Lophophora difusa, which occurs in the dryer terrain of the Mexican state of Queretaro. This species differs from the more common species by, "being yellowish-green rather than blue green in color, by lacking any type of ribs or furrows, by having poorly developed podaria (elevated humps), and by being a softer, more succulent plant" (Anderson 1980). Native Americans use peyote in their religious practices because of its psychoactive properties, and is usually eaten as mescal buttons, the dried, brown pieces of the above part of the cactus (Lewis, 1977).
The peyote religion is ancient in its origin and spread from Mexico, North in the mid 1800's at a time when Native Americans were desperately in need of spiritual strength and enlightenment, Native Americans were confined to reservations which were overseen by military authority, while many of their ritualistic practices and traditions were deemed as illegal. Origin stories regarding the practice of peyote ritual vary, however all encompass a common theme, namely that the 'Supernatural' took pity on those persecuted and communicated spiritually to the Native Americans through the journey experienced while under the chemical effects of peyote (Steltenka...
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...s as an escape from the world the white man created. The impact this plant has had on civilization is that it is only way out for some, it is their vehicle of escape to drive them out of the material world and down the peyote road.
Anderson, E. 1980. Peyote, The Divine Cactus. Arizona: University of Arizona Press.
Boyer, B., Boyer, R., & Basehart, H. 1973. Hallucinogens and Shamanism M. Hamer, Ed.. England: Oxford University Press.
Csordas, T., Kiyaani, M. 1997, March. On the Peyote Road. Natural History, 106,48.
Lewis, W. 1977, Medical Botany. New York: Wiley.
Steltenkamp, M. 1982. The Sacred Vision. New Jersey: Paulist Press.
Stewart, 0. 1987. Peyote Religion. Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press.
Swan, D. 1998. Early Osage Peyotism. Plains Anthropologist, 43(163), 51-71.
Unknown, The Peyote Religion. www.peyote.net.
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