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Sacred Tobacco Ceremony

Mapacho (black tobacco) or Indian tobacco

Tobacco was one of the most valuable substances for the shamans of the Amazon. It could be used alone or in combination with other “psychoactive” plants. The earliest mention of tobacco use in Peru comes from researcher Garcilaso de la Vega. He describes the use of tobacco by the Incami as a healing agent and as a powder for purifying the mind (Rape).

Long before the colonization of Mexico, shaman healers of the Aztec civilization used Nicotiana rustica in their rituals to predict the future. The Jivaro tribes consumed tobacco primarily in liquid form. Researcher Karsten reported that “the leaves are boiled in water. The latter is believed to enhance the magical effect of tobacco. The squeeze is used against general symptoms of illness, colds and against poisonous snake bites. It is also used for ceremonial purposes.

Men drink tobacco in rituals of initiation, divination, purification and military preparations. Women drink the liquid during initiation and wedding rituals.

The Tukanoan Vaupés people prepared a decoction of tobacco leaves to treat bruises and heal tendons. The use of poultices to heal bleeding wounds was popular among the Witotos. Tikuna men mixed the leaves with oil and rubbed them into their hair to prevent baldness. In many tribes, snuffing tobacco helped cure lung diseases. Smoking tobacco in ancient times was rare and could only take place in important ceremonies and medicinal settings. Non-ritual smoking was a result of colonization.

For relaxation, tobacco was used in the form of snuff. Mapacho leaves were dried in the wind or low heat. The bark of the wild cocoa tree (Theobroma subincanum) was traditionally added to the dried powder. In this form, tobacco was consumed throughout the day. Tubes for the powder were made from hollow bird bones or dried reeds. In many tribes, tobacco could also be consumed by chewing fresh leaves. Among the Huichol tribe, mapacho bears the title of traditional tobacco of shamans. Sacred tobacco among the Huichol tribe was used not only for good, but also for the purpose of causing damage and causing diseases. According to Indians, evil shamans have their own special tobacco, which is mentioned in an ancient Caribbean legend dedicated to a competition between a good and an evil shaman.

Tobacco has played a central role in the spiritual training of shamans around the world. In large doses, tobacco is a dangerous, strong and sometimes fatal poison. Shamans used tobacco, often in combination with other drugs, to achieve near-death experiences, believing that those who overcome death heal themselves and are capable of healing and resurrecting others.

Mapacho is a shaman's tobacco

By the time of European contact, tobacco smoking was widespread in North America. The high Mayan culture that flourished in Mesoamerica until the mid-800s had a long and complex relationship with tobacco and its smoking habit. The tobacco of the Classic Maya was Mapacho tobacco (Nicotiana rustica), which is still in use among the indigenous populations of South America to this day. The difference between this tobacco and cigarette tobacco is very large. Wild tobacco was dried and rolled into cigars, which were then smoked.

The condition that resulted from smoking, partly due to the synergy with compounds present including MAO inhibitors, was central to Mayan shamanism.

It should also be recognized that nicotine is by no means the only bioactive substance in the tobacco leaf.
Tobacco was and is an ever-present appendage of more powerful plants and visuals, wherever they are consumed in the Americas in traditional and shamanic forms. And one of the traditional ways of consuming tobacco includes the enema, invented in the New World.
Peter Furst has studied the role of enemas and clysters in Mesoamerican medicine and shamanism. Only recently it became clear that the ancient Mayans, like the ancient Peruvians, used enemas. Douches, or narcotic enemas, and even enema rituals, reflected in Mayan art, have been discovered.

Like other species of plants of the genus Nicotiana, all parts of shag contain nicotine (in dry leaves – 5-15%), nornicotine, nicoteine and anabasine, with the exception of mature seeds. The plant also contains relatively many MAO inhibitors of the beta-carboline class, including harmine, harmaline and tetrahydroharmine, due to which it has some entheogenic effects and is used in the shamanic practices of a number of indigenous peoples of America.
Dry leaves contain 15-20% citric acid.
Shag leaves, after fermentation and drying, are used for smoking, and previously they were used to produce citric acid, nicotine for the production of nicotine sulfate (to control crop pests) and nicotinic acid.

The plant is an attribute of healing ceremonies using ayahuasca. Often used in conjunction with other medicinal plants to enhance their effects.
The direct use of tobacco is to neutralize snake venom and wound infections. In Ayahuasca ceremonies, curanderos use tobacco to drive away evil spirits, cleanse space, and relieve traumatic shock.