(1) HENRY MUNN has investigated the use of hallucinogenic plants among the Conibo Indians of eastern Peru and the Mazatec Indians of the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico. Although not a professional anthropologist, he has resided for extended periods of time among the Mazatecs and is married to the niece of the shaman and shamaness referred to in this essay.
(2). The inspiration produced by the mushrooms is very much like that described by Nietzsche in Ecce Homo. Since the statement of Rimbaud, "I is another," spontaneous language, speaking or writing as if from dictation (to use the common expression for an activity very difficult to describe in its truth) has been of paramount interest to philosophers and poets. Sap the Mexican, Octavio Paz, in an essay on Breton, "The inspired one, the man who in truth speaks, does not say anything that is his: from his mouth speaks language." Octavio Paz, "Andre Breton o La Busqueda del Comienzo," Corriente Alterna (Mexico: Siglo Veintiuno, 1967), p. 53.
(3). The shamanistic discourses studied in this essay, were tape-recorded. I am indebted for the translations to a bilingual woman of Huautla, Mrs. Eloina Estrada de Gonzalez, who listened to the recordings and told me, phrase by phrase, in Spanish, what the shaman and shamaness were saying in their native language. As far as I know, the words of neither of these oral poets have hitherto been published. They are Mrs. Irene Pineda de Figueroa and Mr. Roman Estrada. The complete text of each discourse takes up ninety-two pages. For the purposes of this essay, I have merely selected the most representative passages.
(4). "... the Greek word which signifies poetry was employed by the writer of an alchemical papyrus to designate the operation of 'transmutation' itself. What a ray of light! One knows that the word 'poetry' comes from the Greek verb which signifies 'make.' But that does not designate an ordinary fabrication except for those who reduce it to verbal nonsense. For those who have conserved the sense of the poetic mystery, poetry is a sacred action. That is to say, one which exceeds the ordinary level of human action. Like alchemy, its intention is to associate itself with the mystery of the 'primordial creation'..." Michel Carrouges, Andre Breton et les donnees fondamentales du surrealisme (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 195O).
(5). Claude Levi-Strauss, "The Effectiveness of Symbols," Structural Anthropology (Doubleday Anchor, 1967), pp. 193-95.
(6). "In a sense, as Husserl says, philosophy consists of the restitution of a power of signification, a birth of sense or a savage sense, an expression of experience by experience which particularly clarifies the special domain of language." Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Le Visible et l'invisible (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1964).
(7). The story of how he began his shamanistic career, together with the information to follow about fright, payments to the mountains, and practices in relation to the hunt, are quotations from an interview with Mr. Roman Estrada whom I questioned through an interpreter: the conversation was tape-recorded and then translated from the native language by Mrs. Eloina Estrada de Gonzalez, the niece of the shaman, who served as questioner in the interview itself.
(8). "Finally, the illness can be the consequence of a loss of the soul, gone astray or carried off by a spirit or a revenant. This conception, widely spread throughout the region of the Andes and the Gran Chaco, appears rare in tropical America." Alfred Metraux, "Le Chaman des Guyane et de l'Amazonie," Religions et magies indiennes d'Amerique du Sud (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1967).
(10). It is necessary to express one's debt to R. Gordon Wasson, whose writings, the most authoritative work on the mushrooms, informed me of their existence and told me much about them. "We suspect," he wrote, "that, in its integral sense, the creative power, the most serious quality distinctive of man and one of the clearest participations in the Divine... is in some sort connected with an area of the spirit that the mushrooms are capable of opening." R. Gordon Wasson and Roger Heim, Les Champignons halhlcinogenes du Mexique (Paris: Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, 1958). From my own experience, I have found that contention to be particularly true.
Salvia Divinorum Scotland HTML note:
I have re-HTMLed this document from www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/lsd/munn.htm There were some errors in the original (e.g. repeated paragraphs). As well as correcting these I have taken some liberties with the text, particularly where I felt it was unnecessarily referring to shaman as exclusively male. In the original text this was even done in the midst of referring to the mushroom session led by a woman, - not only unnecessary, ...downright confusing. A few other changes were made, an example being changing an original reference to the notion of the mushroom itself speaking as being merely "a primitive anthropomorphization, only man speaks..." (my itallics). I changed this because I felt that in an otherwise excellent article this was at least an unfortunate choice of words (possibly more contentious than that, - who can say only man speaks?).