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Tobacco and Shamanism in South America

The history of smoking dates back to as early as BC in the Americas in shamanistic rituals. With the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century, the consumption, cultivation, and trading of tobacco quickly spread.

The modernization of farming equipment and manufacturing increased the availability of cigarettes following the reconstruction era in the United States. Mass production quickly expanded the scope of consumption, which grew until the scientific controversies of the s, and condemnation in the s.

Cannabis was common in Eurasia before the arrival of tobacco, and is known to have been used since at least BC. Cannabis was not commonly smoked directly until the advent of tobacco in the 16th century.

Before this cannabis and numerous other plants were vaporized on hot rocks or charcoal, burned as incense or in vessels and censers and inhaled indirectly. Evidence of direct smoking before the 16th century is contentious, with pipes thought to have been used to smoke cannabis dated to the 10th to 12th centuries found in Southeastern Africa.

Previously eaten for its medicinal properties, opium smoking became widespread in China and the West during the 19th century. These led to the establishment of opium dens. In the latter half of the century, opium smoking became popular in the artistic communities of Europe.

While opium dens continued to exist throughout the world, the trend among the Europeans abated during the First World War, and among the Chinese during the cultural revolution. More widespread cigarette usage as well as increased life expectancy during the s made adverse health effects more noticeable. In , Fritz Lickint of Dresden, Germany, published formal statistical evidence of a lung cancer—tobacco link, which subsequently led a strong anti-smoking movement in Nazi Germany.

Smoking has been practiced in one form or another since ancient times. Tobacco and various hallucinogenic drugs were smoked all over the Americas as early as BC in shamanistic rituals and originated in the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Andes. However, the burning of incense is not direct inhalation. It has been suggested that cannabis resin or possibly opium was at times included in this incense [ citation needed ].

It is unknown how much cannabis resin this incense would have contained and if it came from psychoactive types of cannabis or possibly opium. The ancient Assyrians employed cannabis fumes as a cure for "poison of the limbs", presumed to mean arthritis. The Greek historian Herodotos wrote that the Scythians vaporized cannabis seeds as part of their cultural rituals. He wrote that after a funeral procession holden for one of their kings:.

They make a booth by fixing in the ground three sticks inclined towards one another, and stretching around them woolen felts which they arrange so as to fit as close as possible: inside the booth a dish is placed upon the ground into which they put a number of red-hot stones and then add some hemp seed.

At once it begins to smoke, giving off a vapor unsurpassed by any vapor-bath one could find in Greece. The Scythians delighted shout for joy. The Scythians had constructed a sweat lodge which have been used ritualistically by a number of different peoples.

Sergei Ivanovich Rudenko in — excavated a Scythian burial site that included a miniature version at Pazyryk in the Tien Shen Mountains. A leather pouch containing cannabis seed was attached to one pole of the tent. Coriander seeds have also been discovered in this Kurgan. Likely a mixture of cannabis seeds and coriander seeds was vaporized on the hot rocks to create a thick fragrant if not psychoactive smoke for ritual bathing. Robicsek posits that smoking in the Americas probably originated in incense-burning ceremonies, and was later adopted for pleasure or as a social tool.

The Aztec goddess Cihuacoahuatl had a body consisting of tobacco, and the priests that performed human sacrifices wore tobacco gourds as symbols of divinity. Even today certain Tzeltal Maya sacrifice 13 calabashes of tobacco at New Year. Reports from the first European explorers and conquistadors to reach the Americas tell of rituals where native priests smoked themselves into such high degrees of intoxication that it is unlikely that the rituals were limited to just tobacco.

No concrete evidence of exactly what they smoked exists, but the most probable theory is that the tobacco was much stronger, consumed in extreme amounts, or was mixed with other, unknown psychoactive drugs. In early North America the most common form of smoking by indigenous peoples was in pipes, either for social or religious purposes which varied between different cultures.

Sometimes pipes were smoked by representatives of warring tribes, and later with European settlers, as a gesture of goodwill, diplomacy, or to seal a peace treaty hence the misnomer, " peace pipe ". In the Caribbean, Mexico and Central and South America, early forms of cigarettes include smoking reeds or cigars were the most common smoking tools. Only in modern times has the use of pipes become fairly widespread. Smoking is depicted in engravings and on various types of pottery as early as the 9th century, but it is not known whether it was limited to just the upper class and priests.

After Europeans arrived in the Americas in the late 15th-century tobacco smoking as a recreational activity became widespread. At the banquets of Aztec nobles, the meal would commence by passing out fragrant flowers and smoking tubes for the dinner guests.

At the end of the feast, which would last all night, the remaining flowers, smoking tubes, and food would be given as a kind of alms to old and poor people who had been invited to witness the social occasion, or it would be rewarded to the servants.

Radiocarbon dating, along with related pottery, on the two oldest specimens indicates they were in use around the 10th to 12th century CE. The pipes have not been chemically analyzed, it has been argued they were used for smoking cannabis because they predate the introduction of tobacco.

North of Zambia in Ethiopia, the remains of two ceramic water pipe bowls were recovered from Lalibela Cave and dated to — BP. Both contained trace amounts of THC according to modified thin-layer chromatography.

These reports are controversial because these dates predate the exploration of the New World by Spain and the supposed first introduction of tobacco, pipes, and smoking from the New World into Eurasia. A Frenchman named Jean Nicot from whose name the word nicotine derives introduced tobacco to France in from Spain. From there, it spread to England. The first report of a smoking Englishman is of a sailor in Bristol in , seen "emitting smoke from his nostrils".

Early modern European medical science was still to a great extent based on humorism , the idea that everything had a specific humoral nature that varied between hot and cold, dry and moist. Tobacco was often seen as something that was beneficial in its heating and drying properties and was assigned an endless list of beneficial properties. The concept of ingesting substances in the form of smoke was also entirely new and was met with both astonishment and great skepticism by Europeans.

The debate raged among priests, scientists and laymen whether tobacco was a bane or boon and both sides had powerful supporters. The English king James I was one of the first outspoken skeptics and wrote A Counterblaste to Tobacco , an unforgiving literary assault on what he believed was a menace to society. Though rife with, at times, irrelevant and partial arguments, it did address some of the health issues and pointed out the peculiar fact that tobacco was frequently assigned conflicting, and at times almost miraculous, properties:.

It makes a man sober that was drunke. It refreshes a weary man, and yet makes a man hungry. Being taken when they goe to bed, it makes one sleepe soundly, and yet being taken when a man is sleepie and drowsie, it will, as they say, awake his braine, and quicken his understanding.

As for curing of the Pockes, it serves for that use but among the pockie Indian slaves. Here in England it is refined, and will not deigne to cure heere any other than cleanly and gentlemanly diseases.

Cannabis 'smoking' in India has been known since at least BC [14] and is first mentioned in the Atharvaveda , which dates back a few hundred years BC. Always the cannabis was burned in an open vessel or censer rather than being smoked in a pipe or rolled into a cigarette. Fumigation and fire offerings have been performed with various substances, including clarified butter ghee , fish offal, dried snake skins, and various pastes molded around incense sticks and lit to spread the smoke over wide areas.

The practice of inhaling smoke was employed as a remedy for many different ailments. It was not limited to just cannabis, but various plants and medicinal concoctions recommended to promote general health were also used. Before modern times, smoking was done with pipes with stems of various lengths, or chillums. Today dhumrapana has been replaced almost entirely by cigarette smoking, but both dhupa and homa are still practiced.

Beedi , a type of handrolled herbal cigarette consisting of cloves, ground betel nut, and tobacco, usually with rather low proportion of tobacco, are a modern descendant of the historical dhumrapana. In Indonesia , a specific type of cigarette that includes cloves called kretek was invented in the early s as a way of delivering the therapeutic properties of clove oil, or eugenol , to the lungs. It quickly became a popular cough remedy, and in the early 20th century kretek , producers began to market pre-rolled clove cigarettes.

In the s and s, kretek took on the form of a national symbol, with tax breaks compared to "white" cigarettes [17] and the production began to shift from traditional hand-rolling to machine-rolling. Waterpipes were introduced into Persia and the Middle East in the 16th century from China. At first these pipes were used to smoke tobacco but very quickly cannabis flowers and hashish were mixed in.

As tobacco use exploded across the Middle East and Northern Africa the hashish trade blossomed within a few decades. During the 16th and 17th centuries hashish smoking quickly gained in popularity across Eurasia, from Turkey to Nepal, peaking during more modern times in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Throughout the 18th century the technique of gathering and drying cannabis plants to make hashish became increasingly widespread as mass production became necessary to satisfy the rapidly increasing Eurasian hashish trade.

As today, the pipes often had several tubes to accommodate multiple smokers, or smokers would pass the nozzle around in the many smoking houses that functioned as social hubs in major centers of Muslim culture like Istanbul , Baghdad , and Cairo. Smoking, especially after the introduction of tobacco, was an essential component of Muslim society and culture and became integrated with important traditions like weddings, funerals and was expressed in architecture, clothing, literature and poetry.

There is reference to tobacco in Persian poem dating from before , but because of the lack of any corroborating sources, the authenticity of the source has been questioned. The next reliable eyewitness account of tobacco smoking is by a Spanish envoy in , but by this time the practice was already deeply engrained in Persian society.

The water-pipe called Argila or hookah was created in Persia. The pipes of the rich were made of finely crafted glass and precious metals while common people used coconuts with bamboo tubing, and these were used to smoke cannabis before the arrival of tobacco. The two substances in combination became very popular and were also smoked in normal "dry" pipes. The water-pipe, however, remained the most common smoking tool until the introduction of the cigarette in the 20th century.

Foreign visitors to the region often remarked that smoking was immensely popular among Persians. On Ramadan , the Muslim period of fasting when no food is eaten while the sun is up, among the first thing many Persians did after sunset was light their pipes.

Both sexes smoked, but for women it was a private affair enjoyed in the seclusion of private homes. In the 19th century Iran was one of the world's largest tobacco exporters, and the habit had by then become a national Iranian trait. After the European discovery of the Americas, tobacco spread to Asia—first via Spanish and Portuguese sailors, and later by the Dutch and English.

Spain and Portugal were active in Central and South America, where cigarettes and cigars were the smoking tools of choice, and their sailors smoked mostly cigars. The English and Dutch had contact with the pipe smoking natives of North America, and adopted the habit. While the Southern Europeans began smoking earlier, it was the long-stemmed pipes of the northerners that became popular in East and Southeast Asia.

Tobacco smoking arrived through expatriates in the Philippines and was introduced as early as the s. By the early 17th century the kiseru , a long-stemmed Japanese pipe inspired by Dutch clay pipes, was common enough to be mentioned in Buddhist text books for children. The practice of tobacco smoking evolved as a part of the Japanese tea ceremony by employing many of the traditional object used to burn incense for tobacco smoking. During the Edo period, weapons were frequently used as objects of ostentation, indicating wealth and social status.

Since only samurai were allowed to carry weapons, an elaborate kiseru slung from the waist served a similar purpose.

In Darkness and Secrecy

The history of smoking dates back to as early as BC in the Americas in shamanistic rituals. With the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century, the consumption, cultivation, and trading of tobacco quickly spread. The modernization of farming equipment and manufacturing increased the availability of cigarettes following the reconstruction era in the United States. Mass production quickly expanded the scope of consumption, which grew until the scientific controversies of the s, and condemnation in the s. Cannabis was common in Eurasia before the arrival of tobacco, and is known to have been used since at least BC. Cannabis was not commonly smoked directly until the advent of tobacco in the 16th century. Before this cannabis and numerous other plants were vaporized on hot rocks or charcoal, burned as incense or in vessels and censers and inhaled indirectly.

Healing, as an aspect of shamanism, occurs in a variety of forms wherever it is practiced. Within a diversity of South American cultures and indigenous populations, supernaturally caused illnesses are cured by spiritually knowledgeable specialists shamans who, while in trance, encounter illness-causing spirits through dialogue or combat. This article focuses on two contrasting cultures from two widely different regions of South America: the Warao Amerindians from the rain forest of the Orinoco River Delta in northeastern Venezuela and the people from the desert of Peru's northern coast, some of whom are possibly descendants of Moche or other pre-Spanish Amerindians. As different as these two cultures are, however, there are bases for comparison of their shamanistic and musical healing practices, which can provide insights into general characteristics of shamanistic healing through music. Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription. Please subscribe or login to access full text content.


Tobacco and Shamanism in South America. Johannes Wilbert. Marlene Dobkin‐​de Rios. Department of Anthropology California State University, Fullerton.


Shamanism, Music, and Healing in Two Contrasting South American Cultural Areas

Effects of Nicotine on Biological Systems pp Cite as. The use of tobacco by South American Indians is deeply rooted in their culture and thought. From early pre-Columbian times to the present, tobacco has functioned as an important drug for magico-religious, medicinal, and recreational purposes. Data culled from about 1, ethnographic sources and pertaining to nearly societies reveal that the Indians employ six major and several minor means of nicotine application. A comparison of the ethnographical data with experimental clinical studies of tobacco indicates that pharmacology corroborates the nicotine therapy and practice of South American shamans.

Tobacco and shamanism in South America

Tobacco smoking is the practice of burning tobacco and ingesting the smoke that is produced. The smoke may be inhaled, as is done with cigarettes , or simply released from the mouth, as is generally done with pipes and cigars. The practice encountered criticism from its first import into the Western world onwards but embedded itself in certain strata of a number of societies before becoming widespread upon the introduction of automated cigarette-rolling apparatus.

Healing, as an aspect of shamanism, occurs in a variety of forms wherever it is practiced. Within a diversity of South American cultures and indigenous populations, supernaturally caused illnesses are cured by spiritually knowledgeable specialists shamans who, while in trance, encounter illness-causing spirits through dialogue or combat. This article focuses on two contrasting cultures from two widely different regions of South America: the Warao Amerindians from the rain forest of the Orinoco River Delta in northeastern Venezuela and the people from the desert of Peru's northern coast, some of whom are possibly descendants of Moche or other pre-Spanish Amerindians.

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