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“The Datura Cult Among the Chumash”.
The Journal of California Anthropology. 1975 Summer;2(1):7-17.
[EXCERPT] In their quest for visions and for supernatural power, the Chumash of the Santa Barbara region were one of many tribes throughout North and South America that resorted to the use of hallucinogenic plants. Datura was one of the most widely known of these hallucinogens (cf. Schultes 1972; La Barre 1972; Bean and Saubel 1972); Indians of an area from Chile to the American Southwest made ritual use of several species of Datura. In her dissertation on Datura in aboriginal America, Anna Gayton (1928) suggests that its use may have diffused from a single point of origin, since local adaptations of the Datura cult all show the common themes of divination and contact with the spirits of the dead. At
one extreme limit of this area, the peoples of southern California used Datura meteloides A. DC—more commonly known as Jimsonweed or toloache (the Spanish rendering of Aztec toloatzin). They elaborated the Datura cult
and integrated it thoroughly into their vision quest and their ceremonial life.
Until recently, references to Datura in the literature on the Chumash have been brief and largely conjectural. Now contemporary workers are synthesizing the unpublished manuscripts of John P. Harrington's ethnographic work among the Chumash between 1912 and 1922. In particular, Thomas Blackburn (1974) has done a cultural analysis of Chumash narrative texts in which Datura figures
prominently (I refer to myths and stories in Blackburn's dissertation by number whenever possible). I am also indebted to Santa Barbara historian Russell Ruiz for lore about Datura which he heard from old people no longer living.
Key Words: ethnology, archaeology, ethnohistory, native peoples
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