Sacred plant of the Mexican rain god
The Aztec god of rain—Tlaloc—was associated with two sacred plants—chicallotl or Mexican Prickly Poppy (Argemone mexicana) and the affiliated itztauhyatl or Mexican Wormwood (Artemisia mexicana), which we will discover more fully in the next Backyard Entheogens. These days, both plants can be found with ease not only in many North American gardens but also in the gardens and backyards of various parts of Europe and Asia. There have been reports circulating that both these entheo-medicinally-valued delights are being used as cannabis substitutes in parts of urban Mexico. The rumours are with good reason.
The Mexican Prickly Poppy—once only found in the dense American tropics—can be located on every continent outside of the Antarctica. Already studied in Europe by the late 16th century, today it is common in India and Nepal, whose peoples have incorporated it into their entheo-pharmacopoeia. Known also as the Mexican poppy or sacred thistle, and “dragon herb” to the Creoles, it can be found growing throughout North America.
The ancient Aztecs believed the plant, facilitated by the rain god Tlaloc, nourished the dead. The anthropologist Christian Rätsch believes the plant was treasured for its psychoactive nature. The seeds of the poppy were crushed finely into a preparation and distributed to the worshippers. Tlaloc, utilizing the plant, was also believed to rule over the dream realm. Today, many Mexican and Central American indigenous peoples continue to utilize the plant for its sacred and medicinal nature. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Chinese community in Mexico City were said to be producing a kind of opium from it. Nowadays, in urban Mexican settings, it has found use as a cannabis substitute, enjoyed for its euphoria and reported aphrodisiac effects.
The yellow blossom variety of the Mexican Prickly Poppy (Argemone mexicana) and the dried seeds and seed pods.
The leaves, flowers, capsules and “latex” of the plant are all psychoactive. The latex—the milky exudates from the plant that coagulates on exposure to air—obtained from the capsule, can be dried and smoked for delightful effects. The seeds apparently are cannabis-like, the dried herbage is more euphoric, and the latex is very much narcotic in quality. When using dried herbage, a joint or two is said to do the trick.
While it has been claimed that the Mexican poppy contains opium, this has not been scientifically proven. Nevertheless, it does contain a rich collection of alkaloids interesting in their own way including numerous isoquinoline alkaloids known to be psychoactive in various cacti.
The plant is available widely and easily grown from seed obtained at garden shops or the ever-resourceful Internet. Given that the plant looks similar to its less entheo relatives, this might be a practical way to begin exploring it. The Prickly Poppy grows well as a garden or patio plant if given enough sunlight, and will achieve a maximum height of about one meter. There are both a yellow and white blossom varieties. Grown from seed, it prefers light sandy soil and thrives for about three years. Finally, it is called prickly for a reason—be extra careful of the thorns, which hurt more than one would expect.
There are currently no legal restrictions on the plant, but the wise shaman, as always, would enjoy this Mexican beauty in a place both private and safe.
For additional entheogen resources: www.iceers.org
Muraco Kyashna-tochá is a cultural anthropologist with over 50 years of experience exploring the nether regions of her mind with entheogens. She is an award-winning educator and a recognized medical cannabis advocate with extensive experience working on medical cannabis legislation in Washington State.
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