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DMT Snuffs - Cohoba, Yopo and Vilva
The Entheogenic Legumes

by Jonathan Ott
from Pharmacotheon (pp. 164-5)

During Columbus' second voyage to the Americas, 1493-1496, the Admiral himself commented on a mysterious "powder" which the "kings" of the Taíno Indians of the island of Hispaniola would "snuff up," and that "with this powder they lose consciousness and become like drunken men" (Torres 1988; Wassén 1967). Columbus commissioned Friar Ramón Pané to study the customs of the Taíno, and Pané wrote of the practice of the buhuitihu or shaman who "takes a certain powder calledcohoba snuffing it up his nose, which intoxicates them so they do not know what they do…" (Wassén 1967) . Pané also referred to the drug and cogioba, and in the later text of Peter Martyr the name is given as kohobba. More than four centuries were to pass before cohoba was definitively identified by American ethnobotanist W.E.Safford as a preparation of the seeds of Piptadenia peregrina, today more correctly known as Anadenanthera peregrina (Reis Althschul 1972; Safford 1916). While some had earlier confused cohoba with tobacco, also used by the Taíno, Safford in part based his identification on the widespread use of A. peregrina snuff under the name yopo by various South American Indian groups of the Orinoco River basin.. Archaeological remains in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Domincan Republic, Haiti, Perú and Puerto Rico testify to the broad range and antiquity of entheogenic snuff use in the Caribbean and South America (Cordy-Collins 1982; Franch 1982; Furst 1947b; Pagan Perdomo 1982;Torres 1981; Torres 1987; Torres 1992; Torres et al 1991; Wassén 1965; Wassén 1967; Wassén & Holmstead 1963). There is evidence of the modern survival of Anadenanthera snuff use among the Mataco Indians of the Río Bermejo and Río Pilcomayo area of Argentina (Repke 1992; Torres 1992) and it was recently reported that three species are used as inebriants by Paraguayan Indians: Anadenanthera peregrina (curupáy); A. colubrina var. cébil (= Piptadenia macrocarpa; curupáy-curú) and A. Rigida ( curupáy-rá; Costantini 1975). As late as 1976, snuffs made from A. peregrina were being prepared in the Orinoco basin (Brewer-Carias & Steyermark 1976).

Yopo snuff use was first reported in 1801 by the explorer A. von Humboldt among the Maypure Indians of Orinoco, and he identified the source of the seeds used in the snuff as Acacia niopo (later called Mimosa acaciaoides by R. Schomburgk), incorrectly, however, ascribing the potency of the snuff to the "freshly calcined lime" mixed with the fermented, powdered seeds (Humboldt & Bonpland 1852-1853). Fifty years later, the great botanist Richard Spruce made the first in-depth report of the use of yopo by the Guahibo Indians of the Orinoco basin, notes that were not published until another 57 years had passed (Schultes 1983c; Spruce 1908). Spruce called the source plant Piptadenia niopo. In Preu and Bolivia, a snuff called vilca or huilca(knows as cébil in northern Argentina) is derived from seeds of the closely related Anadenanthera colubrina (Reis Altschul 1964; Reis Altschul 1967), the use of which was reported amont Inca shamans in the sixteenth century (Schultes & Hofmann 1980). There is also circumstantial evidence the Incas employed vilca as a clyster or enema, although it is not clear whether the purpose was inebriation or purgation (De Smet 1983). There is evidence the Mura and Omagua Indians (and perhaps other Amazonian indigenous groups) employed A peregrina also as an enema, under the name paricá; although this is a generic name for entheogenic snuffs in parts of Amazonia, and usually refers to preparations of another plant, Virola spp., about which more will be said below (De Smet 1983; De Smet 1985a; Furst & Coe 1977). Since Anadenanthera species are not found in Amazonia, there is doubt in the case of the Omagua Indians whether the curupa leaves used in entheogenic snuffs and enemas were referable to this genus (De Smet 1983; Torres et al. 1991).