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The Peyote Cult, by Paul Radin, [1925], at


(Pl. 55, a)

John Rave belongs to the Bear clan, the members of which had the functions of what might be called sergeants-at-arms. He and his ancestors used to be in charge of the manupetci (i.e., the sergeants-at-arms lodge), to which all malefactors would be brought for punishment.

Rave, although he belonged to this highly respected class of people, was a bad man. He roamed from place to place. He has participated in all the ceremonies of the Winnebago, the medicine dance alone excepted. He had been married many times. Up to 1901 he was a heavy drinker. In that year he went to Oklahoma and while there ate the peyote. He then returned to the Winnebago and tried to introduce it among them, but none with the exception of a few relatives would have anything to do with it. This did not in any way discourage him, however, and he continued using the peyote, now and then getting a few converts.

There was not very much religion connected with it in the beginning and the reason people drank it was on account of the peculiar effects it had upon them. Nevertheless these Peyote people preached good things and gradually lost all desire for intoxicating drinks or for participating in the old Winnebago ceremonies. Then Rave began to do away with the old Indian customs. About four or five years ago the membership in the Peyote religion began to increase, for many people now noticed that those connected with the Peyote cult were the only people in the tribe leading a Christian life.

At this time the Bible was introduced by a young man named Albert Hensley (pls. 8, d; 9, d). He, too, had been a bad person, although he had been educated at Carlisle. Like Rave, he was a heavy drinker and fond of wandering.

During the last few years our members have increased so fast that now almost half the tribe belong to our religion. We all make efforts to lead a Christian life and we are succeeding very well.

We use the New Testament, especially the Revelations.

Our meetings take place at any time. We gather together in the evening, and as soon as everything is in readiness the leader arises and offers a prayer called, "Turning themselves over to the care of

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the Trinity." Then all sit down and the leader makes the regular announcements. The peyote is then passed around, either in the dry condition or steeped. The leader thereupon starts the singing. These are some of the songs:

1. Ask God for life and he will give it to us.

2. God created us so pray to him.

3. To the home of Jesus we are going, so pray to him.

4. Come ye to the road of the Son of God; come ye to the road.

Then Albert Hensley calls upon 12 educated members to translate and interpret certain portions of the Bible for the nonreading members. He arranges with the leader to have the singing stop at certain places so that some of these young men can speak. When these are finished, other individuals are called upon to give testimony. Hensley always talks and so does Rave.

John Rave baptizes by dipping his hand in a diluted infusion of peyote and rubbing it across the forehead of a new member, saying, "I baptize thee in the name of God, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, which is called God's Holiness."

The peyote eaters wanted to get baptized and unite with the church in Winnebago, but the clergyman in charge would not permit them, so they went and did their own baptizing through their leader, John Rave, who, though he is not educated, is full of real intelligence and religion.

If a person who is truly repentant eats peyote for the first time, he does not suffer at all from its effects. But if an individual is bullheaded, does not believe in its virtue, he is likely to suffer a good deal. This I know from my own experience. After eating peyote I grasped the meaning of the Bible, which before had been meaningless to me.

If a person eats peyote and does not repent openly, he has a guilty conscience, which leaves him as soon as the public repentance has been made.

Old men and women who had been brought up to worship animals and all kinds of spirits have cast them all away and in many instances burned their idols, not because they were told to do so but because they felt that way.

Whenever at our meetings a person wishes to pray, he does so; when he wishes to cry, he does so. Indeed, we show no timidity about worshiping God in the right way. In the Bible one often reads of Christ casting out the devils and of the people shouting, etc. So does the peyote act on us in the beginning, although afterwards its effects abate.

If a peyote eater relapses into his old way of living, then the peyote causes him great suffering.

At first our meetings were started without any rule laid down by the Bible, but afterwards we found a very good reason for holding

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our meetings at night. We searched the Bible and asked many ministers for any evidence for Christ's ever having held any meetings in the daytime, but we could find nothing to that effect. We did, however, find evidence that he had been out all night in prayer. As it is our desire to follow as closely as we can in the footsteps of Christ, we hold our meetings at night. Then, too, when we pray we wish to get as far away as possible from earthly things, and the night is the best time, for then we are not likely to be bothered by anything.

We have made earnest efforts to become Christians since we began drinking and eating this peyote, but many people say sarcastically that we have drunk ourselves into Christianity, and that we are demented. I am a peyote eater, but I have never found a demented person among them. We claim that there is virtue in the peyote. To you who do not believe and desire to find out let me quote the fourth chapter of the First Epistle of St. John:

"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

"Hereby know ye the spirit of God. Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God."

We claim that you can not find out anything by standing off at a distance and only talking about it. We claim that some earthly things can have the virtue of God, for instance, the Bible, which is entirely made up of earthly material—the ink, the paper, the cover—yet it has survived the ages.

Next: J.B.'s Account of the Leader of the Peyote