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


(Pls. 8, d; 9, d)

I am 37 years old. It was 37 years ago that my mother gave birth to me in an old-fashioned reed lodge. When I was a year old she died and my grandmother took care of me. I had come into the world a healthy child, but bad luck was apparently to pursue me, for when I was 7 years old my grandmother died. Then my father took care of me. At that time he began to be a had man; he was a drunkard and a horse thief. He would frequently get into trouble and run away, always taking me along with him, however. On one occasion we fled to Wisconsin, and there we stayed two years. We got along pretty well, and there my father married again. By his second wife he had three children.

After a while he got into trouble again, and misfortune followed misfortune. People were killing each other, and I was left alone. If at any time of my life I was in trouble it was then. I was never happy. Once I did not have anything to eat for four days. We had fled to the wilderness, and it was raining continually. The country was flooded with high water, and we sat on the top of a tree. It was impossible to sleep, for if we went to sleep we would fall off into the water, which was very deep. The shore was quite far away. As we were prominent people, we soon heard that my

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father had been freed. We were very happy, and went back to our people.

At that time a young man named Young-Bear was starting for Nebraska, and he said that he would take me along. I was very happy. So in that manner I was brought to this country. Here I have had only happy days. When my father got married everyone disliked me. When I worked I was working for my father, and all the money I earned I had to give to him.

After a while I went to school, and although I liked it I ran away and then went to school at Carlisle. I wanted to lead a good life. At school I knew that they would take care of me and love me. I was very shy and lacked a strong character at that time. If a person told me to do anything I would always obey immediately. Everybody loved me. I stayed there six months. I was also taught Christianity there. When I came hack to my country the Episcopalian people told me that they wanted me to be diligent in religious matters and never to forsake the religion of the Son of God. I also desired to do that. I entered the church that we had in our country and I stayed with them six years.

At that time the Winnebago with whom I associated were heavy drinkers, and after a while they induced me to drink also. I became as wicked as they. I learned how to gamble and I worked for the devil all the time. I even taught the Winnebago how to be bad.

After a while they began eating peyote, and as I was in the habit of doing everything I saw, I thought I would do it, too. I asked them whether I could join, and they permitted me. At that time I had a position at the county commissioner's office. I ate the peyote and liked it very much. Then the authorities tried to stop the Indians from eating peyote, and I was supposed to see that the law was enforced. I continued eating peyote and enjoying it. All the evil that was in me I forgot. From that time to the present my actions have been quite different from what they used to be. I am only working for what is good; not that I mean to say that I am good.

After that I married and now I have three children, and it would not have been right for me to continue in my wickedness. I resolved that thereafter I would behave as a grown-up man ought to behave. I resolved never to be idle again and to work so that I could supply my wife and children with food and necessities, that I would be ready to help them whenever they were in need. Here in my own country would I remain till I died. This (peyote) religion was good. All the evil is gone and hereafter I will choose my path carefully.

I know the story about the origin of the peyote. It is as follows:

Once in the south, an Indian belonging to the tribe called Mescallero Apache was roaming in the country called Mexico, and went hunting in the high hills and got lost. For three days he went without

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water and without food. He was about to die of thirst but he continued until he reached the foot of a certain hill, on top of which he could find shade under a tree that was growing there. There he desired to die. It was with the greatest difficulty that he reached the place and when he got there, he fell over on his back and lay thus, with his body stretched toward the south, his head pillowed against something. He extended his right arm to the west and his left arm to the east, and as he did this, he felt something cool touch his hands. "What is it?" he thought to himself. So he took the one that was close to his right hand and brought it to his mouth and ate it. There was water in it, although it also contained food. Then he took the one close to his left hand and brought it to his mouth and ate it. Then as he lay on the ground a holy spirit entered him and taking the spirit of the Indian carried it away to the regions above. There he saw a man who spoke to him. "I have caused you to go through all this suffering, for had I not done it, you would never have heard of the proper (religion). It was for that reason that I placed holiness in what you have eaten. My Father gave it to me and I was permitted to place it on the earth. I was also permitted to take it back again and give it to some other Indians.

"At present this religion exists in the south but now I wish to have it extended to the north. You Indians are now fighting one another, and it is for the purpose of stopping this, that you might shake hands and partake of food together, that I am giving you this peyote. Now you should love one another. Earthmaker is my father. Long ago I sent this gospel across the ocean but you did not know of it. Now I am going to teach you to understand it." Then he led him into a lodge where they were eating peyote. There he taught him the songs and all that belonged to this ceremony. Then he said to him, "Now go to your people and teach them all that I have told you. Go to your people in the north and teach them. I have placed my holiness in this that you eat. What my father gave me, that I have placed therein."

Then he told him to go home. He thought he had been dead, but it was really his spirit that had left him. After a while the man got well again.

There were many peyote near the place where he was lying and these he picked before he started. Then he went back to his lodge. He thought he had been lost, but it seemed hardly possible to him that this was the case. His being lost in the hills seemed to symbolize to him the condition of the people before they had eaten the peyote; they would be lost and then find their way again.

On his return he built a peyote lodge and for four nights he taught the people how to eat peyote. He did not, however, teach it as he was told, nor did he teach it thoroughly. These to whom he taught

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it used it for a purpose different from what it was intended. 3 They used it for war and for horse stealing. They, however, continued to eat the peyote, but they really ate too much of it. After a while the leader began thinking that the medicine might harm them, so he told them to hide it. The man did not know that even at that time a big war party was coming upon them. This tribe was almost destroyed.

They lost the peyote. One day, however, it was taught to a Comanche. He ate it and prayed to Earthmaker. Then it was taught to the Cheyenne and to the Arapaho and to the Caddo. The Tonkawa, the Apache, and the Mescallero Apache were the ones who had lost the medicine. When these other tribes began to eat this medicine they heard about it and they remembered that they also had long ago eaten it.

There was an old man in Oklahoma who knew the mescal country very well and he went down to old Mexico and stayed there for a year. When he returned he taught it to the Oto and the Oto taught it to us.

It is a true religion. The peyote is fulfilling the work of God and the Son of God. When the Son of God came to the earth he was poor, yet people spoke of him; he was abused. It is the same now with the peyote. The plant itself is not much of a growth, yet the people are talking about it a good deal; they are abusing it, they are trying to stop its use. When the Son of God came to earth the preachers of that time were called Pharisees and Scribes. They doubted what the Son of God said and claimed that he was an ordinary man. So it is to-day with the Christian Church; they are the Pharisees and Scribes, they are the doubters. They say that this is merely a plant, that it is the work of the devil. They are trying to stop its use and they are calling it an intoxicant, but this is a lie. If they will but come and see this ceremony they will realize this.


349:2 This account is of great importance, because Hensley introduced a large number of Christian elements into the ceremony, the principal one being the Bible.

352:3 This is clearly Hensley's interpretation.

Next: J.B.'s Peyote Experiences