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


Let us now see how the ideas of Rave and Hensley were transmitted in the tribe itself, who the first and the later converts were, in what the nature of their conversion consisted, and what they, in turn, brought to the new cult.

p. 375

The first and foremost virtue predicated by Rave for the peyote was its curative power. He gives a number of instances in which hopeless venereal diseases and consumption were cured by its use; and this was the first thing one heard about it as late as 1913. In the early days of the Peyote cult it appears that. Rave relied principally for new converts upon the knowledge of this great curative virtue of the peyote. The main point apparently was to induce people to try it. No amount of preaching of its direct effects, such as the hyperstimulation induced, the glorious visions, and the feeling of relaxation following, would ever have induced prominent members of the old Winnebago religious societies to try it. For that reason it is highly significant that all the old members of the Peyote cult speak of the diseases of which it cured them. Along this line lay unquestionably its appeal for the most converts. Its subsequent spread was due to a large number of interacting factors. One informant claims that there was little religion connected with it at first, and that the people drank the peyote on account of its peculiar effects.

The manner in which it spread at the beginning was simple and significant—viz, along family lines. As soon as an individual had become a peyote eater he devoted all his energies to converting other members of his family. From instances that have come to our notice this lay in an insistent appeal to family ties and personal affection. A man showed unusual courtesy, showered innumerable favors upon relatives he was anxious to convert, and thereby earned the gratitude of the recipient, who at some critical moment, let us say, such as illness or mental depression, showed it by partaking of the peyote. The same methods were employed in the more general propaganda. The author knows of Peyote people who drove many miles in order to be present at the bedside of some old conservative who was ill, perhaps neglected by his relatives; bring him food, and spend the night with him in the most affectionate solicitude. They always had sufficient tact and understanding of human nature not to obtrude their purpose on the sick man too much. To the casual observer their object seemed simply that of a Samaritan. They would hardly have admitted that behind all their solicitude lay the desire to obtain a new convert. They would have claimed that their only purpose, over and above their sincere desire to comfort the sick man, was to demonstrate to their fellow Winnebago what changes the peyote had wrought in them. In this way the patient drew the inference, an inference that was likely to be drawn all the more quickly and forcibly when he contrasted the behavior of these Peyote nurses with that of his pagan relatives. The author was fortunate enough to obtain a fairly complete account of a conversion, illustrating both these features.

Next: What the Converts Introduced