By Anne Zapf
Before the Inquisition began in the 12th century, the midwife/healer was usually a woman. She was familiar with the medicinal properties of plants and used them with skill and care. Women have a heritage of knowledge in the use of psychedelics too, serving as Priestesses to the holy mysteries on the Island of Eleusis. It is a woman who first brings Peyote to the people, in most Native American stories. But, for the past seventeen years, women have represented only 2% of the Spirit Walk communicants that we serve. So, I wonder, why aren’t there more women communicants?
Perhaps the answer lies in my very first sentence. Perhaps the terror of those 500 years of torture and witch burnings still lives in the hearts of women. The inquisition established a Patriarchal power structure, which thrives on the subjugation of women. The brainwashing has been so complete that some women still believe that whatever the job, a man can do it better. Unfortunately, many women today find that they must imitate men in order to advance in their jobs.
Maybe women are afraid that their belief system will be shattered by this experiential religion or that they will be permanently changed. It’s been my experience that Peyote and a Word of Wisdom lifestyle tends to enhance an individual’s personal beliefs and strengthens their moral fiber. You will not lose your mind, and change comes as the result of a personal decision. When the Spirit Walk is over you will still be the same person.
It has been suggested that fear of chromosome damage, propaganda introduced in the sixties to discourage LSD use, is keeping some young women away. There is no evidence that Peyote causes chromosome damage. Psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond states that “all the evidence that we have suggests that Peyote is wholly beneficial and in no way a drug of addiction.”‘
Peyote is a gift of our Earth Mother and Sky Father. It is a spiritual teacher and healer. Huichol men and women, who are a beautiful, peaceful people, have used peyote for centuries. The hundreds of thousands of Native American Church members who use it regularly have also known no adverse “side-effects” from Peyote and some women use it to ease childbirth.
On a more personal level, I have three intelligent, healthy children, and Peyote has been an essential and inseparable part of my life since 1977. Meditating with a piece of Peyote in my mouth was part of my daily ritual. Before I became pregnant with Joy, Matthew and I took frequent Spirit Walks. Peyote helped me rediscover the essential role of the feminine in a society that worships the masculine. Peyote has been responsible for many miracles in my life, three of them being Joy, Joseph and Tristan.
Matthew, not wishing me to take harmful birth control pills, had gotten a vasectomy in 1977, three months before we came to the Church. Two years later, I received a personal revelation that I would have children. He could not believe that his vas deferens had grown together, and I doubted my own fertility. My menstrual cycle had stopped from the day Matthew was cut until about nine months before Joy’s conception! A positive sperm count proved him to be virile.
During our Federal trial in 1987, the Government made much of the fact that our records indicated that I had consumed frequent small quantities of the holy sacrament Peyote the month before Joy was conceived. During this time I was actively praying for a baby. We credit Matthew’s healing and Joy’s miraculous conception to Peyote, a Word of Wisdom lifestyle, and a healthy monogamous sex life.
Spirit Walk communicants tend to be gentle and have chosen a lifestyle, which emphasizes cooperation over competition and happiness over monetary gain. Communicants tend to be environmentally conscious and seek peaceful resolutions to conflict. Peyote reveals to each individual their inner strengths so that they no longer feel they have to prove themselves in violent, oppressive behavior. The holy sacrament brings inner peace. For men and women the message of Peyote has been to serve the Earth Mother.
Five hundred years of persecution during this millennium, followed by centuries of repression, have caused women to suppress their personal strengths of compassion, forgiveness, cooperation, patience, tolerance, creativity and nurturing. Men cannot give life. Too many men (and women too!) have been fine-tuning their ability to control or destroy it. Some women today seem to be joining the “men’s club.” More and more women, in an effort to achieve recognition as equals to their male counterparts, are participating in the dominator-corporate culture, violent sports and the military. Peyote has taught me that I do not need to imitate men.
Fear is one of the keepers of the keys to the gates of consciousness. Don’t be afraid of Peyote. The worst you can experience is temporary nausea. The best that can happen is a personal experience of the divine. The religious use of Peyote is legally protected in Arizona, and our Church is well known in Graham County.
Once an individual turns off Highway 70 and down the unpaved Aravaipa-Klondyke road, they leave the familiar world behind them. All of this helps to set a new mood. If you experience car trouble, the friendly people who live in Graham County are ready and willing to help.
The Spirit Walk is usually a solitary experience, but that doesn’t mean you have to come alone. Bring a friend, your spouse, or your children. Children are invited to play with our kids or to make a piece of pottery for their amusement. The Congregation House has all the amenities available for visitor use. Children are usually well entertained while their parents are fasting, and sleep well while the parent takes their Spirit Walk.
The presence of another person can bea distraction from the “still small voice,” so if you and your friend or spouse wish to take a Spirit Walk together we recommend a vow of silence be observed for the first 8 hours.
Peyote’s strong pungent taste and some nausea are thefinal keepers at the gates. Anything that is really good is bound to have a few challenges. The nausea will goaway and your stomach will settle down as the Peyote takes effect. Peyote requires only a sincere desire to know. You will never experience more than you are prepared to receive. It is a friendly teacher, gentle and firm, patient and forgiving. It shows us the error of our ways and forgives us when our sorrow and penitence is sincere. Peyote helps us to become one with God, and for a brief time we may know the serenity and balance of the Universe. The Church is here for you. “Peyote is a sacrament for all the children of the Earth. No one Church and no one race (and no one sex) can think they own it.” -Article of Faith #1.
The best source of printed information I’ve found on Peyote is The Peyote Book by Guy Mount, Sweetlight Books and Peyote: The The Divine Cactus by Edward Anderson. Read these book, or write me, if you still have questions.
We’ll leave the Light on for you!!