A Peyote Vision

by John William

from the collection of W. C. McKern

Original manuscript pages: | 333 | 334 | 335 |

(333) John William (Tongaway) used to tell John [Bear] stories when he first visited Oklahoma. He said, "We are not many people, my people: many died when we first came. The only medicine we used was peyote, and we were all out of it, and there was no way to go after it at that time. So I went after some over in Texas. There was no railroad then. I took a mule to ride, and four grain sacks. It took a long time to make the trip. Whenever I stopped overnight, I placed the mule at one place and then I slept at another place away from the mule. That is the way I did. When I got to Texas, I stood (334) on a small hill and looked about. I saw one little peyote. That was all. So I got a knife, cut it and ate it. After eating it I sat down, rolled a cigarette and prayed. I prayed so that I might find peyote. I prayed for help. Then I looked and saw one more peyote plant near where I stood. So I cut that and ate it again. After awhile, I saw quite a lot of it growing right where I stood. It had not been there before. So I stayed there quite awhile, picking and drying peyote. Some I dried in the sun and some by the fire. I got enough to fill the four grain sacks. Two sacks were placed behind and one on either side of the mule. I rode the mule besides. So I went home. After awhile, I came to a lone tree standing in the prairie. It was a hot day. When I arrived at the tree, I removed the load from the mule to let it rest, and I stood under the branches of the tree. Then I lay down in the shade. Pretty soon I had something above me. I thought that it was a big bird coming to me. When it came, it sat by the tree, that bird. It spoke to me. It said, 'You have peyote. I want you to use my tail and wing feathers with this (335) peyote. When you get home, and someone is sick, I want you to use a fan made from my feathers. That will cure the sickness.' So I killed the bird and skinned it. I took the skin home with me. All night I stayed by the tree. When I got home, I brought my people lots of peyote medicine. At that time no other Indians but us were using it. This is the fan made of those feathers. I never gave the peyote to any other tribe. After that, our sick people got well; not so many of them died."1

Manuel Almagro Rivas  
The Molecular Structure
of Mescaline

Commentary. "peyote" — a cactus, Lophophora williamsii, whose range is primarily restricted to northern Mexico, where it is called peyotl (in Nahuatl). The cactus has no spines and forms what are called "buttons," which are harvested for their psychoactive components. Peyote is generally eaten, and occasionally soaked in water which is, after an appropriate period, drunk. It has a bitter taste, and is usually taken as a large capsule in association with a drug like Dramamine in order to suppress nausea. Its active psychedelic constituent is mescaline, which in my youth, in and out of the Army, I have taken myself. Its effects are typical of other psychedelics like LSD and psilocybine, inducing periods of fascination augmented by illusions of ordinary colors becoming iridescent, sometimes accompanied with apparent motion or waving. Higher doses can lead to hallucinations. It is not surprising, therefore, that peyote was used by shamans in a number of Mexican cultures.

Comparative Material. ...

Links: ...

Stories: about the Native American Church: John Rave's Account of the Peyote Cult and of His Conversion, White Shirt, The Death of Henry Harris’ Daughter, A Peyote Story, Peyote as an Evil Spirit, The Arapaho Girl, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts; mentioning the Tonkawa: A Peyote Story, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts.

Themes: someone takes peyote and has visions: John Rave's Account of the Peyote Cult and of His Conversion, White Shirt, The Death of Henry Harris’ Daughter; a spirit is quoted as he gives someone a blessing: Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, Aracgéga's Blessings, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Friendship Drum Origin Myth, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Great Walker's Medicine, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Plant Blessing of Earth, The Completion Song Origin, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, The Difficult Blessing, The Blessing of Šokeboka, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Bow Meets Disease Giver, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Sunset Point, The Rounded Wood Origin Myth, The Healing Blessing; someone is blessed with a medicine: The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Fourth Universe, Great Walker's Medicine, Bow Meets Disease Giver, The Seven Maidens, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Seer, The Healing Blessing, A Weed's Blessing, A Snake Song Origin Myth, Young Man Gambles Often, The Origins of the Sore Eye Dance, The Elk's Skull, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Sweetened Drink Song.


1 W. C. McKern, Winnebago Notebook (Milwaukee: Milwaukee Public Museum, 1927) 333-335.