Hofman, A - LSD, My Problem Child, Chapter 6:
In Search of the Magic Plant "Ska Maria Pastora"
in the Mazatec Country
R. Gordon Wasson, with whom I had maintained friendly relations since the
investigations of the Mexican magic mushrooms, invited my wife and me to take
part in an expedition to Mexico in the fall of 1962. The purpose of the
journey was to search for another Mexican magic plant. Wasson had learned on
his travels in the mountains of southern Mexico that the expressed juice of
the leaves of a plant, which were called hojas de la Pastora or hojas de Maria
Pastora, in Mazatec ska Pastora or ska Maria Pastora (leaves of the
shepherdess or leaves of Mary the shepherdess), were used among the Mazatec in
medico-religious practices, like the teonanacatl mushrooms and the ololiuhqui
The question now was to ascertain from what sort of plant the "leaves of Mary
the shepherdess" derived, and then to identify this plant botanically. We also
hoped, if at all possible, to gather sufficient plant material to conduct a
chemical investigation on the hallucinogenic principles it contained.
Ride through the Sierra Mazateca
On 26 September 1962, my wife and I accordingly flew to Mexico City, where we
met Gordon Wasson. He had made all the necessary preparations for the
expedition, so that in two days we had already set out on the next leg of the
journey to the south. Mrs. Irmgard Weitlaner Johnson, (widow of Jean B.
Johnson, a pioneer of the ethnographic study of the Mexican magic mushrooms,
killed in the Allied landing in North Africa) had joined us. Her father,
Robert J. Weitlaner, had emigrated to Mexico from Austria and had likewise
contributed toward the rediscovery of the mushroom cult. Mrs. Johnson worked
at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, as an expert on Indian
After a two-day journey in a spacious Land Rover, which took us over the
plateau, along the snow-capped Popocatepetl, passing Puebla, down into the
Valley of Orizaba with its magnificent tropical vegetation, then by ferry
across the Popoloapan (Butterfly River), on through the former Aztec garrison
Tuxtepec, we arrived at the starting point of our expedition, the Mazatec
village of Jalapa de Diaz, lying on a hillside.
There we were in the midst of the environment and among the people that we
would come to know in the succeeding 2 1/2 weeks.
There was an uproar upon our arrival in the marketplace, center of this
village widely dispersed in the jungle. Old and young men, who had been
squatting and standing around in the half-opened bars and shops, pressed
suspiciously yet curiously about our Land Rover; they were mostly barefoot but
all wore a sombrero. Women and girls were nowhere to be seen. One of the men
gave us to understand that we should follow. him. He led us to the local
president, a fat mestizo who had his office in a one-story house with a
corrugated iron roof. Gordon showed him our credentials from the civil
authorities and from the military governor of Oaxaca, which explained that we
had come here to carry out scientific investigations. The president, who
probably could not read at all, was visibly impressed by the large-sized
documents equipped with official seals. He had lodgings assigned to us in a
spacious shed, in which we could place our air mattresses and sleeping bags.
I looked around the region somewhat. The ruins of a large church from colonial
times, which must have once been very beautiful, rose almost ghostlike in the
direction of an ascending slope at the side of the village square. Now I could
also see women looking out of their huts, venturing to examine the strangers.
In their long, white dresses, adorned with red borders, and with their long
braids of blue-black hair, they offered a picturesque sight.
We-were fed by an old Mazatec woman, who directed a young cook and two
helpers. She lived in one of the typical Mazatec huts. These are simply
rectangular structures with thatched gabled roofs and walls of wooden poles
joined together, windowless, the chinks between the wooden poles offering
sufficient opportunity to look out. In the middle of the hut, on the stamped
clay floor, was an elevated, open fireplace, built up out of dried clay or
made of stones. The smoke escaped through large openings in the walls under
the two ends of the roof. Bast mats that lay in a corner or along the walls
served as beds. The huts were shared with the domestic animals, as well as
black swine, turkeys, and chickens. There was roasted chicken to eat, black
beans, and also, in place of bread, tortittas, a type of cornmeal pancake that
is baked on the hot stone slab of the hearth. Beer and tequila, an Agave
liquor, were served.
Next morning our troop formed for the ride through the Sierra Mazateca. Mules
and guides were engaged from the horsekeeper of the village. Guadelupe, the
Mazatec familiar with the route, took charge of guiding the lead animal.
Gordon, Irmgard, my wife, and I were stationed on our mules in the middle.
Teodosio and Pedro, called Chico, two young fellows who trotted along barefoot
beside the two mules laden with our baggage, brought up the rear.
It took some time to get accustomed to the hard wooden saddles. Then, however,
this mode of locomotion proved to be the most ideal type of travel that I know
of. The mules followed the leader, single file, at a steady pace. They
required no direction at all by the rider. With surprising dexterity, they
sought out the best spots along the almost impassable, partly rocky, partly
marshy paths, which led through thickets and streams or onto precipitous
slopes. Relieved of all travel cares, we could devote all our attention to the
beauty of the landscape and the tropical vegetation. There were tropical
forests with gigantic trees overgrown with twining plants, then again
clearings with banana groves or coffee plantations, between light stands of
trees, flowers at the edge of the path, over which wondrous butterflies
bustled about.... We made our way upstream along the broad riverbed of Rio
Santo Domingo, with brooding heat and steamy air, now steeply ascending, then
again falling. During a short, violent tropical downpour, the long broad
ponchos of oilcloth, with which Gordon had equipped us, proved quite useful.
Our Indian guides had protected themselves from the cloudburst with gigantic,
heart-shaped leaves that they nimbly chopped off at the edge of the path.
Teodosio and Chico gave the impression of great, green hay ricks as they ran,
covered with these leaves, beside their mules.
Shortly before nightfall we arrived at the first settlement, La Providencia
ranch. The patron, Don Joaquin Garcia, the head of a large family, welcomed us
hospitably and full of dignity. It was impossible to determine how many
children, in addition to the grown-ups and the domestic animals, were present
in the large living room, feebly illuminated by the hearth fire alone.
Gordon and I placed our sleeping bags outdoors under the projecting roof. I
awoke in the morning to find a pig grunting over my face.
After another day's journey on the backs of our worthy mules, we arrived at
Ayautla, a Mazatec settlement spread across a hillside. En route, among the
shrubbery, I had delighted in the blue calyxes of the magic morning glory
Ipomoea violacea, the mother plant of the ololiuhqui seeds. It grew wild
there, whereas among us it is only found in the Garden as an ornamental plant.
We remained in Ayautla for several days. We had lodging in the house of Dona
Donata Sosa de Garcia. Dona Donata was in charge of a large family, which
included her ailing husband. In addition, she presided over the coffee
cultivation of the region. The collection center for the freshly picked coffee
beans was in an adjacent building. It was a lovely picture, the young Indian
woman and girls returning home from the harvest toward evening, in their
bright garments adorned with colored borders, the coffee sacks carried on
their backs by headbands. Dona Donata also managed a type of grocery store, in
which her husband, Don Eduardo, stood behind the counter.
In the evening by candlelight, Dona Donata, who besides Mazatec also spoke
Spanish, told us about life in the village; one tragedy or another had already
struck nearly every one of the seemingly peaceful huts that lay surrounded by
this paradisiacal scenery. A man who had murdered his wife, and who now sits
in prison for life, had lived in the house next door, which now stood empty.
The husband of a daughter of Dona Donata, after an affair with another woman,
was murdered out of jealousy. The president of Ayautla, a young bull of a
mestizo, to whom we had made our formal visit in the afternoon, never made the
short walk from his hut to his "office" in the village hall (with the
corrugated iron roof) unless accompanied by two heavily armed men. Because he
exacted illegal taxes, he was afraid of being shot to death. Since no higher
authority sees to justice in this remote region, people have recourse to
self-defense of this type.
Thanks to Dona Donata's good connections, we received the first sample of the
sought-after plant, some leaves of hojas de la Pastora, from an old woman.
Since the flowers and roots were missing, however, this plant material was not
suitable for botanical identification. Our efforts to obtain more precise
information about the habitat of the plant and its use were also fruitless.
The continuation of our journey from Ayautla was delayed, as we had to wait
until our boys could again bring back the mules that they had taken to pasture
on the other side of Rio Santo Domingo, over the river swollen by intense
After a two-day ride, on which we had passed the night in the high mountain
village of San MiguelHuautla, we arrived at Rio Santiago. Here we were joined
by Dona Herlinda Martinez Cid, a teacher from Huautla de Jimenez. She had
ridden over on the invitation of Gordon Wasson, who had known her since his
mushroom expeditions, and was to serve as our Mazatec and Spanish-speaking
interpreter. Moreover, she could help us, through her numerous relatives
scattered in the region, to pave the way to contacts with curanderos and
curanderas who used the hojas de 1a Pastora in their practice. Because of our
delayed arrival in Rio Santiago, Dona Herlinda, who was acquainted with the
dangers of the region, had been apprehensive about us, fearing we might have
plunged down a rocky path or been attacked by robbers.
Our next stop was in San Jose Tenango, a settlement lying deep in a valley, in
the midst of tropical vegetation with orange and lemon trees and banana
plantations. Here again was the typical village picture: in the center, a
marketplace with a half-ruined church from the colonial period, with two or
three stands, a general store, and shelters for horses and mules. We found
lodging in a corrugated iron barracks, with the special luxury of a cement
floor, on which we could spread out our sleeping bags.
In the thick jungle on the mountainside we discovered a s-pring, whose
magnificent fresh water in a natural rocky basin invited us to bathe. That was
an unforgettable pleasure after days without opportunities to wash properly.
In this grotto I saw a hummingbird for the first time in nature, a blue-green,
metallic, iridescent gem, which whirred over great liana blossoms.
The desired contact with persons skilled in medicine came about thanks to the
kindred connections of Dona Herlinda, beginning with the curandero Don Sabino.
But he refused, for some reason, to receive us in a consultation and to
question the leaves. From an old curandera, a venerable woman in a strikingly
magnificent Mazatec garment, with the lovely name Natividad Rosa, we received
a whole bundle of flowering specimens of the sought-after plant, but even she
could not be prevailed upon to perform a ceremony with the leaves for us. Her
excuse was that she was too old for the hardship of the magical trip; she
could never cover the long distance to certain places: a spring where the wise
women gather their powers, a lake on which the sparrows sing, and where
objects get their names. Nor would Natividad Rosa tell us where she had
gathered the leaves. They grew in a very, very distant forest valley. Wherever
she dug up a plant, she put a coffee bean in the earth as thanks to the gods.
We now possessed ample plants with flowers and roots, which were suitable for
botanical identification. It was apparently a representative of the genus
Salvia, a relative of the well-known meadow sage. The plants had blue flowers
crowned with a white dome, which are arranged on a panicle 20 to 30 cm long,
whose stem leaked blue.
Several days later, Natividad Rosa brought us a whole basket of leaves, for
which she was paid fifty pesos. The business seemed to have been discussed,
for two other women brought us further quantities of leaves. As it was known
that the expressed juice of the leaves is drunk in the ceremony, and this must
therefore contain the active principle, the fresh leaves were crushed on a
stone plate, squeezed out in a cloth, the juice diluted with alcohol as a
preservative, and decanted into flasks in order to be studied later in the
laboratory in Basel. I was assisted in this work by an Indian girl, who was
accustomed to dealing with the stone plate, the metate, on which the Indians
since ancient times have ground their corn by hand.
On the day before the journey was to continue, having given up all hope of
being able to attend a ceremony, we suddenly made another contact with a
curandera, one who was ready " to serve us ." A confidante of Herlinda's, who
had produced this contact, led us after nightfall along a secret path to the
hut of the curandera, lying solitary on the mountainside above the settlement.
No one from the village was to see us or discover that we were received there.
It was obviously considered a betrayal of sacred customs, worthy of
punishment, to allow strangers, whites, to take part in this. That indeed had
also been the real reason why the other healers whom we asked had refused to
admit us to a leaf ceremony. Strange birdcalls from the darkness accompanied
us on the ascent, and the barking of dogs was heard on all sides. The dogs had
detected the strangers. The curandera Consuela Garcia, a woman of some forty
years, barefoot like all Indian women in this region, timidly admitted us to
her hut and immediately closed up the doorway with a heavy bar. She bid us lie
down on the bast mats on the stamped mud floor. As Consuela spoke only
Mazatec, Herlinda translated her instructions into Spanish for us. The
curandera lit a candle on a table covered with some images of saints, along
with a variety of rubbish. Then she began to bustle about busily, but in
silence. All at once we heard peculiar noises and a rummaging in the room-did
the hut harbor some hidden person whose shape and proportions could not be
made out in the candlelight? Visibly disturbed, Consuela searched the room
with the burning candle. It appeared to be merely rats, however, who were
working their mischief. In a bowl the curandera now kindled copal, an
incense-like resin, which soon filled the whole hut with its aroma. Then the
magic potion was ceremoniously prepared. Consuela inquired which of us wished
to drink of it with her. Gordon announced himself. Since I was suffering from
a severe stomach upset at the time, I could not join in. My wife substituted
for me. The curandera laid out six pairs of leaves for herself. She
apportioned the same number to Gordon. Anita received three pairs. Like the
mushrooms, the leaves are always dosed in pairs, a practice that, of course,
has a magical significance. The leaves were crushed with the metate, then
squeezed out through a fine sieve into a cup, and the metate and the contents
of the sieve were rinsed with water. Finally, the filled cups were incensed
over the copal vessel with much ceremony. Consuela asked Anita and Gordon,
before she handed them their cups, whether they believed in the truth and the
holiness of the ceremony. After they answered in the affirmative and the very
bitter-tasting potion was solemnly imbibed, the candles were extinguished and,
lying in darkness on the bast masts, we awaited the effects.
After some twenty minutes Anita whispered to me that she saw striking,
brightly bordered images. Gordon also perceived the effect of the drug. The
voice of the curandera sounded from the darkness, half speaking, half singing.
Herlinda translated: Did we believe in Christ's blood and the holiness of the
rites? After our "creemos" ("We believe"), the ceremonial performance
continued. The curandera lit the candles, moved them from the "altar table"
onto the floor, sang and spoke prayers or magic formulas, placed the candles
again under the images of the saints-then again silence and darkness.
Thereupon the true consultation began. Consuela asked for our request. Gordon
inquired after the health of his daughter, who immediately before his
departure from New York had to be admitted prematurely to the hospital in
expectation of a baby. He received the comforting information that mother and
child were well. Then again came singing and prayer and manipulations with the
candles on the "altar table" and on the floor, over the smoking basin.
When the ceremony was at an end, the curandera asked us to rest yet a while
longer in prayer on our bast mats. Suddenly a thunderstorm burst out. Through
the cracks of the beam walls, lightning flashed into the darkness of the hut,
accompanied by violent thunderbolts, while a tropical downpour raged, beating
on the roof. Consuela voiced apprehension that we would not be able to leave
her house unseen in the darkness. But the thunderstorm let up before daybreak,
and we went down the mountainside to our corrugated iron barracks, as
noiselessly as possible by the light of flashlights, unnoticed by the
villagers, but dogs again barked from all sides.
Participation in this ceremony was the climax of our expedition. It brought
confirmation that the hojas de la Pastora were used by the Indians for the
same purpose and in the same ceremonial milieu as teonanacatl, the sacred
mushrooms. Now we also had authentic plant material, not only sufficient for
botanical identification, but also for the planned chemical analysis. The
inebriated state that Gordon Wasson and my wife had experienced with the hojas
had been shallow and only of short duration, yet it had exhibited a distinctly
On the morning after this eventful night we took leave of San Jose Tenango.
The guide, Guadelupe, and the two fellows Teodosio and Pedro appeared before
our barracks with the mules at the appointed time. Soon packed up and mounted,
our little troop then moved uphill again, through the fertile landscape
glittering in the sunlight from the night's thunderstorm. Returning by way of
Santiago, toward evening we reached our last stop in Mazatec country, the
capital Huautla de Jimenez.
From here on, the return trip to Mexico City was made by automobile. With a
final supper in the Posada Rosaura, at the time the only inn in Huautla, we
took leave of our Indian guides and of the worthy mules that had carried us so
surefootedly and in such a pleasant way through the Sierra Mazatec. The
Indians were paid of, and Teodosio, who also accepted payment for his chief in
Jalapa de Diaz (where the animals were to be returned afterward), gave a
receipt with his thumbprint colored by a ballpoint pen. We took up quarters in
Dona Herlinda's house.
A day later we made our formal visit to the curandera Maria Sabina, a woman
made famous by the Wassons' publications. It had been in her hut that Gordon
Wasson became the first white man to taste of the sacred mushrooms, in the
course of a nocturnal ceremony in the summer of 1955. Gordon and Maria Sabina
greeted each other cordially, as old friends. The curandera lived out of the
way, on the mountainside above Huautla. The house in which the historic
session with Gordon Wasson had taken place had been burned, presumably by
angered residents or an envious colleague, because she had divulged the secret
of teonanacatl to strangers. In the new hut in which we found ourselves, an
incredible disorder prevailed, as had probably also prevailed in the old hut,
in which half-naked children, hens, and pigs bustled about. The old curandera
had an intelligent face, exceptionally changeable in expression. She was
obviously impressed when it was explained that we had managed to confine the
spirit of the mushrooms in pills, and she at once declared herself ready to "
serve us" with these, that is, to grant us a consultation. It was agreed that
this should take place the coming night in the house of Dona Herlinda.
In the course of the day I took a stroll through Huautla de Jimenez, which led
along a main street on the mountainside. Then I accompanied Gordon on his
visit to the Instituto Nacional Indigenista. This governmental organization
had the duty of studying and helping to solve the problems of the indigenous
population, that is, the Indians. Its leader told us of the difficulties that
the "coffee policy" had caused in the area at that time. The president of
Huautla, in collaboration with the Instituto Nacional Indigenista had tried to
eliminate middlemen in order to shape the coffee prices favorably for the
producing Indians. His body was found, mutilated, the previous June.
Our stroll also took us past the cathedral, from which Gregorian chants
resounded. Old Father Aragon, whom Gordon knew well from his earlier stays,
invited us into the vestry for a glass of tequila.
A Mushroom Ceremony
As we returned home to Herlinda's house toward evening, Maria Sabina had
already arrived there with a large company, her two lovely daughters, Apolonia
and Aurora (two prospective curanderas), and a niece, all of whom brought
children along with them. Whenever her child began to cry, Apolonia would
offer her breast to it. The old curandero Don Aurelio also appeared, a mighty
man, one-eyed, in a black-andwhite patternedserape (cloak). Cacao and sweet
pastry were served on the veranda. I was reminded of the report from an
ancient chronicle which described how chocotatl was drunk before the ingestion
After the fall of darkness, we all proceeded into the room in which the
ceremony would take place. It was then locked up-that is, the door was
obstructed with the only bed available. Only an emergency exit into the back
garden remained unlatched for absolute necessity. It was nearly midnight when
the ceremony began. Until that time the whole party lay, in darkness sleeping
or awaiting the night's events, on the bast mats spread on the floor. Maria
Sabina threw a piece of copal on the embers of a brazier from time to time,
whereby the stuffy air in the crowded room became somewhat bearable. I had
explained to the curandera through Herlinda, who was again with the party as
interpreter, that one pill contained the spirit of two pairs of mushrooms.
(The pills contained 5.0 mg synthetic psilocybin apiece.)
When all was ready, Maria Sabina apportioned the pills in pairs among the
grown-ups present. After solemn smoking, she herself took two pairs
(corresponding to 20 mg psilocybin). She gave the same dose to Don Aurelio and
her daughter Apolonia, who would also serve as curandera. Aurora received one
pair, as did Gordon, while my wife and Irmgard got only one pill each.
One of the children, a girl of about ten, under the guidance of Maria Sabina,
had prepared for me the juice of five pairs of fresh leaves of hojas de la
Pastora. I wanted to experience this drug that I had been unable to try in San
Jose Tenango. The potion was said to be especially active when prepared by an
innocent child. The cup with the expressed juice was likewise incensed and
conjured by Maria Sabina and Don Aurelio, before it was delivered to me.
All of these preparations and the following ceremony progressed in much the
same way as the consultation with the curandera Consuela Garcia in San Jose
After the drug was apportioned and the candle on the " altar" was
extinguished, we awaited the effects in the darkness.
Before a half hour had elapsed, the curandera murmured something; her daughter
and Don Aurelio also became restless. Herlinda translated and explained to us
what was wrong. Maria Sabina had said that the pills lacked the spirit of the
mushrooms. I discussed the situation with Gordon, who lay beside me. For us it
was clear that absorption of the active principle from the pills, which must
first dissolve in the stomach, occurs more slowly than from the mushrooms, in
which some of the active principle already becomes absorbed through the mucous
membranes during chewing. But how could we give a scientific explanation under
such conditions? Rather than try to explain, we decided to act. We distributed
more pills. Both curanderas and the curandero each received another pair. They
had now each taken a total dosage of 30 mg psilocybin.
After about another quarter of an hour, the spirit of the pills did begin to
yield its effects, which lasted until the crack of dawn. The daughters, and
Don Aurelio with his deep bass voice, fervently answered the prayers and
singing of the curandera. Blissful, yearning moans of Apolonia and Aurora,
between singing and prayer, gave the impression that the religious experience
of the young women in the drug inebriation was combined with sensual-sexual
In the middle of the ceremony Maria Sabina asked for our request. Gordon
inquired again after the health of his daughter and grandchild. He received
the same good information as from the curandera Consuela. Mother and child
were in fact well when he returned home to New York. Obviously, however, this
still represents no proof of the prophetic abilities of both curanderas.
Evidently as an effect of the hojas, I found myself for some time in a state
of mental sensitivity and intense experience, which, however, was not
accompanied by hallucinations. Anita, Irmgard, and Gordon experienced a
euphoric condition of inebriation that was influenced by tke strange, mystical
atmosphere. My wife was impressed by the vision of very distinct strange line
She was astonished and perplexed, later, on discovering precisely the same
images in the rich ornamentation over the altar in an old church near Puebla.
That was on the return trip to Mexico City, when we visited churches from
colonial times. These admirable churches offer great cultural and historical
interest because the Indian artists and workmen who assisted in their
construction smuggled in elements of Indian style. Klaus Thomas, in his book
Die kunstlich gesteuerte Seele [The artificially steered mind] (Ferdinand Enke
Verlag, Stuttgart, 1970), writes about the possible influence of visions from
psilocybin inebriation on Meso-American Indian art: "Surely a
culturalhistorical comparison of the old and new creations of Indian art . . .
must convince the unbiased spectator of the harmony with the images, forms and
colors of a psilocybin inebriation." The Mexican character of the visions seen
in my first experience with dried Psilocybe mexicana mushrooms and the drawing
of Li Gelpke after a psilocybin inebriation could also point to such an
As we took leave of Maria Sabina and her clan at the crack of dawn, the
curandera said that the pills had the same power as the mushrooms, that there
was no difference. This was a confirmation from the most competent authority,
that the synthetic psilocybin is identical with the natural product. As a
parting gift I let Maria Sabina have a vial of psilocybin pills. She radiantly
explained to our interpreter Herlinda that she could now give consultations
even in the season when no mushrooms grow.
How should we judge the conduct of Maria Sabina, the fact that she allowed
strangers, white people, access to the secret ceremony, and let them try the
To her credit it can be said that she had thereby opened the door to the
exploration of the Mexican mushroom cult in its present form, and to the
scientific, botanical, and chemical investigation of the sacred mushrooms.
Valuable active substances, psilocybin and psilocin, resulted. Without this
assistance, the ancient knowledge and experience that was concealed in these
secret practices would possibly, even probably, have disappeared without a
trace, without having borne fruit, in the advancement of Western civilization.
From another standpoint, the conduct of this curandera can be regarded as a
profanation of a sacred custom-even as a betrayal. Some of her countrymen were
of this opinion, which was expressed in acts of revenge, including the burning
of her house.
The profanation of the mushroom cult did not stop with the scientific
investigations. The publication about the magic mushrooms unleashed an
invasion of hippies and drug seekers into the Mazatec country, many of whom
behaved badly, some even criminally. Another undesirable consequence was the
beginning of true tourism in Huautla de Jimenez, whereby the originality of
the place was eradicated.
Such statements and considerations are, for the most part, the concern of
ethnographical research. Wherever researchers and scientists trace and
elucidate the remains of ancient customs that are becoming rarer, their
primitiveness is lost. This loss is only more or less counterbalanced when the
outcome of the research represents a lasting cultural gain.
From Huautla de Jimenez we proceeded first to Teotitlan, in a breakneck truck
ride along a half-paved road, and from there went on a comfortable car trip
back to Mexico City, the starting point of our expedition. I had lost several
kilograms in body weight, but was overwhelmingly compensated in enchanting
The herbarium samples of hojas de la Pastora, which we had brought with us,
were subjected to botanical indentification by Carl Epling and Carlos D.
Jativa at the Botanical Institute of Harvard University in Cambridge,
Massachusetts. They found that this plant was a hitherto undescribed species
of Satvia, which was named Salvia divinorum by these authors. The chemical
investigation of the juice of the magic sage in the laboratory in Basel was
unsuccessful. The psychoactive principle of this drug seems to be a rather
unstable substance, since the juice prepared in Mexico and preserved with
alcohol proved in selfexperiments to be no longer active. Where the chemical
nature of the active principle is concerned, the problem of the magic plant
ska Maria Pastora still awaits solution.
So far in this book I have mainly described my scientific work and matters
relating to my professional activity. But this work, by its very nature, had
repercussions on my own life and personality, not least because it brought me
into contact with interesting and important contemporaries. I have already
mentioned some of them-Timothy Leary, Rudolf Gelpke, Gordon Wasson. Now, in
the pages that follow, I would like to emerge from the natural scientist's
reserve, in order to portray encounters which were personally meaningful to me
and which helped me solve questions posed by the substances I had discovered.