The sacred datura plant (jimsonweed, toloache) was used among natives of the American Southwest all the way into South America as a means by which to access the spirit world.  Understand that only since the advent of bureaucratic religious power structures has the “supernatural” been considered something apart from humanity. Most people prior to 2000 years ago or so understood that all things part of the natural world, even things one could not explain, were real in some way, not imaginary. It was only a matter of using the correct tools to perceive them properly.

Also see this post about Datura


Isn’t it odd how in modern times, if we can’t explain something supernatural we flippantly dismiss it or call it an hallucination? But isn’t an “hallucination” natural? Why would our brains make them if they had no evolutionary purpose? Nature doesn’t make waste. Native people understood altered states of consciousness to be pathways of access  to information that is not readily available in our veiled state of existence which promotes a sense of separation from each other and our environment. Plants don’t behave as if they are separate from the earth and sky, they flow in and amongst both, and both flow in and amongst plants. To eat a plant is to eat both the earth and sky. But we modern humans unnecessarily compartmentalize, thereby cutting ourselves off from information that a growing body of researchers think is valuable knowledge available to us if we would venture a look within as well as without.


The consumption of hallucinogenic plant concoctions has been a practice of humanity for at least 30,000 years as we can see in the painted art of shamanic caves. Independent researchers including Graham Hancock and Gregg Braden make very strong cases, based on ancient Hebrew (the most stable of the ancient languages) and recorded reports of shamanic visions throughout the ages, that what the brain is actually doing when in an hallucinatory state is reading its own DNA.  Isn’t that an amazing idea? After all, what is “junk DNA” for? Nobody knows. Yet, we do know that nature does not make waste. Perhaps it is not “junk” at all, but the tomes of universal knowledge encoded right inside our own creation.

Here in Southern California the most common hallucinogenic plant available is Datura/Toloache. It was so important to the shamanic culture of native Californians that when the Spanish came to the region they made it a practice to kill datura plants to cut natives off from their spiritual umbilical cord.

This image that I’ve seen painted in shamanic caves I think may represent the Datura plant.

A very common image that appears in rock art of Southern California is the “diamond chain”. Some people call it the “rattlesnake pattern” I’ve read in several books that this image was painted during female initiation rituals. Well, fine. Perhaps it was, but why? What makes a diamond chain representative of the burgeoning fertility of a young woman?

Diamond Chain
Diamond Chain

One idea is that the “diamond chain” represents a metaphoric seed pod. A Mesquite seed pod is one possibility. A Mezcal seedpod could be another.

Mezcal is another hallucinogenic drug from the American Southwest. It is interesting to consider that the Mezcal seed pod is metaphoric in more than one way. First, the pod is pregnant with a seed. Second, that seed, when consumed, brings one to a higher level of consciousness. Perhaps a woman coming of age achieves both of these milestones of maturity?

The “diamond chain”, aka “rattlesnake pattern”, also appears on the back of the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake.


What does a poisonous reptile have to do with female puberty? Perhaps nothing directly, but we have to refer to the symbolism. A snake emerges from the womb of the earth. Its very lifestyle represents “birth”. It coils like a spiral. A spiral is another powerful and prevalent shamanic symbol that represents emergence and transcendence.   Heck, the spiral is a symbol that represents emergence and transcendence in both art and even scientific study to this day. So, rattlesnake’s instinct to coil then extend into life represents “birth”. But there is one more thing significant about the symbolism of the rattlesnake. He has the diamond chain on his back.

The diamond chain is an entoptic image that hallucinogenic drug test subjects all report seeing when under the influence of psychoactive substances, and as I said, it appears all over the walls of shamanic pictograph caves where shamans would practice their transcendent rituals then record their visions on the rock.

Diamond Chain

Why would laboratory test subjects all over the world spontaneously visualize the backs of rattlesnakes? Of course they do not. What they visualize is a double helix like a diamond chain pattern. An image from antiquity that has been depicted as two snakes intertwined and coiling upward like DNA. Perhaps what they are actually seeing IS DNA.

It is a tantalizing idea that our minds can access a wealth of wisdom we don’t even know is inside us simply by entering into an ecstatic state. But that idea it isn’t very mysterious to modern science. It is now a well established fact that a regular practice of meditation can alter a person’s DNA. How do you supposed that happens? It isn’t magic. It is the result of repeatedly applying the brain to commune with higher consciousness. But, really, how and why does it happen? I couldn’t possibly say, maybe someone in the scientific community can explain it if you as, but I don’t think the “why” of it matters an awful lot. The important part is that it does, in fact, happen. It happens whether you are an upper secondary degree graduate from an Ivy League university or if you are a pre-literate shaman from deep antiquity. A human brain that is given the opportunity to expand into higher consciousness will gain wisdom and improve to the very measurable extent of altering its own host body’s DNA.

Certainly prehistoric shamans did not know what DNA was in the sense that we define it, but they saw it and they worked with it. Many modern cultures in South America that descended from shamanic roots have still not given up the ritual practice of ingesting hallucinogenic substances even in urbane and educated settings. They don’t do it to “get high”, they do it because it expands their awareness. It makes them better as people and communities. Likewise, modern people all over the world still dance, sing, meditate, exercise, fast, and listen to music, both alone and in groups, all of which are drug-free ways to activate ecstatic states of brain activity. Humans crave this connection with the spiritual and instinctively know that it is accessible from within.

It isn’t bacchanalian to revel in ecstasy. It is natural. It is easy. And it is good. We’ve only been taught to believe such things are taboo by the same thinkers who cut native people off from their sacred plants and homelands in order to destroy their cultural foundation and control commerce in the region. To let laws and conservative belief systems cut us off from the evolution of our own consciousness is to hand over the reins of our own evolution to unevolved thinkers. It is too asinine an idea to even entertain. Its really as simple as that.

So what of our burgeoning females who painted the diamond chain pattern on the day of their coming of age ceremony? I propose that the ancients, those matriarchal, pantheistic, peaceful hunter gatherers understood that the most sacred of all human symbols, the swirling of code of our own creation blossoms and multiplies through the wombs of young women, and thus assigned them the most essential emblem of human evolution as seen through the eyes of the wise seekers, the shamans.

A self portrait of a California shaman in trance painted on a cave wall in Joshua Tree National Park.

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