Toloache. Náatumush. Datura wrightii. Angel’s trumpet. Devil’s weed.

Names in Nahuatl, Luiseño, Latin, and English, respectively, for the sacred datura plant.

I’m working on an on-going project to trace the datura’s transformation from sacred plant to noxious weed, from revered intoxicant used in Luiseño coming-of-age ceremonies to a dangerous and deadly recreational drug for teens, from a widely used and highly respected medicine to a plant whose healing properties as an analgesic and anesthetic have been largely forgotten, suppressed, or ignored except by healers/curanderos in Mexico and elsewhere.

In Daniel Moerman’s comprehensive Native American Ethnobotany, he writes that Datura wrightii is considered the “most universally used hallucinogenic and medicinal plant known to humans” by Luiseño, Kumeyaay, Cahuilla, Gabrielino, and Chumash people. According to the late anthropologist Alfred Kroeber, the sacred datura was the heart of their entire religious system.

Posted by deborah small

9 Comments

  1. I was recently at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate and noticed datura growing in several places on the carefully groomed grounds – I wondered if it was there purposely. I expect to go back sometime in 2013 and hope to educate myself about the local Tipai ethnobotany: edibles and medicinals including fungi, plus ceremonial uses. I hope to visit the cultural center next time as well. Can you provide some guidance? I know Richard Bugbee, have previously met Jane Dumas, and am reading Michael Wilken’s thesis. I hope you can help – I can provide more information about who I am as needed.

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  2. Dear Deborah,
    This is a beautiful photo and a equally enjoyable blog. Write more for the Sacred Datura. She is a misunderstood beauty and deserves some good press ! It’s the most stunning shot of a datura I have seen. I tried for years to get close-ups of my own Inoxia plants until the county I lived in forced me to take them out because they are “noxious and pervasive weeds containing dangerous properties” Bah! None of my photos ever captured the essence of the plant like this!
    I would love to use this photo with my site- I make clothing for night circuses and tribal belly dancers. Please contact me!
    Cheers! SBlack

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  3. Hello, please could I use this photo on my blog, mentioning that it’s yours and linking to your blog ?

    Kind regards,

    Cédric

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  4. Hello,
    In philippines it’s called “Trompeta” due to the form of the flower.
    It’s use boiled and in poultice as a pain reliver
    http://herbalric.i.ph/blogs/herbalric/2009/03/27/trompeta/
    Herbal Ric

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  5. I love this beautiful mystical plant. I make a extract from the Dactura ,add in a lotion base,and use it for nerve pain, neck and back pain, and helped me with many painful nights with Migraines due to a pinched nerve.

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  6. this picture is so beautiful. I am re-posting a friends poem on the sacred datura on my blog, and would love to post your picture, with your permission.

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    1. Dear Christina,
      I would be honored. You have a beautiful site of poetry and images. I love your photographs of change / smoke. —Deborah

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  7. that is a truly amazing photograph! so beautiful. the light is perfect…how do you do it?!

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  8. Dear Deborah, The Full Moon is approaching, and my Moon Flower Tree will have close to 60 flowers in bloom, and maybe even more. I always pick one or two to smell and inhale the perfume next to my bed during the evening, until someone mentioned that it is “very poisonous…”

    I would so much love to know more about this plant. I am deeply drawn to the flowers, and it feels like it communicates with me. I have always been deeply connected to the plant kingdom.

    Warm Regards,
    Anna

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