Ritual and therapeutic use of "hallucinogenic" harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex) in native south-central California

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Red harvester ants of the genus Pogonomyrmex played a central role as vision-inducing agents in the religious and medical systems of many indigenous groups in southern and south-central California. The ants were ingested alive in massive quantities in order to induce prolonged catatonic states, during which hallucinogenic visions were reported to manifest. They also played an important role in both curative and preventative medicine, treating a diverse body of natural and supernatural ailments. In this article I present an ethnographic and toxicological overview of the ritual and therapeutic use of red ants, bringing together both published and unpublished accounts in an attempt to reconstruct this poorly-known facet of indigenous California culture. The data presented in this paper strongly suggest that, through either direct or indirect action on the central nervous system, massive quantities of Pogonomyrmex venom are capable of producing highly altered metabolic states during which hallucinatory visions are apt to manifest. This topic is of considerable interest, as it is the first well-documented ethnographic example of an hallucinogenic agent of insect origin.
LanguageEnglish
Pages1-29
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Ethnobiology
Volume16
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Pogonomyrmex
religious behavior
therapeutics
Pogonomyrmex barbatus
Solenopsis geminata
venoms
medicine
central nervous system
Formicidae
insects
Group
harvester ants

Keywords

  • Hallucinogens
  • venom
  • pogonomyrmex
  • toxicity
  • ethnobiology
  • Kitanemuk
  • Chumash
  • Fort Tejón
  • John Peabody Harrington

Cite this

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title = "Ritual and therapeutic use of {"}hallucinogenic{"} harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex) in native south-central California",
abstract = "Red harvester ants of the genus Pogonomyrmex played a central role as vision-inducing agents in the religious and medical systems of many indigenous groups in southern and south-central California. The ants were ingested alive in massive quantities in order to induce prolonged catatonic states, during which hallucinogenic visions were reported to manifest. They also played an important role in both curative and preventative medicine, treating a diverse body of natural and supernatural ailments. In this article I present an ethnographic and toxicological overview of the ritual and therapeutic use of red ants, bringing together both published and unpublished accounts in an attempt to reconstruct this poorly-known facet of indigenous California culture. The data presented in this paper strongly suggest that, through either direct or indirect action on the central nervous system, massive quantities of Pogonomyrmex venom are capable of producing highly altered metabolic states during which hallucinatory visions are apt to manifest. This topic is of considerable interest, as it is the first well-documented ethnographic example of an hallucinogenic agent of insect origin.",
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Ritual and therapeutic use of "hallucinogenic" harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex) in native south-central California. / Groark, Kevin P.

In: Journal of Ethnobiology, Vol. 16, No. 1, 1996, p. 1-29.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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AB - Red harvester ants of the genus Pogonomyrmex played a central role as vision-inducing agents in the religious and medical systems of many indigenous groups in southern and south-central California. The ants were ingested alive in massive quantities in order to induce prolonged catatonic states, during which hallucinogenic visions were reported to manifest. They also played an important role in both curative and preventative medicine, treating a diverse body of natural and supernatural ailments. In this article I present an ethnographic and toxicological overview of the ritual and therapeutic use of red ants, bringing together both published and unpublished accounts in an attempt to reconstruct this poorly-known facet of indigenous California culture. The data presented in this paper strongly suggest that, through either direct or indirect action on the central nervous system, massive quantities of Pogonomyrmex venom are capable of producing highly altered metabolic states during which hallucinatory visions are apt to manifest. This topic is of considerable interest, as it is the first well-documented ethnographic example of an hallucinogenic agent of insect origin.

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