Schaefer: Peyote teaches love
Visiting anthropologist discusses healing qualities of consuming peyote
Published: Monday, November 4, 2013
Updated: Thursday, November 7, 2013 01:11
Cultural anthropologist Stacy Schaefer joined the USU Museum of Anthropology on Friday night to discuss peyote as a religious rite, and a woman who dedicated her life preserving it.
Peyote, a cactus native to Mexico and southwestern Texas, is an entheogen — a psychoactive substance — known for its use in religious practices. Schaefer said the use of the psychodelic has been documented back to the indigenous Native Americans, and is now part of religious ceremonies in the Native American Church.
“In essence, looking at peyote as a psychic integrator, you take this within a religious context,” she said. “It facilitates the healing and union of the body, the mind, the soul and the psyche.”
It was while working in southern Texas that Schaefer said she first met Amada Cardenas, the first legal and licensed peyote dealer.
“And I am so glad I did,” Schaefer said.
In her lecture titled “Stories of Love, Hope, Faith and Charity in the Peyote Gardens of South Texas,” Schaefer recounted the removal of Native American tribes from their homelands by the U.S. government: Tribes in Texas were sent to reservations Oklahoma in the early 1900s. This is where the Native American Church began, combining Native American and Christian beliefs.
According to Schaefer, the church brought hope to a people who lost their pride and sense of identity. Peyote was used by the church to heal emotionally and physically.
“It is an intrical part of practicing that religion,” she said. “So, if you become a member of the Native American church, you consume peyote.”
Amada and her husband, Claudio, were considered “stewards and the keepers of the peyote.”
Schaefer said the Cardenas were very respectful in their dealings with the medicine. Their home in southern Texas became a sacred place for many people. Schaefer called it “a tranquil oasis in the borderlands.”