|Muisca Yopo Trays and Inhaler|
Gold trays and inhaler used to insufflate yopo
Muisca, c. 1000 AD
Yopo (a.k.a. cohoba) is the snuff made of the ground toasted seeds of Anadenanthera peregrina (a mimosa-like tree), other plant material and lime (ash or ground shell). Like the better known ayahuasca, yopo is a hallucinogen containing mostly N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), 5-MeO-DMT, as well as other tryptamines. Before the conquest, it was widely used by priests and shamans in many regions of Colombia (and elsewhere, e.g. Northern Argentina and Caribbean islands), though nowadays use seems to be restricted to the Eastern Plains (Llanos Orientales, in the Orinoco basin) and some parts of the Amazon. Yopo is said to allow men to turn into jaguars and other animals and to prepare for war. The decorations of the trays evoke the animals in which shamans (and other users) symbolically transformed into or see in hallucinatory visions.
The Muisca people were a collection of several Chibcha-speaking groups who migrated from Central America and started inhabiting the highlands of modern-day Cundinamarca and Boyacá Departments (Altiplano Cundiboyacense) in the central area of Colombia's Eastern Cordillera (Cordillera Oriental) around 600 AD. However, men inhabited this area as early as 5000 BC. Muisca priests inhaled yopo so as to communicate with mythical beings, and restored the balance in the universe by making offerings. One key offering ceremony of the Muisca performed on the Guatavita Lake (in Cundinamarca, about 60 km north of Bogota) is thought to be at the origin of the El Dorado myth.
Anadenanthera peregrina seeds
|Modern yopo snuff|
Source: Gold Museum, Schultes et al. (text), Wikipedia (pictures)