Sunday, January 11, 2009

How to Milk a Toad

Since learning of the alleged psychoactive properties of the catalpa tree, I’ve been thinking about other traditions for achieving a transcendent state in the Southern Appalachians. So far, I’ve found only sketchy references to Cherokee uses of hallucinogenic plants.

In an article on Cherokee beliefs concerning death, John Witthoft shares some inconclusive information on shamanic applications of various herbaceous plants and fungi to achieve visions.

Another curious statement appears in Time Before History, The Archaeology of North Carolina, by Trawick Ward and Stephen Davis. An odd discovery was made at excavated sites in two separate locations: Coweeta Creek in Macon County and Warren Wilson in Buncombe. At each of these sites, archaeologists uncovered the remains of a large number of toads. According to the authors, "the toads may have been used for hallucinogenic or medicinal purposes."

Several species of toads are psychoactive, but I have no idea which ones inhabit these mountains.

I have no idea how you would identify such toads.

Maybe you look for toads with telltale tie-dye markings.

Maybe you look for toads that are jamming out to Phish.

I don’t know.

Assuming you crossed paths with such a toad, it is possible to obtain the psychoactive ingredient from the toad’s venom glands. Stroking the toad under its chin stimulates a defensive response and release of hallucinogenic venom, which can be collected and dried. The toad takes about a month to refill its venom glands, but harvesting of venom in this manner can be accomplished without serious harm to the toad.

I have no idea what harm might befall a person who ingests the toad venom.

And it’s not something I intend to discover from personal experience.

But I pass along this information in the belief that everyone should know how to milk a toad.


Christopher C. NC said...

I am trying to imagine the environmental conditions that could exist in these wet mountains that would preserve old toad remnants. Are these archeologists sure this wasn't just a winter toad den with a large die off?

GULAHIYI said...

Good question. According to the authors, the toad remains consisted of several thousand bone fragments (along with bear bones) found in a concentrated area near sites used for ceremonial purposes and food preparation. These were from Qualla-era sites, which would date back to roughly 1700 AD (give or take a few decades).

Anonymous said...

5-MeO-DMT and bufotenine are the key toxic ingredients found in the toad venom that cause visionary experiences. There are many native plants, fungi and animals found in each geographic region that offer such experiences. Our beloved home is no different. Our backyards are full of medicinals and sacred substances.