Out of this desolation and terror,
the woman heard a voice speak to her.
"Eat the plant that is growing beside you," it said.
Native American legend of
Alice, Carol K. Rachlin.
(A flowering peyote)
The legend of the sacredness of the peyote plant was revealed in
a dream to a woman. She was lost from her group of hunting-men
and root-gathering women. She had fallen behind because she gave
birth to a child, in some version a boy and in others a girl.
Alone she had to fend for herself. She cut the navel cord with a
stone knife from a pouch at her waist. Then she lay helpless by
a low, leafy bush, watching buzzards gather and circle overhead.
She watched them swooping and soaring lower with each downward
beat of their great black wings.
Out of this desolation and terror, the woman heard a voice speak
to her. "Eat the plant that is growing beside you," it said.
"That is life and blessing for you and all your people."
Weakly, the woman turned her head against the earth. The only
plant in sight, besides the small bush that sheltered her, was a
small cactus. It was without thorns, and its head was divided
into lobes. She reached for the plant, and it seemed to grow
outward to meet her fingers. The woman pulled up the cactus,
root and all, and ate the head.
Strength returned to the woman immediately. She sat up and
looked around her. She raised her child to her filling breasts
and fed it. Then, gathering as many cactus plants as she could
find and carry, she rose and walked forward. Something wonderful
must have been leading her, for by evening she had reached the
main group of her people again.
The woman took the plants to her uncle, her mother's brother. He
was a man of great wisdom and was much respected by his people.
"This is truly a blessing," the uncle said when he heard the
woman's story. "We must give it to all the people."
The above legend is told among the Tarahumare, the Yaqui, and
the Otomi of the northern Sonorian desert and mountains and
their names have become familiar in the United States. From
which group of people the story originated would be hard to say,
but it continues to be told today, and must have come to them
from the south for it has long been told by the Aztecan peoples
of Mexico's central Great Valley.
1. Why did the woman fall
2. How did the woman
survive in the wild?
3. How did the woman know
the peyote eatable?