Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Plants and Poisons - Lore of the Native Americans



The New World’s wild men, the Indians, were said to have a deep lore of secret poisons, too.  Hans Sloane, in A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbadoes, Nieves, St. Christophers and Jamaica, quoted Hawkins as describing poison arrows made with “mansaneel apples together with venomous Bats, Vipers, Adders and other Serpents.” Some writers speculated that the Indians shared this knowledge with the blacks.     
Several writers mentioned poisons which, applied by native Americans to the tips of their arrows, paralyzed their prey almost instantly.  Among these, Richard Madden mentioned the vejuco de mavacure and the juice of the upas tree (antiaris toxicaria) but the upas is native only to Africa, Australia and Asia so he may have gotten it mixed up with one of the varieties of curare which native Americans used for hunting and fishing.  Madden also mentioned woorara as being used by the natives of Guyana.  He claimed that, applied to a wound, woorara produced immediate death, but when taken internally, it took longer to act. The word curare is derived from wurari, a word from Guyana’s Macusi Indians.







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