A study on the ritual application of enemas among the Maya distinguished with an Ig Nobel Prize

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Everyone knows what Nobel prizes are. But there are also the so-called Ig Nobel prizes, whose name is a play on the English word ignoble (which in Castilian means “ignoble”), created as a parody of the prestigious awards given by the Swedish Academy. The Ig Nobels were an idea of ​​the American Marc Abrahams, and for 32 years they have been awarded by the scientific humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research (Annals of Improbable Research) with the aim of recognizing the achievements of ten groups of scientists who, according to them, “first make people laugh and then make them think”.

Among the winners of this year 2022 is a team of North American researchers who have been distinguished with the History prize for their study “A multidisciplinary approach to ritual enema scenes in ancient Mayan pottery“. The authors base their research on some scenes depicted on Mayan ceramics stating that they “undoubtedly indicate that the ancient Maya took intoxicating enemas in a ritual context” and refute “the traditional view that the ancient Maya were a contemplative people”since they assure that, on the contrary, “they gave themselves over to ritual ecstasy”.

hallucinogenic drinks

Apparently, the consumption of entheogens (substances that have hallucinogenic properties) in the Americas dates back to the Olmec civilization. However, the understanding of the use of these substances in the Mayan world is better documented thanks to some Mayan religious texts such as the Popol Vuh and the stories of Spanish chroniclers of the sixteenth century. A) Yes, the use of entheogens among the Mayans took place during ceremonies that were often performed underground or in caves or places that were considered sacred access points to the underworld. The ancient Mayans thought that its use intensified the inner vision, providing a favorable setting for contact with the world of spirits.

Apparently, the consumption of entheogens (substances that have hallucinogenic properties) in the Americas dates back to the Olmec civilization.

One of the most commonly used entheogens among the Maya was a drink called balche, made with the bark of the leguminous tree of the same name and which, apparently, was soaked with honey and water, and then fermented to give the resulting liquid a moderate alcoholic content. The chih It was another alcoholic beverage that was made by fermenting the sap of the maguey plant. and that the Mayans associated with the blood of Mayaheul, the goddess of the maguey. During the Classic Period, artisans who produced ceramic vessels for the celebration marked all their work with the glyph chi. The consumption of this drink is also detailed in the codices of Dresden, Borgia, Florentino and Borbonico.

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The Mayans may have mixed calendula with tobacco to make smoking more pleasant

The Mayans mixed calendula with tobacco to make smoking more pleasant

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A unique mode of consumption

Another element used in religious rituals was wild tobacco (Rustic Nicotiana), which the Mayans called pizet. It was used to obtain visions and minimize the pain caused during blood sacrifices. (such as sticking a maguey or manta ray spine into the foreskin). This type of tobacco contains an alkaloid that affects the nervous system and is chewed, inhaled or mixed with leaves of Daturaa genus of poisonous plants, increasing its hallucinogenic effect.

Another element used in religious rituals was wild tobacco (Rustic Nicotiana), which the Mayans called pizet.

Although it may attract attention, The Mayans often used the liquids and smoke to apply enemas, a procedure in which the substance was injected into the rectum. with syringes made of gourd or clay in order to intensify the hallucinogenic effect of the drug. This archaeological evidence is provided by ceramic objects showing images of individuals injecting themselves with psychedelic enemas during religious rituals. Curiously, some of the figures represented appear vomiting, something that has allowed the American researchers who won the IG Nobel Prize to offer an answer to the unusual way of consuming these substances: “The occasional exhibition [en la cerámica] of people vomiting seems to provide a plausible reason why the Mayans opted for rectal application [y no solo de alcohol] to reach a state of intoxication.

To know more

The Mayans may have mixed calendula with tobacco to make smoking more pleasant

The Mayans mixed calendula with tobacco to make smoking more pleasant

read article


A study on the ritual application of enemas among the Maya distinguished with an Ig Nobel Prize