SPECIES: Violacea (alternately known as Tricolor)
COMMON NAMES: Morning Glory, Badoh Negro (Zapotec, ‘black badoh’), Bajucillo (Spanish, ‘little tendril’), La’aja Shnash (Zapotec, ‘seeds of the Virgin’), Mantos de Cielo (‘coat of heaven’), Ma:sung Pahk (Mixe, ‘bones of the children’), Mehen Tu’xikin (Lacandon, ‘little stink ear’), Pih Pu’ucte:sh (Mixe, “flower of the broken plates’), Quiebraplato (Mexico, ‘breaker of plates’), Tlitliltzin (Aztec, ‘black divine’), Xha’il (Mayan, ‘that from the water’)
A range of wild and cultivated vines in the morning glory family may be found in every lush regions of modern Mexico. The number of species within the genus Ipomea is believed to be over 500, but the one most widely respected for spiritual properties is Ipomea violacea (also referred to as Ipomea tricolor), the strain known as Tlililtzin by the Aztecs. I. violacea is a perennial twining vine, growing from ten to twenty feet long, with heart-shaped leaves that can grow up to five inches long. The flowers are funnel-shaped and purplish blue with a white tube (Ratsch 1998, 298-299).
Potent psychoactive varieties of I. violacea include Heavenly Blue, Pearly Gates, Flying Saucers, Wedding Bells, Blue Star, and Summer Skies. By far the most well-known variety is Heavenly Blue, followed by Pearly Gates. Flying Saucers reportedly contain more active alkaloids than other varities, but the seeds are often difficult to find and, as a result, may be quite expensive. If you find Flying Saucer morning glory seeds, it’s worth the extra expense, as they produce truly beautiful flowers.
Although this species is a perennial, it is usually cultivated as an annual in North America. Morning glories thrive in strong, well-drained soil in full sun, and like to be kept moist with plenty of water. The seeds have a hard coating that must be nicked then soaked for two hours in warm water before sowing. If the seeds are nicked and soaked, the vines will usually flower six weeks after sowing. The seeds should be planted a quarter to a half-inch deep and no less than six inches apart.
Morning glory seeds grow in seed pods which form on the plant where a pollinated flower once was. The seeds may be produced any time in after flowers have formed. When a flower falls off, remember the spot from which it fell. Check on that spot often, and in a few days or weeks, a pod will form. When the pod is mature, it may be picked and dried. Eventually it will open and release the seeds.
Although morning glories like a lot of water, if the roots are kept too wet, the vines will produce very few, if any, flowers and therefore will set very little seed. Immature seeds are more bitter than ripe ones. It has been reported that immature seeds contain more alkaloids, but this has not been confirmed (Voogelbreinder 2009, 201).
TRADITIONAL USES: The morning glory has a rich historical tradition in psychedelic and visionary practices across multiple cultures, including those of the Chontal Indians of Oaxaca, Mexico, the highly evolved Aztecs, and the Zapotec. These seeds, without question, have been utilized throughout time as a means of communicating with the gods. Interestingly, in some areas of Mexico where the seeds are still used, I. violacea seeds are used by men, and Turbina corymbosa seeds, which contain similar alkaloids, are used by women. I. violacea is said to be somewhat more potent, but both plants are used in rituals to assist in divination and healing disease (Ratsch 1998, 299).
The Aztecs believed that morning glory seeds were a means of connecting with the Sun Gods. This unique ability to open divine portals, attributed to only a few plants such as peyote, Salvia divinorum, and morning glory, held a particularly sacred place within Aztec culture and religion. They felt that all plants contained spirits but only a few could provide direct connection with the gods in heaven. The Chontal Indians (as well as the Mazatec Indians of Oaxaca, Mexico), were convinced not only that strong spiritual energy existed within this plant, but also that a highly evolved spirit, one that had the ability to connect them with the spiritual realm of the gods, inhabited the morning glory.
Modern historians, who usually have a bias towards the religion of the conquering culture, conveniently leave out all historical records of the morning glory being used in shamanic tradition, although a rich history still exists both orally and in local texts in the areas where this plant has been held in such high esteem for generations. Upon traveling to the Oaxaca, and after engaging in many conversations about the plants that are held in high esteem for their visionary value, I have discovered that the seeds of the morning glory are an essential part of the entheogenic pantheon of the indigenous peoples of Mexico.
See The Mazatec Indians – The Mushrooms Speak for more information on the traditional usage of morning glories.
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION:The ritual preparation method is more or less the same for all the ancient peoples of Oaxaca. A dosage consists of twenty-six seeds. The seeds would be ground by a ten to fifteen year-old virgin, then mixed with water. This method was thought to allow the seeds to “speak.” This concoction would then be imbibed by a high ranking priest who would combine his shamanic wisdom with the magic of this sacred drink in order to converse with the gods (Ratsch 199, 299).
The high priest would wear a headdress; an ornately beaded head of a jaguar. The jaguar is the symbol of the sun, and is thought to be the shaman’s power animal and ally throughout his spiritual journey. It was believed that a high ranking priest could change himself into a jaguar and, once connected with his power animal through the ritual ingestion of a potion that included morning glory seeds, he would be led through a dramatic visionary experience wherein the he obtained his special abilities and powers by dying as a person and being reborn as a shaman. Once reborn as a shaman, he could convene with the Sun Gods (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1978).
According to Schuldes, 20-50 seeds composes a low dose, 50-150 a moderate dose, and 300+ seeds a high dose. He only observed effects similar to other popular psychedelics with a strong dose of about 300 seeds (Schuldes 1993 cited in Ratsch 1998, 299). If fresher seeds are used, significantly fewer should be necessary – the Zapotec only consume 7 seeds or a multiple thereof, or 13 seeds or a multiple thereof, or approximately a thimble-full. Others have recommended chewing and swallowing 5-19 g of seeds, or grinding them and letting them sit in water for thirty minutes before consuming (Voogelbreinder 2009, 200). The ground seeds may also be smoked for a mild, euphoric high lasting about 1 hour. It is essential to only use organic, untreated morning glory seeds in the case of smoking, as combustion of chemicals can make them much more dangerous.
Commercially available Ipomoea violacea seeds are often coated with poisonous fungicides or other chemicals meant to discourage ingestion. Seeds such as this must be washed in warm, soapy water and dried completely before use. It is recommended that one purchase morning glory seeds from a reliable source that sells organic, untreated seeds to avoid any negative effects.
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: Morning glory seeds contain a variety of lysergic acid derivatives, and eating the seeds reportedly can induce vividly colorful visuals, a sense of extreme calm, heightened spiritual awareness, acute empathy and euphoria. But ingesting the seeds is also illegal in most parts of the world, although the seeds themselves and the plants are 100% legal to possess and cultivate. It is the consumption and extraction of the plant that is illegal. The seeds contain ergot alkaloids, most famously LSA. The leaves also contain an accumulation of some of these alkaloids, though not as much as the seeds (Ratsch 1998, 301).
Pedro Ponce de Leon, the Spanish Benedictine monk famous for his work with the deaf, chronicled his findings of the effects of Morning Glory seeds, or tlililtzin, through his observations of the Aztecs’ shamanic rituals: “Some say little black men appear before them which tell them what they want to know about. Others say that our Lord appears before them, while still others say that it is angels. And when they do this, they enter a room, close themselves in, and have someone watch so that they can hear what they say” (Hofmann et al. 1992).
Morning glory seeds have been used by psychonauts in the west since the early 1960’s, and even earlier in a few cases. Most of the early experimenters were students, and reactions ranged from disappointment from those who expected an LSD-like experience, to great, mind-blowing experiences. Much of this seems to have depended on preparation and dosage. Some individuals have even admitted themselves to the hospital upon experiencing the unexpected side effects of the seeds – ergine predominant plants can cause severe vasoconstriction and difficulty breathing in some individuals, so it is important to be careful (Voogelbreinder 2009, 200).
Consumption of the seeds may cause negative side effects, including vomiting, nausea and indisposition, probably as a result of non-water-soluble alkaloids. Cold water extracts seem to lead to the fewest side effects. Visions of “small people” are very common, as well as LSD-like sensations, although the effects are not exactly like LSD. The seeds also seem to stimulate the uterus, probably due to the alkaloid ergonovine.
Hofmann, A., Ratsch, C., Schultes, R., Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers. Rochester: Healing Arts Press, 1992
Ratsch, Christian., The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its Applications. Rochester: Park Street Press, 1998.
Reichel-Dolmatoff, G. “The Loom of Life: A Kogi Principle of Integration.” Journal of Latin American Lore 4, no. 1 (1978): 5–27.
Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009..