Sunday, November 15, 2015
Oshá: Mexican Ways
Weather: Temperature down to 16 degrees on my front porch Friday morning; last snow 11/5.
What’s still green: Tree leaves are dead, but many remain on apples, cherries, Siberian elms, and cottonwoods. Many low plants like columbine and catmint still have green leaves, even though they’ve been covered by frost several times. Apparently, the ground is still warm enough to insulate them.
What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.
Animal sightings: Mice have been trying to get into the house.
Weekly update: John Beck thinks the Mexican word for oshá, chuchupate, was derived from an Aztec term, chichipatli. It wasn’t a direct borrowing of the plant, but a secondary application of a label to a plant with similar uses.
The Florentine Codex, written in 1577, associated two plants with the term chichic patli. Bernardino de Sahagún was told Courarea latiflora "clears, fortifies the intestines, the stomach." Guayacum arboreum roots were used "by one whose body is hot, who thinks it burns; perhaps the stomach has become unsettled" and to treat "sores, or fever."
While many species in the Ligusticum species have similar effects as porteri, neither of the Aztec drugs is in their Apia family. The first is in the coffee family, the second in the caltrop.
As mentioned in the post for 1 November 2015, Franciscans observed wasía being used by the Tarahumara in the 1770s. In the 1890s, Carl Lumholtz saw them wrap pieces of palo hediondo in cloth and tie the bundle around a child’s neck. The smell was supposed to protect against disease.
The Tarahumara still use it for colds and fever, to dress wounds, and to treat rheumatic joints with a lotion made by boiling crushed roots. Robert Bye says they chew or smell the root "to sneeze out illness."
For more intractable conditions, the Tarahumara hold curing ceremonies overseen by shamans and chanters to treat humans, animals, or crop fields. Campbell Pennington saw them add pieces to a ceremonial cross to "protect animals from lightening."
The Tarahumara, who live in the Sierra Madre, are more properly called Rarámuri. Today, Fructuoso Irigoyen-Rascón says, their yerberos collected the root to sell in Ciudad Chihuahua and Juárez. More itinerant peddlers sell chuchupaste to people living in towns. Bernard Fortana noted that, for the past hundred years, these sales have been one of their few links that tied them to México’s cash economy.
The Tarahumara speak an Uto-Aztec language somewhat related to the Pima. However, the Pima living around the Gila river in Arizona buy their jujubáádi from Yaqui peddlers. David Brown told Amadeo Rea he kept it in a baking powder can and used it for constipation and a fever.
Another herbal trade link between tribes developed with the spread of peyote. Samuel Kenoi told Morris Opler he had attended a Tonkawa peyote medicine ceremony in 1902 where, to be admitted, "you had to have different kinds of odorous herbs; you had to have oshá."
Kenoi was a Chiricahua Apache who had been born in Arizona in the mid-1870s, relocated with his family to Florida in 1886, and moved again to Fort Sill Oklahoma in 1894. He’d been sent to boarding schools, including Chilocco near Ponca City, Oklahoma.
In 1913, Kenoi returned to the Mescalero reservation in New Mexico with other Chiricahua. Twenty years later, Edward Castetter and Morris Opler said natives treated haitcide like other greens they ate raw or cooked with green chili and meat or bones. Their land lies on the eastern flank of the Sacramento mountains where oshá was reported growing in 1915.
More recently, Connie May Saddleblanket said she had seen medicine fat used in peyote meetings among the Kiowa Apache living in Oklahoma in the 1960s. Her sister-in-law, Louise Saddleblanket remembered, "It comes from New Mexico. My daddy had some. Some Mescalero friends used to sent it to us."
Notes: Connie's real name is Datose; Louise is Susagossa. The group prefers to be called Plains Apache, since they are not related to the Kiowa.
Beck, John J. and Frank R. Stermitz. "Addition of Methyl Thioglycolate and Benzylamine to (Z)-Ligustilide, a Bioactive Unsaturated Lactone Constituent of Several Herbal Medicines. An Improved Synthesis of (Z)-Ligustilide," Journal of Natural Products 58:1047-1055:1995.
Bye, Robert Arthur. Ethnoecology of the Tarahumara of Chihuahua, Mexico, 1976; quoted by Irigoyen-Rascón.
Fontana, Bernard L. Tarahumara, 1979.
Irigoyen-Rascón, Fructuoso. Tarahumara Medicine: Ethnobotany and Healing among the Rarámuri of Mexico, 2015.
Jordan, Julia A. Plains Apache Ethnobotany, 2008.
Lumholtz, Carl. Unknown Mexico, volume 1, 1902.
Opler, Morris Edward. "A Description of a Tonkawa Peyote Meeting Held in 1902," American Anthropologist 41:433-439:1939. The Tonkawa lived in central Texas where they alligned themselves with the Lipian Apache. They were moved to Oklahoma where the population shrank to 34 in 1921, according to Wikipedia.
_____ and Edward F. Castetter. The Ethnobiology of the Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache, 1936.
Pennington, Campbell W. The Tarahumar of Mexico: Their Environment and Material Culture, 1963; quoted by Irigoyen-Rascón.
Rea, Amadeo M. At the Desert's Green Edge: An Ethnobotany of the Gila River Pima, 1997.
Sahagún, Bernardino de. Historia Universal de las Cosas de Nueva España, c.1577, translated as Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain, Book XI - Earthly Things by Charles E. Dibble and Arthur J. O. Anderson, 1963. Courarea latiflora is now called Hintonia latiflora. More details about the codex may be found in the post for 28 September 2014.
Webster, Antony K. "Samuel E. Kenoi’s Portraits of White Men," in David Kozak, Inside Dazzling Mountains: Southwest Native Verbal Art, 2012; has biographical details.
Wooton, Elmer O. and Paul C. Standley. Flora of New Mexico, 1915, contains report of oshá in Sacramento mountains.
Photographs: Oshá, purchased at local farmers market on 24 August 2015; photographed 1 November 2015. Cross section of root.