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A multidisciplinary approach to ritual enema scenes on ancient Maya pottery

Journal of Ethnopharmacology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0378-8741(86)90091-7
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Pharmacology


Abstract There are various enema scenes on classic Maya pottery, which undoubtedly represent rituals and may very well indicate that the ancient Maya took intoxicating enemas in a ritual context. This idea is quite contrary to the traditional view that.the ancient Maya were a contemplative people, who did not indulge in ritual ecstasy. The occasional display of vomiting actors would seem to provide a plausible reason why the Maya opted for rectal application. Some scenes present a fair amount of evidence that an alcoholic beverage may have been taken rectally. Anecdotal experimental evidence suggests that an alcoholic liquid may certainly induce or intensify a state of inebriation, when it is administered via the rectal route. Other scenes open up the possibility that tobacco and the water lily or some other flowering plant may have served as an enema ingredient. The phytochemistry and psychopharmacology of tobacco are well documented and there can be little doubt that this herb may produce toxic effects, when it is taken in the form of a clyster. Unfortunately, little is still known about the constituents and pharmacological activity of the water lily. It is sometimes speculated that this plant is hallucinogenic, but experimental confirmation of this view is still awaited.

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