To the north-west of the River Amazon, beyond the Orinoco, in the Black River, and extending to the water-sheds and slopes of the Andes, in the falls of the Orinoco, in the rivers Uapes, Meta, Zipapo, Caqueta of the upper Purumayo River, the Napo, and, in a word, in all the tributaries of the Amazon, in the huge valley, lying between Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil, lives the Malpigeacea, the “Banisteria Quitensis” of Prof. Gilg of Berlin.
The Quechuas Indians, who lived between the rivers Apurimac and Pampa, and who from their characteristics, might show direct descent from the first Inca, Manco-Capac, knew the “Banisteria Quitensis” by the generic name of Yage, meaning “blue dream”.
Under the powerful Inca dynasty, during the five centuries from the beginning of their empire to the arrival of the Spaniards, which was announced to the Inca, Husina-Capac in his Tumipampa palace about the year 1515 by a drinker of Yage, this plant was known under different names. The Gibaros Indians called it “La Tema”, the coloured Indians “Nepa”, the Cayapas “Pinde” and the Yekuanas “Kahi”, and it is quite possible that there, Indians used the narcotic plants “Haemadiction Amazonicum” (Lewin) mixed with Yage.
The true origin of the Inca race is hidden in the past. According to some it was created by Aborigines. Others ascribe to it Mogul origin, on the supposition that Incas are descendants of those members of the expedition sent by Khan against the Japanese in the thirteenth century, whose ships were driven by a storm on the coast of Peru. The strangers gained the respect of the native Peruvians by styling themselves “Children of the Sun”.
According to tradition the Inca dynasty also gained its appellation “Daughter of the Sun” because, after the Flood, the first rays of the sun were seen on the banks of lake Titicaca, where it sent its son, Manco-Capac, with its daughter Mama-Ocllo. It gave them a piece of gold with the injunction that they should wander over the land, and fix it where they wished it to be. This was done and the piece of gold became fixed and disappeared in the summit of Huauacari, where they founded their city, the immortal Cuzco.
Mama-Ocllo, golden haired and radiant as the suns rays, was the goddess who officiated at the sacred rites of the Incas, in which Yage played an important part. Its use and consumption was permitted only to officiating priests and elders, who attributed to Yage clairvoyant and telepathic properties, the whole enshrouded in an aura of mysticism worthy of the high level of Inca culture.
Thus it was that a certain priest was able to foretell the fall of the Empire, which reached its greatest glory under Husina- Capac in 1475. He predicted the fratricidal struggles between Husina-Capacs sons, Atahualpa and the eldest, Huascar-Inca, also known as Ant-Cusi-Huallpa, the arrival of the Spaniards at Tumbes, and the putting to death of Atahualpa by Francisco Pizarro after the battles of Cajamarca.
The Spanish Conquerors, and particularly the priest Valverde, were aware of the magic qualities of Yage, and initiated a violent campaign of denunciation to the Inquisitors of all those who took Yage, or assisted at the rites and ceremonies connected with it. (Ref. Letters of Padre Valverde to the Holy Office, Archivo de Indias, Seville.).
Knowledge of Yage thus disappeared for centuries, until the German traveller and naturalist Baron von Humboldt mentions a mysterious plant in his book, Travels in the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent. He says it is found in the Upper Amazon and from talks with the inhabitants, add that Bolivar was foretold of the victory of Ayacucho by an old Inca priest who drunk the infusion of this plant in his rites.
Thus it is that “Banisteria Quitensis” or Yage became known again to civilization in the middle of the century. It offered itself to increase mens knowledge, transferred from the slopes of the Andes to laboratories where the brain struggles to reveal Natures secrets.
At the same time, in the middle of the nineteenth century, various Yage drinkers were found in Colombia, and especially in Ecuador, drinkers who had taken the habit to excess so that it had become a vice. Medical science has several workers, well- known homoeopathic pharmacists, who on the basis of the telepathic effects of this plant, have published various treatises on their study of it.
Worthy of mention are L. Lewin, author of Phantastica, and Dr. Guillermo Fischer-Cardenas, of Colombia, who has made a study of it from the chemical and pharmaceutical points of view. He discovered in it an element which he called “Telepatina” with inoffensive characteristics similar to hashish. Dr. A. M. Barriga-Villalba, Prof. of Chemistry in the University of Bogota, has published a profound study on the chemical analysis of the alkaloids of Yage, Boletin de la Sociedad Colombiana de Ciencias Naturales. Un Nuevo Alcoloide 1925. (Ref. Bulletin of the Society of Natural Sciences of Colombia. A New Alkaloid 1925.) The work, Yage (Berthelot, Laboratorios Samper-Martinez, Bogota) is also interesting.