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Hallucinogens and Altered States of Consciousness in Cusco, Peru: A Path to Local Power during Wari State Expansion

  • Véronique Bélisle (a1)

Abstract

This paper addresses the tension between élite-sponsored rituals in the context of state expansion and the persistence of rituals involving hallucinogens among communities that met with state colonists. It focuses on the consumption of hallucinogens inducing altered states of consciousness during the Peruvian Middle Horizon (ad 600–1000), a period characterized by the expansion of the Wari state, known for large state-sanctioned feasts during which élites distributed corn beer and reaffirmed their power. This paper presents new evidence for the ingestion of hallucinogens from the site of Ak'awillay in the Cusco region, focusing on paraphernalia and ritual spaces recovered in large horizontal excavations. Results indicate that the people of Ak'awillay were able to maintain practices that were fundamentally different from those of Wari élites and retained access to low-altitude areas lying outside Wari control for the procurement of hallucinogens and esoteric knowledge. The paper concludes that at least some people at Ak'awillay operated outside the Wari state, thereby maintaining local power over the religious realm despite Wari presence in the region.

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Hallucinogens and Altered States of Consciousness in Cusco, Peru: A Path to Local Power during Wari State Expansion

  • Véronique Bélisle (a1)

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