As was the case with so many other plants and fungi in the Americas, Tim Knab maintains that Catholic priests, attempting to prohibit the Huichol (Wixárica) ritual use of Solandra (whose common name is Kiéri), “probably destroyed many of the plants in their unsuccessful effort to stamp out idolatry in the region.”
Masaya Yasumoto says that “the Huichols recognize a close relationship among plants of three solanaceous genera, Solandra, Datura and Brugmansia.” He also points out that “it is believed that the pollen of Kiéri flowers makes birds and insects faint, and causes honey bees to lose their sense of direction.”
Furthermore, writes Yasumoto, “Kiéri Tewiyari is even more unforgiving, causing madness and even death for the transgressor.”
Solandra is a plant of dark mysteries and transformative forces for indigenous healers willing to assume these considerable risks. Susana Eger Valadez describes the movement between different species, when a human becomes a wolf, under the aegis of this potentially dangerous plant-teacher: “The following night, again on the full moon, the wolves who have claimed the initiate will take him into their den. This time, he will be under the influence of the powerful wolf-kiéri plant.” In one of the confocal images included here, a strangely illuminated red oval portal appears in the lower right. What would happen if one had the preparation to enter?
Lilián González Chévez documents the current ritual use of Solandra guerrerensis (called Hueytlacatzintli) among Nahua healers in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, where the plant is used primarily to identify the cause of witchcraft and learn how to free victims from these spells, to find lost objects, and to request a specific skill for a client (such as rapidly being able to play a musical instrument with great virtuosity). But, most importantly, Solandra still plays an important role in ceremonies of shamanic initiation.
In our work with Solandra grandiflora, we saw the astonishingly beautiful gold cup of its flower only once. None of us dared to cut it and submit it to the western scientific will of the confocal microscope. Respect, yes, but also fear.