Mezcal Roots

Hell and Paradise in a Bottle of Mezcal

Ulises Torrentera
*Written for Kimo Sabe

One of the most deeply rooted myths within the culture of mezcal is that it contains mescaline which while it is true that produces hallucinations, it actually is a Psychoactive agent from a cactus plant. This substance was isolated in 1896 by Arthur Heffter who admitted like this because he extracted it from dry peyote, which is a cactus plant without thorns known as “mescal button” when consumed for initiationrites. Confusion between the latter and mezcal is obvious but that confusion is derived not only from the linguisticparonym, but also from experience itself.

It was Lowry who in the first French edition prologue of Under the Volcano (1949), placed the last stone of this myth of the agave distillate: “Mezcal is also a drug taken in the form of mescaline, and the transcendence of its effects is a well known evidence by occultists".

Despite the fact that mezcal in no way contains mescaline, its effects have been described as an experience close to the consumption of sacred plants and even as precursors of hallucinations. It is clear, of course, that neither one nor the other experience have scientific support; however when one drinks mezcal, a good mezcal, one can access an alternate reality. One finds itself within a lucid inebriation, fabricating, revealing –this is inebriety which is a state of grace,  the splitting of being; drunkenness instead is the loss of grace –the splitting of the personality.

Therefore, a bottle of mezcal contains both hell and paradise. Its effects, if not psychotropic, are very close to that experience because with mezcal one gets into a state of contemplation where ideas flow and where one can watch the world from different perspectives without hallucinating.

While we drink it, mezcal reveals itself: all of a sudden, in an unexpected moment with the unthinkable person and in a unsuspected place, one gets into inebriety. Like a lighting bolt, drunkenness blurs out without disappearing; senses are sharpened, sensorial perception becomes enhanced, reality takes on different hues without losing materiality and spirit rises looking in every direction; ideas, flowing, re-concentrate and acquire a touch of genius that only true artists apprehend and exercise later on the canvas, or in paper, or in music…

And even without being an artist, the mere contemplation can become a mystical or transcendental experience. But do not think that such an episode of reality is permanent: it just lasts a few moments; it is a momentary rapture. And here what was written by Francisco de Quevedo is totally valid: "A fleeting moment remains and lasts".

That is the reason of this persistence, the need to go back to that stage of inebriety. It is wanted, it is desired, but... oh! There is little hope of reaching it again. Let us try. Always. Salud.