Saturday, September 29, 2012

The fruit of angel’s trumpet plants

In the majority of countries on earth, adulthood is gained simply by living to a certain age. This has not always been the case in a great deal of cultures, and many rites of adulthood used to involve bizarre and dangerous practices. In the Americas, one Indian tribe would use the fruit of angel’s trumpet plants to determine if a boy was ready to become a man. The fruit contains a poison, datura, which causes strong delirium, fever, rapid heart rate, violent behavior, permanent memory loss, and other physical and mental discomforts. It has caused thousands of inadvertent deaths when accidentally eaten by children or when taken in an incorrect dose by adults. It is said to cause the most unpleasant intoxication of all known substances. A boy of the tribe in question would consume a very carefully calculated amount of datura before being caged for several weeks so that his violent outbursts would not harm others. Any boy who survived the ordeal was declared a man. Memory loss was a key aspect of this, as the amnesia caused by datura was supposed to make the person forget what it was to be a child, making them suitable for adulthood. Unfortunately, the mental affects of the drug were often permanent, causing the boy to lose knowledge of how to eat, speak, or function as a human at all. Many adolescents were reduced to mentally disabled shells of whom they once were.

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