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Drinking Psychedelic Beer Helped the Wari Empire of Peru Maintain Power for 400 Years
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A team of international archeologists authored a study citing that a psychedelic brew was used as a shmoozing elixir and symbol of power by leaders of the Wari Empire.
Published on January 18, 2022

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Archeological evidence surfaced last week in South America showing that an ancient civilization in Peru used to lace beer with psychedelic seeds and serve it at feasts. An international team of archeologists determined in a study that leaders of the Wari Empire crafted and consumed this elixir to re-emphasize their power and (of course) build a sense of community among their people, Business Insider reports

The Wari Empire spanned across the Andean highlands of modern-day Peru roughly between 600 AD and 1000 AD. The beer, archeologists say, likely helped Wari leaders prosper and maintain a 400-year rule due to the political loyalty forged while consuming the psychedelic brew. 

Published in the Antiquity journal, the study explains that the potent mixture was made from the drupes of molle trees and combined with psychedelic vilca seeds. The study’s authors write that the drink was a staple at intimate dinner parties held by the elite and helped solidify social relationships.

"Feasts for millennia were used to cement political control in the Andes," said associate professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto Justin Jennings, who is an author of the study, in an email to Business Insider. "The Wari innovation was to make a special kind of beer that could be linked to Wari statecraft. One that depended not on the massive festivals that would be recorded later among the Inca, but instead on statecraft writ small in the form of something that was akin to a long, boozy, and likely quite a delightful dinner party.”

The team of archeologists — hailing from Peru, Canada, and the US — were clued in to the psychedelic beer and its uses after excavating a site at Quilcapampa in the southern part of the country where they discovered 16 vilca seeds.

The study's authors believe the seeds, which were typically ground into powder and then added to molle beer, were lost while brewing the psychedelic elixir many, many moons ago.

Interestingly, Vilca seeds are still (rarely) used as a hallucinogen in South America, according to National Geographic, and can lead to intense psychedelic experiences similar to the effects of Ayahuasca. "It is a powerful drug when inhaled that's use quickly leads to blackout, vomiting, and visions," one of the study's authors, Justin Jennings, told Business Insider. "It's not a social drug."

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Mary Carreon
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Mary Carreon is an award-winning journalist from Southern California and the Associate Editor at MERRY JANE. She’s drawn to stories about cannabis and the environment, social equity, veterans, the history of weed in California, and the rise of psychedelics and plant medicine in the 21st century. You can find her bylines in Forbes, Kitchen Toke Magazine, OC Weekly, (the OG) LA Weekly, High Times Magazine, Sensi Magazine, and more. Mary loves green juice, coffee, and red wine equally — but not at the same time. When she’s not working, you can find her doing yoga to Ravi Shankar, or migrating towards the nearest venue playing the best music. Follow Mary on social media @maryyystardust or visit her at marycarreon.com
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