James A. McConnell Photography
Datura Before Dawn
A short meditation on the above image recalls my first awareness of datura during the final phase of completing my thesis in Anthropology. My adviser collared me to escort a young Anthropologist from UCLA whose own thesis had been published two weeks earlier and was then wholly unknown… he was being considered as a hire. His thesis was titled The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, which was soon to explode into a Counter Culture classic.
The author, Carlos Casteneda, was funny, warm, and open. His data were incredible, tales of Indigenous mysticism and truly scary chemically-induced experiences. Carlos spoke of his guide, Don Juan (in reality -- if that is the correct term -- not a Yaqui but likely a member of the Huichol people who live in what is now Mexico) transforming himself into ravens and crows while in the embrace of "the Sacred Datura".
When I saw datura growing around the place I now live I also remembered being told that New Mexicans have died after consuming wild honey made by bees that pollinated these flowers. The toxicity is so extreme I do not touch the plants when photographing them.
Yet, that same toxicity somehow amplifies the ethereal beauty of these nocturnal blooms.