Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 03:33:48 EST
From: "david williamson" <>
To: Multiple recipients of list <>

>From your letter to David 1-12-1999
On my part, I would be interested to know if you can determine who as a
subgroup(s) is using alcohol significantly
and why do you anticipate they are? What is the relationship of that
alcohol use to the use of iboga (T. iboga)root
bark if you can determine such a relationship? Is that
relationshipconsistent to all persons or only to some who use
iboga? For instance, in onestudy we saw some rats signficantly reduce
their alcohol use after ibogaineadministration
while a lesser group in the same study increased their alcoholintake by
100% or so.Additonally, one has to take into
account the attitude within the culture and by the indivdual towards
alcohol/drug use. Among the peoples you
visitedwith, is alcohol use considered negative or positive?Thanks for
being able to provide information as an actual
observer. Did you eat the bitter wood?? And, with what effect??Howard

        Within the Gabonese culture where I lived in the south, not everyone
participated in eating of the bitter
wood.  Unlike the traditional ways of the Mitsogo, I‚ve been told that
the women of the Masongo and Banzebi tribes
both can participate in the Nyembe‚ ceremony.  Similar to the Bwiti, the
Nyembe‚ is likely also to include eboga
ingestion as an integral part of the initiation as is the male
circumcision.  These ceremonies are of the highest sacred
importance.  I‚ve been told conflicting stories within the same
community as to the actual contents of the potions
drunk during the procession.  It could be that some potions differ from
others, that the secrets are private and not to
be shared with an outsider, or that the majority of the community don‚t
know for sure what the contents of the
effusions are leaving the pharmacopoeia to the Banganga (doctors).  I
tend to think that all of these reasons are valid
and have been witness to each.
        One half of the Gabonese population lives in the capitol, Libreville. 
The remaining 500,000 people are
distributed throughout the interior in larger provincial townships and
villages. Within the Masongo tribe I might
guestimate that 85%, or more, of the men who live in the village
interior eat eboga regularly.  Among the Banzebi in
my village I knew of very few, less than 10 %, who „know ebogaš. 
Originally the Masongo and Banzebi tribes had
limited and hostile interaction before the „regroupingš and settling of
the people to the road .  The French sometimes
used physical force or burned villages down to bring the populations out
from the forest in a movement to conduct a
regional census.  Today Masongo and Banzebi villages may rest within a
few kilometers along the forest roads of the
interior.  The result of the relocation of separate tribes to close
proximity has pressured the tribes into cultural
integration and mixed-marriages forming a unity and a sense of
nationalism.  Today a child may have „parentsš
(aunts and uncles) in both Masongo and Banzebi villages, and will
participate in both cultures ceremonies.  The
Banzebi near Mbigou, like the Fang of the north have been heavily
influenced by the Catholic and Protestant
churches.  The Masongo have refused a general interpretation of
Christian beliefs and have held onto their animistic
practices considerably more than their Banzebi neighbors.  A result of
this difference has given the Masongo a bad
name in the eyes of the Banzebi,  The Masongo and their Bwiti are
commonly referred to as „the worship of the
devilš by the Banzebi men.  Because the tribes are intermarried, there
is a social obligation for the Banzebi villagers
to visit and observe (from a distance) an important Bwiti ceremony which
is held for a death, or the anniversary and
the „lifting of the black „.   The Banzebi men, for the most part, don‚t
participate directly and the vast majority are
not initiated and therefor not allowed to witness crucial animation‚s
which complete the Bwiti dance.
        Alcoholism unlike the eating eboga is prevalent and evenly distributed
among the men of both Masongo and
Banzebi communities.  Drunkenness is not considered a positive or a
negative, just one of the most popular
past-times, like listening to music and promiscuity of sex.  These
past-times mixed together with lack of education
and lack of protection have created the worst possible scenario for STD
and HIV transmission.
        The men tend to drink more than the women, likely because men and not
women manufacture the palm,
sugar-cane, and pineapple wine that intoxicated the majority of the
population daily.  Wine is tapped out of palm
trees in the morning and again at night. That wine which is not sold
must be drunk or it will go bad within 15 hours.
Beer, gin, red wine , and whiskey are also available, but are drunk less
except for grander occasions of a „feteš, a
party or celebration.  For those initiations, circumcision, marriages,
funerals, and anniversaries of the funeral
celebrations massive volumes of alcohol are ingested.  Women probably
don‚t drink as much as the men because they
are responsibe for the majority of  work detail and need to be
productive in the fields, do the laundry at the river and
cook the food.  Children start drinking and having sex in their very
early teens.  Some (few) men and women have
vowed themselves off of alcohol for religious reasons, and others might
refuse a particular type of intoxicant because
it makes them belligerent („fouš).  Those drink out of control are
frowned upon, but usually only if the excessive
drinking leads to abusive behavior on a spouse or a child.
        Drinking is not so much a part of the Gabonese culture but IS the
Gabonese culture.  They love to party.  I
don‚t recall seeing alcohol and eboga mixed heavily in ceremony by the
same participant.  Nor did I see a heavy use
of marijuana at these events.  The eboga of the Masongo Bwiti is
ingested orally as a finely ground powder placed on
the tongue.  The bitterness is partially overcome as the mouth falls
numb and turns pasty.  Eating eboga on an empty
stomach is preferable and avoids a gurgling of acidic chyme in the
esophagus.  The drug is a natural
appetite-suppressant.   david

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