1890-1910 – Ermanno Stradelli and the Jurupary Legend of “Capy”
The Count Ermanno Stradelli (1852-1926) was an Italian explorer noted for being the first to collect and to publish the Jurupary legend of the Columbian Vaupés region. He observed many times the preparation and the use of what he called “capy” (Banisteriopsis caapi, the ayahuasca vine) in the Vaupés region, and he participated in a funerary cashiry ritual, where capy was distributed among the participants.
But the payé (shaman) did not give capy to the disappointed Stradelli, and only later he understood why he was refused the brew: because the bone powders of a recently deceased person where added to that capy, as a practice of endocannibalism. Stradelli offered an important first-hand description of the cashiry ritual and the use of capy.
Only later, on another occasion, Ermanno Stradelli had the opportunity to drink capy. He described in rather simplistic terms that its effects are “very similar to those of opium”. He appears to have been the first Italian to experience ayahuasca. But he wasn’t the first Westerner to taste its colorful effects. The English botanist Richard Spruce described drinking ayahuasca in 1851, the Ecuadorian geographer Manuel Villavicencio in 1858 shared writings about his personal experiences with ayahuasca, and back in 1755 Jesuit missionary Franz Xavier Veigl described ayahuasca as a “plant worth mentioning” but its not clear whether he consumed the brew.
Stradelli E., (1890b), L’Uaupés e gli Uaupés, Bollettino della Società Geografica Italiana, s. III, 27:425-453
Stradelli E., (1890b), Leggenda dell’Jurupary, Bollettino della Società Geografica Italiana, 27:659-689 + 798-835
Stradelli E., (1928), Vocabularios de lengua geral portuguez-nheêngatú e nheêngatú-potuguez, precedidos de un esboço de Grammatica nheênga-umbuê-náua miri e seguidos de contos em lingua geral nheêngatú poranduna, Revista do Instituto Historico e Geographico Brasileiro, 158(2):5-768.