Peyotl is commonly known as Peyote. It is a small spineless cactus which produces psychoactive alkaloids (drugs that alter brain function) such as mescaline, and is a native plant to Mexico. It is used by Native Americans in certain ceremonies to produce feelings of transcendence and ecstasy, as well as a curative for various ailments. Aldous Huxley described his own experience with mescaline in The Doors of Perception.
Mescal (or Mezcal) is a colourless liquor produced from the maguey plant, which is native to Mexico. Despite the similar name, it does not contain mescaline.
Traditional Zuni religious beliefs are centered around their three most powerful deities: Earth Mother, Sun Father and Moonlight-Giving Mother. The Sun is especially important as a life-giving deity; the Zuni word for 'daylight' also means 'life'. Awonawilona is the creator of the world, who made Mother Earth and Father Sky. The twin gods Ahaiyuta and Marseilema (also called the Ahayuta Brothers) are gods of war, created by Awonawilona to help the first people. According to one myth, the twin gods helped Poshaiyankya, the first man, to lead the people out of the underworld and into the light (the basis for the ritual undergone by boys coming of age).
Find out more about Zuni mythology and beliefs.
A line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Act III, Scene 4). Hamlet expresses disgust at his mother’s sex life, a feeling shared here by John. John has acquired many of his values and moral lessons from Shakespeare, and so often quotes from his plays in times of confusion, distress or anger.
The Zuni are famous for their pottery.
In the past Zuni women created pottery for food and water storage. Today, the sale of pottery and other traditional crafts forms a large part of many families’ incomes. The clay used is sourced locally.
1. First, the clay is prepared by grinding, sifting and then mixing with water.
2. After the clay has been shaped into a pot or ornament, it will be scraped until smooth.
3. A thin layer of finer clay will be applied to the surface for extra smoothness, after which the vessel is polished with a stone.
4. The piece is then painted using home-made organic dyes and a traditional yucca (a plant with sword-like leaves) brush. The shape, design and images reflect the function of the pot.
5. Originally, the Zuni fired the pottery using sheep dung in traditional kilns. Today, modern electric kilns are used instead.
Follow this link to see images of Zuni pottery.
In Zuni religion, marriage is seen as a stage of life, alongside Birth, Coming of Age and Death. Traditionally, the wedding ceremony takes place at night in the bride's house. On the day of the wedding, the groom and his family will arrive at the house where the wedding is to take place. The bride will come in carrying a wedding basket half full of white or blue corn mush. An elder (or a medicine man) will follow carrying a water jug. The elder will pour the water onto the groom's hands, and then the bride will also wash her hands: the significance of this is to clean the body, mind and spirit.
The elder then blesses the basket of mush by sprinkling corn pollen from four directions, symbolising union with the universe. The bride and groom eat the corn mush with their hands to signify two people united in spiritual matrimony. Finally, a traditional meal is served, and greetings, advice and gifts are given.
Here is a video of a couple getting married in the Native American way:
When a boy is ready to become a man, his parents will select a spiritual father to instruct the boy through the ceremony. This involves certain initiation rites in which he will learn the religious, secular or political duties that he will take on as a man within his society.
The book's title comes from Shakespeare's play The Tempest:
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't!
Act V, Scene 1
Miranda has been exiled on an island from an early age with her father Prospero. She makes this remark when she sees other human beings for the first time. But these same people plot against her and her father. Miranda is so overcome by the wonder of encountering other humans that she can only see good in what is actually wrong or dangerous.
The character of John in Brave New World is similar to Miranda. He is overwhelmed by the beauty of the people from the new world, initially blinding him to their flaws.
Follow this link to shmoop.com for a character study of John and a look at the importance of Shakespeare in Brave New World.
A quote from Shakespeare’s tragedy Troilus and Cressida:
I tell thee I am mad
In Cressid's love: thou answer'st 'she is fair;'
Pour'st in the open ulcer of my heart
Her eyes, her hair, her cheek, her gait, her voice,
Handlest in thy discourse, O, that her hand,
In whose comparison all whites are ink,
Writing their own reproach, to whose soft seizure
The cygnet's down is harsh and spirit of sense
Hard as the palm of ploughman: this thou tell'st me,
As true thou tell'st me, when I say I love her;
Act I, Scene 1.