From the point of view here taken in regard to tobacco its most interesting use hy far is for the purpose of producing a state of ecstasy or delirium in which, according to the barbaric theory of animism, the person under its influence could hold communication in dreams and visions with the spirits who brought disease and death, and also with those to whom the savage felt himself indebted for life and all its blessings. The importance attached to dreams by savages is well known. Schoolcraft, in 1823, noted the besotted and spellbound condition of the Indians of the Great Lake regions, due to their implicit belief in the prophetic nature of dreams. "Their whole lives," he remarks, "are rendered a perfect scene of doubts and fears and terrors by them. Their jugglers are both dreamers and dream interpreters." In ancient Mexico the will of the gods was made known to the four chief medicine-men in dreams, and Bandelier recalls the familiar story that Montezuma, previous to the coming of the Spaniards, being alarmed by mysterious prognostics, called upon the old men and women, and upon the medicine-men, to report what they might dream or had dreamed within a certain lapse of time. In the same country certain men were particularly expert in dream interpretation, so much so that they were generally applied to for that purpose.
It should be remembered that the capacity of the Indian to withstand the effect of narcotics is much less than that of the European, and that the native practice of inhaling the smoke secured a far deeper and more lasting effect than the modern method. Oviedo is authority for the statement that tobacco was greatly valued by the Caribbees, "who call it kohiba, and imagined when they were drunk with the fumes of it that they were in some sort inspired." The Carib sorcerer, in evoking a demon or spirit from his patient, would puff tobacco smoke into the air as an agreeable perfume to attract the spirit from the afflicted body. With the aid of tobacco smoke and darkness he could also hold communion with his own familiar demon or guardian spirit. "In La Española and the other islands," says Benzoni, "when their doctors wanted to cure a sick man, they went to the place where they were to administer the smoke, and when he was thoroughly intoxicated by it the cure was mostly effected. On returning to his senses he told a thousand stories of his having been at the councils of the gods, and other high visions." The Indians of California sometimes stupefied children with narcotic drink, in order to gain from the ensuing vision information about their enemies. Dr. E. B. Tylor notes similar practices in Darien, Brazil, and Peru. The Brazilian tribes took tobacco to produce ecstasy, and in this state had supernatural visions. The same custom obtained in North America. A peculiar use of the sweat