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Explorer Justin Fornal to Give Talk on Sacred Beverages, Oct. 30, at Bruce Museum

Explorer Justin Fornal participating in a Maasai blood-drinking ritual.

Explorer Justin Fornal presents a journey through the world of ancient and contemporary sacred beverages in an evening lecture at the Bruce Museum, “Sacred Beverages: From the Black Drink to Ayahuasca.”

Taking place on Tuesday, October 30, 6:30 – 8:00 pm, Fornal’s talk will discuss the rich heritage surrounding Xocolatl (Aztec chocolate), Ayahuasca, Café Touba, Soma, Peyōtl (peyote tea), and many others.

Guests will learn how different cultures sanctify ordinary liquids through the use of elaborate rituals and mystical drinking vessels. The Ethiopian Coffee, Japanese Tea, and Native American Black Drink ceremonies are broken down to their ancient roots.

Fornal is particularly intrigued by the lore that surrounds the Native American Black Drink. Made from the roasted leaves and stems of Ilex vomitoria (commonly known as yaupon holly), a plant native to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Black Drink was used in purification ceremonies by the Cherokee, Choctaw, and other tribes of the American Southeast.

Justin Fornal.

“To Native Americans, it was a sacred beverage,” says Fornal, who in June 2018 was as listed as the “No. 3 most adventurous person in the world right now” by Men’s Journal.  “It was used as a cleansing beverage, though there is a lot we don’t know about exactly what other ingredients also went into the Black Drink. But yaupon holly is one of the few plants with caffeine, and you could argue that it’s just bad marketing that we’re not all having Black Drink rather than coffee.”

Samples of selected beverages will be offered during the lecture. Fornal will also display a range of sacred drinking vessels from different cultures, from Japanese tea bowls to a Maasai blood gourd to a witch’s chalice from Uganda.

The Museum doors open at 6:20 pm. Light refreshments at 6:30 pm; lecture at 7:00 pm. The program is free for Museum members and students with ID; non-members $15. Reservations are required and may be made at