Black Drink Ceremony Conch Shell

Black Drink Ceremony

Participants in the Black Drink Ceremony were revered male elders also referred to as "beloved men" who were too old for active service but through their lifetime of experience made them the chief's main counselors. The chief relied upon their judgment in matters of war and diplomacy and especially in regard to ceremonial practices. Each morning these men met in the public square to purify themselves with the "black drink". This was a very strong, dark brown tea with a white froth on top made from the infusion of the young leaves and twig tips of the yaupon holly which was native to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. The natives called it the White Drink because of the froth, but when the Europeans came, they renamed it the Black Drink. Due to the large amount that each one drank and the high caffeine content, they would then, immediately vomit. They believed that the drinking of this tea purified them from sin and made them invincible in war. Preparation of the drink was done by a rigid set of customs. It was brewed over a fire in the center of the square. The persons of highest rank were served first and so on down the line until all had partaken. Usually the drink made three or four rounds, with time out between each round for getting rid of the previous dose outside the square.

No women or children were allowed in the square during the ceremony and were punished if caught. Scratching with either snake teeth or a garfish jaw was the customary punishment.

The Conch Shell was used by the southeastern tribes as a mixing cup for the black drink ceremony and was used for eating and drinking utensils.

Shell was a favorite material for pre-historic natives of North America for the manufacture of ornaments, implements, and utensils. Therefore, conch shells served as a very important item of trade between the Gulf Coast and inland tribes. Due to the widespread use, the supply could not be met, thus they started making them from baked clay. Because of the deterioration of the shell in most soils, more shell vessels made of baked clay are found than the real conch shells.