Skunkweed and the Skunk

Cover Image via Sensi Seeds (this Post does not cover cannabis at all. In English, ‘skunk’ has become slang for any potent, high-THC strain of cannabis. The media often uses ‘skunk’ to define ‘street weed’, usually in a derogatory fashion. In fact, Skunk #1 is the official name of one of the oldest and most popular strains of cannabis, and there is a ‘Skunk family’ of its descendants.)

Sometimes my mind wanders.

One of papalos monikers is that of skunkweed and I’m not really going to cover that again as I have explored this a little in the Posts : Papalo and Pipicha. Skunk Weed?; Yepaquilitl : Another Skunk Weed, and (even) Epazote so check them out.

I’m only bringing it up as one of the epithets used for skunk is that of mampurite (1) and this name has come up again in the research of a recipe found in a book about the cuisine of the lake dwellers of Culhuacán (2).

  1. The name “mampuritu” and its derivatives are often quoted as meaning “skunk” in Spanish. This is confusing as the translation for skunk is mofeta or zorillo. When using Google translate, skunk translates as zorrillo but skunk weed translates to hierba mofeta. The word mampuritu is used on a Caribbean island (Curaçao) (Van Proosdij 2012) (Rodríguez 2016) to refer to a plant used to relieve gas pains and P.ruderale is referred to as Yerba di mampuritu by the Government of the Netherlands Antilles in their dcbiodata.net. See Post : Pápaloquelite : Porophyllum macrocephalum
  2. Pueblo Culhuacán is an officially designated neighbourhood of the Iztapalapa borough of Mexico City, which used to be a major pre-Hispanic city. Ancient Culhuacán was founded around 600 CE and the site has been continuously occupied since.

The Nahuatl word for skunk is “epatl” (yepatl).

I have previously posted on the herb Senegalia acatlensis (1) which is also called borreguitos (or in Nahuatl yepaquilitl). Yepaquilitl has the same root word as “skunk” (yepatl/epatl) (and “quilitl” = quelite) and is named as such because of the “strong and peculiar” scent of its flowers. The herb epazote (Nahuatl epazotl) is a strongly scented herb and its etymology is skunky as well. From EPA-TL (skunk) +‎ TZO-TL (sweat, bodily waste, filth).

  1. See Post Yepaquilitl : Another Skunk Weed for information on the herb and in, Prehispanic Veganismo – The Tlaltequeada there is reference to salsa de yepatliche (skunk salsa?)

Another herb called zorillo (also rama de zorrillo, zorrillo silvestre (Martínez, 1979) is the plant Petiveria alliacea. According to Conabio (1) in Mexico this plant (2) is used medicinally. It is a phytolacca (3) so extreme caution must be used when utilising this plant internally as medicine from this species of plant is usually taken at VERY low doses and eating the fresh plants can be deadly.

  1. Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad
  2. which is also called anamú, mapurite – both names are also used for Porophyllum macrocephalum – Papalo
  3. commonly known in Western Herbal Medicine as “poke root”

The recipe in the text is for skunk soup (broth).

Ingredients

  • 1 skunk
  • 1 onion
  • salt to taste

Method

  1. The skunk is killed and the skin is removed. With great care, the urine bags are removed, which are next to the tail. After removing the viscera, it is washed very well.
  2. It is put to cook in water and with onion, until the meat is softened

Now skunk meat is edible and has medicinal utility itself. You should however be warned than catching a skunk can be a delicate procedure as they can defend themselves by spraying a foul smelling liquid produced in special glands near the animals anus.

This liquid can sting the eyes but its primary action is one of a foul odour that will adhere to fur and skin. The spray is primarily a defence mechanism and can reach up to 3 – 5 metres (10 – 15 feet). If however you are sprayed in the face the liquid can temporarily blind you and the scent is so foul that vomiting and temporary illness can be experienced.

Processing the dead skunk for the table can also be tricky. When skinning and cleaning the carcass you must beware that you don’t rupture these glands and you will taint the meat.

My first introduction to the skunk as a medicine came via a stall holder at the Mercado Sonora (1) in the CDMX (2).

  1. The Sonora Market in Mexico City has a loooong history. It is primarily known as a witches market and in it can be found everything from herbs and amulets (and other ephemera required for the practice of various magical arts) as well as animals and everything needed to practice herbal medicine. There is also a section for children’s toys.
  2. CDMX is now the acronym for Mexico City, which stands for Ciudad de Mexico (Mexico City.) The name is already known worldwide, but has caused confusion among residents who love and know Mexico City as D.F.

The first was the definition of the animal, and it is here where I came across the “mampurite” which has caused me such confusion (if you have any insight please share it with me)
“The mephitidae are a family of carnivorous mammals, commonly known as skunks, skunks, mapurites (my emphasis) or chingues”.

Then the processing of the animal follows.
There are several ways to consume meat and they are: (these are all in reference to using the animal for medical purposes – although the second method “Roasted” seems purely culinary.

  • In broth
    Preparation:
    A small piece of meat in ½ litre of water is boiled very well with aromatic herbs.
    And the water is taken as tea for 3 to 4 weeks.
  • Roasted
    Preparation:
    A piece of meat is left to dry for several days, then it is put on the comal or on a grill and can be accompanied with a delicious xoconostle sauce.
  • In capsules
    These are already prepared and they are also sold in the Sonoran market and they only take 2 to 4 capsules a week for a month or depending on the illness and how they feel.
  • Fresh blood
    Obtaining the animal alive, which costs around $5,000 pesos, says that if the animal’s blood and fresh meat are taken, the remedy is more effective.
    In the case of my cousins, they ate it in tea and in capsules for a month and they comment that in the cold season they did not get sick.
A Vicks vaporub type product made from skunk fat and eucalyptus oil for the treatment of respiratory issues and muscular pain/inflammation..

Medicinally speaking (1) skunk meat seems to be primarily indicated for respiratory illness (2) although it has been utilised for hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, rheumatism, acne, dermatitis, wounds and even cancer. It is also used magically as an amulet to keep away malevolent spirits. Serrano-González (etal 2014) also notes its use (in curanderismo) for the treatment of mal aire (3)

  1. (Jacobo-Salcedo etal 2011)(Alonso-Castro etal 2011) (Alonso-Castro 2014)
  2. coughs, bronchitis, and asthma. One recipe calls for using the powdered bone of the skunk along with, Bougainvilla glabra, Eucalyptus globosus and Persea americana for the treatment of cough.
  3. (Reductively speaking) “El Mal de Aire” or “bad air” is a folk illness in Mexico affecting children and adults alike. It is believed that if cold or night-time air enters into a body, it may cause pain or discomfort affecting different areas and causing pains, like muscle spasm, backpain, or even cold symptoms. “El Mal de Aire” is believed to be cured by “sweeping” the affected person with a bouquet of aromatic herbs, starting at the head and finishing at the feet. In some other instances the person affected may be treated with baths and an intake of teas.

Cossios (etal 2018) shows some of the medicinal use of the skunk in Peru (and the parts used) and also touches on curanderismo when he mentions susto. Susto is an illness that doesn’t really have an allopathic correspondence. It has been described as “magical fright” and involves the soul being “separated” (to one degree or another) from its owner which can then lead to the manifesting of physical illness. See Posts What is Curanderismo?; Pericón : Tagetes lucida; Mexixquilitl; Papalo and Pipicha. Skunk Weed?; Quillquina : Porophyllum ruderale; Pápaloquelite : Porophyllum macrocephalum; and Glossary of Terms used in Herbal Medicine as each of these expounds on the subject of susto (and its more serious incarnation “espanto”)

Now we digress

The word for skunk in this recipe is zorillo. This word brings to mind (well my mind anyway) one of my favourite swashbuckling (1) heroes Zorro. Now Zorro has a particular and very identifiable look. I dare say he would be immediately recognised by most and he has been emulated by many actors over the years. For an excellent insight into the history of the actual Zorro check out the Latinos who Lunch podcast The Mexican Legacy of Zorro (2).

  1. A swashbuckler is a genre of European adventure literature that focuses on a heroic protagonist stock character who is skilled in swordplay, acrobatics, guile and possesses chivalrous ideals. A “swashbuckler” protagonist is heroic, daring, and idealistic: he rescues damsels in distress, protects the downtrodden, and uses duels to defend his honour or that of a lady or to avenge a comrade. Swashbucklers often engage in daring and romantic adventures with bravado or flamboyance. Swashbuckler heroes are gentleman adventurers who dress elegantly and flamboyantly
  2. http://www.latinoswholunch.com/episodes/2020/11/18/the-mexican-legacy-of-el-zorro
Latinos Who Lunch is a podcast that was created to provide a digital media platform that reflects the intersectionality between queer, Latinx, and Spanglish voices. It is hosted by Justin Favela AKA FavyFav (in the skeleton t-shirt) and Babelito (Emmanuel Ortega). Justin is a Las Vegas based artist known for large-scale installations and sculptures that manifest his interactions with American pop culture and the Latinx experience and Babelito (PhD, Art History, University of New Mexico) is a curator, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Babs has lectured nationally and internationally on the topics of images of autos-de-fe, nineteenth-century Mexican landscape painting, and visual representations of the New Mexico Pueblo peoples in Novohispanic Franciscans martyr paintings. This podcast has since ended (after 5 years of mayhem) but they should all be available as recordings. Just Google them loca. They guys sit around talking smack about a wide range of subjects and spend a goodly time discussing the meals they have eaten since they last saw each other.
One of Justins pieces. A life-sized lowrider piñata.
Gypsy Rose Piñata (2017) by Justin Favela. Made of found objects, cardboard, styrofoam, cardboard, and glue, the installation was part of the Petersen Automotive Museum’s exhibit, The High Art of Riding Low: Ranflas, Corazón e Inspriación

Back to Zorro.

Also (getting further off track) as of May 2022 it has been announced that (one of my favourites) the actor Wilmer Valderrama is going to be the next incarnation of Zorro.

Some of Wilmers previous stuff.

Check them out.

and we should not of course forget his work as Fez on That 70’s Show.

“Every day I am here with my heart on my sleeve, hoping for friendship. And acceptance. And what do I get? Abandonment. Loneliness. When is it Fez’s turn??”

In my opinion, the funniest character on the show (along with the father Red Forman played by Kurtwood Smith of course)

Now as for the word “Zorro”.

One interpretation. “Zorro” = fox (1)

  1. fox (sly or cunning person). Fox (carnivore) Clever, crafty, sly.
Zorro : A Meso American canid of the genus Lycalopex,
visually similar to (and sometimes referred to as) a fox but more closely related to a wolf.
Image by Brian Ralphs from Wheaton, IL, USA – DSC_4670.NEFUploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY 2.0

Buuuuuut……..

…..When I look at Zorro what pops into mind (again, my mind, possibly not anyone elses)…….is this little fella.

Zorillo, the “little fox”. Zorro = fox and “-illo” = In Spanish the suffix -illo, (or -cillo or -ecillo) is used after a noun or adjective for two purposes: to qualify it as smaller (diminutive) or to talk about it in an affectionate way. In spoken Spanish, a diminutive suffix is added to words for several reasons, not just to say something is small.

  • To say something is small: un gatito (kitten), un cafecito (a little coffee)
  • To show something is charming or endearing: mamita (mummy), chiquito (boy)
  • To change a meaning slightly: gordito (chubby), cerquita (right next to).
  • To be more friendly: un ratito (a short moment), un momentito (one moment), Juanito (Johnny).
  • To show something is unimportant: un dolorcito (a little pain), un trabajito (a little/easy job).
  • To talk to children: un conejito (a bunny), osito (teddy bear), camisita (shirt).

Handsome little devil isn’t he. The black and white colour scheme is similar to that of el Zorro the swashbuckler

Or maybe this guy. Pepé Le Pew.

Pepé Le Pew is an animated character from the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons, introduced in 1945. Depicted as a French striped skunk, Pepé is constantly on the quest for love. However, his offensive skunk odour and his aggressive pursuit of romance typically cause other characters to run away from him. Pepé Le Pew storylines typically involve Pepé in pursuit of a female black cat, whom Pepé mistakes for a skunk (“la belle femme skunk fatale”). The cat, who was retroactively named Penelope Pussycat, often has a white stripe painted down her back, usually by accident (such as by squeezing under a fence with wet white paint). Penelope frantically races to get away from him because of his putrid odour, his overly aggressive manner or both, while Pepé hops after her at a leisurely pace.

In the current “Me Too” era Pepe le Pew has been on the receiving end of the cancel culture as at the very least he is a pest that doesn’t know what “no” means and at the very worst he is a Harvey Weinstein (1) like figure and is the very example of a sexual predator. This is extreme though. Good old Pepe very rarely got the girl and was quite often beaten up or maimed in one way or another in his pursuit of la belle. I do have to say that he was very kissy and not at all rapey but he did have serious issues with hearing the word no and was persistent to the point of being a stalker. I make no comparison with Zorro and el zorillo Pepe. This is just a cartoon and sometimes my mind wanders into strange places.

  1. Harvey Weinstein ( born March 19, 1952) is an American convicted sex offender and former film producer. He and his brother, Bob Weinstein, co-founded the entertainment company Miramax, which produced several successful independent films. In October 2017, following sexual abuse allegations dating back to the late 1970s, Weinstein was dismissed from his company and expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. More than 80 women made allegations of sexual harassment and/or rape against Weinstein by the end of that October. The allegations sparked the #MeToo social media campaign and subsequent sexual abuse allegations against many powerful men around the world; this phenomenon is referred to as the “Weinstein effect.” Weinstein was arrested and charged with rape in New York in May 2018, and was found guilty of two of five felonies in February 2020. Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

In a role-reversal, the Academy Award-winning 1949 short For Scent-imental Reasons ended with an accidentally painted blue (and now terrified) Pepé being pursued by a madly smitten Penelope (who has been dunked in dirty water, leaving her with a ratty appearance and a developing head cold, completely clogging up her nose). It turns out that Pepé’s new colour is just right for her (plus the fact that the blue paint now covers his putrid scent). Penelope locks him up inside a perfume shop, hiding the key down her chest, and proceeds to chase the now imprisoned and effectively odourless Pepé. In another short, Little Beau Pepé, Pepé, attempting to find the most arousing cologne with which to impress Penelope, sprays a combination of perfumes and colognes upon himself. This resulted in something close to a love potion, leading Penelope to fall madly in love with Pepé in an explosion of hearts. Pepé is revealed to be extremely frightened of overly affectionate women (“But Madame!”), much to his dismay, as Penelope quickly captures him and smothers him in more love than even he could imagine.

Now Zorro is a hero and Pepe is a bit of a weirdo so there can really be no comparison between the two……..

……..Or can there?

Smooth, suave and debonair.

So there we go

Zorro. Skunk or fox?

and also, skunk soup? Not high on my list of “must try’s” (or at all for that matter)

References

  • Angel Josabad Alonso-Castro; Candy Carranza-Álvarez; Juan José Maldonado-Miranda; María del Rosario Jacobo-Salcedo; Diana Alicia Quezada-Rivera; Habacuc Lorenzo-Márquez; Luis Alejandro Figueroa-Zúñiga; Carlos Fernández-Galicia; Néstor Abel Ríos-Reyes; Miguel Ángel de León-Rubio; Valentina Rodríguez-Gallegos; Pedro Medellín-Milán (2011). Zootherapeutic practices in Aquismón, San Luis Potosí, México. , 138(1), 0–237. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2011.09.020
  • Alonso-Castro, Angel Josabad (2014). Use of medicinal fauna in Mexican traditional medicine. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 152(1), 53–70. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2014.01.005
  • Bedolla, Ana Graciela & Vanegas, Juan E. (1990) La comida en el medio lacustre: Culhuacán : Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (Mexico). Centro Comunitario Culhuacán : Fideicomiso del Fondo de Participación Ciudadana para el Desarrollo Social en Iztapalapa, 1990; ISBN 9688408425, 978968840842
  • Daniel Cossios, E, Valdez Ridoutt, Fernando, & Luna Donoso, Andrea. (2018). Relationships between Molinas hog nosed skunks, Conepatus chinga (Mammalia, Mephitidae) and human beings in the Chaupihuaranga river Basin, Pasco, Peru. Ecología Aplicada, 17(2), 208-214. https://dx.doi.org/10.21704/rea.v17i2.1240
  • Maria del Rosario Jacobo-Salcedo; Angel Josabad Alonso-Castro; Alicia Zarate-Martinez (2011). Folk medicinal use of fauna in Mapimi, Durango, México. , 133(2), 0–906. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2010.10.005
  • Martínez, M., 1979. Catálogo de nombres vulgares y científicos de plantas mexicanas. Fondo de Cultura Económica. México, D.F.
  • Rodríguez, M.A. (2016) African origin of Papiamentu plant names : Publisher Utrecht University
  • Serrano-González, R., F. Guerrero-Martínez, y R. Serrano-Velázquez. 2011. Animales medicinales y agoreros entre tzotziles y tojolabales. Estudios Mesoamericanos, Nueva época. 11: 29-42.
  • Van Proosdij, A.S.J. (2012) Arnoldo’s Zakflora. Wat in het wild groeit en bloeit op Aruba, Bonaire en Curaçao

Websites

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