Most everyone has heard of the Amazon Indian's poisoned tipped blowgun dart dipped in curare (or as the Amazon Tupis call it: wrary or warali which means, "he, to whom it comes, falls"). Not all natives used poison, and some poisons (usually not as effective as curare) were made out of other substances -- frogs, insects and plants, etc. (Timbo bark is used for poison fishing.) One might find interesting some other information concerning these weapons.

Other Users of Blowguns

Asian Tribes

  • Siamese
  • Burmese
  • Malays
  • Phillipines
  • Dyaks of Borneo -- use the extremely milky poisonous sap of the Upas tree. (weapons called sumpitan.)

American Indians


  • Iroquois of New York state,
  • Appalachian
  • Mississippi valley
  • Florida


Central American Tribes

Several used poisoned darts, but these used clay pellets:


  • Shayshans
  • Kunas
  • Boorabees.


Other South American Tribes

Preparation of Curare

Supposedly no white man has learned how to make this most hastening of deadly concoctions, and among those people, only a handful were allowed its secret. Curare is not a single substance, but a combination of natural (and to these people inludes supernatural) items which by themselves, or even in an incomplete mixture are no where near as toxic as the finished product. The poison is made by a different tribe than the ones that make the blowgun. The Akawoin and Patamonan make the best poison. Some of the chemical maybe part of the strychnine family (and ironically, unlike strychnine, curare can be swallowed more safely). This batch, however, works virulently (can paralyze in 5 minutes and kill in 10) when entered directly in the bloodstream -- especially when it hits someone's soft spots with a vein 

    • Inocuous Substances


      • Confuse would-be copycats
      • Impress the audience


    • ants
    • scorpions
    • toads
    • frogs
    • variety of earth
    • woodchips
    • bark
    • roots
    • leaves
    • seeds
    • fruit
    • bulbs
    • flowers
    • gums
    • miscellaneous items


    • mystic pot

      Items placed in this large kettle over a fire


    • mystic paddle
      • Must be specially shaped
      • Must be burned afterwards in the fire beneath the receptacle

      To stir the brew


    • Dart points are wrapped tightly in bark fabric

    • This roll is kept in quiver


      • Waterproofed with wax
      • Specialized basketry stored suspended from huts' rafters with curare gourd out of reach
    • Quiver is slung on belt
    • Ceiba tree pod silk in small basket on belt- this is rolled on the tail of the dart for the airtight fit, and serves as stabilizer in flight.
    • Perai (Caribe fish) jaw The teeth cut a groove on the projectile -- to cause its breaking off in the target (eliminating less chance for being stepped on by unshod hunters
  • Ingredients


    Care and handling

    These folks may not be rocket scientists, but they are masters of their natural environment -- surviving in harmony like we never could -- and they have got it down pat what to do with these darts after the tips are dipped in the venomous soup. Extra curare is carried in a gourd or calabash carried and stored with the weapons.


    On the trail:

The Blowgun Manufacture

The inferior made ones are just grooved out large sticks lashed and glued together. The Central and South American Tribes demand perfection,


  • Caribs
  • Macusis
  • Arekunas

The Myagong tribe excel in this endeavor

They make blowguns that can reach 15 feet.

The 'barrel'

  • Straight cane reeds chosen

  • They are dried delicately.


    • suspended over hot ashes
    • weighted to keep true
The 'Stock'
  • Special Palm species
  • Pitch removed
  • Dried

The Assembly

  • Barrels centered on stock
  • Cemented on that frame with wax and gum

The Mouthpiece

  • Wood
  • Bone
  • Nutshell

The Sight


Agouti (Small mammalian) teeth placed 12 to 24 inches from breech.

The dart

Narrow, delicate palm-leaf midrib

The Testing

Sighting by looking through the barrel at some mark that shows concentic circles within the bore

  • If cutting an end off corrects the out of true -- then kept, but considered cheaper
  • Incorrectable inaccurate weapons destroyed.




  • Six darts in quick repeat put in target
  • Penetrate fourth of an inch pine board - protrude half inch other side.
  • Hit a hummingbird almost hidden in the jungle


Source: Strange Customs, Manners and Beliefs A. Hyatt Verrill; 1946

Blow"gun` (?), n.

A tube, as of cane or reed, sometimes twelve feet long, through which an arrow or other projectile may be impelled by the force of the breath. It is a weapon much used by certain Indians of America and the West Indies; -- called also blowpipe, and blowtube. See Sumpitan.


© Webster 1913.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.