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Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers

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World-renowned anthropologist and ethnopharmacologist Christian Ratsch provides the latest scientific updates to this classic work on psychoactive flora by two eminent researchers. • Numerous new and rare color photographs complement the completely revised and updated text. • Explores the uses of hallucinogenic plants in shamanic rituals throughout the world. • Cross-refer World-renowned anthropologist and ethnopharmacologist Christian Ratsch provides the latest scientific updates to this classic work on psychoactive flora by two eminent researchers. • Numerous new and rare color photographs complement the completely revised and updated text. • Explores the uses of hallucinogenic plants in shamanic rituals throughout the world. • Cross-referenced by plant, illness, preparation, season of collection, and chemical constituents. Three scientific titans join forces to completely revise the classic text on the ritual uses of psychoactive plants. They provide a fascinating testimony of these "plants of the gods," tracing their uses throughout the world and their significance in shaping culture and history. In the traditions of every culture, plants have been highly valued for their nourishing, healing, and transformative properties. The most powerful of those plants, which are known to transport the human mind into other dimensions of consciousness, have always been regarded as sacred. The authors detail the uses of hallucinogens in sacred shamanic rites while providing lucid explanations of the biochemistry of these plants and the cultural prayers, songs, and dances associated with them. The text is lavishly illustrated with 400 rare photographs of plants, people, ceremonies, and art related to the ritual use of the world's sacred psychoactive flora.


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World-renowned anthropologist and ethnopharmacologist Christian Ratsch provides the latest scientific updates to this classic work on psychoactive flora by two eminent researchers. • Numerous new and rare color photographs complement the completely revised and updated text. • Explores the uses of hallucinogenic plants in shamanic rituals throughout the world. • Cross-refer World-renowned anthropologist and ethnopharmacologist Christian Ratsch provides the latest scientific updates to this classic work on psychoactive flora by two eminent researchers. • Numerous new and rare color photographs complement the completely revised and updated text. • Explores the uses of hallucinogenic plants in shamanic rituals throughout the world. • Cross-referenced by plant, illness, preparation, season of collection, and chemical constituents. Three scientific titans join forces to completely revise the classic text on the ritual uses of psychoactive plants. They provide a fascinating testimony of these "plants of the gods," tracing their uses throughout the world and their significance in shaping culture and history. In the traditions of every culture, plants have been highly valued for their nourishing, healing, and transformative properties. The most powerful of those plants, which are known to transport the human mind into other dimensions of consciousness, have always been regarded as sacred. The authors detail the uses of hallucinogens in sacred shamanic rites while providing lucid explanations of the biochemistry of these plants and the cultural prayers, songs, and dances associated with them. The text is lavishly illustrated with 400 rare photographs of plants, people, ceremonies, and art related to the ritual use of the world's sacred psychoactive flora.

30 review for Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers

  1. 5 out of 5

    Warwick

    Years and years ago, when I was tiny, I made a short film for the BBC about Salvia divinorum, a Mexican plant which was in those days gaining some notoriety as a legal high. Imagining myself, with youthful hubris, as a sort of latter-day Aldous Huxley circa Doors of Perception, I pitched it to my editor by saying that I'd only make the film if I was allowed to get off my tits on the stuff personally in front of the camera. Since my editor rarely bothered to even look up when I went into his offi Years and years ago, when I was tiny, I made a short film for the BBC about Salvia divinorum, a Mexican plant which was in those days gaining some notoriety as a legal high. Imagining myself, with youthful hubris, as a sort of latter-day Aldous Huxley circa Doors of Perception, I pitched it to my editor by saying that I'd only make the film if I was allowed to get off my tits on the stuff personally in front of the camera. Since my editor rarely bothered to even look up when I went into his office, and since I did all my own filming anyway, he basically just waved his hands at me until I went away, which I decided to interpret as carte blanche to go ahead. You can see the results on a young, beardless me here. During the long research period while I was setting up various aspects of the filming, this book became my Bible. I actually read quite a few works on hallucinogenics and legal highs, but most were either obscurely medical or uncritically new-agey – this one is the perfect balance, giving excellent ethnographic details of the different peoples or tribes that have used the substances concerned, with comments on mythology or folklorish import where relevant, but also providing details on the chemistry at work and the neurological effects produced (where known). To take salvia as an example: we have an interview with a ‘shamanic healer’, details of where the plant grows, how the leaves are prepared for use, some background on the Aztec drug pipiltzintzintli which may have been the same thing, several beautiful illustrative photos, and a sidebar on the chemical composition of active ingredient salvinorin-A (C₂₃H₂₈O₈). The original authors are the grand-daddies of hallucinogenic research: Richard Evans Schultes more or less invented the field of ethnobotany single-handed, while Albert Hofmann was the main discoverer of LSD and the first to identify (and synthesise) psilocybin. Their original work came out in 1979; this gorgeous 1998 version has been brought up to date by the German ‘ethnopharmacologist’ Christian Rätsch. It's so good-looking it's practically a coffee-table book. As for the mind-altering chemicals themselves, truthfully I've never had any kind of transcendent experience with them. However, I am grateful to have had the unusual pleasure of being able to charge a bong to BBC expenses.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Graeme Rodaughan

    This is an excellent go to resource on the use of psychotropic compounds by pre-industrial societies. A fascinating topic in it's own right, detailed in full, and marvelously illustrated. Some of the images in this book remind me strongly of experiences I've had just sitting around doing nothing. Pretty amazing stuff and worth a read by anyone with a curious mind.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    As a worker who studies altered states of consciousness, I found this text to give needed background and context to the use of psychodelics in our culture. Are all trips flowers and sunshine? A well-photographed healing session with the shaman Maria Sabina as presented in this book would tell us no. Maria proclaims her patient's disease to be fatal, and his reaction is profound; working with psilocybin and cancer patients, our preliminary data presents some tearful, anxious reactions. However, M As a worker who studies altered states of consciousness, I found this text to give needed background and context to the use of psychodelics in our culture. Are all trips flowers and sunshine? A well-photographed healing session with the shaman Maria Sabina as presented in this book would tell us no. Maria proclaims her patient's disease to be fatal, and his reaction is profound; working with psilocybin and cancer patients, our preliminary data presents some tearful, anxious reactions. However, Maria continues to provide the boy with prayer and benediction; this may be of great effect, as we have seen the psychological aftermath of a soundly-conducted psilocybin session to provide a new outlook on death and life. This CBC clip is a good example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JASWFA... Our study website has more clips, as well: http://www.cancer-insight.org This book is worth the cash you will lay down for it: the production value is high; the pictures are large and crisp; the image descriptors are thoughtful, leading you into the text; and the sheer volume of botanical knowledge you can take away from it is outstanding. Reading this book is reading notes from one of the most talented ethnobotanists ever to grace our western science. The descriptions of the indigenous use of the "plants of the gods" should give the modern reader a sense of how integral the use of psychodelics is to other cultures; this book also illustrates how ritual was used to screen for people who could benefit from the experience (the right psychological "set") and provide them with a supportive environment to explore or be explored (the right psychodelic "setting"). I think the former gift to be this book's contribution to reasoned discussion of psychodelics, and the latter to be its' contribution to the study of the safety issues surrounding psychodelics; both are essential, and this book serves both purposes admirably.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gh0zt

    Plants of the Gods is a collaborative work by ethnobotany greats Albert Hofmann, Richard Evans Schultes, and Christian Ratsch. It is an overview of various psychoactive plants and their uses in cultures of the past and present. It goes into detail on many of these plants, such as the morning glory vine Ololuiqui, the Peyote cactus, the Ayahausca brew, and DMT-containing snuff powders made from the Yopo. The book also discusses the roles of psychoactive plants in modern psychotherapy and medicine Plants of the Gods is a collaborative work by ethnobotany greats Albert Hofmann, Richard Evans Schultes, and Christian Ratsch. It is an overview of various psychoactive plants and their uses in cultures of the past and present. It goes into detail on many of these plants, such as the morning glory vine Ololuiqui, the Peyote cactus, the Ayahausca brew, and DMT-containing snuff powders made from the Yopo. The book also discusses the roles of psychoactive plants in modern psychotherapy and medicine. It is well sourced and referenced. A definite addition to any ethnobotany collection.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Clark

    A must have for the study of ethnobotany and entheogens. It gives a detailed description of how hallucinogens work, and the context of their ritualistic use. It also covers a broad range of psychoactives in detail, and has a list of more unknown hallucinogenic plants. It does this in a fairly condensed fashion too.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cherie

    This book was a bit more specific than I am interested in learning - I love Schultes' work as an anthropologist, but this book is mainly for botanist who are interested in the specific powers of plants. So a bit too much for me, but a respectful work nonethless.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cwn_annwn_13

    You could call this a reference book for psychoactive plants but its awful fun and interesting to read compared to most of the dry reference books of all sorts I've read. Plants of the Gods is also full of nice illustrations and photographs. Schultes deserves a lot of credit for doing the leg work going into the Amazon back in the 1940s and collecting and learning about the uses of these plants long before the days of Ayahuasca tourism.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    very informantive. lots of great pictures and maps. these plants are all around us!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alvaro

    excellent information on the use of certain entheogens by shamanic based cultures around the world....

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    This book was certainly very informative, and I would like to address some its aspects: - it was very good, because when possible, the active substances were identified, and they were compared with neurotransmitters occurring in the brain; - it was excellent when more details were provided about some well-known plants; - sadly, there was no information about cases of accidental overdoses (after all, we are talking about toxins here and only the dosage makes it a toxin). Fun fact 1: Atropa belladon This book was certainly very informative, and I would like to address some its aspects: - it was very good, because when possible, the active substances were identified, and they were compared with neurotransmitters occurring in the brain; - it was excellent when more details were provided about some well-known plants; - sadly, there was no information about cases of accidental overdoses (after all, we are talking about toxins here and only the dosage makes it a toxin). Fun fact 1: Atropa belladona L. played a major role in the war of the Scots under Duncan I against the Norwegian king Sven Canute about A.D. 1035. The Scots destroyed the Scandinavian army by sending them food and drink laced with 'sleepy nightshade'. Fun fact 2: When fly agaric (Amanita mushroom) was used for intoxication, its psychoactive substances pass through the body unmetabolised. It led to culture of urine drinking, so the poor could get intoxicated 'second-hand'.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carlos

    This book was a curious blend of a reference guide for hallucinogen plants the world over, anthropological case studies of their traditional use in indigenous societies, and a small discussion on their chemistry and psychiatric potential. While the case studies were interesting at first, their similarity and sheer number made a big part of the book feel quite redundant. Honestly, it was only the small part on the chemistry and psychiatric potential of these plants that held my interest and even This book was a curious blend of a reference guide for hallucinogen plants the world over, anthropological case studies of their traditional use in indigenous societies, and a small discussion on their chemistry and psychiatric potential. While the case studies were interesting at first, their similarity and sheer number made a big part of the book feel quite redundant. Honestly, it was only the small part on the chemistry and psychiatric potential of these plants that held my interest and even this part seemed superficial.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rajesh Hegde

    Must read book to understand the history, cultural practices with psychedelics use across the world in pre-industrial times. It is fascinating to know there are close to 100 psychedelic plants (found so far) and all are documented in this book. There is also good collection of drawings and paintings people received during their visions.

  13. 5 out of 5

    GilianB

    A great work of ethnobotany and anthropology. Humans have the capacity for a variety of altered states of consciousness, and a major question is how to integrate this into our contemporary society; a task which has failed unfortunately, I would say.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Spencer Rich

    A good overall view. Definitely interested in things like Salvia and Iboga. Some of it was just boring reference stuff that I had to skim. Much of the last chapter was devoted to experiments with hallucinogens and psychoanalysis in the West. Pretty heady stuff.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Megan Hex

    Outstanding work of anthropology, often going to direct sources in aboriginal cultures for research. The science is a little outdated, but the book is almost 30 years old, and none of it is inaccurate—just limited compared to what we know now.

  16. 5 out of 5

    thieuke

    Wonderfull, surely an asset to all interested.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

    Love this book! Amazing information from around the world!

  18. 4 out of 5

    James Elliott

    A wonderful review of entheogenic plants and their traditional usage throughout the world.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Max Kondziolka

    Highly researched, outstanding anthropological study and ethnobotanical guide.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jc Olsen

    A fantastic book. Tons of illustrations, too.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Red

    Where would the West be without Schultes? He was the Director of the Botanical Museum at Harvard and can largely be credited with bringing significant entheogenic enthnobotanical knowledge to a wider audience. However, one can not give Schultes all the credit for this work. It helps when your co-authors are as brilliant as Christian Ratsch and the venerable Albert Hoffmann. If one is only moderately interested in the topic of hallucinogens, then this is the single book that should be sitting on y Where would the West be without Schultes? He was the Director of the Botanical Museum at Harvard and can largely be credited with bringing significant entheogenic enthnobotanical knowledge to a wider audience. However, one can not give Schultes all the credit for this work. It helps when your co-authors are as brilliant as Christian Ratsch and the venerable Albert Hoffmann. If one is only moderately interested in the topic of hallucinogens, then this is the single book that should be sitting on your shelf. In addition to having a wonderful overview of the various plants, the photography is simply gorgeous. I’ve seen it used in numerous journal articles as a reference and one would be hard pressed to find a superior source on plant based hallucinogens than Schultes. For someone absolutely consumed with the topic of mind altering plants, then I would recommend Ratsch’s Encyclopedia. However, it carries a hefty price tag. For your average researcher, Plants of the Gods is an excellent source. -Red

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    A surreal & mind opening window into people's sacred relationship with plants from around the world. Great photos/art to go along with the information. A true pioneer in Western study of ethnobotany following in the footsteps of Spruce yet blazing his own path like no other. More a scientist than a mystic but so respectful of his work...heartfelt grattitude goes out to him for his yearn to explore & expand on the world as he knew it. A surreal & mind opening window into people's sacred relationship with plants from around the world. Great photos/art to go along with the information. A true pioneer in Western study of ethnobotany following in the footsteps of Spruce yet blazing his own path like no other. More a scientist than a mystic but so respectful of his work...heartfelt grattitude goes out to him for his yearn to explore & expand on the world as he knew it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bubba61909

    I like this book because it gave me a history lesson on some of the plants that I have managed to obtain in my life so far. I was really happy to read about the Datura plant because I bought this flower four years ago and didn't realize that it had so much history to it. It is nice to find out the plants I have bought are intersected in the history of early civilizations. If you have any questions about certain "odd" looking plants, you need to see if they are in books like these.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David Ward

    Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers by Richard Evans Schultes (Healing Arts Press 1992) ( 394) appears to be the bible of natural hallucinogens. It's a wonderful encyclopedia of the plants that have historically led humans to believe in gods and other worlds. It's a catalog with historical perspectives supplied and a very important book. My rating: 9/10, finished 3/20/14.

  25. 4 out of 5

    chris

    Very informative and interesting book. In depth about the subject matter, and amazing how many cultures apply properties of plants in their society. Makes me wonder why we now discontinue this type of practice. How is criminalization and punishment for use of plants address any issues of their possible downfalls?

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sky Feather

    Some points are still outdated. It states for example that there are no known receptors in the human brain for Salvinorin A... Also, some other minor ones such as Trichocereus spp. which years ago moved to the Echinopsis genus. In general it's a good book with lots of ethnographic and ethnobotanical information.

  27. 4 out of 5

    ninamo

    "Entheogens ... could be the appropriate medicine for hyper-materialistic humanity." Beautifully illustrated with art, poetry, and hundreds of photos, this book is a respectful study of the biology, chemistry, anthropology, history, and culture of the use and cultivation of entheogens. Fascinating revelations about how plants & humans co-evolved. "Entheogens ... could be the appropriate medicine for hyper-materialistic humanity." Beautifully illustrated with art, poetry, and hundreds of photos, this book is a respectful study of the biology, chemistry, anthropology, history, and culture of the use and cultivation of entheogens. Fascinating revelations about how plants & humans co-evolved.

  28. 4 out of 5

    furious

    Schultes was the original Indiana Jones of the hallucinogenic plant. he was Terence McKenna 30 years before McKenna was born. in terms of identifying & cataloging the sacred plants used by tribal peoples, Schultes was (and is) THE GUY. this is where it all begins. Schultes was the original Indiana Jones of the hallucinogenic plant. he was Terence McKenna 30 years before McKenna was born. in terms of identifying & cataloging the sacred plants used by tribal peoples, Schultes was (and is) THE GUY. this is where it all begins.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mark R.

    Thorough and nearly exhausting resource denoting the different types and varieties of hallucination-causing plants from all over the world. Lots of colorful photographs and useful information as to the origins and uses of these various mushrooms, herbs, and other fun vegetation.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    Though not a "I can't wait to see what happens next" kind of book, in terms of info and photos, this is a fantastic compendium of the history of the world's psychoactive plants and how cultures have used them. These plants are everywhere in history, and have been used by everyone.

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