Reviews & Interviews

Book Review – Shamanic Plant Medicine-San Pedro: The Gateway to Wisdom by Ross Heaven

Book Review
Shamanic Plant Medicine-San Pedro
The Gateway to Wisdom
by Ross Heaven

144 Pages



San Pedro: The Gateway to Wisdom is one in The Shamanic Plant Medicine series authored by Ross Heaven. Each book introduces a plant medicine teacher and medicine ally. This well-written, accessible book introduces us to the Cactus of Mystery, San Pedro, native to the Andes and used by Andean shamans in healing ceremonies.

Mr. Heaven, who died in 2018, has left us with a practical and nuanced introduction to San Pedro. The book gives us an overview of the plant’s history and the lore relating to its sense of mystery, which certainly drew me in to wanting to know more about it. Here are some of the fascinating bits of lore that Heaven provided: Legend has it that St. Cyprian was instructed by Jesus to hide the keys to Paradise from the Spanish invaders and Inquisition in a cactus under the watchful eye of St. Peter, keeper of the keys to Heaven– hence this entheogen’s name. It also has many nicknames, one of which is punku – doorway or gateway – for its ability to open a doorway beyond the world of illusion, as author Heaven wrote. Its active ingredient is mescaline and its healing and nurturing action has earned it another nickname: Grandfather. As Heaven wrote in a different book: “There is a sort of mystery surrounding San Pedro and a sense that knowledge of the plant must remain secret or at least be earned through preparation, participation and worthiness of those who drink it.”

Heaven provided a detailed chapter on why San Pedro’s medicine is sought after and descriptions of various ceremonies and methods of use by San Pedro shamans. Heaven also discussed various modes of preparation, while urging respect, safety and caution working with this teacher plant. While it is not a how-to, step-by-step manual, the book provides excellent guidance on what to look for when seeking someone to conduct and support a ceremony. The personal accounts of people who experienced San Pedro’s healing effects in ceremony with Heaven and other shamans are engaging, encouraging and worth reading.

The most fascinating and instructive section examines the effects of San Pedro on creativity. There is an overview of the early research with psychedelics in the 1960s, specifically with their effect on artists. Heaven equated the ability of the creative process – to “shift” the brain into perceiving and functioning differently – with the nature of the entheogenic experience. Both processes are “nonrational and nonverbal, the insights coming at an almost cellular level through the remodeling of the self. Trying to capture this experience in words is too limiting for those who have undergone it.” Heaven’s description of these processes is reason alone to read this book! A discussion of shamans as artists as they engage with the creative flow of energy in the healing process is also worth the read. There are also deeply engaging personal accounts of visual and musical artists who described the effects of San Pedro on their work and their search for self-knowledge.

Heaven ended the book with a chapter on working responsibly with San Pedro. There are in-depth recommendations regarding environment, introducing yourself to the plant with respect, what to expect during the work itself and legalities of possession and use of San Pedro.

If you are interested in working with San Pedro, or simply in learning more about entheogenic plant medicine in general, this book is a great place to start. It is an easy to read, well-researched and information beginning. I will keep it on my bookshelf as a good reference and already plan to read the other books in this excellent series from Moon Books.



About the Author:

Susan Rossi is a Practitioner and Teacher of Shamanic Arts. She is a long-time explorer of The Mysteries – the connections between mind, body, spirit and how to live in right relationship to all of the energies streaming through the cosmos. She works with clients as an astrologer, coach, ceremonialist and guide to the wisdom that each of us has the capacity to access. Her focus is on guiding clients to unblock and rediscover their inner wisdom. Art, exploration of the birth chart, ceremony, legacy writing, hypnotherapy, energetic healing practice and creation of sacred tools are integral pieces of her practice.

Susan trained in Soul Level Astrology with master astrologer Mark Borax. She delights in exploring with individuals the planetary pattern under which their soul choose to incarnate.

Susan Rossi

Open Channel Astrology

Flying to the Heart