Reviews & Interviews

Book Review – Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers (Revised and Expanded Edition) by Richard Evans Schultes, Albert Hofmann, & Christian Rätsch

Book Review

Plants of the Gods

Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers (Revised and Expanded Edition)

by Richard Evans Schultes, Albert Hofmann,

& Christian Rätsch

208 Pages

 

 

Plants of the Gods” is a beautiful, extensive book that takes a look at the pharmacological wonders of the plant and fungus kingdoms, and their sacred and religious use by indigenous peoples throughout the world. To students of psychedelic pharmacology, each of these three authors is considered a luminary in his own right; in “Plants of the Gods,” Schultes, Hofmann, and Rätsch combine their knowledge into a pharmacopoeia that weaves together magical, medicinal, and ritual uses of well-known entheogenic plants with the most recent scientific research about their active alkaloids and pharmacological effects.

 

As with Rätsch’s immense “The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants”, “Plants of the Gods” is a beautifully-produced book with full color illustrations on glossy pages. It’s a treat to hold and read, full of indigenous art, full-color photographs, botanical drawings, and etchings. But where other books may give more emphasis to the pharmacology or the botany of these psychoactive plants, “Plants of the Gods” is focused especially on the ritual use, mythology, and history surrounding their use by humans. As many of these plants are regarded as particularly sacred in various cultures and societies, there has historically been a lot of spiritual practice interwoven with their use. 

 

Plants of the Gods” can be broken down into four parts: a few chapters introducing the topic of hallucinogenic plants and exploring their history and spread; the Plant Lexicon, a quick and handy guide to the ninety-seven plants that are known to have a hallucinogenic or psychoactive effect, and which are the subject of this book; the Overview of Plant Use, a long table which sorts the plants out according to how they are used, and what their effects are; and finally, the meat of the book, eighteen chapters on different specific herbs, cacti, or mushrooms. The book wraps up with a short exploration of the chemistry of hallucinogens, and a tantalizing bibliography. 

 

Amongst the seventeen chapters, there are a few topics which may be of particular interest to witches, especially those on the Poison Path, or herbalists who are feeling adventurous. The chapters delve in-depth into the history of use of Amanitas, Solanaceae, Cannabis, Ergot, Datura, Iboga, Yopo, Cebíl, Ayahuasca, Brugmansia, Peyote, Psilocybes, Salvia Divinorum, San Pedro, Morning Glory, Epená, and Pituri. Each of these is explored in detail, and beautifully illustrated with art inspired by the plants in question, or photographs of the plants and their use.

 

This book is likely to be a hit with any psychonaut or psychedelic enthusiast, most of whom will have already heard of at least one, if not all, of its authors. But its particular focus on ritual use may also endear it to witches and herbalists who haven’t explored this type of plant medicine before. There’s a lot of information here, and it’s presented in a very friendly and intriguing way, with plenty of eye-catching images, psychospiritual exploration, and fascinating phytochemistry. In the end, part of the charm of “Plants of the Gods” is that its scientific approach doesn’t even try to mask its deeper spiritual message: these plants are speaking to us in a chemical language, and they have been doing so for a very long time. 

 

A specialist in the cultural use of psychoactive plants, Christian Rätsch is the author of numerous books, including “Marijuana Medicine,” “The Dictionary of Sacred and Magical Plants,” and “The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants.” A resident of Germany, he is currently serving as the president of the German Society for Ethnomedicine.

 

Richard Evans Schultes (1915-2001) was a Jeffrey Professor of Biology and Director of the Botanical Museum at Harvard University (Emeritus). 

 

Albert Hoffman (1906-2008), discoverer of LSD, was a research biochemist who lived in Switzerland.

 

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

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About the Author:

Sarah McMenomy is an artist and witch. Her craft incorporates herbalism, spellwork, trance, divination, auras, and more. Her work can be found at https://sarahmcmenomy.tumblr.com

Sarah McMenomy is an artist and witch. Her craft incorporates herbalism, spellwork, trance, divination, auras, and more. Her work can be found at https://sarahmcmenomy.tumblr.com