Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
Islands, Plants, and Polynesians:
An Introduction to Polynesian Ethnobotany.
Cox, Paul Alan, and Banack, Sandra Anne. (Editors). (1991).
Portland, OR: Dioscorides Press.
228 pages. Proceedings of a symposium sponsored by the Institute
of Polynesian Studies, Brigham
Young University-Hawaii Campus.
Contents: Preface, 10
chapters, index of scientific names, index of Polynesian words.
A. Abbott, Sandra Anne Banack, Paul Alan Cox, F.
Raymond Fosberg, Vincent
H. Rensch, D.
Note: Each chapter contains
a bibliography. Few references to entheogens.
Excerpt(s): Why would
Stair and other missionaries gloss over the
existence of Polynesian herbalists yet detail the practices of
"sorcery"? I suggest his and other missionary accounts
are lacking in details on Polynesian herbalism because (1) spirit
possessions and religious healings were of high saliency to the
early missionaries, and (2) the missionaries usually lacked the
botanical experience and linguistic ability to deal with a difficult
topic such as indigenous herbal traditions.
The early missionaries viewed their proselytizing
efforts as direct warfare against Satan and were looking
for evidences of Satanic power and mischief. Certain Polynesian
cultural practices, such as propitiation to pagan deities on behalf
of sick persons or possession by evil spirits, were of high saliency
to the Christian missionaries since these events had direct bearing
on the evangelical vocation. It should be of no surprise, then,
that the missionaries paid a good deal of attention to any healing
practices involving the supernatural and ignored the indigenous
pharmacopoeia. The use of medicinal plants had little bearing
on the Christian profession, and thus was of low saliency to the
Some missionaries may have had an additional reason
for ignoring or denigrating indigenous herbal medicine. To increase
interest in his missionary labors, and as a humanitarian gesture,
Turner began to manufacture and dispense to Samoans
his own powders and preparations. (Chapter 8, Polynesian
Herbal Medicine, Paul Alan Cox, page 163)
The Oceanic peoples who are familiar with kava
hold it in esteem primarily as a ritual offering
or a ritualized form of payment. Kava's medicinal reputation
would appear, at least originally, to be a corollary of its narcotic
action and its role in the exchange system between individual
and especially between human beings and the gods. Other plants
also play the part of a customary gift, but kava has acquired
a special favor. Such a pre-eminent role over many different plants
is believed to be due to its pharmacological properties.
The most frequent use of kava is in the form
of an essentially ritual and social drink because of its soporific
and anxiety-relieving properties. By offering kava to the
gods and spirits, humans were gaining their goodwill, and by drinking
it they could move closer towards the supernatural world. As a
present or offering to the gods, ancestors or spirits, kava
was used as a sign of respect towards them, to obtain favor, to
appease their resentment or anger if due respect had not been
shown them, and, through divination, to communicate with them
and to accede to the supernatural world and therefore to the secrets
hidden from the mere mortal.
In Hawaii, as a ritual oblation on the family alter,
kava was offered to the spirits of the ancestors or the
gods, such as the "protecting shark." (Chapter 9, Kava:
Polynesian Dispersal, Vincent Lebot, page 184)
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Compilation copyright © 1995 2001 CSP