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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

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

Schultes, Richard Evans, and Hofmann, Albert. (1992).
Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

ISBN: 0-89281-406-3

Description: Healing Arts paperback, 192 pages. Published by McGraw-Hill in 1979.

Contents: Preface, introduction, 24 unnumbered chapters, epilogue, further readings, picture credits, index, acknowledgments.

Excerpt(s): A few plants, however, had inexplicable effects that transported the human mind to realms of ethereal wonder. These plants are the hallucinogens. In the early stages of development, human beings needed to explain all natural phenomena. How could they understand the startling effects of these few psychoactive plants that put them into communication with the spirit world? These plants were the residences of divinities or other spiritual forces. Some were even considered gods. The intimate relationship between the human and plant world is easily discerned, but the production of substances profoundly affecting the mind and spirit is often not so easily recognized. These are the plants that make up the substance of Plants of the Gods, focusing attention on the origin of their use and the effect that they have had on man's development. Plants that alter the normal functions of the mind and body have always been considered by peoples in nonindustrial societies as sacred, and the hallucinogens have been "plants of the gods" par excellence. (Preface, page 7)

Primitive man, trying all sorts of plant materials as food, must have known the ecstatic hallucinatory effects of Hemp, an intoxication introducing him to an other-worldly plane leading to religious beliefs. Thus the plant early was viewed as a special gift of the gods, a sacred medium for communion with the spirit world. ... In Thebes, Hemp was made into a drink said to have opium-like properties. ... And knowledge of the intoxicating effects of Hemp goes far back in Indian history, as indicated by the deep mythological and spiritual beliefs about the plant. One preparation Bhang, was so sacred that it was thought to deter evil, bring luck, and cleanse man of sin. Those treading upon the leaves of this holy plant would suffer harm or disaster, and sacred oaths were sealed over Hemp. The favorite drink of Indra, god of the firmament, was made of Cannabis, and the Hindu god Shiva commanded that the word Bhangi must be chanted repeatedly during sowing, weeding, and harvesting of the holy plant. ... While there is no direct mention of Hemp in the Bible, several obscure passages may refer tangentially to the effects of Cannabis resin or Hashish.

It is perhaps in the Himalayas of India and the Tibetan plateau that Cannabis preparations assumed their greatest hallucinogenic importance in religious contexts. ... The Tibetans considered Cannabis sacred. A Mahayana Buddhist tradition maintains that during the six steps of asceticism leading to his enlightenment, Buddha lived on one Hemp seed a day. He is often depicted with "Soma leaves" in his begging bowl and the mysterious god- narcotic Soma has occasionally been identified with Hemp. In Tantric Buddhism of the Himalayas of Tibet, Cannabis plays a very significant role in the meditative ritual used to facilitate deep meditation and heighten awareness ...

Hemp has spread to many areas of the New World, but with few exceptions the plant has not penetrated significantly into many native American religious beliefs and ceremonies. There are, however, exceptions such as its use under the name Rosa Maria, by the Tepeccano Indians of northwest Mexico, who occasionally employ Hemp when Peyote is not available. It has recently been learned that Indians in the Mexican states of Veracruz, Puebla practice a communal curing ceremony with a plant called Santa Rosa, identified as Cannabis sativa, which is considered both a plant and a sacred intercessor with the Virgin. (pages 98-101)

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