Essential Substances: A Cultural History of Intoxicants in Society

Overview

From opium in Stone Age caves to crack on our own streets, intoxicants have always played a deeply significant role in society. In this entertaining and provocative look at the uses and abuses of mind-altering drugs through history, Richard Rudgley shows how our attitudes toward these substances have been shaped by cultural values, and how our own use of intoxicants like alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco is an integral part of the age-old worldwide quest for altered states. Essential Substances is a magical tour ...
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Overview

From opium in Stone Age caves to crack on our own streets, intoxicants have always played a deeply significant role in society. In this entertaining and provocative look at the uses and abuses of mind-altering drugs through history, Richard Rudgley shows how our attitudes toward these substances have been shaped by cultural values, and how our own use of intoxicants like alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco is an integral part of the age-old worldwide quest for altered states. Essential Substances is a magical tour of the fantastic and often bizarre world of intoxicants peopled by tribesmen and mystics, statesmen and writers, housewives and yuppies. From the traditional mind-altering substances - like magic mushrooms in Siberia, tobacco and peyote in the Americas, qat in Africa, and betel in Southeast Asia - to the psychoactive plants of medieval witchcraft, hallucinogens like LSD and marijuana, and stimulants like coffee, tea, and cocoa, Rudgley cogently shows how the significance of these substances extends beyond simple pleasure to the economic, political, and sexual life of the community. In the process, he challenges our assumptions that deem certain intoxicants socially and legally acceptable, while others remain taboo. Essential Substances is a timely, much-needed reconsideration of the roles intoxicants play in our lives and society. With the "war on drugs" now widely seen to be a failure, this insightful, cross-cultural look at the word of intoxicants will provide a new basis for creative thinking on a perennial problem.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
From coffee to crack, Rudgley takes a historical approach to drugs and examines how their usage has affected economic, political and sexual lives in society. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Oxford anthropologist Rudgley offers a survey of the use of intoxicants from the Stone Ages to modern society. Instead of making wild claims about the centrality of intoxicants in human evolution, Rudgley is content simply to note the ubiquity of drug use, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions. A particularly interesting observation is that, contrary to popular belief, many cultures used intoxicants for secular as well as spiritual purposes. While Rudgley has offered a sampling of cultures rather than an exhaustive survey, he has included enough information to make this book interesting to general readers and a useful starting point for serious scholars. Recommended for all libraries.-Eric Hinsdale, Trinity Univ. Lib., San Antonio
Booknews
Rudgley (anthropology, Oxford U.) delves into the use of mind- altering substances, especially in tribal and prehistoric societies. Among them are magic mushrooms in Siberia, tobacco and peyote in the Americas, qat in Africa, betel in southeast Asia, the psychoactive plants of Medieval Europe, and modern hallucinogens and stimulants. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Donna Seaman
Anthropologist Rudgley takes us on a swift but information-packed tour of humanity's use of intoxicants in the Western world from Paleolithic times to the present. He recounts key archaeological finds that confirmed the ancient use of opium and cannabis, then links these practices to art forms such as cave paintings and certain common geometric patterns. As he roams across Europe, Russia, India, and the Americas, Rudgley chronicles the use of fly agaric mushrooms by Siberian shamans, ponders the botanical identity of "soma" as described in the "Rig Veda", and explains the cults of the "yaje" among the Tukano Indians in Amazonia and peyote among tribes in the Southwest. One of the most surprising sections in this revelatory book is the discussion of European witches. Their flying was the product of ointment-based intoxicants, and broomsticks had a, let's say, medicinal rather than vehicular function. Rudgley concludes with a somber look at heroin and cocaine abuse.
From Barnes & Noble
From opium in Stone Age caves to crack on today's streets, intoxicants have played a significant role in society. This book looks at the uses and abuses of mind-altering drugs throughout history, showing how our attitudes have been shaped by cultural values and how our own use of alcohol, caffeine, & tobacco is part of the age-old quest for altered states.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780737205770
  • Publisher: Kodansha International
  • Publication date: 4/1/1994
  • Pages: 195

Table of Contents

Foreword
Acknowledgements
Introduction 3
1 Stone Age Alchemy 8
2 Frozen Tombs and Fly-Agaric Men 36
3 The Mystery of Haoma 47
4 American Dreams 63
5 The Alchemists of Afek 94
6 Lucifer's Garden 105
7 Stimulating Society 137
Conclusion 172
Notes 176
Bibliography 180
Illustration Acknowledgements 190
Index 191
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