Sacred and Magical Plants

Overview

The study of sacred and magical plants goes beyond biology - it is also the study of culture and belief. From aloe vera to witch hazel, plants have been used throughout history in rituals and sacred ceremonies by people around the world. Collected here is information about over 200 sacred and magical plants, each entry exploring the plants' cultural and historical significance. The author, Christian Ratsch, states, "Magic is a gateway to other realities." Plants used in specific ways - whether by ingesting them, ...
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Overview

The study of sacred and magical plants goes beyond biology - it is also the study of culture and belief. From aloe vera to witch hazel, plants have been used throughout history in rituals and sacred ceremonies by people around the world. Collected here is information about over 200 sacred and magical plants, each entry exploring the plants' cultural and historical significance. The author, Christian Ratsch, states, "Magic is a gateway to other realities." Plants used in specific ways - whether by ingesting them, making them into ointments, or using them as part of a ritual - become the means to approaching these other realities. Shamans, for example, ingest certain plants so that they may experience out-of-body travels. Mushrooms are used to unfold healing powers. Clairvoyants use thornapple to see into the future. Some herbs are said to cause levitation. Priests burn incense to make contact with the gods. And witches are said to have made ointments from plants to go on astral journeys. These methods have been used for centuries to put people in touch with deeper levels of consciousness. In this inclusive source, readers will explore the link between magic, plants, and the search for understanding. They will discover why certain plants are considered sacred or magical and how they may be used in rituals by medicine men, shamans, and others to ward off illness and understand omens. Arranged alphabetically by common plant name, The Dictionary of Sacred and Magical Plants offers more than 200 pages of detailed text about plants as common as ginger and as exotic as jambur, including magical plants of prophesy, magical medicines, love potions and aphrodisiacs, elixirs of immortality and poisons and death charms. Each entry is supported by pharmacological evidence, and many are enhanced by illustrations. A comprehensive bibliography and a glossary provide the reader with a basis for further research. Anyone interested in the adventurous study of magical and sacred pl
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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-- An irresponsible bias toward, and an appreciation of, the so-called magical arts permeates this conglomeration of anthropological data and herbal lore. In addition, a comparison with other readily available texts points out deficiencies in research and judgment. Medicinal Plants & Their History Dover, 1974 by Wheelwright, while dated, has a more thorough discussion of historical and cultural traditions that utilized plants. The Dictionary of Healing Plants by Dorfler Blandford, 1989 has a clearer presentation of ingredients, uses, and side effects. Compare the entries on the modest betel leaf. In A Modern Herbal Dover, 1971, a somewhat anecdotal compendium, Grieve notes that the Indian practice of chewing betel is for mastication and narcotic benefits. Ratsch adds that it is used as an ``offering to the Gods'' and to ``kindle sensuality.'' Contrast the entries for ergot , a fungus found on rye and other grains. The Dictionary of Healing Plants gives clear warnings of its very poisonous nature and toxic effects. Ratsch speculates it was ``probably'' used in the Eleusinian mysteries and ``may'' have played a role at the oracle of Delphi. He misses an opportunity to refer to recent theories on the effects of ergotism during the Salem Witchcraft crisis in 1692, but notes medieval uses of it to cause uterine contractions and more modern uses for ``encouraging clairvoyance.''-- Mary H. Cole, Polytechnic Preparatory Country Day School, Brooklyn
Booknews
German cultural anthropologist Ratsch explores the historical and cultural significance of the popular beliefs surrounding over 200 species of plants, listed alphabetically by common name. He describes the medicinal and ritual use of the plant in various western and nonwestern cultures; sometimes includes drawings and/or taxonomic information; summarizes what is known about the pharmacology; and cites references. In addition to individual species, some entries discuss genera or families, mushrooms, incense, snuff, and other topics. Thoroughly cross-referenced. Indexed only by Latin names. Includes a glossary without pronunciation, and a foreword by Albert Hoffman, who discovered LSD. Translated from the 1988 German edition. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Zom Zoms
According to R├Ątsch, "Magic . . . entails a conscious attempt to modify a constantly changing world in order to achieve a particular end." Every culture has had magicians who learn to harness normally invisible powers to either serve or harm their communities. Through knowledge and performance of the proper rituals, plants are transformed into the tools of magic. With this anthropological perspective, "The Dictionary of Sacred and Magical Plants" explores the cultural uses of a select group of pharmacologically active substances. The book has been expanded and revised since its original 1988 publication as "Lexikon der Zauberplanzen aus ethnologischer Sicht" A detailed introduction provides a preliminary classification of the plants to be discussed, an overview of who might use them, and how such plants might be employed in rituals of knowledge. The majority of the book is an alphabetical listing, by common name, of approximately 135 substances, most of which are plants, but also includes such mind-altering mixtures as "beer" and "wine". Entries range from common items found in U.S. kitchens ("ginger", "garlic") to unfamiliar plants grown only in other parts of the world ("mwamfi", "tulasi"). Each entry provides the common and botanical names of the plant or substance, a description of the magical or sacred uses of the substance in different cultures, and the pharmacology of the substance. Entries conclude with citations to literature, which are keyed to the lengthy bibliography of English- and German-language works at the back of the book. Many entries include illustrations, and some are supplemented by charts, usually showing various species of the plant. The work concludes with a cross-index from botanical name to the common name used in the entry and a brief glossary "The Dictionary of Sacred and Magical Plants" contains no recipes or directions for making charms; it will not replace any titles dealing with herbal therapies. A detailed index would have increased its reference usefulness. However, the dictionary is a scholarly work that will be consulted in public libraries where there is a demand for such material by informed laypeople, as well as in academic libraries supporting studies in anthropology, ethnology, botany, medicine, and pharmacology.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780874367164
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/1/1992
  • Pages: 223

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