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Shamanism and the Drug Propaganda: The Birth of Patriarchy and the Drug War Paperback – November 1, 1998

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Editorial Reviews


"A magnificent production. I find it not only brilliant, but beautifully organized and, of course, something that needs to be. It is a tremendous work and, by nature, a tremendous volume." -- Professor Richard Evans Schultes, Director Emeritus, Botanical Museum of Harvard University

"Dan Russell traces the roots of the modern Drug War back to their ancient unconscious origins. Beginning with the evolution of Paleolithic proto-hominids, Russell presents one example after another in support of his thesis that the Drug War is a psychological inheritance from ancient times, one which is now deeply embedded in and, in some cases, the driving force of our culture of power and profits. Russell draws extensively from archeological evidence, presenting object after object engraved with archetypal symbols of shamanic travels, and he deconstructs countless ancient stories and myths to show that many of them alluded to visionary states elicited by the ingestion of psychoactive plants and potions."

"Shamanism and Drug Propaganda is so detail rich that a summary does it an injustice. In essence, however, Russell argues that over time, the stories told by ancient people (culminating in the New Testament), have been co-opted, corrupted, and manipulated by forces bent on producing a conformist industrial culture." -- Richard Glen Boire, Esq., Executive Director, The Alchemind Society, Journal of Cognitive Liberties, Vol.1, Issue 1, Winter 1999/2000

"Dan Russell's book, "Shamanism and the Drug Propaganda" starts with questions of basic importance to ethnobotany. Anyone working in this discipline is aware of the profond and ancient relationship between man and plant. Not only in tribal societies, but even in our own industrial society plants still have enormous cultural impact. Ethnobotany has demonstrated the worldwide importance of plants not only in material culture - as the raw material for tools, goods, medicines and foods - but especially as powerful symbols in all the world's folk cosmologies." "Most of the plants which have acquired the status of sacred or divine symbols are psychoative plants, i.e. plants which contain active substances closely related to our own neurotransmitters. In fact it is hard to find a pre-industrial society which hasn't made a sacrament of a psychoative plant. Using studies such as my own among the Maku in the northwest Amazon, ethnobotany can demonstrate the relationship between psychoactive plants and the tribal roots of human religion." "But if the psychoative plants are so deeply rooted in our evolved sense of the sacred, why are they so viciously banned in contemporary industrial cultures? Dan Russell's book answers this question. This important volume show clearly and easily how the cultural evolution of the occident has created the present situation. Starting in the 'golden age' when humankind had free access to the "mysterium tremendum," Russell shows with competence how little by little the state and the church have coopted and banned direct access to traditional sacred states." "Shamanism and the Drug Propaganda" traces the cultural evolution of our species from shamanism to the mass media religions. It is an important book, very well written, a must for anyone interested in psychoative plants and in the cultural evolution of humankind. It is also a very pleasing volume to read, the kind of book that will keep you holding your breath until the end. I strongly recommend this heavily illustrated, original, yet rigorously empirical historical vision." -- Anthropologist and Ethnobotanist Pedro Fernandes Leite da Luz, M.A.

"I had to write in appreciation of the invaluable contribution you've made to realizing the possible human. Immediately, I was impressed with the multi-perspectives through which you see the classics. I find your book a major ally in delivering truth today." -- Jeannine Parvati, author of "Hygieia: A Woman's Herbal"

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Of the Goddess symbolism recovered from Europe's hundreds of well-excavated sites, an enormous percentage is painted or engraved on drinking vessels. Virtually all the drinking vessels display entheogenic symbolism, and virtually all Neolithic and Bronze Age temples and shrines yield a profusion of cups, bowls, vases, funnels and ladles. Many of these ancient jugs show the pharmaco-shamanic snake, symbol of death and resurrection - initiation - drinking from the spout. Within the Hagar Qim temple on Malta, which dates to 3300 BC, was a stone table-altar into which had been carved a bowl. It was decorated in front with a tree of life growing from a pot, an obvious reference to the contents of the bowl. Next to it was a standing slab, a 'baetylic pillar,' with floating eyes, double-spiral 'oculi' out of which grew sacred plants. In the temple's central courtyard were two large, carefully carved mushroom-shaped limestone altars with cups carved into the stone mushroom caps, obviously to hold the sacred mushroom juice. Evans unearthed a gold signet ring from Knossos, c.1500 BC, [illus in text], which shows a young male God, floating in mid-air, greeting the Great Goddess. Inside her sanctuary, on top of which grows a sacred tree, stands a mushroom, as large as the young male God, as the central object. The 'baetylic pillar,' as archeologists call it, is often depicted as a mushroom. The Gold Ring of Isopata, near Knossos, [illus in text], dating to c.1500 BC, explicitly depicts bee-headed women dancing in ecstacy, surrounded by beautifully drawn floating plants, possibly entheogenic lilies, a disembodied 'Cleopatra' eye and floating snakes. This is a depiction of ekstasis, animal transformation and the disembodied flight of the soul. Cretan signet rings of this era, as the one below, are consistently pharmaco-shamanic. The beautifully etched solid gold Ring of Minos, [illus in text], found at Knossos, weighing almost a full ounce, also dates to about 1550 BC. It was used as a correspondence seal by a royal personage. It depicts the Goddess, seated at the left shrine near a set of sacral horns, who has just journeyed over the sea in a sea-horse boat, which is in the center foreground. The boat is steered by a bare-breasted, bee-headed woman and carries two baetylic pillars upon which rest sacral horns.To the left of the Goddess, who faces us, at the central and right-hand shrines, two voluptuous naked maenads each bend a sacred tree growing from the top of a shrine and offer its fruit to the Goddess. One maenad, at the central shrine, hands a pitcher of the fruit-juice to another who floats in the air above the Goddess. All three shrines are supported by huge sprouting bulbs. Persephone, originally a Cretan Goddess, was also known as 'The Lady of the Bulb,' 'Korykia,' from krokus, bulb. Greek midwives carried the staff of the winged snake-nymph Korykia, the entwined psychopompic snakes that escorted their charges into the precincts of the Goddess. This is the same staff, the kerykeion, in Latin 'caduceus,' that became the symbol of modern medicine. Hippokrates, the canonical 'first physician,' as he himself acknowledged, got it from Korykia. Both images of Korykia [in text] date to c.500 BC. Korykia, the winged Iris of the Rainbow, is the prototype of Hermes. Persephone's need to return underground for a third of the year was insured by Aidoneus' gift of a single pomegranate seed. This is a symbolic entheogen: the blood red pomegranate seed, Rhoa, was a reference to the ancient aspect of Demeter, Rhea, whose spell cannot be broken. It is the seed that must be reborn. Above [in text] is a cult plate from Marathon, c.550 BC. Persephone holds a pomegranate flower. Aidoneus holds his horny cornucopia. The plate, to judge from its design, seems to have held sacramental bulbs.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 357 pages
  • Publisher: Kalyx.com; 1 edition (November 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0965025314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0965025317
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.6 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,673,015 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is great. The only reason I didn't give it full five stars is because some of the graphics are poor quality (at screen resolution with a lot of moire patterns). The actual content of the book is really excellent. The author gives a very clear picture of the evolution of human relationships to entheogens and the pro and cons of the politics of the related eras. Very well researched and written from the viewpoint of an anthropologist/historian in a very wholistic way. It is one of those rare books that has really changed the way I look at the world - both current and historic. Highly recommended!
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Format: Paperback
Dan Russell - Shamanism and the Drug Propaganda
The Birth of Patriarchy and the Drug War - 1998

This book, at first glance, appears somewhat difficult to comprehend with its lack of introduction, conclusion and explanation of chapter direction. However, the title does say it all.

Mr. Russell first takes us on a history of the shamanic use of herbs and entheogenic plants and calendrical time tracking through the matriarchal ages of the Bone, Copper, Bronze, and Iron ages, showing the progressive development of patriarchy with the advancement of agriculture, which eventually led the tribes away from the female-as-shaman ancient (matriarchal/lunar) practices.

He then delves into the history of entheogenic plant usage in Sumerian, Babylonian and Canaanite/Judean rites as well with the Essenes at Qumran and the take over of patriarchal sun worship. Then he follows into the Greek shamanic Olympian and Eleusinian Mysteries, their entheogen practice, suppression--and the development of Christianity out of the politico/religio mess of the shamanic-suppressive fascism of the times.

He shows us how the Christian icons used today are related to ancient, shamanic rites and entheogen use as John Allegro suggested in the Sacred Mushroom and the Cross with the Amanita Muscaria. However, Russell doesn't stop with just Amanita, he makes many plausible suggestions toward alternative entheogens that may have also been employed.

The final tie in he makes is with the ancient shamanic tradition and the War on Drugs. The Modern Inquisition, written by Harry J. Anslinger, is almost verbatim of the Pius outlawing of entheogens over 1600 years earlier.
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I give this book 3 stars because of its dense amount of information and its potential to be a landmark book in the field of entheogens and religion. This book, however, reads more like an encyclopedia of anthropological eras, than anything else. The book has no introduction, and no conclusion, and no thesis to tie any of it together. The book is ultimately a hodge podge of information waiting for somebody to make some sense of it. In this regard it may be a good resource, but it offers little else. I hope that the author will at least go back and add an introduction to this book so that the readers will at least know what his purpose in writing it was.
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This book consists of two parts. This first documents that psychoactive plants have been used in religious experience dating back to prehistoric times. The book is thoughtful and well researched, with a number of illustrations not usually presented even in graduate level texts.
The second part is an angry denunciation of orthodox Christianity in favor of gnosticism. Using rather creative methods the author develops a picture of Jesus as a military leader who sought to overthrow the Roman empire. This is certainly different than the description one usually encounters. He continues to find in gnosticism the "true" tradition of pharmacological shamanism.
The book suffers three major flaws. First, the author never really describes what shamans are or how they function in society. The reader is left wondering if the term isn't simply used as a catchall to describe people who take drugs. Second the author never distinguishes between sacramental use of psychoactive plants and recreational use. Thirdly, in the middle ages there was validity in railing against the temporal power of the Christian church. Writing in America today, hundreds of years after the reformation, in a judicial climate openly hostile to the expression of Christianity in a public forum, blaming the injustice of the world on the Christian faith hardly makes sense.
Still, in the end, the author's principal thesis holds. As he argues, for the government to wage war on the sacraments of other cultures is to wage war on those cultures. In a society that advertises itself as multicultural and open to diversity it is unclear why this is the case.
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Top-notch content. Explains how entheogens were ubiquitous but were suppressed by the institutional Church. Definitely recommended. Covers ancient Western entheogenic origins of religion.
The book lacks statements of how the line of argument proceeds through the chapters and sections, but the content is excellent and much needed.
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