Tobacco and Shamanism in South America


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Johannes Wilbert

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Anthropologist Johannes Wilbert here presents a comprehensive ethnography of magico-religious, medicinal, and recreational tobacco use among native South American societies. Surveying nearly three hundred societies, Wilbert has found that South American Indians employ numerous means of nicotine application and that a close functional relationship exists between tobacco and shamanism. His book is "a superb reference and a pleasure to read."—Robert Byck, M.D., Yale University School of Medicine

 "An extremely thorough account of the use of tobacco in shamanistic practice in South America."—Choice






"Wilbert offers a thorough and exhaustive study of the ethnobotany and pharmacology of tobacco use in South America, the methods of tobacco use, and tobacco-related shamanic ritual."—Marlene Dobkin-de Rios, Medical Anthropology Quarterly

"The information on natural modeling, the relationship between the botanical/chemical attributes of tobacco and the role of the shaman, is fascinating. . . . serves to illuminate the origins of the widespread cultural practice of tobacco use."—John Frechione, Social/Cultural Anthropology

"Wilbert effectively presents a tabulation and interpretation of comprehensive information on tobacco, an indigenous South American plant. Wilbert blends a sense of history, ethnography, native ritual and healing practices, and pharmacology into a very readable volume."—Glenn D. Appelt, Pharmacy in History

"Rich in facts and numerous insights, Tobacco and Shamanism in South America sets a standard of scholarship others concerned with psychoactive plants will not find easy to follow. The book also carries an important message."—Peter T. Furst, History of Religions

"Wilbert draws on an enormous body of literature to explore in admirable fashion the intimate relationship between domesticated members of the nightshade family and the cultural context in which they were lovingly propagated and effectively exploited. . . . The author. . . presents, through exhaustive bibliographic research and clearly written prose, a richly developed aspect of the human mosaic so tragically fragmented by European intrusion. . . . A truly impressive bibliography accompanies this book, which reminds us that we are reading a first-class reference source. Seldom are we treated to such a luxury."—Peter Stahl, American Scientist

"A compendium and an original theoretical statement on . . . the often-forgotten pharmacologic properties of the world's most popular recreational drug . . . and their relationship to shamanism in aboriginal South America."—Terence E. Hays, Journal of Ethnobiology

"This book is a comprehensive ethnographic survey of the uses of tobacco in nearly three hundred Indian societies in South America. . . . This meticulously written book . . . is an awesome piece of scholarship which should be of interest not only to Wilbert's fellow anthropologists but also to scholars in medicine, pharmacology, and history, especially ethnohistory."—Virgil J. Vogel, Ethnohistory
ISBN: 9780300057904
Publication Date: July 28, 1993
320 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4