Pagan Studies - Altered States

Drugs of the Dreaming

Drugs of the Dreaming:
Oneirogens: Salvia Divinorum and Other Dream-Enhancing Plants 
by Gianluca Toro & Benjamin Thomas
Park Street Press, 2007


If you find the subject of chemognosis (magic practice done with entheogens) fascinating, then this is a book you’ll want to pick up. The authors explore how plants and animals can be used to enhance dreaming and cause other altered states of consciousness through ingestion or smoking. They also recount some of their own trials using different plants and animals to induce altered states of consciousness, noting whether the trial was a success as well as any harmful side effects felt.

I particularly liked the explanation the authors offer at the beginning of the book about what is classified as an altered state of consciousness and where dream-enhancing entheogens fit within such states of mind. The explanation they provided for the neurochemistry behind dreams was also useful in understanding what neurotransmitters are being stimulated when an oneirogen is taken.

A very useful table of all known oneirogens is included at the end of the book; the effects and side effects are noted in the table so that if readers want to experiment with these types of entheogens they can do so and compare what they experience with the information in the table.

While I did like this book a lot, it is not quite perfect. The first problem is the writing style, which is very academic. It’s not written as a narrative, but rather as a scientific exploration of these entheogens. That’s not necessarily bad, because it shows the author’s background, but for a reader who isn’t used to such a style it can be a little intimidating to read.

The other issue is that the authors only devote one chapter toward the magical uses of these entheogens. The chapter is informative, but at the same time rather dry and somewhat focused on folklore associated with some of the substances. It’s also not clear how these substances are used in contemporary magical practices, if at all.

Even with those two issues, this is a really good book. I recommend it for anyone who wants to learn more about plants, entheogens, or the neurochemistry of the body.


RATING: 4 Broomsticks

» Originally appeared in newWitch #17

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