The Magical & Ritual Use of Herbs by Richard Alan Millar


This is a review of the book The Magical and Ritual use of Herbs, by Richard Alan Miller. It covers a wide variety of legal plants detailedly, their ritual use and preparation. The book is slim, and is laid out really well. It begins with a fantastic introduction, then is divided into segments- stimulants, depressants, narcotics, and hallucinogens.

The introduction is an excellent overview on the purpose of ritual. He’s right on through the whole thing, covering mythological and psychological significance. “Ritual is the outward manifestation of the need in man to break the barriers of the ego in order to become a part of something greater. It is the visible form of an inward or spiritual grace (pg 1).”

The segments are all laid out in the same, easy to follow templates. For each plant, it’s botanical information (family, name, synonyms, location, habitat, and description), history, chemistry, effects, preparation, and ritual use is listed, ending with one last tip. He also includes warnings and dosage amounts.

In the stimulants section, the plants covered are: Damiana (sexual use and in Yuba Gold, a smoking mix), passion-flower (marijuana substitute), betel nut (used in manual labor and journeys), mormon tea (a breathing aide), guarana (fasting tea), and kola nut (sexual stimulant, includes some exercises).

The depressants covered are: Lobelia (marijuana substitute), scullcap (tranquilizer), and valerian root (cats love it, its a tranquilizer).

Narcotics covers wild lettuce (gives vivid dreams and is an opium substitute), and wormwood (dulls pain and anxiety).

Hallucinogens is the final and longest section. It covers Calamus (a common remedy, stimulant, and hallucinogen), galangal root (a mild one used in perfume), kava kava (produces euphoria), yohimbe (orgy aphrodisiac- there’s also a wedding ceremony here), the famous fly agaric (the flesh of the gods- great history here), morning glory seed (reprograms your mind and is a LSD substitute), psilocbe mushroom (4 kinds are described and some ritual application), and thorn apple, or jimson weed (astral production and information on 5 others).

The book ends with a handy “quick reference chart,” and a nice bibliography- which reminds me, one of my favorite things were all of the book recommendations peppered through the book on ritual work and the plants. I really enjoyed this one, and look forward to trying my hand at some of these.

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