Iboga: The Visionary Root of African Shamanism

The Visionary Root of African Shamanism  
by Vincent Ravalec, Mallendi, and Agnes Paicheler; Jack Cain (translator)
Inner Traditions, 2007


Iboga is a plant little-known in the U.S. outside of the modern shamanism movement and the drug culture. However, in Gabon and Cameroon, iboga is used extensively in initiatory rites to heal psychological damage and to bring the initiate into a more mature stage of life. The three authors detail what iboga is, how it is traditionally used in bwiti ceremonies, and what ramifications its use has for the pharmaceutical industry.

The two primary authors, Ravalec and Paicheler, trade off from chapter to chapter. Ravalec offers a voice of experience from someone who has been initiated with iboga in its traditional setting. Paicheler offers a more left-brained perspective, reporting chemical compounds and political strife surrounding this controversial entheogen. Together, with input from Mallendi, a traditional African practitioner of bwiti, they argue not only for the personal use of iboga for healing and growth, but extol the virtues of a nonaddictive plant that can literally break addictions to heroin and other physically addictive drugs without the side effects of withdrawal.

This book makes a clear case for the use of iboga, both in ritual context and in addiction recovery. It also makes it clear that the loss of ritual and rites of passage in the Western world has created a great gap in our cultures.

Even if you have no interest in shamanism, this book is well worth a read just to get a clearer idea of how the “War on Drugs” is preventing helpful medicines from being made available to those who need them. You may not become a “believer,” but you will learn a great deal.


RATING: 4½ Broomsticks

» Originally appeared in newWitch #17

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