The sacred journey in dynastic Egypt: shamanistic trance in the context of the narcotic water lily and the mandrake
Emboden W.
Department of Biology,
California State University,
Northridge 91330.
J Psychoactive Drugs. 1989 Jan-Mar;21(1):61-75


Contemporary reference to the role of water lilies and mandrakes (Nymphaea and Mandragora, respectively) in ancient Egyptian healing, and subsequent research on the iconography of the water lily in Mayan shamanistic ritual, suggest the possible importance of these plants as adjuncts to shamanistic healing in dynastic Egypt. Although the usual interpretation of the water lily and the mandrake has been that of a part of ritual mourning, the present article revises this notion. Based on an extensive review of these two powerful narcotic (i.e., hypnotic) plants in iconography and ritual, it is argued that the dynastic Egyptians had developed a form of shamanistic trance induced by these two plants and used it in medicine as well as healing rituals. Analysis of the ritual and sacred iconography of dynastic Egypt, as seen on stelae, in magical papyri, and on vessels, indicates that these people possessed a profound knowledge of plant lore and altered states of consciousness. The abundant data indicate that the shamanistic priest, who was highly placed in the stratified society, guided the souls of the living and dead, provided for the transmutation of souls into other bodies and the personification of plants as possessed by human spirits, as well as performing other shamanistic activities.
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