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© Kat Morgenstern
August 2002

VOL.1 no.5


Welcome to the fifth Sacred Earth Newsletter. Like the rest of this site, this is a growing and evolving feature. The newsletter is a free subscription service which will arrive in your mail box approximately every 6 weeks. The email version is abbreviated, providing short abstracts of each article with a direct link to the full version on-line. This prevents unnecessary clutter in your emailbox. It also means that you don't get overwhelmed by huge unwieldy html documents and images, which take ages to download. If you wish to contribute to this newsletter, have your book reviewed, or make an important announcement relevant to ethnobotany or herbalism please get in touch with us directly. Please note that all materials presented in this newsletter are copy righted. You may forward the newsletter to your friends or anybody you think might be interested, but please send it in its entirety. Reuse of the content is only permitted with expressed permission of the author.

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Please note that although all the references to edible and medicinal herbs are tried and tested, their efficacy cannot be guaranteed. Furthermore, different people react differently to various plants, and adverse reactions cannot be excluded. Historical information regarding poisonous plants is included for educational purposes only and should not be tried out at home. Everybody uses herbs at their own risk and thus must make themselves fully aware of their potential power. Any information given here is educational and should not replace a visit to the doctor should this be necessary.  Neither Sacred Earth nor Kat Morgenstern accepts responsibility for anybody's home experimentation.

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greetings.GIF (1K)

I hope this summer issue of the Sacred Earth Newsletter finds you all happy and healthy and enjoying the summer months - at least those of you readers who happen to live in the northern hemisphere. Those of you down-under - don't despair, spring is nearing...soon.

Well, seems like despite all the odds, the issue got done in time. However, after recovering from the computer problems of last month, it appears as though some subscriber email addresses got lost in cyber space. My apologies to those of you who are currently not receiving their Newsletter automatically. Please re-subscribe yourselves at the above link. If you are having any problems with the automated yahoo sign-up procedure get in touch with me at:

. Oh, BTW, if any happen to know of a newsletter distribution service that is less prone to generating spam - please let me know. Feedback and suggestions are always welcome - I love hearing from you!


Gee, can it really be that August is already here and the harvest season is upon us? Gardeners or foragers will soon be busy picking fruits and vegetables and preserving them for the dark season. Pickled, canned and frozen fruits and vegies, oils, vinegars, jams, syrups, wine and liqueurs will see us through the winter. Though father frost still seems a long way away while we are still indulging in this harvest season's feast of plenty, soon these goodies will serve as reminders of the sweet summer days.

Foragers will delight not only in the treasures of their gardens - if they tend them, but also still find plenty of delicacies in the wilds. While Wild Strawberries (Fragaria vesca), Raspberries (Rubus idaeus) and Bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) tend to get scarce by now, Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpum) can still be found here and there. New arrivals on the berry palate are Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) and Elder berries (Sambuccus niger), which will be ripening between now and Autumn equinox. Elder berries are very nutritious and can be preserved as a delicious syrup. The high vitamin content of this syrup is an excellent fortification against winter ailments. They also make excellent wine (for recipes see May 2002), which is even said to be good for rheumatic complaints. The Red Elderberries, (Sambucccus racemosa) are also edible after cookig and can be preserved as jams and juice. However, they lack the medicinal properties of the Black Elderberries. Raw, they are likely to cause an upset stomach. Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) are great as jam or can be combined with tart cooking apples to make apple and blackberry crumble. Blackberries and Elderberries can also be combined as a delicious jam:

Hedgerow Jam:

1kg of berries (half and half)
1kg brown cane sugar
1 tart apple or crabapple

Clean the berries. The easiest method of picking Elderberries off their stalks is with a fork, in a kind of raking fashion. Mash the berries and mix with the sugar. Leave over night in a covered pan (glass or stoneware). Cut the apple into small pieces and simmer with a minimum amount of water until soft, add the rest of the fruits and the pectin and simmer together while stirring constantly. Adding the apple reduces the need for pectin and will produce a more solid consistency of jam. it also adds a little tanginess. Experiment with a bit of lemon peel or spices such as cinnamon, allspice berries or cloves for a more complex taste. After simmering for a few minutes fill the mass into sterilized jars as usual.

The glowing Red Rowan berries /Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia) are also edible, though they are unpalatable when eaten raw. However, combined with chunks of tart cooking apples and organic lemon peel they can be processed into delicious jellies. They have also been used to make juice, wine, liqueur and various gravies, mostly served with game. However, it should be noted that large quantities of the berries have a rather stimulating effect on the digestive tract, a quality which does not diminish upon cooking. Soaking the berries overnight in a diluted vinegar solution reduces the bitterness. Rowanberry syrup is an excellent tonic for singers or public speakers as it has a great soothing effect on the vocal chords. Rowan berries are also a rich source of in vitamin C.

Rosehips (Rosa canina) are also beginning to ripen now, but it is best to hold off with the harvest. They are much better once they have been bitten by the first frost. Watch out for Hazel nuts (Corylus avellana)- the window between too early and too late is rather small, and if you are not carefull squirrels and birds will beat you to the harvest.

Certain roots are coming back into season now - Ramson bulbs (Allium ursinum), Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), Burdock and Horseradish can all be collected once their flowering season is over. However, roots should always be collected with special care. Never be greedy when collecting roots or bulbs - collecting thses parts usually means the end of the plant. Unless the supply is truly plentiful in your area maybe it is wiser to refrain from harvesting the roots to ensure the continuous health and growth of the local plant population.

Leafy vegetables are definitly getting a bit old and tough by now. Still, you might be lucky and still find some young sprouts of Mallow, Daisy, Sow-thistle, Comfrey, or Bistort even this late in the season.

My favorite wild food of the season are Chanterelles. Fresh from the forest, there is nothing to compare to their delicate, earthy flavour. They can be used in mushroom stir-fries, gravies or casseroles and are also delicious in omlettes or lasagne. Vegetarians might appreciate them prepared as a mushroom /pine nut risotto or vegetarian paella. Also in season are Giant Puffballs, which appear in certain meadows as big, white weired looking blobs. Upon closer investigation the mass turns out to be an edible delicacy, frequently big enough to feed a whole family. Sliced and marinated with garlic-oil they can be fried or grilled like steaks. Delicious!

Gathering Tips

The best way to get started is to get to know the plants that grow around you, familiarize yourself with the weeds, bushes and trees. Learn to identify them correctly and investigate their uses. It is especially important that you learn to identify the poisonous plants you are likely to encounter, so as to be sure you will avoid picking them when you gather your meal. Only pick as much as you need and never take ALL the plants of any one kind in a given patch. After harvesting an area give the plants plenty of time to recover before returning to the same patch, especially when harvesting roots. However tempting it may look, never pick in places that are subjected to pollution from roads, industry or heavy spraying of farm chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers etc.).Be aware that not all flowers are edible. Only include those in your diet that you are absolutely sure about. Don't eat the flowers of plants purchased at the garden center or nursery as they are often treated with pesticides unsafe for consumption. Never be wasteful with what you pick - remember there are many mouths to feed out there and overpicking endangers wild stands. Give thanks to the plants and to Mother Earth who has provided them.


In Association with

Once upon a time - not too long ago, the ancient craft of midwifery and the art of herbal healing were intimately linked. Both were women's domains. In fact, the word 'mid- wife' derives from the Anglo-Saxon 'med-wyf' meaning wise woman. The tradition of wise women healers dates back to times when women held the positions of priestesses and counselors and were revered for their innate affinity with the realm of the sacred and the mysteries of life and death. This affinity expressed itself in the monthly menstrual cycles that mirror the rhythms of the moon and in women's ability to give birth, which reflects the fertility of Mother Earth.

During the middle ages the art of healing was increasingly taken over by the patriarchal forces - as was the realm of the sacred. No longer could women become priestesses and medicine became a subject that had to be studied in colleges from which women were excluded. Only in the remote, rural areas where access to doctors was practically non-existent, could women continue to practice their traditional healing arts. Midwifery in particular remained a women's craft since most men feared the mysteries of birth and death. Whilst respected and revered by the country people who came to them for healing and counsel, midwives were despised by the church-officials. The traditional midwife became the prototype of the witch, personification of all evil, as far as the Christian church fathers were concerned. The underlying reason for this projection lies in the fact that women per se were regarded as sinners. Eva was to blame for the fall from grace for her sin of sexual desire. Therefore all her female descendents were partly to blame and thus should suffer during childbirth, as a reminder of this shameful episode. After all, God himself had put the curse on women after he had discovered Eve's disobedience:

"I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee..." (Genesis, 3.14)

Midwives defied the curse because they knew, as they had done since ancient (pre-Christian) times, that Mother Nature had provided a multitude of herbs that could help women control their own fates. They knew the herbs that could prevent or even terminate a pregnancy, promote fertility, speed up and ease the process of labor and reduce its associated physical pains. When the forces of the inquisition were unleashed onto Europe, women in general and midwives in particular were being victimized. Many thousands of midwives and herbalists died at the stake for their knowledge of how to prevent death in childbirth or ease pregnancy related discomforts. (Since it was 'God's will' for women to suffer during childbirth, giving remedies that lessened labor pains was considered heretical and a crime punishable by death). Finally, by the end of the 19th century, midwives were outlawed altogether and their craft was taken over by male obstetricians. Only the emerging women's movement during the 60s has managed to reclaime midwifery as a woman's natural domain. However, due to hundreds of years of brutal persecution much of the traditional lore and wisdom has been lost. Many modern midwives do not know the herbal secrets associated with women's health. Nevertheless, despite all the odds, some traditional remedies have survived these dark times, though the majority of herbs used in western midwifery today are derived from Native American Indians, who compassionately taught the first settlers about the uses of local herbs and plants. Subsequently this knowledge made its way back across the Atlantic and substantially revitalised the impoverished European herbal midwifery tradition.

Herbs And Fertility
In the old days the question of fertility was of prime importance. Agriculturally based societies the world over performed annual rituals and ceremonies to ensure the fertility of fields, animals and last but not least, humans. Fertility meant abundance and it was regarded as the sacred gift of Mother Earth. If the womb of a woman did not 'quicken' within the first year of her marriage it quite often was a cause for serious concern. In such situations the 'unlucky' woman would seek the help of a midwife. Being knowledgeable in both medical and magical herbalism the midwife would most likely recommend a mixture of both sympathetic and remedial measures. These days midwives no longer advise barren women to eat figs and pomegranate or to make a mandrake charm and recite certain spells under the full moon. Modern midwives may urge women who have difficulties conceiving to examine their lifestyles, since many physical, physiological or emotional factors may be involved. Sometimes it may be necessary to consult a doctor in order to determine the exact causes of infertility so that specific remedies can be administered.

Midwives of ancient times too would emphasize the importance of a 'pure nest' for the embryo to grow in. Indeed, purifying the body through diet and cleansing herbs often can do wonders to prepare the womb. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and Burdock Root (Arctium lappa) are cleansing herbs that work on the liver. The liver is the great purifier of the body and is also largely responsible for the metabolism and the production of important hormones. Herbs which specifically tone the reproductive system, such as Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), Raspberry leaves (Rubus idaeus), and those that normalize hormonal functions such as Chasteberry (Vitex Agnus Castus) and False Unicorn Root (Chamaelirium luteum) are also indicated. Sometimes stress can be a contributing factor in infertility. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), Valerian (Valeriana officinale) and St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum) may be used as a standard tea to calm and nourish the nervous system and alleviate symptoms of stress. A sensuous, relaxing massage may also do much to release tension. Pure essential oils of Rose, Lavender, Jasmine, Neroli or Ylang Ylang blended into a base oil (e.g. almond oil) would be perfectly suited for this purpose.

In order to purify the body and womb it is of course essential to pay close attention to the diet. It is best to avoid alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine containing beverages as well as processed foods, not just during pregnancy but also in preparation of pregnancy. The diet should consist of nutrient-rich, natural and if possible organic foods and pure water, herb teas as well as fruit and vegetable juices. The B vitamin group, folic acid and zinc play a particularly important role in conception and should be supplied in a wholesome diet.

Herbs During Pregnancy
Once the womb has conceived a very special and transformative time begins for the expecting mother. Life is generated within her womb - at first inseparable from herself, but as time passes the new being makes itself more and more noticeable. The state of physical well-being during pregnancy depends on many factors. In modern society pregnancy is often regarded as a medical condition rather than a natural process and thus, many women experience a strong sense of anxiety with regards to their pregnancies. Anxiety itself can have very detrimental effects on the body, even under normal circumstances. During pregnancy severe anxiety may actually threaten the foetus' survival. If a miscarriage is threatened because of anxiety a regular tea of Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and St.Johnswort (Hypericum perforata) perhaps with a small amount of Valerian (Valeriana officinale), may be all that is needed. Essential oil of Rose and Lavender evaporated in an oil-burner will also help. If a weakened womb or trauma (acute or previous) is at the root of the problem a tea of False Unicorn Root (Chamaelirium luteum) and Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus) may be able to avert an impending miscarriage.

Miscarriage is a traumatic experience and although relatively common, quite often also unnecessary. However, if the conditions just are not right for the embryo no herbs nor magic will be able to prevent it from happening. The first 3 months of pregnancy are the most vulnerable time for mother and child. Midwives throughout the ages have always advised women to pay special attention to their lifestyles and to what they eat, drink or otherwise absorb during this time. It is essential to avoid all toxins and strong stimulants in order to minimize the possibility of negative effects on the baby's development. After all, whether mother or baby like it or not, the growing embryo has its share in whatever the mother ingests or exposes herself to. Needless to say one should abstain from alcohol (even is small amounts) caffeine and nicotine containing substances as well as any chemical substances. Herbs that have a stimulating effect on the womb and thus could accidentally cause a miscarriage should also be avoided. These are the same herbs that can help to bring on a delayed period. Sage (Salvia officinalis), Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium), Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), Wormwood (Artemisia absinthum), Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) and other Artemisias, Thuja (Thuja occidentalis), Black Cohosh (Cimcifuga racemosa), Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), Golden Seal (Hydrastis canadensis) name but a few (but not all), that should be avoided. Generally speaking it is best to avoid taking herbs altogether for the first 3 month to minimize any possible risks.

The diet should contain calcium, phosphorus and iron rich foods. Nettle soups, spinach and watercress salads and green leafy vegetables are especially nutritious. These plants are very rich in iron and are particularly recommended if there is any sign of anemia. Iron is essential in forming red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout the body. Lack of red blood cells or the iron necessary to make them, can leave the mother feeling tired, dizzy and easily exhausted. It also affects the child's ability to form its own vital red blood cells. If this is the case Yellow Dock Root (Rumex crispus) is often given as a remedy to increase iron in the blood. However, it should be noted that iron is very difficult to absorb. It is usually taken in conjunction with vitamin C to facilitate assimilation. Inorganic iron should be avoided altogether.

Morning sickness is a common phenomenon during pregnancy. Sometimes it can be remedied by modifying the diet. Certain foods and smells may have to be avoided altogether. Herbal standbys are Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), which both have stomachic and carminative properties that can help soothe a nauseous stomach, especially when the nausea is due to over-acidity. Essential oil of Spearmint evaporated in an oil-burner during the night may also be a great help. Traditional midwives recommend eating frequent small amounts of food throughout the day rather than stressing the digestive system with the customary three big meals a day. They also recommend carefully watching the overall intake of food. Whilst western medicine recommends eating practically as much as is desired so that one may give birth to big, strong healthy babies, Native American and other traditional wisdom places the emphasis on the nutritional value of the food ingested. It is a lot easier to give birth to a 6 lb. baby than to a 9 lb. one. If the mother's diet was balanced and sufficiently nutritious during pregnancy then the baby will show no signs of nutritionally related underdevelopment.

After the first 3 months the embryo is fairly well established in the womb and is not quite so vulnerable to the possibility of miscarriage and thus other herbs can be included in the diet. A standard Raspberry Leave tea (Rubus idaeus) has proven its worth throughout the centuries for strengthening the womb, toning up the system and usually ensures an easy and relatively speedy delivery.

Essential oils can be wonderful helpers at all times. Besides having very powerful and significant healing powers they also stimulate our senses. The sense of smell is one of the oldest sensual perceptive functions in human evolution. Scents speak to us on a subconscious level. Being surrounded with luxurious, sensuous fragrances puts one in touch with the body. During pregnancy a woman's body goes through a tremendous amount of changes, some of which can be quite stressful. A little sensual indulgence is not only well deserved but can also alleviate many of the associated discomforts. However, because they are so concentrated and powerful in their effects it is important to research every oil individually before using. During the first 3 months it is perhaps better to avoid direct contact with essential oils altogether. Certain oils should not be used at all. Most are safe to use externally after the first three months. None should be taken internally. Some specific oils to avoid are Sage, Tansy, Wormwood, Bay, Pennyroyal, Yarrow, Wintergreen, Thyme, Thuja and other emmenagogic oils.

One of the worst discomforts during pregnancy for many women is the sense of extreme heaviness and the aching back that goes with it. Especially in the later months this can be quite bothersome. Lavender and Rose pure essential oil can help reduce such discomforts. Mixed in a nutrient rich oil base such as Almond and Wheatgerm and massaged into the womb and lower back can have a very soothing effect on the nerves and muscles. Lavender and Wheatgerm oil also both have a reputation for reducing or even eliminating the possibility of getting stretch-marks.

If varicose veins or haemorrhoids are a problem try keeping the legs up as much as possible. Let someone else do the housework and treat yourself to a leg and foot massage. The massage oil should contain a few drops of Geranium and Cypress essential oil, which can be gently massaged into the affected areas. The direction should be from the feet towards the heart.

When blending massage oils with essential oils remember that a little goes a long way. A couple of drops in 25ml of baseoil is often enough to achieve the desired result.

To be continued in the next issue…

© Kat Morgenstern, 1996 (article first appeared in the Herb Quarterly in 1997)



Herb of Heaven or Hell

(Papaver Somniferum)

(photograph courtesy of Poppies International)



Opium Poppy, Mawseed, Herb of Joy, Mohn, Klapper-Rosen, Mago, Magesamen, Weismagen, wilder Magen, Magensaph, Rosule


The Opium Poppy is an herbaceous annual which grows to between 70 cm and 130cm tall. Their showy flowers have made them popular with gardeners and many varieties are cultivated throughout the temperate regions. The wild variety has pale whitish pink petals with a large dark dot at their base. Cultivated varieties are pink to red and even dark purple; some have a single arrangement of petals, others are double. There are even some with frilly flower heads, the variations are truly amazing. The center of the flower head is occupied by a prominent many-rayed stigma surrounded by a multitude of stamens. Once the flower is fertilized the petals soon drop off and the seed capsule begins to swell. Depending on the variety the seed capsule can take many different shapes and sizes. That of the wild Papaver somniferum is almost spherical with a star shaped, flattened top that lifts off as the capsule dries out, creating little openings underneath the rim through which the seeds can disperse. The color of the seeds also varies depending on the specific variety and can be anything from almost white to bluish-black.

The stems grow very straight and are quite tough and somewhat rubbery. The leaves are indented and clasp the stem. All green parts of the plant are glaucous and contain a milky latex which oozes out if any part is wounded. Once it dries the latex turns brown - the substance known as raw opium.

Habitat and Ecology

The genus Papaver comprises about 100 species distributed throughout the temperate regions of the world. Opium Poppies (Papaver somniferum) are often confused with their close relative, the Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) a common wild species that does not share the psychoactive properties of the Opium Poppy. The species can be distinguished by their size and color: Opium Poppies tend to be larger, with big, white to purplish flowers and large, globular seed capsules. The Corn Poppy tends to be quite small, with bright scarlet-red petals and small, elongated more oval seed capsules. Related New World species that are used medicinally by Native Americans include the Prickly Poppy (Argemone polyanthemos and A. mexicana) and the State Flower of California, the Californian Poppy (Eschscholzia californica). Although the chemistry of these species is somewhat similar to that of Papaver somniferum, their alkaloid content is far less concentrated. Interestingly, their ethnobotanical uses have not been entirely dissimilar: Native Americans used these Poppy relations as anodynes, antispasmodics and sedatives as well as for external applications to treat burns, sores and cuts and as a wash to get rid of lice. Opium Poppies are not native to the New World, although some of the eastern tribes adopted them for medicinal purposes and used them in much the same way as the settlers did who brought them here.

It is difficult to establish with any certainty just where Papaver somniferum originated or exactly who its genetic parents might have been. Most researchers now agree, however, that the Mediterranean region of Asia Minor is its most likely place of origin, from where it is thought to have spread east into Asia, south into northern Africa and north into Central Europe. Today they are found as far north as the UK, though they rarely appear in the wild. The ones that are found in the wild tend to be garden escapees.

Poppies like to grow in association with corn, and both plants were once considered sacred to the corn-goddess Demeter. In Central Europe the closely related Scarlet Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) still commonly grows among the corn. It too has a history of medicinal use but its action is much milder than that of Papaver somniferum.


Beautiful to behold are the delicate Poppy flowers as they waft softly in the summers breeze - alas, it is a short-lived beauty. Here one day, gone the next, the fleeting splendor only lasts a few days before the falling petals reveal a bulging seedpod, the true keeper of the Poppy's secret*. In time, as the seedpod ripens its star-shaped top will lift to release thousands of tiny grey-blue seeds familiar to every child as toppings and flavoring of breakfast rolls and other baked goodies. Gourmet chefs value the oil that can be pressed from these seeds for its delicate nutty flavor.(1)

But Poppies have much more to offer than as ingredients for culinary refinement. Within their fleshy leaves and stems, but most of all in their unripe seed capsules flows a white, milky juice, which the ancients knew as 'opion' (2). This substance has been used medicinally, ritually and recreationally for thousands of years and indeed has changed the course of history to no small extent. Its gifts are a double edged sword though, promising relief from physical and emotional pain, yet if taken regularly it traps the body and mind into addiction and self-delusion, causing destruction, dependence and even death to those that succumb to its seductive powers. Nevertheless, as Paracelsus put it so many centuries ago: all things are poisonous; it is a matter of dosage whether a substance kills or cures. Poppy is no exception to the rule and throughout the history of its use it has certainly brought great relief to millions of suffering people.

Poppies have indeed long been companions of the human race. Archeological evidence suggests that their use dates back as far as Neolithic times implying that they have once played a significant role in human culture, probably over a period of many thousands of years. Opium and Poppy remains have been found at Neolithic settlements, burial sites and in the graves of Egyptian Pharaohs, which were also decorated with paintings of Opium Poppy, Mandrake and Blue Water Lily.

Contrary to popular belief Poppies do not appear to have come from the East, but are native to the Mediterranean region, though botanists still argue over just which of the wild species are the parent plants of Papaver somniferum, or Opium Poppy, as it is usually called. The earliest written records were found in Sumeria and date to about 2000 B.C. Here it was known as 'Hul Gil' - the Herb of Joy. It is believed that Poppy and the knowledge of its powers spread from Sumeria throughout the Middle East to Babylonia, Assyria and Egypt as well as to Persia and Greece. The famous Egyptian Ebers Papyrus (1500 B.C.) mentions it and recommends its use as a remedy for 'the excessive crying of children', a use which has remained popular in some parts of Northern Africa and Europe even to the beginning of this century. It was thought, however, that while it kept children quiet it also made them stupid. Then as now physicians were well aware of the potential dangers of opium, although addiction did not appear to have been as much of a problem in those days.

In the days of antiquity Opium was widely used and highly valued for its medicinal powers. Then as now it was regarded as the single most effective painkiller (though these days we use it in a more refined and hence more potent and more dangerous form). Furthermore, it was used as a sedative, to calm hysterics and soothe melancholy. It was considered to be one of the best remedies for healing colic, diarrhea and persistent spasmodic coughs. On the more recreational side, it was also considered a potent aphrodisiac and as such enjoyed a widespread reputation throughout the ancient world. Most famously, Queen Cleopatra's reputed love-potion is said to have been a combination of opium and some type of nightshade, (probably mandrake), steeped in palm-wine.

Opium is mentioned in all the ancient works of medicine, from Hippocrates to Avicenna, to Dioscorides and Galen. Dioscorides describes the process of obtaining this latex in detail:

"Those who wish to obtain the sap (of the Poppy) must go after the dew has dried and draw their knife around the star in such a manner as not to penetrate the inside of the capsule, and also make straight incisions down the sides. Then with your finger wipe the extruding tear into a shell. When you return to it not long after, you will find the sap thickened and the next day you will find it much the same. Pound the sap in your mortar and roll the mass into pills."

In ancient Greece, Poppy was considered sacred to Hypnos, the God of sleep who is often depicted holding Poppy capsules in his hands and adorning his head. They also guarded the gateway to his drowsy realm. He brought prophetic dreams and soothed the pain of those suffering from emotional trauma. At the temple of Aesclepius on the Greek island of Cos, it was used in a form of sleep therapy, which consisted of dosing the patient with a brew of Opium, to induce visionary dreams that would reveal the method and agents which could affect the cure.

The Romans identified Hypnos with their own God of sleep, whom they referred to as 'Somnus', a name which still echoes in Poppy's Latin name 'Papaver somniferus' - somnus ferre - bringer of sleep. But Poppy was also associated with Thanatos or Hades, the Lord of the Underworld, who rules the realm of the dead - excessive use of the milky juice can also bring eternal sleep. Such myths reveal Poppy as a plant of the Underworld, an association, which apparently dates to prehistoric times as the above mentioned archeological evidence confirms. The Poppy remains found at Neolithic graves presumably were intended to help the departed on their journey to the Underworld.(3)

Poppy was also considered sacred to Demeter, the Earth-Goddess, who taught wo/mankind the art of grain cultivation, notably wheat and barley, which Poppies love to mingle with. Their bulging seedpods, containing a myriad of tiny seeds serve as a perfect symbol of fertility. No doubt the aphrodisiac qualities of opium featured prominently in the fertility rites of this benevolent Goddess. Some scholars believe that opium may have been an important ingredient of the secret ritual drink at the Elysian Mysteries. Unfortunately we shall never know for sure; the recipe for this famous potion ranks among the best-kept secrets of the ancient world.

According to another myth, Poppy was supposed to have sprung from the tears of Aphrodite as she mourned the loss of her lover Adonis. Cyprus, the birthplace of Aphrodite, was one of the major regions of Poppy cultivation and it was from here that Poppy or Poppy products were first shipped to Egypt. Due to its association with Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love and the aphrodisiac properties of opium Poppy became very popular for use in folkloristic love magic during the Middle Ages. Poppies was the herb of choice for numerous love charms, philters and potions. They also served as a medium of simple love divination rites, which promised to foretell the outcome of a love affair or reveal the identity of a future husband. Typically the inquirer would write a question on a piece of parchment and conceal it in the seed capsule, which he or she would then place underneath their pillow in order to obtain a prophetic dream.

The mass of tiny seeds hidden in the round-bellied capsule has long been considered a symbol of fertility and prosperity. To convey these magical powers as a blessing of abundance for the New Year, it was customary to prepare a sweet-bread made with Poppy seeds as a magical food for New Year's Eve. Alternatively one could utilize these properties by making a necklace with gilded Poppy heads, which could be worn as a charm. Interestingly though it was thought that Poppy seeds hidden in the shoes of a bride would render her infertile.

Other magical uses included an invisibility potion, which was thought to infer invisibility at will - probably in allusion to Hades whose cap of invisibility, (which he wore to conceal himself while he abducted Persephone), was thought to suggest a Poppy capsule. Poppy seeds were regarded as an effective aid to ward of daemons and vampires. If one was pursued by one of these evil creatures one should toss a handful of seeds on the path behind. The daemons in pursuit would be stopped in their tracks, forget their original purpose and feel compelled to stop and count the seeds instead.

While opium was commonly known and widely used for medicinal, recreational and sacred purposes in the ancient world, it was Andromachos, the personal doctor of Nero, who popularized their use. Nero had ordered him to produce a medicine which would ease all pain and disease, and the physician invented 'Theriak, a potent potion consisting of about sixty different plants and substances, including opium. Galen later refined the brew and renamed it Galene. It soon achieved the status of a panacea and became popular throughout Europe. This potion was expensive though and some of the ingredients were difficult to obtain. During the Middle Ages, with the rise of 'heroic medicine' the medical use of opium subsided and it was rarely employed by the unsympathetic doctors of the time. Eventually, Paracelsus created a simplified version of the original Theriak recipe, which proved extremely effective and soon surpassed the popular appeal of the original remedy. His concoction however was compounded into pill form and became known as 'Laudanum Paracelsi'. The marked effect of these pills as a highly effective painkilling remedy was probably due to the addition of lemon juice, which subtly changes the chemistry of opium and enhances the anodyne action. Henceforth laudanum was praised as a panacea supposedly effective for every ailment except leprosy. The glowing reports regarding the wondrous powers of the drug kept mounting, yet supply was often slim. Scientific curiosity spurned numerous experiments and in their course gave rise to the groundbreaking invention of the hypodermic needle, first employed by Christopher Wren in an experiment designed to prove the theory of blood circulation. To demonstrate the theory he injected the hind leg of a dog with a solution of opium, and sure enough the drug rapidly took effect over the entire body of the dog. In 1680, the English Doctor Thomas Sydenham revised Paracelsus' potion once again. In an attempt to purify the raw drug and rid it of the impurities, which seem to cause 'sickness' if taken in excessive quantities, he mixed it with sherry wine, saffron, cinnamon and cloves and named the brew Sydenham's Laudanum. Suddenly a proliferation of opium based products such as Venice Treacle, Mithridate, London Laudanum and Dr. Bate's Pacific Pills became increasingly popular, and the available opium could hardly cover the demand. Nevertheless, Laudanum soon became a household name and doctors prescribed routine dosing as a preventative remedy twice a week. It is hardly surprising that the first serious cases of opium addiction in the West arose due to this excessive use of Laudanum. The problem was compounded by the fact that Laudanum was often over-prescribed for children, which resulted in increased resistance to the drug in adulthood.

In 1700 Dr. John Jones published a book called 'The Mysteries of Opium Revealed' which extolled the properties of opium, its uses and effects and also reported on its pleasant side-effects and symptoms of addiction, filling no less than 400 pages. While his work was clearly biased and likely to have been strongly influenced by the authors own intimate relationship to his subject matter, it did contain a grain of genius: Jones was the first to intuit that opium actually imitated substances already present in the body. It took another 400 years before scientists actually discovered these substances, which subsequently became known as endorphins.

Debate and experimentation continued. In 1799 a young German pharmacy apprentice by the name of Friedrich Sertürner, observing that the effects of opium seemed to vary considerably from batch to batch, became convinced that this must be due to the varying presence of one active ingredient of the raw opium. It took him only four years to isolate a substance, which he called 'morphine' in allusion to the Greek God of sleep. Erroneously he believed that this purified compound was free of the unpleasant side effects of opium, based on the fact that only a tiny amount of morphine was necessary to induce effects that were far stronger than those of raw opium. It did not take long before several pharmaceutical companies started to churn out morphine by the bucket load. Wren's earlier invention for injecting opium subcutaneously soon became perfected and took the form of what we now know as hypodermic syringes. The invention was rationalised with the argument that injecting morphine directly into the blood stream could triple its potency. Morphine and Heroine epitomize the ill-conceived idea of a scientific future: scientists in laboratories pride themselves for 'perfecting nature' and Doctors praise the miraculous powers of their current wonder drugs, prescribing them with little discrimination or concern - it's the same story, then and now, only the names of the current 'miracle drugs' seem to change.

The story of the Opium Poppy serves to illustrate many important lessons. Most significantly perhaps it shows that our misguided attempts to 'improve on nature' more often than not result in disastrous consequences. Nature has many wonderful gifts to offer, but we must take care to use them with due respect, lest our attempts to manipulate these blessings turns them into demonic forces beyond our control.

(The history of poppy also has a very interesting, dark and thought provoking political aspect, which is beyond the scope of this article to explore. However, anybody who is interested in this plant and the issues it entails should read up on the history of the opium wars - the consequences of which still linger on even today. See below for literature recommendations)

Medicinal Uses

Parts Used:

Seeds, latex, leaves, petals


Contains about 40 different alkaloids. The most prominent being morphine, Codeine, Thebaine, Papaverine and Noscapine


Analgesic, narcotic, sedative, antispasmodic, anti-diarrheal, antitussive, diaphoretic, aphrodisiac


The dried latex rolled into pills in combination with other substances has long been valued as a highly effective painkiller. As a sedative it is used to bring sleep to agitated children and patients suffering particularly painful conditions. It has also been employed to calm hysterical or otherwise mentally or emotionally disturbed patients. Its anti-diarrhoeal properties still make it one of the most powerful agents for the treatment of colic and dysentery. It is also used as an antispasmodic in cses of gall-bladder colic and spasms. Its anti-tussive action is still highly valued and widely used as an ingredient in all kinds of cough remedies. It is invaluable in treating persistent spasmodic coughs (Codeine- alkaloid of Opium) and in the past was much used for the treatment of tuberculosis. As an aphrodisiac it plays an important role in treating sexual problems such as impotency and premature ejaculation, though these uses play a greater role of importance in Ayurvedic medicine where healthy sexual function is considered essential to good health in general.


Opium, Morphine and Heroin are all highly addictive substances, besides which they are also highly illegal. Excessive opium use can lead to serious health problems and even cause death. Even small quantities can cause severe constipation. This article is intended as an educational resource not as a guide to self-medication or to encourage the use of illegal drugs.

Status: In most countries it is illegal to cultivate Poppies without license, though in Europe it is commonly grown as an ornamental. Harvesting opium, however, is strictly prohibited everywhere. The dried seedpods and the seeds are legal and available commercially. The dried seed pods are popular items for dried flower arrangements and flower ornaments. The seeds are used for culinary purposes.

recipes (1K)

Poppy cake

100g Butter
100g Sugar
4 eggs
100g ground poppy seeds
30 g candied lemon and orange peel
½ cup confectioner's sugar
Butter and breadcrumbs

Take a 24 - 26 cm diameter cake tin (springform) and grease with butter or margarine. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and preheat the oven to 200C.

Cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture is quite light and fluffy. Separate the eggs and carefully stir in the egg yolks, one by one. Last but not least, stir in the candied fruit peel and the ground poppy seeds.

Beat the egg whites stiff and lift carefully lift underneath the dough. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and level the top. Place onto the middle shelf in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.

Let the cake cool down on a grill sheet. Sprinkle with the confectioners sugar. For more elaborate decoration use a baking template.

For variation on the theme you could experiment with adding ground nuts (hazelnut or walnut) or raisins to the cake mixture.


1) Poppy seed oil is much revered among gourmet chefs for its nutty in flavour and its resistance to oxidation. A white flowering variety with white seeds yields the greatest quantity of oil. Seeds do not contain any of the alkaloids associated with opium. The oil is rich in polyunsaturated fats (62%) and essential fatty acids. Nutritionally it is one of the most valuable oils - unfortunately much underused. The expressed seed cake was formerly given to cattle as a nutrient rich food.

2) opion = milk juice=latex~

3) Sleep is often referred to as 'little death

© Kat Morgenstern, 1997

Travel Feature


Panama has not quite made it onto 'the Latin America tourism trail' and is sometimes referred to as one of the best kept secrets for eco-tourists who really want to get off the beaten track. Its topological variation of ever changing landscapes is reflected by its rich bio-diversity. From lowland rainforest to paradisical tropical beaches, to lofty highlands and volcanoes clad in montane rainforest, Panama has it all - combined in a surprisingly compact area. Panama is one of the best places to explore the rich diversity of the tropics, in comfort and style without loosing the sense of adventure.

Panama ranks as one of the top locations for bird watchers worldwide: over 900 species have been recorded here including the illusive Quetzal bird - sacred emblem of the Maya,which has become rare elsewhere in Central America.

Whether you are into hiking, diving, bird watching, spelunking, cultural explorations or simply want to relax in tropical splendour - we can help you make your dream vacation come true.

Check out some of thefeatured eco-tours or email us at: for a tailor made itinerary to your personal specifications.

To learn more about Panama click here.



Ancient cosmologies tell of a magnificent World-Tree that grows at the centre of the universe and encompasses all realms of existence: its stem pierces through the world of human affairs, its branches reach high up to the domain of the Gods, upholding the firmament of the heavens and all the stars and planets, while its roots stretch far down into the dark, chthonic Underworld, forming a gateway to the realm of the dead. The image of the World-Tree or Tree of Life is truly universal. It can be found at the centre of archaic cosmological iconography in widely separated cultures all over the world.

One of the oldest recorded accounts of the World-Tree is of Babylonian origin and stems from about 3000 - 4000 BC. This tree stood at the centre of the Universe, which was thought to be somewhere near the ancient city of Eridu at the mouth of the river Euphrates. Its white crystal roots penetrated the primordial waters of the abyss, which were guarded by an amphibious God of wisdom called Ea. He was the source of the waters of life that made the plains fertile. The foliage of the sacred tree was the seat of Zikum, the Goddess of the heavens, while its stem was the holy abode of the Earth-Goddess Davkina and her son Tammuz. Echoes of this imagery can be found in all the mythologies of ancient Mesopotamia.

Writing in the 12th century, the Icelandic scholar, poet, historian and politician Snorri Sturlunson described the Norse version of this cosmic tree in his epic poem known as 'the Edda'. It is hard to tell how much of the symbolism is derived from actual oral accounts of ancient Norse mythology and how much of it is based on the authors' prosaic fancy. The World-Tree of the Eddas seems at any rate to be a compilation of mythic imagery drawn from various sources. The story has been re-told many times, variously embroidered with more or less fancy details, but essentially it goes like this:

Somewhere, in a space beyond space and a time beyond time grows a magnificent, huge tree, who's branches embrace and uphold the heavens, and who's roots reach deep into the Underworld - it is known as the World-Tree Yggdrasil.

Yggdrasil bridges the three great realms of existence: In its midst lies Asgard, the mountainous domain of the Gods, pierced by the stem of the sacred tree. Yggdrasil has three gigantic roots that stretch to all the realms of existence. One reaches into Asa, the second into the realm of the frost giants and the third into Niflheim, the underworld realm of the dead.
Three sacred springs gush forth from beneath the three great roots: From the first flows the spring of wisdom and knowledge, jealously guarded by the hermit Mimir. From the second, springs the well of destiny, guarded by the three Norns, the sisters of fate: Uror (fate), Veroandi (being) and Sculd (necessity) who govern the destinies of human beings. They take care of the tree, water its roots every day, purifying and keeping it alive with the holy waters and the white clay of the sacred spring. The well of destiny is also where the Gods meet for their daily assembly, to settle their differences and decide on their actions. From beneath the third root flows the river of life. Its waters carry the souls of the dead back to be reborn into their next incarnations. But this microcosm what not be complete without the serpent and the eagle, signifying the polarised opposites between the creative and the destructive forces of the Universe. At the very base of the tree lurked the serpent Niddhogg who constantly gnawed away at its roots. Its destructive powers were only kept at bay by an eagle, symbol of the sun, who lived in the upper branchesof the tree from where he continuously warded off the serpent's assaults. Thus, the forces of life and death are kept in equilibrium and the essential life-force of the tree is never damaged.

The image of the World-Tree illustrates the interconnectedness between nature, humans and Gods and forms the basis of an integrated cosmology in which the Gods manifest in nature and humans communicate directly with them through their outer forms. It represents the 'axis-mundi', the immovable central pole of the universe around which all life revolves. In this cosmology, humans and Gods essentially share the same dimension, though on somewhat different levels.

According to the ancient hermetic doctrine 'As Above - So Below', the microcosmic world of human affairs is but a reflection of the macrocosmic world of the Gods. To our ancestors the inherent fertility of nature represented an awesome mystery. The recurrent cycle of the seasons - of blossoming, fruiting, decay - and miraculous rebirth, as seemingly dead branches burst back to life each spring, was seen as a reflection of the regenerative powers of the cosmos itself. Elaborate rituals and ceremonies were held not only to ensure the continued fertility of the land but also to partake spiritually in the cosmic process of regeneration. Trees, with their extremely long lifespan and apparently inexhaustible vigour became the central symbol of such nature based mystery religions. Many fragments of this archaic symbolism have miraculously survived all attempts of eradication and they can still be found in modern religions, customs and folklore, although their original meanings have become much distorted.

The images of the World-Tree and the Tree of Life are closely related and often merge. Sometimes they are replaced by the image of a cosmic mountain, which is also located at the centre of the universe and which likewise generates and sustains all life. All these images symbolically combine the male and female creative powers of the Universe. The obviously phallic connotations of the tree or mountain are identified with the male life-giving, creative force, while the chthonic underworld amidst the roots of the tree or within the crystal cave of the mountain represent the female transformational and regenerative power of the earth womb. Both aspects fused together represent the 'ursymbol' of life, the essence of cyclic existence and eternal self-regeneration.

In Hindu tradition the World-Tree is conceived as being rooted in the heavens and bearing its fruit on earth. All the gods and goddesses, all the elements and cosmic principles are its branches, but each and every one is rooted in Brahman, who is identified with the stem of the sacred tree itself. Perhaps the Banyan tree, one of the most sacred trees of India inspired this concept. The Banyan (Ficus bengalensis) is a truly awe inspiring tree, which spreads over huge areas by sending aerial roots down from its branches. When the arial roots touch the ground they themselves take root and develop into stems. A single tree can comprise a whole forest. Walking among the stems of an old tree is like being in an awesome natural cathedral. The appearance and growing habit of this tree easily suggests the image of a tree rooted in the heavens. It also perfectly symbolizes the idea of multiple Gods and spirits in all their localized aspects essentially all being aspects of the one ultimate source.

It is astounding how similarly the mythological imagery of widely separated cultures expresses the same themes: A creation myth of the Maoris tells of a world-tree, which was the first thing to be formed at the center of the still void universe. It sprouted from an energy vortex, known as the cosmic navel. From the myriad buds of the all-encompassing tree all creation emerged.

Similarly, in Mayan cosmology the World-Tree is a unifying symbol that represents the origin of all existence. It is usually stylised as a maize plant, since maize is the all important staff of life in Maya culture. Other sources however suggest that originally the World-Tree, known as Yax-cheel-cab was identified with the great Kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra), a magnificent species which, when mature, truly seems to reach the heavens. Great buttress-roots at the base of the stem easily suggest the entrance of the Mayan underworld known as Xibalba. Prominent examples of these incredible sacred trees can still be found at practically all ancient Maya sites.

According to a myth from the lake Atitlan region of Guatemala, the World Tree is the progenitor of the manifest universe. At the beginning of time, a great tree stood at the center of the still void Cosmos. It impregnated itself and bore on its branches a multitude of fruits, one for each thing known to humankind: animals, plants, clouds, stars, stones, lightening and even time itself.

Eventually all the fruits became so heavy that the tree could no longer carry them. One by one they fell to the ground and scattered their seeds. Underneath the protective canopy of the tree, they germinated, took root and grew. The Mayans still offer incense and prayers to these ancestral spirits and thus ensure the continued fertility of the land.

A surprisingly similar myth comes from Persia. Here we find references to a 'Tree of all Seeds', which stood at the center of a magical garden known as Pairidaeza, the Persian paradise. This garden was originally associated with the Virgin Goddess Pairidaeza who represented the eternal regenerative womb from which all life proceeds. In her garden the 'Tree of all seeds' grew next to the Tree of Knowledge. One day two birds came to visit the tree, but as one of them attempted to settle in its canopy a thousand branches went crashing to the ground and thus a thousand seeds were scattered. The other bird swiftly gathered up all the seeds and distributed them in various fertile places all over the earth. All the plants and animals with which we share our planet today issued from these seeds.

The Cosmic Tree is commonly described as the source of a special divine substance, a sacred nectar of immortality and ambrosia of the Gods. The ancient holy scriptures known as the 'Rig Vedas' (Indus Valley) refer to this mythical substance as 'Amrita' or 'Soma'. In Persia it was known as Haoma, while the Eddas describe it as 'golden apples stored in Valhalla', which restore the youthfulness of the Gods. The descriptions in the various sacred texts all seem to imply some kind of psychotropic agent and there has been much speculation and debate among scholars and Ethnobotanists regarding the possible botanical identity of this mysterious substance. Numerous theories have been put forward, some believing it to be Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria), others proposing Syrian Rue (Peganum harmala) and various other species as the lost identity of the sacred fruits of the Tree of Life. It is difficult to judge the validity of such hypotheses given that the evidence rests on mythological sources. It is certainly possible that once upon a time one or the other or several different psychotropic plants were indeed identified with these mythical fruits just as the sacred tree itself was variously identified with an actual tree species. Yet tree and fruit need not necessarily share the botanical identity, as their association was perhaps more of a metaphorical nature. So far, despite fervent research, there has been no conclusive result to the inquiry as none of the known hallucinogenic plants satisfactorily complies with the ancient descriptions. Although the question of botanical identity represents an interesting riddle for modern researchers, it seems less important for the spiritual inquirer. The essence of the fruit's esoteric meaning lies just as much in its symbolic significance. Its ultimate spiritual potential is immortal and will be eternally renewed by each and every seeker.

It is interesting to note, that in Mayan as well as in Greek mythology there are references to the Tree of Life or World Tree amidst the signs of the Zodiac, although astronomically there is no such constellation. The mystery is only revealed if one takes into consideration the appearance of the actual night sky itself, which in pre-classical times looked quite different to what can be observed today. Due to a phenomenon known as the 'precession of the equinoxes', caused by the 'wobble' of the earth's path around the sun, the sign of the vernal equinox up to about 4000 BC was Taurus. At the spring equinox, the milky way would appear almost vertical above the observers head, like a giant tree clad in a magnificent cloak of star-flowers, crowned by the sign of Leo and at its root the sign of Aquarius, the Waterbearer. The other constellations were seen as the branches of the World-Tree, and the stars and planets as its fruits. Amidst its roots gushed forth the constellation of Eridanos, the cosmic spring, bearing the waters of life.

The same image is repeated in other mythologies, in which the World Tree is often described as the place where disembodied souls dwell prior to their reincarnation. Underneath the roots of the tree that grows at the centre of the paradisiacal garden, flows the sacred river that carries the waters of life. When their time has come the river of life will carry these souls back to their new incarnations.

In our microcosmic world the same symbolism is often repeated in old churchyards where one can find ancient trees (usually Yews) planted next to a sacred spring. (see Spirit of the Earth - Trees and Fertility, May 2002)

Similarly, in Siberian shamanism the World-Tree represents a cosmic ladder along which spirits and Gods descend or, conversely, along which the shaman can either ascend to the spirit world or climb down into the Underworld. The shaman's drum, which serves as a spirit horse, is made from the wood of the sacred tree. Furthermore, the tree is regarded as a nursery that nurtures the souls of the young shamans until they mature sufficiently to manifest in human form. In the words of the Tungus Shaman Semyonov Semyon:

Up above there is a certain tree where the souls of the shamans are reared, before they attain their powers. And on the boughs of this tree are nests in which the souls lie and are attended. The name of the tree is 'Tuuru. The higher the nest in this tree, the stronger will the shaman be who is raised in it, the more he will know, and the farther he will see. The rim of the shaman's drum is cut from a living larch. The larch is left alive and standing in recollection and honour of the tree Turuu, where the soul of the shaman was raised. Furthermore, in memory of the great tree Tuuru, at each séance the shaman plants a tree with one or more cross-sticks in the tent where the ceremony takes place, and this tree too is called Tuuru. According to our belief, the soul of the shaman climbs up this tree to God when he shamanises. For the tree grows during the rite and invisibly reaches the summit of heaven. (Joseph Campbell, Primitive Mythology)

The Tree of Life or World Tree represents one of the most deeply rooted archetypes of the human psyche and its symbolism still surfaces in the imagery of modern psychotherapy. In terms of Jungian psychology the World-Tree or axis mundi represents the personal 'meridian', the psychological umbilical cord, which connects each individual not only to the divine source (realm of the Gods) but also to the vaults of the unconscious (Underworld). The quest of the mythological hero, who embarks on an adventure to search for the World-Tree, or a sacred mountain at the centre of Universe, is a metaphor for the quest of psychological realignment with one's own inner center and spiritual source. The task of the hero/seeker is to sublimate the cosmic energy that enters his or her being through the realignment with the 'axis mundi'. The journey is usually beset with peril and impending danger for it is a quest of transformation that requires the sacrifice of the ego. In the words of Micea Eliade it is 'a rite of passage, from the illusory to the eternal, from the profane to the sacred and from chaos to cosmos' (Eliade, Myth Of Eternal Return). Thus, the World-Tree is also a symbol of initiation and transcendence. When the hero reaches this centre of the Universe, s/he arrives at the sacred centre of his or her own being.


"The miracle of this flow may be represented in physical terms as a circulation of food substance, dynamically as a streaming of energy, or spiritually as a manifestation of grace. Such varieties of image alternate easily, representing three degrees of condensation of the one life force. An abundant harvest is the sign of God's grace, Gods grace is the food of the soul, the lightening bolt is the harbinger of fertilizing rain and at the same time the manifestation of the released energy of God. Grace, food substance, energy, these pour into the living world and wherever they fail life decomposes into death. The torrent pours from an invisible source the point of entry being the center of the symbolic circle of the universe, the immovable spot of the Buddha legend around which the world may be said to revolve. Beneath this spot is the earth supporting head of the cosmic serpent, the dragon, symbolical of the waters of the abyss, which are the divine life-creative energy and substance of the demiurge, the world generative aspect of immortal being. The Tree of Life, i.e. the universe itself grows from this point."
Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces)

© Kat Morgenstern, August 2001


Green Earth Foundation

The Green Earth Foundation is an educational and research organization dedicated to the healing and harmonizing of the relationships between humanity and the Earth. Our objectives are to help bring about changes in attitudes, values, perceptions, and worldviews that are based on ecological balance and respect for the integrity of all life-forms on Earth.

Ralph Metzner, Ph.D., its founding father, has been exploring states of consciousness and transformational practices for over thirty years. He is a psychotherapist and professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where he teaches courses on ecopsychology and ecological worldviews. He is the author of several books, including The Psychedelic Experience (with Leary and Alpert, 1964), Maps of Consciousness (1971), Know Your Type (1978), Opening to Inner Light (1986) and The Well of Remembrance - Rediscovering the Earth Wisdom Mythology of Northern Europe (Shambhala, 1994). He is co-founder and president of the Green Earth Foundation, an educational organization devoted to the healing and harmonizing of the relations between humanity and the Earth. His most recently published work is The Unfolding Self. Forthcoming books include Green Psychology (Inner Traditions International, 1999) and Ayahuasca - Human Consciousness and the Spirits of Nature (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1999).

Ralph Metzner's approach to psychology is refreshing in that he does not treat the mind as an isolated physical part responsible for emotional function. Instead he recognizes the complex relationships and interaction between psycho-spiritual and earthly levels of reality. His philosophy is an ecology of the mind, based on the teachings of traditional shamans and healers, which he translates into modern terminolgy and thus makes them accessible to modern (western) minds. He addresses many issues relevant to the calamities of modern urbanite neurosis as symptoms of our psycho-ecological imbalances. He believes that to heal the psychological conflicts of our modern society we must re-establish an emotional and spiritually meaningful relationship with the earth.

The Place and the Story, by Ralph Metzner (excerpt from Green Psychology)

11 - 13 October, 2002, Munich, Germany
World Conference of Ethnotherapies

ETHNOMED, the society for Ethnomedicine is organizing a world conference of Ethnomedicine. Shamans, healers and scientists from around the world will be speaking and teaching for three days at the Maximillian University of Munich, Germany. A full program offers morning lectures and afternoon workshops covering diverse healing traditions and practices from all corners of the globe: Nepalese shamanism, Sufi Music therapy, shamanic healing traditions of the Amazon, among Mongalian shamans and African healers, to name but a few. Lectures and workshops are held in either German or English. Translators are available upon request.
Check out their website:
Institute for Ethnomedicine

PC users can download this ebook and Mac or PC users can download this pdf file for detailed info on the lectures and workshops offered. (This month the download should work!)


Paths to a New Medicine
November 14 - 17, 2002
Hyatt Regency, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C..

A conference to explore the uniqueness, wealth and complexity of the healing traditions indigenous to the American continents, with emphasis on their potential for delivering culturally sensitive and effective health care. This meeting will highlight the effectiveness and value of many traditional healing practices through a presentation of case-studies and provide the opportunity for better understanding through direct interactions with traditional healers.

For registration, program, CME or additional information visit, e-mail, call (866) 547-3309 or fax (317) 328-1475.

Marisol Villanueva
Pro Cultura
P.O. Box 185
Pleasantville, NY 10570

tel: (212) 496 7260
fax: (914) 944 3441

From the BIO-IPR resource pointer:

In early July, a US biotech company called Epicyte announced that it had won a broad patent on the production of antibodies in plants.
The patent, assigned to Scripps Research Institute, allegedly covers any kind of antibody produced in any kind of plant.

-- Epicyte Pharmaceutical Inc, "Epicyte Announces Broad Patent Covering Production of Antibodies in Plants: Scope Establishes Strong Licensing
Potential, Barriers to Entry for Competitors", Epicyte Press Release, San Diego, 9 July 2002.

-- Denise Gellene, "Antibody Creation on Corn Patented", Los Angeles Times,
12 July 2002.

-- Paul Elias, "'Pharming' Patent Granted, Boosting Herpes-Fighting Corn
Prospects", Associated Press, 9 July 2002.

July 2002

For quite some time, people have wondered about the possibility of having one patent system for the whole world. In other words, one bureau issuing "world patents" which are automatically valid in all countries. Such a system would replace the current situation where each country has its own laws, own patent office and own courts -- all of which have to be dealt with separately if you want your patent to have effect in more than one country. A unified world patent system has always seemed a very far off idea, an Orwellian mixture of dream (e.g. for global corporations, which get a "one-stop shop" to deal with) and nightmare (e.g. for local patent lawyers, who lose their jobs). In reality, the frame of such a system is starting to emerge.

The implications of this new system are actually huge. Of course it is being designed to benefit those countries and companies most who are seeking to make the biggest profit from it. For the full story click here.

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