Goddesses, Elixirs, and Witches: Plants and Sexuality throughout Human History

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Springer, Feb 15, 2010 - History - 213 pages
From the earliest times, the medicinal properties of certain herbs were connected with deities, particularly goddesses. Only now with modern scientific research can we begin to understand the basisand rationality that these divine connections had and, being preserved in myths and religious stories, they continued to have a significant impact through the present day. Riddle argues that the pomegranate, mandrake, artemisia, and chaste tree plants substantially altered thedevelopment of medicine and fertility treatments.The herbs, once sacred to Inanna, Aphrodite, Demeter, Artemis, and Hermes, eventually came to be associated with darker forces, representing theinstruments of demons and witches. Riddle's ground-breaking work highlights the important medicinalhistory thatwas lost and argues for itsrightful place as one of the predecessors

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In the chapter on Artemisia, Mr. Riddle opines that "[c]ertainly ancient people could not recognize or distinguish among all these species..." speaking either of the 400 species of Artemisia that exist, or the 60ish speciesof Artemisia that used medicinally -- it's unclear which. In either case, this is a puzzling statement. Ethnobotanical studies in intact indigenous societies show over and over again that herbal medicine practitioners have an exquisitely tuned sense of materia medica, as refined as our binomial system, and more useful. They not only recognize different species but know, for example, to harvest the inner root bark of a particular plant during a two-week period in order to extract useful medicine vs. poison -- that type of thing. Anthropologists look to intact indigenous societies to extrapolate how our ancestors might have engaged the world around them. There is no reason to believe that our ancestors could not have distinguished among species. 


List of Abbreviations
1 Inannas Huluppu Tree Pomegranates and Sexual Power
2 Pomegranate as Eves Apple
3 Mandrake the Love Apple and the Worlds Religions
4 Artemisia the Mother Herb
5 The Chaste Tree
6 Hermes Herbs Elixirs and Witches

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About the author (2010)

JOHN M. RIDDLE is Alumni Distinguished Professor emeritus of History at North Carolina State University, USA, where he holds appointments in the History and Botany departments.

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