Ploughing the Clouds: The Search for Irish Soma

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9780872863262: Ploughing the Clouds: The Search for Irish Soma

The Rig Veda, written in India about 1500BC, praises a holy plant called Soma, which is sacrificed and consumed, granting the drinker an experience of enlightenment and ecstasy. The late Gordon Wasson identified Soma as a "magic mushroom," Amanita muscaria, and he and his followers discovered that such Indo-Europeans as the ancient Greeks, Iranians, and Norse had also used a Soma-type plant.

In Ploughing the Clouds Peter Lamborn Wilson investigates the probability of a Soma cult in ancient Ireland, tracing clues in Irish (and other Celtic) lore. By comparing Celtic folktales, romances, epics and topographic lore with the Rig Veda, he uncovers the Irish branch of the great Indo-European tradition of psychedelic (or "entheogenic") shamanism, and even reconstructs some of its secret rituals. He uses this comparative material to illuminate the deep meaning of the Soma-function in all cultures: the entheogenic origin of "poetic frenzy," the link between intoxication and inspiration.

"[Ploughing the Clouds is the best of its kind since Robert Graves's The White Goddess." Dale Pendell, author of Pharmako/poeia: Plant Powers, Poisons and Herbcraft

"[This book] brings new perspectives to the problem of Soma and broadens and deepens the context of its discussion. Information on possible Celtic relationships with psychoactive plants and fungi are most welcome." Terence McKenna

"Wilson uses his considerable research to explain and interpret the Indian soma ritual, and to imagine the Irish one. . . . His convoluted analyses, freighted with academic prose, will appeal chiefly to serious students of comparative religion, folklore and myth, ancient history or drug use." —Publishers Weekly

"Wilson is a literary genius who possesses both an extensive knowledge of the literature of folklore, myth, and religion unorthodox Islam being his specialty and an original, unconventional, and penetrating intellect. His ideas and hypotheses are both reasonable and wild; as an author he displays a thorough knowledge of classic literature but puts forth revolutionary thoughts. His presentation is intelligent, sophisticated and at times his prose swells into poetic reverie. Often it seems that Wilson could elaborate on numerous juicy topics but is forced to merely mention these tangents and move on so as to not overwhelm the reader. Thankfully he does offer leads bibliographic, branches of philosophy, and so on for readers to pursue the various subjects he touches upon." —Justin Case, The Erowid Review

Peter Lamborn Wilson is a scholar, critic, poet, and visionary best known for Sacred Drift: Essays on the Margins of Islam, also published by City Lights Publishers, and his radio commentaries on WBAI New York.


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From Publishers Weekly:

Ancient India's collection of sacred hymns, the Rig Veda (circa 1500 B.C.), describes the ritual use of a plant called soma; whoever drinks it "becomes a kind of god, exalted to a visionary state." Combing Celtic folktales, myths and epics, and drawing parallels between Irish gods, heroes, seers, dragon-slayers and shape-shifters, and those of the Rig Veda, Wilson (Sacred Drift: Essays on the Margins of Islam) attempts to show that ancient Ireland, like Vedic India, had a psychedelic soma cult. Irish soma, Wilson believes, could have been a Psilocybe mushroom or Amanita muscaria, the mushroom identified as India's soma in Gordon Wasson's controversial Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality (1968). Wilson uses his considerable research to explain and interpret the Indian soma ritual, and to imagine the Irish one, maintaining, for example, that Beltane (May Day) and the summer solstice were important in the Celtic soma ritual. All this is not so far-fetched as it might sound?many prehistorians believe that an Indo-European people branched out from central or northeast Eurasia to become Indians, Greeks, Iranians, Celts, Norse, Russians. Yet the parallels that Wilson delineates between Irish lore and the Vedic hymns often seem strained and tenuous. His convoluted analyses, freighted with academic prose, will appeal chiefly to serious students of comparative religion, folklore and myth, ancient history or drug use. For all his anthropological armature, Wilson makes his agenda clear: soma in Ireland, India and elsewhere "was repressed [by] religion and society based on rigid hierarchy... nothing is more democratic than" soma, "the entheogen, the god within"?and Wilson therefore hopes for a "revival of ceremonial entheogenism [psychedelic plant use] in the modern world." 20 pages of illustrations not seen by PW.
- in the modern world." 20 pages of illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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