Forests: MARK PLOTKIN: In Search Of The Shamans' Vanishing Wisdom


The old shaman placed a bamboo shoot filled with hallucinogenic snuff against Mark Plotkin's left nostril and blew into the tube. Plotkin's head snapped back, he recalls, as if he "had been hit with a war club." Little men began dancing before his eyes. He asked the shaman who they were. "They are the hekuri," the wise man replied, "the spirits of the forest."

That was 1987, and Plotkin was deep in a Venezuelan rain forest. Then director of plant conservation for the World Wildlife Fund, he had heard of a hallucinogen used by Yanomamo medicine men. Made from the leaves,...

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