Psychoactive plants and southern African hunter-gatherers: a review of the evidence
It is widely accepted that Bushman shamans enter into altered states of consciousness and that their experiences of such states are intimately bound up with the imagery represented in southern African rock art. Most accounts of contemporary trance performances by Kalahari Bushmen emphasise that such states are attained in ways that exclude the use of psychoactive plants. This paper reviews the relevant anthropological, ethnohistoric and archaeological literature to argue, on the contrary, that psychoactive plants may sometimes be employed by Kalahari healers at present and that they may also have been used among more southerly hunter-gatherers at times in the past. The paper concludes by suggesting ways in which future research on this topic might be developed.
To cite this article: Mitchell, P. & Hudson, A. 2004. Psychoactive plants and southern African hunter-gatherers: a review of the evidence. Southern African Humanities 16: 39-57.