Ploughing the Clouds: The Search for Irish Soma

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City Lights Books, 1999 - History - 150 pages

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.

InPloughing 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'sThe White Goddess." --Dale Pendell, author ofPharmako/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 itseems 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 forSacred 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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Bright and informative, inter-woven with poetry, the language of soma and it's wide reaching linguistic myth legends explored.


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About the author (1999)

Peter Lamborn Wilson, scholar, critic, poet, and visionary best known for Sacred Drift: Essays on the Margins of Islam (City Lights) and his radio commentaries on WBAI New York, offers a fascinating study on the use of psychoactive plants in ancient Ireland in Ploughing the Clouds: The Search for Irish Soma.

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