Ways of Seeing Tobacco in Cultures, Past and Present

Lecture | August 10 | 1-4 p.m. |  Hearst Museum of Anthropology | Canceled

 Kathleen Harrison, Botanical Dimensions

 Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology

Explore the historical, cultural, spiritual and protective aspects of this complex plant teacher from various traditions around the world.

Domesticated from the wild by indigenous people of South America, tobacco has been a sacred tool for native people for millennia. In the animist view, tobacco may be both powerful prayer medicine and a very tricky spirit being. Tobacco use took the European colonizers by storm when they discovered it in the Americas in the early 1500s, after which it swept around the world. We are still vacillating in that confusion — foul taboo or sacred ally? Let’s look at various tobacco species and their traditional roles, myths and powers. Weigh personal and cultural experience, trying out different ways of thinking about this complex presence in our collective lives. Ethnobotanist Kathleen Harrison has a long and thoughtful relationship to Nicotiana species, based on her fieldwork with native peoples and her personal explorations of plants on the edge of acceptability.

Kathleen Harrison, M.A., is an ethnobotanist and educator, who has been doing fieldwork among indigenous cultures, and amidst West Coast subcultures, since the 1970s. She specializes in studies of plants and fungi that are used in ritual, healing, art, and story. Kat is well known for her work with traditional psychoactive species and their lore. She directs the Ethnobotany Library in Occidental, CA, as the hub of the non-profit organization, Botanical Dimensions, which she co-founded in 1985. She teaches classes there, and internationally, on a wide range of topics that pattern traditional and evolving contemporary relations between plants, fungi and humans. www.botanicaldimensions.org


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