women in the history of psychedelic plant medicines

Please join us in celebrating 25 weeks of acknowledging the diverse and significant ways that women have participated in shaping our knowledge about psychedelics. Our original objective in this series was to highlight some of the overlooked, or under-acknowledged contributions.

We have learned about early participants, and key figures and confidantes, whose influences have been crucial. But our contributors have also opened new avenues of study. The response has been creative, diverse, and points to a rich set of contributions that intersect with a wide variety of topics: ethnobotany, music therapy, sexuality, reproductive justice, anthropology, Christianity, death and dying, philosophy, nursing, and psychiatry, to name a few. Our contributors are also impressive – new scholars and students, established figures in psychedelic circles, and leading scholars in histories beyond psychedelics. We hope you are enjoying this series, and look forward to future posts.

Five Highlights of the Series

1. “Women’s Historical Influence on ‘Set and Setting’

Set and Setting Artwork. A femme figure sits on a couch. By Karina Alvarez

French PhD candidate Zoë Dubus examines the groundbreaking work of Joyce Martin, Margot Cutner, and Betty Eisner. She reveals a little-known network of women who exchanged tips and strategies for optimizing the set and setting. Beyond treating women too, Dubus shows how these women recognized gendered barriers both in the profession as well as in how women responded to treatment. Her post also reminds us that psychedelic networks crossed the Atlantic, exchanging ideas and techniques, especially those that did not fit neatly into orthodox practices.

Sacred Plants in the Americas II: Global Psychedelic Summit; April 23-25, 2021

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2. “How Music Therapists Helped Build Psychedelic Therapy

music psychedelic therapy

Musicologist and post-doctoral fellow Steve Lett reminds us of how important musical selections were in establishing the set and setting for psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. Some of the major figures behind these scenes were women like Hermina Browne and Helen Bonny who challenged their male counterparts in how they applied music to the therapeutic setting. Pioneering music therapists in their own right, these women made critical interventions by theorizing and altering the way that music was incorporated and valued as a key ingredient in a successful psychedelic session.

3. “Abortion, Plants, & Whispered Networks of Botanical Knowledge

A femme figure with psychedelic plants growing from her head against a pink background representing psychedelic medicine.

American Historian Naomi Rendina reminds us of some of the sacrifices women have made in order to protect sacred plant knowledge. In her analysis of psychedelic plant medicines and reproductive health, Rendina explores a world of whisper networks, where women concealed information and protected plant knowledge, perhaps as an act of feminism, but also in a act of self protection against unwanted pregnancies. She reminds us that these knowledge networks are not simply remnants of the past, but women’s access to reproductive health services are routinely under threat, whether through Supreme Court challenges or more basic concerns of access in times of need.

4. “Another Aspect of Reality: Maria Nys Huxley’s Influence on Psychedelic History” + “‘Please Write Up Your Work!’: Laura Archera Huxley as a Psychedelic Pioneer

A psychedelic artistic portrait of Maria Nys Huxley.

Andrea Ens, a PhD student at Purdue University looks at the women beside the famous Aldous Huxley. For many of us, Aldous Huxley is a god-father figure in the history of psychedelics, but Ens points out that his work, inspiration, and breadth owes a lot to wives – first Maria Nys (1899-1955) and then Laura Archera (1911-2007). In distinctive ways, these women introduced Aldous to new ideas and people who explored the fringes of conventional ideas, including parapsychology, and psychics. Maria played a comparatively more traditional role, as wife, mother, and support system to the career writer. After nursing her through her terminal cancer, Aldous remarried a close family friend – Laura Archera – who continued to expand their network of friends and sources of inspiration. Taken together, these posts help to remind us of the value of conversations, inspirations, and integrations behind the scenes.

Indigenous Reciprocity Initiative of the Americas

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5. “Acid and Orgasms: Why LSD Failed to Sexually Liberate Women

Psychedelic art representing female orgasm while on lsd

Professor of law, Alex Dymock provocatively asks whether LSD was a sex drug for women? Beyond the lurid stories of abuse, Dymock shows us that at times, women enjoyed sex on acid, and shared their stories in published works. But despite the hype of the 1960s as a period for sexual revolutions, sexuality for physicians and many readers remained stuck in hetero-normative categories, leaving questions of sexual dysfunction and apprehension open to medicalization.

Read these and so many more in the series… and tune in each Wednesday for a new post!

We are still accepting submissions. If you have an idea for a post, please contact [email protected].

Art by Marialba Quesada, Karina Alvarez, and Mariom Luna.

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Wednesday, June 9th, 2021 from 12-1:30pm PST REGISTER FOR THIS EVENT HERE There is growing enthusiasm in Jewish communities about possible ancient use and modern applications of plant medicine in Jewish spiritual development.  Psychedelic Judaism introduce new potential modes of  healing...