Antonella Fagetti
México -
December 24, 2022

A sacred plant has something to tell you

What are sacred plants, Who consumes them, and where? What are they used for? Are all their uses sacred?

In the first episode of the second season of ‘Jardines y Laberintos’, we talk to Antonella Fagetti, professor and researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities of the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla. Since 2002, Fagetti has developed several projects on traditional medicine and shamanism and has published books and articles on these topics: the volume Shamanic Initiations. Los sueños y el trance en el devenir del chamán (Siglo XXI Editores, 2015). She is also the director of the documentary Chamanes: una tetralogía sobre el chamanismo en México (2007) and co-director with Otila María Caballero of the documentary La iniciación del Haaco Cama. El Shamanismo Comcaac (2015). 

The Mexican researcher explained that the sacred character of plants such as peyote -used by several peoples of northern Mexico- has to do with the fact that they allow the revelation of divine entities. “In the 1980s, a term was coined to name these plants: ‘entheogen,’ to reveal the god within. It was proposed by a group of scientists to distinguish it from terms like ‘psychedelic’ or ‘psychotomimetic,’ and to highlight the role of plants in revealing god.”

Fagetti also explained that using sacred plants in the traditional medicine of Latin American indigenous peoples has “an exact purpose: for example, to obtain an answer to something that worries the person or makes them sick.” However, these uses began to be lost with the continent’s colonization: the European presence had “two effects on the use of sacred plants: one, that many peoples abandoned these practices, and the other, that many peoples hid them.”

The anthropologist stresses, however, that the beneficial effects of these plants justify their use in other contexts. “There is talk of a spiritual component that we all have: we can think not so much if we have a spirit, but we have emotions and spirituality. Traditional medicine can bring us closer to this part of our being.” For this reason, Fagetti considers that “we should all have access to them. But we must regulate their use and know their ritual uses very well. They are plants that can cure you but also harm you if they are not used with all the caution required. That is why it is essential to turn to the experts.