A sprawling, splendid conclusion to this must-have trilogy. With all the plants and substances broadly termed “psychedelic” covered here, it’s inevitable that this part of Pendell’s immersive study pushes his fragmentary, elliptical style to its limits. At the same time (and again, typical of the allies at work here), hidden harmonies grow strong. Practical magic, mythological studies, and miscellaneous snapshots of visionary experience bolster the copious botanical and pharmacological information, arming the would-be poisoner with as fair an array of tools for exploration as any book could offer.
Of particular note is the extensive study of the phenomenon of the “evil eye”. Branching out from the consideration of Peganum harmala (widely used in Persia to ward off the evil eye), Pendell hones in on this psychic dynamic’s specificity to Indo-European and Semite cultures. Just as the histories of cocoa, coffee, opium and tea in other Pharmako volumes furnished us with vital perspectives on modern Western civilization, the mythological mechanics of envy, and its relationship to the dragon-slaying myths, here provide essential cultural grounding for students following Pendell’s leads into the world of magic and healing. As a Westerner writing for Westerners, Pendell delivers well in orienting us within the Big Picture.
The final coda, a seriously whimsical analysis of psychedelic paranoia through the endarkenment of the Holy Fool, is some heavily piquant icing on a thoroughly delicious cake.