Written in 1860, 'The Seven Sisters of Sleep' is a groundbreaking survey of the use of the seven most popular plants of the Victorian era: tobacco, opium, cannabis, betel nut, coca, datura, and fly agaric. The author's wide knowledge of scientific, historic, and artistic literature on the subject and his ability to present this information in an entertaining style has made this the classic exploration of drug use througout history. It also provides an excellent view of some of the draconian but fruitless attempts to suppress the practise: Early users of tobacco in Russia would have their nose cut off and repeat offenders their heads. Pope Innocent XII excommunicated any who used it in St. Peters. Marijuana users in fourteenth-century Egypt would have their teeth extracted for the crime. Yet users of these and other forbidden substances continued to grow.
If only as a record of the perennial failure of harsh punishments to deter drug use, 'The Seven Sisters of Sleep' would remain significant. But Mordecai Cooke's natural humor and keen insights have ensured this work's reputation as possibly the best early work from what has grown into an enormous body of literature on mind- and mood-altering substances. Written at a time , similar to our own, when drug use was being reconsidered, the book's thought -provoking and open-minded perspective has much to teach us. Quite popular in its day and a major influence on Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland', this is an important book for anyone interested in an unbiased account of humanity's long involvement with psychoactive, hallucinogenic, and stimulant plants.
Mordecai Cooke (1825-1915) was an eminent naturalist, mycologist, and teacher. In addition to 'The Seven Sisters of Sleep' he published many scientific studies on mushrooms.
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