most attentive conservationists of our time. VINE OF THE SOUL features a preface by National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis, a foreword by former director of the Royal Botanical Gardens (at Kew, England) Sir Ghillean Prance, and an epilogue by Director of the Institute of Economic Botany (at the NY Botanical Gardens) Michael Balick. VINE OF THE SOUL is a collection of essays and photographs (more than 160) depicting life in the Amazon rainforest during the years that Schultes lived there. While Schultes, who proved to have a great eye for lighting, composition and subject matter, took the photos himself, the essays are co-authored by botanist extraordinaire Robert F. Raffauf. As plants are a priority for the indigenous peoples of the rainforest just as they are for Schultes and Raffauf plants and the people who use them (particularly medicine men, or payés) constitute much of the subject matter. Schultes learned a great deal from his indigenous mentors; he collected more than 20,000 specimens, discovered some 300 species new to science, and chronicled more than 2000 medicinal plants which are in use (many of them saving lives) in the pharmaceutical world today. But he also learned something more. For the indigenous people, plants are not only for healing but also and perhaps more importantly for leaving behind the ordinary world and connecting to the spiritual world. Vine of the Soul, in fact, is a translation for Ayahuasaca, the preferred sacred plant for most payés and the one most likely to link them to their mystical past.
When a payé returns from this kind of excursion, he brings back with him information that is useful for his tribe: everything from plant prescriptions to information on births and deaths to choice building sites, to messages from ancestors. And while the payé is generally the only one to enter the supernatural world at this level, trancelike states induced with less potent plants provide more ordinary folk with spiritual access as well. In addition to their spellbinding relationship with plants, we learn about the myths, arts, dances, festivals, jewelry, clothing and social habits of the many tribes that Schultes (who had learned seven indigenous languages by the time he left) encountered. The book, which is a companion title to WHERE THE GODS REIGN is destined to be remain the most consequential work on this subject matter.