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Sage Spirit: Salvia Divinorum and the Entheogenic Experience
by Martin W. Ball
Publisher:
Kyandara Publishing 
Year:
2007 
ISBN:
9780615157085 
Categories:
Book Reviews
Reviewed by David Arnson, 5/28/2009

Martin Ball’s Sage Spirit: Salvia Divinorum and the Entheogenic Experience is a milestone, both for shamanic and entheogenic circles. The book explores the use of Salvia divinorum extracts in the author’s contemporary shamanic practices, and serves as a practical guide for creating one’s own ritual Salvia journeys.

Prevailing attitudes regarding Salvia extracts often suggest that their effects are too bizarre and discomforting to be useful as sacramental tools. Undeterred by such nay-sayers, the author has courageously and systematically established a new approach for the modern shaman.

I first saw mention of Martin Ball in the pages of Shaman’s Drum magazine. Ball originally studied with the Arapahoe and Apache tribes in New Mexico, as a student of native culture. Though neither tribe uses entheogens, Ball has been able to draw upon this past experience and training, grounding his personal shamanistic approach with a knowledge of established ceremonial practices.

Much of the book is comprised of journal-style descriptions of the author’s Salvia voyages: from his first experience at Burning Man, to the later development of his ritual approaches. At various times, Ball uses rattling, singing, didjeridoo, and drumming to facilitate a workable shamanic space. His most intriguing results, however, come from the combination of a rattle and his own take on Tuvan-style throat singing. His descriptions of the effect of sonic variations while journeying are compelling and beg further investigation.

Ball has also written some fantasy fiction over the past few years that has clearly been inspired by his entheogenic experiences. He incorporates a few passages from these writings to flesh out some of his ideas, and to draw analogies between the realms of the mythic and the realms of altered mind states. This is a novel (pardon the pun) approach, and it works pretty well, depending on your tolerance for mystical fiction.

The book concludes with a short section providing thoughtful guidelines on how to conduct a Salvia ceremony, mixing common sense advice with not-always-apparent truisms (for example, just because someone has opened his eyes, doesn’t necessarily mean that he is “finished” with his experience). Some good tips related to understanding the dynamics between participants and a group leader are also described.

I really enjoyed this book, and extracted a number of usable concepts from it. Ball’s last book, Mushroom Wisdom, was a little too “Metaphysics 101” (“You will notice patterns in everything”) for an entheo-geek like me. But he has definitely covered previously unwritten ground in his discussion of Salvia divinorum. This is a significant contribution, which helps flesh out Terence McKenna’s oft-repeated urgings for us all to “map out hyperspace.” I applaud the many authors who have braved the seas of the ineffable, sharing their personal insights through the written word. Along with old school names such as Tim Leary, Terence McKenna, and the Shulgins, as well as the latest flavors like Zoe Seven, Daniel Pinchbeck, and Oroc, we can now add Martin Ball. With all the easy talk of entheogenic shamanism this past decade or so, Ball steps up to the plate and provides concrete examples and structures to work with.

Originally Published In : The Entheogen Review
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