Sacred Weeds


Sacred Weeds was a four part television series of 50 minute documentaries investigating the cultural impact of psychoactive plants on a broad array of early civilisations.

The series was filmed at Hammerwood Park by the producer, Sarah Marris, and her production company TVF. It was broadcast in the summer of 1998 on Channel 4, a British television network.

Part one: The Fly Agaric Mushroom scientists: Michael Carmichael, ethnobotanist
Dr Cosmo Hollstrom, psychiatrist and lecturer at Imperial College
Dr Joanna Iddon, from CeNeS Cognition
volunteers: Ed Turpin, Johnny Green

Part two: Salvia Divinorum
scientists: Dr Fran├žoise Barbira-Freedman, medical anthropologist and lecturer at the University of Cambridge
Dr Tim Kendall, psychiatrist and director of the Centre for Psychotherapeutic Studies
Dr Jon Robbins, pharmacologist at King's College London
volunteers: Daniel Siebert, Sean Thomas

Part three: Henbane the witches brew?
scientists: Paul Devereux, author and researcher of the cultural importance of hallucinogenic plants
Dr Diane Purkiss, historian and lecturer at the University of Reading
Dr Elizabeth Williamson, from the University of London's School of Pharmacy
volunteers: Paul Rousseau, Jim Boyd

Part four: The Blue Lily flower power?
scientists: Michael Carmichael, ethnobotanist
Prof. Alan Lloyd, Egyptologist and chairman of the Egypt Exploration Society
Dr Susan Duty, pharmacologist at King's College London
volunteers: Robert Barnes, Marie McCartney

The series ended with the investigation of the psychoactive effects of the Blue Lily (Nymphaea caerulea), a sacred plant in ancient Egypt. Michael Carmichael suggested that the psychoactive effects of the blue lily and other psychoactive plants established a new foundation for understanding the origins of philosophy and religion in ancient Egypt. Alan Lloyd, the ranking took a more cautious approach. After witnessing the effects of the plant in two volunteers, all parties agreed that it was a psychoactive plant.

Sherratt accepted the new paradigm for the origins of ancient philosophy and religion in his summation of the series.
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