American History01 Oct 2007 11:36 am
A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on American History, will be available online and in stores on October 16. (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As the release date approaches, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from that book. Today’s entry on “Tobacco” draws from the “Business” section of the American History edition.
When sailors on Christopher Columbus’ ships brought tobacco back to Europe, they established a habit that is still wildly popular today: the recreational smoking of dried tobacco leaves. The Native Americans from whom they supposedly picked up the habit would have been puzzled. For them, tobacco was not a drug they regularly ingested in small quantities; it was a hallucinogen they ingested in extremely large quantities, and on extremely rare occasions.
Tobacco was an important element in Native American rituals. Under the direction of tribal elders and medicine men, Native Americans would ingest large amounts of tobacco as a form of prayer, as an offering to gods or deceased ancestors, or as part of a more mundane ritual. As it happens, though, the “Old World” habit has made its way onto Indian reservations, where smoking is extremely wide-spread today. The ancient ceremonies, on the other hand, are slowly dying away.