Bwiti religion of Gabon - sacred plants

Eboka (
17 Jan 1997 17:49:36 GMT

Bwiti: An Ethnography of the Religious Imagination in Africa
James W. Fernandez
Princeton University Press,1982
Chapter 18, (

Howard S. Lotsof (

Bwiti: An Ethnography of the Religious Imagination in Africa by James W.
Fernandez is a magnificent scholarly study of the Bwiti religion of the
Fang people of Gabon. The work represents a two year study by Fernandez
and his wife, Renate L. Fernandez in the Bwiti Chapels of Gabon in West
Central Africa. Chapter 18 provides the most specific information
relating to the actual experience induced by the Ibogaine containing plant
Tabernanthe iboga, referenced either as iboga or eboga in the book.

The chapter is particularly interesting as it allows a comparison of
effects between the experience of persons who were treated for chemical
dependence to opiates and cocaine with purified Ibogaine and the
experience of the Fang Bwiti in the equatorial forests of Gabon. Examples
of the non-African experience can be read in "Ibogaine in the Treatment of
Chemical Dependence: Clinical Perspectives", Lotsof, Bull. MAPS
V(3):16-27 as well as, in "Reflections on an Ibogaine Experience" by
Geerte Frenken.

The Fang sect of Bwiti represents a group within the Bwiti religion
influenced by their European missionary experience whereas the Mitsogho
Bwiti shows influence to a greater degree by the Bieri ancestor cult. The
Fang allow the initiation of women and Europeans where the Mitsogho only
allow the initiation of African men. A review of the Mitsogho Bwiti is
found in the section by Otto Gollnhofer and Roger Sillans in
"Pharmacodynamics and Therapeutic Applications of Iboga and Ibogaine",
Goutarel, Gollnhofer, Sillans, Psychedelic Monographs and Essays, 71-111,

The Bwiti experience as described by Fernandez is immediately transferable
to the experience of the persons treated for heroin and cocaine dependence
in the psychodynamics of the experience and in the general understanding
provided in both cases that relate to an individuals place in society and
in their world view. The expertise of the Nganga ("doctor", person
powerful in the knowledge of hidden things) in Bwiti chapels is
translatable to the skills of the medical and psychiatric specialists
using Ibogaine in hospitals in Europe and the Americas for
substance-related disorders

I strongly suggest that persons having an interest in religion, African
religion or Ibogaine obtain a copy of the Fernandez book and get ready for
a long comfortable read.

All cited references may be accessed from
( or U.S. mirror