Leshoma, the visionary plant of southern Africa

The bulbaceous plant Boophone disticha – known mainly by the term leshoma given by the Sotho ethnic group – is characterized by powerful hallucinogenic properties and is used as initiatory and divinatory plant among many southern African ethynes. Once known as the main compound of San arrow poisons, its psychoactive properties have been recognized by Western scholars only in the last 50 years, since its ritual use was and follow to be strictly kept secret. Through the analysis of the few ancient and modern ethnographic observations that have been able to bypass the wall of secrecy that envelop the use of this plant, the Sotho male initiation rite (lebollô la banna) and the use of the plant as divinatory “bioscope ” among the South African sangoma (healers) are described. As evidenced by archaeological findings, man’s relationship with this plant has lasted for at least 2000 years.