Coca - Botanicals

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005


(Erythroxylon coca)

The coca plant is indigenous to Bolivia and Peru and has a long history of ritual and magical use there. Cocaine, the illegal stimulant, is a derivative of the coca plant; indigenous ritual incorporated the whole plant, not refined, concentrated derivatives. There is tremendous resentment among traditional ritualists for the way their sacred plant has been manipulated, corrupted, and politicized. However, controversies centering on coca began shortly after the arrival of Spanish Conquistadors.

Caution! Potentially poisonous and, depending upon where you are, most likely to be illegal!

Coca use was discouraged by the Spanish, not because of its addictive qualities but because chewing coca leaves was associated with heathen devotion to the “huacas,” the indigenous sacred shrines. The danger associated with coca was perceived as spiritual, not physical. Coca was a reminder of Peru’s pagan past that the Inquisition preferred to erase. For the Spanish Inquisition, coca was the plant most identified with Peruvian witches and organized opposition to the new religion and regime. However, wealthy mine-owners wished to encourage coca’s use so as to stimulate worker productivity. On October 18, 1569, a compromise was reached when King Phillip II urged priests to beware of the use of coca in witchcraft and superstition but to allow its use as medicine, especially as a stimulant to encourage the heavy forced labor imposed upon the Indians.

Coca leaves were used in Peruvian love magic, as offerings to the spirits, and as an ingredient of psychotropic brews. Coca’s international associations with magic and stimulation, rather than with addiction, still existed during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when power potions first became popular in the United States, including the one that bears its name, Coca Cola®.

In 1630, an edict against stargazers (astrologers) and witches was posted on all church doors in Peru. Among their crimes, witches were accused of using “certain drinks, herbs, and roots” including coca, San Pedro, and datura.