Ecstasy as Aphrodisiac

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The party pills known as ecstasy among those who partake are characterized as a "love drug" in the media. The popular name "ecstasy" is based on the emotional effects of the synthetic drug. Experiences with the overwhelming, emotionally open effects adn its rapid transience led to a popular guiding principle: "Marry no one shortly after an experience with ecstasy."

"Ecstasy" is not a concrete description for a chemically specific differentiated substance. It is a collective name for psychoactive materials (MDMA and other love drugs) that induce ecstatic experiences, whether at a rave or other event, or in an intimate situation (cf. recreational drugs). Relevant information about the chemistry, history, and popularization of this phenylethylamine can be read under MDMA.

Cultural Meaning
The Greek word ekstasis means "to step outside of oneself." The word originally described another state of consciousness, in which teh spirit steps out of the body and experiences other, extraordinary realities. In religion, mysticism, and literature, changed or expanded states of mind are characterized as God intoxication, godly madness, posession, mystical union, enlightenment, samadhi, nirvana bliss, or ecstasy (cf. Goodmann 1989, Lewis 1979 and 1989).

Ecstasy can occur spontaneously as a result of the love of a cherished person, sexual union, the surrender to a belief (religion), the ecstatic appreciation of the beauty of nature or a work of art, or through intensive absorption into an object of personal interest. It can also be purposely induced via certain techniques (meditation, yoga, physical activities such as sports, sensory deprivation, sensory overload, or the use of substances that can alter consciousness.) Ecstasy can also occur involuntarily and unintentionally in the form of mania, the inebriated state of madness (Danieloi 1992, Evans 1988, Giani 1994). The experience of ecstasy can occur whenever a person moves away from the events of their normal, everyday life.

Throughout history, multiple ecstasy cults have offered ecstatic experiences based on ritual and socially accepted customs (Saunders et al, 2000). These have included Vedic soma rituals, ancient mysteries (cf. wine), Meso-American magic mushroom cults, and full-moon rituals, as well as the West African Bwiti cult (iboga). African, West Indian, and Brazilian voodoo as well as tantra or tao sexual magic are relived today in esoteric circles and adapted to modern demands.

The Austrailian director Baz Luhrmann (of the film Moulin Rouge; cf. absinthe) staged Shakespeare's original text in a modern setting in his acclaimed film. William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1996). The following scene is in the movie: As young Romeo prepares to attend the party at the home of the opposing family, he takes an ecstasy pill. He is overwhelmed with love feelings as he approaches the daughter of the house Julia. The fatal love-ecstasy develops as we know it. Luhrmann's vision is reflected clearly through the cultural significance of the love drug, summed up in our modern society with the name ecstasy. It also brings to mind a truth known even in Shakespeare's time: an ecstatic love experience can provoke the crossing of boundaries, love demolishes societal conventions.

Text: The Encyclopaedia of Aphrodisiacs: Psychoactive Substances For Use In Sexual Practices. Christian Ratsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling, 2003.


irvine welsh, ecstacy