These four classic masterpieces of esoteric research by the noted orientalist N. M. Penzer explore customs and traditions from other cultures and ... Show synopsis These four classic masterpieces of esoteric research by the noted orientalist N. M. Penzer explore customs and traditions from other cultures and periods of history, which, for all their apparent strangeness, mask fundamental subjects of continuing interest. The first concerns the motif of the poison damsel - the beauty who dealt death in many forms to her admirers -- which originated in India, was prevalent in medieval Europe, and persists today in the belief of the femme fatale. Her nature is examined and dissected, the methods of her work are described, and the explanations for her creation are considered in detail. The volume includes a study of the ancient "Tale of Two Thieves" and essays on sacred prostitution in India, the ancient East, and West Africa, as well as an exhaustive treatment of the custom of chewing the betel or areca nut which is widespread in the far East from India through Indonesia to New Guinea. A natural stimulant and narcotic whose effects are similar to that of tobacco, betel is of growing interest to the medical world, and has, as the author shows here, a rich legacy of customs and beliefs. This volume offers fascinating insights into the more exotic areas of academic research that are rarely traveled today.