Friday, September 18, 2009

Go Ask Alice

("We had Psychedelia," M. says. "And what do they have now? Tweeting!")


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Albert Hoffman, 1906-2008

He will always be remembered for a certain bicycle ride: Albert Hoffman has died. He was the first chemist to synthesize LSD, in 1938.

MAPS has a tribute page up. Here are his obituaries from the Telegraph and from Gaia Media.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

The God with Many Eyes

The new issue of The Entheogen Review carries a piece by David Luke on cross-cultural encounters with a godlike being covered with a multitude of eyes. (Yes, Ezekiel's cherubim are one of the references.)

His article, "Disembodied Eyes Revisited: An Investigation into the Ontology of Entheogenic Entity Encounters," describes such encounters and descriptions from Jewish, Muslim, Tibetan, and non-traditional entheogenic experiences:

Then the multitudinous eyes of the being before me suddenly and quite deliberately blocked my curious consciousness's further explorations by mesmerizing me with its squirming, rhythmic eyeball hypnosis.

In Tibetan tradition, a multi-eyed being called Za functions as a "protector of the law," being a guardian deity on the borders of our world and the Other Side. Luke hints at a connection with Python the guardian of Delphi, mythologically slain by Apollo.

Searching trip reports at Erowid, he finds more similar reports, leading him to wander, "But is there anything that can be found in this wayward meandering through myth and visions that offers a case for the genuine reification of 'the other' encountered in psychedelic spaces on the far side of the psyche?"

Yes, it is the interpretatio graeca, saying that all these experiences are of the same deity / psychic structure / whatever. And why not? In applied polytheism, you start with your own experience.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Shroom the book, Shrooms the movie

Still on the entheogenic theme ...

Andy Letcher, author of Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom, lent his expertise to a horror film in this YouTube video:

I liked his book, so I suppose that publicity for it is a Good Thing.

Actually, Shrooms -- now on DVD appears to fall in the category of exploitation film, in the fine tradition of Reefer Madness.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Ayahuasca Diaries

Two articles on the entheogenic drink ayahuasca, one from National Geographic and one from The Los Angeles Times.

The second site requires registration: BugMeNot can give you a password.

It's definitely your old-school entheogen:

The concoction itself is said to taste so vile that most people fight their gag reflex to swallow it. Devotees liken the flavor to forest rot and bile, dirty socks and raw sewage. Vomiting is so common that indigenous shamans often refer to the ceremony as la purga, or the purge. And ayahuasca can severely test the commitment of its followers: The potion often reveals its celebrated wisdoms only after repeat encounters. The payoff, adherents say, can be life-altering. Debilitating illnesses such as chronic depression or addiction may disappear after just one session, some say. Others say they shed their egos for a night, finally seeing their lives with a startling clarity.

Behind all the publicity lies this Supreme Court decision.

(Via GetReligion)

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Cultural History of Magic Mushrooms

Andy Letcher's Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom is also on my to-buy list.'Shroom' by Andy Letcher

Much stranger than the fictions it has inspired, the world of the magic mushroom is a place where shamans and hippies rub shoulders with psychiatrists, poets and international bankers.

The magic mushroom was only rediscovered fifty years ago, but has accumulated all sorts of folktales and urban legends along the way. In this timely and definitive study, Andy Letcher strips away the myths to get at the true story of how hallucinogenic mushrooms, once shunned in the West as the most pernicious of poisons, came to be the illicit drug of choice.

It fits right in with this. But is "the laboratory" the best place to be having mystical experiences. At least the famous 1962 Good Friday Experiment used a chapel. "Set and setting," remember?


Sunday, July 04, 2004

Under the Spell of Sulis-3

Part 1 Part 2

RIGHT: Indigenous Avon skipper

The first evening of the consciousness conference ended with a cruise into the English rain forest, in the company of indigenous shamans. Our boat moved at a stately 5 knots or so down the dark and shimmering Avon, away from the town and into a green tunnel: the sinister Salix, the ghostly Umbellifereae. Techno/world music thumped in the main saloon in the indigenous dusk until, by a deserted mission station at the water's edge, our indigenous pilot swung the bow around, we returned through the ancient Weston lock, and glided back from the green tunnel into the stone walls of dreaming Bath.

In this video clip, the rain-forest cruise is leaving Bath, heading down the River Avon. Watch your head.

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Saturday, July 03, 2004

Under the Spell of Sulis-2

But before I could visit the temple of Minerva Sulis, there was the conference to attend. I arrived midway through the first day, 24 June, considerably jet-lagged, after a journey on two airplanes, two trains, and my feet.

Arriving at The Forum, a 1930s movie palace now home of the Bath City Church, I was a little perplexed by the church's name on the marquee. But the building looked right, and once inside, I knew.

For that weekend, the stage was decorated with potted Salvia divinorum, San Pedro cactus, morning glory, and other interesting plants--not quite the BCC style, I'm sure. But they fit with an auditorium full of psychonauts, astrologers, Pagans, and (mostly Pagan) academics.

We presenters really had only 20 minutes out of the allotted 30, once you subtract the introduction and the question-and-answer period. Some people (like me) still wrote out papers with citations, such for our own security, while knowing that we would have to condense them drastically.

My list of people whom I knew of but had never met included the grand couple of psychoactive chemistry, Alexander and Ann Shulgin, as well as two outstanding astrologers, Robert Hand from the US and Liz Greene from England, not to mention the two German ethnobotanists, Christian Raetsch and Claudia Mueller-Ebeling.

More to come. Meanwhile, some views of Bath.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Traditional Medicine versus Addiction

As long as I'm blogging the BBC, let me point out this story on the effectiveness of traditional therapy, including the use of entheogenic ("psychedelic") plants in a shamanic context to overcome drug addiction in Brazil.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Witchcraft Medicine

Witchcraft Medicine: Healing Arts, Shamanic Practices, and Forbidden Plants is a collaboration between three German anthropologists: Claudia M =üller-Ebeling, Christian Rätch, and Wolf-Dieter Storl. I ordered it because I'll read anything that R�tsch has written, and, unfortunately, not enough of his work has been translated from German to English. (The translator here is Annabel Lee, whose work also appears in the journal Tyr -- see the October 18 entry.

The book is more a study of cultural transformation using texts and art work. The three "explore the demonization of nature's healing powers and sensuousness, the legacy of Hecate, the sorceress as shaman, and the plants associated with witches," to quote the back-cover blurb.

This book is more historical than hands-on; from a practitioner's position, I would rank it behind Dale Pendell's work. But it's still fascinating and inspiring.

One warning: don't trust anthropologists making etymological arguments. "Cathar" (the heretics) does not derive from the German word for "tomcat." (Storl gets it right: it's from the Greek word for "pure.") Nor does Boogie-Woogie, I will bet, derive from the same Indo-European root as the Russian Bog, "god."

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Sunday, April 06, 2003

Pokemon the Pagan

Here is a scholarly controversy that I had been unware of: whether there is a conflict between the teachings of Wicca and of Pokemon. That assumes that Pokemon has "teachings," of course.

Meanwhile, getting ready for a workshop on traditional European entheogens next summer, I'm enjoying revisting Eliot Cowan's Plant Spirit Medicine.

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