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PSYCHEDELIC SHAMANISM: SHAMANIST SACRED PLANTS TO EXPERIENCE THE 5TH DIMENSION
Onur Oral Istanbul, dd, mm, yyyy
This paper will discuss about the plants, which were acknowledged as sacred by shaman and used as a ritual to heal people, which activates minds to experience phenomenal consciousness circumstances. Primary source is Jim DeKorne’s “Psychedelic Shamanism” which developed the essential of this writing, the researches by Terence McKenna, articles from anthropologists and historians, the qualified experts who innovated by researches into the specific topic, and some of shamanist expressions, scientific and personal researches.
According to shamanism, sacred plants, which are cause visions and hallucination, have been in use by shamans all over the world. Shamans use those sacred plants in rituals as a tool to communicate with souls and God, also to experience the greater good and the truth beyond this life. Sacred plants are gates to the extraordinary and mesmeric space. Ritual use of hallucinatory plants is neither relaxing nor joyful but it is converter. Person who tries those visual investigations are not purpose to escape to the dreamland. The only purpose could be to learn, to see and to experience.
First, the Shamanism and Shamans and a critical aspect of judging system about the usage of psychedelic plants will be described by comparing the laws. Secondly, the relation between psychoactive plants and the nature will be explained with the help of Terence McKenna quotations. After giving some information about the risks of the usage of psychedelic plants and drugs, I will define and describe astral projection, which is denied by science. Lastly, and most importantly, I will describe the usage of some specific plants by giving their history of shamanist usage, visual representation and their shamanist expressions.
This paper will conclude with the psychological and philosophical signs that appears to the individual for using shamanist plants.
Keywords: Shamanism, hallucinatory plants, shamanist psychedelic drugs
AN INTRODUCTION TO SHAMANISM Shaman is originally a Siberian word. Shaman, in the Tungus language, is a person who beats a drum, enters into trance, and cures people. According to Claude Levi-Strauss, who is a French anthropologist, the shaman is a kind of psychotherapist; a creator of order who cures people by turning their incoherent and arbitrary pains into an ordered and intelligible form. (Kelch 2004). There are lots of other opinions and views about shamans and shamanism, like Mircea Eliade’s simplest definition of shamanism is the technique of ecstasy and shamans are medicine men.
"In shamanism there is ultimately no distinction between helping others and helping yourself. By helping others shamanically, one becomes more powerful, self-fulfilled and joyous. Shamanism goes far beyond a primary self-concerned transcendence of ordinary reality. It is transcendence for a broader purpose, the helping of human-kind. The enlightenment of shamanism is the ability to light up what others perceive as darkness, and thereby to see and to journey on behalf of a humanity that is perilously close to losing its spiritual connectedness with all its relatives, the plants and animals of this good Earth."1 (Harner 1980)
M. Harner (1980). The Way of the Shaman, Harper & Row, San Francisco, p. 139.
Figure 1: Wayana shaman from the village of Tepu in southern Suriname. If the history confirms that shamanist expressions lead the science and medicine, including the ban of research about the effectiveness of hallucinogenic plants to human mind, the laws against of those plants are because of the fear of the new truce and true model. More clearly, if hallucinatory examples were taken seriously, humankind would need to change the whole lifestyle. Hallucinatory drugs do not make you to see, to hear, or to think something is not really there, those drugs make you to realize the unidentified truth that sense organs cannot verify. From the first civilization to today, humankind made a life structure for themselves to have the control of living, or a group of people. It is not possible to imagine something more revolutionary and dangerous. The fear of the new truce made and force people to be forbid and ban those plants, but also it clearly proves illogicality of humankind. “In USA, while the average punishment of murder is about 6.5 years, owning 700 marijuana plants would cause 8 years without conditional
discharge.”2 (Potterton 1992) Authorized people who allows those complicated, confusing and unsupported value system, are disconnected from reality.
SHAMANISM AND NATURE Shamanist cultures are always represents themselves as what we call as “spread minds”. Even if the common opinion is described as primitive, those tribal societies adopted some insights. They never separate themselves from nature, and mostly shamans share their wisdom with the insights of hallucinogenic plants. “Nature is not our enemy to conquer or to destroy. Nature is our-selves to acknowledge as sacred and to discover. Shamanism always knew that, and in its unique expressions always mention about the need of allied. That allied is hallucinogenic plants and mysterious didactic circumstances that people deny.”3 (T. McKenna, Food of the Gods 1992)
In other words, the use of psychedelics, plant-based entheogens, and subjects ranging from shamanism would help humankind to understand what is really happening to the virgin nature, and how humankind affects nature. “We are tearing the earth to pieces, we are spewing out toxins – and the entire planet is reacting. Psychedelics are going to play a major role in helping people to become aware of what is really happening.”4 (T. McKenna, Sacred plants and mystics realities 1991)
R. Potterton (1992). “A criminal system of justice”, Playboy, September, p. 47. T. McKenna (1992). Food of the Gods, Bantam, NY, p. 274. 4 T. McKenna (1991). “Sacred plants and mystic realities,” The Archaic Revival, Harper, San Francisco, p. 249.
The use of hallucinogenic materials makes a person neither shaman nor saint. If it is true in 90’s west coast of United States would populated only by shamans and saints. In traditional shamanist societies there are traditions, dates, manners and applications that are consistent and long-term.
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL RISK OF USAGE PSYCHEDELIC DRUGS Denial of using psychedelic plants and drugs is not change or affect the reality and the existence of them. According to Jim DeKorne the usage of psychedelics can be called window of opportunity. (DeKorne 1994) When a child born and raise, semi-conscious was formed, but with the usage of psychedelics, it becomes fully conscious. In spiritual world, in which time and place has no importance at all, it is possible to experience a truly objective state of awareness, to leave subjective, differentiated, ego-awareness behind and dwell in perfect Oneness. This state of consciousness becomes the most recious thing one can seek to attain.
Terence McKenna compares the benefit and the risk by saying: “The solution to much of modern malaise, including chemical dependencies and repressed psychoses and neurores, is direct exposure to the authentic dimensions of risk represented by the experience of psychedelic plants. […] The plant hallucinogens dissolve habits and hold motivations up to inspection by a wider, less egocentric, and more grounded point of view within the individual. It is foolish to suggest that there is no risk, but it is equally uninformed to suggest that the risk is not worthtaking.”5 (T. McKenna, Plan/Plant/Planet 1991)
McKenna, T. (1991). “Plan/Plant/Planet,” The Archaic Revival, Harper, San Francisco, p. 219.
The author of this quotation was comparing the results of effects. In case we can call it and generalize the human metabolism, it is unique, and the effects are unique. Even if it is bad, or good. ASTRAL PROJECTION Astral projection is experienced as being out of the body (out-of-body experiences). Even dreaming or near death experience happens unintentionally, astral projection may be practiced intentionally. The spiritual traveller leaves the physical body and travels in subtle body into other realms. The term astral projection can be found in some of worldwide religious beliefs of the afterlife. Even some materialist explanations that do not believe in the existence of an astral travel and there is limited scientific evidence, many pundits, like novelists, musicians and philosophers study on astral projection. Commonly in the astral projection experience, the experiencer describes themselves as being in a domain which often has no parallel to any physical setting, although they say they can visit different times and/or physical settings. “Environments may be populated or unpopulated, artificial, natural or completely abstract and from beatific to horrific. A common belief is that one may access a compendium of mystical knowledge called the Akashic records. In many of these accounts, the experiencer correlates the astral world with the world of dreams. They report seeing dreamers enact dream scenarios on the astral plane, unaware of the wider environment around them.”6 (Monroe 1977)
Monroe, Robert. (1977). Journeys Out of the Body, Anchor Press, p. 60.
Figure 2: The Subtle body and the cosmic man, Nepal 1600's According to Jim DeKorne, it is entirely possible to exist as a consciously perceiving entity outside of your physical body, but the after effect of astral travel can be show differences. It depends how the travel was, because there are different views concerning the overall structure of the astral planes (the travel). Robert Monroe described the travel in his Journeys Out of the Body book; “These planes may include heavens and hells and other after-death spheres, transcendent environments or other less-easily characterized states.”7 (Monroe 1977) That difference was caused by human ego. Inner process’ are unique, and irrelevant from intelligence, talent, flair or strength. If we call astral projection as an equation, only variable is ego.
Monroe, Robert. (1977). Journeys Out of the Body, Anchor Press, p. 60.
THE SHAMANIST USAGE OF SACRED PLANTS: Many of us think that all of the plants or chemicals which are called drugs are narcotics. But in the history of shamanism, shamans’ main tools were plants that endowed by the nature. In today’s World disease is explained by pathogens, genetic predisposition or chemical imbalances. But in the world of shamanism, disease is explained by sorcery, the evil thoughts of others. Only the shaman can cure and remove the cure by using the sacred plants as catalysts. With the psychedelic self-exploration, the healing process begins.
THE SHAMANIST USAGE OF ATROPA BELLADONA: Atropa Belladona is a strong hallucinative plant in the family Solanaceae, native to Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia. There are different kinds in Belladona, but in the history of shamanism the longest existing kind is Datula inoxia and Datura stramonium.
Figure 3: Datula Inoxia
Datura inoxia is a plant with definite visual shape. It is unusual for anyone to pass it by after seeing it for the first time. It is really hard to explain the impression of the plant; the grace and the charm.
Wrong usage of any type or any kind of Belladona plants may cause death. In the USA, every year lots of people (mostly adolescents) check in a hospital or a drug clinic for severe Datura poisoning. Even some of people tried and still try to tame and grow that plant, Jim DeKorne try to explain the hardness of taming by telling: “Utilized carefully and wisely, perhaps, but never tamed, since this archetype is by definition untameable, though the possibility of eventual integration is an intriguing hypothesis.”8 (DeKorne 1994) Datura stramonium, which is in the same family of Inoxia, is a plant that mostly can be seen in west of India. Indians called this plant as the white man’s plant because of its potential for growing in garbage dumps.
Although the Solanaceous drugs have a long history in both European witchcraft and American shamanism, there is a strong belief that they are dangerous and unpredictable for any others but a Master shaman. Even Don Juan, who is a character of a book that Carlos Castaneda wrote, admits: “To tame the devil’s weed into an ally is one of the most difficult tasks I know.” 9 (Castaneda 1968)
J. DeKorne (1994). Psychedelic Shamanism, Loompanics Unlimited, pg. 132. C. Castaneda (1968). The Teachings of Don Juan, Ballantine, NY, pg.49.
Figure 4: Datura stramonium
If the name of the plant, Atropa Belladona, is examined, it is possible to understand that the combination of Atropo is one of the three fates of Greek mythology, and belladonna, an Italian word, which means beautiful lady. And that is why most people in the history know and believe that Daturas are female.
Atropo, the Greek goddess, is the one who cuts the thread of life at the moment of death. She is the most fearsome fate goddess, because her only aim is to kill you. The name of Belladona, beautiful lady, refers to an era when Italian women used to drop some liquid of atropine into their eyes to dilate the pupils, and to make themselves look sexy.
Figure 5: Atropa Belladona
THE SHAMANIST USAGE AND HISTORY OF D-LYSERGIC ACID AMIDE: In the time of the usage of entheogen plants, like ololiuqui, which are in the family of DLysergic Acid Amide, Spanish barbarians forced the native Mexicans to obey by trying to ban the entheogens. Even they accomplished some of their acts, they failed to control the usage of ololiuqui. Ololiuqui is a Nahuatl word which means round thing, and it can be found in Southern Mexico.
Figure 6: Ololiuqui
This plant is an aggressive grower and is able to spread over large areas incredibly fast. This specie does not use tendrils, but wraps around things to climb up. Within a year, the base may be a 3+ cm thick and woody. They tend to have large gnarly stems with age.
“Ololiuqui like the mushrooms and other magical plants, was more than just a means of communication with the supernatural. It was itself a divinity and the object of worship, reverently preserved within the secret household shrines of village shamans, curers, and even ordinary people in the early Colonial era. Carefully hidden in consecrated addressed with prayers, petitions, and incantations, and honoured with sacrificial offerings, incense, and flowers.
Ololiuqui was apparently considered to be male. It could eve manifest itself in human form to those that drank the sacred infusion.”10 (Furst 1976)
Another D-Lysergic Acid Amide plant, Stipa Robusta (Sleepy grass), can be found in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. That very impressing looking plant has a bad reputation because of its effects on livestock, especially horses. It has large flowers and seeds.
“Expeditions depending on horses for transportation in the early days often had great difficulty travelling through these areas of New Mexico because their horses ate i the grass readily and moderate amounts of it produce profound, nearly stuporous sleep. The condition lasts several days, during which it is impossible to rouse the animals more than momentarily. A poisonous principle capable of producing such deep sleep of animals might have great medical value, but attempts by pharmaceutical companies to extract an effective compound have been unsuccessful.”11 (Kingsbury n.d.)
Stipa Robusta has the highest known concentration of lysergic acid amide of any known plant.
P. Furst (1976). Hallucinogens and Culture, Chandler and Sharp, Novato, pg.67. J.J. Kingsbury (date unknown). Deadly Harvest – a Guide to Common Poisonous Plants, Holt, pg. 58.
Figure 7: Stipa Robusta
THE SHAMANIST USAGE AND HISTORY OF PEYOTE AND SAN PEDRO: “Through San Pedro the curandero can control out of space and time events: he can transform himself into a bird or puma or travel onward or backward into time or other places, can find out places or persons far away or discover the author of thefts or murders.... He can do this in force of his magical pact with the positive entities. We must underline that according to the indigenous conception of the world, the powers or entities are not exclusively positive or negative: the mythical world is ambiguous and ambivalent. A spirit can be good like a healer or a protector, or bad according to the relationship established with him by the operator or according to the purpose of the ritual action.”12 (Bianchi 1991)
M. Polia & A. Bianchi (1991). “Ethnological evidences and cultural patterns of the use of Trichocereus pachanoi B.R. among Peruvian ciranderos”, integration No.1, Journal for mind-moving plants and culture.
Before the birth of Christ, native North Americans, who lived in Texas, were ritually using the peyote cactus to enter the imaginable realms. At about the same time, Indians began to use San Pedro cactus for the same purpose in South America. Even both San Pedro and Peyote has different appearance and structure, they both have the same psychoactive alkaloid; mescaline. In those times using those entheogens caused some response, and the level of that response made people to use those entheogens secretly. But European interest in the effects of mescaline grew rapidly at the end of 19th Century.
The name of mescaline comes from a tribe called Mescalero Apache, which was the first tribe ever used peyote. Peyote can be found in Chichuahuan desert, Southern Texas.
Figure 8: Peyote
THE SHAMANIST USAGE AND HISTORY OF AYAHUASCA: “I see many things: boats, planes, people. Spirits. I talk with them, and they tell me things. Some of them are dead family members, or old friends. Some of them are the ancients,
spirits I don’t know. Some of them are good and some are evil. But they are only spirits... If you get afraid, you must remember that. They are only spirits.”13 (Gorman 1992)
Ayahuasca is a gift from the Amazonian rain forest. The word, Ayahuasca, means dead ivy and it is a Quechua Indian word. Ayahuasca has been showing its different potential since 60’s.
“Users also seem to see the experience as real, not a “hallucination” in the usual sense of the word, and a portal to other worlds which exist alongside our own.”14 (Lyttle 1993)
The name of Ayahuasca does not only refer to a single plant, but a mixture of two different species. So that means, the quality of Ayahuasca refers to its maker(s) skill. Even in history, each shaman has his own secret formula for the mixture of Ayahuasca, it is known that the basic materials are beta-carboline and tryptamine alkaloids. Those materials are obtained from two different plants, but the most amazing thing is that neither one of these plants and its material is psychoactive.
P. Gorman (1992). “Journeys with ayahuasca, the vine of the little death”, Shaman’s Drum, pg. 49. T. Lyttle (1993). Ayahuasca Visions, pg. 202.
Figure 9: Banisteriopsis caapi (beta-carbolin) Anthropologists and historians wants people to believe the foundation of Ayahuasca mixture is coincidence. But the founders told people that the plants lead them to make the mixture.
Figure 10: Psychotria viridis (Tryptamine alkaloids) 17
THE SHAMANIST USAGE AND HISTORY OF DMT: “For the last 500 years, Western culture has suppressed the idea of disembodied intelligences – of the presence and reality of spirit. Thirty seconds into the DMT flash, and that’s a dead issue.”15 (T. McKenna 1993)
Figure 11: Phalaris arundinacea (Smokable DMT) The name DMT comes from Dimethyltryptamine, which can be found in many plants, also interestingly it can be found in any human metabolism. The production of DMT depends on chemistry. DMT is one of the most powerful psychoactive drug that the formula cannot be found easily. It is possible to use it by injection, oral ingestion and inhaled. It is classified as a Class A drug in many countries.
T. McKenna (1993). From Green Egg interview. 18
Figure 12: Crystal DMT
THE SHAMANIST USAGE AND HISTORY OF PSILOCYBIN (MAGIC MUSHROOMS): “The earliest report of psilocybin mushroom ingestion comes from Tezozomoc, who commented on the celebrants at the coronation of Montezuma II seeing visions and hearing voices: [therefore they took these hallucinations as divine notices, revelations of the future, and augury of things to come.]”16 (Stafford 1992)
One million years ago, in East Africa, shamans began to use psilocybin mushrooms (shrooms) in their rituals. It is believed that those magic shrooms tells stories about the past and the future. In Peter Stafford’s Psychedelics Encyclopedia, researcher Stanley Krippner delineates about the future events that those magic mushrooms causes with a vision of the Kennedy assassination:
P. Stafford (1992). Psychedelics Encyclopedia, Ronin, pg. 275.
“...Lincoln’s features slowly faded away, and those of Kennedy took their place. The setting was still Washington D.C. The gun was still at the base of the statue. A wisp of smoke seeped from the barrel and curled into the air. The voice repeated, “He was shot. The President was shot.” My eyes opened; they were filled with tears... In 1962, when I had mu first Psilocybin experience, I gave this visualization of Kennedy relatively little thought, as so many other impressions came my way. However, it was the only one of my visualizations that brought tears to my eyes, so I described it fully in the report I sent to Harvard. Nineteen months later, on November 23, 1963, the visualization came back to me as I mourned Kennedy’s assassination.”17 (Stafford 1992)
Because of that belief (visualization of future events), for scientific materialists psilocybin is cursed and it is an anathema.
Figure 13: Psilocybin mushrooms
P. Stafford (1992). Psychedelics Encyclopedia, Ronin, pg. 276.
Psilocybin mushrooms are the most effective, and easily produced catalysts that discovered. Even most of other shamanist drugs and plants make some of users sick, psilocybin mushrooms are easy to use, and less nocuous for human metabolism.
Aforementioned psychedelic plants are not narcotics, or drugs of abuse. Their primal use in the history has been within Shamanic contexts as healing process. Most of the Today’s cultures cannot able to see and realize that transparent difference, and then prohibit the use with punishments worse than murder. People who handle their personal issues by using those drugs mostly wind up in mental hospitals. Those individual’s approach is the exact opposite of the Shamanic usage of drugs:
“Whereas the mental patient is an unsuccessful mystic, the shaman is a highly successful and efficient member of his community: he is one who is not controlled by his illness but can control it; generally his presence is imposing, his health and versatility excellent, his intelligence higher than of his milieu... In general, shamans have nothing to do with sacrifices, nor with regular worship, their principal function being that of... experts and guides in the realm of cosmic dreams... Above all, the shaman is a mediator between cosmic regions.” 18 (Kohsen 1966)
Lastly, it is never be forgotten that psychedelic experience is the extremely wide range of individual reactions. Even one person describes his own trip as “though, but worth it” another person may opens his eyes in hospital emergency room. Since we are all, human beings, unique, our trips are unique.
A. Kohsen (1966). Book review of Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (M. Eliade), pg. 118.
Bianchi, M. Polia & A. Ethnological evidences and cultural patterns of the use of Trichocereus. 1991. Castaneda, C. The Teachings of Don Juan. New York, 1968. DeKorne, Jim. Psychedelic Shamanism. Loompanics Unlimited, 1994. Furst, P. Hallucinogens and Culture. Chandler and Sharp, 1976. Gorman, P. Journeys with ayahuasca, the vine of the little death. Shaman's Drum, 1992. Harner, M. The Way of the Shaman. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980. Kingsbury, J.J. Deadly Harvest - a Guide to Common Poisonous Plants. Holt. Kohsen, A. «Psychedelic Riview.» Book review of Shamanisn: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. 1966. Lyttle, T. Ayahuasca Visions. 1993. McKenna, T. Food of the Gods. New York: Bantam, 1992. McKenna, T. Plan/Plant/Planet. San Francisco: The Archic Revival, 1991. McKenna, T. Sacred plants and mystics realities. San Francisco: The Archaic Revival, 1991. McKenna, Terence, interview by Green Egg. DMT (1993). Monroe, Robert. Journeys Out of Body. Anchor Press, 1977. Potterton, R. A criminal system of justice. Playboy, 1992. Stafford, P. Psychedelics Encyclopedia. Ronin, 1992.
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