Entheogens

Entheogens aren’t for everyone, especially not as a dedicated path. Even though I think everyone can potentially benefit from them I usually try to dissuade folks because if you’ve got unresolved shit it’s gonna get brought up to the surface and frankly a lot of folks aren’t prepared for dealing with that so directly – which is where bad trips often come from.

Of course, that’s when an experienced guide can be helpful – walking you through it when it gets intense and helping to ease the landing when you come back down. More than that, the guide has built up a relationship with the spirit in the plant so can usually talk to it and help negotiate the terms of the trip. Consequently I’m not as experienced as a lot of psychonauts since I’ve worked on building up that kind of relationship with my plant-allies.

I work fairly closely with tobacco, marijuana, amanita muscaria, psilocybin and to a much lesser extent salvia divinorum. Beyond that I’ve tried nymphaia cirulea, kinnikinnick, a couple other mushrooms and herbal mixtures, LSD and one of those alphabet soup designer chemical compounds.

I won’t try anything harder or that isn’t a psychoactive and the experience with the alphabet soup swore me off all but the natural stuff. And even there I tend to stick to traditionally Euroasian substances – there’s a couple from Mexico and South America I’d like to try but 1) you’re dealing with a very different type of spirit and 2) most of the experiences begin with massive vomiting and/or explosive diarrhea and there’s a limit to how much I’m going to get out of a trip while hunched over a toilet, ya know?

I cannot stress these three words enough: set and setting. Set and setting. Set and setting.

They’re everything. Basically what it means is before you go into any potentially intense experience – be it drugs, ritual, art or whathaveyou – pay attention to your surroundings and your mental state. This includes things like who’s around you, your sensorium (visuals, tactile, auditory, even scents) and where your head is at. Are you calm, reverent, focused and got all of your shit more or less under control? (And know what areas you don’t.) Do you know what you’re trying to accomplish and hope to get out of the experience (while remaining flexible and open to other things coming up) before going in? Do you have any ritual accoutrements or objects of entertainment easily accessible so you have to try and search for them while altered? Paying attention to this stuff ahead of time contributes hugely to the success or failure of any undertaking.

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6 thoughts on “Entheogens

  1. Jack Faust

    I agree that set and setting are vitally important. I think, however, that even the experienced individual needs to occasionally have a bad trip. It reveals elements about ourselves (or our interactions with the Otherworld) that are suppressed, and allows us to directly confront them.

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    • I think you’re absolutely right. Some of the most helpful experiences I’ve had have been bad trips. They show you things that might not come out otherwise and give you practice putting yourself back together again.

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  2. I have never done any drugs (other than prescription ones, some of which I was on such high doses of I was having hallucinations and my mother kept me home from school–!?!–and a contact high from being around pot smokers in college), but I was just having a conversation about this the other day…

    Now that pot is legal for recreational usage in my state, I’d consider doing it, but only under very specific circumstances (perhaps involving Scythian deities). I have the same outlook on these matters that you emphasized at the end here.

    So, who knows? But for now, I’ve got a lot of other things that need doing more than that. ;)

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  3. A bad trip is one that is unguided, by either persons or non-persons. One can have a very painful trip which, on the whole, isn’t actually a bad thing. The key is an underlying sense that there is a purpose to the unpleasantries.

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  4. Set and Setting, for sure! And preparation and respect for the plant spirit, yes. I was reading an interesting book that argued that not everyone’s ancestral background (spiritual and/or biological) is going to agree with certain plants. Seems to be the case with me and Mary Jane. We do not get along for some reason, which baffles me because on the whole it seems to be agreeable to so many others.

    But I think everyone should try psilocybe mushrooms at least once in their life. It’s an extreme view, but I’m sticking to it.

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  5. I’ve had bad experiences with pot and keep clear of it, perhaps it was the type of pot I smoked or the dosage but I just did not like it. The set and setting was definitely wrong too. Other than that I have tried Turnera Diffusa (damiana) which I liked and has a limited time high between 30min to 3 hours or so. It is also legal, right now, in my state. I experienced: a understanding of the labyrinth, connection to Dionysus and also different view on light.

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