O King Soma

"You speak like a holy man, you whose aura is holy, you speak in truth, you whose act is true. yi>u speak according to the fcwtitif, O King Soma. O Somi which the prists! carefully prepares. Flow, O liquor, for Indra all around!

"High, wilh power that is roal, its flowing blends ttogether, together blenditbe Fragrances i>f the fragrant, fiurifyin^ you by the formula, O wilrj grvj. Flew, O litjurur, f r fndra all erountil

"There whtrru the priest. O purified Soma, spunking the language of p^ets. is cxalt-cl by Si-ma, huMing in his hand the stun^ creating ecsl.isv fur himself through Somn. Fli w, O liquor for Indra .ill around!

"There where the li^ht thai cannot he extinguished is. the world whore the sun was placet], in this im mortal world. O clear Siima, in this inexhaustible wrld place met Flow, O liquor, for Inrlra all around!"

A long-haired, outlandishly dressed, effeminate young mail showed up one day in a provincial Greek town, bringing with him from India and Asia strange and barbaric drug riles. He openly considered himself a god, and people flocked to turn on wilh his sacrament... The town leader, Pentheus-a prim politician, moderate, concerned with his people's welfare-was most distressed at rumors of wild orgies in which members of his own family were taking part... So he tossed the stranger in jail.. From deep within the prison cell, a voice was heard: "Kindle, flame of blazing lightning-Burn, burn the house of Pentheus to the ground!" There was a deafening explosion, lightning seared the jailhouse, and out stepped the young man, free. Calmly he offered to let Pentheus see one of these orgies himself and led him into the woods. Eventually the poor politician was torn lo pieces by ihe Maenads, including his own mother.

Thus did Thebes learn to respect the god of wine, Dionysus, for ihat!s who ihe shaggy stranger was: the myslic, half-demonic spirit of intoxication.

Derne 1er with her atiàbutes-coni, snakes and opium

"The cardinal, the essentially dramatic, conviction of ihe religion of Dionysus/' says Jane Ellen Harrison, is ,flhat the worshipper can no! only worship, bul can become, can be, his god.,f The great lesson the Greeks learned from Dionysus is that the urge for intoxication, though dangerous, is universal and divine. No attempt to suppress the Dionysiac element of consciousness has ever succeeded, though well-meaning officials always try. ("Bacchanalian revelry" in bars is prohibited in California to this day.) The Greeks quickly raised Dionysus to the Olympian pantheon and worshiped this wild spirit, thereby taming him somewhat; and lhat, too-rilual drug regulation ralher than prohibition-is a lesson most societies sooner or later find out..

The acceptance of Dionysus (Bacchus) had immeasurable impact on Greek and Roman, and therefore European, civilization. At the Theatre of Dionysus beneath the Acropolis, Greek drama developed out of spring festivals honoring him. The image of lacchus, a god of shouting and tumult, closely related to Dionysus, was carried in the processions of the Eleusinian Mysteries. The Orphic Mysteries, too, seized upon the ecstatic fury of Dionysus worship and transfoimed it into a mystical, ascetic cull, of rebirth thai influenced Pythagoras, Empedocles and other phUosophers. For almost two thousand years the mystei*y cults ruled classical civilization.

And yet a higher mystery was soon to be revealed. Another young longhair appeared and claimed to be a god, this time among the Jews. There was a marriage in a small provincial town, and the man went there with his mother and disciples. The celebrants ran out of wine, and the man told them, "Fill up the jars with water." When they drew the water, it had magically changed into wine. "This, the first of his miracles, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.'1 (John 2:1-3.)

The last supper of Christ on earth, the great Christian drug ceremony, is expressed beautifully in the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer. It happened at Passover. f,For in the night in which he was betrayed, he took Bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave it lo his disciples, saying, Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for you; Do this in remembrance of me. Likewise, after supper, he took the Cup; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of this; for this is my blood of the

Dionysus Cup
A niique bas-relief of Dionysus, Pan and a reveler


The great Christian drug ceremony

ST. PAUL ON THE MYSTERY OF CHRISTS RESURRECTION Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not alL sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. . For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall, be changed. For (his perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. When (he perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall it come ta pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "0 death, where is thy victor)'?" "0 death, where is thy sting?"

I Corinthians 15:51-35

New Testament, which is shed for you, and for many, tor the ye mission of sins; Do this> as oft as ye shall drink it in remembrance of" me. " And so the ancient blood sacrifice, the dying god magically reborn, the wine rites of Egypt, Israel and Asia, became the holiest mystery of Christian belief. The Last Supper was caul y called the agape, a direct link to the "Jove feasts" of the Orphies and Eleusinians. The mystery cults exercised considerable influence on Christianity, Openness about divine revelations invariably led to clashes with those pledged to eternal secrecy,

Dionysus and the mystery cults were the most formidable rivals of the new religion.

But was it really new? John M. Allegro, a widely respected scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls, has proposed that Christianity grew directly out of the Near Eastern mysteries, and that Christ was a code word covering the secret use of Amanita muscaria by eanly Christians. This conjecture, based largely on novel interpretations of difficult „ phrases in Sumeriao and Akkadian, has not won wide acceptance because hardly anyone is competent to judge whether Allegro's translations are right or wrong.

The ending of the mysteries by invasions of the Goths (A.D. 395) during the collapse of the Roman Empire opened the doors for popular acceptance of Christianity. As the new faith spread through Europe in the ensuing centuries, it in turn drove the pagan mystery cults underground. The remnants of ancient shamanism survived only as Witchcraft, superstition and folklore-scornful epithets for the oldest religion on earth. To understand medieval European witchcraft _ in this context, it might be fruitful to notice the development of drug magic in other cultures where it flourished with less persecution.

The great Christian drug ceremony

In medieval India and Tibet, sorcerers in search of magic power (siddhi) glorified the use of a marijuana drink (bhang), parched grain and elements forbidden to orthodox Hindus and Buddhists-wine, meal and fish-in Tan trie sex ceremonies derived from the ancient soma cult.. A circle of naked men and women is conducting an experiment on the central nervous system. They consecrate a bowl of bhang lo Kali, goddess of leiTor and delight... As the bhang begins to lake effect, the worshipers mentally' arouse the Kundalini-serpent coded at the base of the spine, sending waves of energy up to the cortex. Each begins to feel the presence of divine power as they ritually consume grain, wine, fish and meat.. Bathing and adorning each other with scents and spices, the couples engage in sustained ritual copulation. Sparks shower for houi-s in this cosmic dance; the brain melts away; there are no separate men and women, only a golden aura of kinetic energy flowing in a circle round the room.

On Samoa and other South Pacific islands, kavakava (Piper methyslicum) has been used religiously and socially for many ages. Legend relates that the sun god gave kavakava to Tagaloa Vl, the first Samoan high chief. He laught a mortal, Pava, lo prepare it by chewing the root and spitting the juice into a laro leaf. Pava's small! son, however, laughed al this, and Tagaloa angrijy cui ihe boy in iwo. Pava would not go on, so Tagaloa said, "Let us have a new kavakava ceremony." A bowl,, strainer and fresh kavakava were brought... When Pava had chewed and strained it, he offered the drink to Tagaloa, who poured it on the boy's fragmented body and uuered the word soifua, "life." The boy revived, and Tagaloa departed with the warning that children were not lo play where kavakava was prepared, "for things belonging to high chiefs are sacred.1'

Kavakava is a refreshing hypnotic euphoiiani that causes a tingling numbness. Drinking it is the first order of business at village council , meetings, and an essential part of ceremonies honoring guests, births, marriages, deaths and other events. The Tagaloa legend suggests that it is a magic reserved for mature minds, and that fragmented elements of personality, subconscious fears, tensions and

"'You get out of the drug experience only what you put into iu The "Otherworld'i from which you seek illumination is. after all, only your own psyche/'

Peter Furst flesh of the Gods, 1972

repressions may be mulled over and reintegrated in the kavakava trance. If so, this would explain its religious significance and its use in formal ritual to induce social cohesiveness among village leaders. It is believed that the stability of Samoan culture was brought about, at least in pari, by centuries of kavakava use,

Persian Sufis love to recount the legend of the thirteenth-century discovery of hashish by an abstemious monk, Sheikh Haydar, who had been meditating in the monastery for ten years. One day, however, he went out in a state of depression. The midday sun was oppressively hot; there was no breeze, and every plant was motionless. Then Haydar came across this hashishah and noticed it swaying gently in the shimmering heat, as if

C o> \ <'<! kxi \ xt ho 117

A PARABLE OF A MUSLIM PRIEST "A Muslim priest exhorting in the mosque against the use of beng, a plant of which the principle quality is to intoxicate arid induce sleep, was so carried away with the violence of his discourse that a paper containing some of (lie prohibited drug which often enslaved him fell from his breast into the midst of his audience. The priest without loss of countenance cried immediately, There is the enemy, litis demon of which f have told you; the force of my words has put it to flight, take care that in quillinp me it does not hurl itself on one of you and possess him.' No one dared to touch it; after the sermon, the zealous sophist recovered his beng. One sees similar trails tn alj religions."

Lacroix translating Arabian manuscripts ca, 950 AJJ.

inebriated; he reflected that this must be so because of a secret it contained. He picked some and ate it, and when he returned, his face radiated energy and joy. Haydar took us out and told us to eat it, and when we returned to the monastery garden, we found an irrepressible joy and gladness in our hearts. He made us take an oath to conceal this from the common folk, hut to always reveal it to Sufis: "God has granted you the privilege of knowing the secret of these leaves. When you eat them, your dense worries disappear and your exalted minds become polished. Therefore keep their trust and guard their secretT' He never stopped eating this hashish, day inend day ouu We grew it for the Sufis in the monastery of Sheikh Haydar, and planted it around his tomb when he died.

Sorcerers and initiates of the Bwiti cult in Gabon revere the yellowish root of Tahemanthe iboga as a stimulant, hallucinogen and aphrodisiac. Legend has it that the god of creation dismembered a Pygmy at the beginning of time and scattered his parts in the jungle. The Pygmy's wife searched, and found iboga plants rising from her husband's flesh. The creator told her to eat the roots to attain supernatural powers and communicate with her dead husband's spirits Since then iboga has had an honored place in religion among several tribes of west equatorial Africa.

Entrance into the secret cults is conditional on surviving a huge dose of the drug, which induces brightly colored visions, vomiting, convulsions and sometimes death. The experience of an initiate in the Congo; "Soon all his sinews stretch out in an extraordinary fashion. An epileptic madness seizes him, during which, unconscious, he mouths words, which when heard by the initiated ones, have a prophetic meaning and prove that the fetish has entered him." For

Ibogo eoters of the Fang Cuh. in Gabon

Ail these magie drug cults of the Old Would share certain common characteristics. Each was (or is) a treasured social institution; each was secret and exclusive, though large portions of the population were often involved; each required appropriate preparation and initiation; each focused on the exploration of consciousness with drugs; and each provided a shared experience, a sense of community cohesiveness, that proved invaluable in fending off external intrusions. Had witchcraft not been driven underground in medieval Europe, Western civilization might have developed similar very sophisticated rituals of drug-induced shared consciousness as welL

But Christianity restricted itself to symbolic rather than functional drug (wine) use and branded all other religious drug use as witchcraft and heresy. Even the great Christian mystics-John of Palmos, Joan of Arc, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, to name a few-had to prove to themselves and to the all-powerful Inquisition that their visions were "genuine,'1 i.e., not dmg-inspired, and even then they were often persecuted. The Church drew a thin line between demonic possession and mystic inspiration. To survive, mystics had to couch their experiences totally in acceptable Christian dogma. The great blind spot of Christianity, its hatred of witchcraft, made European civilization rigid and often stagnant and drove the most adventurous spirits crazy with guilt, and fear of eternal damnation. It took over a thousand years of suffering, a renaissance of classical learning and the discovery of a new would 10 begin to shake Christendom loose, and dogmatic fanaticism against consciousness exploration with drugs is still very much with us today.

What, then, was witchcraft . in this context of humiliating persecution? It was first and foremost a survival of shamanism, the dark underside of Christianity, The pagan mysteries endured in much-distorted form. Radiant ¡sis, for example, assumed traits of all the ancient goddesses from Demeter to Hecate and, cast out of Christian heaven, became the medieval anima mundi, or worjd-soul, a cosmic witch. (By and large, the witch-goddesses of classical and eaidy medieval times were not stereotyped old hags hut enchantingly beautiful women.) Her head was crowned with magic herbs, sheaves of grain and stinging snakes; her womb bore the crescent moon, emblem of fecundity; she stood on earth and reached up to the stars, a dark and fertile obverse of the Virgin Mary. In much the same way Frija, Odin's wife, the ancient Norse sky goddess with her magic wand, became the medieval witch riding through the night on her broom.

And what was the secret of the witches? It was the

Ibogo eoters of the Fang Cuh. in Gabon initiation into the Bwiti cult in Gabon it is necessary to have "seen Bwiti," i.e., experienced visions from a similar massive dose. Accounts include visions of great tumult, conversing with specific ancestors and walking or flying down a long road. Warriors take the drug in smaller doses to stay awake all night; women in certain cults endure similar initiation ordeals; lovers claim it as an aphrodisiac. Tribal historians use iboga in seeking information from the accumulated lore of generations of ancestors. Sorcerers take it themselves or administer it to patients to reveal the origin and cure for illness. Socially, the Bwiti cult helped unify tribes that once warred on each other, making a bulwark against Muslim, Christian and other outside encroachments. Some branches, however, have assimilated the Christian Eucharist, employing iboga for communion instead of bread and wine.

Nomina Varia jftàiu





Proferpina Ceres

Rhea feu Tellus PeiTinuncia Rhramnufia Bellonxj Hecato Luna_» Polymorph«* daemon.

Q A'lronim Domina. »11 0>r»nium nutn*» \> -v Tcrrz mirtfquc IM J Domina.

A Oiijy Toi/TH wflAt IX II

The medieval Isis

A Diuioitarem, mun-dum,orbcs cftlcftcs BB Iter Lun* fleiuo-fiim, &vim fircun-datiuam r.otar. CC Tutulu*, vim Lunar in hcrbas , & planras-D Ccrerisfymbolum, Iiis enim fpicai in» nenir« E Bv^irkaveftii multicolor» multiformem lum facicm F Inncntio frümenti. G Dominium in omnia Fcgetfbilia. H Radios lunarcs. I Genius Nili malo-

rum auerruncus. K Increment crementa J.ur\x« L H u m e fit at, v is Lunc. M Lun* vis viflrixfÄ<

vis diuinarvdi. N Dominium in hu-

morci& mart. O Ter rar fymboiü, & Mcdicinx inuentrix, P Fircun^irat.qux fc. quifur terram irn

Q A'lronim Domina. »11 0>r»nium nutn*» \> -v Tcrrz mirtfquc IM J Domina.

A Oiijy Toi/TH wflAt IX II

The medieval Isis

AN ACCOUNT OF THE WITCHES' TRIPS "Witches, male and female, who have pact with the devil, ann oiriling themselves with certain unguents and reciting certain wads, are carried by night through the air to dislant lands to do certain black magic. This illusion comes in iwo ways. Sometimes the devil really carries them 10 oilier houses and places, and what they see and do and say there really happens as tliey import i.L At other times they do not leave their houses, but the devil enters them and deprives lliem of sense and lliey fall as dead and cold. And he represents 10 their fancies that they go to other houses and places and do and see and say such and such things. But nothing of this is true, though ihey think it to be, and though they relate many things of what passes there. And while they are thus dead and cold they have no more feeling than a corpse and may be scourged and burnt: but after the lime agreed upon wilh the devil he leaves I hem, I heir senses are liberated, they arise well and merry, relate what they have done and bring news from other lands." *

quoied in Hamer "Hallucinogens

Cirueio, 1628 in European Witchcraft"

functional, , rather than merely symbolic, use of drugs to tap into realms of consciousness forbidden lo the orthodox. This was characterized by the Church as ,Ta pact with ihe Devil.!' It was also the knowledge lhat drug plants, particularly solanaceous hallucinogens, could be effective not only when ingested in witches' brews, but also when rubbed in the form of ointments on sensitive mucous membranes such as the vagina. The resulting drug-induced orgy of consciousness was the witches' Sabbat, ihe counterpart of the Judaeo-Chrisiian Sabbath.

Recently Michael Harner has shown lhat the principal ingredienls of wilches' potions were henbane, mandrake, datura, belladonna and sometimes opium and hemp, dissolved in batjs blood, oil or occasionally human faU (Bufotenine from the skin of loads may have entered the mixture, but its psychoactive y has been disputed.) Such concoctions were also the staples of shape-changing into werewolves or animal familiars-a remnant of shamanism. But unlike classical shamans, ihe wilches established a different ritual, the Esbal, for '"business meetings'" that did not involve drugs. Hanier concludes that ihis separation of trance states from ritual operations may be largely due to ihe problems of coping wilh ihe particular hallucinogens ihey used."'

In sum, from what we now know of the frenzied hallucinations produced by solanaceous plants, il appears thai the essence of witchcraft was tripping. What the Church persecuted as blasphemy was in faci a psychedelic religion not

An Assembly of Witches by Dr. Johannes Geider von Keiserspei^g, 1517

allowed lo bloom.

Tliis legacy of persecution, Ihe Inquisition, is wlial the explorers brought to ihe New World. Even ai liome ihe while invaders were totally intolerant of any sacraments oilier than alcohol. . If the order of the day in Europe was the torture1 and murder of their own country men and countrywomen for using hallucinogens, think how doubly easy it was to massacre whole populations of native Americans who did the same thing. To tlie invaders, the American religions were nothing less than Devil worship, to be scourged forever from the face of the earth.

In fact, Ihe conquerors ran into something much more powerful than European wilchcrafl-a. series of fullrblown, highly sophisticated, often bnital. ecstatic visionary religions. Much evidence indicates that these drug religions descended directly from Mesolithic shamanism that aboriginal Americans brought from Siberia 10,000 to 14,000 years ago. Tlie conquest of the New WorJd was indeed a cosmic struggle between priest and shaman, viewed by both sides as a war between good and evil, with the fate of the universe hanging in the balance,

How iionic, then, that the conquerors were received in many cases as gods. When the Tainos of Hispaniola discovered Columbus, they ran

"From my LSD expeiiments, iiKluding the very First terrifying one, I have received knowledge of not only one, but of an infinite number of realities. Depending, upon the condition of our senses and psychic receptors we experience a different reality. I realized that Ihe depth and richness of the inner and outer universe are immeasurable and inexhaustible, but that we have to return from these strange worlds to our homeland and live here ill the reality that is provided by our normal, healthy senses. It's like astronauts returning from outer space flights: they must readjust to iliis planeL"

Albcrl Hofmanii Hi£h Times, July 1976

away in terror screaming "Turey," which, in their Arawakan dialect, meant "torn heaven." Columbus found lliem to be a peace-loving tribe and dispatched some men to seek the Grand Klian of Cathay in a Cuban village. Tlie sailors returned with IX) jewels, no splendors, no gold, but with an amazing plant that changed the work!. Sure enough, it was a solanaceous drug.

A Taino chief had welcomed Ihe men "wiili a firebrand in Ills hand," which he used to light an enormous cigar made of Nicotiana labacum wrapped in a corn husk... The cigar, which the Tainos called tobacos, was smoked by putting it up one nostril, lighting it with a torch and inhaling

European depiction of witches doing the Devil's work

Peiuviavi "Faiilas>" pol

European depiction of witches doing the Devil's work

Peiuviavi "Faiilas>" pol

The pipe smoker of Palenqve

two or three stiff tokes>. Shamans employed it in religious eeremonies-among other things, to welcome these white men "from heaven'-andl described their viJlages as ''cities of splendor/' which is just what Columbus wanted to hear, but couldn't see. Men and women also smoked fobacos socially for euphoria and to lessen fatigue. They tried to teach the Spaniards to stop everyl hour or so on a journey, light up and proceed great distances without getting tired, but the white men weren't much interested. Columbus later wrote, "the article that fails us most at this moment, and yet which we most want, is wine." The conflict between two very different drug cultures was taking shape, The result, was the complete extermination of the Tainos within a few decades,

Tobacco was the supreme sacrament of most North American religions, and important in Central and South American shamanism as well. N. tabacum, eaily noted by explorers in Brazil, is considered the mildest species. N. rustica, which Sir Walter Raleigh took back to London from Virginia, is much stronger, as are the other species, such as N. atienuata and N. bigelovii, used widely in North America. Where tobacco was not originally found, as in the Orinoco delta of Venezuela, shamans would travel great distances to obtain it for use in initiation rituals to induce fantastic visions. Aside from nicotine, even commercial tobacco has harmala derivatives closely related to the hallucinogenic principle of yage" and Syrian rue. The evidence is not all in, but scholars are beginning to believe that raw tobacco may be a true hallucinogen.

The oldest representation of a smoker anywhere in the world is a fifth-century bas-relief found in the Palenque ruins of southern Mexico. It depicts a Mayan shaman in a jaguar cloak, crowned with tobacco leaves, sipping on a large cigar or tubular pipe. The Aztecs smoked cigarettes of tobacco in hollow reeds, and later used elbow-shaped pipes. The Plains tribes of North America developed the most elaborate tobacco religion: their most famous ceremonies-the vision quest, the Sun Dance and the ritual purification in Inipi lodges (larger, but strikingly similiar to the Scythian hemp tents mentioned by Herodotus)-all , involved strenuous tobacco smoking. Pipestone, Minnesota, from which the best pipe-bowl material came, was a sacred truce area during even the most deadly wars. For many tribes of the northern U.S. and Canada, the favorite smoking blend was kinnikinnik, a mixture of tobacco, sumac leaves and dogwood bark.

Tobacco was snuffed, chewed, eaten and drunk as well , as smoked. In the Amazon, tobacco was and still is a primary snuffiug material.. Snuff pipes

Early European idea of New World tobacco smoking

Continue reading here: The Gift Of The Sacred

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