Saturday, February 28, 2009

Branching out

I have been reading as much as I can about entheogens.  After a somewhat terrifying experiment with Salvia divinorum a few weeks ago, I decided to stick to my guns (i.e., weed) and wait until an appropriate time for attempting such things again.  Watching a show recently where these two British men live with various primitive tribes for four months at a time, I caught an episode where they took Banisteriopsis caapi--common names include yajé, cappi, and, most commonly, ayahuasca.  This hung around in the back of my mind for about a week, and finally I made the connection with a book that I happen to own entitled The Visionary Vine--the title being a reference to ayahuasca.  From it I learned that the session I watched on television was fairly typical of jungle healing sessions that occur in countries all up and down that portion of coastline.  The shaman leads participants to a jungle clearing near a river, where he administers to them an ayahuasca-based potion.  They have their experiences, and early in the morning, once the effects have worn off, they walk on home.

After reading this book, I began to dig deeper and realized that there was a surge of scientific interest in the divinitory narcotics of the indigenous Americans.  This began after World War II, and by the 1960s and 70s, many of the more widely used species of plant and mushroom had been identified--in some cases, their active ingredients had even been isolated.  The better-known of the indigenous narcotics uncovered by these scientists include ayahuasca, peyote, salvia, and psilocybin mushrooms.  Some of these plants and fungi were quickly promoted to Schedule I status in the United States.  But surprisingly, a great many of them are not controlled substances at all--I just ordered four of the more promising among these.  If any of them emerges as agreeable, that would be great.  These are all much cheaper than marijuana.  What I found the most surprising is that ayahuasca is not a controlled substance here in the U.S.  I am maybe a bit hesitant to dive into that one without a shaman to lead me through the journey, but I will carefully experiment with some of these others.  I am proceeding from these scientific articles written in the 1960s and 70s, so that I won't be persuaded by any recent hype or rumors.  I guess I will report any findings here.

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