1. Table of Contents
  2. About
  3. Solar Dispatch 6
  4. Schedule
  5. A Deficiency of Drugs
  6. Bad Tripping
  7. ReWild Yourself! Podcast: Dennis McKenna on Hunting Magic Mushrooms and DMT in South America
  8. Belladonna
  9. Neoaboriginal Revolution
  10. ReWild Yourself! Podcast: Arthur Haines on the Teacher Plants
  11. War on Drugs?
  12. Atheogens
  13. ReWild Yourself! Podcast: Nora Gedgaudas on Using Entheogens to Free Our Minds from Cultural Conditioning
  14. Wild Woman Speaks
  15. Mastering the Flat-Footed Squat
  16. ReWild Your Diet
  17. Crooked Crosses
  18. Smoking Toad
  19. ReWild Yourself! Podcast: Dr. Gerardo Sandoval Isaac on the Bufo Alvarius Toad and 5-MeO-DMT
  20. Emesis
  21. Wiki Links Trail
  22. The Clean Mile
  23. ElixirCraft Mastery: 3 Ingredient Wild Food Pancakes
  24. Twenty ReWild Yourself Tips!
  25. Your Neo-Aboriginal Challenge
  26. ReWilding Resources
  27. Would You Like to Contribute to the Next Dispatch?
Daniel Vitalis

A Chemical Ecology

ReWild Yourself! — Dispatch 6

A Chemical Ecology
ReWild Yourself! — Dispatch 6
Table of Contents Table of Contents Table of Contents Table of Contents
About

Welcome to Dispatch 6 of ReWild Yourself! This online magazine is designed to function as more than a source of information, entertainment, and education, it is a kind of natural solar calendar, and is released in accordance with the eight significant Earth/Sun events of the solar cycle. These are the Vernal Equinox, Beltane, Summer Solstice, Lammas, Autumn Equinox, Samhain, Winter Solstice, and Imbolc. This natural sine-wave rhythm of solar time was once the calendar that we humans lived our lives by, however today we are living on the Gregorian calendar, which is in reality nothing more than an artifice, having no real correlate to the events of the natural world. Conversely, the natural solar calendar is based on real, observable solar/planetary events, and is therefore a significant part of ReWilding Ourselves!

This Dispatch of ReWild Yourself! is about a chemical death, a method of dying without really dying. It is about the shamanic death, the simulated death. It is about crossing over and returning with knowledge of something more than the layer of reality most of us live our entire lives engrossed and embedded within. Since the earliest days of human experience we have consumed medicines from our environment that alter our consciousness and enhance our sensory input and cognitive processing abilities. They make explicit and laid plain the concept of animism, the natural — even universal — human religion, as, under the influence of such medicines, all things are seen and felt to pulse with the same omnipresent lifeforce. This is not an intellectual process, but a visceral, immersive, "I saw it with my own eyes" experience. It is difficult, once initiated, to be convinced otherwise.

These substances, which most often originate in plants, but are sometimes present in fungi and animals as well, offer us a unique opportunity to confront deep, archetypical forces that are at play just behind the curtain of our everyday conscious awareness. Principally these are the fear of — or aversion to — death and isolation, and the deeply held desire for mystical union and bliss. These drive us, unbeknownst, like cattle are driven by the wrangler, shaping our behaviors and causing us to play out ancient human dramas like automated, programmed machines. These medicines give us a glimpse into these heretofore unconscious (or semi-conscious at best) patterns and allow us to emancipate ourselves from them — taking charge of ourselves and the course of our lives in a way that most can not even perceive as possible, no less will ever experience.

We, in the shamanic trance, immerse ourselves in bliss and experience the benevolence of the universe, and we dare — sometimes fearlessly, other times fearfully — to confront our own mortality. Mystic union — merging with the universal mind — is ecstatic and makes all other possible experience appear pale and redundant by compare. Reaching such a place, requires one to let go, to release the force that holds us in the human form, that holds together the story of who we believe we are and what we think ourselves to be. Such experiences require we relinquish our lives, surrender our egos, and let ourselves "die". This is not a true death of the body, but feels at the time as though it is. Like the salivation that follows the visualization of eating a lemon, here too our bodies are thusly fooled by the ego's belief that it is in fact perishing. The body and the mind's fear of death — its supreme fear — are triggered and we become acutely aware of the power this fear holds over us, has held over us, and all the myriad ways that this has manifested itself in our lives until now.  

The medicines give us a way to practice dying, to die without really passing away. It is a simulator, and each time we use it, we become more adept at crossing over, at passing through the veil, throughout the realm of hungry ghosts, and finding our way back to the source, to the universal mind. We merge again ecstatic. It becomes progressively easier to release ones grip on the mortal world, to perceive the illusory nature of this life, and to allow our "self" to dissolve away, revealing something more permanent and subtle lying there just beneath the surface veneer. 

Upon returning from a journey such as this, things can never be the same, you can never be the same. Once you have seen, once you have known, there is no return to the lifeless mechanistic world that our civilization purports to be objectively real. Once you have died and come back, your true, inevitable bodily death cannot hold such sway over you, such power. You are freed, or at least are freer than before. And this lays the foundation for greater emancipation in the life ahead, still yet to be lived. 

So it is that this Samhain Dispatch is dedicated to the secret chemical keys left hidden throughout the natural world. Concealed in the leaves and roots of plants, in the secretion of strange, otherworldly amphibians, in the phallic form of fungi that appear in a night and recede in the same. And, it is a celebration of the ancient human tradition, one we see literally throughout the entire world — that of humans altering their consciousness in order that they might experience the death that isn't really dying, and that subsequent ineffable merger with the divine. 


All writing in ReWild Yourself! is by Daniel Vitalis unless otherwise noted.

Daniel Vitalis is a Leading Health, Nutrition, and Personal Development Strategist.  Encouraging us to “ReWild Ourselves”, Daniel teaches that Invincible Health is produced by a life aligned with our biological design. His entertaining, motivational and magnetic delivery style has made him an in-demand public speaker in North America and abroad. He is the creator of FindASpring.com, a resource helping people find fresh, clean, wild water wherever they live, and the founder of SurThrival, a brand pioneering a lifestyle of vigorously healthy living. Daniel was recently featured in the widely acclaimed film “Hungry For Change”. He can be found at DanielVitalis.com, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest.

Daniel Vitalis

Daniel Vitalis

with coca (Erythroxylum coca) in Peru

Click here to read our disclaimer.

Solar Dispatch 6

Halloween, the modern ritual holiday (holy-day) that survives as our sole reminder of Samhain, represents the half-way point betwixt the now past Autumnal Equinox and the Solstice of the coming winter. Samhain, pronounced 'Sow-en' is traditionally associated with a thinning of the veil between the world of those embodied and living, and the world of those who have no body to wear in this place. It is a time of in-betweens, with weather as fickle as emotion itself, ranging from the warm and sunny days of autumn, to the driving snows of the now rapidly approaching months of cold. Leaves lay as litter upon the ground, and yet many also still cling to their parent trees, resisting the gravity that will soon carry them to the forest floor. The animals, just as so many humans, scurry about preparing for the lean times to come, storing up those needed calories on their bodies, or buried about as caches, to be consumed when their world has frozen over.

Children, unaware of the origin of such festivities, don the ghoulish and menacing raiment of the dead, and parade through the streets costumed as spirit-forms. They roam as freely as the souls of the departed were said to do at this time, when the membrane that separates the world of the living from the realm of the wandering ghosts becomes permeable, and entities can pass between the two worlds with ease. The nether-realm is revealed and its secrets made plain – if only for a moment – before the coming yuletide glow's soft light causes all the shadowy things to retreat back into the places from which they had come. This is a time of things unseen, of hidden forces, of powers concealed. The realm of the subconscious is made fleetingly visible, like apprehending a glimpse of the greatness of an iceberg that normally appears as but a small point of ice afloat on the ocean's surface. Deep and profound things are at work now, as the facade of this world dies back to the cold, and those things that have been hidden are but for a moment revealed, before being buried completely beneath the coming snows.

Schedule

First Dispatch: Spring Equinox - The Intrinsic Taboo

March 20 - 2014

Second Dispatch: Beltane - Let Food Be Thy Medicine

May 5 - 2014

Third Dispatch: Summer Solstice - Primal Movement

June 21 - 2014

Fourth Dispatch: Lammas - The Operant Condition

August 7 - 2014

Fifth Dispatch: Autumnal Equinox - Awakening Sexual Intelligence

September 22 - 2014

Sixth Dispatch: Samhain - A Chemical Ecology

November 7 - 2014

Seventh Dispatch: Winter Solstice 

December 21 - 2014

Eighth Dispatch: Imbolc 

February 3  - 2015

A Deficiency of Drugs

The Neolithic Revolution may have led to the eventual end of the stone age, but nothing, it seems, could interrupt the stoned-age. Humans have always sought to alter their consciousness, and we find the use of psychoactive substances to be very nearly ubiquitous across the planet, in whatever niche H. sapiens have carved out for themselves. Yes, there are those rare exceptions, such as in the sparsely foliated northern latitudes, where few such medicines are to be found, yet even there we find a strong and intact shamanic tradition. It has been reported that, despite the lack of psychoactive substances being as readily available as in more equatorial zones, the native peoples of these regions still sought the altered consciousness of the shamanic trance, this being reached through brainwave entrainment techniques, utilizing such methods as drumbeat and chant and dance to achieve such ends.

For the rest of the world, getting high is simply a part of life. Wage a war on it if you will, but it will be — like any fool's errand — a war whose objectives cannot, and will never be realized. Seeking altered states is natural to people, as inherent to our species as making fire — likely more so in fact, since we see other, less pyromaniacal animals seeking these experiences as well. Expecting abstinence from psychoactive substances is as naive a position as is expecting teenagers to abstain from sex. Surely a few of the more impressionable innocents may deny their instincts for fear of the menacing reports given them by those hypocrites who demand their obedience, but most will simply obey their inner guidance, and are eager to try something that offers a glimpse into another world. 

Consider for a moment, the threat of captivity, of violence — and in some parts of the world even death — under which people still continue to use mind altering substances, and you may glean some sense of just how strong this natural compulsion is. Try as any society might to curtail such behavior, inevitably the desire to alter ones perceptions will win the day. Black markets will always emerge to fulfill what was once more than a socially accepted behavior, one that was fundamental to our species spiritual journey through this Earthly life.

There are many kinds of experience-altering drugs available to the adventurous ape, manufactured as they are by naturally occurring organisms, and now with novel ones also being synthesized by the chemically inclined. Some stimulate the central nervous system, some depress it. Some cause the body to secrete higher than normal levels of neurotransmitters, others keep our own endogenous neurotransmitters from being broken down within the alembic of our bodies, while still others are neurotransmitters in and of themselves. It is these last with which I will concern myself here, and it is with these that we find native peoples most often concerning themselves as well.

We have struggled to name these drugs, and newly developed descriptors for their classification seem to come into vogue with each generation, only to be supplanted by yet another a generation later. They have been called hallucinogens — generators of hallucinations — which to those who have used them seems an exaggeration, if not an outright inflammatory fabrication. Some have called them psychotomimetics — mimickers of psychosis — a name which clearly comes from those who fear the very existence of such chemical devices. The contemporary herbalist and author Stephen Harrod Buhner prefers neurognostics — knowledge emerging from the nervous system — which is an apt name, if not slightly cumbersome. The 60's and 70's knew them as psychedelics, a name derived from Greek which translates to "mind revealing". Psychedelic is, in my opinion, a useful term that has, unfortunately, borne the encumbering load of several generations of negative contextual baggage upon it. It has been smoked and doped, and dragged through the tie-dye, it has frayed bellbottoms and a flower poking out of the barrel.

So it is that here I will use the now fashionable moniker — entheogen — which simply means to “generate an experience of god within”. I prefer to interpret it as "generating an internal spiritual experience", and have chosen the term for at least three reasons. The first is that it makes the scientific mind very uncomfortable, as such spiritual experiences are currently unquantifiable and utterly subjective in nature. This amuses me. The second is that those who do not, would not, and cannot even conceive of using these medicines seem nearly incapable of aping the term. It appears to offend their sensibilities, and helps to separate those in the know from those who remain in the dark about such things. Third, it implies its own opposite, which is "atheogen", a term we will explore further in an upcoming article.

Those who use these medicines regularly, whether those who dwelt in the distant past, leaving their experiences recorded for us today, or those modern-day partakers of the sacraments, consistently report similar experiences. We are told of a sense of all things being connected, of a universality of love, light, and cooperation between all living things. There is reported a palpable realization of ones own responsibility for the manifest events of one's own life, and a pattern-recognition that makes plain the artful geometric design of the universe. There is often a sense of a universal intelligence that is infused throughout all things, irrespective of scale — a kind of ubiquitous spiritual-force inhabiting everything from the largest nebula down to the infra-miniscule quark. While difficult to describe to the uninitiated, these realizations are not simply concluded, they are witnessed, and in such a way as to make discounting them nearly impossible. They are experienced by all of the senses, and are realer-than-real, leaving the participant more sure of them than they are of those 'objective indisputable truths' of the normal waking state. Once glimpsed it is difficult to go back, once known the universe can never again be seen as the cold, dead, and inanimate backdrop that we were programmed to believe it to be.

There are those abstainers who make such audacious claims as “I can achieve those states ‘naturally’, and do not need drugs to do so”. First, if I might, please allow me to retort. No, you cannot. You simply cannot achieve these states without these medicines. You can, no doubt, achieve many wondrous states of consciousness without consuming a psychoactive drug, however these states, the state engendered by the entheogen, are simply not available otherwise. Haters hate. I respect and encourage other modes of exploration, but please refrain from suggesting that these states can be reached by sitting in lotus position or by modulating your breathing. 

Additionally, I would ask the question, “what is natural?” Can you achieve total nutritional sufficiency without consuming nutrients? Why do we not hear these same voices saying “I don’t need to eat food, I can get all my nutritional needs met 'naturally'?" 

For instance, we humans are not capable of synthesizing our own vitamin C. This is unusual for a mammal, in that most species we observe simply produce their own vitamin C endogenously, and can therefore avoid scurvy simply by living. We, on the other hand, are incapable of such feats, as we have consumed so many Vitamin C rich foods throughout our development as to make such a redundancy unnecessary. At some point in our evolution our bodies decided to forgo the synthesis of this vitamin because it was nearly impossible to become deficient in it. As long as we ate, we ate vitamin C. Of course, domesticated humans did find a way to become deficient, and this was accomplished by relegating oneself to a ship at sea for months on end, where fresh foods were unavailable. That, however, is a digression that carries us away from the topic at hand. What is relevant is the pointing out of the fact that there are those things which our bodies must get from our environment in order to maintain our health, and I would argue that entheogens are just such a substance. These medicines are foods, and are, and have likely always been, part of the diets of indigenous people the world over. 

If we neglect our need for vitamin C we develop a physical deficiency disease known as scurvy. If we neglect our need for entheogens we develop a mental illness I'll call “spiritual bankruptcy”. This disease's symptoms can range from the zealotry of monotheistic religious extremists to the nihilism of scientific atheists. Both – being mindsets not observed in natural peoples anywhere – are mental disorders emerging from the lack of the direct experience of the spiritual nature of reality. Both have lead humans to destroy their own habitat and each other by perpetuating a mistaken belief that they live unconnected – to one another and to all other observable things – in a spiritless world. Modern humans are starving for neurotransmitters that modulate their consciousness and nurture their connection to the divine. Without them we are left following the rule books of dead religions or struggling to invoke a spiritual force we intellectually believe in but don't know how to conjure.

Imbibing a nutrient that allows us to glimpse the spiritual nature of reality is – to my mind – no different than imbibing a nutrient that allows our body to deal with the physiological ravages of oxidation (vitamin C). Everywhere we look in the world, it can be seen that the healthiest demographic of human beings to have ever lived (the indigenous foragers) used these substances in regularly occurring ritualistic ways to connect into the spiritual matrix of reality. These humans were able to live in harmonious balance within their ecosystems generationally. Moderns, in contrast, have all but given up these vitally important substances, and have gone so far as having banned their use, restricting human access to them as completely as they have been capable to. Those that do use them risk severe penalties for such lawless acts, and represent a small factional subculture whose voice is largely unheard and rarely (if ever) taken seriously. The result has been a widespread spiritual bankruptcy, and this has lead to such cultural doctrines as 'human dominion over the earth', and its twisted stepchild, 'transhumansim', both of which are lynchpin contributors to the human initiated 6th Extinction event on Earth.

Moderns are suffering from a nutrient deficiency, though this nutrient is neither a vitamin nor a mineral, a lipid, nor an amino acid, but rather is a special type of neurotransmitter; the tryptamine. Our bodies produce these and other similar substances, yet when added into our central nervous system in pharmacologically significant quantities from exogenous sources, something magical beings to take place. Our minds are awoken in some radically novel way, our once sleeping inner-eye is opened. Our brains, heretofore starved of these high-order neurotransmitters, start to function in some newly optimized way, forming more sophisticated neuro-pathways through the grey matter of our now activated, reactivated, and upgraded neocortex. Our distressed, over-developed, and over-worked egos are checked, reigned in, allowed to rest, and our under-nourished spirits are energized, recharged, restored, and finally set free to soar as they were meant to.

Choosing to use these medicines, just as our ancestors did, can ensure that we remain securely tethered to the natural world, awake and responsive to the community of living beings. Without them we seem as threatened by nature, by our own planet, as astronauts stranded on Mars without an atmosphere and running out of air to breath. In their absence our species has wrought the epidemic deficiency disease of spiritual bankruptcy, and is now – with a famine stricken hunger –  devouring the entire living world in a desperate attempt to fill the insatiable void left where our connection to spirit would, should, and could otherwise reside.

Bad Tripping

I don’t really believe in the phenomena of the “bad trip”. I don’t mean to imply that such experiences never happen — quite the contrary, I have had them myself — but rather that such experiences are not what they initially appear to be. 

The so called “psychedelic drugs” — which are essentially non-toxic neurotransmitters — are capable of neither good nor evil, as they simply allow for enhanced transmission between neurons. In other words, the trip, whether it is one that expands and enhances one’s experience of reality or is a tailspin into the cold depths of paranoia and the temporary experience of the "loss of one's sanity" is — and this bit is crucial — the experience of the tripper, not the drug. The drug, or medicine as I prefer to refer to them, is simply an amplifier of ones own internal mental state. When paranoia, fear, and yes, even terror emerge, it is my opinion that this is the revelation of a theme of the individual's psyche. Like malware, it is running somewhere in the background of their brain's operating system 24 hours a day, though it usually goes unnoticed in the 'normal waking state'. The medicine, with its psychological healing properties, brings these constantly running thought-patterns and feeling-tones to the forefront of the observer's awareness. This can be... uncomfortable at times.

The altered state experience can be quite overwhelming, especially for someone who hasn’t developed the skill of 'letting go', or what might be better called the 'fine art of relinquishing control'. For many of us, skilled as we are in the gross-motor skill of denial, fighting against something we prefer not too look at comes more naturally than acceptance. When a pattern in our mind — “They are coming to get me” is a great example — comes to the surface, there is a tendency to resist it, to look for a set of feet at which to place the blame for such experiences. We have not — most of us at least — been taught to employ that emotional intelligence of which we are capable, to pause and reflect, to pattern interrupt and say “Wait. This is coming from me, this is coming from within my own mind". When there is a 'drug' involved, the blame is easy to place. 

“It is the drug that is doing this to me"... 

The reality is closer to "It is the medicine that is showing me what I have been doing to myself"...

When I first began partaking of the entheogenic sacraments, I had some very uncomfortable experiences. To be fair, these were outnumbered by the ecstatic, otherworldly revelatory encounters that were unwaveringly positive, however I certainly had my share of difficult nights. These, looking back over them now, were some of the most healing moments of my time here on Earth and in this body. I have an appreciation for them now that I couldn’t have understood then. These were the purges, the cleanses that left my mind freer, lighter, more elastic and pliable. There is a now cliché phrase in the therapy circles “you have to feel it to heal it”, and I have found it to be true in many areas of my own healing journey. An analogous example would be cleansing from some physical challenge such as heavy metal toxicity. Toxic metal ions tend to accumulate in places such as the bones, where they continue to create health problems, though these tend to be much more muted than those experienced when these metals were freely circulating through the blood. There are therapies which mobilize these metal cations, rendering them water soluble, which allows the body to excrete them through the urine. The process of liberating these metals from the bones and circulating through the blood for eventual elimination can create the experience of acute toxicity, as they make their journey out of our bodies. Essentially you end up 'feeling it' as you are 'healing it'.

What then of the accumulated traumas, unresolved nagging fears, and the constant anxiety that comes from the fret of social isolation or of being ostracized that plagues so many domesticated humans? These fears have their own dedicated neuro-circuits in the brain, and when they are charged with the amplifying properties of novel neurotransmitters the emotional states and thought patterns that they engender can become very overwhelming. These patterns and fears live in the mind like heavy metal ions live in the bones. To over-write these patterns we must first know they are there. Not 'know' in the intellectual sense, not the way we know things like “the sun is made of hydrogen and helium”, that is an intellectual/memorization type of knowledge. We must know it like we know the love we feel for someone close to us, an all encompassing experiential knowledge. We must feel it, that is how we really 'know'. Entheogens make fear and scarcity patterns 'mind-soluble', allowing us to purge them from our psyche. Healing can be painful at times.

There is a secret to this, and it is trust. We, to effectively clear these old patterns, memories, memes, and false beliefs about reality, must relinquish them, be willing to let them go, to allow them to move through us. Often, like the denial of someone who is suppressing the memory of an extreme trauma, this is easier to discuss than it is to accomplish. There are those — by way of example — who have sexual trauma in their past, and who have yet to admit this to themselves. The fear of acknowledging and facing these traumas can override the desire to heal from them. Of course these buried traumas affect — in ways subtle or gross — nearly every aspect of the person's life. Just as a splinter in the foot affects how we walk and stand in the world, as we carefully avoid placing pressure over that area, so too does trauma live like a splinter in the mind, and so too do we avoid situations, conversations, and experiences that might 'put pressure' on the trauma-splinter. If we would like to re-attain the full use of our bodies we must remove the offending splinter. It will hurt on its way out, but this is short-lived and temporary. After, we are forever free of that trauma and no longer need to alter our way of life to accommodate the sharp intruder. Similarly, so too must we let these psychological traumas go, and doing so can 'hurt', which may manifest as fear, paranoia, or a fleeting but acutely intense sense of becoming 'spiritually lost'. This is — the metaphorical pulling of a splinter — temporary and necessary for the freedom that will follow. We have to trust the removal process.

Once we clear a fear or trauma, it is gone and gone for good. The less we resist, the more thoroughly it can be cleansed. We can fight it, and hold onto our trauma if we choose, just as someone can pull back from the tweezer that would pull the splinter from our foot. It is our choice. Learning to trust the process comes with experience, and as we open up and let the medicine do its work — as we release into and trust the process — it can easily go from 'bad trip' to 'psycho-emotional cleanse'. The next day, as we integrate, we can see that we are freer than before, as this 'sharp intruder' has left us forever. Those who recoil from the experience, who blame 'the drug', who resist, will carry that splinter forward and it will continue to create infection and inhibit freedom of emotional movement. Get free!

There are — in this light — no bad trips, just old wounds and debilitating primal fears. There are (and for this I am grateful) medicines that can accelerate our healing, though we must be willing to let them do their work, and we must to be willing to do our work too.


Click here to visit SurThrival!

ReWild Yourself! Podcast: Dennis McKenna on Hunting Magic Mushrooms and DMT in South America

In this episode of ReWild Yourself! podcast, Dennis McKenna — an ethnopharmacologist who has studied plant hallucinogens for over forty years — explains what happens when psychedelics are in our systems and recounts some of his fascinating adventures with his brother Terence McKenna in South America hunting psilocybin mushrooms and DMT.

Episode Breakdown

  • What is ethnopharmacology?
  • Merging science and the spiritual
  • The spectrum of food and medicine in tribal cultures
  • What happens when psychedelics are in our system
  • Seretonin upgrades
  • Psychedelics bring the background to the foreground
  • Plant vs synthetic drugs
  • Adventures with his brother Terence McKenna in South America hunting mushrooms and DMT
  • A nutrient deficiency causing reductionist and materialistic world view

Everyone lives within a chemical ecology. Tweet it!

You can’t be drug free because you’re made of drugs. Tweet it!


Click here to listen!


Episode Resources


Meet Dennis

Dennis McKenna is currently Assistant Professor in the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota. His research has focused on the interdisciplinary study of Amazonian ethnopharmacology and plant hallucinogens. He has conducted extensive ethnobotanical fieldwork in the Peruvian, Colombian, and Brasilian Amazon, recently completing a four-year project investigating Amazonian ethnomedicines as potential treatments for cognitive disorders in schizophrenia. His doctoral research (University of British Columbia,1984) focused on the ethnopharmacology of ayahuasca and oo-koo-he, two tryptamine-based hallucinogens used by indigenous peoples in the Northwest Amazon. Dr. McKenna completed post-doctoral research fellowships in neurosciences in the Laboratory of Clinical Pharmacology, National Institute of Mental Health (1986-88), and in the Department of Neurology, Stanford University School of Medicine (1988-90). He joined Shaman Pharmaceuticals as Director of Ethnopharmacology in 1990, and subsequently joined Aveda Corporation as Senior Reseach Pharmacognosist. He is a founding board member of the Heffter Research Institute. He was a key organizer and participant in the Hoasca Project, the first biomedical investigation of ayahuasca used by the UDV, a Brazilian religious group. Dr. McKenna is author or co-author of three books and over 40 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals.

Dennis McKenna

Dennis McKenna

Belladonna

Manhattan, 2008.

The room was large for the city, a reclaimed warehouse made studio of fine art. Electronic music was pulsing its alien, off-planet beats, sonically tattooing my ear drums with glitches of sound that were as much mathematics as music. I was clad in black, shod in split toed knee high boots, a chef’s knife tucked into the leather scabbard on my belt, my face obscured by the iconic mask of the ninja, and shadowed by a round, woven rice-paddy hat, like a wok turned upside down and rested upon my crown. Pouring drinks into cups in outstretched hands, I was directing the psychological experience of those who had gathered here the way the DJ was directing the movements of their bodies. In fact, both music and libations were aligned and attuned. The party was raging.

The walls were adorned with life-sized images of human beings lacking their skin, being largely translucent, their physical and metaphysical anatomies laid plain, made visible. Behind me was my team, a shadowy clique of drink-vending ninja (yes, that is the plural of 'ninja'), poised like a murder of crows, similarly dressed, and tasked with serving a barely legal beverage. This was an intoxicating aphrodisiac libation based largely on yohimbe, a bark whose tree’s roots grip the soils of its native Western Africa. Yohimbe is a “confirmed” aphrodisiac, which means that its effects are not subjective, but rather clinically observable. It flushes the erogenous erectile tissue network of both male and female bodies with blood, creating large, firm erections in men, swollen clitoral networks in woman, and of course, hard sensitive nipples in both. Mmmm. But that is another story entirely, and not the reason that the occupants of this room had pupils the size of dinner plates this evening. That was due to the poisonous contents of a one ounce dropper bottle that I kept close to my person. 

We were in Alex and Allison Grey’s Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, or what the initiated call CoSM, and I was invited to serve up what was then my specialty, quasi-legal, semi-psychoactive beverages with theatrical flair. I didn’t disappoint.

Looking out across the dimly lit room, the concert lighting moved across the faces of the sweat-moist dancers, reflecting light off their retinas the way the eyes of a dog or cat might when faced with the oncoming beam of your headlights. This of course is not typical of the human eye, and that was also due to the coveted contents of the small amber bottle from which I'd been administering drops to those now doe-eyed participants.

I first learned about Belladonna while researching the 'witching herbs', a collection of plants, largely nightshades, that were employed by the female magician/herbalists of medieval Europe. These woman, targets of the Christian Inquisition, have been immortalized as the icon of the Halloween celebration, as the green-faced, crooked-nosed broom pilots so well portrayed as the Wicked Witch of the West, who exemplifies the archetype in the Wizard of Oz. Few know however that within this caricature lies encoded information, and if we tease it apart we find yet another psychoactive plant story hidden plainly under our noses. 

The witch is a crooked and ugly woman, which of course is how the church portrayed these non-Christians, whom they feared and attempted (quite successfully) to demonize. They are often seen churning a great cast iron cauldron, which is an allusion to the herbal brews which they would cook up, decocting the herbs which were central to their medicine, or 'poison' path. We hear them calling for strange and exotic ingredients such as 'wing of bat' and 'eye of newt', or even the wickedly taboo 'bile of a man'. These are now known to be code words for the secret ingredients of their herbal potions, which were almost always plant based, and never as nefarious as they – upon first hearing – sound. 'Bile of a man' for instance is well accepted to have been (almost disappointingly) simple turnip sap, just as wing of bat is known to have been nothing more menacing than holly. Eye of newt, being naught but spotted-mustard seed, left newts throughout Europe quite capable of sight.

These woman were practitioners of what was then known as 'wort-cunning', which is to say the clever use of herbs. 'Wort' being a synonym of 'herb', which still survives today in the common names of such plants as Hypericum perforatum, or 'Saint John’s Wort'. It is this wort that is portrayed today on the noses of witches as an actual wart. During sabbats, these woman would gather together applying poultices of psychoactive herbs to their faces (the chlorophyll turning their visage green) and allowing them to absorb their mind-altering properties transdermally through their skin. What's more, they would actually apply their herbal oil extractions – which were known as 'flying ointments' (made in their infamous cauldrons) to their broom sticks — a symbol of their femininity — and ride naked upon them, allowing these oil-based preparations to be absorbed by the delicate mucus membranes of their vulvas. The resulting high that would ensue is the origin of the 'woman who flies upon a broomstick', which is to say that they would be 'flying high' from 'riding' the drug-laced shaft that was rubbed between their legs. So, not literally an ugly old hag who operates a vehicular broomstick, rather a secretive female wort-cunner whose preferred high was a threat to the establishment of her time.

While countless herbs were employed by these wort-cunners, none were as revered as the nightshade family of plants, chiefly mandrake, henbane, and of course, belladonna.

Belladonna takes its name from the Latin “beautiful lady”, referencing its use amongst the women of Rome as a cosmetic, due to the presence of a unique molecule in the tropane family of alkaloids – atropine. This is the very same drug used by the medical profession to 'dilate' someones eyes. Historically this was extracted from Belladonna itself, however today it is synthesized in laboratories. 

It took me some time to track this plant down, as it is native to Europe and isn’t naturalized to the area where I live. Eventually I was able to locate a source and order some for myself. When it arrived I wasn't exactly sure what to do with it (ancient Roman recipes were found lacking), but soon deduced a starting point. Placing a teaspoon of the dried leaf into a jar, and covering with 200 ml’s of cold spring water yielded — once strained through a fine mesh — a tea-colored liquid, to which I added enough sea salt to yield a salinity similar to that of tears. This I placed into a dropper bottle and — having committed myself to any of the hazards of self-experiment — promptly tilted my head back and began dripping this poisonous liquid into my right eye. I determined that I’d best leave the left eye untested lest either the experiment go awry, or the effects be so indiscernible that I need an unadulterated pupil for comparison. Setting the bottle aside, I went over to my desk to work on some writing. 

There are those drugs whose effects are so legendary that one could scarcely imagine forgetting they had taken them while awaiting their oncoming effects. Then, there are those whose action is less frightening, and easier to set aside in the mind. Despite being considered one of the most poisonous plants in the Eastern Hemisphere, Belladonna was for me of the latter type, and I soon became engrossed in the project before me. About 20 minutes had elapsed when I began perceiving brilliant violet and purple hues of light dancing about the edges of the snowy white paper upon which I had been playing scribe. It was growing progressively more difficult to focus my right eye on the page before me. I stepped up, making my way to a mirror, and there, staring back at me was the reflection to which I had grown so familiar, save one attribute, a right pupil so dilated that it nearly lacked an iris. Joy of joy, it worked! I hastily dosed the my other eye.

It seemed that everyone I introduced to the contents of this little vial of optical dilation became enthralled by it. People begged to be 'treated' and to purchase this poison from me. I held tight to the contents however, like the wort-cunners of old, lest the magic escape me. For months I played with it, dosing myself and at least a hundred others. I brought it to parties and to events, where men seemed to like it and women to love it. The cosmetic effect is striking, as the dilated pupil gives the impression of extreme openness and receptivity to the subject at hand. It gives the modern female user – just as it did the women of Rome – the appearance of supreme interest in the person she is speaking with.

The preparation never lasted more than a few days however, being susceptible to a fermentation which was only barely kept in check by the salt which eased its entry into the eye.

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While Belladonna is almost always thought of as a dangerous poison, I have found several wonderful medicinal benefits that extend beyond its perceived malevolence. First is that it allows one to see frequencies of violet light that seem to extend just beyond what is normally perceivable to the human eye. Although I have not been able to confirm this conclusively, my impression was of breaking into the lowest end of the ultraviolet spectrum. This was most notable when looking at light sources, like a lightbulb or LED, which would twinkle with all the opalescence of the distant stars. If it were my goal to create a formula that would endow its user with superhuman vision, certainly Belladonna would grace the ingredient deck. 

Probably more valuable is its impact on near-sightedness, which is apparently due to the way it relaxes the musculature of the eye itself. Many of the individuals who I shared this medicine with came back to report improvements in their ability to see at distance, and while I have not followed up at length, these effects lasted at least for days or weeks.

Some side effects to be wary of are the increased light intake through an enormously dilated pupil, and the impact on near-focus vision. Regarding the former, I have found that Belladonna is best employed in the evening, as the brightness of the day quickly overwhelms the unconstrictable eye. In terms of the latter, expect that, at least the first part of the following day, reading will need to be done at arms-length, and that the smaller things in life will not be seen in great detail, as the eyes simply cannot focus at short distances under Atropa's influence. 

Otherwise, utilizing the methods I have described, no other ill-effects were ever noted in myself or any others who used it with me. That said, there are several toxic and strongly psychoactive alkaloids in this plant, so tread lightly, self responsibly, and sovereignly. As with all such experiments on the poison path, you must walk this road alone.

Neoaboriginal Revolution

Introduction to the Relevance of Entheogens

By Arthur Haines of Delta Institute

An entheogen is a substance or a practice that generates the divine within. Though this definition means different things to different people, entheogens are able to produce altered states of consciousness that facilitate expanded awareness, deep self-examination, healing of physical and psychological issues, and generate a greater sense of awe and connection to existence.  Entheogens are primarily plants, though fungi, animals, and various practices (e.g., syncopated beat, fasting) are also capable of generating an entheogenic experience.  Most affluent societies consider entheogens to be substances that produce intoxication (without benefit); hence, the names provided to these medicines generally carry a negative connotation:  psychoactive, hallucinogen, psychedelic, dissociative, and deleriant.  Given that most people in these societies have not truly experienced a sacred ceremony involving entheogens, these names are based more on ignorance and fear, rather than first-hand witnessing and understanding.

Entheogens have been used virtually around the world by indigenous people. The people of the Andean highlands of Peru used a species of column-like cactus now called San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi) in their ceremonies. Documented use of this cactus goes back to a stone carving over 3300 years old. In Mexico, the indigenous people used peyote (Lophophora williamsii) to attain realms beyond the material one.  Some groups considered peyote to protect the people so that they need not fear hunger, thirst, or all dangers.  Through a large area of South America, including parts of Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, and Peru, the blood-red angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia sanguinea) is used as a teacher plant to diagnose disease and divine the future.  On portions of the African continent, the dogbane relative iboga (Tabernanthe iboga) is used to speak with the ancestors.  The fly agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria) was used in northeastern Asia among herder-gatherer shamans.  There (and elsewhere), this fungus was used to attain an altered state during divination ceremonies.  And the listing of species and indigenous people who used them could continue to great length.  Throughout most of the world, indigenous and traditional people employed one or more entheogens.  It was a common feature of life.

Common angel’s trumpet

Common angel’s trumpet

(Brugmansia arborea) belongs to a group of entheogenic plants used by South American curanderos.  Toé, as these species are known in Quechua, are members of the nightshade family (Solanaceae).  They are used in sacred ceremonies and venerated through their planting and public display.  These plants were photographed growing near Machu Picchu in the mountains of southern Peru.  Photo by Nicole Leavitt.

Now, we enter the Neolithic (or perhaps better called the polymer-lithic), where traditional dietary, medicinal, and ceremonial practices have been interrupted or completely lost.  In a world now filled with people afflicted by disease, depression, addiction, greed, and dissension, who simultaneously lack awareness, empathy, healing power, and spirituality free of bureaucracy, it may be time to admit that the loss of traditional lifeways, which included entheogens, may be having major impacts on the quality of our existence.  In fact, modern studies are finally beginning to reveal the value of entheogens to contemporary (i.e., domesticated) humans.

Studies have demonstrated the value of iboga (Tabernanthe iboga), a west-central African shrub, in treating opiate addiction.  The roots contain an indole alkaloid called ibogaine that produces dream-like visions followed by deep introspection.  Characteristics of addicts, such as a desire or intention to use a drug, have seen substantial improvements in human studies.  Some cocaine and heroin addicts have experienced tremendous value from this entheogen, reducing or eliminating their need for these drugs in the span of days (rather than months), without the discomfort associated with substance abuse treatment.  Studies have also shown that mood is generally improved with less depression experienced by those utilizing this healing strategy.  While the alkaloid ibogaine is metabolized relatively quickly in the body (by action of liver enzymes), it is transformed into noribogaine, a metabolite that is cleared very slowly and continues to exert its beneficial pharmacological effects on the central nervous system.  Studies have also shown iboga may assist with other types of addiction, including nicotine and alcohol.

A study conducted at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine interviewed volunteers who ingested psylocybin, an indole alkaloid produced by some 200 species of mushrooms (including members of the genus Psylocybe ).  The participants were questioned 14 months after ingestion of the mycochemical, and 94% stated they had one of the top five most meaningful experiences in their life; 34% stated it was the most meaningful experience in their life.  Friends and family members were also questioned about the study participants, and they stated the participants were kinder, happier, and calmer after the experiment.  Other studies demonstrated that psylocybin could help treat depression through its ability to stimulate the formation of new neuronal connections, without any of the side effects caused by pharmaceutical anti-depressants.  In this arena, psylocybin has shown marked reduction in anxiety experienced by advanced-stage cancer patients, helping them cope with dying and ease psychological trauma.  In these studies, no clinically significant adverse effects were observed (i.e., no negative side effects).

Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi) is a forest liana of northwestern South America. Its name derives from a Quechua term meaning “vine of the soul”.  This entheogen has been used to treat several different kinds of cancers.  One gentleman was diagnosed with liver cancer (after treatment of colon cancer) and given a 15% chance of survival by one physician and a 20–25% chance by another.  He participated in two ayahuasca ceremonies and found his carcinoembryonic antigen count was lower than normal (this test measures the abundance of a protein associated with certain cancers, a lower score is better). There are also published accounts of positive treatment outcomes with breast cancer, ovarian cancer (including advanced ovarian cancer with metastasis), and uterine cancer.  People that have used ayahuasca as part of a cancer therapy have reported that this teacher plant had profound effects, usually described as life-changing, and contributed to their sense of well-being.  Ayahuasca contains several alkaloids in its bark, including the β-carbolines harmine and harmaline. These compounds inhibit destruction of other phytochemicals found in species of plants combined with this liana during preparation of the medicine.  Though many species are combined with ayahuasca, the two most common are chacruna (Psychotria viridis) and chagropanga (Diplopterys cabrerana), both of which are dimethyltryptamine-containing plants.  The pharmacological effects of these chemicals are still being studied, but preliminary work suggests that collectively they block tumor angiogenesis (i.e., the formation of new blood vessels), up-regulate apoptosis (i.e., programed cell death), and positively affect cell metabolism.

With all the positive outcomes described in the previous three paragraphs, it is difficult to understand why these entheogens are not being employed more widely in the world.  It is important to realize there are many factors at work promoting a fear of (and even disdain for) these sacred species.  Efforts by European colonists to eradicate the use of the teacher plants and fungi began when they first arrived on the North and South American continents.  The ceremonies involving these species were considered by early colonists to be highly inappropriate, and they went to great lengths to suppress the knowledge and practice of entheogens.  For example, Spanish priests considered the use of the peyote cactus to possibly lead to people sucking blood, eating the flesh of other humans, and conversing with demons.  This stance has continued today, though it is much easier now because the populace is trained to respect a credentialed authority (in this case, someone with a degree in medicine or psychology) who prefers the use of synthetic drugs over naturally occurring substances that humans have been exposed to for long periods of time.

Entheogens produce what can be described as mystical experiences.  They have been demonstrated to promote enhanced cooperation amongst the different brain centers, producing an enlightened awareness and an ability to perform non-linear thinking.  Entheogens are responsible for the birth of some religions (possibly most).  While many domesticated people doubt the therapeutic effects of entheogens, most of them do not realize how subjective their experience of reality is.  The altered state of consciousness achieved through ingestion of entheogens has dramatic effects on the ego and how information is translated by the brain.  It can be said that the normal separation of the world and the individual ego we experience in everyday life is reduced or even removed.  This allows the ability to perceive the world in different ways and on different levels. Given that these teaching tools have been used by indigenous people around the world, their ceremonial use is certainly part of the rewilding path. However, we should not forget that of the approximately 500,000 species of plants in the world, it is a mere 1000 species known to possess potent levels of psychoactive constituents.  The great value of these species to humanity makes them vulnerable to extinction.  The loss of teacher plants from the world would have a profound effect on our ability to perceive, understand, and heal.


Meet Arthur

Greetings! My name is Arthur Haines and I’ve been helping people explore human ecology for over 20 years. I’ve done this with the mission of developing deep awareness of and connection to nature, promoting individual health, and fostering self-reliance. Wild food is a passion of mine, and through this, I offer a glimpse of our past and a new picture of our future. Through this knowledge, and many other facets of our shared ancestral lifeways, we can awaken a rewilding of our body, mind, and heart.

I endeavor to share knowledge garnered from this perspective, one that merges the material knowledge of present-day people with the ecological knowledge of ancestral people.

You can find Arthur on Facebook and on his website ArthurHaines.com.

Arthur Haines

Arthur Haines

ReWild Yourself! Podcast: Arthur Haines on the Teacher Plants

Arthur Haines joins us on the podcast to discuss the missing nutrient in our diets: entheogens! He talks about entheogen use in hunter-gatherer societies and tells us a little about his own personal experiences with these sacred plant medicines.

Episode Breakdown:

  • A bit about Arthur’s background
  • How Arthur was introduced to psychoactive plants
  • Being a credible witness
  • Entheogen use in hunter-gatherers
  • Spiritual realm vs the scientific realm
  • Arthur’s personal entheogenic experiences
  • Entheogens are endogenous compounds
  • Entheogens were called “teacher plants” by indigenous tribal leaders for a reason
  • The missing nutrient in our diet?
  • Using entheogens to deal with death trauma
  • Arthur describes his sacred experience with Saguaro Cactus
  • Discerning tips for working with a shaman

Entheogens are also superfoods. Tweet it!

It is illegal for us to put a substance in our body (DMT) that our body already makes. Tweet it!


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Episode Resources

War on Drugs?

There is something strange about the word “drug”. We use it to describe both those substances that are the most celebrated in our culture, and those that are the most maligned. We can buy sanctioned drugs from a dealer in a white coat in a pharmacy, and can be imprisoned for doing the same from a plain-clothed dealer on the street. There are massive untouchable organizations producing and selling drugs — we call them drug companies — who poison countless thousands per year with near total legal impunity, and there are those organizations producing and selling drugs — we call them cartels — who poison countless thousands per year who operate illegally.

Interestingly the drugs that the cartels are selling were often first invented, prescribed, and sold by the same organizations who now sell the drugs that we call pharmaceuticals. It was after all Bayer who first brought us heroin, selling it as a miracle cough medicine for people all ages. Seems a bit strong for coughs, but who am I to judge?

Just what is a drug, or more aptly, what do we mean when we say ‘drug’?

Let’s begin by acknowledging that drug, medicine, and poison are all equivalent terms. They are different ways of describing the same thing. Drugs and medicines are poisons in large enough doses. In fact, it is their poisonous action in very small and metered doses that so often creates the effect that is sought when taking them.

Of course we typically use the terms drug and medicine interchangeably, and just what makes us choose one over the other isn’t very clear. We refer to pharmaceutical companies as ‘drug companies’, and rarely as ‘medicine companies’, though we usually refer to their products as ‘medicines’. When a drug has become taboo, the stuff of prohibition, we cease to call it a medicine in common speech (though I prefer to refer to many such substances as medicines, believing as I do that they are), in which case ‘drug’ is used in its derogatory sense. We refer to the profession of drugging as the practice of ‘medicine’, but no longer refer to the dealers of the medicines as ‘druggists’ as we once did. Now we call these peddlers of sanctioned drugs 'pharmacists'. 

Whilst the producers and dealers of legally sanctioned drugs develop ever more political power, those who sell the drugs they once sold, or — as difficult as it is to imagine — naturally occurring plant based medicines, have had a war proclaimed upon them. The SWAT team, or what has often been called the 'militarization of the police', despite what most people imagine (rescuing hostages, fighting terrorism) has primarily been about serving drug warrants. They are quite literally the front line soldiers in a war against drugs. All the while drugs are being sold openly on the street corners of most cities at shops we literally call ‘drug stores’.

Our culture promotes abstinence from illegal drugs openly, but consumes them voraciously on the black market. We constantly develop new drugs, and prescribe more of them than ever, all the while telling our children not to use drugs. We drug our kids in the morning (prescribe), and then send them to school for classes on “saying no to drugs” (proscribe). Do you ever get the impression that humans are obsessed with drugs?

Forgive me for rehashing the now over-discussed and cliche argument about alcohol, tobacco, and coffee being at best habituating, and at worst addictive and destructive drugs, all having noteworthy psychoactive properties and being legal, whilst other ‘drugs’ are prohibited. We are so inculcated with these drugs that it is easy to forget that they are indeed psychoactive. The first time I smoked a cigarette I nearly fell over from the vertigo and visual distortions it caused. I certainly got high from it. Over the years I have had the pleasure (yes, literally ‘the pleasure’) of smoking many heirloom rustica tobaccos. Nicotiana rustica is the tobacco of choice for the native peoples of the Americas, as opposed to Nicotiana tobaccum, which is the much milder (read; weaker) species of tobacco used in modern day cigarettes. Rustica varieties are considerably richer in nicotine than are the tobaccum varieties, and they quickly acquaint one with the power of that drug. These are tobaccos that make the smoker sit down — lest they pass out. That is without even acknowledging the intense psychedelic experience that can be had from traditional snuff preparations such as rapè, which are blown into the sinuses of the user by the curanderos of South America. Nicotine is a powerful psychoactive drug, and as many people know, in larger doses it is a lethal poison. 

Tobacco Mapacho — Nicotiana Rustica

Tobacco Mapacho — Nicotiana Rustica

By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What of coffee, the beverage made from the roasted seed of Coffea arabica, a drink without whom the entire western world would likely come to a painful, jonesing, screeching halt? A drug? Have you ever gone days, weeks, or better yet, months or years without drinking anything containing caffeine? Coffee is a powerful central nervous system stimulant, which is of course the very reason that most people consume it. Yet just how powerful it is can be quickly lost on the habituated. For the intolerant, a double expresso can be as strong as speed or a bump of coke. Just saying. 

And alcohol? Let us not forget that ethanol, a poison we have danced with since antiquity, has been one of the principle addictions of civilization since its inception. City builders have of course always subsisted upon the supremely fermentable domesticated grass seeds — which are the primary ingredient in beer — grains. So powerful is the psychoactivity and tendency towards habituation that the United States amended its own constitution to make illicit its consumption. This of course was known as the Prohibition, America’s first but not last war on drugs.

You see, we don’t actually have a war on drugs, but rather we have a war on some drugs.

Atheogens

There are substances found throughout the natural world — including within our own bodies — that humans have imbibed for generations uncountable to guide us through reliable and exceptional spiritual experiences. These, usually alkaloids, are the medicines we have termed entheogens, which of course means “to generate the experience of god or divine beings within”.

en- 2 |ɪn|

(also em-) prefix 

within, inside

theo- |ˈθioʊ|

comb. form

relating to God or deities

-gen

comb. form

denoting a substance that produces something

This is a way of saying that the 'high' associated with the consumption of these drugs is one that engenders the mystico-religious experience. Might there then be, as pure logic would dictate, a class of substances that do the opposite? I think so, and since Arthur Haines first suggested this idea to me, I have begun referring to these substances 'atheogens'.

If entheogen could be defined as the following: 

entheogen |enˈthēəˌjen, -jən| 

noun

a chemical substance, typically of plant origin, that is ingested to produce a nonordinary state of consciousness for religious or spiritual purposes.

Perhaps we could define atheogen as:

atheogen |āˈthēəˌjen, -jən| 

noun

a chemical substance, typically of industrial or pharmaceutical origin, that is ingested to inhibit nonordinary states of consciousness, usually for spiritual or intellectual-suppression purposes.

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Atheogens are substances that leave their user doubting anything other than the consensus reality. The innate mechanisms via which the mystic veil might be pierced is deadened or suppressed, at least temporarily, creating or encouraging an almost atheistic experience of life. While there are undoubtedly countless such substances, I think a great place to begin the discussion is with that modern mineral-mascot of dentistry — fluoride. Not the beautiful crystalline fluoride found in naturally occurring deposits within the crust of the Earth or the mineral form that occurs in trace amounts in some spring water sources, but rather the industrial waste product that is — still to this day — being added to municipal tap water throughout the United States, Canada, and the UK — fluosilicic acid.

Now I don't mean for this article to become an indictment of water fluoridation (though it is high time that this practice come into serious question) nor is it intended to be a debate about the ethics of phosphorus mining companies unloading the highly toxic fluoride sludge they sequester from their smoke stacks into municipal systems and — ultimately — into the skeletons of the citizens there. Both of these topics are truly worth your time, since it is immediately relevant to most of the human beings alive today in North America and the UK. My intent here, however, is to create some useful new language for the discussion of 'spirit-suppressing' substances. I use industrial fluoride only as a convenient example of a member of a class of such substances. The atheogens.

Fluosilicic acid, one of the most common forms of fluoride used in water fluoridation, is obtained as a byproduct of phosphorous mining. Fluoride has an affinity for phosphorous, and is often found bound to it in phosphorous ore deposits. This makes sense, given that it readily bonds to our teeth, the crystalline mineral protion of which, despite most people's impression of them being composed primarily of calcium, are — like all bones — made of hydroxyapatite. This hydroxyapatite matirix is largely calcium and phosphorous. Fluoride, which has an electrical 'signiture' that is similar to calcium will bond to the phosphorous in our teeth in much the same way as calcium, and it is for precisely this reason that it is employed in dentistry. The concept is simple — though arguably flawed in its logic — and goes something like this: fluoride bonds to teeth and bones making them harder than calcium alone can. This 'armors' the teeth, making them more impervious to decay. This, we were led to believe, (or more accurately were 'marketed' to, in order that we would believe) was a drug whose absolute safety was so assured, and whose actions made it so universal a panacea, that we should — get this — add it to everyone's drinking water. Seriously.

Imagine that, all the water doped — day and night — all the time, with an industrial waste product that was known to destroy life wherever it was introduced into the environment. People — an entire generation of people — raised on daily, indiscriminate doses of this industrially-derived drug.  The idea that this would prevent dental cavities, a disease nearly exclusive to agricultural Homo sapiens, was an attractive one, as cavities have been plaguing us since the early days of the Neolithic Revolution. This unbelievable mass drugging bears more likeness to a scientific laboratory experiment utilizing rats, or a dietary supplementation program for factory farmed animals than it does something you would find in a land of supposedly "free" and self-governing human beings.

Fluoride has a tendency to bioaccumulate in the hard tissues of the body due to their phosphorous content, where it essentially displaces calcium in the osseous crystalline latticework, including that of the teeth. Whether this is desirable is the focus of another treatise, here I would prefer to talk about fluoride's soft tissue bio-accumulation, which is a topic receiving far less acknowledgment than it deserves. 

Fluoride and the Calcification of the Pineal Gland

The pineal gland, a pea-sized but pine cone-shaped endocrine gland sitting balanced between the two hemispheres of the brain, is the location of what many ancient cultures — particularly those of India and Eastern Asia — have referred to as the 'third eye'. There has emerged some rather compelling evidence indicating that it is indeed just such an organ, as it has now been established that the pineal gland does contain non-visual photoreceptors (light receptors) much like a kind of primitive eye. This 'eye' — which receives its light through a circuitous neuronal path beginning with the eyeballs — does in fact 'see' the amount of ambient light around us, and uses this light to set the clock of our circadian rhythm, which is regulated by the secretion of melatonin, a neurotransmitter whose molecular structure in intimately linked with that of other tryptamine-based entheogens. The iconic French mathematician, philosopher, and human anatomy enthusiast, René Descartes, claimed that the pineal gland was the 'seat of the soul', believing it to be the interface between our spirit and body. A theme can be traced through time where the pineal gland — the anatomical third eye — is seen as a kind of antennae or receiver for the spiritual frequency of the individual's soul.

There is still much we don't know about this physically diminutive but spiritually significant organ, the geographically central structure of our central nervous system. It is speculated, however, due to its production of such structurally similar neurotransmitters, that it is the source of the endogenous (but still mysterious) N,N-DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, and bufotenin that are found in the human body. Yes, that is the same DMT that is considered the most potent psychedelic drug currently known, and the preliminary research does indicate it is most likely made in our pineal gland.

"The production of DMT in the body is speculated to occur through the conversion of the simpler molecule tryptophan into tryptamine and then into DMT (Mandel, Prasad, Lopez-Ramos & Walker, 1977), the tryptophan being available from the diet as an essential amino acid. Such biosynthesis has been observed in plants and is speculated to occur in humans (Mandel et al., 1977) given that all the necessary chemical building blocks and enzymes are available, but it remains unknown where, for certain, this biosynthesis occurs. One hypothesis holds that DMT manufacture occurs at the pineal gland (e.g. Strassman, 2001), although Hanna (2010) reminds us that the pineal-DMT hypothesis remains unproven despite the tendency of many, less informed, psychedelic commentators to assume it to be true." -Discarnate Entities and Dimethyltryptamine (DMT): Psychopharmacology, phenomenology and ontology by David Luke 

Still a mystery to science is the strange fact that the pineal gland frequently becomes calcified in many individuals by the time they reach adulthood. This is common, but hardly universal, as there are many cases where even a significantly aged person presents with no notable calcification whatsoever. On the other hand, there are examples of children as young as two years old who display significant calcification. Whether this is normal or pathological is not yet established, but that the pineal contains corpora arenacea — or 'brain sand' — is. Brain sand is composed of small calcified structures that occur in the pineal and other brain organs, and like a seed crystal, these can continue to form a foundation upon which further concretizations occur with time, eventually leading to a near total replacement of the pineal body with bony hydroxyapatite. The mineralized pineal, containing apatite that is structurally identical to that mineralizing bone, readily accumulates fluoride just as does the skeleton (including the teeth). This means the that those with more calcified pineal glands will more easily and readily accumulate fluoride in their pineal glands. Having fluoride accumulate in your brain is likely disadvantageous, as there is now evidence that fluoride may have significant neurodegenerative effects:

"Recent evidence indicates that fluoride produces neuronal destruction and synaptic injury by a mechanism that involves free radical production and lipid peroxidation." -Russell L Blaylock, Excitotoxicity: A Possible Central Mechanism in Fluoride Neurotoxicity

Just what causes a person's pineal gland to calcify isn't entirely clear, but it does appear that calcification is 100% more common amongst caucasian Americans than it is amongst African Americans, and that it is less common still amongst indigenous Africans. This is a potentially very important piece of data, as it can be hypothesized, at least speculatively, that this indicates that the degree of domestication may be related to the degree of calcification of the pineal gland. Consider that most caucasians descend from people who have been living domesticated, agricultural lives far longer than most people of African decent, who where — just several hundred years ago —  still living as natural, subsistence foragers.

"The incidence of roentgenologically visible pineal gland calcification is approximately twice as common in American whites as in blacks, a difference that is very striking after age 40. Comparison of this finding with reports in the literature shows that the incidence of pineal gland calcification is slightly higher in American blacks than in indigenous Africans, probably due to racial mixture among the American blacks we studied. It appears that the low incidence of calcified pineal shadow already observed in the African has a constitutional basis." -Incidence of Normal Pineal Gland Calcification in Skull Roentgenograms of Black and White Americans by Adelola Adeloye, M.B., B.S., M.R.C.P., F.R.C.S. and Benjamin Felson, M.D.

That fluoride would accumulate here — like a cataract on the third eye — seems more than ironic, and that it would accumulate here in greater concentrations than in any other tissue in the body makes this tale of deliberate daily dosing to deter dental decay suspect to say the least. 

"In conclusion, the human pineal gland contains the highest concentration of fluoride in the body. Fluoride is associated with depressed pineal melatonin synthesis by prepubertal gerbils and an accelerated onset of sexual maturation in the female gerbil. The results strengthen the hypothesis that the pineal has a role in the timing of the onset of puberty. Whether or not fluoride interferes with pineal function in humans requires further investigation"

"Fluoride metabolism in CNS has not been systematically studied. It is generally agreed that the CNS is impervious to the effects of fluoride by virtue of the blood-brain barrier (Whitford et al, 1979). The human pineal is outside the blood-brain barrier. The significance of this is not clear but it may be that the pineal needs to 'sample' the circulating blood. The results from this study are important because the pineal gland is obviously a hitherto unrealized target for chronic fluoride-toxicity." -Jennifer Anne Luke, The Effect of Fluoride of the Physiology of the Pineal Gland, Doctoral Dissertation

Seeming more like science-fiction than science, the en masse pharmaceutical drugging of so much of the developed world rings more of Huxley's future dystopia than the innocent mistakes of well meaning dentists. While the suppression of melatonin production (and therefore potentially of other related entheogenic neurotransmitters) by fluoride in the pineal is possibly the unintended consequence of water fluoridation, it is one of the main reasons for avoiding just such a water. There are those who believe — and evidence is mounting — that fluoride in the body dumbs down our experience of the sacred. While this is difficult to quantify, what can be quantified is its effect on intelligence. Fluoride, it seems, reduces IQ, and there are now dozens of studies that have demonstrated this. By reducing our ability to use our brains properly, fluoride functions as an atheogen, essentially reducing our ability to perceive the world as it actually is. That the idea of water fluoridation was sold to us by the legendary propagandist Edward Bernays is particularly telling. This is the same man — nephew to Sigmund Freud — who convinced American women to pick up the habit of cigarette smoking. He wrote the book on propaganda. No really, the actual book.

As I stated earlier, there are surely countless substances that fall into the atheogen category, and fluoride is just one rather conspicuous example. Surely you can think of others. Please join the discussion in the ReWild Yourself Facebook group to share those others you have thought of, and let’s get started identifying those culprits who have held us back from a clearer, truer view of the wondrous world around us. 

The native, wild peoples of the Earth believed the world to be filled with — even made of — spirit. We, so many indigenous have said, suffer from a kind of mental illness, characterized as an inability to perceive the divine all around us, and leaving us with a deadened, materialistic view of our world. Let’s begin to reverse this disease, and let’s start by getting the atheogens out of our diets, our bodies, and our lives.


Click here to check out SurThrival's Schizandra!


ReWild Yourself! Podcast: Nora Gedgaudas on Using Entheogens to Free Our Minds from Cultural Conditioning

I'm thrilled to have Nora Gedgaudas — author of the international best-selling book, Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life — back on ReWild Yourself! podcast to talk entheogens.

Episode Breakdown

  • Traditional native entheogen use
  • Holotropic Breathwork
  • Recreational experience vs meaningful spiritual experience
  • We have an interconnected network of specific receptors that seem to illicit different types of consciousness
  • Entheogen help for PTSD
  • What does the future of shamanism look like?
  • Controlling drug use is controlling consciousness
  • Entheogen use can give you the state change that “stuff” cannot 
  • Legality of entheogens
  • Effects of marijuana use on the brain
  • Psychedelics help de-condition us from our cultural values
  • Let medicine be thy food

Most native traditions seem to have a sense of a non-duality as a core reality in their spiritual worldview. Tweet it!

The ego is a by-product of the activity of the serotonin 2 receptor. Tweet it!

Entheogens detach us from our allegiance to the status quo. Tweet it!


Click here to listen!


Episode Resources


Meet Nora

Nora Gedgaudas, author of the international best-selling book, Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and A Longer Life is a widely recognized expert on the Paleo Diet.  She is a highly successful experienced nutritional consultant, speaker and educator, widely interviewed on national and international radio, popular podcasts, television and film.  Nora has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, PBS, Sydney, Austalia's Today Show and Coast To Coast AM. Her own popular podcasts are widely listened to on iTunes and are available for free download at her website www.primalbody-primalmind.com, along with a free newsletter, articles and videos.  She maintains a private practice in Portland, Oregon as both a Board-Certified nutritional consultant and a Board-Certified clinical Neurofeedback Specialist.

Nora Gedgaudas

Nora Gedgaudas

Wild Woman Speaks

Awakening the Goddess Within 

By Ali Schueler of Wild Woman Speaks

Once upon a time, I was born. 25 years ago on Halloween. 

I was a cesarean birth, so my mother was heavily drugged and I was removed from her womb before I was ready to enter the world naturally. Not only that, but my birth became an emergency because the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck so I was losing oxygen fast. 

A doctor yanked me out of her body, exposing me to the bright fluorescent hospital lights, taking me away from my mother after having just undergone such a dramatic and traumatic experience. 

Here I was this fresh and aware wee one, with all of my senses heightened, being brought into the world in this way that inspires numbness within due to lack of gentleness, traumatic instances, pain, chemicals, drugs… the list goes on. 

From there forward, I spent the rest of my childhood and adult life growing up in a society that does not inspire sensuality, body awareness, or inner connection. Not by choice, but simply because that is the reality of so much of our culture in the United States. 

I grew up learning to tune out energetically, disconnect from my physical body, repress my emotions, and generally numb my senses and ability to feel in all ways. Whether it was due to bullying, shaming, others projections or my own wounding, there are so many factors that contributed to my closing off from my innate sensual interconnectedness. 

I believe we are all born with our sensual human interconnectedness intact. While some of it is learned and integrated throughout our lives, much of the way we are raised pulls us further away from that sensual interconnectedness remaining intact. 

Perhaps you can even relate to at least one (but likely more) of the ways that pulled me away from this magical aspect of my human nature. 

I know that’s a little bit of a depressing foot to start off on, but it gets better, I promise! 

Fast forward to my late teenage years — this was when I discovered the presence of entheogens and began to welcome them into my life. 

And thank the Goddess for that discovery! Why you might ask? Well, I truly believe that entheogens saved my life to a greater or lesser degree, and they are what has helped me to reclaim my sensuality and spirituality from the trauma of growing up in American culture over the years. 

My first experience with entheogens was using psilocybin. The journey was so expansive for me, so mind-opening, and jaw dropping that I felt like I wanted to run all the way home and tell my parents about it because in the moment, I believed that what I had discovered would end all wars and bring peace to the planet (I may or may not still believe this to be true in some ways.) 

And no, I didn’t wind up running home and telling my parents about my new discovery. 

After that, journeying with the “fun-guys” became a regular occurrence for me (and continues to be) throughout my late teenage years and into my early adulthood. My experiences with these little beings tapped me into my inherent sense of spirituality. They also brought me back in tune with the earth, my true home, as I started to meet all kinds of little ethereal nature beings and get a sense of the deep magic that is nature while on my fun-guy journeys. 

Slowly, slowly, my emotional, spiritual, and sensual self was waking up. The interconnectedness within my being was realigning. 

These experiences were my medicine. These experiences ARE my medicine. Who was this creature that the entheogens were awakening inside of me? 

I continued to experiment with many various entheogens, and while each experience was beautiful and unique in its own way, there was an over-arching theme to all of them. This theme continues to become more and more apparent as I always deepen my medicine path with entheogens. 

This theme was finding Goddess within myself. 

The word entheogen literally means the “God” or “Divine” within. I use “Goddess” not from a religious perspective, but from a spiritual perspective of describing the holiness that I feel during and after these experiences. 

My experiences with entheogens have been a crucial part of my path to awakening my inner Goddess. 

Not only did they awaken my connection to spirituality in general, but entheogens brought me back into my body. 

I described having learned to physically disconnect from my body, repress my emotions, and numb out on every level. For me, the use of entheogens have helped me to reverse those patterns from childhood. 

My journeys have dropped me into my physical being in a way that nothing else in my life has. This is the very aspect of awakening my inner Goddess that has been the most profound. Yes, they have activated all kinds of layers of my being, but the physical aspect has been the most palpable and important for me thus far because it was one of the layers that was most repressed before. 

Using entheogens helped me to realize how shut down my sensual nature was. They have highlighted for me again and again how much fear is stored in my body around letting that part of myself out, which was a pattern that set its course inside of me long ago as a young girl, afraid of being too much with all of her feels, expressions, and power. 

I can recall so many different experiences with various entheogens that have offered me such potent moments of reconnection to my sensuality. It was inspiring me to bring a little more sway into my hips as I walked. It was making me so joyful and feminine feeling that I danced like a fairy for three miles on a walk. It was rolling in a field of wild strawberries with my lover, slowly tasting their ripeness and getting stained with their juice all over. It was talking about my feelings, desires, fantasies, dreams… again, and again, and again. It was connecting with my sisters — singing songs and mantras while sitting in hot springs. It was drinking coconut water and realizing that it was the most delicious, hydrating cell nourishment ever. It was relishing in a bar of raw chocolate like never before. It was reveling in the utter ecstasy of being amongst friends that I love and adore — truly allowing myself to feel the scope of that deep appreciation for them. It was seeing that person for who they really are, and not who my ego judges them to be. It was feeling the roundness of my breasts, thighs, butt, hips and finally loving every inch of this temple that is my body. It’s the landing back in my body after traversing the stars. It’s getting an x-ray vision of my inner musculature and organs so I can feel more than ever before. It’s the kiss with my lover that lasts lifetimes and I never want to end. It’s that shared moment where I could have sworn that my heart actually burst open because it was so filled with love. It’s the laughs that reverberate through my entire being, healing me on every layer as it transmits all the way through me. It’s listening to that song that makes me drip in delight and utter gratitude for the magnificence of life. It’s seeing the most incredible intergalactic visions that humble me to tears at the beautiful smallness of what I am. It’s crying for eons, melting into the earth, dying, and then coming alive more than ever before. It’s my feet on the ground, connected, rooted, and knowing that all parts of me have a place here on this planet. It’s the realization of, “Oh yeah, I literally am the Goddess Divine incarnate!” 

All of those things ARE me. They are my experiences. My moments out of time that have brought me back in tune with my appreciation for the sensual, my understanding of the sensual, my desire for the sensual, and my embodiment of the sensual. 

I feel my sensuality once again interconnected. The neural pathways have reopened and every day I’m learning more and more how to integrate this part of my human nature back into my being, after so much time having been repressed. 

I could write for hours, days, weeks, and years about all of the beauty that entheogens have brought into my life. They have given me language to better understand myself, the world, and how I relate to everything. These experiences have given me a new spectrum of awareness and forever changed the landscape of my being. 

I’ll never forget the way they have and continue to bring me more deeply into communion with my inner Goddess, bringing my sensual nature and spiritual interconnectedness to greater expressions of life. 

I don’t know what your experiences with entheogens has or will be like, but I sure hope they offer you a similar experience of awakening the God/dess within, because I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

Take a ride on the entheogen train and prepare to enter the church that is your holy self. 


Meet Ali

Ali is a writer and women’s embodiment mentor. She is committed to the re-sacralization of the feminine across the globe. Her mission is passionately providing women with experience-based tools that inspire life-changing awakening in the feminine, promoting emotional awareness, spiritual fulfillment, wild self-expression as well as a connection to our bodies and their natural cycles. She enjoys writing and video blogging weekly through her website WildWomanSpeaks.com and sharing inspiration with her Wild Woman Speaks community daily through Facebook, Twitter @alischueler, and Instagram.

Ali Schueler

Ali Schueler

Mastering the Flat-Footed Squat

"A fourth of mankind habitually squats in fashion very similar to the squatting position of the chimpanzee, and the rest of us might squat this way too if we were not trained to use other postures beyond infancy." -Gordon W. Hewes 

Resources

Flat-Footed Squat: How Homo Sapiens Sit

Primary constipation: an underlying mechanism

Influence of Body Position on Defecation in Humans

For Best Toilet Health: Squat or Sit?

ReWild Your Diet

Pan Seared Duck Breast

By Chef Frank Giglio of Three Lily Farm

Although red fleshed, domesticated ducks are actually considered poultry, while the wild varieties are referred to as “game”. The taste and texture of duck is much more rich than that of chicken or turkey, and happily marries autumn fruits and vegetables. The fat, rendered from the breast can be saved and used as a cooking fat, or saved up for a batch of duck confit.

To get the most flavor and desirable texture from the duck, cook to medium-rare.

Ingredients:

2 duck breasts

sea salt, to taste

freshly cracked black pepper

For the Carrots:

1 pound of carrots

1 tablespoon zaatar spice

olive oil

sea salt, to taste

2-3 ounces goat cheese

1 bottle Pomegranate molasses (unsweetened)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Peel the carrots, cut off the tops, then cut into large, evenly sized chunks. Place in a bowl, toss with olive oil, sea salt, and zaatar. Spread the carrots onto a baking dish then roast until tender, about 30 minutes.

When the carrots are nearly done, prepare the duck. First make crosshatch pattern slices through the skin, but without piercing the flesh. Season well with sea salt and black pepper, then sear in a heated heavy bottomed pan, fat side down. Continue rendering the fat, allowing the skin to crisp up. After about 5 minutes, flip the duck breasts, then place in the oven for about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for a few minutes before cooking.

Bring the goat cheese to room temperature. Then use a spoon to whip it, making it more creamy, spreadable.

To serve, smear the goat cheese on 2 plates, then top with the carrots. Slice the duck breast 1/4 inch thick, against the grain, then fan out over the carrots. Drizzle with the molasses and serve.


about the chef

Frank Giglio exudes a passion for nature-based living in all that he does, from his culinary pursuits to the simplest of day to day projects. Along with his beautiful family, classically trained chef Frank runs Three Lily Farm — an off-the-grid permaculture minded homestead where he mentors and educates others on the importance of preparing and eating a real-food diet, growing their own fruits and vegetables, and connecting with nature through wild foraging, harvesting spring water, and simply spending time in the health-promoting glory of the outdoors. Every year, Frank continues to push his fitness to the elite level by competing in obstacle course races and ultra-marathons. A true Maine-Man, Frank maintains his beard by carrying water and splitting wood.

You can find him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @FrankGiglio.

Frank Giglio

Frank Giglio

Crooked Crosses

The Sonoran desert holds a secret older than the bones of those who first dwelt there. I hesitate to reveal it, even now as I sit down to do so. I am a man torn, part revealer, desiring to see a culturally omitted medicine metered out to the people once more, part magician who knows that he risks ultimate loss if the method is revealed. On the one hand there are those whose deficiency of neuro-gnostic alkaloids has lead to a state of spiritual bankruptcy greater than anything that the human body has ever known, and yet a supremely delicate eco-system hangs suspended in the balance. A species, longer lived than those who would imbibe its flesh, stands sentinel in the arid lands, assembled like so many soldiers at attention, awaiting the opportunity to reveal their accumulated wisdom and knowledge to those who would dare partake. So too does an ancient tree risk obliteration at the hands of those crazed with greed, justifying wonton destruction at the prospect of even a meager gain. Yet here I find myself, sharing the secret of psychoactivity that has camouflaged itself as a prop in the drama that is the desert landscape of the wild west. This is the tale of the those crooked crosses of the American desert southwest.

I must caution you, what I am about to share is not legal. Not — at least to my knowledge — because of its effects on the psychology of those who would choose to consume it, but rather because the Saguaro cactus is a protected species both in the United States and in Mexico. While this most certainly won't stop many of you from choosing to walk down this path, I must be clear that I am not recommending you do so. I am simply sharing my own experience, and illustrating how I created it. As a sovereign being I leave it to you to determine how you will conduct yourself. If you should choose to take this road I must implore you; step lightly. There are several factors at play here.

  1. There are those who would put you in chains or abscond with your property and prosperity in recompense for the carrying out of the following. You have been warned.
  2. This knowledge is most certainly known and kept by the native people who to this day dwell in this place. This is, no doubt, a sacred medicine to these peoples. Respect them and their relationship to this plant. I do not believe that because they were here first they ought to have exclusive access to this medicine, however I do believe that we must behave reverently when in the home of another.
  3. For me, this point is most important. Please, please, and please be respectful in your interaction with this species. Remember that these cacti, like all living things, are beings, not resources. These entities deserve your respect and gratitude. Always seek to minimize your impact. A sloppy harvest could kill the creature from whom you are harvesting, and this I believe, when scaled out to all the many harvesters, could have catastrophic impacts on these cacti and the ecosystem they dwell within.
  4. Consider this knowledge a secret, be extremely mindful with whom you share it and how and where you share it. It isn’t hard to imagine droves of bored and immature teenagers decimating the Saguaro National Forest in a misguided quest to get high on a Saturday night. Let's keep this in the family.

Knowledge of the Saguaro medicine initially came to me as whispers and rumors when I first began visiting the Sonoran desert. Those I asked had only 3rd hand accounts, and for some reason which I still haven’t grasped, had never tried this themselves. That detail continues to confound me, as many of these characters will travel to distant lands and cryptic destinations to experience the sacred states of mind caused by strange and exotic plant species in remnant cultures at the edges of civilization. Yet here were tales of a plant in their own backyard whom purportedly had all the power of those whose supply is normally controlled by shamans as far-flung as Peru, Siberia, or Africa. I had to find out for myself.

My first few experiments were characterized by hesitance, as I tested, poked, and prodded, all in hopes of confirming what I’d heard and remaining alive long enough to tell others about it. Whenever I test such a plant there is the concern of unintended poisoning. After several attempts, spread out over a span of years, I finally worked up the nerve, the recipe, the technique, and the desire to see where this plant would take me. I wasn't left wanting.

What follows is an account of my encounter, and a tutorial of that method and technique which I have found reliable and safe (well not for the egoic conscious part of the mind, but for the body at least). As I mentioned to you above, I present this for the edifying properties of information only. What you choose to do with this is your own proclivity. I assume no risk whatsoever.

My experience with a full — or what Terrance McKenna used to call “heroic” — dose of Saguaro was unlike any path I’d tread through the winding landscape of the subconscious before – or since for that matter. Certainly many plants, fungi, and even animals have lead me on circuitous journeys through the nether regions of my (and the universal) mind, though this path, strangely, took me not from the place I began to some new place I haven’t been, but rather, from the place I imbibed back to the place I began. It was a trip through my memory banks, to view, review, and re-experience the timeline of my life in a way I have never attempted to do before. 

We drank the frothy, mucilaginous beverage, in all its wicked bitterness, while sitting in a circle in the morning shade of a mesquite grove. There were four of us, two couples, I being the only one who had experienced this plant before. To be honest there was a fifth, though he simply took an offered glass and made haste to some other place whereupon he was, in his own words “glued to the floor” for the next five hours. The four of us, settled, comfortable, and clear in our prayer and intentions, let slide down our throats a beverage that makes the head shake spontaneously at the taste of its exceptionally bitter and concentrated alkaloids. It is a taste that my body knows well, and signals the strange and indescribable moments that are soon to come.

Myself and my lover Alexandra strode off to relax in hot spring just 50 yards from our camp, while the others laid down near the altar we had constructed as the anchor point for the cerebral journeys that lay ahead. We sat soaking for what must have been thirty minutes before things started to take on a flickering, almost strobing visual effect. There is a look to things when your eyes are dramatically dilated, a kind of increased sense of detail and pattern recognition, and this was no different. My hearing too was more acute, and I could clearly distinguish the rumblings in the belly of this wild woman beside me. She made her way out of the spring and into the bush whereupon she began to dry-heave with a retching sound that echoed through her body like one shouting obscenities in a cave. This, of course, was attracting the attention of others, and so we — without speaking — decided to join our friends who now lay comatose where the green drink was first consumed. 

We each chose a plot of ground that gave us sufficient space for the ride that was surely at hand, closed our eyes, and drifted into the surreal realm of the dreamings of this tall and stalwart cactus. I began to watch — view might be more accurate, this was a passive process — visions playing out behind my eyelids. They began with the drink itself, and the moments surrounding it. Then came the drive here, the events leading up to that. That harvest of the cactus, the trip to the desert, back and back, like watching my life, through my own eyes, but in rewind. Further and further back it went, unceasingly revealing what appeared to be every memory stored in my psyche. This was punctuated by breaks which consisted of me opening my eyes to a murky, muted, flickering light, and with limited proprioception and balance, making my way to my feet. The urge to vomit or to void my bowels was urgent at times, and I would stumble off to some remote location to do so, though with, I must admit, some difficulty. Upon returning I would lay back down, only to begin where I had so recently left off, as if retaking my seat in a theater after a brief but needed intermission. 

This retrograde voyage through the stored memories of my life continued on until I reached those first and formative memories of the earliest age of explicit remembrance. Strange memories that differ from those I store now. Missing images, a sense of not understanding what adults are talking about. Inference and interpretation based on tone and inflection. 

While doubtless this sounds interesting it is the experience of the sacred that contained and surrounded me, that infused and enraptured me, that was the most compelling of all. It was not just the witnessing of these memories, it was the understanding and empathy for myself that was so powerful and transformational. This is a medicine plant that seeks out a difficult living, in a place of both biological and hydrological scarcity. I awoke with a keen sense of what it is to be a survivor in a harsh land. While this plant is that to the desert, it showed me that I am that to the world of domestication, and that despite the constant dialogue of my inner critic, I have done well despite the wounds and traumas that have accumulated in me over the course of my years here. 

Saguaro is easily as strong and transformational as Ayahuasca or Peyote. It is as strange as mushrooms, LSD, Salvia Divanorum. There it stands, watching out over the desert with an energy that felt like a tough but wise grandfather, aged yet vital, and looking back on a long life well lived. While I don’t think this experience is for everyone, certainly there are those who will feel called to it. To them I say Bon Voyage, may it bring you the healing and revelation that it brought to me. 

Aho.

Tweet it!


The method:

The tall trunk of the Saguaro is accordion shaped to allow for the expansion and contraction it undergoes in times of water abundance and scarcity. I chose to remove the section I would consume vertically to ensure that my harvest wouldn't damage the plant over the long term (horizontal cuts around the circumference can be lethal), and took from one of the 'baffles' of the accordion shape, valley to peak, peak to valley.

I began by removing the areoles, out of which grow the cluster of spines. These can be popped off, much like buttons of a shirt, with the terminal end of your knife. The section from which I remove these, which equals a single (strong) dose, is equivalent to the length of my inner forearm — wrist to the pit of the elbow. Not an exact measurement, but an inborn anatomical measuring stick that I am told works for most who use it.

After removing the spines, I cut shallowly into the cuticle (or 'skin' of the cactus), about 2 centimeters beneath the surface, along the valleys and peak of the area I intend to remove.

Very carefully, inserting the blade of my knife parallel to the outside cuticle, I begin to peel the flesh back, removing the entire harvest in two strips. I then carefully separate the material just beneath the cuticle from the waxy cuticle itself. 

Just beneath the cuticle is a dark green portion of the flesh, which fades into a lighter green material as you head in towards the core of the cactus. I separate away just the dark green portion, as this is the most alkaloid rich portion (evidenced by its intense bitterness).

This dark green material is ready to use fresh, or can be laid out to dry if it wont be used immediately.


My Saguaro Cactus recipe.

Combine one dose of saguaro cactus flesh in blender with:

1 lemon, peeled

1 lime peeled

a pinch of whole salt (preferably locally gathered)

a tablespoon of local desert honey

8-16 oz of fresh water — or amount needed for desired consistency

Any other fresh, local desert fruits

Blend all thoroughly.

Note: Do not expect this to be a pleasant drink, and I recommend not attempting to sip it. If possible, drink in one to two gulps. Expect that this will eventually lead to the desire to vomit, which is normal with drinks such as these. Stave off vomiting for some time, allowing the body to absorb as much of these alkaloids as you can or would like.

Smoking Toad

I was leaving my body faster than I could set down the glass pipe that had only a moment before been touched to my lips. My vision was warbling, turning to an inky-blackness in my periphery, bleeding in on itself from the edges, threatening what would soon be a total loss of vision, despite my eyes being wide open to the sparkling desert night-sky before me. My heartbeat, now racing, rose to become a thunderous percussion in my chest, my breath an involuntary hyperventilation that was my last attempt to keep up with the pace at which the reality to which I’d grown so accustomed was rapidly being torn asunder. 

The world I have known so well was hastily collapsing in on itself, and I was clinging desperately to it, to myself, to my life — to a collection of trivia, ideas, stories, and emotional tones whose sum is the thing I’d known to be me. That thing that desires to continue to be was losing its will, like a song on the radio that, first clear, is now giving way to another as stations shift, competing for bandwidth in contested territories. My life, the one I had always known, was turning to static now too, and I knew in that moment, knew the way one knows the rightness of sunlight on skin, that what I’d thought was my self is nothing more than a story being told on one frequency, one station. My dial was being turned and there were infinite frequencies upon which it could land, infinite stations just as real and strange as this one, where upon it might eventually come to rest. 

Then the last cord was broken, I was afloat in the mechanism of the infinite. I say “I”, but of course I don’t mean the person on my drivers license. “I” had no knowledge of self, of my former life as a human being or the body I had lived it in. I had no recollection of anything of this world or of any other. I was now simply an observer, with no reference of self or thought of anything. Just a consciousness… observing and nothing more. 

No judgement, no thought. There is a sense in this place that all knowledge that could ever be known has been gathered together here, is available, is explicit. How can a singularity be described in a world that is invariably dual? That place is alone and is all one. It is like vacuum of deepest space, or the place over the event horizon. Yet it is also that moment when there is a violent explosion of light bursting out into the void, becoming the myriad things that the mind with it's eyes can perceive. There is bliss there, but with nothing with which it can be contrasted, no sorrowful state that leaves one craving bliss, but just bliss, unsullied by its opposite, a diamond jewel whose perfect crystalline matrix expands to fill the universe. 

There is no time, as all moments are merged into one whole whose breadth and depth contains every possibility as constant. Every arrangement that could be is here at once and is nothing. 

And then, just as quickly as I’d arrived, and perhaps even more so, I was returning. It was as if the dissociated molecules of my former self were gathering themselves together, reassembling once more into the form I’d previously known as my body. I began to feel myself returning. The stories of who I am, the tales of where I have been. Memories, and a dull ache that was the pain of realizing that I was once again back in the human form, rife as it is with the sufferings of the human condition. There was such a beauty, and a peace in the place I had been. Such freedom from the chatterings and insecurities of the mind. I had experienced a place that lay just beyond death, a place that can only be reached when my grip on this world was loosed. I laughed out loud, the mad laughter of one whose mind has been shattered and cast to the wind. I remembered the shout I’d heard in ceremony from a man who’d done his tenure in the Jungles of Peru; “shoot the moon!” he’d howled. He’d cackled like a coyote and I’d seen in my minds-eye a crazed black haired native loosing an arrow from his bow, believing he’d strike the moon. Now I understood, and I laughed for the tight and fearful grip I keep on this life, this body, this tenuous thing we’ve named sanity. I laughed for the infinitely more wondrous and whole place that lays just on the other side of this mortal coil. I’d more than seen it, I’d been one with it. 

I’d been gone less than 90 seconds, and it had begun before I could release the breath of acrid smoke I’d held only seconds in my lungs. It had come from milky-white secretions squeezed from the parotoid glands of the Colorado River Toad, Incilius alvarius, which when eaten are poisonous enough to kill a grown dog. Smoked however, the 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin are volatilized and drawn into the bloodstream through the lung’s alveoli, quickly passing the blood/brain barrier and accumulating between the synapsis of the brain. Under their power the electricity of the central nervous system courses free like white-lightning, super-conducted, enlightening the neocortex like the surface of a blazing star. These powerful psychoactive tryptamines produce experiences so other-worldly, one struggles like a man in quicksand trying to grasp even a phrase that feels aligned with the truth of the vision that he’s received. In the body of this toad there lies a molecule that is at once a mystery greater than any the human mind can conceive, and at the same time feels as though it might be the key to that very same.

Colorado River Toad

Colorado River Toad

Just how this secret was learned is a puzzle whose contemplation causes an ache between my ears, and is revealed as a knot of tension between my furrowed brows. That the relationship between toad and ourselves is ancient feels evident, as you hoist a fat, princely specimen onto his back, rubbing and soothing his belly. He relaxes as another would-be psychonaut begins to squeeze the glands that sit like swollen pustules upon his neck, arms, and thighs. One has the distinct impression that the toad is grateful for this drainage, as if he is being freed of some encumbrance that has until now been oh so burdensome.

Like relieving a congested white-head of its infected lymphatic load, the toads glands are squeezed just the same, but whereas a pimples cargo is unloaded through one aperture at its apex, the toads secretions poor forth like milk through a sieve, coming at once from many pores along the skin of its glandular surface. These can be caught upon a piece of glass, or even a dinner plate where, in the arid atmosphere of the desert southwest, they quickly dry into a thin yellowish brittle that can be scraped up and smoked under the high heat of a torch. This my friends, though a behavior prohibited for domesticated man-cattle, is one that just might set you free.

We all — one day in the not too distant future — will leave these bodies behind. What if it were possible to practice that now? What if you could step out of your body, fearlessly, eyes wide open to the mystery, embracing it with the ease with which you now embrace a lover? What if the lessons of the dissolution of self could be learned, gleaned from the use of a “death simulator”, and brought back to inform the way you live your life today? What if you could do all this and more now, in a moment, on your lunch break? What if you could travel to the edge of the cosmos and be back in time for dinner? What if there were a toad living in the desert of Arizona that could be — that would be — your guide? If so, would you go with him?

Tweet it!


ReWild Yourself! Podcast: Dr. Gerardo Sandoval Isaac on the Bufo Alvarius Toad and 5-MeO-DMT

It was an honor to talk with Dr. Gerardo Sandoval Isaac — doctor, gynecologist, medicine-man and ambassador for the Bufo alvarius toad — about the best ways to harvest and experience the Bufo alvarius toad venom and 5-MeO-DMT.

Episode Breakdown

  • Dr. Gerry’s first entheogenic experiences
  • What happens in a shamanic sacred mushroom ceremony
  • Importance of letting go during entheogenic experiences
  • The Bufo alvarius toad
  • How to harvest and consume the Bufo alvarius toad venom
  • 5 most common effects of smoking 5-MeO-DMT
  • How and why the body produces DMT
  • Entheogenic homework
  • Message from the Bufo alvarius toad
  • How to prepare yourself before you experience the toad
  • How you can help to protect the Bufo alvarius toad

When a person smokes 5-MeO-DMT, there is an increased production and release of neurotransmitters and endorphins, such as serotonin and dopamine. They promote body regeneration, healing and an enormous release of unconscious stress. Tweet it!


Click here to listen!


Episode Resources


Meet Dr. Gerardo

Doctor, gynecologist, and called "medicine-man", Gerardo Sandoval Isaac M.D., ObGyn., was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. He has lived and frequently visits his properties at Real de Catorce and San Jose Pacifico, in Mexico. He has lived in Nepal, India, Germany, Palenque, Cozumel, Mahahual, Playa del Carmen, Juarez, Chetumal, and Bacalar. He has been sharing the entheogenic experience as an M.D. in Magical Mexico since 2005, and performs entheogenic ceremonies around the world. He works as a medical officer in Obstetrics and Gynecology in the southern Mexican Caribbean, Post graduate studies in Lymphatic Drainage, and diagnosis and treatment of Lymphadema secondary to mastectomy in patients with breast cancer approved by Klose Training and Consulting, in Boulder Colorado. He is a member of the Mexican College of Gynecology and Obstetrics, and a member of the Mexican Lymphatic Association. He actively fights to spread the legal medical and ritual use of cannabis and all entheogens in Mexico.

Dr. Gerardo Sandoval lives in Quintana Roo close to Lake Bacalar. He can be contacted at Bufo_alvarius@hotmail.com or bufoalvariustoads@gmail.com.

Dr. Gerardo Sandoval Isaac

Dr. Gerardo Sandoval Isaac

Emesis

On my hands, knees, barefoot, naked in fact. It's autumn in Canada, I'm in the treeline about 20 meters from the lake house door. There is a delicate glow coming from the house wherein 40 or so white-clad friends and acquaintances are singing Portuguese songs from a hymn book. Tripping. The Ayahuasca is strong. It arrived from the jungle in black containers marked “brake cleaner”, and to the untrained eye was no doubt believably so.  

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca

Photo by Morgan Maher

I can hear my name being called in a distant, gentle, angelic whisper “Daniel?” It is spoken with a woman's voice, in the pronunciation of French as a first language — Dan-nee-yel.

I freeze with a mind like that of a startled beast, my brainstem contorting my naked body into gargoyle-form. I feel as if I am made out of stone, but a living, malleable stone. Or perhaps the cold blooded flesh of something more dragon than man. My tongue reaches out as if to probe the air, though in reality it is an instinctive reflex, as my body wrings itself free of the contents of its stomach. My tongue extends and following behind it are the wretching sounds of the deep. As contagious as a yawn, these are the sounds that, upon hearing, make the listener heave in response.

I’m hiding, I don’t want to be interrupted. This, like a moth freeing itself from a chrysalis built when it was still a caterpillar, is not a social experience. I have no intention of returning to the artificial bliss being drummed up within the container of the ceremony. It is frivolity, and I am here to do the work. My fingers dig into the soil, and I spasm at my waist, no, at my core. My legs drawn up high, like a speed cyclist whose bike has disappeared leaving him in riding position on the ground, I am puking, yes, but at the same time I am also shitting.

There is a rare freedom in shitting and puking, together and at the same time, without the slightest concern for the mess. Naked, on the earth, and purging from both ends of my digestive apparatus. I feel as though taboos are being shorn off of me like the clothes of man who is being transfigured into a werewolf, they hang about me in tattered shreds, a testament to the strength of the wildness in me that is setting itself free.

“Dan-nee-yel?”

The moon is shattered into a thousand pieces, its fragmented light spilling down through the forest canopy, scattering its shards across me, and the many ferns that conceal me here inside the womb of the forest's edge. My body is purging, twisting itself like a dirty rag, releasing itself of anything that remains between my lips and my anus. But even when this has finished there is still more. I continue, heaving, being squeezed. It isn’t like the flu, not the vomiting that makes a delirious mind beg and plead to some higher power for relief. This is pleasure, my psyche is being cleansed. 

A torrent of memories flows past my minds eye and with it the “states” that those memories elicited in my body when they were current, present events. Traumas of the past are what I am seeing. The flavor of these particular traumas are those that came from school, from the years my inner animal was forcibly caged. A sovereignty wells up inside me, a feeling so strong that it can not coexist with the memories of submission. My spirit detects this dissonance and my body wretches again. This primal action of rejection feels as if it is my nervous system purging the memory from itself, out onto the forest floor. There, it is recieved and transmuted by nature, and with each wretch I am freer. 

Inside they are singing hymns, staring at crystals, amusing themselves with tricks of light. Here in the darkness the animal of my body is gaining strength, restoring itself. They don’t understand and so they call me back. I hear my name again. They know I am in the forest but dare not come for me here. Instead, they call for me from the manicured lawn, tethered to the warmth that radiates from the house behind them.

There is an Ayahuascaro — Don Alberto — that I drank with in the jungle. I asked him why the vine, Banisteriopsis caapi is called “ayahuasca”, and is so venerated, when the visions come from the chacruna (Psychotria viridis). He told me that Americans are so obsessed with the visions, and the chacruna gives them this. It occupies their hungry minds. "They watch these visions", he said, "like they watch TV". "It is the Ayahuasca which cleans you” he went on, "which cleanses you. The rest is a distraction".

Ayahuasca Old Vine

Ayahuasca Old Vine

Photo by Morgan Maher

There is a classification of herbs known as 'emetics' (or sometimes as 'purgatives'), which are herbs that cause you to vomit. So often in studying ethnobotany does one read accounts of some strange and exotic plant species that was “used by local natives as an emetic”. I always wondered why this was. We, in civilization, rarely seek out the opportunity to purge like this. In fact we avoid it as if our very lives were on the line. I understand it now. Purging is how the body releases more than just what is in the gut tube, it is how our body's electronics are defragged, cleansed of old patterns that are offensive to the functioning of the whole. This is, like ripping off the bandage, the quickest way to get these old stored stories out, and restore the system to optimal function.

The purge is the acting out of rejection from the deepest core of our being. We have all “swallowed” many stories about ourselves, our lives, and the world around us. We've swallowed domestication, the taming of our wild selves. Things our spirit wanted to reject, that our body wanted to spit-up, but that we overrode, forced down, conformed to. Setting the body free to express violent rejection — a primal somatic pattern that has been all but domesticated out of us — is how the nervous system empties its trash. 

This, Don Alberto taught me, was the true purpose of the medicine. It is to clean us, to clear us, to restore us to our wild selves. Everything else is a brilliant and entertaining light show. Valuable, yes, but not the true intention, not the purpose of the medicine. 

We talk endlessly in the 'spiritual community' about releasing old patterns, old ways of being that 'no longer serve us'. How do you suppose these things leave our body? It is not the visions, not the shaking rattle or waving feather. It is the primal act of rejection, of repulsion, it is the clearing of the pattern in a visceral and memorable way that most speedily dumps old software from our hard drives. At least it has been for me, on my knees, clearing myself to the last drop.


Click here to check out SurThrival's Pine Pollen Pure Potency!


Wiki Links Trail

Join me on a stroll through the collective commons of wikipedia, as we deepen our understanding of the forces at play in the domestication process. Reading through these entries will add depth and breadth to your knowledge base, and greatly enhance your user experience as an embodied being on the present day planet Earth!

Colorado River Toad

Atropa Belladona

Saguaro

Entheogen

Ethnobotany

Ethnomycology

Shamanism

Curandero

Icaro

Vegetalismo

Vomiting — Emetics

Brujeria

Plastic Shaman

Tropane Alkaloid

Scopolamine

Atropine

Brugmansia

Banisteriopsis Caapi

Psychotria Viridis

Pinoline

Chronobiology

Corpora Arenacea

Areole

The Clean Mile

Voice of the Tribe Guest Contribution

By Kaleb Kinetic

Two pairs socks, two pairs boxers, two t-shirts, one faded set orange pajamas with blown-out elastic waistband. One blanket, pillowcase, and sheet. One jail issue hygiene kit rife with Bob Barker branded toiletries. One prisoner handbook (failure to return prisoner handbook will result in a 5.00 charge to the prisoner's account). This stack of items was placed in my arms, and I was marched down a corridor, the floor of which was polished to a high shine that shouted “free labor.” This would begin a nearly year-long stretch of my life that would serve as recompense to a society I had inflicted my ills upon. 

This punishment was paradox — the guard was in fact, pushing me toward freedom. Of course, neither one could have known this as my feet, shod in orange slip-ons, squeaked on the linoleum tiles of the passageway I shuffled down. All the while trying to hike-up the overstretched waistband of the pants I was now wearing. 

Often, we arrive at these places in life having no idea how we got there. When did I gain twenty pounds? How did I accrue so much debt? When, did I lose control? When did I go from being a recreational drug user to full blown heroin addict walking into a prison? 

I have spent the last five years of my life — one of which was during the aforementioned removal from circulation so to speak — attempting to answer this question. Sometimes I think back and ask myself — when did this all start? I look for a pivotal moment; a turning point. I can’t find one. I have been this way as long as I can remember. 

Growing up, my spirit always felt broken. If you could see pictures of me as a child you might understand what I mean, standing alone stoically gazing off into the deep. I couldn’t stand the feeling of being present, and I would reach for just about anything so long as it could take me out of the moment. Seeking things outside myself offered ephemeral windows of relief from a tenebrous feeling of dread and despair. I would invest so much of my focus and energy into something until it defined me, and I could make it part of my fiber. 

Even as a small child I was obsessed with things. The earliest instance of this I can recall, was when I was four. My mother had taken me to get — what represented to me at the time the zenith of all things edible — a Happy Meal. Much like the every upturned secret decoder ring-containing CrackerJack box, what I truly desired was the cellophane wrapped token that rattled around the bottom of that golden-arch crested container. At this particular time in the company’s rich history, these prizes had taken the form of Fraggle Rock characters piloting vegetable shaped cars (These may very well be the last vegetables this company has sold). It may have been behavior typical of a child, but for whatever reason, I just had to have these. I was driven by my obsession — I just had to “collect them all.” And I did. 

I’ve seen this pattern repeat itself throughout my past, constantly reaching for that next thing that would take me out of the moment. Once that objective had been attained though, and the discovery that the satisfaction I received was merely momentary, I was forced to move on to the next thing. What’s more alarming is just how circuitous it was. I’d just keep doing it. I believe this is one of the foundations of addiction — an inability to find contentment in the present. 

This type of obsessive behavior has taken on myriad forms throughout my life, but seemed to nest itself most comfortably in the form of drugs and alcohol. These substances allowed me to slow my mind down, and for the first time in my life feel comfortable in my skin. I formed different relationships with different drugs, using some regularly and others for varying lengths of time. Sometimes, one might get used a bit more than intended and I would have to reel myself back in, though I was always able to do it. This coupled with the skeleton of a somewhat functional life, offered me the needed room to question my dependence on these substances. 

When I turned 23 though, it all changed. I received my formal introduction to the almighty opiate. I thought I’d arrived. I had found a nepenthe with a level of efficacy that was unmatched. I mean this stuff really worked! I could swear colors were more vivid. Everything about my life from the mundane to the viscerally stimulating felt better with this chemical as the fulcrum.

Like everything else though, the windows of relief began waning and I moved to consume more. I had been altered in some way, and the simple tactics I used to fall back on when it was time to put a drug down were now seemingly useless. I would wake up with the previous night’s promise that I wouldn’t use the following day fresh in my mind. There was a piece of myself that wanted out, but it was as if what controlled my body was a voice that said “by any means necessary.”

Guided by this demon, I caused a rift wherever I went. I lied, cheated, and stole from everyone that mattered to me, and I prostituted my morals, beliefs, and ideals in pursuit of something that was no longer serving me. One thing that is often misconstrued about addicts, is that we are intrinsically dishonest; we are morally deficient. I disagree with this concept, as harming people was never my intention. I always (albeit foolishly) made pacts with myself that I would “put the money back” or “replace it with a new or better one.” It never happened.

I lost my soul to this substance. What little light my eyes had left had been sucked-up, as if my pupils were galactic black holes where any glimmer of light was pulled in. My deteriorating shell was still recognizable, though little remained of the person: I was a human that had lost the divine spark.

My active addiction ends where this story begins, so if you are wondering, where I am now, I have put in work and made substantial strides in my process of recovery. I took an experience that would cause many to give up hope and used it as an opportunity for growth. I stopped blaming everyone and everything for what I had experienced in life and instead began taking control. I made a decision — one I was resolute about — that I would never use again. I made one good decision and built upon it. My life today isn’t glamourous, most people wouldn’t give it a second glance, but it’s a life that I can be proud of. I have continued to work my own recovery, as well as work at a detox, and I strive to show others through my own successes that recovery from the throws of addiction is possible.

I’d like to take this opportunity to speak to anyone who currently shares a bond with an active addict. Please don't blame yourself, or think you aren’t doing enough for this person. Doing too much often perpetuates their behavior. There is little you can do to change them. When it’s their time to seek recovery, they will find it, and your healthy support will be paramount to their process. Set up healthy boundaries and protect yourself emotionally. They might thank you for it later. 

I no longer believe in emotional opposites. Take love and hate for istance--these are just two extremes of one spectrum of emotion. Spirituality is no different. Each of our spirits has its light and dark spectral ends. Which end do you foster? 

If you are reading this article it is likely that you are catering to, or journeying toward finding your spiritual light. In this Dispatch the use of entheogens has been explored as a path to a spiritual awakening, but my thesis is this: whether someone uses entheogens to open new neuro-pathways in the brain or — like the terminal end of my addiction—is tearful and alone in a squalid room, injecting poison into their bloodstream, battling an inner demon they have only one weapon to suppress — they are on a spiritual path. 

Today, I believe entheogens have the potentiation to free our mind and spirit and that many other substances have their legitimate uses as well. I took a thing that was good and turned toxic its ability to benefit my life: I abused my right to use these chemicals safely. 

The line we walk with substances is a thin one. Sometimes in an attempt to free our minds we turn prisoner our bodies. I am beginning to liberate both and respect the paths we sometimes take to get here.


Meet Kaleb

Kaleb Kinetic is an Operations Assistant at SurThrival. He has spent the last 3 years reclaiming his life from the throws of addiction. He remains active in his recovery community, so he may act as a bastion of hope for other addicts seeking recovery.

Kaleb Kinetic

Kaleb Kinetic


Voice of the Tribe is ReWild Yourself! Dispatch's guest contribution column.  If you would like to contribute an article for consideration in a future Dispatch click here.

ElixirCraft Mastery: 3 Ingredient Wild Food Pancakes

3 Ingredients:

Wild Rice

SurThrival Colostrum

Pastured organic eggs


Click here to check out SurThrival's Colostrum!


Extras:

SurThrival Ghee

Spring Water

Maple Syrup

Twenty ReWild Yourself Tips!
  1. Practice dying now; don’t be caught surprised when your moment arrives! Merge with the divine whenever you can, it is — whether conscious or not — your deepest goal!
  2. Start to question your ideas about “drugs”. Where do foods end and drugs begin? Is chocolate a drug? Is Facebook a drug?
  3. Become aware of when you enter an altered state. Television and movies create this, as does social media. Driving can do it, so can music. It isn’t just with 'drugs'.
  4. Note the consciousness altering behavior of others. Especially those 'opposed to drugs'. They are often the most habituated. Everyone gets high on something.
  5. Note the way pharmakia is being used against the people. This greek word is translated in the bible as “sorcery”. Note how sorcery is used to alter the behavior of the masses.
  6. Build an altar, a place that functions like a spiritual anchor point, a place of departure and return.
  7. Be well fueled for your journeys, but go into the altered state on an empty stomach.
  8. Ensure that your phone is off, that no one is coming by, that you won't be disturbed. Most of all it is preferable not to mingle with such characters as your parents (there are exceptions), police, or other (perceived) “authority” figures.
  9. Do your research, learn about the species or substance you intend to ingest. What is it? How does it work? What is its history of use? Is it dangerous in large doses?
  10. Know your dose, and be (fairly) accurate. Sometimes dose is the difference between life and death, at others it is the difference between mild pleasure or utter terror. 
  11. Clearly state your intention. Know why you are using the medicine. Have a clearly articulated purpose.
  12. Release expectations. You can’t plan these journeys, can’t choose where this trip will go. It is wise however, to 'pack' for inclement psychological weather.
  13. Except in rare cases, most folks who call themselves a “shaman” are full of shit. They are just feather wavers and rattle shakers. Unless you are with the genuine article, you can wave your own feather.
  14. Be aware of the negative impacts of “psychedelic tourism”. It is destroying the natural populations of Ayahuasca in Peru for example. Too many westerners are trampling the plants and people. Don't become a burden on the medicine.
  15. Make distinctions between substances that tend towards habituation and abuse (like tobacco) and those that do not (such as DMT), walk with respect for both, but be particularly self-regulating with those that could become problematic for you.
  16. Avoid using medicines with people you don’t fully trust. Avoid violent, disruptive, or manipulative people. These folks aren’t safe when you are in such a state.
  17. Beware the “Messiah Complex”. Young trippers often think they have received a message that they need to share with the world. Wait. Take your time, be tempered by the experience. Watch and learn. This is part of the way, a part you must move through. Don’t get stuck here.
  18. Stay balanced. It is easy to get drawn into a strange and magnificent world. Take it slow. Integrate. You don't have to "collect em all".
  19. The work continues long after the journey ends. Be sure that you don’t place all the power in the plant or experience, but that you know that the power is yours. Let the medicine show you the way, but you continue walking that path on your own. Don’t let the medicine become the way
  20. Be prepared for necessary integration after your experiences, especially your early experiences. Plan some buffer time before letting the demands of your life return.
Your Neo-Aboriginal Challenge

It doesn't take clairvoyant, shamanic powers to guess what you are thinking I intend to challenge you with for this Samhain Dispatch, so this should surprise you!

I've chosen not to challenge you to use an entheogen this season (though please do if you feel so inclined), simply because this experience isn't necessarily for everyone. It isn't something that should be done on a whim, challenge, or dare. Surely many of you have had one or more (some many more) such experiences and perhaps do not feel called to do so again at this time. Others are on the fence about whether they would like to have this experience at all — despite what I hope were compelling arguments throughout this magazine. Some of you may, like my brother (yes, my actual biological brother) Kaleb, who contributed to the 'Voice of the Tribe' article above, are in recovery from debilitating, life-altering addictions, and abstinence from such things is crucial to your health at this time. I respect all of these, and many other reasons too.

What we do all need is a connection to the sacred, time and space that is 'set apart', for nourishing our spiritual lives. Probably one of the most universal human practices for making space for the spiritual is the creation and use of an altar. An altar is a place where we can place items that hold sacred energy for us, and evoke a spiritual 'state change' when we interact with them.  It is a place where we can come, can sit, can worship, can connect. It is a place where we can plug in.

Do you have an altar already? Could it use a refreshing? Set some time aside to drop into a state of gratitude and relaxation, evoke your sense of prayerfulness, and give your sacred space a clearing.

Never built and altar before, but would you like to? What items are sacred to you, or evoke the sense of the spiritual? Can you place these items there? Are there seeds, or stones, or feathers that have meaning for you? Are there small, special items that have been given to you by a teacher, or a spiritual advisor? Are there items that you have found in nature that felt as if they were left there especially for you? Gather these things together, and create your own spiritual portal.

Assemble your altar, and let it be a place where you go "into state". Let this spot be sanctified. Let it be set apart. Let it be sacred.

I will speak with you again, here, on the Winter Solstice.

Aho.

Would You Like to Contribute to the Next Dispatch?

We are looking for gifted, thorough, well researched writers to contribute articles for future Dispatches and blog features!

All submissions must be original material, ranging between 500 and 2000 words, be well-edited and contain references where appropriate.  Images must be your originals or non-copyrighted.  And of course, all articles must be relevant to the ReWilding lifestyle!

Please include a brief 1-2 sentence bio, including your website or email address, as well as a high resolution photo of yourself.  If you include your Twitter, Facebook or Instagram we will be sure to tag you!

We will be selecting only one entry per Dispatch! 

We are also always accepting submissions for a feature in the Voice of the Tribe column on the DanielVitalis.com blog!

Please send your submission to info@danielvitalis.com.  We will contact you if your submission is selected for publication in the next — or in a future — Dispatch or blog feature!