“A DRUNK has been jailed after she stole a 100-seat ferry and smashed into boats, yelling, “I’m Jack Sparrow! I’m a pirate!”Alison Whelan, 51, boarded the 45ft Dart Princess with a friend after a two-day bender, where she got drunk on Lambrini and ate poisonous deadly nightshade, which causes hallucinations.She undid the mooring ropes in the early hours and drifted up a river on the tide, bashing into other boats “like a pinball machine”...”- Drunk Woman Steals 45ft Ferry while shouting 'I'm Jack Sparrow.' Via St. Justin
You just can't make this stuff up. I hope she doesn't read my blog... That's... Close to home. All my worst nightmares in one media report.
I've written about entheogens, and poisons, over time because altered states are part and parcel of certain traditions of magick, whether or not people like hearing it. At the same time, these activities do not amount to re-enacting a scene from Pirates of the Carribean.
When I recently ended the post about some of the problems facing the medical community stemming from BigPharma, I choose Wade Davis's essay because one of the things he discusses is the ritual uses that other cultures maintain or maintained in the past or present when it came to treating the natural, flowering, psychoactive beauty of nature and working that within the context of their rituals. I consider that natural, beautiful, and harmonious.
This is at a sharp disconnect with the recreational use of the same plants, or the chemicals derived from them. In some cases, there is absolutely no problem with the recreational use of psychoactive substances.* I do not always choose to treat alcohol as a sacramental drug: in plenty of cases, I'm perfectly happy to drink with friends, or go out to have a few drinks. Nonetheless my feelings about alcohol drastically change when I'm using it in a ritually charged space. It is part of generative and degenerative nature: it's an access point, a sign-post, back to the various cults and religions that used it before. This doesn't matter whether we're discussing mead, whiskey, wine or any other form of alcohol.
Thinking about the fermenting process, and the early mead and wine cults which also worshiped the dead reminds me again of the regenerative and degenerative aspects of nature and how something we typically think of as being painful or terrible (death, degeneration, etc.) can end up inspiring an almost endless seeming array of cults and religious movement in which man saluted his ancestors as intoxication set upon him.
As a counter-point to a view I'm coming to: I've often seen it expressed that religion, and the source of religion, is to create social order. The argument goes that since certain drugs allow for the deconstruction of that order, and a new order to arise, and because when abused they can be dangerous, it therefore follows that suppression of entheogens is a natural course of action. I've seen people go so far as to cite Hinduism as the basis for this process of ideas.
The problem with this remains to be: Viktor Sarianidi (if you watch the entire three part set of that episode, it's wonderful. I can find other articles on his work if the desire is made known to me) is one of the few to have actually have archeological evidence of what Soma may have been. Mentioned in the RigVeda, Soma was also known as Haoma to the Zoroastrians. It is believed to be a mixture of Ephedra, Cannabis, and Poppy seeds or opium. One easily can imagine why an opiate, a psychedelic plant, and a stimulant might have inspired the writers of the Vedic texts!
It also shows just how different such treatment might be to the way our culture discusses the subject, and more importantly, uses and treats the plants. They are treated as no more than a distraction; a plaything. That nature produces, much less than spontaneously, these wonderful compounds is seen as nothing more than a mechanical mechanism. Meanwhile aspects of our shared religious history seem to treat the matter very differently.
My mind flutters back to Otto's Dionysus: Myth and Cult:
“Folklore has given us much evidence for believing that the pleasure man takes in the fruits and flowers of the earth, the enjoyment he has in her intoxicating liquids – in fact, that gaiety, in general, can be linked with those moments when man salutes his dead...”
But this salute does not just entail his dead! Also his Gods, and the world around him! For the things which flower would not be if not for the insects which pollinate them, nor would they be without other aspects of the ecosystem that sustain them. Like humanity in general, there is a great chain linking each to each. Consider:
- Many of the psychoactive plants also contain psychoactive pollen, which affects insects very similar to the way they affect us. This includes plenty of the deliriants, which are a type of pesticide in some cases.
- In the case of bees, we share the neurochemicals of dopamine and serotonin with them.
- Scout bees seem to show signs of “personality.”
- Bees also produce honey, which can be psychoactive in some cases, but was turned by Europeans into mead fairly quickly. This produced cults of intoxication at a relatively early state of European history. In Greece we find “mead and bee cults;” we find aspects of them in Germany, and in Celtic lands.**
This treatment and approach to the world – to create poetry, art, religious and spiritual thought and foci – differs from the drug binge fueled stories of the west. We've reached the point of treating these aspects of nature as nothing more than mechanisms, things to be used to cure or kill, rather than recognizing the cycle.
I strongly suspect this is by and large a byproduct of the Industrial revolution. Do I wish to see it end? Absolutely. Right away. I grow tired of hearing stories about how meth ruins lives, or individuals went on a rampage because they treated the plants and drugs like nothing more than a pill you take to get away from reality and put them in their bodies simply to run away from the present.
I do not believe nature displays these properties just so one can have a good time, or simply to cure ills. Rather, it is a form of communication between the plant kingdom and the world we live in. We've just yet to see how and why this communication began, in my opinion.
In short, drugs can be abused. The plants and the compounds do get abused. Regularly. This abuse fuels the current way we look at them, and we fail to see where they entered our respective cultural narratives. But that doesn't mean they have to be, and running around like a loon rather than using them for contemplation, reflection, to break up every-day aspects of consciousness and see anew with new eyes: this is part of a long process.
You're not getting away from reality, anyway. Sober up, as many will know, and reality will return. You can't escape the world, nor it's pains. But you can celebrate the beauty and solemnity of it.
So raise a glass to your ancestors, and your precursors, and take a swig keeping in mind: in vino veritas. Even if you use intoxication to try and escape the truth, it will still remain where it always has been. Right beside you, staring you in the face, demanding your attention and telling you that there are things yet left that need to be fixed.
On the other hand? There's nothing wrong with having the occasional round of drinks with friends, reciting poetry, and dancing wildly.
After all: that's perfectly in line with tradition, isn't it? Just remember: it's part of a chain of things. Not something to denigrate and consider by itself, whether we're talking about marijuana, alcohol, or tobacco. None of these plants or chemicals exist in isolation. That's why we make sure to try and raise them when we fall in love with them, isn't it?***
* How you determine that seems to be cultural or based on toxicity, though. Alcohol is not terribly dangerous unless one is prone to violence or seriously abuses it over a long time.
** I'm pretty sure the Germans also had mead cults, but finding a specific citation of that fact was rather annoying. I just kept finding “anti-cult” websites.
** This comment doesn't include completely synthetic drugs, of course. They're an entirely different kettle of worms.