Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Oh, for the love of...*

Not Dying is Preferable.

So, here I am drawing up another entry for the Dead Man's Hand, focusing on tropane alkaloids specifically - what they do, why they do it, their medicinal use, etc - and VVF links me an interesting Tumblr entry about the way the information regarding the traditional witch poisons are filtering into the community. I want to quote Nefaeria briefly:
“There is a person on Youtube who has an online store that has started to sell items containing these kinds of plants. In a video while bragging that she is going to be selling flying ointments, she was handling potentially fatal plants on camera with very little care. She was rubbing her face up against some of them like it was a fuzzy little kitten and pretending she was going to eat one of them. Fucking stupid. {A rather ironic side note is that she was going on a tangent about people who change spiritual paths like they do underwear, yet one day she is a new age crystal healer, the next she is a necromancer and traditional witch, the next she is a chakra specialist, and now she is a folk magician with tonnes of experience working with “dark plants” and hoodoo.}”

This doesn't just depress me – it honestly terrifies me. If you've noticed anything, it's that I've never openly given out dosages on this blog. There are a few reasons for that:
  1. Alkaloid content in these plants depends on how old the plant is, when it was planted, and when it's put to use. This is as true of Mandragora as it as of Atropa Belladonna. (I do not grow, or use, Atropa Belladonna. She scares, and when that lessens I periodically get more freaked out.)
  2. Without an accurate way to measure the alkaloids in the plants, one can never be sure if they're looking at a toxic dose or not.
  3. If you really want to learn a bit about the plants, specifically the Nightshades, and how to use them I expect you to go to the trouble to find someone with the actual knowledge. This requires being able to ask them questions of which the answers you already know (to see if they, too, are aware), and so forth. The individual having a degree in medicine, chemistry, or biochemistry is preferable.

I consider the above the “safest way” to obtain knowledge of the poisons. It leaves out the possibility of a beginner making an egregious error and dying. It's not easy to find someone with the qualifications I've put above, but they do exist. I happen to know one very well, and I bombard her with questions whenever I can.

I'm still learning.* This doesn't discount the knowledge that I do have, but it puts it in its place: I'm happy to talk about the history, present medical usage, medicinal history, ritual history, etc. I'm uncomfortable recommending dosages (for reasons put forth in my first comment) and so forth.

Don't buy bad flying ointments. Don't give idiots credit that they don't deserve. And for the Love of whatever Gods you believe in, don't get yourself killed.

I can only plaster so many warnings all over everything I write before it becomes tedious and obnoxious.

If you're a noob, and reading these entries, and you've begun making ointments/salves, teas, and such and selling them? Please stop. I did not write anything about any of these plants to give you the power to sell shit that will put others in harm's way.** I wrote it because, frankly, I have yet to see people put some of the specific information I've focused on together before. And also because I grew tired of people comparing the “teas” of the PGM and earlier eras to flying ointments. Drinks are drinks. Ointments are ointments. Circe did not use a goddamn ointment, and don't say that she did. That isn't just silly, it's ahistorical and wrong. If you've made that mistake, it's cool.***

Aside from all of that, let me repeat: don't get yourself killed. Don't just place your trust blindly in people on the internet. And don't ever trust someone that rubs a poisonous plant on their goddamn face.

We're not talking about eating a few Psilocybin 'shrooms or taking a few tabs of acid. These are poisons. You can die. Atropa Belladonna ended the life of Robert Cochrane, and she will end your life, too. Don't mistake the comment of “they are hallucinogenic in some cases” to mean that we're discussing anything remotely safe. Because it isn't, and caution is necessary. Caution and a whole fuckton of reading, and a whole lot of pestering those who know more. No more, no less.

If you want a safe nightshade to make friends with? Grow Tobacco and DO NOT EAT IT. Just smoke it.


*Initially I said that I don't sell ointments because I'm still learning. This is actually inaccurate: I will probably never sell ointments, flying potions, etc., and I'm unlikely to give out any recipes I end up making to but a few, trustworthy friends. I'm an asshole. Sorry.
** I'm pretty  sure everyone else that's written on the subject of the plants, ointments, etc, feels the same way. But if you're not convinced? Selling someone a deadly product under the false pretenses of knowing what you're doing can probably land you in a whole mess of legal problems.
*** The category of "spells" these things belong to is Soporific Spells. Except when you're employing Mandrake directly as a familiar, which is slightly different. I guess a number of other plants could be approached similarly...


Scylla said...

As I said elsewhere of Flying Ointments: There is no "Safer sex" practice for banefuls. Not because "any amount" will kill you , but because there is no way for anyone outside of a laboratory to know what the content of any specific chemical is in the plant. Because, well, plants are living things. EVERY step in the experimentation is a potential hospital visit, if not worse.

Let's just use Datura as an example:
Party A buys a variety of Datura seed online. They invest in a large pot, fill it with nutrient rich compost and the like. Give it the site-recommended drainage, water levels, and fertilizers. They put it in the optimal placement on their porch and prune it back regularly to prevent leggy growth. They experiment with it routinely and find a dose of dry materia by weight that hits just the right spot. They pull another batch three months later, and end up in the hospital in and out of a coma for a week. What's the difference? Spring, versus Summer. Or Summer versus Fall. Or Winter versus Spring... or maybe she skipped a watering. Maybe aphids moved in. Maybe she selected younger or older leaves. Maybe some neighbor kid has been walking by and hitting the plant with a stick a lot during Summer break. Maybe the plant cross-pollinated with a nearby wild Datura via the sexy backside of a Bee, and has gone into overdrive to protect it's seeds?

Unless you have directly experimented with the EXACT batch, using the EXACT materials, from the EXACT same source - you cannot know what it will do. You cannot say it is "safe" or "unsafe" or "scorched earth scenario, write your will right now, buddy, because your ass is out the door, down the lubricated fun-slide to hell" until you try it, and maybe it's too late. So, there is no safe dose, no safe practice, no safe advice. It is a mine field. You enter it blind and at your own risk.

Assuming that risk for someone else via a medium as full of liars and thieves as internet commerce really chaps my ass in a severe and serious way.

I once received a lip-balm-sized tin of ointment from someone I trusted. A swipe of my thumb across that was enough to throw me over the moon - and I hear stories of people ordering salves and COATING THEMSELVES ... there aren't enough cursewords in any language to cover my shocked-and-appalled.

Brother Christopher said...

let us not forget that humans are also not as chemically consistent and stable. You might be horrible allergic to nightshade, or datura. Or you just be allerigic to one chemical in one plant that you have never encountered until you put a dollop of ointment on your skin and only break into a rash (cause it could be much worse). When it comes to drugs that affect the chemistry of the brain, all bets are off. Even with prescription psychotropics, it's hit or miss. What works for one person to control thier mental instability won't work for another, or will work but with side effects to numerous to count (one common one being lack of sexual desire/performance), and a third person will have no effect at all. So, be careful.