Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Disposable Mediums

I've been holding off on sampling Dioscorides entry on Enchanter's Nightshade until I can find a few more interesting annotations to append to it. I should have done it with the Mandragora entry, but I was feeling lazy and about to house-sit.

In the meantime (and while I work on a couple more book reviews), I wanted to answer some private questions I had directed my way about this blog. One reader complained that while I was diligent about trying to compile some primary sources on subjects, I sometimes used archaic phrasing or alluded to somewhat obscure subjects without fully explaining them. In fact, I'm always keenly aware of this problem and at odds with how to deal with it. My general decision is to make appropriate links where possible, or at the very least provide sources so that people can check them out if they feel so inclined.

However, some subjects just aren't designed for discussion in exceedingly simplistic terms, either. It would be impossible to talk about certain plants in flying ointments, for example, without also discussion the active alkaloids in them.* Furthermore, failing to discuss those alkaloids also creates room for error by potentially disguising the similar use of them in parts of the world which don't correspond to the west. Eventually, I'm going to have to bring up the use of tropane alkaloids in South America and the Caribbean, because they have a more-than-passing resemblance to the way that flying ointments are designed. Even though the plants that are used are different (Brugmansia versus Enchanter's Nightshade or the Mandrake root), the use of scopolamine by criminals in Columbia follows precisely the same utility as the Evil Sleep (Sophorific) spells in the PDM. It also is massively similar to the way the Hand of Glory was used in folktales, folk magic, and so on.**

Additionally, we also find these chemical agents being used – throughout their history – for oracular purposes, for Theurgia, and on and on. Nick Ferrell may think that people only discuss “scientific” topics when it comes to magick because they are noobs, but that's his problem.*** My problem is putting my cards on the table. Thus if The History of Psychopharmacology has relevant information on the subject and has a reliable source (which I consider it to), then I'm going to quote it. To not do so would be a silly as failing to provide Dioscorides entries in his De Materia Medica, which almost every secondary source on the subject is going to bring up. And you know what? It hard as hell to find a decent copy of the fourth book of De Materia Medica, so I'm going to put that up, too.

Sometimes, however, I do not feel the need to explain myself at all. If I've already introduced an idea previously, I try to link back to the entry. But sometimes I get lazy, again, because this blog is intended to look more like field notes than to look like someone's Book O' Magick or something. I also don't sell my services, so maintaining (what would be for myself) a false mask of “professionalism” is bullshit. I don't blame those that do it, I simply don't feel compelled to be one of them. And I enjoy the freedom from that compulsion, and the leeway it provides.

If you don't like what I put up? It's totally cool to stop reading the blog. I really don't mind. I won't, like, mock you forever because you rejected something I typically imagine only myself and some others are interested in. After all. It's a disposable medium.

That's what I like about the prospect of blogging. It doesn't have to be perfect, and for an insufficiency one blog has, another can help fill in for. If we all wrote the same thing, wouldn't that make for a very boring set of semi-literary prospects?


* The word Alkaloid is derrived from the Latin root Alkali, which comes from the Arabic al-qaliy: “the ashes, burnt ashes.” It is one the basic chemical components of the plant kingdom. These components are some of the ones that interact with our own unique (as the response from person to person can be very different) biology in a variety of ways.
** Seriously, I could write about this stuff, or hero cults, not to mention read about it, for the rest of my life and still not be satiated. That I can also put it to use is a massively enjoyable bonus. As for Sophorific Spells, if you hunt through the witch-hunting texts, that's precisely where that material shows up. So failing to give you the technical term is also a crap idea.
*** I am simplifying his statements, of course. He'd probably be on board with someone discussing alchemy and bringing up Chemistry. Maybe. I dunno. Ask him, I guess. I also knew plenty of Chaotes with the tendency, and never really faulted them for it. Chaos Magick was kind've designed to be a hybrid pursuit, which is one of it's strong points. Even if a given person abuses the subjects they're using, that doesn't mean it doesn't work for them or that they'll be forever stuck doing so.

1 comment:

layo said...

I also don't sell my services, so maintaining (what would be for myself) a false mask of “professionalism” is bullshit.

That's the beauty of blogging. I enjoy the informality. I like finding out what people have actually done, and the results they've gotten; I like finding out the connections they've made between the different books, ideas and methods they've explored. I like the fact that we can be subjective and personal here if we wish.