Is it cheating to use psychedelics in the pursuit of personal and spiritual growth?
Plant teachers and psychedelic medicines are part of an especially powerful spiritual path that only few can handle. They aren’t for everyone, just as tantra or vipassana meditation isn’t for everyone. It is a genuine path of healing and spiritual growth that has been around for longer than any religion we have today and that has at some point in time been part of the practice of all of them. They are at the very core of the mystical experience that once upon a time gave birth to religions, although those religions have since fundamentally perverted the insights given. Psychedelics are the tools of healers, shamans, witches, visionaries, psychonauts, spiritual explorers and messengers. They are tools of change and enlightenment, of love and transcendence. They are catalysts of evolution and reconnect people to the source.
Many years back I had a bottle of LSD with only a few drops left. One evening I emptied the bottle in my mouth, filled it with a little water, shook it and took that too. The dose was way higher than I had anticipated and left me quite incapacitated. There was absolutely no risk to it, but I did spend a lot of time crawling on the floor as the universe opened up before my eyes and gave me lessons on perspectives.
At that time I was spiritually awakening but I hadn’t connected to my inner shaman, so I was quite surprised at the long sequence of automated behaviour that followed. I was fully aware of what my body was doing, but I was not doing it. There was no thought, only automated actions and it was obvious that my body knew how to do them.
In this mode of automated action I stood up on unsteady legs and I then smudged my entire home for the first time ever. There was chanting and speaking coming from my mouth, but I was not creating it. It was just there, flowing through me. When I came to the kitchen I got all the food out and I sorted it into food with good and food with bad energy. As before there was no thought behind it. There was no “oh, I should have a look at my food” and no “is this good or bad for me?”. I simply took something and the feeling in me quickly determined if it was good or bad. Unsurprisingly locally produced ecological wholesome foods were good and sugary snacks and foods grown with poison were bad. Half my food got sorted out that evening and was shipped off the next morning.
This automated action continued for what seemed to be several hours. It was my first glimpse into ancient knowledge that I have amassed during past lives as a shaman. I didn’t understand that back then, but it has become ever clearer to me over the years. We have all lived many lives and it is common that we tap into the knowledge we have from past lives. I have had many past lives as a shaman, so naturally that knowledge runs deep in me. It is the same with anything that takes up much of your time. I had a friend that was a natural when it came to music. Looking back into his past lives he had many lifetimes as a musician.
In this life I don’t have access to all my previous knowledge, but it quickly reveals itself to me when I am faced with a situation where it is needed. I also recognize techniques, tools and such when I see them and having used them before I quickly adapt them to work for me. The feeling it gives is that I am not actually learning things – I am simply remembering them. The difference is paramount.
Photo: The Burning Fields by Lies Thru a Lens on Flickr
Diets are part of the triangular base of shamanism. For shamans who use master plants to heal the diets is the most important part. Through the diets the shamans get their knowledge and healing powers. If we compare it with university studies we can say that the diets are the different courses that one takes.
When you do a diet you make an ally for life, according to the shaman Jungle Svonni. These allies help out in the shamans work in the ceremonies. The shaman works with the energy of plants that s/he has dieted and not with her/his own power. In that way they can keep their energy strong and in balance. Otherwise each ceremony would weaken the shaman, but instead it is the opposite. More diets, more energy and better work.
When you do a diet you create a contract with the spirit of what you will diet. Note that some shamans specialize in using one or more specific plants, which they have dieted for long periods of time or in succession. We do not always connect or feel a connection with the spirit of what we are dieting. As in normal life we are more compatible with some people than with others, and it is the same with the plant spirits. We are compatible with certain plant spirits but not with all. With time you will recognize which plant spirits connects with you better.
In his article Withdrawals or allowances Dr. Rosa Giove tells us that:
“Diets are temporary retreats in the mountains, usually ten days in isolation, with ritualized ingestion of so-called ‘plant teachers’ under a certain diet and very strict physical and psychological management.
A space in contact with nature, dedicated to the physical and energetic purification, to remove substances that block sensitivity is thus created. This favours the production dream, remembrance of past situations and not metabolized deep introspection; in short, the encounter with the ‘inner teacher.’
We opened an inner door that allows us to contact our being deep, but at the same time makes us vulnerable. By Therefore, energy measures are stringent protection for both ‘dietador’ m person doing the diet, and the person who treats you.”
Kinds of diets
In my experience there are two types of diets:
Learning Diets. All diets are about learning, but the degree of learning depends on the effort we put into each diet and the connection you get with the spirit of what we are dieting. The more restrictions you have in your diet, the more benefits you will get from it.
Healing Diets. All diets are for healing, but there are specific diets to cure specific diseases or problems. A person who performs a healing diet can vary the level of restrictions depending on the severity of the illness. The restrictions will depend on what the shaman recommends, but the basic rules do not change. The only thing that varies in this case is the food and that depends on the body. A person who is old or physically very weak may have a little more to eat, but always without SALT.
What to diet
You can basically diet everything, because everything that comes from our mother earth has a spirit. So it depends on what you want to achieve with the diet. Do you want to learn, cleanse or heal?
In the end you will achieve all, but to what degree will also depend on your intention and your needs. For example a person that wants to heal a specific disease such as diabetes will just do a healing diet for the diabetes. The plant spirit won’t be teaching much, but will be working with the body and the energy during the entire diet.
Usually you look at the characteristics of what you will go to diet. In the Amazon the shaman’s training consists in doing plant diets and that is what is offered in the Amazonian shamanic market. Therefore, knowing the characteristic of the plant is recommended before starting a diet. A shaman knows the plant by investigating it through diets, by working with the spirit in ceremonies or by dreams where it is shown how to use every part of the plant.
A common way to investigate a plant in addition to the diet is to cook a leaf, stem or root with Ayahuasca. The Ayahuasca will make the contact with the spirit more visual. When you start a diet you will drink it as a tea or eat a specific part of the plant, such as the bark, root, leaves or flowers. Each part has a different energy, a different function and purpose.
If you look at the meaning of the word diet, one understands that it refers to the “restriction of something”. What are these restrictions in a shamans diet?
Alcohol consumption, for obvious reasons, is not allowed while one performs a diet.
Sex or masturbation is not allowed for simple reasons. At the moment of orgasm you release your energies or you catch energies from your partner. When we are on diet we want the energy that is contained in the plant or crystal that we are dieting to become a part of us. If we have an orgasm we will lose the energy that we have accumulated.
When one is on a diet it is recommended to stay away from the city, because our body is in an open state, which helps us to be receptive to the energies. Therefore the place will influence the outcome of our diet. You must be isolated or surrounded by those who are helping you with the diet, like the shaman or other people on diets. How isolated you need to be also depends on the plant that you are dieting. Some plant spirits can be more demanding than others, just like people.
This point is very important because nowadays, especially in the city of Iquitos, various centers have no idea of the importance and the reasons behind the food that should be served during a diet. When you are on diet, you want to create the least amount of distractions in your body so that the spirit of the plant can work on you. The food should generally contain little nutrition or energy. It is usually recommended to eat rice and lentils once a day, since everything you eat will compete with the spirit of the plant that you are dieting. For example, if you eat a carrot, the carrot has lots of “personality”, which will compete with the plant spirit that you are dieting. This does not mean that you cannot eat a carrot. You can, but the benefits from your diet will decrease. If you eat vegetables in your diet your learning might decrease by 40 percent.
In Peru the shaman will normally close a diet or post diet with chili, since it cuts energies. Chili also has a hot energy, which can give you a headache while on diet. The only exception to this case is when one is dieting chili, but that is a very special diet and not very common due to its degree of difficulty. Then it is usually consumed as powder up the nose and it is mainly for protection.
Salt is one of the most powerful sources of energy for our body. Therefore it is a big interference for plant or crystal. Since we don’t want the energies to compete, salt is generally used to end the diet. It is a signal to the body that the diet is over. When you stop eating salt before starting a diet you are also opening your body to energies around you. It’s important that you eat salt before ceremonies or your body will feel weak. Also nowadays we are eating far too much salt. The amount of salt that we need is only 2 grams a day. It is also good to keep in mind that salt sometimes comes with additives such as Fluoride, which is a poison.
As I mentioned, when you’re on a diet, you are in a receptive mode, or one might say that your WIFI is switched on. Therefore it is important that the diet is done in a secluded place in nature, not only because of the importance of creating a safe place and being in contact with nature, but also not to expose yourself to other people’s energies. It is highly recommend not to have any physical contact with people. Remember that our skin can absorb everything, not only creams or water, but also energy. Handshakes and hugs are not allowed during a diet. The only contact you may have is with the shaman. Usually the shaman asks the patient to hold his/her hands as if to receive something and then blows smoke for healing, cleaning or to provide energy.
You should not use any electronic apparatus during a diet, so forgot about your laptop or your mobile. The signals that electronics emit are not good for you during a diet. They can make you feel sick or give you headaches. Using your cell phone to communicate with the rest out the world while you are on a diet is not good, especially if you receive bad news. You need peace, not problems.
Every shaman has their own specific rules about diets. These are kind of general rules. Some shamans are stricter and won’t even allow people to read books, but I think that is to exaggerate. You won’t be with your diet energy 24 hours a day, so you can have moments when you distract the mind. Just make sure that you read something nice.
If you have taken the decision to start a diet, you must finish. You have made a promise to yourself and might very well get sick if you don’t keep it. I will talk more about that in another post.
How to start a diet
Before giving a diet the shaman will first do an Ayahuasca ceremony with the person for the following reasons:
To clean the energies and the body of the person who will do the diet. Obstacles are removed to be able to work with the spirit of the plant.
To identify the plant that the person will diet. In the ceremony the shaman calls the spirits of different plants to see which is best suited to the diet that the person will start. The most common diet for those starting shamanic training is Ajo Sacha. It is a very popular plant because of its effectiveness to clean energy.
The shaman also sets the time the person must do their diet. Diets generally have an average minimum duration of 3 days, which are usually fastings (just with water). 7, 10 and 15 days are the normal times of diets, but if you want to specialize in the use of a plant then diets are longer or repeated several times. It could be 30 days, three months or a year. After you have done several diets you will feel in advance how long to make your diets.
The diet starts early in the morning the day after the ceremony by drinking tea or eating bark, roots, flowers or leaves of the plant that the shaman saw during the Ayahuasca ceremony. You will drink this tea for the first 3 days of the diet. You can also drink it throughout the diet, but it depends on the shaman and whether the diet is for learning or healing. In diets for learning it is enough to drink the tea the first 3 days. For healing diets the tea plant is taken during all the diet.
It is important to mention that diets usually are performed by taking one plant at a time. No two plants are mixed in a diet unless it is for healing the body or to heal a disease. In some Ayahuasca centres there are diets with up to 100 plants in one diet, but that is outright crazy. The only thing you get from these diets is CONFUSION. As we mentioned before, plants are not compatible with all energies. Also some plants are not compatible with each other, either for chemical or energetic reasons. Please, if someone offers you such diets – run!
The crystal diets follow the same rules as the plant diets. This is how you prepare for a crystal diet:
Clean your crystal. You can use fire or leave it over night in a glass of water touching the earth.
Next day put the crystal in a glass of fresh water and leave it there all day and night. If you don´t have a plant ceremony to cleanse before you start your diet, then you try to water fast all that day. Drink plenty of water.
The next day you drink the water from the glass. To continue dieting you pour fresh water into the glass with the crystal, leave it over night and drink it next day. You do so for as long as you want to diet it.
Remember that before you start the diet you must tell yourself and the crystal energy how long you want to diet it – 3 ,5,7 days – and then you must do it. During the diet you eat once a day, usually rice and lentils without salt and not too much. Just one portion.
NOTE: Before you do a crystal or stone diet, check if the stone or crystal has any kind of toxic metal in it. You will find plenty of information about it through Google.
How to close a diet
A diet ends at mid day. If you decide to do a 3 day diet, for example, then you close the diet around middle day on the third day.
You cut an onion and mix it with lemon juice and salt. If you don’t like onions you can use garlic. You make a salad with the onions, lemon juice and salt and then eat it .This will send a signal to your body that the diet is over.
Some shamans likes to close the diet with chilli. I don’t like to close my diet like that because chilli is too strong for the spirit. For me it is too hot.
The post diet helps the spirit of what you were dieting to root firmly in your energy field. If you think in terms of making a new friend the post diet will help you make the relation stronger.
So how does it work?
You will continue to follow certain rules for a period of time. The post diet starts as soon as you have ended your diet.
In the post diet you can eat normally again, but you must avoid pork, chilli, refined sugar, lactose and alcohol. You must also avoid sex and masturbation, in order to help the energy of what you were dieting to grow roots. You don’t want to celebrate having finished your diet by having sex and drinking alcohol. Remember that your body and spirit just went through a very powerful and special experience.
How long should the post diet last?
Normally you can choose the number of days but remember that the longer your post diet is, the more benefits you will get from it. So for example if you were dieting for 15 days, then you should post diet for at least 7 days.
I normally end my post diet by eating chilli but that isn’t a rule. At the moment you eat pork, have sex or drink alcohol your post diet is over.
Now you can begin to appreciate how hard the shamanic training is. I have been dieting almost one and a half year, doing diets of different lengths and resting 3 days in between.
If you start different diets with only a few days between them, then you can have one post diet for them. For example if you do 7 days, then you rest 3 days, and start another 7 days diet , your post diet when you finish the second diet will be enough to cover the first diet also.
During my shamanic training it was never easy to take the next step and it was never easy to overcome a fear. A shaman with fears is not good, especially in the moments when bravery is needed. At the same time that higher light energies exist, there are also dark energies. Dark energies are not God or the spirit creation. Dark energies are a human creation.
When we came to this experience as humans we forgot our divinity and got lost in pleasures. Our souls went down different paths because of our free will. We learnt to hate, to steal, to lie, and more. These feelings, actions and thoughts also are energies; low frequencies of energies. But also inside this dark energy there exist levels of consciousness. Some souls decide not to return to the light after death. They continue living the emotions that they could not let go of, such as hate and resentment. This is not about hell or heaven. For me that does not exist.
I believe that what many religions describe as “hell”, and people with near death or other kind of supernatural experiences describes as hell, is an intermediate state between the human and spirit world. A state in between, a shadow state we can call it. You cannot pass to the light until your decide that light is your origin and you cannot return as human. These spirits are still attached to the human world. But also when we are spirits, we have a choice. We always have a choice. They will see the light when they understand that only light is possible, and that the light is where they come from.
For me this intermediate dimension that we have created with our bad feelings and attachments is the shadow state which can explain things like witchcraft. Witchcraft is not Gods creation. Witchcraft was created in Africa, were researchers’ claim the first humans came from, so we can assume that witchcraft and humans came together. Exactly when and how? No idea, but I believe that at some point in our story there was a really dark moment and it was from this dark time the shadow spirits could communicate with the shamans in the ceremonies. Remember that plant medicines OPEN spaces, not only for different dimensions inside yourself, but also in reality. So these shamans got in contact with these shadow spirits and before that the shamans did not know of those kinds of energies, so some shamans learnt from those spirits. The shadow spirits understood very well the tricks of the human ego and some shamans felt really great with all this new information. And since then dark spirits also come to ceremonies and can again enter the human dimension and continue spreading hate and other bad feelings.
It’s very easy to learn witchcraft. Learning how to heal is what is difficult. Witchcraft is a sad reality and I will take time on this subject for another article.
Ok, until this point we are clear that these shadow states are what we can call the demon state. Every bad feeling, every bad thought, like “I want to kill myself” creates a demon, a low energy vibration around you. This is what we see as ugly visions during plant ceremonies. It’s our own creation. And every bad feeling, thought or reinforcement to this kind of thought, “I want to kill myself” for example, will feed the energy. That’s why there are different levels of consciousness to the low frequencies. Some of them have personalities like you and me. Yes, I have seen them. My first experience with exorcism in ceremonies started in my third year, when I was helping a shaman during ceremonies. I was watching his back , especially during exorcisms.
In my experience there are three kinds of “demons”.
The ones that have a mission, like wanting to stop you from finding your mission. Normally the people experience these kinds of demons. They are born with these energies, they feel depressed almost all their lives and they describe something like “I really want to feel, but I cannot. It’s like I have a block in my heart that does not allow me to feel. I want to feel love. I know my family love me, but I want to feel it. I know I love them, but I cannot feel them. What’s wrong with me?”
These energies usually have a very clear mission. When they manage to disconnect people from their hearts they disconnect them from their life path as well. Life becomes a sad reality for these people.
The ones that came by accident, for example through playing with a Ouija board. Some of these games are not so innocent and really work. Sometimes people get in touch with energies that were passing by and they call them to our human dimension through portals like the Ouija board, and because these energies don’t have a particular mission, they manifest more intensely. Then it can be like in movies with exorcism, because these energies are not supposed to be here. They don’t have a purpose.
The ones that come by trauma. Sometimes during our spiritual experience as humans we experience very traumatic situations that OPEN US, such as the death of someone very close. When you are open and vulnerable energies that are around you can attach. Normally these are not very strong energies, but they can create discomfort like the sensation of being disconnected.
People with the first and second group of demons are difficult to work with using plants. They normally do not feel anything; they cannot see. They are disconnected, so then it is good to work with diets. A shaman will recognize the demon energy inside of the person, normally through a plant ceremony and sometimes before that. We can smell these entities. I have personal experience from a very difficult exorcism where I could literally feel the evil in my skin. It was awful, but I am still here. That’s why, dear readers, working with plants is not a funny hobby. It’s serious work.
What shamans do when people with these kinds of entities come to ceremonies?
First is to check in a ceremony to be 100 % sure that there is an entity.
Second is to evaluate the power of the entities. Some are easier to take out than others.
Third. Normally all people with entities should go to diets to clean energies. This makes the demons energy weaker and weaker, so they will show up during the ceremony. Normally they will try to hide from the shamans, if they can.
Fourth. After the diet there is a ceremony, normally with special Ayahuasca or San Pedro cooked with an extra plant, like Toe, Ajosacha or Pinon Colorado. There are different sorts and it always depends on the level of energy that we are dealing with. In cases of San Pedro shamans cactus with four lines are the favorites for exorcism. During the ceremony the demon is expelled with help of the shaman’s icaros. These ceremonies are not violent like in movies, but there is always a risk, so the shaman will have support from another shaman to do the exorcism.
After the exorcism people normally do not remember much, but they suddenly feel much much better. Finally they can get in touch with their hearts and some, if not all, can finally get in touch with the visions of Ayahuasca.
My personal experience with demons and dark energies is not to fight them. When you deal with these energies , what you do is to increase your light. When your light is strong there is no space for darkness. Nature does not support these dark energies. They are tired of them, so nature is a big ally. When the shaman has taken out this kind of energy, then the nature spirits take care of the rest. Once I saw a Roman army coming from the forest to take an entity with them. I look at them and asked “What are you going to do with him (the demon)?” They just said “Do not feel sorry for him. He does not feel for you. Do not worry. We have been looking for him for a long time.” And then they disappeared with the screaming entity.
Someone asked a fellow shaman:
– How long does it take to become a shaman?
– Well, at least a couple of lifetimes. But often much longer than that, he answered.
I suppose that is why you shouldn’t trust a shaman with a Western style “shaman diploma” given to them after a weekend course. Few people who have spent lifetimes becoming a shaman would be interested in such a piece of paper.
Some people have been interested in my shamanic training, so I will write a little about it. I have being dieting in the shamanic tradition for one year and a half year and I have trained for three years drinking Ayahuasca four times a week in the deep jungle of Iquitos. But the training never ends.
Before coming to Europe and before cooking my Ayahuasca I did diets alone in the mountains of the high jungle of my town Tarapoto, drinking Ayahuasca every night for 15 days to prepare myself. My teachers were two indigenous shamans; a Witoto man named Luis and his wife, a Yahuar woman. When you train as a shaman much of the knowledge is not talked about. It is up to the student to find the right questions and then the answers come.
My teachers were mostly silent and most of what I learnt was by observing and in our communication during ceremonies, where I could see and understand and then ask my teacher if my understanding was correct. The knowledge that you understand from the inside never leaves you. When you understand and you are able to explain it in your own words, then you have mastered the subject. All the information I share comes from the knowledge I got during my training and has been confirmed by my teachers.
During this time I also understood that the process of understanding is what transforms the student into a teacher. The process of waking the teacher inside of you takes time and the first part of the training to become a shaman is about self exploration and self destruction (we experience many small deaths during this process). Then we are reborn. We clean our lives before the training, our families heritages and our past life karmas.
After that you are ready to learn how to heal and help others, because you had done it with yourself. Because you had understood pain and mastered love, compassion and humbleness. Then you can help others.
Everyone has a calling to become a shaman, but few are ready to do the work.
But everything about my path with Ayahuasca started long before I found my teachers, which you can read about in my earlier article Ayahuasca brought me home.
San Pedro ceremonies start early in the morning. Normally you don’t eat the night before and you won’t feel hungry during the day. If you start to feel hungry it is because the effect of the medicine is starting to disappear.
The shaman serves everyone the preparation. It can be fresh liquid San Pedro or San Pedro in powder which is mixed with water. In areas where it is available shamans always offer liquid San Pedro.
When everybody is ready the shaman opens the ceremony. Some are really strict and like to sit in circles that they don’t want you to move far from. The other way, which I prefer better, is that the participants can choose an area they want to be in after the ceremony is opened. For these ceremonies it is really good to be in an open area such as a big garden.
Different shamans view singing and music differently. Some sing and others let the participants sing or play instruments.
How it works?
San Pedro works approximately 12 hours. You begin to feel it work after 30 minutes if it is fresh or 2 hours if the San Pedro is in powder form. During that time you need to try to keep the medicine inside. The effects goes up until middle day and then slowly goes down. If the person needs healing it is really good to do such work around midday.
Water makes the San Pedro energy increase. If you take a shower you will feel it stronger afterwards. Don’t freak out.
You can drink water during the ceremony. It will help you to vomit. Yes you will vomit. It’s a medicine, not apple juice.
Watching the sky is very beautiful while in a San Pedro ceremony.
The dose is different from person to person and has nothing to do with body size or weight. It has to do with how sensitive we are and our energy level. The shaman will read you while serving the San Pedro.
Why isn’t it recommended to take it alone for the first time?
The limbo effect. If you didn’t take enough of the cactus preparation you can get stuck in what I call the limbo effect. You don’t feel normal but you don’t feel entirely in the San Pedro energy either. This is a very uncomfortable experience that can be solved by taking more San Pedro, but when you do so you will again need to wait until it starts working and you will have more than 12 hours of the San Pedro effects.
Overdosing. You won’t die of San Pedro, but taking too much will be very intense. If you are alone and start to freak out you have a long journey ahead of you, because the effects last up to 12 hours. This is a very serious plant to take alone.
First of all it is important to point out that all words are made up. People have had a good think and come up with a word which in some cases has caught on. But understand this – they are all make-believe. Even the most precise of words with the clearest of definitions is made up by someone.
The meaning of a word is determined by the consensus people find around it. Some words have very precise meanings, such as the word centimetre. Other words have a general consensus, but can still be open to interpretation at some point, such as the word chair or forest. Yet other words are the cause of constant quarrel. What is art? Define love. Describe ego.
When it comes to words describing experiences and plants or substances with psychedelic properties there are many different words, but little actual consensus, in part because we are still in the process of trying to agree on them. There is often no exact right or wrong, but as with most things there are plenty of people with strong opinions on the subject. But just so that we are clear about this – those opinions are made up about words that are made up. In the end it is all make-believe.
Since there is still little consensus on these words it is important to ask the person using them what they mean by them, because what the words mean to them might be very different from what they mean to you. And if you are getting worked up about what they mean to you only to find out much later that they mean something totally different to them… well, it’s a whole lot of arguing about absolutely nothing.
It is also important to understand that the words and definitions we use are a reflection of what we need them for. A scientist needs very well-defined words, so the wording is very precise. This often leads to the words being quite complicated, because in the scientific world it is not a problem if a word is complicated, as long as it is well-defined.
I am not a scientist. My goal is not to be precise, but rather to be understandable. In order to help people I need them to understand what I am saying, which they won’t do if I use a scientific jargon. I need words that people at least have a clue about, and then we can take it from there.
So let’s talk about some of the words that are floating around out there.
Plants and substances
This is a distinction where there is much consensus, but which still causes confusion, especially for people who do not work with such things. A plant is something you will find growing in nature. It can be a cactus like the San Pedro or a vine like the Banisteriopsis caapi, which is used in the brew Ayahuasca. The psilocybin mushroom is by a biologist’s definition not a plant but a fungi, but for the sake of making this understandable I group it with the plants, because it is something that grows in nature.
A substance on the other hand is an isolated molecule or combination of molecules. It is something that a person has isolated, extracted or produced. Mescaline is a substance which one can get from San Pedro, DMT is a substance which can be found in Ayahuasca and psilocybin is a substance which can be found in certain mushrooms.
It is important, at least from a shamanic perspective, not to confuse these with each other. Eating a San Pedro cactus is not the same as eating mescaline. The San Pedro is a plant and as a plant it has a spirit connected to it. Or to put it in other words, it is alive and is able to communicate with us. Mescaline might give some similar effects, but there is no spirit there to communicate with.
Let’s take one of my favourite substances as an example. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a substance in the meaning that it is an isolated molecule which does not have a spirit attached to it, in the shamanic sense of things. It is a very powerful medicine to work with and many of the effects might seem similar to mushrooms or cacti, but when working with it one is not doing so with the help of a spirit which is attached to the substance.
While all this is perfectly clear for people who work with such things, it is often very confusing for people who for example make and enforce laws. They often name a substance and confuse it for the plant, or the other way around. In a shamanic setting it is a world of difference and it is well understood that a plant cannot be reduced to a certain substance contained within it, because it will be missing the spirit.
What are these plants/fungi being called?
When writing this I asked people for the words they use for such plants. One person simply replied Teacher. Short and to the point. This is a common perception and while it might be figuratively speaking for some, most who say it mean it literally. They see the plant as a spirit separate from themselves who teaches them things, and this is an understanding which has been around for thousands of years in the cultural settings in which such plants have been used. It is a term that not only conveys what the spirit does, but it is also a word which shows respect.
In that cultural setting it would be disrespectful to confuse for example the San Pedro cactus with the word mescaline. It would be disrespectful in the same manner as if you called your university professor Book. Your professor is as little a Book as San Pedro is Mescaline.
A similarly respectful and common expression is Master plant. It says with all clarity that this is no silly little spirit, but a spirit worth listening to carefully. It is also common to call the plants by what help they give, such as Medicine plant or Visionary plant. They are medicine. They give vision.
A few people called them Spirit helper or Spirit guide. It still conveys the sense of there being another intelligence, but for me those terms carry a different meaning that are not connected to a plant.
Other words that try to capture the essence of these plants and substances
The fact that we are dealing with both plants and substances which have similar properties does confuse the situation. While the plant spirits have been known in shamanic use for many millennia they are still quite new to us in the modern world. These things haven’t really been known to us for more than a century, and to a broader public only half that time.
One thing that we are very good at in this modern world is playing with words, so it comes as no surprise that there is a wealth of different words trying to describe these plants, substances and experiences. Some are quite good while others are awful. Many are catchy and accessible, while others confuse things even more. Here come some of the ones that I like better:
The best thing about the word psychedelic is that it is well-known. People at least have a vague idea what it is, and even though the ideas might be off, it is a starting ground.
The term means “mind revealing” and is derived from the Greek psyche (soul, mind) and delein (to manifest). It was coined by the British psychiatrist Humphry Osmond in 1957. At the time he and Aldous Huxley were discussing what to call these wonderful plants and substances. Huxley sent Osmond a rhyme with the word he preferred: “To make this trivial world sublime, take half a gram of phanerothyme” (thymos meaning ‘spiritedness’ in Greek.) Osmond wrote back “To fathom Hell or soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic.”
I wanted to share that story with you to show the playfulness and ingenuity that bright minds have put into making these words up.
Personally I think it is a word which is very suitable and it can be used for plants and substances alike. They are truly soul and mind revealing. They put us in direct contact with our inner workings, with or without the help of a spirit.
It is also a word that is easy to connect with other words, such as psychedelic mushroom, psychedelic medicine or psychedelic therapy. In that way it is good for communicating, which suites me.
I have heard several negative remarks about the word. A shaman friend of mine dismisses the word because it somehow doesn’t take the plants spirit into account. It reduces the plant to a mere substance, is the argument. I do not agree. There is nothing inherent in the word which says that it refers to a substance or which excludes a spirit. Those restrictions are not in the word itself, but in the critics own head.
This is another word which I like, but which is often (mis)understood in ways that narrow it down to something it doesn’t inherently need to be. The word hallucination was coined by Sir Thomas Browne in 1646 from the Latin alucinari meaning “to wander in the mind”.
That word goes well together with the notion that a hallucination is a visual projection of what is going on in the mind, which many such experiences obviously are. But many visual effects on such plants and substances are not projections of what is going on in our mind, which leaves many feeling that the word is incorrect. Many visual effects are universal and people report similar geometrical patterns, energy trails and other visual experiences that seem to emanate outside themselves.
I find that the anthropologist Jeremy Narby explains this wonderfully in his book The Cosmic Serpent where he studies shamans of the Amazon and compares their knowledge to Western scientific knowledge. There he makes a difference between inner and outer hallucinations. Inner hallucinations are projections of what is going on in our own mind, while outer hallucinations are things that are really there, but which are normally hidden from us. These outer hallucinations can be things like auras, spirits, energetic patterns and the fabric of existence. It is all there even when we don’t see it and what the plants and substances do is open us up to being able to see.
If the word hallucination or hallucinogen is used to only mean “projections of your own mind” it is not a suitable word to describe these plants and substances, since it leads us to believe that what we are experiencing only originates from within. If the word is used to mean inner AND outer hallucinations, then I find it to be very accurate. The visual effects are projections of what is going on inside AND they also reveal other realities to us.
The word entheogen was coined in 1979 by a group of ethnobotanists who wanted to capture the spiritual aspect of the experience. This also comes from Greek and is made up of entheos (full of god, inspired) and genesthai (to come into being). An entheogen is a plant or substance which wakes the God within, which inspires us, especially in a spiritual way.
I like this word because it captures the spiritual aspect in a way that the other words don’t. These plants and substances are to a very high degree being used in spiritual settings and with spiritual intentions, so it is fitting to have a word which highlights this.
I once channelled information from the spirit world about how dangerous drugs are. After having a list of different plants and substances I noticed that some were obviously missing. There was no mention of mushrooms, LSD or DMT. When I asked why the answer was very clear. “Many people have completely misunderstood these plants and substances. They are not drugs. They are keys to speak to the Gods.”
I couldn’t agree more. That is the most common view among people who work with such plants and substances in a serious manner, and that is also why no amount of legislation can ever stop people from using them. It is simply ridiculous to think that people will obey laws that try to stop them from speaking to God or themselves.
Substances of essence
This is not an expression I have heard being used, but when I asked for words someone wrote this. I think it is a wonderful expression, because it shows that respect can be directed towards a substance too. While I have heard several in spiritual settings dismiss substances and molecules, they are also truly miraculous and hold as much healing power as many plants. I find such dismissal to be disrespectful and lacking in knowledge in the same way that others disrespect the plant spirits out of lack of knowledge.
A couple of words I think are really bad
Drugs/dope. No one who has the slightest knowledge on the subject would use such words about plants or substances with psychedelic properties. When you hear someone using these words it is a red flag clearly stating “I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about”. Unfortunately drug laws are often written and upheld by people who haven’t a clue.
Phanerothyme. I’m just using this as an example among many similar words. It translates into “producing visable feelings”. The person who created this might have put a lot of thought into it and the meaning might be quite true, but trying to communicate it is horrible. It is bulky, hard to pronounce, hard to combine with other words and nobody has the slightest idea what it means. It might work with a scientific intention, but in everyday communication I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole.
There are a lot of good words out there and there are a few bad ones too. Use the good ones and let the bad ones die. But perhaps more importantly, there are good and bad interpretations of the words.
If you meet someone who uses the words in a way that you don’t think you agree with, don’t take for granted that you don’t agree with one another. Simply ask them what they mean and have a friendly talk about your different choices in words. In many cases we get tangled up in trying to say that something is right and something else is wrong. When we do so we are missing the crucial point – it is all made up. Our language is make-believe. We often confuse the use of different vocabulary with being of different opinions.
Another point that I see in all this is that although there are several very good words out there, these plants, substances and experiences are so diverse and complex that they are hard to capture in a single word. Any way you choose to describe them you will automatically be missing other crucial points. The plant is a teacher, but is that all it is? Yes, these plants and substances help us sort out our inner workings, but is that all they do? Yes, they cause inner and outer hallucinations, but is that what it is all about?
I don’t think that the solution to all this is to make up yet more words, trying to capture that which cannot be captured. I think a good lesson is to simply understand that language itself is a limitation.
The original name for this cactus in the Peruvian tradition is Wuachuma or Huachuma. In Peru the shamanic use has been tracked back to at least 1500 B.C. When the Spanish came to conquer the Incas the people started to use the name of San Pedro, because it is a plant that can open the doors to heaven for you, just like San Pedro (Saint Peter) from the bible.
Kinds of San Pedro
There are several kinds of San Pedro cactus, and I won’t name them because that is a classification that scientists love to do. In the shamanic tradition the following differences are noted:
The female and male San Pedro. The first one doesn’t have many spines around it, while the male San Pedro has a lot of spines. The male San Pedro is stronger and the shamans or curanderos often prefer them.
The lines. The cactus has a numbers of lines, or columns, which also indicate the power of the cactus. Shamans prefer to use cactus with more than four lines. San Pedro with four lines are used for exorcisms.
Better connection with nature. You might for example perceive the aura of trees, animals, rivers, lakes and people. For San Pedro ceremonies the ceremonial place is therefore very important, since it is the most important part of the ceremony. The shaman knows this.
Healing. The energy of San Pedro harmonizes the chakras and helps us to get more benefits from practices such as reiki, reflexiology, kinesiology, massage, taichi, yoga, etcetera. The San Pedro shaman is one of the first practitioners to work with hands on healing of the body.
Opens our creativity. It is very good for artists, painters, musicians and dancers, because it opens our eyes to the beauty of our mother earth.
Visions. The San Pedro spirit shares visions and knowledge, which are really vivid experiences.
I will talk about shamans and not about gurus or healers. I will talk about the reasons not to be a vegetarian or vegan from a shamanic point of view. I won’t say that one way or another is wrong or right. IT’S A DECISION. But there is a lot of judgment and misinformation on the subject. The silent war between meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans must stop. It is not helping nature.
We lost the connection with our food when we let go of shamanism and our shamans. We are responsible for the pain that’s going on and when we become conscious of the importance of shamanism and reconnect to nature, then we will begin to understand how to correct our errors.
The comfortable life that each of us has chosen has disconnected us from nature. The city provides you with so much comfort. You fill your refrigerator with food that you buy from the supermarket, since you don’t have time to grow your own food, because you must work 8 hours a day in order to maintain your comfort. It is the same in all aspects of modern life. We have given up our power of being INDEPENDENTS and INTERCONNECTED and instead we DEPEND on corporations and governments. These problems won’t be solved by us becoming vegetarians or vegans.
A real shaman knows how to provide their own food. All good shamans that I have met hunt and fish their own food, as well as grow vegetables. Their diet is of course depending on where they live, so shamans in northern Greenland almost only eat meat.
For me the experience of fishing has helped me develop my connection with water and other elements. When you are fishing you learn how to read the water and the weather conditions. You need to become the fish and this is how shamanism works. I can connect and feel where the better areas are and where the fish are at that moment in the day. And then when I get them out of the water I never feel sorry or offer apologies. I thank the fish for giving me its life energy.
When you kill an animal you understand life and how fabulous our existence on this earth is. Our bodies are containers than contains a great source – THE SOUL. In the eyes of the animal you can see when the spirit leaves. It’s the light that disappears from this reality to pass to another that is better. Life is a cycle. Death is not bad. It’s a process, a continuation. We are never really born; we are constantly dying since we came to earth.
When you live a genuine shamanic life you understand that everything that surrounds you in nature is ALIVE and HAS A CONSCIOUSNESS – animals, plants and even rocks. Just because they don’t move fast does not mean that they are not alive. They are just having a different experience on earth. Shamanism was born in the hunting cultures.
Is the pain of an animal a reason to become a vegetarian or vegan?
No, it’s not. Everything that is alive CAN EXPERIENCE PAIN and EMOTIONS, but this is not a bad thing. It is one of the reasons why we are here, to FEEL. Plants can also FEEL. We are just not used to listening to their pain, but they can still feel it. It is trough the pain that we know that is better to feel LOVE.
It’s a different thing when we kill animals in factories. There is no respect in it, no consideration in the way animals are killed anymore. In the shamanic traditions the animal must die fast and with as little pain as possible. In the Sami tradition for example they kill the reindeer by first cutting the nervous system and then with a knife to the hearth. Then they wait until the animal does not move the eyes anymore before taking care of the meet and everything else. They use every single part, to honour the animal, the skin, the meat, and the antlers. This is how it used to be when the shamans actively worked in the communities.
Nowadays even the vegetables are being dishonoured in the way they are being grown. People are poisoning the vegetables with chemicals in order to make them look pretty, which is not good. There are a many lands and forests being burnt down right now in the Amazon, in Africa, in Asia in order to grow vegetables.
We must find the BALANCE in OURSELVES, because that is where all these problems begin. The problem is not if people eat meat or vegetables. The problem is how it is being done. If you want to make a change and help nature, start collaborating in your community with farming projects, permaculture and such. Get active in politics.
We must stop the industrial way of producing meat and vegetables. And the most important is to truly start to reconnect with nature. It’s easy to admire nature through your car window, but to live in harmony with nature is a different experience entirely and that is what shamanism is about.