Week of August 16, 2013 - part 2 - shamanic plants - fly agaric, black nightshade and indian tobacco

Saturday, August 17, 2013 10:06 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

Shamanic plants
Here are a few of the many plants used worldwide by shamans to walk between the worlds. Being able to use psychoactive plants is, in fact, a prerequisite in many cultures to being trained as an herbalist or a shaman.

Fly agaric, the witches’ mushroom (Amanita muscaria) [photo sent to us by Rose Weissman]
It’s she a beauty?! This is a classic example of the fly agaric mushroom just emerging from its egg. This is the yellow form, the one common here on the east coast. If you live on the west coast, or in Europe, your Amanita muscaria mushrooms will have a red cap. A red cap with white dots, like those you see illustrating fairy stories, especially those featuring witches. (Chuckle.) And like those plaster or plastic ones who hang with plaster or plastic gnomes.

All Amanita mushrooms emerge from an egg-like sac of white material that clings in dots and dabs to the cap and remains around the base of the flaring stalk. As the cap matures and opens, the veil covering the under surface loosens and falls down around the stalk. (Mentored students, your core material this week includes photos of other Amanitas.)

Humans have been allied with fly agaric for thousands of years. Some sources claim it is the most ancient of all shamanic plants used by humans; others believe Brugmansia holds that honor. Siberian shaman consume fly agaric mushrooms (and lots of water, presumably). Those of the community who also wish to commune with the spirits don’t eat the mushrooms directly, instead, they drink the shaman’s urine, believing that the mushroom poison has now been rendered safe for those less powerful.

Modern shamans usually dry fly agaric and smoke it, though it is also taken as a tea, brewed in hot milk or hot water.

Black Nightshade
(Solanum nigrum)
Note the dark purple, almost black, and nearly round, berries of this common weedy nightshade. The small white flowers with yellow beaks and recurved petals occur in clusters of three, but the berries are usually in pairs. The ripe berries are safe to eat; they are often called “garden huckleberry.” The green berries are the psychoactive part. The usual dose is 2-4 berries eaten fresh. Like other nightshades, the effect is similar to flying.

Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata)
This little plant is found at the edges of the forest or growing wild in the garden. It needs a fair amount of sun, which is quite obvious when you find it has a peppery taste for all its blue flower coolness. Vinegar preparations of the ripe seed pods were a big favorite with the heroic herbalists of the past. Lobelia is considered an adjuvant. That is, it makes any herbal formula it is in more effective. Check out this week’s recipe for my suggested way to use Lobelia to open your ears and eyes to the fairy realm.

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