Galina Krasskova is a spiritworker and writer on heathen traditions (Nordic)*, and author of several books, including Walking Toward Yggdrasil. Krasskova was also a columnist at the ‘Pagan Portal’ of the religion mega-site Patheos until recently. She conducted an interview with Kenaz Filan, author of The Power of the Poppy, and various works on the Vodou religion, and shamanism, that was apparently deemed too heretical regarding the American war on drug policy and censored by Patheos, so Krasskova has now discontinued her column, “The Road to Hel”. However, the interview, which is quite insightful (and touches on subjects as diverse as addiction, harm reduction, and Michael Harner), can be found at her website Gangleri’s Grove.http://krasskova.weebly.com/blog.html
We live surrounded by Plant Intelligences. Some of them are ignored, some of them are deemed illegals, others are heavily promoted like a jittery lady I know, who once lived mainly in Ethiopia. Since long before the start of history humans have consumed them, learned from them, at times been driven mad by them; the reality is that humans are healed, fed and initiated by Plant Powers. Our consciousness is constantly being changed by plants, whether they be corn, sugar cane, wheat, rice, apples, grapes, cannabis, tomatoes, potatoes or soybeans (and as anyone who has read Michael Pollan’s wonderful The Botany of Desire knows, we have co-developed with various plant species). No matter what kind of fantasy modern humans may have of being separated from the earth, as if by Caesarian birth after an immaculate conception, that is just that—a fantasy; we are entwined with plants, and cannot survive without them. I think the disastrous drug policies of the United States, the three decade so-called War on (some) Drugs, have to be seen in the light of that biophobic drive to separate out from the Gaean matrix, our entanglement in flesh and ecosystem, that fear of the messy realities of life, partially rooted (hard to get away from plants even in metaphors) in a Puritan heritage. A mania for control over nature, yet things only become more uncontrollable: Katrina and Irene, Texan fire and drought, ice quakes in Greenland…. When we hear the word ‘drug’ some kind of serious framing is going on: if you’re at the pharmacy filling the MD’s prescription it’s a good thing, otherwise something sinful and fearful.
Papaver somniferum is obviously a dangerous plant with very addictive properties, and yet one who brings great mercy to those suffering agonizing pain and terminal illnesses—and one often denied by American doctors steeped in a Protestant heritage. Yet, it’s been in the medical pharmacopoeia since ancient Egypt and was used by ancient Neolithic Europeans as witnessed by the burials in the cave at Albunol in southern Spain, dating to c.4200 BCE. It’s also been quite involved with a lot of our artistic and literary masterpieces (hello, Samuel Coleridge). According to Filan: “Illegal “drugs” happen to be particularly powerful substances: they’re so strong that they frighten the Powers that Be. They should be approached with caution, as they can ruin lives. They should be approached with knowledge gained not from hysterical propaganda but from clear-headed research. But that very power and danger suggests that they have much to offer the Shaman.”
It should be borne in mind that all of these plants (and fungi) are very, very different, and that in traditional cultures and indigenous religious practices there were protocols and set-aside contexts for working with them. We live in a society where addiction to shopping, phones and other gadgets, entertainment, sugar, and oil (and on and on) is ubiquitous; shutting down discussion of entheogens (or any species of life) certainly does not help our situation. Neither does black and white or one-size-fits-all thinking.
*I can’t go along with the pagan convention of calling Scandinavian/Germanic traditions ‘Northern’; really that word conjures thoughts of Inuit, Athabascan, Chuckchi, Nenets, Yakut, Saami and other Arctic peoples.