“It’s ironic that these plants, which have been in our kitchens and in our windowsill flowerbeds for generations, turn out to contain psychoactive compounds as powerful as any known to science.”
The Transcendental Object at the End of Time
You may have heard of psychedelic plants and fungi such as the ayahuasca vine, the huachuma cactus (AKA San Pedro,) and psilocybin mushrooms. You may have also heard of sage, kratom, and tobacco — non-psychoactive plants similarly held sacred to indigenous cultures. What do all of these plants and fungi have in common? They have all been used in traditional and modern rituals and practices.
However, some of these plants are considered to be sacred “master” or “teacher” plants. These are the bold speaking, psychedelic or “entheogenic” plants.
Beyond the familiar plants stocking our pantries and refrigerators and lining our window sills and garden beds exists the realm of sacred entheogenic plants. Some of the more commonly known entheogens mentioned previously include psilocybin mushrooms and the ayahuasca brew made from the ayahuasca (Yagé) vine and the leaves of the chacruna plant.
The word entheogen refers to a sacred substance that helps the participant find the divine within. It is often said to mean “generating or inspiring divine experience” and is derived from entheos, meaning “full of the god, inspired” and genesthai, meaning “to come into being.” They can be so powerfully transformative that ancient traditions and religions in the U.S. and around the globe consider them to be sacraments.
What once comprised the foundation of many ancient and religious cultural practices was later demonized and eventually forgotten by the modern Western mind. Today, a resurgence of these practices, recognizing and using plants as sacraments, has returned to the forefront of contemporary conversation surrounding mental health, spirituality, and community building. These wondrous plants might actually assist in healing our psyche while offering insight into our own being, humanity, and relationship to reality.
Entheogens prepared in ritualistic settings become the sacrament and catalyst for a mystical, existential, religious or “spiritual” experience. Hallmarks of entheogenic experiences include a heightened sense of inner and external consciousness (often called mind, spirit, soul, or psyche), information revealed about oneself or one’s ancestral lineage, temporary dissolution of ordinary “mundane” reality, and of one’s own self-identity or “ego.” There can be a profound sense of expanded consciousness, of lifting the roof off of limited perception, leading to a sense of eternal presence and unity with all beings that is often called mystical, divine, numinous, or ineffable.
While these plants are historically ancient, they are largely unknown in the Western world today. Western society began to cut its own connection to traditional sacred entheogenic plants almost two thousand years ago, climaxing first in the Inquisitions when European sacred plant healers were persecuted and killed. This continued as European explorers, colonizers and missionaries moved into “new worlds” demonizing and forbidding existing religious and sacred plant traditions of encountered cultures. Our separation from the sacred plants of our ancestors reached its culmination during the drug war that we have suffered over the past fifty years.
We’re deeply fortunate to live in a time when our understanding of these plants can return to us, descending forgotten steps of our cultural attic. Our ability to legally access and grow a breadth and depth of sacred plants transcends that which we’ve experienced at any time in human history.
Entheogens differ from other therapeutic plants by helping heal, expand, and inform consciousness rather than focusing on your body as the primary locus of repair.
By comparison, adaptogenic plants and fungi help the body cope with and adapt to the stressors of everyday life while also supporting the immune system. These plants and fungi, such as turmeric root powder and cordyceps mushrooms, are not psychoactive but they do support optimal functioning of the mind and body. Another category of plants called nootropics or “smart drugs” include lion’s mane mushroom and the herb ginkgo biloba. These cognitive enhancers that accelerate brain function can also fit within the group of adaptogens and demonstrate the crossover between categories of therapeutic plants.
Entheogens open up our access to deeper, more expansive consciousness, and even to experiences that are reported as sacred, mystical or divine. In many ways the word entheogen is a synonym for psychedelic as it broadly refers to the same families of psychoactive plants and compounds, most commonly the classic psychedelics, which are those that activate the serotonin 5-HT2A neural receptor. That said, there is a subtle but useful difference in the focus of the words. The word psychedelic derives from “psyche” (mind or soul) and “delic” (manifesting).
Unfortunately, the word psychedelic became associated with some of the excesses of the ‘60s “counter culture” and was distorted further by misinformation emerging from drug war propaganda. The word entheogen came about in 1979, invented by an eminent group of sacred plant scholars (Carl Ruck, Richard Evans Schultes, R. Gordon Wasson, Jeremy Bigwood, Jonathan Ott) who were interested in creating a word that — in contrast to “psychedelic” — better reflected the sacred and divine experiences opened up by these powerful and unusual plants.
Entheogenic plants can benefit us by revealing hidden lessons and by helping us move through misunderstandings, realize the harms we’ve caused or experienced, and open up new pathways and insights. Deciphering these truths about ourselves enables us to see experiences or patterns that no longer serve us. They break down the barriers that hold us apart from divine connection, bringing forth new perceptions of “Truth” — of the nature of this reality.
These “peak experiences” are often reported as profoundly mystical and positively life transforming. They may also heighten pair-bonding or encourage communal cohesiveness. Individuals, however, do not need to consume these plants in order to reap the spiritual rewards of working with them. You can also foster a profound healing and insight-bearing connection by means of tending your sacred garden.
Gardeners, herbalists and seekers alike are developing new relationships with their plants in ways that are healing psyches. Growing these plants mirrors the action of tending your own wellbeing, regardless of whether you consume them or not; intoxication is not necessary.
The war on drugs, which reached its height in the 1990s, drove people away from the cultivation of entheogenic plants, even though the cultivation of many of them was never outlawed. As we continue into the new era of a postmodern world, the sacred garden is returning to the planter boxes and plots of the everyday herbalist, hobby grower, and psychonaut.
By circumventing unknown internet sources for procuring these plants, which rely on indigenous species and threaten native stock, you can propagate and grow your own sacred plants in ethical and sustainable ways, which is crucial for healing our sacred relationship to nature. And the more people we have growing these plants, the more difficult it will be for the government to deny our right to grow them! Proliferating entheogenic plants supports community access, conserves native species and indigenous habitat, and reconnects us with our right to know and grow the plants that were held sacred by our ancestors.
Whether you’re familiar with traditional entheogens and already use cutting-edge resources such as Double Blind to learn to grow psilocybin mushrooms and how to microdose with them, or this is your very first introduction to this category of plants and fungi, there is something here for everyone.
Join Personal Plants as we gratefully and respectfully invite these sacred plants back into our lives through our offering, My Sacred Garden. By doing so we can work towards positively transforming our personal and societal values in relation to nature and one another, both for healing and for fulfilling our unique human experience.
“I think it’s very interesting that at this very high-tech moment in our adventure, the plants return and almost stand before us as a beacon and a promise. They stand for absolute Tao; they stand for the correct way for life to relate to its environment.”
The Transcendental Object at the End of Time
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