There is little evidence showing herbal practices of medicine before Babylonia and Egyptian herbalist. The details of the anatomy, diagnosis, treatments, herbs, and salves became treatments for ailments, parchment records are the oldest surviving evidence. The midwife, shaman, or healers (mostly women) passed their skills to apprentices mostly in words.
The value of plants healing power became knowledge to the indigenous as they observed animals were eating them and feeling better for their ailments. Archeologists in their excavations reveal herbs in gravesites with healing properties or magical properties. Healers, shamans, wise women, and our indigenous ancestors traveled great distances to collect the plants/herbs for their apothecary needs. These healers became personally familiar with the use of plants. Then spiritual healers found the use of medicinal herbs and psychotropic herbs readily available a way to connect with spirit. Since beginning this post about spiritual plants, the information is pouring in, as interviews with growers, medical personnel, and material on a number of medicinal plants presents itself. Most of what you read here is from personal interviews. Across the United States (other countries as well) cannabis is gaining ground legally in different aspects from recreational to medical. This research is reasonably thorough, although it does not contain all aspects of spiritual plants. Medical practitioners, cultivators, processors, dispensaries, and the legal aspects are in discussion, withholding some names for the protection of individuals.
In 1996, California legalized the use of medical cannabis. Now, there are 29 States in America that medical marijuana is legal in one form or another. There are States that are restricting use to medicinal only, others allowing smoking, vapping, eating, selling, cultivating, processing, and dispensing; while others are looking for ways to incorporate. As this blog post is being written, more changes and government involvement is coming forward. Yesterday’s news had a mayor discussing the potential of medical marijuana and job potential for the die back of jobs in his State. He referenced companies such as “Cannada” and “Tweeds” as potential businesses for growth in his district.
This is where this discussion is heading. The spiritual herbs once used to heighten awareness, and bring healing have found their way into society and their abuse has altered the views of the benefits they can offer. Medicinal plants, such as medical marijuana, cocoa, ayahuasca, and salvia divinorum are a few examples. Practitioners of Shamanism know that using medicinal plants to reach altered states of consciousness is not a requirement. However, sacred plants are helpers in the spirit world, for journey and for healing. Traditionally some cultures use plants to reach the altered state of consciousness; however, the same trance state can be obtained through drumming.
Healing practices call on the spirit world for help healing. The shaman practices working between the veils with helping spirits to determine the causes of a subject’s illness, and with her allies, return with what is necessary to heal the subject. Plant spirits have special personalities and ability to cure disease when healers work with their natural properties. Certain plants are stronger and capable of deeper work for healers, like the medicinal’ and psychoactive plants, however, are not necessary for all healing.
Briefly the more common plants
The following suggests the primary shamanic plants Ayahuasca, Cacao, and Salvia, Mushrooms s/a Peyote of course Tobacco there are others not included in this post because it would entail too much information. A few here are included because they are common.
Ayahuasca, traditionally administered in special healing ceremonies by highly trained shamans known as ayahuasceros, sometimes referred to as a hallucinogen. Never-the- less, thousands of tourists head to Peru, the Amazon, to take the plant medicine ayahuasca. “It’s very serious medicine; very deep, very quick.” Fundamental to ayahuasca’s appeal is, unlike western medicine, it is believed to address the true causes of illness and make no distinction between mind and body. Ayahuasca practitioners see the physical manifestation of some mental, emotional, psychological, or energetic disorder. Others drink ayahuasca because they are curious and want to learn about it, or they are looking for a new direction in life. Then there are those who, attracted by the often-extraordinary visions, think it is another tourist activity or recreational “drug”. From an article written by David Hill in the Guardian June 2016
Research into certain aspects of neuro-chemistry has shed some light on this ancient reputation. Scientists at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego found dark chocolate to contain three compounds that closely resemble a naturally occurring neurotransmitter known as ‘Anandamide’, which induces a sense of well-being. They also found compounds (N-acylethanolamines) that block the breakdown of Anandamide [Piomelli, 1996]. Anandamide, derived its name from the Sanskrit word ‘Ananda’, meaning ‘bliss’. It links to THC receptor sites in the brain, producing a similar, but much less pronounced effect as Tetrahydrocannabinol, which is found in Cannabis. This compound may account for why some people become euphoric or blissed-out when they eat chocolate. http://www.sacredearth.com/ethnobotany/plantprofiles/cacao.php
Salvia divinorum the shaman’s mint, Mexican mint, Fresh Salvia divinorum leaf is used by the Mazatac Indians, but it is not as easy to find a field of Salvia in any other part of the world. It is said that Salvia divinorum is a Shamanistic experience in the truest sense of the word and completely UNLIKE any of the other spirit plants. Paraphrased from: https://www.iamshaman.com/blog/products/salvia-divinorum-help-guide-for-research/
The Peyote cult?
The Peyote cult? An early Spanish chronicler, Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, estimated on the basis of several historical events recorded in Indian chronology that Peyote was known to the Chichimeca and Toltec at least 1890 years before the arrival of the Europeans. https://www.peyote.org/
The modern Huichol Peyote ritual is the closest to the pre-Colonial Mexican ceremonies. Sahagún’s description of the Teochichimeca ritual could very well be a description of the contemporary Huichol ceremony, for these Indians still assemble together in the desert 300 miles northeast of their homeland in the Sierra Madre mountains…
Once a year, the Huichols make a sacred trip to gather Hikuri. The trek is led by an experienced “mara’akame” or shaman, who is in contact with Tatewari (Our grandfather-fire). Tatewari is the oldest Huichol god, also known as Hikuri, the Peyote-god. He is personified with Peyote plants on his hands and feet, and he interprets all the deities to the modern shamans, often through visions, sometimes indirectly through Kauyumari (the Sacred Deer Person and culture hero). Tatewari led the first Peyote pilgrimage far from the present area inhabited by the nine thousand Huichols into Wirikuta, an ancestral region where Peyote abounds. Guided by the shaman, the participants, usually ten to fifteen in number, take on the identity of deified ancestors, as the follow Tatewari “to find their life”.
Upon arrival at the place where the Peyote is to be hunted, the shaman begins ceremonial practices, telling stories from the ancient Peyote tradition and invoking protection for the events to come. Those on their first pilgrimage are blindfolded, and the participants are led by the shaman to the “cosmic threshold” which only he can see. All stop, light candles, and murmur prayers while the shaman, imbued with supernatural forces, chants.
The Peyote is found. The shaman has seen the deer tracks. He draws his arrow and shoots the cactus. The pilgrims make offerings to this first Hikuri. More Peyote is sought, basketfuls of the plant eventually being collected. On the following day, more Peyote is collected, some of which is to be shared with those who remain at home. The rest is sold to the Cora and Tarahumara Indians, who use Peyote but do not have a quest.
Peyote is considered sacred by Native Americans, a divine “messenger” enabling the individual to communicate with God without the medium of a priest.
Plants of the Gods –
Their Sacred, Healing and Hallucinogenic Powers
by Richard Evans Schultes and Albert Hoffman
Healing Arts Press (Vermont) 1992
Psilocybin “magic” mushrooms
Timothy Leary was quite impressed by psilocybin in the 60’s experimenting with psychedelic drugs on spirit and psyche. In an article written by Carolanne Wright (2017) “Brain Scans Show Psychedelic Drugs Really Do Spark Heightened States of Consciousness”. If you want to continue research on spirit plants of the shaman’s there will be a reading list at the end of the blog.
Tobacco a short description
Tobacco has to be included here because it is one of the most common plants used as a healing and medicinal plant here in the United States. Its reputation is estimated to around 5000BC here in the Americas, being smoked and chewed by the Mayans for medicinal and religious ceremony (Jarvis 2011). Later it was determined a health hazard, and determined to contribute to the cause of cancer.
In the 1990’s, banning smoking in public places, and advertising as well began. Although today, people still smoke cigarettes, they must do so only where permitted. According to Jarvis, “ In January 2011, a study by Citigroup revealed that if current trends continue there will be no smokers left in the UK in 30-50 years”.
Tobacco is still use as a sacred plant, by the shaman and medicine people across the globe.
Marijuana a spirit plant a medicinal plant
The research about shamans using Marijuana (cannabis) as a healing spirit plant and agricultural roles dates back millennia.
Priests or shamans have ingested plants for millennia to induce states of dissociative trance. Such substances are sometimes termed “entheogenic” (from the Greek roots “en” [inside], “theo” [god], and “gen” [create]) Historical and cultural aspects of man’s relationship with addictive drugs Marc-Antoine Crocq (2007).
CNN World (2008) and an Oxford Journal stated — About two pounds of potent cannabis found stashed in Gushi shaman’s tomb
- The Gushi were horsemen and archers who lived 2,700 years ago in the Gobi Desert
- Archaeologists found shaman among 2,500 tombs of mummies, bridles, rare harp
- No pipe in grave, leading researchers to surmise shaman ate or burned cannabis
Journeying to the spirit of the plant, the shaman opens a line of communication with the spirit of the plant. Shaman’s and healers work with plant spirits learning their values, cultivating them, studying their biology, creating rituals, and spirit teachers. The shaman learns what parts are helpful by taste/smell/feel of the individual plant parts, as the plant teaches the shaman its values as a healer/food/or ally.
Journey to the Plant
The shamanic practitioner can follow emulate the footsteps of the ancestors, by journeying to the plants and learning how to work with them. Plants spirits are very co-operative, and willing to share their value with humanity. Starting with the plant that calls your attention, begin by sitting with it, and making friends. Take time to ground, center, and shield, then journey to the plants spirit. While you are with the plant see if you can identify it, ask permission to sample the plant, take a photo, or draw a picture of it.
Cannabis as an ally medicinally, has many positive assets that have been claimed “it helps people with opioid addictions, cancer, chronic pain, mental health, migraines, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and autism”. House Bill 523, effective on September 8, 2016, legalizes medical marijuana in Ohio. The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program will allow people with certain medical conditions, upon the recommendation of an Ohio-licensed physician certified by the State Medical Board, to purchase and use medical marijuana.
Big pharma and government will take advantage of profiting from the development of cannabis and ultimately the market. When the cultivation, processors, and pharmacies become normal –taxes, legal control on the substance, similar to liquor, and price controls will apply to the marijuana marketing. As in any business, the government takes its share.
While the legislation set a basic framework for the program, it left the task of establishing specific rules and guidelines for the cultivation, processing, testing, dispensing, and medical use of marijuana to different state agencies. This site is designed to keep Ohioans informed about the development of Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program, including important timelines in the rule-making process and the announcement of opportunities for public input. http://www.medicalmarijuana.ohio.gov/
When setting out to write this blog the intent was to write about plant spirits and medical cannabis, the shaman using plants for medicinal purposes, and shamanic journey. The more involved the writing got, the research became more involved, and it appears as though I am writing a paper for college. This was not my intention.
Spiritual plants, those used for healing come in many varieties, not just those described here. Many more have not been covered. Herbalists and pharmacists know the herbs versus synthetics.
The shaman will work with the plant spirit as an “ally”, one that can be a trusted friend in their work. The shaman’s of Peru are familiar with Ayahuasca, as are the Huichol with Peyote. They have become allies. Many shaman become allies with other spirit plants. As a shaman, it is up to the individual to journey to different plants to see what works best for them. Some discover their best ally is the drum. The rhythm takes them into the trance and is only partner for journeywork they need, they ride the wind to connect with spirit flying to levels they choose to travel. The beat, is the beat of their heart, the beat of the heart of mother earth… into the realm of spirit…and the plant.
A few books recommended for reading are “Plant Spirit Medicine” by Eliot Cowan, and “Sacred Plant Medicine” by Stephen Harrod Buhner, both available on Amazon. The writers have two different approaches to working with spiritual plants however, the more teachers you have, and the more diverse the more you learn. If a teacher tells you that they are the only mentor that you will ever need, you should walk away right then and there.
References: material that may be of interest follows
Oxford Journals http://jxb.oxfordjournals.org/open_access.html
Ryan Cristián has a passion for the Truth. As founder and Editor-in-chief of The Last American Vagabond,
Jarvis, Alice-Azania (2011) http://www.independent.co.uk/author/by-alice-azania-jarvis
Wright, C. 2017 https://wakeup-world.com/2017/06/19/brain-scans-show-psychedelic-drugs-really-do-spark-heightened-states-of-consciousness/?utm_campaign=Wake+Up+World+e-Newsletter&utm_content=Latest+Headlines+inc.+Brain+Scans+Show+Psychedelic+Drugs+Really+Do+Spark+Heightened+States+of+Consciousness&utm_medium=email&utm_source=getresponse
Marc-Antoine Crocq (2007).
(from the Greek roots “en” [inside], “theo” [god], and “gen” [create]) Historical and cultural aspects of man’s relationship with addictive drugs Marc-Antoine Crocq
Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2007 Dec; 9(4): 355–361.