"All the world's a stage we pass through." - R. Ayana

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Shamanic Drugs: Natural Highs and Death Trips

Shamanic Drugs
Natural Highs and Death Trips


Back in the days of the forest camps, when small bands of concerned citizens shared extraordinary times and amazing experiences in remote mountain rainforests  – to stop the logging of ancient old growth forests and the destruction of unknown species – this rambunctious heretic witnessed many strange things.
 Living in the deep forests for years – even relatively human-friendly ones like the money-torn remnants of primordial Eden we have here in Oz – you tend to see and experience all sorts of things that no-one else does. It takes all kinds to make and break a world – but it takes a really special bunch of visionary people to stop the world-destroying rapists who say ‘you can’t stop the march of progress’. Most of the extraordinary forest you can see from the windows of this isolated antipodean Pentagon where my fingers dance on the keyboard has been saved – turned into unexploitable National Parks and conservation areas – but that’s a story for another time.

            Today I’m reminiscing about some of the crazy needle freaks and junkies we had to share the camps and consort with, in places where any disease could easily spread through the clans of pierced ferals, peace hippies and pissed-off aboriginals assembled beneath the canopy. You couldn’t turn anyone away from the anarchic teepees of the metal-pierced, dreadlocked feral tribes. Everyone had a right to be there – and we needed everyone who could make it to the almost inaccessible areas we found ourselves in. We had to keep ourselves healthy, or lose the forest.

Some of the people arriving in the camps were trying to come down off their high habits and go cold turkey a long way from their homes, so we cooked up poppy seed juice for them to ease their discomfort – and keep needles out of the camps. After a while, poppy seeds were banned – you couldn’t buy them unless you were a commercial baker for a time – but with a little lemon juice to help break down the simmering seed stew this simple expedient helped junkies through the worst of their withdrawals.

It’s from watching the experiences (or lack of them) of others that the wise learn their lessons. As a young runaway teen I saw many friends go down beneath the magic bullets of the ongoing opium wars. I saw the needle and the damage done. They dropped like flies all around me or were horrendously crippled in a multitude of ways – and this particular hermetic hermit always avoided needles as a result.

Besides, the Goddess gave us great filter systems – lungs and digestive organs – to take our drugs with. It’s foolish and greedy to bypass the filters and go straight for the mainline – particularly with something that’s recently been handled by some junkie’s sweaty fingers. As the hippies always said, avoid the powders – don’t panic if it’s organic.

A couple of guys in particular stick in my mind now – gents and wimmin who will remain nameless (until the story’s told in detail at some future time), who tried everything under the sun, moon and stars. You may not be aware that many ‘intravenous drug users’ – as ignorant bureaucracies love to call needle freaks, regardless of whether they’re shooting stuff into their veins or eyes or muscles – will go on using needles even when they have no drug to put in them.

Over the decades I’ve seen desperate smackies shoot up water, wine, spirits, various other beverages including mentholated spirit and Pepsi, bong water, vegemite, battery acid, bleach, shoe polish, soap – the list goes on and on (Don’t try this at home, kids). Many needle users are addicted to the implement, the device, the fit, the sheer rush of invading their own bloodstreams - and will fill a hypodermic and their organs with whatever they can squeeze through the rectum of any available syringe.

But the prize for brazen consumptive appetite (and not a little stupidity) goes to the guys who were connoisseurs of snake venom – ‘the ultimate death-trip high’, as one dreadlocked dreamer called it in the forest camps. They’d catch venomous snakes on the fringes of the rainforests around the protest camps and milk them for their venom. Perhaps you can guess the rest, but I’ll tell you anyway.

“Getting the dosage right is the hard part,” one of them said to me once. “You don’t want to go to all that trouble and not use enough.”

The strange congruence of hollow needle and hollow fang really got them going – but they didn’t take the stuff direct from the snake (well – only one guy, anyway); they measured and mixed the destructive proteins with other drugs, shooting the venom directly into their veins. And they mixed various venoms together in different proportions as well. Everyone’s fear of ‘deadly’ snakes was somewhat allayed by watching the results – which is to say that miraculously, none of them died; not on my watch, at least, and not that we heard of. Not from shooting up snake venom, anyway… not straight away.

They had visions and nightmares, deliriums and wild rapping poetry sessions that continued in polluted streams of consciousness until they rocked themselves into shivering trances beneath the primordial canopy. Some kept on tripping all night, delivering missives from the Other Side to those assembled around the fires and firestick twirlers. I won’t divulge which particular venoms did which (they’re all destructive poisons, remember), and besides – after the needle-freak ferals had tried each in turn they started mixing even more arcane cocktails. There are much better drugs, folks, that don’t come with the same hefty price tag.

Oz has many snakes; around here we have the friendly pythons and other harmless tree snakes aplenty, but where the trees are decimated there are many poisonous black snakes – red-bellied, yellow-bellied and pure black, all races of a single species; ‘deaf’ death adders, who are not really deaf – a relative of the rattler; venomous browns and king browns, impressive cousins of the cobra; toxic ‘bandy bandy’ banded snakes with fascinating stripes; the sometimes aggressive beautifully striped tiger snakes; tiny, beautiful, deadly western taipans, and many other lesser-known breeds.

As in most ancient cultures, the serpent is a symbol of the energies of Mother Earth for the Aboriginal people here – and the serpent dancer is a respected shaman in many cultures as well, even represented in the Western constellations as Ophiuchius, the snake dancer (not serpent slayer, as some erroneous texts suggest). The Rainbow Serpent is a major feature of many creation legends in parts of the Great Southland.

Almost no-one actually dies of snakebite unless they’re very old, very young, pregnant or sick. No-one is bitten unless they first molest the snake in some way – picking it up, trying to move it, attacking it or playing with it. Around here there hasn’t been a fatality for over a generation. Nonetheless, when you walk barefoot in this rugged country you watch every step for a number of reasons. “Every step is a prayer,” as the aboriginal elders are often fond of saying in their double-meaning, straight-talking manner. After a while you understand why we all used to sleep with our babies.

This experienced bushwalker usually watches every step.

Now I can tell you from first-hand experience what snake venom can be like, when directly injected by fang. Aye, this hermetic heretic became a little too lackadaisical this week and trod on one of the poor wee beasties while walking barefoot a couple of klicks from home, on a rugged mountain slope. The small jet black serpent turned and nipped me between the toes and then slithered out of sight. It’s the third time a snake has bitten me – but the other two were non-venomous pythons.

When you’re bitten you’re supposed to stay still and not pump he venom around your system. Above all, you don’t panic – blood-pumping fear can jet the toxins around your bloodstream even more quickly. It’s said that with many snake-bites, the poison won’t kill you but the panic will. If possible, it’s a good idea to apply a pressure bandage; a tourniquet is dangerous, particularly if you’re alone.

None of these options were really available to me, except for the ‘not panicking’ part; alone on a mountainside, nothing to use as a bandage, out of range of all technological communication gear (which there’s no point having out here anyway) and with Wonder Boy due back on the school bus in an hour, there was little choice but to saunter back while my legs were still working.

By the time my foot reached the little wooden shack at the bottom of the valley it was swollen, red and painful and my leg was stiffening up slightly, but my heartbeat was still pretty normal. My vision was just a little blurry. There was enough time to lie down and relax for ten minutes and have a hit of fresh cherry guavas, collected from trees lining the paths on the way back.

No point in alarming Wonder Boy or my friends and neighbours – and I judged the effects to be merely painful, not really life threatening. Yoga, alternative medicine training and meditation can help you differentiate between the various effects and happenings in your body, which soon ceases to be unfamiliar territory after a little practice, visualisation and study.

The previous night I’d just finished recording my shamanic death experience at the age of seventeen in glorious psychedelic Technicolor (posted at http://centraxis.blogspot.com/2008/03/to-infinity-and-beyond.html – Shaman of Centraxis Part 4). The confluence of the death theme has been a presentiment right through these Ides of March – and death is merely a symbol of utter transformation, which is what the hermetic life is all about.

So in order to penetrate the veil of mystery that protects the fearful from knowledge of themselves and the beyond, I guided my confused and concerned body and mind through the brainstorm of warning imagery that guards the gate to the Other Side of this life.

For a while I was trying to work out the origin of the strange radiating circular patterns superimposed over my vision. A green many-pointed star hovered in a purple field with curving lines radiating out from it. Trying to count the points of the star, my inner perception turned around the star, trying to count the points – but as I counted them they shifted and I soon realised I was viewing a stereo image made of the confluence of two different shapes – the blind spots where the optic nerves enter the back of my eyes and the bundles radiating out from them.

Beamish Boy’s mother is a vet who has had occasion to speak with other people who’ve been bitten by blacksnakes. “They described it as a complete trip,” she says. “One girl told me it was the strongest psychedelic she’d ever experienced – and she’d experienced a lot.

Wonder Boy’s mother, a Shiatsu practitioner, had another take; “The native people say when you’re bitten by one of those you gain some sort of special healing ability.”

The venom made for a very colourful and psychedelic experience.. Half-way through the peak, O’Grady asked a question out of the blue that led to a very long spiel; “What do you think happens when you die?”

Well, friends, it’s a question that seems particularly prominent at the present time – and not simply in my life, here in a remote rainforest. All over the world, many, many people know – or suspect – that something big in the way of megadeath is coming. Many put the feeling down to the impending realities of climate catastrophe, or to the stark realities facing most of the world’s ripped off ‘underprivileged’ people, as they stumble from one day to the next without real food or pure water – or the time, energy or training for the reflection and self-examination required to change themselves and the world. With free time people can transform themselves and the planet into something far closer to the ideals glowing in every human heart. Without it, humans are simply slaves in an open prison.

Others fear the Day of Judgment, the Wrath of God, the Return of Planet X, tidal waves, earthquakes, megastorms, a new ice age, all of the above or their own private, personal extinction in a world that doesn’t teach children what lives inside their skin and brain.

Some go the other way, preferring to see the coming changes as the birth of a New Humanity, a new star-child emerging amid the paroxysmal birth-pangs of planetary transformation. Some see rapture for themselves and their ‘chosen elect’ friends, or an en masse species transit to ‘higher’ dimensions.

But wherever you go, there you are.

photo Rather than repeating my reply to O’Grady here, I’d rather ask you these questions; how do you know you’re alive now? How do you know the difference between life and a particularly vivid dream? Is there a difference? Who are you, really? What do you need, and why?

And why are you reading this, hearing this questioning message from your inner self?

The hard part of surviving the future is not coping with death or extinction or nuclear war or asteroid strikes – the real challenge is to work out what LIFE is for, here and now, and to learn how to keep living in a world that we won’t leave behind, where we really have to clean up our mess or suffocate in our own shit and chemical debris – regardless of whether we’re heating up the biosphere or not. The challenge is the same old story – how do we have a good time with all our brothers and sisters without trashing the Tree of Life that is home to us all? How can we be wise, honourable, integral custodians of Planet Earth?

The challenge for the humans of the New Aeon is to recreate our birthright – the Paradise planet, the Garden of Gaia – and to stay here to enjoy it!

Your parents and grandparents were happy and satisfied to be lied to by those who still get away with stealing the wealth and knowledge of the Earth (and everywhere else) for themselves  – are you?

Turn on. Tune in. Opt OUT of the world-destroying treadmill!

Money does NOT make the world go round – it makes it go down! Find the only things that matter – your true self, true friends and loving family. Together we create reality with the combined inspiration of our shared dreams and actions. Let’s build a better future – from the inside out.

What’s inside? Who are you? Why are you here? What’s outside, behind the screen and the wall?

Take a good look.

    -         R.Ayana

    And See

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