Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
Shamanism and the Drug Propaganda: The Birth of Patriarchy and the Drug War
Russell, Dan. (1998).
Camden, NY: Kalyx.
Description: Paperback original, viii + 357 pages.
Contents: 17 chapters, bibliography, notes.
Note: Many illustrations, extensive resources and references.
The central sacrament of all Paleolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures known is an inebriative herb, a plant totem, which became metaphoric of the communal epiphany. These herbs, herbal concoctions and herbal metaphors are at the heart of all mythologies. They include such familiar images as the Burning Bush, the Tree of Life, the Cross, the Golden Bough, the Forbidden Fruit, the Blood of Christ, the Blood of Dionysos, the Holy Grail (or rather its contents), the Chalice (Kalyx: 'flower cup'), the Golden Flower (Chrysanthemon), Ambrosia (Ambrotos: 'immortal'), Nectar (Nektar: 'overcomes death'), the Sacred Lotus, the Golden Apples, the Mystic Mandrake, the Mystic Rose, the Divine Mushroom (teonanacatl), the Divine Water Lily, Soma, Ayahuasca ('Vine of the Soul'), Kava, Iboga, Mama Coca and Peyote Woman. (page 1)
This book deals with the ancient, the unconscious roots of the Drug War. We are no longer overtly racist, in our public laws at least, but we are still brutally anti-tribal, in many ways institutionally unloving, structurally violent, to millions of our children, our tribal primitives, and to our shamanic adults. This is a psychological inheritance from the ancient slave states, as well as a legal one. This internalized industrial fascism, this proscription, causes drug problems, in the same way that violent sexual puritanism causes sexual problems. The ancient tribal wisdom prevents them. There are many cultures, both tribal and industrial, the Vicosinos of Peru and the Dutch, for instance, that don't have anything like our current disaster, and they all apply prescription rather than proscription. (pages 2-3)
Dr. Max Knoll used electrical impulses to generate phosphenes experimentally in more than 1,000 people. Knoll categorized the designs reproduced by his subjects, showing more than half to be identical to the traditional magical designs of the Paleolithic and Neolithic. Professor Reichel-Dolmatoff discussed this in relation to the profuse imagery produced under the influence of the 'vine of the soul,' ayahuasca or yajé, by contemporary Tukano shamans of the Amazon, imagery in every way identical to the ancient designs. ...
"If we observe the close relationship between drug-induced hallucination and such aspects as mythology, social organization, and artistic creation, we must conclude that the study of hallucinogenic plants and their use by native shamans provides the key to an understanding of many basic cultural processes. It is the hallucinatory experience which, at least among the Takano, constitutes the common basis of most cultural activities, and the same is probably true for many other native cultures in which ecstatic states are known to be part of shamanistic practice."
Ecstatic states are known to be part of shamanistic practice in every other Paleolithic and Neolithic culture known. A floating eye appears above the vulva of a 15,000 year-old schematic female figure from Dordogne, engraved on bone along with a fish, a seal's tail and a block of slash marks. Etched in the bone above the entire figure is a floating mushroom. (pages 18-19)
The first conception of a 'king' was as the sacrificial servant of the people, the war shaman who would lay down his life. Like the ritual Bull and the pharmakon which were traditionally consumed together, the king would sacrifice himself for the common good. The pharmakos, the sacrificial king, replaced the pharmakon more and more often as competition for the land increased. The Paleolithic Bull became a Warrior sacrificed to an emerging ethos of warfare, to an ecology of territorial competition and functional specialization-to a glorification of servitude and sacrifice that would have been alien to most Neolithic communities, except in extreme circumstances. The evolution, then, was from tribal to theacratic, to theocratic, to militaristic. (page 63)
The Pyramid Text The Deceased Devours the Gods (c. 2500BC) seems to describe Pharoah's powers in pharmaco-shamanic terms: "He is the Bull of the Sky, with his heart bent on thrusting (?), that liveth on the being of every god, that eateth their...limbs, when (?) they have filled their bellies with magic on the island of Nesisi....He it is that eateth their magic and swalloweth their lordliness....He hath eaten the Red Crown, he hath swallowed the Green One. He feedeth on the lungs of the Wise Ones; he is satisfied with living on hearts and their magic....He hath swallowed the understanding of every god."
The Red Crown could refer to the red-crowned mushroom Amanita Muscaria, the Soma of the Rg Veda, just as the Green Crown could refer to another entheogenic mushroom, now considered the exclusive property of Pharoah. (pages 70-71)
One Babylonian incantation explains the role of the priestess: "O kukru, kukru, kukru, in the pure, holy mountains thou hast engendered 'little-ones' by a sacred prostitute, 'seeds of a Pine' by a vestal..." The priestess' sympathetic procreation engendered sacred 'pine seeds,' which likely refers to the entheogenic Amanita muscaria, which grows only in association with pine, fir and birch. Kukru means 'pod' or 'womb.' Pliny says that "the fungi...are all derived from the gum that exudes from trees." Theophrastus says that the gum of the silver fir tree (Elatè) "is what the prophets call 'the menses of Eileithyia." (page 76)
Kannabis, as Professor Allegro teaches, is derived from Sumerian BI-US, 'erect,' and GAN, 'mushroom head' or 'penis.' It is related to Panacia, 'offerings of all kinds of fruits and cakes.' That is, kannabis is a Mycenaean sacramental name. (page 97)
'MA' is associated in the texts with Eileithyia, the Cretan/Greek Goddess of Childbirth, obviously an aspect of Demeter, 'Earth Mother.' The Mycenaeans made a point of importing herbal infusions from Crete, in stirrup jars with Cretan place names, marked with the sacred Double-Axe sign. Since they needed neither jars nor olive oil nor herbs for their large-scale unguent manufacturing process, and, since opium had always been a major Cretan crop, as the temple-palace records show, it is likely that 'MA,' the ingredient called "The Mother,' is mekonion, opium.
Demeter's name is often used as a synonym for 'poppy fields' in the palace records and she is often represented as either holding or wearing bulging poppy capsules. ... Inscribed Mycenaean stirrip jars dating to the same time have been found in the earliest levels at Eleusis, where opium was a sacred symbol. Opium continued to be a symbol of fecundity well into Roman times. Opium's contrived modern image intentionally confuses abuse of its refined alkaloids with the traditional uses of the whole sap. Whole opium sap is actually a safe, relaxing stimulant, which, given in the right dosage, would indeed be helpful in birthing. ...
Mycenaean ointment jars were found in the Hittite palace at Khattusha, near Ankara, which yielded hundreds of clay tablets in the various languages of their empire in Asia Minor. ... Among the clear pictures are numerous different plants, an eight-petalled rosette, mushrooms and doves. Professor Gordon translates a sentence from the Phaisto Disk as: "I have eaten in the temple of Hadd." Hadd is the Bull, Baal. One did not go into the temple to eat doughnuts, one went in to consume potent herbal sacraments, to commune with the ineffable. (pages 105-106)
The loss of connection to the ecstatic processes, the loss of an easy bridge between the conscious and the unconscious, is the beginning of neurosis, the loss of connection to the Holy Mother, the irrational voice of our emotions, the fountainhead of our genius. The last thing Greek slaves needed was genuine inspiration, so, for them, the contents of the Jug became taboo. We have all become Greek slaves. The Mycenaeans, conquerors and transmitters of Cretan culture, were themselves absorbed by the southerly march of the Dorians and Ionians. Their Classical Green imagery was then transformed by the Romans into the Orthodox Christianity which became the mandatory religion of the late Roman slave states, of all the medieval European slave states, and the theological underpinning of the Euro-American industrial theocracy.
Kannabis, as the Greeks called it, sacred mushrooms, coca leaf, Peyote and the other ancient herbal sacraments are among the most easily accessible doorways to the proprioceptive and oracular available. They are fountainheads of creativity and earth-consciousness industrial culture desperately needs. Without institutionalized, or at least legalized shamanism, a Paleolithic adaptive technique, human political culture risks domination by the suicidally robotic, as our repeated acts of genocide and our virtually institutionalized ecocide tend to indicate. It is the tribal, the mammalian, the creative part of our psyche that is sensitive to our biological relationship to the earth. Is global political culture successfully dealing with the industrial destablilization of the ecosphere? Unmitigated industrial values are a path to evolutional suicide.
The ancient shamanic bridges need to be rebuilt; the familial tribal cultures need to be listened to very carefully. (page 121)
According to Ovid, the 'narcotic ivy' was opium. Dionysos' mother, Demeter, was the Opium Goddess every bit as much as the Grain Goddess. At Gazi, in Crete, a figure of the Goddess was found with ripe poppy heads in her headdress that had specially colored incisions, dripping with sap. . . . The Cretan 'sleeping idol, 'Demeter, from Isopata, wears a diadem of opium poppy heads, each painted with a slit for extraction of the sap. A ceremonial krater in the National Archeological Museum of Taranto, c. 450 BC, depicts Demeter's son, Dionysos, wearing a crown of opium poppies. That is a comment on the ceremonial content.
A beautiful ceremonial vase, c. 350 BC, shows the divinities adoring a huge poppy seed capsule growing out of the center of an ornate temple-tomb, surrounded by floating four-petal rosettes, symbol of the four-petalled opium flower. Persephone rushes up to the enshrined poppy, a huge speckled mushroom, Soma, the size of a parasol, in her right hand. These are also references to the sacramental ceremony in which the vase was employed.
Opium is a likely ingredient of the kykeon ('mixture') drunk at Eleusis. Unmistakable reliefs of the uniquely shaped bulging opium capsules atop their stems were carved into the walls of the Athens Eleusinion, along with barley, myrtle, steer skulls, kernoi and eight-petalled rosetts. ...
This is the 'sober offering' of the mysteries. One's mind became 'sober,' enlightened. He barley added to the kykeon became magical in the following manner: it molded, grew ergot, the sclerotia, erysibe, 'rust,' the 'beard' which produced tiny entheogenic mushrooms, Claviceps purpurea. Clay sealings have been found at Knossos which reproduce molded barley in conjunction with lion-men, and several Palace tablets take cognizance of the barley beard in their accounting. A jasper prism stamp-seal was found in Middle Minoan layers, c. 1600 BC, which produces the 'beard' along with the barley. (pages 126-128)
Ethnogenic mushrooms, which pop up overnight, were said to be caused by the lightning. This genesis served as an explanation of their extraordinary power. In the Maya Popol Vuh, just as in The Bacchae, the entheogen is called 'lightningbolt' (kakulja). Wasson: "Certain it is that these uses of kakulja do not mean lightningbolt at all. They refer to entheogens, the secondary meaning. The 'one leg lightningbolt' means Soma. The 'dwarf lightningbolt' means the various entheogenic Psilocybe species, normally much smaller than the fly-agaric (Soma), by comparison 'dwarfs.' The 'green lightningbolt' is the entheogenic morning-glories and any other phanerogamic entheogens. These are obvious interpretations for anyone who knows the entheogens. In the Rg Veda (Sanskrit, c. 1500 BC), Parjanya, god of Thunder, is father of Soma, repeatedly referred to as "Not-Born Single-Foot,' and often accompanied by the cthonic snake. (page 143)
The psychology of this archetypal pharmaco-shamanism is basic to Christian theology. That is, it is basic to an understanding of Jesus as pharmakon, Eucharist, and basic to an understanding of the demonization of Dionysos, Jesus' Greek alter ego, his Pentheus, as Judas became his Hebrew Pentheus. Jesus' displacement of Dionysos meant, quite literally in the hands of Roman slavers, that Dionysos' sacrament were now illegal, just as Imperial Christian displacement of Tsistsistas culture meant that their sacraments are now illegal. (page 148)
Gnosticism dates to the century before Christ, as do the Essenes. Christianity didn't invent Gnosticism, Gnosticism invented Christianity. Alexandrian Gnosticism was heavily influenced by Alexandria's enormous and powerful Greek-speaking Jewish community, the authors of Paul's Greek Bible, The Septuagint, legendarily written by "The Seventy' representatives of Israel's twelve tribes. Paul's writings are full of Alexandrian Gnostic terminology, and the most influential of Paul's early constituents were the Greek-speaking Jews of the greater Empire, along whom Judeo-Hellenic Gnosticism was very popular. The whole issue, as Jesus said, hinges on sacramentalism, actual or symbolic entheogenic ingestion. As we shall see, many Gnostics practiced actual entheogenic ingestion, and came to identify the entheogen with Iasius, 'the Healer,' Jesus. The canonical fascists, bent on political conquest of the Empire, insisted on symbolic entheogenic ingestion, murdered both the original Nazarenes and their early Gnostic followers, and burned their writings. (page 224)
One of the Qumran Thanksgiving Hymns, c. 50 BC, is overtly pharmaco-shamanic: "For Thou didst set a plantation of cypress, pine and cedar for Thy glory, trees of life beside a mysterious fountain hidden among the trees by the water, and they put out a shot of the everlasting Plant. . . And the bud of the shoot of holiness for the Plant of Truth was hidden and was not esteemed; and being unperceived, its mystery was sealed. ... No man shall approach the well-spring of life or drink the waters of holiness with the everlasting trees, or bear fruit with the Plant of heaven, who seeing has not discerned, and considering has not believed in the fountain of life, who has turned his hand against the everlasting bud."
As the pharmakos himself said, he was the pharmakon: "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit . ..." The "Plants of Truth" became a Christian Gnostic expression, repeatedly used in the Nag Hammadi manuscripts and the early heresiologists.
Baptism, of course, was central to the Essene rite of initiation. The Hebrew word translated as 'Baptist' is Tabbal, 'dipper' or 'dyer.' As Allegro shows, this is cognate with Akkadian tabarru, 'red dye' and Latin tablion, 'purple fringe,' all derived from the Sumerian TAB-BALI, 'mushroom,' literally 'twin cone.' The only red mushroom that has, historically, caused religious excitement in the Near East, is Soma, Amanita muscaria. The Bible is indicating just what kind of 'baptism' John gave Jesus. The play on guba, 'edible locust,' John's food and gab'a, 'mushroom,' is just one of many word-plays in the John story typical of the mystery religions. Locusts and honey are mentioned in the food laws of the Essene Damascus Document, and the mention is by no means necessarily literal. (pages 232-233)
"Dionysos,' 'Joshua' and 'Jesus' were understood by the ancients to be the same name. Joshua, Yehoshua in Hebrew, understood as 'Jansaves,' is, ultimately, Sumerian, IA-U-ShU-A, a combination of the name of the Exalted Dove, Iahu, meaning 'juice of fertility' and ShU-A, meaning 'fulfilment,' 'restoration,' 'healing' or 'life.' Dionysos, in Sumerian, is virtually the same name: IA-U-NU-SHUSH, the NU meaning 'seed,' and the SHUSH being a synonym of SHU. Iasius, Jesus, has the same Sumerian etymology as Yehoshua. "Healer' in Green is iatros, 'drugger,' Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, c. 375 CE, says that Christians were first called Iassai, 'healers,' 'Essenes,' 'Jesuses.' Iasius, 'Shaman-Healer,' literally means 'the man of the drug.' (pages 234-235)
As the Roman ecology became industrial, so did the rites of passage. Experience of the original tribal rites of transformation became buried in the overlay of politicized legend upon legend, which overlay included, inherently, rules restricting the shamanic experience. Politically acceptable - that is, mandatory - legend replaced mythos, the transforming words of the Mother, so that rites of passage became rites of submission. Symbology replaced experience, idolatry replaced ecstacy. This is the psychological equivalent of ecocide, since what is being peddled is servitude, not freedom; guilt, not creativity; repentance, not ecstacy; supplication, not dance; a wafer, not a mushroom; rote, not song. (page 266)
. . . Although the memory of these cults was shamanic, their practice was often symbolic, Euhemeristic, disconnected. Castration was actually taken to mean castration by some hysterical devotees of Cybele, and Christ, the vegetal ecstacy replaced by physical agony. The aristocratic Romans, who were often Eleusinian initiates, found this perverted 'enthusiasm' disgusting and dangerous, and banned it under the Lex Cornelia de sicariis et veneficiis, as they did the circumcision of non-Jews.
As Apuleius shows, the genuine entheogenic 'initiations' were often quite expensive, and necessarily surrounded by a wall of exclusivity and secrecy. But a wall easily and often pierced by those who could afford it or who had the knowledge. As their lush wall paintings show, the mysteries were celebrated at Pompeii. ... As [a] Roman glass mosaic indicates, the association of a rabbit with a Soma mushroom was common 'mystery' code. (page 268)
The Gnostic Philo, elucidating the rationalism Plato derived from Eleusinian shamanism, metaphorized the Manna given to the Israelites in the Sinai as the Divine Logos bestowed on man for his sustenance. This is obviously a prototype of the eucharistic wafer. "Now the house of Israel called its name manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey". The Manna was symbolized by the unleavened bread, matzo, matsoth, which, interestingly enough, simply means 'dehydrated, and is cognate with the mazones of the Dionysiac feasts, which included dehydrated entheogenic mushrooms. The word is related to matzevot, stones, used by the ancients, as in the Epic of Gilgamesh, to denote 'stoned' just the way we do today, and as a synonym for mushrooms, as the Aramaic kepha (stone) and pitra (mushroom). We also have Sumerian medical tablets from c. 2250 BC which prescribe 'the manna-plant' in conjunction with fir and pine, indicating entheogenic mushrooms. The ritual use of both matzo and the eucharist, of course, also gives the impression of an entheogenic substitute. ... (page 277)
Contemporary American inquisitors, heirs of Cotton Mather and Harry Anslinger, would deny that their attitude is theological or inquisitorial; the fact that their law is identical to the Codex Theodosianus is just coincidence: "The rest, however, whom We adjudge demented and insane, shall sustain the infamy of heretical dogmas, their meeting places shall not receive the name of churches, and they shall be smitted first by divine vengeance and secondly by the retribution of Our own initiative, which we shall assume in accordance with the divine judgement. ... We determine that to these, indeed, that is the Manichaeans, Borborits and pagans, as well as the Samaritans, Montanists, Tascodrogits and Ophyts, all testimony as well as all other legal actions are prohibited." That is, my opinion of my sacraments is legally irrelevant, since they are deemed demented and insane and therefore subject to prohibition; all evidence to the contrary shall be inadmissable and I shall be smitted with retribution at the State's initiative; that is de facto contemporary American law. (page 290)
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