Entheogens and Self-Control

Amanita Muscaria and Mandragora Officinarum with deer skullfly agaric and mandrake root

Unless you have good self-control or a non-addictive personality, you shouldn’t use entheogens. It is far too easy to become reliant on a substance for one’s spiritual experiences and abilities, but the bigger danger is becoming addicted to entheogens because of the ecstatic experiences and highs they give. I’m not just talking about controlled substances here, I’m also talking about alcohol as well as legal herbs like damiana, lobelia, wild lettuce, wormwood and my beloved Solanaceae.

I’ve decided I need to stop using one of my favourite entheogens regularly. It has a bad habit of shutting me off almost completely from the physical world and I don’t get much done in the cooking, cleaning, crafting and wild harvesting departments when I’m in full mystic mode. The effects just last too long for me as it can take 1-3 days to wear off. I went a month without it while still having mystical experiences, so it’s time to relegate it for specific rituals and offerings only.

It’s time to start using the others calling me that aren’t nearly as strong and overpowering – wormwood, mugwort, tobacco, and, of course, mead. I’ve never had an addictive personality, but if you do then I would recommend staying far away from tobacco and alcohol all together and only use a habit-forming herb like wormwood a couple of times a month. One shouldn’t use entheogenic herbs at all if they don’t have a purpose in mind for them such as facilitating divination, lucid dreaming, hedgecrossing, or shapeshifting.

Before you use an entheogenic herb in ritual you should first test it in a few different forms to see how you react to it and if the effects are beneficial to your later ritual intent or not. Try the herb as a tea, a smoke, or a salve (if applicable) and discover which one works best for you. Always double and triple-check proper dosage first and start off with much less than that and eventually work your way up to the recommended safe dosage.

Each herb will affect everyone differently, for example, some people need to drink one cup of wormwood tea to feel its effects, but I only need to touch the herb with my bare hands for the same results. Ask yourself if it helps to enter a trance-like state or does it only make you feel woozy and nauseous? Write down all the effects you felt and your experiences as you are receiving them and also afterwards when your head is more clear. Was there an unpleasant “hangover” or a coming down period and was it worth it for the herbs effects and powers?

I’ve discovered that me plus tobacco equals nothing so I only use it for offerings to spirits and my garden. I found out that only one teaspoon of wormwood tea will leave me stoned and useless all day so I should only use it for rituals before bedtime or for very long bouts of hedgecrossing. I learned my mandragora root salve may make me feel silly for a little while, but it also taps me right into the divine and confers powers that require great forethought before using the salve. My hedgecrossing smoking blend of eight herbs leaves one hovering in between worlds for 8-12 hours after using it and conveys the gift of second sight during that time (for me anyway). And most pleasantly, I’ve discovered that a few drinks of mead or wine lead to excellent divinations, prophetic dreams, and chats with gods.

So do your research, do tests, be safe, be smart, and above all, know yourself and your limits.

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  • Just wanted to chime in on the statement about a person being an addictive personality and then only using substances a couple times a month or when needed for specific purposes.

    In my experience, and it is rather extensive, folks who are addicted to alcohol and other mood altering drugs should and who are sober and even possibly in recovery, should not use those substances unless they are very VERY certain they are not at risk of relapse.

    One of the symptoms of addiction is denial so it’s hard to tell sometimes when one crossed the line #1, and #2 it’s impossible to control ones dosage when one does cross the line. It’s like asking a cat not to chase a mouse. It’s what a cat does. It’s how it’s wired.

    There is no middle ground for most… Of course, it’s every witch for themselves and those who are truly in recovery know this already.

    Just my two cents,
    Cynthia

    • Thank you for sharing your experience C. I’m whole-heartedly agreeing with you. I would never suggest a recovering addict use what they’re addicted to. I meant for addictive personalities to even be careful with seemingly harmless herbs. Most people don’t realize that herbs like wormword, wild lettuce, and valerian can be habit-forming and dangerous.

  • Robert says:

    Brava, Lady Witch,

    Excellent advice, and I personally feel that this advice is not often enough voiced.

    Often in training, substance may be used to bend a student’s concretized attachment to their prejudices of cultural perception. Open up the mind to possibility and the real. After this, like you, a perceptive practitioner or student can set it aside, and their own bardic – shamanic – healer’s vision should assert without assistance. Mind-training and trance is usually enough.

    A Practitioner’s role is to serve and heal for their community. Dependence and addiction can only interfere with a practitioner’s responsibility to their community.

    “Dosage, Setting and Set,” the mantra of the Harvard group. I don’t think it is ever wise to ignore that one.

    Blessings,

    Robert

    • Dana Corby says:

      Robert — I had the great good fortune to be introduced to entheogens (as they’re now called) by a founding member of the American Psychedelic Society — dosage, setting and set were ingrained from the start, and I do believe it makes all the difference.

  • Sally Pugh says:

    Thanks for posting on this fascinating topic! I’m off to research dosages :)

  • Grundy says:

    I went to the crossroads last night and used your Sorcerer’s Smoke incense. Wow, I was surprised by it’s effects. I’ve experienced mugwort, wormwood, tobacco (wildcrafted native species), scullcap, wild lettuce and local wild salvias, etc. None of these are necessary but, as you say, are especially good for ritual to set up a clear edge to the other side of ordinary reality. I always respect the spirit in the herbs that talks to us in many ways including changing us from the inside out when used as enthogens.

  • Vivienne says:

    Thanks for the great advice. I quit smoking cigs over a year ago so i stay away from all things smoked (at least for now). I’m okay with alchohol, I only drink on certain occassions, mainly for ritual use.

  • A.N says:

    Interesting and good advice. I’m terribly allergic to mushrooms so I’ve had to skip over them for my personal use when crossing. I’ve found my two favorites and stick to them in small amounts, lest I giggle uncontrollably while trying to chat it up on the otherside or get sick from dizziness. Limitations are a damned good thing lol. I’ve never had too much luck with wormwood so it’s been mostly an offering for the spirits, is it normal to have such a high tolerance to that herb?

  • Thanks for the thoughtful reminder on Entheogen use. My curveen uses a wormwood and wine potion that does the trick, but can cause problems both physically and psychically over time. It also leaves you with a terrific hangover. We are considering relegating its use to initiatory rites only.

    I’ve been working with your Flying Ointment for a few months now and am very pleased with the results, although I am worried about becoming dependent on a chemical preparation for what I used to do without enhancement. I’ve been using enough to cover the surface of one fingertip on the small of my back. I’m happy to report that I’ve had no problems with hangovers or second-day effects with your ointment. I’m preparing to use it in a hedgecrossing combined with warricking and stropping, which I expect will intensify the effects.

    I don’t use tobacco for anything but offerings. It tends to make me nauseous and flighty, neither of which have been useful for trance work. In rituals where tobacco is recommended I substitute with wormwood or drumming, depending on the context.

    What have been your experiences with damiana? I’ve found that too much tends to put me at risk for urinary tract infections. In small doses spread out over a space of time it puts me in a nice tranced state, lighter than wormwood and without the after effects.

    • I prefer to smoke damiana than to drink it. It has a pleasant smell and taste when burned and pleasant effects without risk of urinary tract issues. It’s good for divination, but it’s best application is sex and sex magic of course 😉

  • geetar646 says:

    Ive always had a question about so-called libations in rites. Once the author asked me “Why do you want me to put an african plant in an oleum you purport to use in a Nordic rite?” my group thought about that and said, you know, cette canadienne’s correcte. But then we’ve gotten into another debate. Im open to any suggestions. I have a hard time believing ancient Nordic peoples were drinking Riunuti Lambrusco. I recently suggested that I’m not drinking it anymore in our group rites. I have suggested that our ancestor rituals involve krugs or one liter beer steins which should be filled up completely with a hefenweiser, and drinking one krug would constitute the libation for the rite. And everyone looked at me like I was a complete idiot.

  • Pearlyn says:

    May I know when will ur store be open?

    • The Canada Post strike just ended yesterday and the backlog should work its way out in the next week or two. I plan on reopening in July with a small amount of products until I’m able to stock up on supplies again. This national postal strike really killed small businesses, especially online ones.

  • Under the Firmament says:

    I have great experiences with Valerian root taken on an empty stomach as a dreamwork or meditation aid. Its a european herb with a very long history of use.

  • Ryan says:

    My interest in/research of entheogens is just beginning, but I have usually read that alcohol is generally avoided in this regard because it makes people sluggish or sloppy, with little “opening” or “enlightening” effects.
    I rarely drink at all, and have never used drugs of any type, so my opinion on the matter is pretty useless, but I’d love to know why you use mead or wine in ritual while others recommend against it.

    • Just like any mind-altering substance, the effects of alcohol are different for everyone based on height, weight, constitution, illnesses, whether your stomach is full or empty…

      I have many friends who are allergic to alcohol or can’t have any due to medication, I have other friends who are happy drunks, and other yet who are depressing drunks. I found out by accident the perfect magical side effects for me personally when I drink, especially before bed, but it has to be wine or mead as beer doesn’t do anything.

      It could also have something to do with my brewing and the gods I work with – they tend to like alcohol A LOT. There’s a certain bacchanalian bent and a fascination with the Melissae and all things associated with bees and honey… Alcohol and ritual have a very ancient association with each other after all.

  • Laurel says:

    Sound advice! I am a tobacco smoker and will have a drink or two on occasion. When it comes to my religious and magical practices, those two substances are generally just for offerings. If mind-altering effects are needed, I turn to other things { a little bit of sweet woodruff, mugwort or wormwood I find quite agreeable}.

  • Tamilia says:

    Righteous post! Entheogens of various types definitely have an effect on me so my biggest fear has been developing a dependence on them for my spiritual work. Consequently, I reserve entheogens for specific times and rites. I also make sure that I can do the Work at hand as well without the entheogen as with it so that it is a tool and not a crutch in my personal practice.