Engineered cultural amnesia has kept even well educated people in the dark about important matters of religion and history. Not only have the Abrahamic traditions viewed competing cultures with a conviction of superiority – lack of research in areas deemed anathema by academia have left glaring omissions in our knowledge of history. Those of us with interest in such matters can rejoice at the scholarship of a new generation of authors benefiting from the research power and social networking of the internet typified by Chris Bennett and Tom Hatsis.
Two years ago Tom performed the “largest magical ritual ever performed – i.e. making the largest pentacle in the US through performing 5 minor, solo rituals at 5 different stops.” The Guinness World Records people decided that Tom couldn’t prove that he had really gone to those places and done those things. So this year, Tom is doing it again – but this time he’s inviting his friends along. Now you too can participate in a world record. Tom’s planned ritual sites include Los Angeles, CA, Ashland, OR, Columbia, SC, Long Beach, NY and the border of North and South Dakota.
Inner Traditions published Tom’s book The Witches‘ Ointment: The Secret History of Psychedelic Magic in 2015. Tom’s careful examination of trial records, grimoires, and the pharmacopoeia reveals the fascinating worlds of medieval magicians and Italian folk witches, such as Matteuccia di Francisco whose love potions contained hallucinogens, and Finicella whose ointments caused her to believe she could transform into a cat.
John Trudell used to talk about the white tribes wiped out by the process of industrialization we call civilization. Those tribes had their own spiritual traditions, including the use of sacred and psychoactive plants and substances.
Many generations of educated and open minded people believed that witches sacrificed babies for their ointments. But Hatsis exposes the merciless propaganda work of the church in creating that myth. Women with knowledge of the healing and entheogenic powers of nature were recast as evil minions of the devil, poisoners, and casters of doomful spells, similar to how plants once used for healing and spiritual elevation became demonized as corrupters of youth and of public morals.
In September Inner Traditions will release Tom’s new book Psychedelic Mystery Traditions: Spirit Plants, Magical Practices and Ecstatic States which surveys the timeline of western history from the Neolithic to beyond the Victorian Era uncovering a wealth of evidence for the long and continuous relationship between religious experience and the use of psychedelics.
When I first discovered cannabis in my late teens and mushrooms shortly thereafter I found my youthful practices going deeper and growing more significant in my life. In many ways, psychedelics validated what I was already doing—I wasn’t “weird,” I was just a witch!
So I spent most of my last teenage years and my twenties and early thirties expressing my craft through music, writing songs with a psychedelic slant. It was here that I discovered the poetigenic (using psychedelics for creative purposes) aspects of things like LSD, mushrooms, cannabis, mandrake, and henbane.
When you were working on your master’s degree at Queen’s College did you already know you would become a psychedelic witch, or were you planning to become an academic? If so what changed your mind?
I never really chose either – both were just natural extensions of my life. I had already been obsessed with witchcraft and even tried to write a vampire novel before I discovered psychedelics; and I was using psychedelics in my practices before my undergrad days. In fact, it was a mushroom trip that told me to go to college in the first place! So I knew from my first day of college that I wanted to study psychedelia. I wrote my undergrad thesis on Timothy Leary and my Master’s thesis on the medical revolution of LSD during the 1940s and 50s.
I don’t really differentiate between the two (academic and witch); both are just part of my personality. My foremothers weren’t called wise women for nothing. If anything, the thing I didn’t see coming in my life was “roller derby gold medalist” hahaha! But yeah, the psychedelic witch thing … most anyone from my teenage years would have told you that was inevitable.
The Goddess Isis was famous for healing. How were entheogens involved?
Entheogens could have been involved in any number of ways. One way in particular that I write about in Psychedelic Mystery Traditions had to do with taking a strong potion of opium and coriander to entrance oneself and enter the Otherworld. Once in the Otherworld, the patient would meet Isis. Isis would either heal the person or give them instructions on how to heal themselves once back in our world. Though sometimes a person might fall asleep naturally in the temple—no opium required.
You point out that the Oracle of Delphi might be the first trip report in history. What do you think the Pythia was high on?
According to Plutarch (who was once a priest of the Rites of Delphi), natural gases (i.e., “Apollo’s gases”) spit out from a crevasse in the Temple of Apollo caused the euphoric and entheogenic effects in the oracles. He is confirmed by other ancient authors. Modern archaeological digs have validated the ancient sources. Excavators found a fault line in the Earth that runs beneath the temple that did at one time emit these kinds of fumes into the Oracle’s chamber.
What was moon juice?
In ancient sources, witches would famously “draw down the moon.” This was done so as to redouble the efficacy of the moon’s powers over plants – the closer the moonbeams (i.e., “moon juice”) were to the plants the stronger the plants would be when ingested. Today, some magical people use moon juice as a metaphor for menstrual blood.
You present plenty of evidence that many early Christian sects used entheogens, and that the early patriarchs admit not only the healing qualities of these substances but also their effective use by wise women. How did Christianity become a religion of prohibition instead?
Why did psychedelic ointments become demonized as containing the flesh of sacrificed human infants?
No doubt there were eccentric folks back then as today who probably used plants and fungi in ways that we today call “sacred” but their local clergy called “profane.”
How did the Interpretario Romano contribute to the gaslighting and disempowerment of female medical practitioners and women in general, the demonization of the sacred feminine, and the creation of the Witch Stereotype? Was it all a reaction to the plagues and wars of the previous generation?
These were essentially the questions I sought to answer with The Witches’ Ointment. https://www.innertraditions.com/the-witches-ointment.html I would direct interested readers to that work. I also have a chapter in my forthcoming Psychedelic Mystery Traditions that condenses the key points of my earlier work.
On the other paw, I do have an intimacy with accessing the magical faculties of psychedelics, and hadn’t seen those aspects addressed since the psychedelic renaissance and subsequent microdose boom. So I set out to fill that void. There is some history and philosophy in the book as well because both have framed my magical endeavors. However, whether you agree or disagree with my historical opinions and philosophies, the magic still works. I say give it a go!
Among your credits is Potion Maker, what aspects of that calling will your new book Microdosing Magic: A Psychedelic Spellbook reveal?