Axis Mundi
The beginning of a circle is also its end. Not I, but the world says it: all is one. And yet everything comes in season.
- Heraklietos of Ephesos

Drugs and Shamanism - Diary of a (former) Pothead

by Brynhild

For some strange reason, drugs and Shamanism have been two rather important topics of late that I have spent some considerable time in discussion about. It is for this reason that I am compelled to write about it from a perspective that I am only just starting to get a deeper understanding of.

First of all, though, I will explain what I know - and I do know - about Pot. Otherwise known as Cannabis, Marijuana, Hemp, Hashish, Gunja, Wacky Weed etc, Pot has been grown and smoked for many millennia. Pot is a mind altering substance, and I would go further to call it a hallucinogen. Its uses have been many and varied, but the earliest known use was by the American Indians - in particular those who partook in and practised Shamanism. The Shamans would've used Pot to aid them in entering that altered state of consciousness which allowed them to walk between our world and the other worlds, mainly to commune with souls of the dead, speak to their guides and totems, as well as retrieving fragmented pieces of a soul for the living. These Shamans are also known as Psychopomps or Death Walkers. Their lives were in total devotion of their craft, to help those among their community who needed their specific type of help, along with teaching the new students who would continue their work after they have passed from this world.

My first exposure to pot was when I was about 13, but I didn't smoke it then. My siblings did, and because they thought I was too young, they didn't allow me to. They were much more worldly at 16, 17 and 19 but I still read into the hypocrisy of it all back even then. The next time I had any association with Pot was when I was 15 and on a family outing up in the Blue Mountains region of NSW. I was allowed a puff from a joint. Naturally, a curious teenager like myself thought that wasn't nearly enough, but it wasn't long before I had more, and away from the family glare. I turned 16 and spent the weekend at a friend's place. I can't remember offhand how I had it, it may have been several joints shared. My curiosity was satisfied for the moment, and I didn't really dabble any further into drugs until I was around 19. I got into alcohol but that's another story.

I think the time was ripe for some further exploration, and it got down to who I hung around with. Growing up in Blacktown - in Sydney's west - like I did, it was a melting pot for such activity. The pub and club scene was also huge at this time, with a lot of these places staying open until the early hours. Most of us wouldn't dream of leaving home until around 10 if we wanted to just go to the pub, but the RSL had rules about non-members not being allowed in after 9:30PM. So, we tended to party hard on the weekends. The kicker came for me just after my 20th birthday when I met the man I was to spend the next two turbulent years of my life with.

I started going out with M and we eventually had a defacto relationship. People came and went, mainly using our place as a haven for sessions. And the sessions were plenty! I didn't pay for any of it, because I was the main tenant of the house before M moved in. It was, therefore, a privilege and understood. Since M and I were defacto, we tended to share our belongings anyway, and that included what we spent our money on. I became a mull pig, I enjoyed smoking pot and it was a big deal that you could pull a cone in one breath without clogging up the cone, as well as getting a better hit from it. Occasionally I mixed the mull with spin, to make it go around longer. Personally, I preferred it without spin - or tobacco if you will.

One experience I'll never forget was smoking some Thai Buddha that M's brother bought. I might add here, that Pot was rather cheap to buy by the ounce - around $150 - $200, but that was still a luxury in those days. We would usually buy sticks, blocks of hash or oil. Anyway, back to the Buddha. I'd only started going out with M and it was only my second visit to his brother's house. I would've had two cones tops, before I was lying horizontal on the lounge with a long running saga of images and stories going through my head. I was spinning out, but such was my state I was unable to talk, let alone move! Everyone there thought it was a real hoot, and I'm sure I must've been a sight. What I found out later, though, was that quite a few people reacted in the same fashion. That was Thai Buddha for you.

When M and I began living together, we would smoke just about every day. Whereas before, I had a liking for alcohol, Pot became my drug of choice. I never felt quite so sick, unless I drank first. There was always a way of mixing Pot and alcohol. In my case, it was Pot first, but some people preferred it the other way. It was also at this time that I was settling into domestic bliss, and descending into the nightmares. I began to see things in my dreams, and I also began to withdraw into myself at various times, because I began to get paranoid. What also didn't help was that M could be abusive at times, and the violence set in. It became, in effect, a vicious cycle.

There were many magical moments of euphoria and insight as well. I love listening to music and my senses were heightened to the point that I would hear each and every note played in a song that I might otherwise not have heard before, and hearing the sound split between speakers. I was able to tune in to separate conversations simultaneously, and hear and know exactly what was going on at that moment. The jokes are plenty about getting the munchies, and although I had those moments, it wasn't frequently. If anything smoking Pot kept me regular! I remember watching a program on TV with some Afrikaner leader during the time of Apartheid. He spoke in Afrikaans and I found that I could understand every word he said! I also had those moments of being in sync with my partner sexually. Sure, that can occur anyway, but when you're both on that same wavelength, the places you can be taken to are seemingly endless!

M and I eventually parted company, I went back home to my Dad's place for a while. My nightmares increased, along with waking visions. I would see people at the end of my bed, and some nights I would just wake up screaming. My Dad's way of observing the goings on was by saying to me "You're going mad, maybe you should see a shrink!" Yeah, cheers Dad. Just what I needed to hear. I started slowing down my usage after my relationship breakup, but these feelings and visions persisted. It was around this time, too, that I was feeling depressed, and not being able to make head or tail of why. Friendships and personal relationships were easy enough to form, but difficult for me to keep.

And so it was for the next six years or so when I met my future husband and fell pregnant with our first child. I still had the nightmares, but I was looking forward to the impending birth. I began nesting in earnest, getting the nursery ready and focusing on the child's arrival. After my son's birth, I experienced post-natal depression. It was to recur with my two subsequent children. I went through a really bad period of not coping very well, and a shrink was recommended. How ironic, then, that I eventually saw one. At the same time, I came across some guided meditation tapes that I was using and practising regularly. I came across reading material that helped broaden my mind as well. I experimented with various methods of the occult in the past, but I found something that made sense to me. The tablets I was on for depression made me dopey and gave me severe headaches. I ditched the tablets, along with the shrink.

My spiritual path had taken a sudden upturn; I wanted to learn more about myself and the spiritual path that I was undertaking. Smoking Pot was to be a very rare occurrence - I was a mother to a very young family, and I gave all my energy and devotion to the kids. I didn't want to smoke around them; I wasn't some scrubber who lacked in scruples. To be honest, I didn't miss it very much at all. That was the one advantage I had when it came to smoking Pot. If I didn't have it, I didn't stress out over it. It was never truly an addiction for me in that sense. I enjoyed it as something recreational, much like some people enjoying a glass of wine after a meal, or a cigarette.

Alas, when only one person takes on a spiritual quest, it can mean leaving people behind. My husband and I started growing apart. My Dad was diagnosed with asbestos cancer and passed on Valentine's Day in 2000. It would be the worst period of my life that I ever had to endure. I was alone with the kids for most of the time, shouldering the bulk of the responsibilities that relate to raising a family, paying bills, shopping, cooking, cleaning etc. Frankly, these jobs are a big enough task when there aren't any major dramas unfolding in your life. I had more than 2 years of walking through a thick fog after Dad passed, and I had bugger all support.

When I was finally in my darkest place, I found a grief counsellor and turned my life around. I kicked my husband out and have been flying solo pretty much ever since - apart from one dud relationship that is. Because I had to pool my own resources, I started making friends of my own, walking among the living again. I took some short courses, including Feng Shui and Numerology. I also started my Reiki attunements to the eventual level of Reiki III/Teacher that I'm now at. Deep inside, though, I knew that I wasn't New Age and I didn't want to jump on that particular bandwagon.

I had also at this time met a woman who was like a mentor to me. More than that, I thought she was a friend. Until she accused me of playing Devil's advocate. I took it to heart. Apart from the fact that I got treated like dirt from someone I considered to be a friend, I also feared the repercussions of living in a small town that is predominantly Christian. Then I had a revelation. I stopped believing in the fairy tales of God and the Devil a long time ago! Once I was awake to that, I started finding people with whom I had a deeper rapport spiritually. I embraced the Pagan path, and enjoyed the rituals, ceremonies and deeper connections to the deities, to nature, and above all, tapping into my abilities on a psychic and spiritual level.

But still, there was a nagging feeling about where I thought my spiritual path was taking me. I've always had a deep love for polytheism and mythology. I was also interested in my family tree, genealogy and ancestry. I started talking to somebody about Heathenism and from that point on, what remained of any missing puzzle pieces that connected to my spiritual path had finally fallen into place! There had already been a deep interest in the Ancient Ways - especially in regards to those peoples who built henges and performed the otherworldly practises that we would call Magic. I always believed in Magic, and I believed in the Magic of the Ancients. I've finally discovered a religion to which I feel most comfortable - Heathenism!

Heathenism has allowed me to uphold the beliefs and ideals that I always had, but I made yet another discovery. I have been drawn to the Shamanic path, and I walk the Heathen/Shamanic path of my Celtic and Norse ancestors. Have I rambled a bit? Forgive me for this, but it has all been very relevant to my tale. At the start, I related the use of Pot to Shamanism and explained the connection between the two. In the last two weeks, I've had some interesting discussions about drug use and Shamanism. As recently as last weekend, an understanding had been reached about people taking drugs and the effect it has on them. We are conditioned to believe that taking drugs is wrong, it messes with our minds - and so it does, when used as a means to escape the mundane reality, or as a buffer in which to hide our pain behind. The truth of this is that the Shamans of old used drugs appropriately, they were trained to use them properly, and only on specific occasions when they desired to connect with the otherworld.

Lately, I have been thinking "What was the real reason behind my smoking Pot?" I had outside influences, certainly. My curiosity got the better of me, most definitely. My rebellious streak would also have played a big part because of my refusal to be told what to do. I wonder, though, if I may have been tapping into something that is more ancient and innate within me, but I was incapable of knowing what I was actually dealing with. Because of this, it messed with my mind and my emotions. I thought that I was going insane, but now I know better. My subconscious mind simply wanted to explore that otherworldly realm which my conscious mind just wasn't ready for!

Having said all this, I haven't touched any Pot for about five years now and I don't miss it one jot! I've learned to tap into that other realm by way of meditation and dreams. I see and feel things otherworldly, and it's perfectly normal for me to do so. I don't wish for this article to be construed as a go-ahead for any reckless drug taking, because that isn't my intention. However, I'd be a hypocrite for condemning the use of it, given my history. I have no doubt in my mind that the do-gooders out there will take the moral high ground and attempt to point the finger at me. This has happened to me before. Fine, I also know how to ward off psychic attacks to great effect. I hope I can make some sort of sense out of what happened to me in that it would benefit others who have experienced something similar in themselves. Any clearing of confusion is, in my opinion, a good thing.

In concluding this article, while there are heaps of people who have come and gone in my life - bringing with them the valuable lessons that allowed me to learn and grow - there are two people in particular I must give my heartfelt thanks to. It is because of these recent discussions that I had in relation to the topic that has compelled me to write this article. I mulled the matter over all day, thinking here and there about the words that were forming in my mind, the structure of the article that was already taking shape before I even typed it up. If you read this article, you know who you are.

How appropriate it is, then, that I have done this under a Balsamic - or Dark - Moon phase, and Mercury is also in retrograde, an important time of going within and seeking those answers from a more internal perspective.

Earlier on this year, I received a candle in honour of the Norse Goddess Hel. I lit it tonight, with the promise of inspiration from that otherworldly realm. Hel did not disappoint. I praise her for the insight from the shadows. I also thank Hel for the healing that writing this article has brought about for me. May this article bring some meaning, clarity and understanding, but above all, hope. I'm probably a nutjob, but I'm a happy nutjob who has finally found order amongst the chaos, along with inner peace.

Was Hael

Written on Thursday, 25th September 2008, under the Balsamic Moon in Leo.

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