It’s usual to receive concerned questions on the topic of the potential danger of Poisons, and the threat of addiction in the Poison Path. Addiction, as we know it, is the inability to control the need for a substance, thus creating a sensation of lack or pain in the body. This situation seems to be scary to practitioners of magic and witchcraft.
When analyzed in depth, the concept of addiction is vague and really relative. We are constantly surrounded by addictions; in fact, the whole Western civilization is addicted to something. However, the addictive drug needn’t be a substance, but it can be an object, a relationship dynamics, etc. These addictions do not seem to matter very much in comparison with Poisons. When confronted with nature in the raw, people become terribly frightened of a reckless uncontrollable addiction, as if such thing was normal to happen.
The major part of substances categorized as Poisons in the plant realm, i.e. members of the nightshade family, salviae, diverse psychoactive cacti, and hallucinogenic fungi, etc. are not usually susceptible to create a feeling of addiction when treated with common sense and respect for the spirit that inhabits it. Poisons are indeed dangerous, for their dosage can become deadly, but if analyzed in depth, only an irreflexive usage carried out by an inexperienced and unprepared practitioner can lead to unwanted situations.
But there comes the difficult part: how do we know we are to trespass a comfort zone when dealing with Poisons? Is getting a placebo dosage only fooling oneself? Here, my view is very relative as well: there are no placebo dosages when interacting directly with a Poison because every contact with it, as small as it can apparently be, is a total game changer. Nevertheless, there comes a point when the practitioner and wanderer of this path knows that he/she must tread further, but Fear and Insecurity may stop him/her, and thus he/she looks for excuses not to face his/her limits. There is when excuses take the mask of fear to comfort ourselves. If you get to this part, as Dale Pendell states, ‘you deserve what you get (…) to walk about in a worlds where mere thoughts and whims change the colors and contours of physical space (…) you deserve to suddenly find yourself in the world of the old sorcerers knew (…) you deserve to see the hell realms also (…) you deserve to see the heart of existence, the essence of All, or Ally, or is it?’ (Pharmakognosis)
There is yet a subjacent problem to cover: why do we conceive addiction to a plant as something bad? As we have previously mentioned, every interaction with a Poison implies a close relationship with the spirit inhabiting the plant. Thus, every situation that results of that interaction is to be seen as a message from the Otherworld.
Let’s imagine for instance that we grow ‘addicted’ to drinking mugwort infusions every night for we have the impression that the plant helps us remember our dreams. This is indeed a tricky situation. We should examine the reason for such addiction: is the plant trying to tell us something? Should we give up using it? Have we offended the plant spirit somehow with mindless usage? Should we try to stop using/abusing it? We should examine the reasons underneath the situation, and here Pendell becomes clear and useful once again: ‘Intent is involved in addiction. (…) The importance of intent has to do with the nature of the dis-ease being treated: whether the intent is to relieve physical pain from a specific organic ailment, or whether the intent is to relieve spiritual pain. If it is a physical pain that is being treated, when the cause of the physical pain is gone, you can stop taking the medicine with no or few untoward effects. If the pain is spiritual, the matter is more complicated. If the spiritual pain is caused by some particular environmental malady, such as being in a combat zone in Vietnam, the cause of the pain will disappear when you finish your tour of duty. Most of the vets who returned to the United States as addicts gave up their habits when they gave up their rifles.
But if the spiritual pain is from within yourself, how will you ever escape? And there is a particularly pernicious feedback loop in narcomania: the presence of the ally in your body impedes the very spiritual work needed to relieve the pressure, and so the pressure increases.’ (Pharmakopoeia 231)
In any case, everything depends on the message the Plant Spirit has tried to unfold, and yours is the task to read it correctly. A good practitioner knows how to deal with Poisons, that is, when to surrender to addiction if needed, when to stop using them, and when to get intoxicated by them: that wisdom is acquired with trial and error, reverence and worship.
The Real Fear
After reflecting on this problem for a long time, the conclusion reached is that we Westerners do not fear addiction per se, but we fear the loss of control, we fear pain and death that it is entailed. Addictions can be dealt with and solved, but death and pain make us face the ultimate frontier. Nonetheless, we should distinguish here between the animal/instinctive fear, and the fear imposed by the system. The first is to be revered and understood, used as the spark that revives our flame.
The latter type of fear is the one which has been imposed by our rationale and society, which still demonizes natural raw substances labelling them as unstable and insecure. The effects of a Poison in our body can not easily calculated, for dosages come not in the shape of a pill, they must be found out by each of us, they must be explored, while death and pain lurk in the shadows. The transgression of such taboo is not for the faint hearted, as in many occasions interaction and exposure to the teachers of Poison may change us unexpectedly.
As brilliantly stated by Daniel Schulke: ‘For those who tread the Poison Path, perhaps the best Knowledge of Antidotes lies not in any enchanted balm or chemist’s receipt, but in the balanced and proper Devotion to Fear. In its exaltation, Fear is the simultaneous knowledge and respect of those powers which can annihilate us. Its irrational axis, manifest in action, is cowardice and impulse; its flowering is courage and prudence.’ (Veneficium, 26)
Let’s not fool ourselves: we fear not the usage of Poisons that leads to addiction, we fear the moment of revelation that it entails, we fear the unshakable panic it can create, we fear the potential to open a door that, once it’s crossed, there is no turning back.
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