A Warning Sign Along the Path of Poisons
It has been nearly a week since All Hallows Eve. I wanted to write about my experiences while they are still fresh in my mind. This article is for anyone who is considering walking the Poison Path of traditional witchcraft. These concepts go hand in hand, as much of the traditional medieval witchcraft lore relates to night flights and hallucinogenic ointments of diabolical nature. I had to wait until my vision came back before I could see well enough to write this article. One of the side effects of the tropane alkaloids found within the Nightshade family cause paralysis of the smooth muscle tissues which control involuntary muscle movements such as the constriction of pupils and the muscles of the bladder, in addition to other parts of the body we take for granted. Deadly Nightshade forces us to recognize her presence; by taking our sight and attention of the physical. I have been studying and cultivating this and other entheogenic plants for the past five years. This has allowed me to gain much wordless insight on the nature of this plant and her interaction with those around her.
Over these past years, I have ingested and smoked small amounts of this and other similar plants within this genus to understand their effects first hand. Starting with the smallest amounts of the Plant Sacrament, I eventually moved on to teas and herbal smoking blends. Until the late 19th century they actually made Belladonna Cigarettes called Asthmador for their medicinal properties. In my previous experiences I noted just a slight softening of the edges of my vision and found it very easy to slip into a trance. I believe that the concentration of alkaloids in the previous mixtures were not nearly as concentrated as the harvest received from this years growing cycle. Bug predation and better understanding of the plant’s life cycle created the quintessential requirements for increased alkaloids. This is why it is so difficult to come up with a reliable dosage. The variation from plant to plant can be very unreliable unless the growing conditions are duplicated each time.
The Poisoned Chalice
This ritual has been attempted by many great practitioners, and those who live to tell the tale do not take this experience lightly. Atropa belladonna toxicity is one of the components that led to the slow death of Robert Cochrane (Roy Bowers) at Midsummer. This ritual like any other Rite of Passage marks a state of transition in the soul journey of the practitioner, and is not to be undertaken lightly. Rites of Passage and Initiation are not meant to be repeated on a regular basis throughout one’s life. They are profound experiences that occur only once or twice in a lifetime. Self induced Rituals of Initiation are no different. They mark one of the few and far between great transitions of our life cycles.
Prior to drinking the tea I had made using dried Belladonna leaves; I applied an oil infused with the same plant to the soles of my feet, brow, temples and pulse points. I have used this oil regularly as a pain relieving massage oil without any noticeable alteration of consciousness. I prepared the tea and added a small amount of plant material, maybe two tea bags worth. Thankfully I shared the cup with my husband. If I hadn’t I would probably have went to sleep for 48 hours, hopefully waking up afterwards. I also ingested a trace amount of powdered Henbane, using it as an herbal snuff .01 grams.
The first things we noticed were our dramatically dilated pupils, reminiscent of the black round berries of the plant itself. The next symptom to manifest quickly was a complete loss of saliva, which gave us the worst cotton mouth we have ever experienced. The muscles that allow you to urinate also refuse to comply leaving you with the constant feeling of having to urinate, but not being able to. The aphrodisiac effect also came and went.
My intention was to induce prophetic dreams or spirit visitation while sleeping. Since it is the Samhain season, I felt it appropriate to honor and reach out to the dead and the ancestors. I prepared my sleeping area, placing a bone beneath my pillow, and wearing a vial of henbane seeds around my neck. I asked for and invited this experience, and although my husband and I ingested exactly the same things my experience was much more visual and auditory than either of us had intended.
Everything was going as expected for the evening, that is, until we were ready to go to bed. Falling asleep was impossible due to the restless leg syndrome felt by both of us, and the constant need to get up an pee. I was more or less awake all night long unable to be still for more than a few seconds at a time. I decided to just stay up and get ready to start my morning routine at 5am.
The Peak of the Witches Sabbath
This plant works in a very subversive way when it comes to how her chemicals influence our physical bodies. She is able to infect our psyche with visions and whispers without us realizing it. It feels like there is a disconnection between the part of you that is under the influence and the other part of you that doesn’t realize anything is out of the ordinary. I thought I would just go to sleep, have some strange dreams, and wake up the next morning back to normal. The Nightshades had other plans for me. The sinister side of this haunting beauty comes with the fact that the visions and voices one experiences are perceived as completely ordinary. She likes to steal our memories of the experience, and causes us to forget that we even set out on this journey until we look back at it from the end.
Dosage is Unreliable and Based on Numerous Individual Factors
***Do not consume these plants*** Even those under the guidance of a professional herbalist/shamanic practitioner or ethnobotanical expert run the risk of poisoning themselves to the point of death. This article is meant for informational purposes only.
This is NOT supposed to be a pleasant experience and the plant spirits lived up to that tenfold. My findings and experience are proof that there is not a reliable or safe way of measuring the dosage of these plants. Each individual plant will also interact differently with each individual’s metabolism, as we see in nature certain critters eat the berries of this plant with no noticeable effect. Ingesting these toxic plants directly through an herbal infusion if the most dangerous way to work with these plants since the body is able to absorb a higher percentage of alkaloids. Topical application through oils and ointments is the safer route to take since these plants have pain relieving properties they have been used historically in medical salves.
I have experience taking other hallucinogens such as magic mushrooms (psylocibe) and LSD. This was during my late teen years when I was a recreational user. Most of the time I would have negative experiences characterized by extreme paranoia and delusions. I believe this was in fact due to the environment that I was in, and my lack of reverence for these powerful states. Of all the trances, journeys and recreational drug use that I have experienced over the years, none of it would prepare me for what I would experience with the Nightshades. The 1-2 hours where the plant spirit was in complete control seemed to last an eternity. In theory we use these plants to travel to the spirit realms or enter trance by throwing off the shackles of waking consciousness so that we may return with knowledge and insight.
Now that I have had some time to process this experience and do a tarot reading for that night, I have a better understanding of the events of All Hallows Eve. The majority of visual hallucinations were experienced outside towards the last couple hours of my trip. Auditory hallucinations occurred throughout the entire evening. The most dangerous aspect of these plants is their amnesiac effects. It feels as though the left and right hemispheres of the brain are temporarily disconnected. It goes without saying that this can lead to some very dangerous situations, in which you are still under the influence but your conscious mind doesn’t realize it.
One thing I learned from this experience is how detrimental it is to have protections and containment spells in place to keep one’s physical body from wandering. Also having some one there to observe in case anything were to go wrong.
Just What I Asked For
I believe that it was a combination of factors that led to the intense experience that I had. My husband’s experience was different from mine, however I incorporated other ritual actions in my ceremony. The combined forces of these powerful plant allies being used during such a potent time of year to begin with was in retrospect a little overkill. When the Veil is thinnest and spirits walk freely among the living they are quick to ride those who have put themselves in such a state. The living people that I encountered as passersby would suddenly shift, creating a sinister visage changing their physical faces entirely.
Normally these traditional entheogens, like the all popular Ayahuasca Ceremony act as rites of passage where the participant is led on an internal journey guided by a shaman who guides the ceremony; facilitating healing, insight, and well being. In retrospect it was not necessary to travel in spirit to the Otherside since on this particular night the spirits walk freely. I believe that I encountered multiple individual entities that influenced the direction of the evening. It may have opened me up to a mild and temporary kind of possession, after which I felt the need to perform multiple cleansing ceremonies.
This was not an enjoyable experience, in fact it was dangerously stupid, but I survived and learned a lot. This experience shows first hand how these powerful plants must be respected and not taken for granted. I warn against anyone who may try to attempt this. There are many other ways to work with these spirits and the plants traditionally associated with witchcraft. However, we are all called to certain experiences that we cannot deny.
Take it from me; Deadly Nightshade aka Atropa belladonna, can be beautiful and seductive from a distance, but if you allow her access to your inner reality she can and will wreak havoc. This is her true nature- beautiful and seductive, drawing in the unsuspecting and trapping them within her darkness. Her cousin Henbane has similar uses as is considered to be more mild because of a slightly different alkaloid content.