Mind Altering Substances

I have been asked repeatedly what my view of mind-altering chemicals as they relate to shamanism is, so I figured I would say something about them.

First of all, let me put in a disclaimer here before anyone decides to send me email telling me I am condoning the use of illegal drugs. I do not condone, nor do I condemn the use of chemicals, recreational or otherwise. I believe each person is entitled to make their own decision on the subject, I would only hope that that decision be an educated one. All chemicals can and most often do have some sort of detrimental effect on your body, alcohol and tobacco included. Anyone making a choice to use these or any other substances should be aware of what those effects are and be willing to deal with the consequences.

As for drugs in relation to shamanism, yes, they have been and still are used by many groups. For instance, the Maya used mushrooms to induce trance states, Siberian shamans use the fly agaric mushroom, some Native American shamans used and still use peyote, and shamans in the Amazon use yage, just to name a few. Heck, I'm pretty sure some groups licked frogs for the psychotropic chemical, bufotenin, that is exuded by the skin of certain species.

However the shamans that use these substances have had quite a bit of training and have been supervised by older shamans who have undertaken the use of such substances before. No one should attempt shamanic work under the influence of mind-altering substances unless they have been trained to do so by a shaman that is skilled in the use of such chemicals. There is a very good reason for this. The spirit world can be a treacherous place. Many of these substances can make you forget that, as well as make you think that you can do anything. That is a very, very dangerous combination.

I am all for learning your path on your own. Self-teaching can be a wonderful experience, but not in this case. Besides, any and all of the effects that shamans achieve through the use of drugs can, and have been, achieved without them. Spiritual growth takes time, but so do most things and drugs are not a quick solution.

If you have come to a decision that you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, please get help. Your doctor can recommend various treatment organizations and Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous are in the phone book.