Preparing for Flight: Techniques for Ritual Entheogens | Coby Michael Ward
Using Plant Spirit Medicine to Enhance Spiritual Practice
Entheogens bring us into the presence of the Divine. They bring the Divine within or allow us to “fly” to spiritual dimensions to access wisdom. Whether we are traveling in spirit or Spirit is traveling to us is an arbitrary distinction, since we are all part of the same whole. Everything already exists in the same point, an eternal present within the divine mind. Time and space are a construct, and working with ritual entheogens lowers the veil that maintains this sense of distinction.
There are many ways in which plant spirit medicines can facilitate personal gnosis, spiritual experiences and ritual mindset. They work in a variety of ways. Some help with mental clarity, memory, and focus which can be useful for long arduous rituals with many components. They help us in our studies, our mental processing and remembering what we learn in altered states of consciousness.
There are those that are more subtle, and slower acting over a longer period of time. They make gradual changes to our body, mind, and spirit; altering and integrating different energies. They can be used to facilitate long-term healing, deal with traumatic experience and integrate our shadow selves. These more energetic healers can be taken homeopathically, like flower essences or micro-doses over longer periods of time.
Aphrodisiacs and euphoriants are also within the category of entheogens. They help us to find joy, to love ourselves and our fellow man. The practice of ecstatic trance and sacred sex can be enhanced using this type of plant spirit medicine. Often stimulating, warming and energizing; their medicine pairs well with dance, drumming and other excitatory techniques of inducing trance states.
Visionary plants allow us to see beyond physical reality. They give us the voice to speak with spirits and the means to hear them. These are the plants whose spirits are vast and ancient. Those spirits who have chosen to act as teachers to mankind. They also act in different ways from one plant to another. Some are more suited to divination and prophetic dreaming, safer to use but still powerful allies. Then there are those wild and dangerous trickster spirits that teach us to shapeshift, shedding our human form. They allow our spirits to fly and to go to other worlds. Some of them teach us to grow wings and ascend to the uppermost branches of the world tree, and others take us deep into ourselves, deep into the shadows of the Earth. They teach us to become the darkness where all knowledge resides.
As with all things magical, ritual and intention are of the utmost importance. While some of the plants within this category are chemically active enough to have effects without any additional action on our part, ritualizing their use will determine whether the experience is entheogenic or just a bad trip. There is much more to it than rubbing an ointment on yourself or burning some incense. Ritual preparation is key to working deeply with these plants, and the spirits to which they give access.
Here are some preparation techniques and things to consider when working with entheogenic plants. It was written for the use of oils and ointments, but can be adapted to suit any form of application.
Preparation: Avoid caffeine, nicotine, greasy foods and meat for twenty-four hours prior to using the ointment. Caffeine and nicotine can inhibit the effects of tropane alkaloids. Greasy foods high in fat also prevent the absorption of tropane alkaloids. Fasting for twenty-four hours beforehand is also beneficial and intensifies the effects. Some practitioners will fast and partake in a plant dieta prior to ritual application of the ointment. A dieta consists of taking micro-doses of the entheogen to form a connection with its spirit. This can also be achieved using flower essences. This can be begun 7-10 days before the ritual, accompanied by fasting and abstinence from sex and alcohol.
Mindset: The single most important aspect of preparation when using these plants for magickal purposes is to do so with a ritual mindset. Ritualizing the application of the ointment and creating an environment that is conducive to magickal practice. Chanting and drumming is beneficial to begin altering consciousness prior to the effects of the entheogen kicking in.
Prayer and meditation. Consciously reaching out and verbalizing one’s intent, petitioning the plant spirits and/or the deities/ancestral spirits that you intend to work with is very important. Performing offerings beforehand to the spirits you will be working with. Performing divination to gain any additional instructions, and to confirm whether or not to proceed with the ritual.
Application: Applying to the pulse points, soles of the feet and palms of hands, temples, forehead and/or back of the neck. The pulse points are close to major arteries and the palms and soles of the feet are porous, which enhance absorption.
Environment: The ideal setting is outdoors, especially in the woods where spirits roam freely while outdoors providing an intense experience, it isn’t always safe. Darkness enhances the effects of the experience and the manifestation of visons. If possible, having another person act as a watcher is beneficial. When engrossed in the effects of tropane alkaloids one forgets that they are under the influence of the entheogen. If performing a specific ritual, prepare the space and arrange the altar with the appropriate tools prior to applying the ointment so that there are no distractions.
*** Many of the plants within this category can be toxic when ingested and should not be taken internally under any circumstances. It is important that you know what plants you are working with, and any interactions they may have with medications you are taking, as well as any other contraindications including but not limited to pregnancy, heart conditions, etc. Be sure to know the laws in your area, and of course NEVER drive while under the influence. When working with entheogenic plants and altered states you do so at your own risk!