The Women’s Visionary Council (WVC) is launching its second annual workshop series on risk reduction and drug safety skills. Overdose of opioids and other substances has become a major public health concern throughout the world. Yet information about how to calculate dosage, prevent overdose, and test the content of widely available recreational drugs is difficult to acquire. In the spirit of universal access to all knowledge, and to prevent future deaths, the Women’s Visionary Council (WVC) will host a donation based workshop on July 22nd at Oakstop from 11am-3pm to teach critical risk reduction skills. Click here to register.
No controlled substances will be used or permitted in the space during the demonstration.
The first part of the workshop will demonstrate how to accurately measure liquids and powders to help prevent overdose. Using water and benign salts as demonstration tools, we will discuss risks associated with super-potent substances and show how low-cost milligram scales and widely available volumetric tools can be used to improve the accuracy of measurement. We will also demonstrate how to use commercially available reagent testing kits to test for the presence of potentially deadly adulterants and reduce risks from misidentified drugs, and will discuss limitations of field reagent kits.
In the second part of the workshop, Dr. Gantt Galloway, Pharm.D., Research and Executive Director of the New Leaf Treatment Center, will provide training in the use of Naloxone or Narcan which blocks the effects of opioids, especially in cases of overdose. Participants will receive Naloxone kits to take home.
This event is presented on a donation basis for maximal accessibility. Tax deductible donations can be made online via our website or in person at the event. Please pay what you can.
If you are available to assist with set-up, clean-up, or other general volunteer duties, please fill out our volunteer form and we will get in touch with you with available opportunities.
On March 5, 2017, we gathered at Parties that Cook in San Francisco for a Cooking with Cannabis workshop led by visionary chef Emma Sanchez and plant medicine pioneer Jane Straight. As part of the event, Emma shared how to prepare this delicious dinner to compliment your favorite strain or cannabis enhanced oil. Below are Emma’s recipes for Fresh Buckwheat Pasta, Homemade Pesto (with options for many different variations), Greener Goddess salad dressing and her incredible Chocolate Budino Tart with sea salt and olive oil.
Chef Emma Sanchez has focused her work on feeding communities and emphasizing access and education in food resources. She is a culinary creationist and kitchen alchemist, always connecting traditional food technique from around the world with the plentiful bounty of California. Her experience includes work in top-100 San Francisco restaurants, teaching at top cooking education programs, and hosting world class catering experiences with countless organizations. She served in culinary art residency with the Art Monastery project in Labro, Italy, studying the spiritual side of food and community living. She studied culinary arts at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. She is deeply grateful to have organizations like the Women’s Visionary Congress for providing an opportunity to create food with sisters and share in the the land’s harvest.
Emma is available for cooking classes or catering and can be contacted via email.
Fresh Buckwheat Pasta
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 cups buckwheat flour
1 teaspoons salt
8 large eggs
1/2 c olive oil
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl, create a well in the center of the bowl to mix in your oil and egg. Using a fork, slowly integrate in the wet to the dry surrounding it. Put your hand in the dough and try to lump together any stray bits. If the dough is super crumbly and not sticking together at all, add a teaspoon of water and knead a bit longer.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands until it starts to feel smooth. Allow the dough to rest for 20 – 30 minutes before rolling it out or processing through a pasta machine.You can do this by hand, too, but your pasta will be thick.
Roll your pasta to the desired shape and size, and dust heavily with flour. When ready to cook your pasta bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil and cook for 2-5 minutes transferring directly into a pesto and vegetable of your choice with a smaller amount of pasta water immediately.
Pesto & how to make 100 variations of it.
Everyone knows of pesto genovese, considered “traditional” pesto, made with pine nuts and genovese basil. This is the cornerstone of understanding for what pesto is and isn’t. Most people don’t know that the many regions of Italy have many different variation of the classic sauce. Use of sicilian almonds, mint and dried tomatoes is a traditional variation of southern Italy, and the use of sage and hazelnuts in pesto is prevalent in autumn. Pesto can be both dynamic and seasonal. Let’s challenge that assumption of what we can do with this lovely technique to make the best pesto.
1/4 c Garlic
1 c Nuts or seeds
1/2 c Cheese or nutritional yeast
2 c Oil
4 c Herbs packed
1/2 c Lemon juice and zest
1 Tb Salt and spices
To make pesto: combine garlic, nuts and cheese in the bowl of a food processor;. With the motor running, add oil in a slow stream until emulsified; add in your herbs and lemon in batches until combined alternating between the two. Place in portioned containers or add directly onto your veggies or fresh cooked pasta. This recipe will freeze well and last in the fridge up to 1 week.
Greener Goddess Dressing
Yields ~ 6 cups
3 avocados pulp
1 c Oil
1 c Lemon or Vinegar
1/2 c water
1 Tb Garlic
2 Tb chopped herbs
Salt and pepper to taste.
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir vigorously until well-combined. Or, put into a blender and blend until smooth. Toss salad use as dip or sandwich spread. Freezes well and last in the container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Suggested Additions: anchovy, flax or chia seed, citrus zest.
Chocolate budino with sea salt and olive oil
40 3 inch ramekins
7 c flour
2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
2 c sugar
1 tsp coarse salt
2 lb butter
8 egg yolks
. c Tb heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
8 cups heavy cream
8 cup sugar
2 lb. bittersweet chocolate coarsely chopped
16 egg yolks
To make the pastry, sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl (the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt). Cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender or two knives. When the mixture has the consistency of oatmeal flakes, make a well in the center, and into it put a mixture of egg yolks, heavy cream and vanilla. Bring this together with the fingers of one hand and then press it out onto a board to blend. When almost mixed, wrap the dough in wax paper and chill for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is about 3/8 inch thick. Cut rounds from the dough, and line 3-inch little tart molds with the dough, pressing into the corners. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack.
To make the custard, heat the cream and sugar in a medium-size saucepan, when it bubbles around the edges, turn off the heat, stir in the chocolates and continue stirring until all the chocolate has melted. Let cool for about 10 minutes. With a wooden spoon stir in the egg yolks, one at a time. Spoon this filling into the partially baked tart shells, and return them to the 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until the filling is slightly firm but still trembling in the center when shaken. Let cool. To serve, Drizzle the tarts with the oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
On March 4th, our community gathered in Oakland, California at Oakstop to explore our relationship with cannabis in all her manifestations. We heard presentations by women who have pioneered cannabis research, cultivation, activism, and business.
Videos from the Salon are now available online for you to watch, share, and enjoy.
Women have been using cannabis since ancient times. As cannabis has become legal for both medical and recreational use, many women are reexamining this powerful plant ally. On March 4th and 5th, 2017 the Women’s Visionary Council (WVC) held two days of workshops and discussions to explore our relationship with cannabis in all her manifestations.
LOCATION: Oakstop – 1721 Broadway #201, Oakland, CA 94612.
Hear presentations by women who have pioneered cannabis research, cultivation, activism, and business.
The first day of the WVC Women and Cannabis Salon took place in Oakland, California on March 4th. We gathered from 10 am to 6 pm to hear presentations from women who have pioneered cannabis research, cultivation, activism, and business. Speakers include Jazmin Hupp, founder of Women Grow, botanist Jane Straight, activist and businesswoman Danielle Schumacher, dispensary pioneers Danielle Barber, Amber Senter & Debbie Goldsberry, activist and trimmer Julia Vasconi, Genine Coleman of the Mendocino Appellations Project and the 420 Archive, and researcher Stacey Kerr MD who will talk about studies examining cannabis use during pregnancy. Ellen Komp, Deputy Director of Cal NORML and author of “Tokin’ Women: A 4,000-Year Herstory of Women and Marijuana,” will also present. To honor the cannabis smoking women of the 1967 Human Be-In, WVC co-founder Annie Oak will read from “The Love Book,” written by Lenore Kandel, the only woman to read from stage at that event. The Women and Cannabis Salon will feature a special presentation by Carolyn Garcia, also know as Mountain Girl. A member of the Merry Pranksters, Carolyn wrote one of the first books on cannabis cultivation entitled, “ Primo Plant: Growing Sinsemilla Marijuana,” first published in 1976.
Note: Members of our Cannabis Businesswomen Panel will be available for small group breakout sessions during lunch – to ensure that you get as much time as possible to talk with the speakers, we suggest bringing your own lunch.
10:00 – 10:30 – Welcome
10:30 – 11:30 – Danielle Schumacher – Social Justice in the Cannabis Industry
11:30 – 12:30 – Cannabis Businesswomen Panel with Amber Senter, Danielle Barber, Debbie Goldsberry and Julia Vasconi
12:30 – 1:30 – Lunch – (With break out sessions led by panelists)
1:30 – 2:00 – Genine Coleman – Cultural Terroir: Narratives of Mendocino
2:00 – 2:30 – Ellen Komp
2:30 – 3:00 – Jane Straight – Cannabis in Addiction Therapy & Risk Reduction for Patients
3:00 – 3:30 – Break
3:30 – 4:00 – Stacey Kerr MD – The Science of Cannabis & Pregnancy
4:00 – 4:30 – Carolyn Garcia
4:30 – 5:00 – Jazmin Hupp
5:00 – 5:30 – Close
5:30 – 6:00 – Break
6:00 – 7:00 – Know Your Rights Training with Lauren Vasquez
COOKING WITH CANNABIS WORKSHOP – MARCH 5th – 2 PM – 8 PM
LOCATION: Parties that Cook – 271 Francisco St., San Francisco, CA.
Gather with us in San Francisco for a cooking with cannabis workshop led by plant medicine pioneer Jane Straight and visionary chef Emma Sanchez. Jane will be hosting a cannabis recipe exchange and providing guidance for preparing culinary cannabis butters and oils – bring your favorite recipes to share! Emma will teach us to prepare a delicious fresh pesto and luscious chocolate budino tartlets that will perfectly compliment your homemade cannabis oils, as well as fresh pasta and salad. We will finish up the class with a sumptuous dinner featuring the food we have prepared together.
While the present legal status of cannabis discourages us from serving cannabis at this meal, you will come away with the skills necessary to prepare delicious cannabis enhanced meals at home. We look forward to spending the day cooking and sharing information about this powerful plant with you!
Chef Emma Sanchez has focused her work on feeding communities and emphasizing access and education in food resources. She is a culinary creationist and kitchen alchemist, always connecting traditional food technique from around the world with the plentiful bounty of California. Her experience includes work in top-100 San Francisco restaurants, teaching at top cooking education programs, and hosting world class catering experiences with countless organizations. She served in culinary art residency with the Art Monastery project in Labro, Italy, studying the spiritual side of food and community living. She studied culinary arts at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. She is deeply grateful to have organizations like the Women’s Visionary Congress for providing an opportunity to create food with sisters and share in the the land’s harvest.
Psychedelic veteran Carolyn Garcia aka Mountain Girl joined the Merry Pranksters in 1964 and traveled on Ken Kesey’s bus “Furthur” presenting Acid Tests in California. She joined the Grateful Dead family in the Haight-Ashbury in 1966. Jerry Garcia and Carolyn have two daughters. She has been on the board of Rex Foundation, among others, for many years and served as the first Board President of the Women’s Visionary Council, which presents the annual Women’s Visionary Congress and other educational events investigating the marvelous.
In 1974 Carolyn wrote The Primo Plant, one of the earliest books published about sinsemilla marijuana growing, in which she presents the concepts and practice of organic growing as the proper method for home gardeners. Thousands bought her book, put those concepts into action and integrated organic practices into their lives. Today she lives, gardens and writes near Eugene, Oregon.
Jane Straight remains on the Endangered Species List as a “Flower Child” of the sixties, a role that instilled a deep reverence for Mother Earth and a fierce commitment to protect her. A quote carried close to her heart is from the late Rachel Carson: “those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” It was also during the sixties that she discovered cannabis, currently a very close ally. She is committed to education, and while working with the innovative “Upfront” SAP at Oakland High School was gifted the opportunity to co-create an honest cannabis curriculum. Jane facilitates forums on everything cannabis, from producing safe effective products, to enhancing the quality of life for seniors. She has a charge on harm reduction practices, both for the cannabis user and for those wishing to eliminate or reduce their more harmful pharmaceuticals. She enjoys working in organic cannabis gardens utilizing biodynamic principles.
As a recognized pioneer she played a central role in the important cultural shift to plant based medicine and speaks passionately about the relevance of intentional connection to the botanical world around us. For decades she has collected, propagated, and distributed many very rare medicinal species as a conscious act of preservation and activism. Jane is an avid cannabis researcher, uses it as a daily tonic, and attributes it to her overall enhanced wellbeing. She tends to travel with a Living altar.
Danielle Schumacher earned a degree in Anthropology in 2004 at the University of Illinois where she co-founded chapters of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Students for Sensible Drug Policy in 2001. While still in college, she was appointed Executive Director of Illinois NORML and held the Youth Seat on the National NORML Board of Directors. She was named Freedom Fighter by High Times Magazine at age 22. Danielle was recruited by the Berkeley Patients Group in 2005 to head the Cannabis Action Network. As the first Chancellor of Oaksterdam University, she worked with Richard Lee to establish America’s first cannabis college. She has served as office manager for internationally-respected authority on cannabis Chris Conrad and activist author Mikki Norris, and she is currently office manager for nationally noted physician Frank Lucido MD and nurse practitioner Maria Mangini PhD FNP. Danielle’s newest project, THC Staffing Group, is a boutique recruiting firm whose mission is to encourage diversity in the cannabis industry.
Jazmin Hupp, Founder & CEO – Women Grow, was named a “genius entrepreneur” by Fortune Magazine and a top businesswomen in the cannabis industry by Forbes, Jazmin Hupp is the Founder & CEO of Women Grow. Women Grow connects, educates, and empowers diverse cannabis industry leaders. She educates women and men through monthly events in 30+ cities, a national leadership summit, and online resources. Jazmin’s goal is to have 1,000 women launch cannabis businesses at the foundation of America’s fastest growing industry. Prior to entering the cannabis industry, Jazmin launched six companies in retail, eCommerce, business services, and media. Her core practice is customer experience design, which combines product design, branding, and business operations. Recently, she served as the Director of Digital Media for Women 2.0, which helps women start high-growth ventures. During her tenure, the brand expanded from the Bay Area to hold events across six countries for over 100,000 business women. Jazmin believes that business is the strongest force of change in our world, so she works to create responsible cannabis businesses to help us change outdated laws and stereotypes. Her passion for cannabis legalization is inherited from her parents. She’s privileged to have been educated to choose cannabis as a safer alternative to alcohol. In combination with yoga & meditation, she consumes cannabis to relax & focus.Jazmin holds a Management Information Systems degree from the State University of New York. She splits her time between New York City, Denver, and Oakland, while visiting every major cannabis market regularly. Follow @jazminhupp on twitter or @jazmin_grow on instagram to ride along.
Stacey KerrMD is a teacher, physician, and author living and working in Northern California. She initially earned a BS in elementary education/special education for emotionally disturbed adolescents. After graduating she lived in the largest intentional spiritual community in the US (The Farm) for 10 years, where cannabis was used daily by many of the members. She explored the spiritual aspects of mind expanding medicines. After leaving The Farm, she went to medical school when her children were both in elementary school, and she became a grandmother before she finished her residency in family medicine. She had a full-scope family practice in which she delivered hundreds of babies and helped them grow to adulthood, and then wrote a book (Homebirth in the Hospital) to help empower women who have babies in hospital settings. She is currently serving as a medical consultant for Hawaiian Ethos on the Big Island of Hawaii. Most recently she taught a session on Green Flower Media covering the most recent science regarding pregnancy and cannabis, the same topic she will cover in her talk at the Women & Cannabis Salon. Dr. Kerr rides a Harley Softail, and plays marimba in a marimba band called Ambuya.
Julia Vasconi lives between bay area and Olympia, Washington. She is a final year student at the Evergreen State College, with an education focusing on biology, psychology and dance kinesiology. Julia started her relationship with Cannabis in her early teen years when she lived in Anchorage, Alaska. As she grew older, the relationship shifted from being a consumer to connecting more intimately with the plant through working in the “trim scene” in Northern California at age 19. For the past three years she has supplemented her income with this kind of work as she finished her bachelor’s degree at Evergreen. Ever since the first time she attended the Women’s Visionary Congress in 2014, Julia has been interested in immersing herself in the topics of sensible drug policy, and fighting the war on “drugs”. Julia seeks to empower young women in the underground cannabis industries through sharing of her own experiences and relaying safety tactics for high-liability trimming jobs. In her spare time, Julia enjoys cooking with butter (marijuana infused and not), doing yoga, updating her music library, and always figuring out new ways to sustain her life unconventionally.
Ellen Komp (aka Nola Evangelista) is the Deputy Director of Cal NORML and has been a hemp/marijuana activist since 1991. She began in Los Angeles where she helped plan quarterly hemp rallies and volunteered for LA NORML after being elected to the California NORML board of directors in 1992. She edited the 9th edition of The Emperor Wears No Clothes by Jack Herer and was a volunteer petitioner for the California Hemp Initiative (1993, 1994) and Proposition 215 (1995). She worked as an advertising salesperson and editor at HempWorld magazine, the first trade journal for the hemp industry. From 1997-199898 Komp served on the San Luis Obispo County Drug and Alcohol Advisory Board, which advised the county Drug and Alcohol Services agency on community standards and practices. She also co-founded The 215 Reporter, the first journal covering California’s medical marijuana law and its aftermath. In 2001, Komp developed a website to assist attorneys in medical marijuana defenses for the DPA Office of Legal Affairs in Oakland and was named High Times’s Freedom Fighter of the Month.
Komp moved to Humboldt County in 2002 where she worked for the Civil Liberties Monitoring Project in Garberville. She sat on the Humboldt County medical marijuana task force, resulting in a county ordinance to implement SB420. Komp has a B.S. in Biochemistry (Penn State, 1980) and worked in advertising and publishing in Los Angeles. She has contributed articles and op-eds to various publications such as High Times, In These Times, Alternet, O’Shaughnessy’s, California NORML Report, Eureka Times-Standard and Cannabis Culture. Komp recently published the book, “Tokin Women: A 4000-Year Herstory” which is an enlightening compilation of over 50 famous females throughout “herstory” associated with cannabis—from ancient goddesses to bohemian authors, jazz musicians and icons of the 1960s to the film goddesses of today.
Debbie Goldsberry has been an activist in the cannabis community for more than 25 years. Goldsberry co-founded the Berkeley Patients Group (BPG) in 2000. She went on to direct the organization for 11 years as it became one of the most successful dispensaries in northern California. Goldsberry parted ways with BPG and went on to co-found Communicare Centers – a collective dedicated to standardized cannabis medicines. In addition to her work with dispensaries, Goldsberry has a long history of involvement with cannabis policy movements. She co-founded Americans for Safe Access, the Medical Cannabis Safety Council, and the Cannabis Action Network (CAN), which influenced the creation of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Marijuana Policy Project. Goldsberry supports the causes of others as well as her own. She volunteers with the NORML Women’s Alliance and formerly served as a Marijuana Policy Project board member. Goldsberry has received numerous awards for her work for the cannabis community. She has twice been named the HIGH TIMES Freedom Fighter of the Month, and received Freedom Fighter of the Year for 2011-12. NORML awarded Goldsberry with the Paula Sabine Award for Women in Leadership in 2005.
Genine Coleman lives in the foothills of the coastal mountain range of Mendocino County. She works with local cannabis patients, cultivators and advocacy organizations in her community. In 2015 she founded her consulting business BrainBloom, which is devoted to cannabis education & advocacy. Genine approaches her work systemically, reflective of her broad spectrum of experience and analysis of; the science, medicine, advocacy, agriculture, policy, industry & culture of cannabis. Genine serves on the board of directors for the 420 Archive , a 501c3 organization working to archive the history, activism & culture of cannabis, hemp & marijuana. In 2016 Genine joined the Mendocino Appellations Project, which is sponsored by The Mendocino Cannabis Industry Association . Genine served as campaign coordinator for The 2016 Mendocino Heritage Initiative, a voter initiative to tax & regulate commercial cannabis in the rural unincorporated areas of Mendocino County.
Read about Genine's Presentation - Cultural Terroir; Narratives of Mendocino
They say that the French word & concept terroir defy conclusive definition. Terroir is the result of the natural specificity of place & practice – the weather, topography, soil composition and the cultivation – which in combination create a unique, and hence, noteworthy agriculture. There are 4 traditional concepts of climate in terroir; the macroclimate – a regional system like a river valley; the mesoclimate – the weather of an individual place, such as a vineyard; the microclimate – a particular patch of the garden; and finally the canopy microclimate – the climatic microcosm between the foliage of your crop and the breath of your soil. The Mendocino cannabis community is organizing by way of our culture, our craft & our place. We are defining Cultural Terroir as the 5th determining climate, which encompasses the socio-economic-political conditions of a given people, in a given place, at a given time. Our cannabis agriculture has been shaped by culture that has been shaped by prohibition, and all three are rapidly evolving. We are gathering in our local communities to explore, archive & narratize our cultural experiences. In this way we honor our elders & their journey, and prepare the way for our progeny to evolve our agricultural legacy for generations yet to come.
Lauren Vazquez is the Fired Up Lawyer. She is a cannabis business attorney and social entrepreneur who has worked for over a decade to end cannabis prohibition and advance alternatives to the failed war on drugs. Lauren has practiced cannabis business law since 2009 and entered private practice in 2011. She has advised numerous cannabis companies and organizations. Lauren is a Professor at Oaksterdam University and previously served as the National Deputy Director of Communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. In 2016, Lauren was a Senior Advisor and statewide coordinator for the successful Prop 64 Campaign that legalized cannabis in California.
Danielle Barber is a cannabis wellness consultant, that has been with Harborside since 2007. During that time, she has worked in several leadership roles, currently serving as the Ombuds Manager and local community engagement representative. Danielle grew up in Oakland, CA, as the daughter of a Baptist minister. This upbringing has allowed for a unique perspective on life and a tremendous amount of empathy and compassion towards others. Being one of the few people of color in a leadership role in the industry, Danielle has more recently become involved in vocalizing the need to create a more diverse leadership and ownership dynamic in the industry. She is the co-chair of OakDECC (Oakland Diversity and Equity Cannabis Coalition) and has organized several events focused on building diversity in the industry.
Amber E. Senter brings eighteen years of marketing and project management experience to Long Dog Consulting. A veteran of the United States Coast Guard, Ms. Senter’s pre-cannabis career was spent in the south and midwest providing high level design and marketing services to Fortune 500 companies, including Home Depot, Walmart, and Whole Foods. After years of successful employment in the traditional marketplace, Ms. Senter moved to California to work in the established medical cannabis industry full time. In her time in California, Ms. Senter went from Creative Director at a cannabis consulting firm to Chief Operations Officer (COO) at Magnolia Wellness. Her voice is trusted in the growing cannabis industry, as is her unsurpassed knowledge of the end medical and recreational user base. Ms. Senter also contributed to the Berkeley Compassionate Care Collective’s successful bid for a medical cannabis dispensary license in a highly competitive bidding process. Ms. Senter also co-founded and is Chief Executive Officer of Leisure Life, a lifestyle and infused edibles company, where she heads product development and marketing for the brand. Ms. Senter is a sought after coach and mentor, and a role model for new cannabis business entrepreneurs. She has spoken at several business conferences on various topics, including the High Times Business Summit, the International Cannabis Business Conference, and the New West Summit.
Together again for the first time – The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, The Tennessee Farm, The Hog Farm, The Merry Pranksters, Synergia Ranch, the Ecological Farming Association (EcoFarm) and the Women’s Visionary Council.
Members of these visionary psychedelic groups will share their stories of building and maintaining their communities from the 1960’s to now, diving into the lessons that have enable them to survive and preserve their ideals and ideas 50 years later. This information is particularly valuable now as we face the potential for political and environmental challenges that are reminiscent of the cultural environment that these communities broke away from.
This workshop will be structured as a community conversation.
The Women’s Visionary Congress presents its first workshop on savoring seasonal foods as a delicious connection to the Earth and her bounty! The adventure beings on Sunday, November 6th with a FREE FARM TOUR of City Slicker Farms at 2847 Peralta St. in West Oakland, CA. Join us from 10 AM – 2 PM as we learn about this nonprofit farm that recently launched an urban Farm Park in its neighborhood. Our visit will include a presentation from the women who run Imperfect Produce. Both groups are central to a functional revolution in our food system. The tour will be followed by lunch from 2-3 PM at a West Oakland cafe location to be announced.
From 3-4 pm, a shuttle will pick up attendees for a COOKING AND CANNING CLASS at 271 Francisco St. in San Francisco, CA. Led by visionary chef Emma Sanchez, the class will take place from 4-8 PM. Using fruit and vegetables from Imperfect Produce, participants will learn to can applesauce and pumpkin butter and receive an apron and canned food to take home for holiday gifts. We will end the class with a group dinner featuring dishes we will prepare during the class: pumpkin curry with crème fraiche, fresh bread, and apple crumble. Registration is required. Rates are on a sliding scale – we ask that you donate as much as you are able to help WVC and our chef cover the costs associated with putting on this event. Come learn to can as our grandmothers did and celebrate the season with us!
Thank you, Annie. Thank you so much, everyone. It’s wonderful to be here. I like how this morning has progressed from Leary to this beautiful study, which opens up so much of the human heart and now to the bee, which is really the embodiment of love. The bees are playing a starring role right now as clarion, as canary in the coalmine for the mess that we are in on this planet, and it is global. I have been stewarding bees now for, I think I’m actually into my fourth year now, and yes, I work with them shamanically. It makes perfect sense and when I do my mushroom medicine they come to me and they don’t actually speak in English but they are all around me. The Greeks thought of them as messengers of the gods and mellisa or mellisae is the Greek word for honeybee, and the priestesses of the temples in the Mediterranean were called, “melissaes” and those temples were modeled after the beehive.
So, I’m going to touch on a lot of things here in a very short amount of time. Before I get fully into the honeybee, I just want to give props to the other pollinators. They are not the only pollinators. So we have the hummingbird and we have the butterfly and we have the gorgeous bats and the bumblebees and mason bees and even flying foxes are pollinators in some parts of the world. And they all play a massive role in what I think of as creating and maintaining beauty, and as a child that’s what I always used to say. I said, “I love bees so much because they create and maintain beauty.” I was always very touched by them and then of course they give us our food source as well.
Okay, so this is an old coin and that is a skep beehive, which has been used for a long, long time through the centuries. I chose this because the bee is really a symbol of the feminine, and the bee is about roundness. And the ancients observed. That was one thing they were very good at. They didn’t have too many diversions and they observed, and they observed that bees would choose trees or hollow logs and it was all about a round container. So, when they did come up with hives they created a skep. The bummer about that was that they would destroy the whole colony when they got the honey. In any case, before that, the Greeks, the Minoans, the other cultures also had circular containers for the bees so bear that in mind because we will see that play out in the hive.
Image courtesy of honeypondfarm.com
So, I’m just going to get to the queen bee. We’ll start with her. There she is, a much longer bee. So she is the queen bee and she is the oldest symbol, by the way, of the divine mother goddess that we know. There are other symbols but she’s a pretty big one. So she rules the roost as it were. She lays 1500 to 2000 eggs per day. She does not leave the hive. Now as I tell you this, by the way, bear in mind the priestesshoods. So she’s surrounded by attendants always who cater to her every need. They feed her, they clean her, they remove her waste, and her sole job is to lay these eggs and I’ll speak later to what happens when she leaves the hive. She sends out pheromones and those pheromones go throughout the hive and they send the signals for the bees for what needs to be done. She is the only female in the hive who mates and we’ll discuss that at length later as well. So she is this extraordinary creature.
And you’ll see they are on honeycomb and those are hexagonal-shaped cells and the eggs are laid in those cells. Now, when a queen bee, when her cell is laid, it’s not one of those. It actually is a separate cell. It’s like a peanut almost, like a protruding finger. It’s longer because she has a longer body. So what happens is the workers will choose specific cells and they’re going to grow a queen there. So they’re going to feed her a different food than the younger brood is fed, and it’s royal jelly. So, I’m sure some of you have heard about it because the entire hive is a medicine chest. Talk about medicine. This is big stuff. So she is fed royal jelly and the constituents in royal jelly inform the pupae hormonally so it will transform into a queen.
Here’s what it looks like if you cut a queen cell open. There is the developing pupae and she’s in this gorgeous liquid and it is secreted from glands within the worker bee’s head. They grow in this liquid and their body grows to accommodate this queen cell. I will say, royal jelly is one of the medicines that comes from the hive. I actually don’t use it because the bees are so imperiled and that’s a tough one. So I kind of leave that alone, there is other bee medicine that I can use.
So there’s the queen – mama – and she’s surrounded by all her attendants. She’s elusive when you’re looking for her in the hive, she scrambles around and she’s not always so easy to find. So this gives you and idea. There’s three, and by the way, I’m way into numbers. They’re very esoteric and there is very, very high esoteric symbolism going on with the bee and the hive. So, we have the queen, “mama.” We have the worker bee there, and the much bigger drone. I’m going to speak to Rudolf Steiner. I am dedicating my book to that beautiful man. He spoke to the bees saying these are like the organs within the hive. The hive itself is really like an organism, a single organism. So these are our organs. So she lays the eggs, and I’ll get into the role of the worker bees and the drones.
The next star on our list is the worker bee. There you are, darling. She started as an egg and then a pupa and then at a certain point in her development there is a thin wax sheath that covers her cell and she grows to her full development. She then chews her way out of that cell and cleans up after herself. They are meticulous housecleaners. Then she goes to work right away and starts patrolling the hive, So, she’s all furry. She’s the cutest darn thing, if she didn’t have that stinger… So they have a number of chores. The worker bees are female bees. The hive at the height of the season will swell to fifty, sixty thousand bees. So, you’ll have the queen, “mama” and then you have these workers and when I get to the drones, which are the male bees, you might have just five hundred to a thousand male drones.
There are a lot of female bees so it’s really like a sisterhood. They will feed the pupae. They live for about six weeks. The first three weeks of their lives are spent within the hive and they will take nectar from the foraging bees. They’ll pass it from mouth to mouth and then they’ll spit it into the cells and create the honey. They will feed the brood. They’ll clean the hive. They’ll hang out in front of the entrance and be guard bees and make sure no “unfamiliars” get in. They also build the honeycomb and they do that – check this out. They secrete wax from their abdomen and this is way cool. They put it in their mouth and they chew it to soften it and then they pass it to their back legs and then they manipulate it into the honeycomb, which is a mathematical, geometric wonder. I’ll get to that in a bit. So, they mix that wax with a bit of propolis, which is resin collected from the trees. I’ll also cover that. I’m squeezing in a lot in forty-five minutes, just FYI.
So they create this gorgeous, pure white honeycomb and then the queen will lay her eggs. So that is a feat and when they do it you can see the bees hang like a chain, and by the way, there’s the roundness again. They hang this way. It’s almost heart-shaped, and they create their comb. It’s really amazing and the comb would be considered the bones of the organism, of the hive. No comb, no hive.
And so this is their tongue, their “proboscis.” When they go out foraging those last three weeks of their life, well of course, the bee is thought of as the feminine and the great mother bee because she was pollinating the flowers. On the fur of their body they will collect the pollen from the male flowers and then go on the female flowers and everything gets pollinated. They use their proboscis to suckle out the nectar, and it’s the nectar from the flowers that creates the honey.
Image courtesy of http://www.bee-magic.com
So, those are the pollen sacks. I think it’s a hilarious picture. It looks like she’s ready for take-off. Well, they hit all these different flowers and the hairs on their legs are particularly long and they collect all the pollen.
Image courtesy of David Cappaert – Michigan State University
Here’s another picture of a bee in a flower and you’ll see different colors, from deep orange to deep yellow, of that gorgeous pollen. It will cover their entire body and they’ll return to the hive and the pollen is the food for the brood. It’s an amazing food for the bee – 40% protein. It has absolutely everything they need. So, that’s our worker bees – the girls. I call them “my girls.”
Here’s the drone and you can see, well, let’s go back if I can. Okay, you can see the eyes on the worker bee, they’re very different on the drones. And they are so cute. They do not have stingers. The worker bees, as I think many of us know, do. And by the way, real quick. The queen bee has a stinger and she can sting as often as she needs to. She doesn’t really use it but the worker bees, they sting once and it’s game over. They really don’t want to sting you. So the drones, these are the male bees, and in conventional beekeeping, which I don’t do – a lot of beekeepers don’t want those bees in the hive and they think of them as kind of superfluous. The drones do not collect honey. They don’t forage. They have to be fed. So you think, well what the hell are they doing? They’re taking up all this room in the hive and they’re eating all the honey and yada yada yada. But no, no, of course not. They are waiting for the queen to take what’s called her “nuptial flight” and I’ll get to that in a minute. They’ll fly up and she’ll fly six hundred feet into the air and they will follow her. They live for this so they can mate with the queen. They also maintain the heat of the hive and Steiner felt also, because the drones are more connected to the earth, that they’re like the sense organs of the hive. And listen, nature doesn’t make mistakes. I wish we would get that through our thick heads. So, I don’t remove my drones. I let the hive produce as much drone as they feel they need.
So, let’s talk about a swarm. That is a swarm and it’s extraordinary. Again, conventional beekeepers don’t want their bees to swarm so they’ll use a queen excluder in the hive so she can’t walk through the entire hive and she can’t swarm when she wants to swarm. So, I said that the hive is a single organism so swarming is a way that they perpetuate themselves. So, in the spring, if they’ve survived the winter, the nectar stores are there, the queen is laying. It starts to swell and gets to a point where the queen decides, “All right, it is time to leave and find a new place.” You would think, well, why? You’ve got everything you need. You’ve got all this honey and all these new bees and all of this is happening. Why would you leave when it’s all so perfect? So here is this act of love and also an act of faith, I think. So, she sends the signal and three quarters of the hive will gorge themselves on honey and then thousands of them will leave the hive. It’s this incredible black cloud of bees, and they will fly to a nearby branch. It’s very chaotic because the queen is in the center and they want to keep her protected so they keep it really chaotic.
So, they’ll go to a nearby branch and they will alight and this is what you get. It’s SO awesome, and again, there’s that beautiful shape, that round shape and they’re all around the queen. Now, the uninitiated who don’t know bees will kind of freak out if they see this in their yard but they will not sting you. They’re gorged on honey, they actually cannot sting you. They also have bigger and better things to do because they have three – interesting number – especially if you study law. It’s the ultimate esoteric study – but in any case – and I swear it goes back to the bees. But in any case, three days to find a home, otherwise they will perish. So they send scout bees out to find a home and eventually they do. And I’ll tell you, one of my hives didn’t make it over the winter and it stood empty and a swarm showed up out of nowhere and found my hive and it was awesome. I didn’t even have to catch it. If you do catch these you can catch them with your bare hands, they won’t sting you.
You have a box underneath and you just put them in the box. It’s so amazing and then you put the box under and leave the rest of the bees and they’ll find their way to it. The bees will come outside of the box and they’ll wave their little bottoms, which is a signal to say, “Hey, we’ve got a home. We’re good to go.” And so, you leave it till nightfall and then you get the other scouts back and then the next day, you can hive your new bees, which I’ve done.
So, meanwhile, back at the ranch, at the hive itself, you’ve got about a quarter of the bees. Well, what happens is as soon as they know the queen is going to swarm, they will pick certain cells and they will start feeding them the royal jelly, right? So, you’ve got these queens cells and the first queen to hatch will sting to death the other queens. This doesn’t sound very nice but it’s the wisdom of nature because you want the strongest – now this is key – you want the strongest queen, right? You want a healthy hive because she determines the kind of bees you’re going to get. If you have a weak queen you’re going to have weak bees. And if you have a mean queen, by the way, you’re going to have mean bees, so good to know. But in any case, eventually she hatches and a couple of days later she takes her nuptial flight. So, she flies from the hive five to six hundred feet into the air. Into the sun by the way, which I’ll discuss. And then the drones who have been waiting for this moment, and there will be drones from other places as well, fly up to meet her. So, the drone will – and only the strongest ones will reach her – and insert his endophallus, which then rips off and the drone falls to his death. And then the next drone to reach her will pull that out and then insert his endophallus and so again, the wisdom of nature to get as much differing DNA as she can so she creates a healthy colony.
So, now I just want to speak to the beehive itself. Oh and not that beehive! Just a little bee humor for you. But interesting and I also think of like the wigs of the French court and whatnot. What were they doing? I wonder!
In any case, we’ll get to the beehive itself. So, honey – we all know honey. Honey is extremely healing. Bees are alchemists and there’s a guy in the UK who is part of the Steiner college there and he’s a speaker and a writer, Patrick Dixon, and he calls bees, “monastic alchemists.” And so they create this extraordinary substance called honey, which is from nectar and nectar from the flowers is oxygen, hydrogen, and blah, blah, blah, and light from the sun. That’s what it is. So honey is light. You’re eating light. It was used by the Egyptians who used it as medicine, who took medicine to a high art, they really did, and the Greeks. So formulas regularly consisted of honey along with herbs and vinegar and that kind of thing. So, extremely healing for your body. You can use it as a salve. You can use it for burns and I’m sure some of you have heard of Manuka honey out of New Zealand, which you can put on an open wound and it will heal it. And I don’t have time to get into everything about this but it is a profound healing substance.
Then there’s mead and I’m not a drinker but I will sip a bit of mead, which I say is the drink of faeries and kings. And old, old, old, it comes out of Africa originally, because check this out. The bees in Africa would hive in a hollow log because some elephant would knock off a big branch and they’d be in there. And then the monsoon would come with the rains and the bees would get out of dodge, but all their honey was left and this natural yeast would occur in there and you’d end up with mead, which I would love to taste that mead. I mean…made by nature… In any case, the ancients got their hands on that and made it a high art form for a long, long, long time. So, it’s honey wine, fermented honey wine. And it’s made quite a comeback now and there are some delicious versions of it.
They also have wax of course, that is created in the hive and of course wax was used for candles and the monks of old were big beekeepers because they wanted that wax for their candles. And also it can be made into balms and salves and lotions, which I do with my beeswax. Amazing stuff.
This is propolis. So the bees when they forage, it’s not just for nectar. They will go to the trees and they will take the resin from the tree and mix it with their enzymes and create this sticky substance and they use it to line the walls of the hive and to fill in every nook and cranny so that there is no draft and they’ll put it around the entrance as well and it is incredible. It’s antimicrobial, antibiotic, antibacterial, antifungal. It’s just amazing and you can make tinctures out of it. It really is the immune system of the colony. It’s really amazing and it’s amazing for your own immune system and I make my own propolis tincture.
And then of course the bee pollen, which is thought of as nature’s perfect food. It has everything actually, that our bodies require. I mean, you could live on it. I wouldn’t want to but if you had to…It’s amazing and it’s incredibly vitalizing and good for endurance and on and on. So the hive is a medicine chest and the bees create all of this. They are extraordinary beings and we can understand why they were revered so long ago.
Image courtesy of http://themelissagarden.com
So, this is just a gorgeous painted beehive from a place called, ‘The Melissa Garden,’ which is in California somewhere in this neck of the woods. So the beehive was thought of as the adytum of the temple and the bee was like the initiate entering the temple, which is this place of great mystery. And it’s dark and it’s a place where alchemy occurs. And I wanted to give you this quote by Jonathon Swift who wrote,
“We have rather chose to fill our hives with honey and wax, thus furnishing mankind with the two noblest of things, which are sweetness and light.”
So the hive is the embodiment of love and light, which gives new meaning to those love and light types, and the bees definitely are. Also, it is a symbol of resurrection and transmutation. So, deep esoteric stuff. The Greeks called them the “birds of the muses” and they were thought to be the souls of the dead coming back as bees. Now in terms of the transmutation and resurrection, I just want to read you a quote by this guy, Samuel Purchase, who was a cleric in the 1700’s, and he said about this – which is just so perfect:
“The larva of a bee is scarcely worthy to be called a life but after it is transformed by death it appears in a more excellent and glorious condition. It lies dead and entombed in the cell wherein it was bred but wait with patience a score of days and you shall see it revive and appear a far more noble creature than what it was before. What is this but an emblem of the resurrection?”
I mean, think about that because you can think of the cell as almost tomb-like and the egg is laid and you get this pupa and then the cell or the tomb is covered and then it emerges and you get this very different being. So anyway…very profound.
So now we get to Rudolf Steiner, who I adore and he was really a multi-faceted genius. Born in Austria in 1861, died in 1924. In 1923 he gave a series of lectures on the bees and you can read the book online. He explores not only the esoteric nature but what Rudolf was was a spiritual scientist who wove together the esoteric wisdom of the ancients with science and made it, I think accessible, I do. So he said of the bees, which I think of as the embodiment of love,
“I’ve already told you about the reproductive process and the unconscious wisdom contained in it. This unconscious wisdom is unfolded by the bees in their external activity. What we only experience when love arises in our hearts is to be felt by the bees in the whole hive as substance. The whole hive is reality permeated with love. The individual bees renounce love in manifold ways and thus develop love throughout the whole hive. One only begins to understand the life of the bees when one understands that the bee resides in an atmosphere completely pervaded by love. On the other hand the bee is quite especially favored in that in its turn, the bee feeds upon just those parts of the plants that are also wholly pervaded by love. The bees suck out their food, which they then turn into honey exclusively from those parts of the plants that are centered in love. They bring, so to speak, the love life of the flowers into the hive.”
Yes, well I was gonna say… ANNIE! That’s for you, my friend!
So, Steiner spoke to how bees are the embodiment of light and of the sun. There’s a fabulous documentary called, ‘Queen of the Sun.’ Watch it. And here’s why they called it, “Queen of the Sun.” Check this out. So the sun revolves on its own axis every twenty-one days. Well, guess what the gestation time of the bee is? Twenty-one days. So, Steiner explained it this way. Okay, first of all, he was into the science of Goethe. So, unlike material science that brings it down to the parts and examines the parts and it’s all separate, Goethe saw that it was about the whole. And so the celestial realms, the sky, the stars – it’s magnetic, guys. So, when you took your first breath and the constellations were in a specific configuration and you were born, you are the physical manifestation of where those stars were aligned. You are, and those patterns were struck at your birth. So that is the case for every living thing. So the worker bee, its gestation time is twenty-one days and so it carries the energy of the full revolution of the sun to the very end. So it is a creature of the sun.
Now the queen, her gestation is 16 days. So she never completed the revolution of the sun. She is fully a creature of the sun and this is also, Steiner said, why she can lay eggs because she is closer to her larval state and she is closer to the sun. In other words, that ability to lay eggs comes from, well, the sun is a major star, is it not? It comes from the stars. Humans would be a different deal and we won’t go into that right now. So the worker has gone to the very end of that cycle and maybe just a moment past. So, this is also why the queen is the embodiment of the sun. She stays within the hive and she’s really the light of that hive. And then the workers can go out.
Then the drone – his gestation is twenty-four days. Three – we’re back to three – three days beyond the worker bee. So the drones have essentially fallen to earth in a sense. And when you think of earth you think of fertility, don’t you? So they are fertile. They are able now to fertilize the queen. And they are earth beings. So, I just think that is very interesting and you can get way, way deep into that but we have to move on.
So, onto the comb itself. This is extraordinary. It’s hexagonal-shaped. The bees need to utilize every inch of space. It wouldn’t work with circles. It wouldn’t work with squares. They meet at exactly 120-degree angles and this gave the bees their status as masters of sacred order and beauty and geometry. And the Pythagoreans were all over this and studied the bees quite extensively. Also, conventional beekeepers, when they have their frames in the hive, they would have man-made comb that the bees would then build their comb out from. The problem is bees make comb. Why are you doing that? I know it’s easier and they make the cells a bit bigger so you get a bigger bee and blah, blah, blah, and more honey.
So, here it is, if the bees are allowed to make their own comb and you can see it is more rounded though it’s in a frame. Now, if left to their own devices… and this picture will be the top of the hive but with no frames and the bees were allowed to do what they wanted, and they lifted the top and flipped it over. So, check that out! How feminine and it’s heart-shaped and it just makes you go like this (gestures), you know? It’s just amazing. So there they are, doing what they do.
Now I will speak briefly to the hive as womb because it’s also a symbol of the womb. And so the womb, again, it’s like alchemy. It’s its own little hive and it’s dark and it’s warm and mysterious and this exquisite alchemy occurs, and something is created, birthed, shall we say, in this womb. And so the hive is a very potent symbol of the feminine and the womb.
Minoan Bee Goddess, golden plaque, British Museum. Found at Camiros, Rhodes, 7th century BCE.
And so to the ancients, the Minoans preceded the Greeks in the Bronze Age, 2000BC to 1500BC, and many of these have been found, these amulets and whatnot, of this figure that is half bee, half woman. And the Minoans referred to the mother, well they had a word called, “Potnia.” That means, “pure mother bee” and that was reserved for sacred women and goddesses, and these goddesses were called, “Potnia.” And so there were these temples composed of priestesses and they would serve a specific goddess and there were goddesses that were thought of as the queen bee like Demeter, Artemis and Persephone. So you had these groups of women who came together to serve in this temple. Now the worker bees don’t mate so these women were very chaste and they maintained and created beauty and they participated in these exquisite rituals and served their communities as the bees do.
The bees are a symbol for community and beauty and mystery and the sacred and these women endeavored to be the embodiment of that, which brings us to Delphi.
Now bees are associated with prophecy and again, the ancients were observing them and the bees always seemed to know. They wouldn’t leave their hive on a particular day and sure enough a big wind would come or there would be rain, because of course, you know that bees are highly sensitive to electromagnetic waves. So they were associated with prophecy, so we’re emulating the bees, and prophecy has long been the domain of women. We’re kind of naturally good at that, and Delphi was created a long, long time ago and it lasted a long time.
Interestingly, these women would imbibe some kind of an entheogen. It was the gasses that emitted from a crevice in the rock cave but also they were given a specific something to drink. Interestingly, one of those was a honey mead, and there is a Rhododendron ponticum and Azalea pontica and they produce a flower that creates a psychoactive honey. If you have too much it will make you good and sick, but these guys back then, they were alchemists so I’m sure they knew just the right amount of that, and then mixed it with this herb and this herb, and it was given to the priestess, who would then go into this altered state and connect to these realms and bring through information. And these weren’t scheisters, you know. That temple was around for fifteen hundred years or longer and there were warlords and emperors and all these different people coming from all around to get information from these women. So I can assure you, if they were full of shit that place would have closed down in a couple of months.
They were in touch with very profound wisdom and at one point – it was said the temple of Delphi went through several incarnations and it was said that the walls were once lined with beeswax and feathers. I couldn’t imagine. Can you imagine how that must have smelled? Incredible. The priestesses there were called the “Delphic bees,” and “melissas” and there were coins made with the honeybee on them in honor of the priestesses.
So another thing is this is a bee doing a waggle dance, which it does when it finds a good location for nectar. It will come back to the hive and it will do this dance and it’s directing the bees where to go. So again, they were observing these creatures so dance became a big part of what these women were doing in these temples.
And so there are old pictures such as this and you can see that these are women but you can see that is layered like a bee abdomen so again, part bee, part woman, dancing together and we know dancing is a way of achieving altered states. So is drumming and the majority of people depicted in the Greek statuary and whatnot, it’s mostly women who have frame drums. And Gunther Hauk, who is a biodynamic beekeeper has said that bees are attracted to the drum. He said that it reminds them of the human heart and it calms them. And the ancients would actually attract them by drumming and using cymbals. So here’s an image of priestesses who are doing just that – dancing and drumming and whatnot, and killing two birds with one stone and going into a good old altered state as well and maybe catching some bees.
In any case, this is an omphalos stone. This was contained within the adytum at Delphi and it looks very much like a beehive, doesn’t it? The bees were thought of as messengers of the gods and they would deliver all this wisdom. And the legend of the omphalos is that Zeus sent two eagles out in opposite directions and said, “wherever they meet is the navel of the world.” Omphalos means “navel” and it was said they met at Delphi. So this omphalos stone was there and you see this in a lot of ancient statuary.
And here’s something interesting. This is Persephone with an omphalos on her head. So again, a very beehive-shaped deal telling you she is receiving information from the gods through this beehive. So here is another one to reiterate my point.
And also these are omphalos bowls. So, very interesting. You’ve got that bulge in the center, which is very beehive-like and then this bowl around it. They would put a sacred libation in there and then they would pour it. I saw this and thought, “wait a minute..” Because think of women, and we have our pelvic bowl, right? So, wait a minute. I just think that is very interesting. The uterus is like that bulge within the pelvic bowl. So again, back to that very sacred connection and reverence for the feminine. The bee embodies that.
And then real quick, the pomegranate, which also has that bulge there and all those seeds there are a symbol of fertility and also a symbol of the beehive and the bees love its syrup. Okay, so that’s that gorgeous magical connection that our ancestors had with the bee. And so now, to kill your buzz, so to speak, let’s get into the sad facts.
So, get ready. So this I find, like I can’t even look at it. To me it’s so offensive and upsetting. So this is a laboratory and it is a queen bee being artificially inseminated. So, I title this, “The Rape,” and I think this sort of summarizes everything (click link to view image). And Steiner warned against this. Steiner said if you manipulate the bees – this is modern manipulation. What farmers were doing back at the turn of the century – just as farmers would hybridize plants to get stuff from them, they started breeding the queen, and they were breeding her for specific traits. When you do that you lose other intrinsic traits and you weaken the species. So we’ve had decades of this and now they’ve got it down to a high science. What happens? Well, you lost all those drones who would fertilize the queen and you don’t necessarily have the strongest queen so it’s a mess and it’s big business.
So there are companies that breed queens and you know, on one hand it serves a small…but we’re talking about industry. It’s an industry and another thing Steiner warned was, he said “Do not use the land commercially. Don’t use the land to make money. Don’t do it.” So, hello? Take almond farms, so we’ve got mono-culture and genetic, GMO and all of this. So, we’ve got acres and acres for as far as the eye can see of one thing. And the bees that are schlepped there, they are like us. They need a diversity of foods. So they only have that for three weeks. Not only that but the farmers are spraying pesticides and they can spray willy nilly to their heart’s content at these places while the bees are there trying to do their job.
So, we’re going to get into commercial beekeeping. So, just as factory farming, which is a contradiction in terms – is not farming – industrial beekeeping is not beekeeping. It’s an aberration. They have ginormous trucks and they have like 1.6 million hives that are schlepped like comfort women from end of the country to the other on these ginormous trucks and they wrap plastic wrap around them and netting. The problem is that if you have this dude’s bees from South Dakota and they are infested with, I don’t know, some mite or something, and he brings them to pollinate with all these other bees from all over the country, you just spread that like wildfire. Not only that, I mean, they’re just so weakened. That is not how you keep bees. It’s no different than keeping a pig in a place where she can’t even move around or cramming these animals together. This is not how nature is.
And then of course you get messes like big accidents on a highway and you lose so many bees. So, they’re desperately weakened and this is what they feed them – high fructose corn syrup, which is genetically modified. I have two girls, sixteen and thirteen and they’re not allowed to eat anything with high fructose corn syrup. So, what these guys do is they just pour it in. It’s liquid. They’re bees and that’s what they feed them and then they take their honey and they think that that’s enough.
So, then we have the agricultural spraying of pesticides and Steiner gave a series of talks in 1924, which turned into biodynamics and that was actually a response, a solution, to the chemical spraying. I always thought it was World War 2 but it was World War 1. That’s when it started. So, you’re basically spraying nerve gas all over the place on food that we eat. So there’s another example and this just destroys not only our honeybees but all of our pollinators. You’ve got people in their backyards spraying willy nilly his trees so that’s very bad for us. And this just sort of tells you what pesticides do, and a big piece that we can do is not use the damn pesticides, they’re just brutal on the bees, and GMO’s also. If nature didn’t make it I’m not putting it in my body and I know you guys are scientists (referring to the slides) but that’s more for me to not trust, actually.
So, I’ll come into the solution real quick. For the earth. What I see is a powerful solution and it goes beyond organic. It is biodynamics, and what biodynamics is, is you’re actually giving remedies to the earth. So Steiner came up with these extraordinary remedies. There are two field sprays and then there are these other remedies that get put into your compost. So this is for farms where the farm becomes its own organism and it makes everything itself. It makes its own compost and everything is a part of that organism and you’ve got a wild portion and the animals and whatnot. So you take these horns from cows and you fill them with manure and…I have so little time to go into this. And you bury them into the earth in the fall and winter and they absorb the forces of the earth.
So now we’re into Goerthean science, which understands the underlying forces behind everything. And there are specific terrestrial forces as there are specific celestial forces that work together. So, when you dig those horns up in the spring you get this gorgeous hummussy–like – it’s not manure anymore and that gets – a little bit gets put into water and it gets stirred till you create a vortex and then you stir it back the other way and it creates chaos in the water and then the water reorganizes itself. And you do that for an hour and then the water is like a homeopathic treatment. Homeopathy is like, dilute, dilute, dilute, and then it becomes very strong and then you just flick that on the ground. But by the way, you flick it on the ground in the evening because just as we breathe, so does the earth. As above, so below, as within so without, so just as we breath in, guess what? At nighttime the earth breathes in, so you want to put that on the soil at night and it will be absorbed as the earth breathes in. And in the fall and winter, the earth breathes in and in the spring and summer, the earth breathes out and all the plants come out.
So there’s a silica spray, which is crystals and those are crushed and also put in horns but buried in the spring and summer then dug up. And those have absorbed the light forces so that is the foliar spray, which gets sprayed on the plant’s leaves and enhances the plant’s ability to absorb light. And these other homeopathics go into the compost and I have used it. You can do it in your garden. So that’s a biodynamic garden. You don’t need to make these by yourself. Check out the Josephine Porter Institute – they are a ginormous farm and they make these homeopathic remedies and you can buy them and then do this yourself. It transforms the land and your soil will be teeming with worms and beneficial organism. So what you do is, you are affecting the whole ecosystem even if it’s just your backyard garden. So you’re giving the bees and all these pollinators not just great plants but incredibly nourishing plants.
Vegetables and fruits that come from biodynamic farms are amazing and this preceded organics by fourteen years but it’s still relatively unknown and very, very powerful. And it’s out of the box thinking but again you’re also working with the celestial, the positioning of the planets, the sun and moon, all of which has an effect on us. Like it or not, believe it or not, it does. So very, very powerful and I will finish with a poem. I’ll finish with a poem. I run in this woods near my house and I always come home pouring forth poetry and one day, the bees, I mean the trees because I’m good friends with them as well, and they said, “Dear one, don’t you get it? Poe-TREE!” Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. So cute! So, I wrote this poem for the bees and its called, “Pledge to the Bee.”
Thy majesty, our dear queen bee
Thy fate seems sealed if man can’t see
The commercialization of nature’s garden
Has caused the hearts of man to harden
The hubris of man as he splices genes
The spraying of poisons on fields of green
The skies criss-crossed with chemical spray
I fear that there will come a day
When the blossom of fruit tree and scented flower
Lies sterile without the bee’s sweet power
To suckle the nectar with loving care
In a sensual dance that brings to bear
All manner of bounty, a radiant feast
That feeds and delights both man and beast
Thy majesty and maintainer of beauty
I pledge to thee, my solemn duty
To care for the land with a sensitive touch
Guided by nature that teaches me such
That celestial and telluric forces
Respond to certain specific courses
Of actions that don’t follow popular science
But follow a higher cosmic alliance
Oh dear bees, I shall not rest
As long as my heart beats beneath my breast
I’ll write, I’ll speak, I’ll share the magic
Of remedies to prevent the tragic
Loss of you and so many creatures
Whose presence in my garden features
Largely as I hear the song
Of bee and bird, oh how I long
To see the hearts of mankind awaken
And return to nature what has been taken
By working with earth instead of against her
We call back the beauty and cast out the gangster
Whose plunder has caused such harm and disgrace
To the character of the human race
This is our time to save not just the bee
But all creatures and humanity
Our moment is now, the time is here
Take action all and do not fear
For the spirit of man and woman is true
And the Goddess is calling me and you
To summon our authority
And gather our community
To begin to act with sanity
As we recreate with dignity
A planet of people who act with grace
And restore consciousness to the human race
I hold this vision as what can be
When people remember their sovereignty
Oh blessed pollinators, dear
Your warnings we hear loud and clear
I know that we have the power to heal
And hold to ourselves a new ideal
This is my vision-quest in life
May the bees prevail as we end this strife.
WVC acknowledges that a growing number of people throughout the world are participating in ceremonies that use psychoactive substances. We recognize that these rituals can offer participants opportunities for deep healing and self-knowledge. Our community is also troubled by the fact that women who participate in these ceremonies have sometimes been the targets of sexual harassment and assault by shamans and other facilitators. Sadly, the abuse of women by people who present themselves as spiritual leaders is a very old problem that long predates the growing interest in the ceremonial use of these materials. People of all genders have been subjected to these violations.
There is no firm data about the frequency of this misuse of power and many victims are reluctant to publicly discuss their experiences. WVC is also keenly aware that stories about these types of violations are sometimes sensationalized by the media and those who seek to profit from these accounts. We make a firm distinction between the regulation of psychoactive substances and practices that could support the safety of those participating in these ceremonies. Some psychoactive substances are legal in certain countries and considered an expression of indigenous medicinal knowledge and religious freedom. Court rulings in the United States and elsewhere acknowledge that the use of these substances is protected from prosecution on religious grounds.
Traditional means of regulation for the ceremonial use of some substances have been in place for many years. Since existing laws against sexual assault are already present in countries where these ceremonies take place, we do not endorse additional government regulations, standards, or controls imposed by perhaps well-meaning groups. History has shown that these measures are often turned against users and producers of such materials and often do not reflect the values of indigenous cultures which have a deep understanding of these substances.
While we do not support additional regulatory frameworks, sexual assault is a crime regardless of the context. Everyone has a right to be treated with respect while participating in spiritual ceremonies. We support accountability for those who lead these ceremonies and measures taken by participants to proactively help secure their own safety. While many shamans and other healers act with great integrity, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself from those that do not.
Below is a list of recommendations that may help you effectively prepare for these experiences and reduce the potential for unsafe encounters.
1. Work with Women – Consider working in all female groups and or/ with a female facilitator, or at least facilitators who work in male/female pairs.
2. Conduct Due Diligence – Check out the reputation of the shaman or healer you are considering being in ceremony with. If possible, talk to people who have worked with this person and their assistants. Search online for reviews by past participants. Inquire about the facilitator, healer or shaman’s background and who they are apprenticing with. Determining their lineage and if they apprentice with those who are known to violate women provides insight into their integrity. Consider that those who work with known abusers are culpable and seek others to work with. If you cannot confirm the background of your intended healer, wait for another opportunity to be in ceremony with facilitators whose ethics you can verify.
3. Consider The Substance – Carefully consider the quality of the substance that the healer is dispensing during the ceremony. Talk to others who have ingested preparations made by the same person or group. Try to determine which substance(s) will be used and at what dosage. If you have never ingested this material, research its effects, possible benefits and drawbacks. If you are new to the material, consider ingesting at the lowest dosage offered. Erowid is a great resource for learning about psychoactive medicines.
4. Check Out Ceremonial Site – Determine where the ceremony will be held and if the location was considered safe and comfortable by past participants. Contact others who have attended ceremonies in that location. Request a description of the space and how it will be used.
5. Secure Safe Lodging – If you are traveling to participate in the ceremony, investigate the safety of your lodgings. This is especially important if you plan to attend a ceremony in a country other than your own. Determine if others feel safe there. Read online reviews of your intended accommodations. Ask for an escort if you feel unsafe en route to your lodging.
6. Find Local Ceremonies – Consider taking part in ceremonies in your own community or a nearby location. A growing number of shamans travel to locations in the U.S., Canada and Europe. These practitioners can be held accountable under laws within these jurisdictions. Determine if there is a local ceremonial healer you are comfortable working with.
7. Journey With Friends – Go to the ceremony with a trusted friend or group of people you know. While they themselves may not be able to watch over you while participating in the ceremony, having friends with you before, during and after the ritual can provide support and a familiar frame of reference.
8. Create A Plan – Develop a safety plan with friends who are both participating in the ceremony and with some who are not participating. Plan check ins with these people before and after the event. Consider asking a non-participant for a ride home after the ritual. If you are traveling for the ceremony, determine what types of supportive services exist in that location.
9. Identify Accountability Mechanisms – Determine what form of accountability exists for the shaman or healer you intend to work with. If that person disrespects or harms you in some way, what mechanisms exist to help ensure they are held accountable? Is that person part of a larger community, who can hold them to a standard of care?
10. Ask For Help – Cultivate a spiritual practice that gives you access to spirit allies or guardians. Practice asking these beings for assistance. Contact them during the ceremony and maintain an open channel with your protectors.
11. Cultivate Boundaries – Make a habit of setting good physical and psychic boundaries. Focus on this skill in the weeks leading up to the ceremony. Learn how to set a protective energetic shield around yourself and do so before the event. Understand that such measures can be modulated to permit exposure to beneficial energies.
12. Set Intentions – Come to the ceremony with a clear intention. Decide what you want out of the experience. Take stock of your present strengths and weaknesses. Prepare a question or queries that the experience may help you answer.
13. Strengthen Yourself – Cultivate your overall health and well being before the ceremony. Arrive at the gathering rested and fully present. Develop a personal ritual to ground yourself physically and mentally. If circumstances in your life have placed you in a particularly uncomfortable state of mind, address these issues prior to the gathering.
14. Focus Inward – During the ceremony, be wary of physical contact with other participants. Do not attempt to intervene or assist others taking part. Allow the leaders of the ceremony to take this role. If other participants are impacting your experience, alert the facilitators.
15. Evaluate Touch – If a shaman, healer, facilitator or apprentice touches you during the ceremony, be aware of where they are placing their hands and if the encounter feels sexual. If you are uncomfortable with this touch, express your displeasure clearly and if possible, move away. Ask for assistance from others leading the ceremony. Refuse to be victimized.
16. Take Time To Integrate – After the ceremony, take special care of your physical and mental state. Rest, hydrate, and eat nourishing food. Be aware that the process of integrating the experience can take time. Be patient with yourself and if possible, avoid especially challenging encounters in the days following the event.
17. Check In After Ceremony – Check in with the healer, their assistants and/or the facilitators at the conclusion of the ceremony. Express your impressions of the experience. If you have misgivings that you wish to address privately, wait until after the period of group sharing has concluded before raising concerns. Considering having a neutral observer present during this conversation.
18. Protect Yourself – Remain protective of your personal space after the ceremony when you may be in a vulnerable state. Those who truly care for your well-being will respect your right to nurture yourself in this way. Be alert for sexual or romantic overtures from the shamans, healers, apprentices, or facilitators after the ceremony. Firmly turn away such advances and keep your eyes open for such situations involving fellow participants. Wait a minimum of three days to a week before engaging in sexual encounters with anyone you are not already involved with before the ceremony. Allow time for integration and for the effects of the ceremonial substance to wear off so that you can apply your best judgment.
19. Examine Consensual Sex – Consensual sexual encounters between ceremonial leaders and participants do occur. These experiences may make the women involved feel special, but such relationships imply an imbalance of power that has the potential to be coercive and potentially abusive. Consider that the professional ethical standard for therapists in the U.S. is a complete ban on intimate relationships with former clients for two years after the conclusion of their therapeutic work together. Reflect deeply on the wisdom of this standard if you or your healer are considering sexual intimacy after a ceremony.
20. Honor Gradual Emotions – Determine how you can contact the healer or facilitators of the ceremony in the days, and weeks after the ceremony. If you feel that you have concerns or questions after the passage of time, follow up and express yourself. Take steps not to let feelings encountered during or after the ceremony get bottled up or unaddressed. If necessary, seek assistance from outside therapists or counselors.
21. Offer A Review – Consider writing a review of your experience or making your thoughts known to others in an appropriate venue that can benefit future participants. Both positive and negative critiques of the experience may be helpful to others. Acknowledge and give thanks to shamans and ceremonial facilitators whose actions reflect the highest degree of integrity and ethics.
All living things change and grow. The Women’s Visionary Congress created a new website this fall to present the latest information about the WVC community and its gatherings. The project was a collaboration that included a number of talented people, many of whom donated their skills to create our new gathering place on the digital frontier. We would like to first thank Lakshmi Narayan, CEO of Awake Media, who designed the logo, look-and-feel, and user interactions that you see on these pages. Awake Media is a coalition of independent contractors who create online content and campaigns that are unlike any others. We are fortunate to be able to work with this group who bring a uniquely expansive sensibility and awareness to their projects. The Awake Media team has helped us evolve our mission to bring our formerly private discussions to supporters and participants around the world.
The person most responsible for coordinating all the pieces of this new site is Anne Tara Szostek, our WVC Communications Manager and Registrar. Wielding her toolkit with persistence and grace, Anne Tara coordinated and fine-tuned all the elements on the new WVC website. She kept the redesign process moving forward and helped us to work in harmony with our collective vision. Anne Tara’s hand is clearly evident on this site and she applies her clarity and wisdom to WVC outreach and social media. She is among the new generation of women who carry forward this work as it unfolds.
Finally, we offer a deep bow of gratitude to those who created our first WVC website all those years ago. Vicki Olds at Studio Reflex understood our mission and undertook the challenging task of helping us develop an online identity for a completely unique organization. She stood with us as we emerged from our Mystery School approach and word-of-mouth outreach to the more public face that WVC now embraces. John Gilmore made sure that the WVC website was updated with the latest information and hosted the site on his servers for many years. Perhaps the most over qualified system administrator we could have possibly wished for, we are grateful for his many years of support for our presence on the Net.
Essential to this journey is the sublime art of Martina Hoffmann, who together with her late partner Robert Venosa, presented her exquisite paintings at our gatherings and gave us permission to use these images on our first website. Martina will be the next WVC featured artist this spring and in the meantime you can view and purchase her work on her website. We have been gifted with Martina’s beautiful images for years and you can do the same for your friends.
Antidote: a remedy to counteract the effects of a poison or a negative mindset.
PSYCHEDELICS ARE ANTIDOTES TO:
Failing to get the joke
PSYCHEDELICS ARE ANTIDOTES TO
Reliance on anti-depressants
Imperfect psychoactive drugs
Less than instant gratification
PSYCHEDELICS ARE ANTIDOTES TO
Profit and loss
Prophets and love lost
The God Game
PSYCHEDELICS ARE ANTIDOTES TO
Visionary deficit disorders
Listening to speakers talk about them
at psychedelic conferences
PSYCHEDELICS ARE ANTIDOTES TO
The absence of insight
A shortage of gratuitous grace
Truth and consequences
The sound of both hands clapping
Long before he took a psychedelic drug, Aldous Huxley speculated that the antidote for the psychological ills of the modern world would be the discovery of a beneficial drug capable of providing genuine ecstasy.
“The person who invents such a substance,” he wrote, “will be counted among the greatest benefactors of suffering humanity.”
The drug he introduced in his dystopian novel, Brave New World (1932), was called soma, after the most ancient of recorded drugs. It provided a holiday from everyday reality while it enabled the conditions of totalitarian social control.
“There is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for the weekend, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon.”
Thirty years later, after having taken mescaline, psilocybin and LSD, Huxley in his last novel Island contrasted the use of tranquilizers (forerunners of today’s ubiquitous antidepressants) and stimulants with the spiritual potential of psychedelics, and “predicted a future society in which chemically induced transcendental experiences would lead to a mysticism focused not on symbolic structures but on the transformation of everyday life (Marcus Boon, The Road of Excess).”
Timothy Leary, writing in the early ‘60s: “Nature always produces the cure for the particular disease which has evolved. The disease that is crushing and oppressing this planet today is man’s possessive and manipulatory symbolic mind, and the cure for the disease has been provided.
“I have no illusions; LSD is simply a particular evolutionary molecule at exactly the moment when it’s needed.
“We feel like a medical team in a plague area. What is the plague? Abstract intellectualism. People instinctively reaching for categories.”
Psychedelics are remedies for minds hung up in categories, and antidotes to the harms of conditioning and brainwashing.
In 1978 Albert Hofmann and Gordon Wasson proposed that the Eleusinian Mysteries, the annual all-night ceremonial pageant of Ancient Greece performed over two millennia, was a kind of Trips Festival or Acid Test, with the sacred elixir kykeon a form of LSD. The Ancient Greek luminaries, from Socrates to Sappho, at least for one night a year, were blissed-out acidheads. There was even a Leary-Kesey figure named Alcibiades, who was arrested for stealing the sacrament from the temple and distributing it at private parties in 5th century Athens, thus qualifying him as the patron saint of recreational drug users.
The state, the church, the politicians and the military have for centuries demonized psychedelic plants. Their interests have been confined to their weaponizing and criminalizing.
Psychedelics are antidotes to thought control and the perpetual war machine. Psychedelics speak truth to power, empowering free agents to think for themselves.
Secrecy is essential to the apparatus of the culture of control, nowhere better displayed than in the workings of the hyper-paranoid intelligence agencies.
Psychedelics are the antidote to both institutional and personal secrecy. They “occupy” the Ineffable, and serve as cosmic whistleblowers.
The 1960s counterculture briefly liberated psychedelics, seeing them as spiritual and humanistic antidotes to controlling authority. The ruthlessly suppressed psychedelic movement planted the seeds that are flowering now, with further discoveries of plants and their compounds by ethnobotanists and chemists, and the efforts of researchers who are gradually moving them toward legal pharmaceutical status.
Psychedelics are of the rainforest and the desert, of backyard gardens and the laboratories of visionary chemists, yet they speak to us in the language of electrons, born in the accelerated brain. In the 1960s McLuhan predicted that “drugs that accelerate the brain” will only be widely accepted “when the population is geared to computers.”
Electronic language is the language of the media—- the television screen, the Internet, the wondrous devices that enable us to practice our free agentry–and the National Security Agency to become a zettabyte-powered snoop factory. It took one electronic dissident to expose it, but it still lumbers on, bloated on its monstrous data collection.
On a lighter note, “psychedelics expose and reduce the objects of our everyday world–those coveted and sexualized commodities–to a stoned ridiculousness (Richard Doyle, Darwin’s Pharmacy).” Psychedelics are the antidote to consumerism.
Psychedelics suspend time and promote immediacy. Being in the Now. They are the antidotes to being fixated on the calamities of the past…of our own personal fuck-ups and traumas…of the fears and promises of the future.
“Under LSD we seem to come up against that part of our inner world where meanings are made, where the patterning process operates in its pure form” (Richard Marsh in Psychedelic Review).
LSD is the antidote to the singularity of meaning and the pretense of patterns.
Psychedelics have given us the concept of the cosmic joke–the antidote to ego-driven uptightness and paranoia.
During an LSD trip, its discoverer Albert Hofmann found himself “laughing hopelessly.” Only on LSD can hopelessness be the occasion of laughter. That’s why psychedelics are so important now, as an antidote to hopelessness, of which there is clearly too much around.
Official research is underway for the first time in half a century; unofficial research—-recreational use–long criminalized, is undergoing gradual rehabilitation.
In Switzerland in April 1943, during one of the darkest periods in modern history, LSD placed a call to Albert Hofmann, and Albert picked up the receiver. When LSD calls, it is always best to answer. And if you’re put on hold, don’t hang up. Your call will be answered by the next available shaman or shamaness.
But if your phone is not encrypted or the shaman turns out to be a fraud, you’d best establish a direct connection to this alien caller. It might just be you in the future.
An earlier version of this talk was given at the Spirit of Basel Symposium on LSD: Problem Child and Wonder Drug (2006), honoring Albert Hofmann on his 100th birthday.
Elena Andrade is a Canadian scholar whose research interests include performance studies, psychedelic literature and space-time perception across cultures. She presented this talk at the 3rd Annual Shaman Woman, Plant Medicine and Psychedelic Salon hosted by WVC in Vancouver, Canada on November 15, 2014.
The Poetics of Ayahuasca: Lessons Learned from César Calvo
The topic of my talk today is part of a project I’ve been working on lately for my graduate studies at the University of Victoria. I focus on performance studies, which is a field between political science and the arts. Performance studies views politics as a type of performance, as a performative practice. So, for example, performance theorists say that space is not something that pre-exists individuals but rather that the space around us is constituted by performative practices. Similarly, gender identity is also performative, meaning gender is not an intrinsic quality of a body but a continual reiteration of a set of practices that are considered by the culture to be feminine or masculine. In my work, I’m interested in the body as a communicative medium in the sense that the body or its absence reveals something about the way power works in a given context. My definition of the body differs significantly from that of a medical or a scientific definition, although I am interested in the human sensorium but more so in its relation to perception and aesthetics. I see the body as the site where political and social forces materialize and also as the primary site of resistance to domination and colonization. So that’s the lens I look through when I read an image, a text, or a performance.
What brought me to the study of politics as performance was spending time with indigenous anarchists and Zapatistas in Mexico before the drug war exploded in 2006. Already in those years before the official declaration of war against the cartels, the level of fear in Mexico was very high. To me it felt like a low-intensity war. At that point, the country was already militarized in response to the social problems caused by NAFTA, which had a devastating impact on the Mexican people. In Mexico, anti-NAFTA, anti-globalization activism is highly performative and theatrical because in such a repressive authoritarian system, the vast majority of citizens are shut out of the political process. The resources available to them are basically their own bodies and public space. So they develop ways to intervene using what’s available.
For a several months I lived in a small town in southern Mexico, in the state of Oaxaca, and during that time I began to notice that the military presence coincided with high levels of drug consumption in the community, and supposedly the military was there to protect the community from the evils of illegal drugs. A high percentage of the men in the town were addicted to cocaine, the community was flooded with it. I would see things in my peripheral vision that made me question if I was seeing correctly. Did I just see men with machine guns duck behind that house? Did I really just see that? I was experiencing the hallucinatory reality of the drug war. What I mean by a hallucinatory reality is a situation where you keep asking yourself if what you’re seeing is actually happening or if you’re imagining it. The anthropologist and performance theorist Michael Taussig calls this zone of hallucinatory reality the “space of death,” a zone where “signifiers are strategically out of joint with what they signify” (5). These are spaces where language hides the truth; it’s a space where armed soldiers are peacekeepers and capitalism equates with development. The mythology that overlays this space of death, Taussig explains, combines European, indigenous, and African figures and narratives with whites occupying a privileged position, whites being the ones who bring “progress” to backwards places and peoples. Taussig wrote a fascinating account of the system of terror in northwestern Amazonia after rubber became an important commodity in the international market. He studied ayahuasca shamanism as a healing practice that attempts to manage the fear and terror caused by the brutality of the rubber companies and capitalism’s advance into Amazonia.
So what’s happened in Mexico is that a massive space of death has opened up with the US-funded drug war. Every time I go back the violence is more horrific, more senseless, closer to home. It would be difficult to find someone who has not been affected by the violence. During the Iraq war, there were some months when more people were dying in Mexico than in Iraq. Basically, the Mexican system is a death machine that systematically targets young, brown-skinned males. It’s not at all about eliminating the drug trade. It’s about perpetuating war because war is a lucrative industry.
So I bring that lived experience of the drug war into my research of performative interventions against authoritarian systems. My own micro-solution to the ethical problem of the witness – for now – has been to engage in the discourse around drugs, and more specifically psychedelics, to frame these substances in a way that challenges the assumptions and fear-mongering of the current order. I especially appreciate Diana Slattery’s definition of psychedelics as a “discourse of the unmentionable by the disreputable about the unspeakable.” Psychedelics are material substances, a discourse, and a visionary aesthetic that represents the phenomenological effects of the drug. By speaking about psychedelics, we are exercising our freedom to describe and set the terms of our own lived experience. Psychedelics is a discourse that challenges the military-big pharma-prison complex.
The work of Peruvian poet Cesar Calvo has provided me with a window for research into psychedelics and the politics of drugs. Both literature and psychedelic drugs are complex material and narrative hybrids, I would argue, whose effects depend on psychosocial context as well as method of consumption. Calvo wrote during the last half of the twentieth century and was active in the revolutionary movements of the 60s and 70s. His work celebrates the African, mestizo, and indigenous cultures of Peru, especially their use of poetry, performance, and music to decolonize body and soul. He wrote Las Tres Mitades de Ino Moxo in 1979 under military dictatorship in a period when tens of thousands of Latin Americans were disappeared by the state as part of Operation Condor. The novel fuses text and performance and represents an aesthetic intervention against a regime that inscribes traumatic memories on both the individual and social body with violence and terror. Calvo draws upon both indigenous and European literary traditions to tell the story of a journey to the house of Ino Moxo who, for Calvo, stands among the great Latin American poets of the past century for his mastery of the ceremonial arts. The story introduces magical notions of conscious plants, interspecies communication, and shape shifting to challenge materialist and mechanistic worldviews. Calvo’s journey from the national capital to northwestern Amazonia to interview Ino Moxo provides the external structure for an interior, metaphorical journey with dimethyltriptamine (DMT), the active ingredient of ayahuasca. So the novel is a container for the transformative process of the writer and has an ayahuasca ceremony inscribed in it. Calvo writes from the space of death, directly confronting its contents to consciously manage its relation to his own life as a source of artistic inspiration. Tres Mitades depicts both Ino Moxo’s and César’s emergence from the space of death as somatic poets whose ritual use of psychoactive plants takes them through alternate realities of extraordinary beauty and terror as they strive to find a space of freedom for themselves in the modern world. Ease with paradox and hybridity characterizes this new psychedelic state of being.
3 thoughts about ayahuasca and drug politics:
Ayahuasca shamanism is a performance.
Ayahuasca ceremonies are a form of performance called “somatic poetry” by ethnographers who study the cultural practices of Amazonian peoples (from The Ecology of the Spoken Word by Michael Uzendoski and Edith Calapucha-Tapuy). Somatic poetry is defined as the “art of ritual healing” and it can be storytelling, plant ceremonies, healing rituals. Seeing shamanism as a kind of performance offers a grounded approach to ayahuasca ceremonies. Realizing that the person conducting the ceremony is a performer and in no way an authority figure, spiritual or otherwise, takes away the mystique around that person. From what I’ve observed, part of the shaman’s performance is to behave as an authority figure. An ayahuasca ceremony then is a form of Amazonian somatic poetry in which plants mediate “a process of textual creation that allows the body not just to create but to become the text” (Uzendoski and Calapucha-Tapuy 24).
By incorporating ayahuasca ceremonies into his writing practice, Calvo’s body and text become sites of aesthetic experimentation, political resistance, and momentary liberation. His writing represents an attempt to undo historical violence materially inscribed on his body through his senses.
Drugs are political technologies.
As the figure of Ino Moxo instructs, psychoactive plants are indispensable tools for investigation of consciousness and the nature of reality. Besides their material effects on the body, drugs produce changes in consciousness that have political and social implications.
Besides their influence on artistic expression, the history of drugs is bound up with multinational capitalism and state policies that make mass addiction profitable. Study of Calvo’s narrative raises critical questions about the uses of drugs as biopolitical technologies to undergird the global capitalist system. Certainly, pharmaceuticals, especially antidepressants, painkillers, and synthetic hormones, are indispensable to the formation of governable subjects in liberal democracies. Drug historians have pointed out that virtually every highly addictive drug, including heroin, amphetamines, and cocaine, was first cooked up in a commercial laboratory then legally marketed with an advertising campaign based on unfounded hype. So with annual sales now in the billions of dollars, the current mode of capitalism ensures physical dependence on economic relations of domination. The medical system is implicated in this dysfunctional system because it is often through medical intervention that bodies are subdued and controlled in this culture.
Heroin is a really interesting example of the connection between capitalism and drugs. It was originally manufactured and sold over the counter in the late nineteenth century by Bayer and was only made illegal after the cost to society of its ravaging effects outweighed the profits to be made from it.
An essential book on this topic is Bruce Alexander’s Globalization of Addiction, where he identifies dislocation is the cause of all addictions. And the cause of dislocation is capitalism. So as long as there’s capitalism, there will be addiction. Until the inequalities built in to our economic systems are addressed, this problem will always be with us.
As one who uses psychoactive plants to voyage into other dimensions or explore the nature of consciousness, Ino Moxo is a liminal figure, a bridge between worlds—the worlds of indigenous and settler, material and spiritual, city and forest. Both Cesar Calvo and Ino Moxo use plants for self-engineering and self-transformation, what Ken Tupper refers to as “phyto-chemical engineering”. Through their aesthetic experiments with plants and somatic poetry Calvo and Ino Moxo become hybrid beings able to communicate with plants to get information that helps them in three dimensional reality. Interestingly, this plant-human hybrid figure also appears in scientific literature in the metaphor of plant teachers. Dennis McKenna goes so far as to describe ayahuasca as “an emissary of trans-species sentience,” which is exactly what Ino Moxo says in Calvo’s novel. The integration of these plants into personal practices raises questions about the limits of the human, and whether interspecies communication represents the next stage of development for our species or the planet. Calvo writes that trees are his accomplices in life and that ayahuasca co-authors his novel. Trees are portrayed as conscious beings and humans are described as having the qualities of plants. The lines between human and plant world get completely blurred. The question of interspecies communication is really an intriguing question because the imprint of psychedelic plants is all over Calvo’s writing from the sentence level to the ordering of space-time. The signature of ayahuasca appears as trinary logic and multidimensional, multiperspectival descriptions of landscapes and events. Fractals are everywhere, especially the tree of life pattern. In this book, the tree is a supernatural figure completely entangled with human history and the forest is a material expression of an underlying energetic matrix. It represents an Amazonian cosmology that locates divinity in the plant world.