Citation: Camazotz. "Invoking the Emnity of La Pastora: An Experience with Salvia divinorum (exp113268)". Erowid.org. Jun 9, 2019. erowid.org/exp/113268
**First of all I feel that it is important to give some necessary background that will hopefully provide a context to this report. I have tried to remember and salvage my memories of my many encounters with salvia divinorum including my last experience with this substance but inevitably these recollections have lost much of their primacy and vividness with the passing of time. **
PAST EXPERIENCES WITH LA PASTORA AND GENERAL INFORMATION
Since my mid teens I had experimented sporadically with the diviners sage, which was then a legal substance in the United Kingdom. At that time it could be bought easily over the counter in a local Heads shop where they were sold in little plastic vials that contained strains of different strengths including 5x, 10x, 20x etc. My experiences had during those occasions been overwhelmingly positive and I would even go as far as saying that its effects were far better than anything I had ever experienced with marijuana. I am an introspective and intense person, always have been and always will be and so I assume that I preferred the short and intense transcendental experience of Salvia to the lingering hazy fog of Marijuana, which I frankly always found to be overrated and ultimately boring.
I would smoke the powder using a makeshift bong that consisted of a plastic bottle with a quart of water at the bottom, which the smoke would rise from, and the plastic casing of a biro pen as the pipe (I guess I was always lazy about buying a real bong and concerned that my parents might find it). The powder would be placed on a little foil top taken from a milk bottle, which I would then apply the flame of a lighter to until embers appeared and then I would inhale the smoke through the pipe.
On average it would take at least 2 to 3 minutes for the effects to begin and the duration of the trip would typically last between 10 to 20 minutes. I always treated the setting of the experience as a vitally important detail and my favorite place to trip on Salvia was sitting by a pair of old dead oak trees that stood by a large man made pond. I felt a connection to the natural surroundings there where I could see big carp fish that swam languidly through the water and looked uncannily like the famous woodcut print by M.S. Escher. Here too I would sometimes see the iridescent blue flash of a Eurasian kingfisher as it flew over the surface of the water in a perennial hunt for its minnow prey.
The last occasion I smoked Salvia on this particular spot I had been touching base after a trip when a snobby upper class woman riding a horse confronted me who told me that the area was private land and that I was trespassing. I believe she told me something to the effect of “How would you like it if a stranger just walked into your back garden and sat down? Wouldn’t you be angry?” I remember calmly replying to her “What makes you so sure that this is your back garden? You don’t live within 2 miles of it yet you put a fence around it and claim it belongs to you, the land belongs to nobody”. I don’t think she was expecting this kind of reply because she began to raise her voice telling me that the land belonged to her and that I was breaking the law by being there. But having just come out of a salvia trip where I had questioned many human constructs I felt that the whole concept of land ownership was absurd. I laughed at her and replied something like “Does the fact that some Medieval ancestor of yours seized this land in the dark ages make you any more entitled to enjoy the nature in this spot than me?” Needless to say, this mockery and wisecracking did not go down well and she rode her horse to within a meter of me no doubt trying to intimidate me and shouted, “ Are you not hearing what I’m saying? What don’t you understand? Go and enjoy nature on the other side of the fence before I call the police and you get arrested, go on, fuck off you smarmy prick!” I remember walking away and feeling angry thinking to myself how arrogant and pretentious she was, how inane the idea of land ownership was, how the class system in England was entrenched in everything and how it was such a steaming hot pile of horse shit. I never went back to that spot to smoke or indeed for any reason and from then on I took far more care in choosing my trip settings.
Anyway… Back to the topic of Salvia…
Much has been said and written of “Lady Salvia” and although I myself never “saw” her I most definitely felt her presence manifest strongly on all of my trips. The presence I felt was definitely that of a female entity, a benevolent and loving mother-like figure that was whole heartedly concerned with my wellbeing and personal development. She was ancient, yes, but ultimately an ageless archetypal figure and if I was to represent that presence with a face it would be a semblance without even the slightest hint of a wrinkle or the passage of time, perhaps because she seemed to exist beyond the confines of space and time itself.
Perhaps because of my cultural bias or pre-knowledge of Mexican folklore I always envisioned her in my mind as being a beguiling mix of the virgin of Guadalupe, an Alphonse Mucha muse adorned in purple and blue flowers, and the iconic green lady of the vintage French absinthe advertisements. However, lady Salvia, was never an eroticized or sexual entity, and to harbor such a thought of her would seem almost sacrilegious, profane and in fact strangely impossible. The only way that I can articulate these complex feelings would be to use the analogy of the way that Roman Catholics view the figure of the Virgin Mary as an embodiment of unconditional love. She was fixedly a maternal divinity, a sacred and hallowed archetypal mother whose embrace was full of tenderness and whose guidance was gracious and altruistic yet also firm and disciplined.
As the Salvorin A. compounds began to take effect on the Kappa opoid receptor in my brain the layers of reality would peel away as my sense of self underwent a kind of ego death. The perception of space and time that I had possessed mere seconds before would invariably fade out gradually and then would vanish. Shortly after this stage I would typically feel the sensation that the entity was announcing its presence as I began to feel the onset of an inner dialogue and a sublime mystery that was pulling me forward. She would begin by almost playfully chiding me about my assumptions of what had hitherto constituted reality in the way a bemused mother might when gently scolding the whimsical irresponsible behavior of a wayward son. My perception of the things that surrounded me would be imbued with a combination of a sense of mystical union and puzzlement.
THE LAST ENCOUNTER
I had been living abroad for two years and had returned one autumn for a holiday to spend time with my folks. I had been struggling with a lingering sense of depression at that time and felt conflicted about my past and future direction in life. At some point during the holiday I decided on a whim that revisiting Salvia might be just what I needed to clear my mind and resolve some of my issues. I went to the heads shop and purchased a 40-x vial of Mazatec Salvia, a strain that was far stronger than anything that I had previously smoked. The weather was gloomy, overcast, and rainy during that entire week. I was feeling depressed, and in retrospect it was far from the ideal moment for any kind of entheogenic trip but I was desperate to break through the fog that was consuming me.
Nevertheless, I was stuck in a predicament as I was determined to do the trip in a natural setting, but I couldn’t go to my favorite tripping spot of years past due to its status as “private land”. I therefore decided that the best place to go would be another area nearby where there was a grove of beautiful ancient oak trees that were perhaps a couple of hundred years old. So, without further ado, I made a makeshift bong that I put in a backpack and walked through the countryside to reach the spot. Once I reached the site I crouched next to the gnarled roots of the tree and after watching some rabbits loping through a clump of stinging nettles took the bong out of the bag. I poured a couple of pinches of powder from the vial onto the foil and lit up, inhaling the thick acrid smoke and then I completely blacked out, I have no awareness of what happened …… The rest of what I’ll recount is my recollection of what happened as I began to return to a state of consciousness.
It was dusk and darkness was coming in fast. My legs had buckled from underneath me and I had fallen hard from the half crouched position against the tree into a slump. My head had thumped backwards into the bark and splinters had broke off and fell into my hair, my legs were sprawled awkwardly on the grass and one of my shoes had slid through the grass tearing up the soil leaving my foot caked in mud. Somehow, the side of my hand had grazed a surface of the tree root during the fall and had broken the skin causing blood to begin to ooze from the cut but I did not feel the pain until much later. I hadn’t blacked out, I was still conscious, my eyes were still open staring, my body was there, but I wasn’t, in fact at that time there was no me, it was indeed a death of some kind. I have no idea how much time I passed in this state slumped against the oak tree, but it can’t have been much more than 10 minutes. As I began to come around my sense of reality was initially fragmented like the viciously sharp shards of a broken mirror. I did not know who I was, what I was or where I was. It felt like sparring in a boxing gym and being knocked out, being floored by an unexpected and effortless powerful left hook thrown by an exceptionally skilled boxer who had previously been taking it easy on me. But my brain began to regroup itself and I slowly came to recalibrate what had happened and form a rough idea of whom I was and what I needed to do.
As I got up onto my shaky feet a sense of nameless terror and a profound feeling of shame and embarrassment began to race through my mind in successive waves, I knew intuitively that I had invoked the anger of the entity with my irresponsible use of the plant. I felt that deep down I had committed some kind of sacrilege; violated some kind of sacred and established set of rules and worst of all severed my divine connection with lady salvia due to this taboo. But I soon realized that the anger was not felt by just the entity of the plant but also its fellow plants. It was at that point that the gnarled branches of the surrounding oak trees began to be imbued with a malevolent and brooding presence and to take on a dark and menacing energy and they swayed as if they were claws. There was a distinctive feeling of judgment in the air that is extremely hard to articulate after so many years. But it felt like the trees were shaming me, ridiculing me and disparaging my profanity and lack of ritual and scorning my infinite human stupidity, which disgusted them. The whole woodland resembled some kind of disturbing gathering of vegetal inquisitors that were expressing their displeasure of my imprudence. I felt deeply flawed and inferior in the presence of the collective wisdom and experience of these ancient organisms that as silent witnesses had seen and survived countless seasons. I then began to shiver uncontrollably in fear and shame and I felt heat begin to rise in the blood vessels of my face as I started to sweat and blush despite the cold. I knew then that I had to leave the area as quickly as possible or else I would either lose my mind or make myself physically ill.
I hastily packed the makeshift bong into my backpack and stumbled away from the tree clumsily, my feet feeling heavy as I walked, it was if bricks were weighing them down. It was getting dark, I had stupidly failed to bring a flashlight and I could barely see a few feet in front of me but I kept walking in the direction that I knew would somehow take me home. I heard a female tawny owl somewhere in the dark uttering her high-pitched alarm call “Ke-wick! Ke-wick! Ke-wick! Keee-wiickk!!” It was a haunting sound to hear when in that altered state of mind and I began to perceive that this avian sentinel of the woodland was speaking for all the animals and plants that formed the ecological community in proclaiming her dismay and indignation: “He’s there! He’s walking over there! , Keep alert everyone! … Oh he’s going now! , Oh he’s leaving us in peace! , Yes…. he’s going now, good riddance!” I kept walking, trudging through mud and sheep shit until I reached the gate underneath the old Victorian railway arch and saw the shadow of the walls of the old Norman castle in the distance. It was when I put my hand on the steel gate of the livestock gate and fumbled for the bolt to slide out of the slot I noticed that I had hurt my hand as I felt the stickiness of the blood and the sting of the open cut as it brushed the cold surface of the metal. But I couldn’t afford to spend any time thinking about it, I had to get home, and so I opened the gate and walked through the tunnel hearing the alarmed coos of the doves that were roosted in the brickwork above.
On and on I walked quickening my pace and crossing the field, the sense of fear diminishing with every step. The silhouettes of sheep bleated in surprise at me and moved hurriedly out of my way, but these sounds carried none of the hostile and wild nobility that the hooting of the owl had intoned and instead sounded merely absurd and pathetic. It was if their bleating carried within it a remnant of a plaintive and trapped lament for the natural intelligence that had been cruelly blunted to a dismal slavish fecklessness by thousand of years of domestication. These beasts were simply a biological anomaly and I realized with compassion that their abnormal existence that was so disconnected from the natural world of their ancestors was ultimately not that different from my own as a homo sapien born, raised, living and destined to die in an industrialized capitalist society. The feeling of dread was fading away the further I walked from the site of the trip. As I neared the end of the field I could see the glowing lights of street lamps and middle class houses giving me a feeling of returning to “normality” and I was soon walking down the alley way that would take me back into town and home.
When I finally got to my house I entered through the back garden and ducked past my parents saying a quick hi and trying to look as nonchalant as possible and keeping my bloodied hand in my pocket, I headed up to the bathroom to wash out the cut and then to my room where I threw myself on my bed. My head was swimming with thoughts and although the terror had passed a lingering sting of shame and bewilderment remained. This prevented me from either getting to sleep that night or reaching a mental health baseline during the next two days, which I mostly spent inside my room feeling moderately depressed and deeply confused. In this disordered and anxious state of mind I pondered often about what had happened and what it all meant, did the trip reveal a disconnection between the natural world and myself? What had I done (or not done) that had brought on this bad trip? The sense of shame remained,
I was eventually able to reintegrate my thoughts and came to the realization that I had ultimately experienced this dark side of Salvia as a result of entering the trip with a frivolous mentality. I had failed to treat this plant with the respect that it deserved, had met with her disapproval and got burned as a result. I felt intuitively that this was a signal that my brief acquaintance with La pastora had come to an end, the necessary lessons had been learned, and I would not smoke it again. For this reason I made a promise to myself to wait for an indefinite period before trying another entheogenic plant (bar marijuana), until my intuition gave me an indication that it was time to seek out another plant teacher.
Although I would definitely consider this final meeting with la pastora as a “difficult trip” it was by no means entirely negative and as I have mentioned it had some remarkably positive aspects as a learning experience, and I view my last trip as a self-referential cautionary tale. In practical terms I learned how critically important factors such as intentionality, setting, and psychological preparation is when it comes to embarking on entheogenic experiences. I have not smoked Salvia since nor will I ever do so again. I look back on the many times, which I experienced the guidance of la pastora with a great affection and fondness, Salvia was after all the plant that marked my entry into the psychonautic world at such a formative period in my life.
It’s been almost a decade since that time and I am now ready to seek out a new plant teacher…
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