Tuesday, May 24, 2005

From Darkness Back to Light

Entheogenesis 2 was a 3-day conference just concluded in Vancouver. Scholars from near and far congregated at the ridiculously comfortable Wosk Centre to shed light on the long history of entheogenic plants (what used to be called Psychedelics) in human culture, information that has long been hidden, and many would prefer to keep hidden today.
The discovery of cannabis resin in Shakespeare's pipes did make the news a couple of years ago, but the discoverer himself, Prof. Francis Thackeray of South Africa illuminated his discovery by showing the hidden cannabis references in Shakespeare's sonnets., and wondered if the bard's "Dark Lady" was in fact, cannabis. Although hemp (now the Afrikaans word for "shirt") was a crop that landowners were required to grow, the psychoactive properties of the plant were considered "witchcraft," and so Shakespeare had to hide his real meaning, just as Rabelais (the son of a hemp farmer) did in his book Gargantua and Pantagruel.
The next speaker, Rev. Demuzi gave a history of witch hunts, where mostly women were persecuted and murdered by the millions for their plant lore. Prof. Susan Boyd brought us up to date by showing how women are punished far more severely than men for "drug crimes."
Martin Lee (the author of Acid Dreams) gave a rivetting talk on the effect of mescaline on European literature in the half century before Huxley supposedly popularized "psychedelics." His talk was interrupted by a fire drill- perhaps a metaphor for the way all this knowledge was periodically lost, or interrupted. Chris Bennet's talk on the 19th century hash loving French and occult English segued perfectly with Martin Lee's talk, as did Michael Horowitz's talk on the feminine experience in drug history and Greg's talk on drugs in literature. Enemies of entheogens who often say that no great literature has ever come out of entheogenic drug experiences would be hard pressed to say that after attending this conference.
The history of medicinal and religious drug usage was wonderfully detailed in lectures by Alan Piper on Islam (where hash was banned for entertainment, but was embraced as medicine); Dr. Michael Aldritch on Indian, Asian and African experiences with drugs and finally Prof. Blaise Staples and Carl Ruck on how a mushroom turned into a mermaid and influenced hundreds of years of European history.


At 2:41 AM, Blogger C Simril said...

I was going to add the modern scene with Ken Tupper's Ayahuasca/Internet, artist Roman Villagrana's syncrhonistic/artistic discoveries, Phil Lucas's luminous visions of Compassion Clubs on the scientific frontier as government pot studies hide in abandonded mines of the mind, and Kirk Tousaw's litigation towards religoius freedom. So many people came to these shores in search of just that freedom our governments now disdain. King George, your carriage, uh, limo is here for you now.
The Museum of Psychoactive Substances complemented and pictorially informed the lectures when it opened on May 23rd. All will be visible at pot-tv.net soon, but being there was even more enjoyable.


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