Smoke the Seer’s Sage
Every plant has a unique spirit, an entity behind it. With ethnobotanicals, the presence and personality of this spirit can be quite vivid for those experiencing the effects of the sacred plant. The spirit of Ganja, for instance, seems maternal to me: distinctly feminine, steadfast, gentle, patient, comfortable. She is like the type of mom who wipes her crying kid’s snotty nose with an expensive angora sweater sleeve. But there are different mothering styles in the plant realm just as there are in the human realm, and the plant spirit I am about to discuss is a different type of mother: perfectly poised, beautiful, wise and stern.
It is my pleasure to introduce to you to Salvia divinorum, the diviner’s sage; also known as Mexican mint or Sally D. Perhaps you have already met her. If so, then the long winded, crazy sounding story I am about to ramble will most likely make sense to you. If you are not familiar, let me tell you a little bit about her. The Mazatec people, who ingest the plant ceremonially, call her the Shepherdess and believe her to be an incarnation of the Virgin Mary. I call her the seer’s sage because of the amazing things she allowed me to see…
I was eighteen years old and had just moved out of my parents’ home and into my boyfriend’s mom’s house. Having been interested in the hippie subculture for a couple of years, I read about psychedelics and how they could open one’s consciousness to the incomprehensible. Of course, I had a mind to experiment with such substances, just no idea where to acquire them. My boyfriend was out of town and so my best friend, Sunrise, came to visit me at my new dwelling place. As we joked and toked together, he pulled a small plastic bag of brown dust from his leather stash pouch and told me “Check this out, man! It’s Salvia, a smokable hallucinogenic herb.”
“Whoa, where’d you get that?!” I asked, impressed.
“At the headshop for like 10 bucks, dude. It’s totally legal and everything,” he shrugged.
Pleased at my good fortune, I immediately agreed to smoke the shit with him. We prepared everything for our trip, not really knowing what to expect. We guessed that the experience would be best in the open air, and so went and sat on the cool grass of the sideyard, outer suburbia breezily silent around us as the light of evening grew dim. I took my beautiful, iridescent glass bong into my lap and incinerated the contents of the bowl with a butane torch lighter. The cherry glowed as I sucked the smoke; I passed the piece to Sunrise who proceeded to do the same. He laid back, hands behind his head. “Oh, man… oh, man… ohhhhh, MAN!!!” His face was shining hot pink in the sunset light and his lips stretched taut to reveal large teeth like peppermint Chiclets. Feeling disappointingly unaffected by the herb, I watched my friend, fascinated by the obvious intensity of what he was experiencing. After a brief time. he came back to his body and spoke. “I was standing in middle of a huge, round courtyard, surrounded on all sides by doors which I knew led to everywhere… other universes even! I could feel my body extending backwards and forwards infinitely…” he struggled to tell me, dumbstruck, “You have got to see it for yourself, Jessi.“
After his experience, Sunrise decided that it would be better for me to try again somewhere more comfortable. So, we went into my boyfriend’s bedroom, climbed onto the king-sized bed and my buddy reloaded the bong. I took it and torched the bowl, this time making sure to get the most out of it as I gulped the interestingly flavored smoke. I took two massive rips and then, as I handed the waterpipe to my companion, I heard myself say in a voice not my own “It is definitely working this time…” And then I was gone.
Completely disoriented, no longer human or able to conceive of the idea of being human, I found myself in a flat, membranous landscape of yellow vinyl. The only distinguishable features were these weird little waves in the yellow stuff which rushed around me, clearly conscious, sporting cartoon faces and shouting with a chorus of tiny voices “Come on! Come on! We’ve got to make this moment!” And so, I followed them. I had no choice; I was a wave, too. We were waves in the material of the universe, and I understood that we were rushing to make up the most microscopic little portion of matter for the smallest fraction of a nanosecond. Although unimaginably small, I felt the role we were playing was not only significant but vital to the existence of the multiverse. And even though we hurried to get to our destination on time, to create that tiny piece of that tiny moment when it was required, I had a sense of knowing that we could not be late. Whenever we arrived is when it would happen. As we fell into our places, I perceived myself begin to peel back layer after layer of the rubbery, lemon yellow stuff from which my world was comprised, revealing a bigger picture as each layer was removed. It was as if I was zooming out, now able to see the context of the tiny moment which we, the waves, had intentionally and consciously created. I was pulling on my best friend’s yellow, thriftstore t-shirt. Less than five minutes had passed since I had smoked the sage.
I shook myself, frightened and boggled! I leaped off the bed and bolted from the house, screaming “I need to get the hell out of here and never come back!!” Sunrise followed me out, bong in hand. We got into his old red truck and drove to a nearby pond so I could gather my thoughts. I decided then and there that I would never dabble in psychedelics again.
The next day, I called Sunrise from my job at a country club golf course. “I get it!” I told him excitedly, “I understand the nature of the universe!”
“I thought you’d come around,” I could hear him grinning through the phone. We smoked Sally D again that very night on the golf course after it closed. It was an interesting experience, but lacking the intensity of the first trip. I felt the lesson the Shepherdess had taught me cement further into my understanding.
I did not smoke the seer’s sage again for quite some time and when I did, that next trip was at a small party. It was just kind of like static on an empty screen, not a profound or visionary experience at all, and left me feeling a little dirty. It was as if the spirit of the plant had nothing to say to me at all, since I had already learned all she had to offer me. I agreed reluctantly when she told me not to come back anymore.
But I did not keep that agreement. Several months later, when I was living in a small town, some friends invited my fiance and me to their trailer to smoke Salvia divinorum with them. The lady of the house smoked first and then proceeded to laugh hysterically until she turned florescent purple. After she came down, she reported that she had visited a flower garden where she had danced with faery-like beings! I smoked next, and my trip was significantly less fun than hers.
I set the bong down and looked over at my companions, who were sitting on an adjacent couch. They had huge cartoon faces on tiny cartoon bodies, waving at me. Then, they fell away and I was left in oblivion. An overwhelming feeling of parental disapproval swept over me. “You are a very, very bad little girl!” a strong, feminine voice scolded. “Look at you, doing drugs and naughty things. The Bible says not to do illegal things! You are in big trouble, missy!” Vague images of berries and cherries (police lights), the Bible club I attended as a child, my mother spanking me and other symbols of authoritarianism/discipline passed through my awareness. I cried. My parents were disappointed in me. Why was I being such a bad girl? BOOM! I was back in my friend’s trailer and my forehead was burning with pain. I was no longer sitting on the couch, but awkwardly sprawled on the floor. Apparently, I had stood up from my seat and then collapsed, knocking my head on the coffee table on the way down.
Obviously, Mama Sally was not pleased with me coming back to sneak another cookie from her jar!