Shamanic substances are medicines administered by a trusted and legitimate practitioner for the purpose of physical and spiritual wellbeing. In a way, shamans are a lot like doctors, but they depend less on procedures and synthetic chemicals/drugs, instead they opt for more natural and holistic approaches; favoring to journey with the ill person, so that the experience can be guided and as rewarding and fulfilling as possible.

Traditional shamanic sacraments include: the jungle brew, Ayahuasca; Yopo; Psilocybin Mushrooms; Iboga; Amanita Muscaria; Datura; Peyote; and the like. Even Cannabis can be used for healing purposes. Keep in mind, even in the developed, secular, Western world, cannabis is noted for its medical benefits, in addition to how fun and inspiring it can be.

But now, a new cast of substances are beginning to be considered “sacramental.” Substances like LSD, DMT, MDMA, Mescaline, Ketamine, and similar compounds, produce effects similar to that of traditional medicines, mainly because these newer compounds are just the medicines’ active compounds, synthesized. Granted, using “artificial” chemicals to induce transcendental states is technically non-traditional, but as long as those states can be reached, and the experience can be guided by either a sober “trip-sitter,” or someone who is well versed in taking sacramental substances enough to handle him or herself on his or her own, then there is no issue. In a way, drugs are a shortcut to states normally reached my sleep/sensory deprivation, fasting, prayer, meditation, breathing exercises, or yoga; so a shortcut to traditional medicines, especially when access to them is difficult in many places, shouldn’t be an issue.

But one substance that continually “gets the shaft,” so to speak, is alcohol. Now, this isn’t typically considered sacramental, in the shamanic sense, for a number of reasons, many of which include lewd behavior and thought processes and becoming violently ill, possibly even coming close to dying. After all, alcohol is just fermented sugar(s), and we all know how deadly sugar can be.

However, people are quick to extol the virtues of booze. Many celebrate it as a way to shake off any inhibitions, social or otherwise, which can be exhilarating and allow one to meet new people and partake in enriching experiences. Of course, the converse is that a person can perhaps become rendered “too sociable” or gets incoherent or even violent, and that those “enriching experiences” can endanger one’s health, security, and reputation. Granted, the risk-taking behavior is another element of getting drunk that people champion. Living outside one’s comfort zone, whether the experience(s) are/is appropriate, are ultimately beneficial to an individual, permitting he or she is unscathed (personally, physically) after it’s all said and done.

Alcohol was once considered “medicine” in Western society, but this was before modern medicine was really developed and when medical ignorance was bliss. But alcohol’s usage was completely unjustified, no. Since alcohol is, well, alcohol, it was used to clean wounds and such. When hygiene wasn’t a priority for medical professionals to pay any mind to, it paid to have a bottle of liquor nearby in case it was needed. Being drunk also helped people undergo harrowingly painful surgeries. The pain hurt a hell of a lot less when the patient was intoxicated, and drinking could potentially allow one to pass out, thereby acting as a discount anesthetic.

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About The Author

Creative Writing and Literature student at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.

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