How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

Author:Michael Pollan
Language: eng
Format: epub, mobi
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Published: 2018-05-15T04:00:00+00:00

Trip Two: Psilocybin

My second journey began around an altar, in the middle of a second-story loft in a suburb of a small city on the Eastern Seaboard. The altar was being prayed over by an attractive woman with long blond hair parted in the middle and high cheekbones that I mention only because they would later figure in her transformation into a Mexican Indian. Seated across the altar from me, Mary’s eyes were closed as she recited a long and elaborate Native American prayer. She invoked in turn the power of each of the cardinal directions, the four elements, and the animal, plant, and mineral realms, the spirits of which she implored to help guide me on my journey.

My eyes were closed too, but now and again I couldn’t resist peeking out to take in the scene: the squash-colored loft with its potted plants and symbols of fertility and female power; the embroidered purple fabric from Peru that covered the altar; and the collection of items arrayed across it, including an amethyst in the shape of a heart, a purple crystal holding a candle, little cups filled with water, a bowl holding a few rectangles of dark chocolate, the two “sacred items” she had asked me to bring (a bronze Buddha a close friend had brought back from a trip to the East; the psilocybin coin Roland Griffiths had given me at our first meeting), and, squarely before me, an antique plate decorated in a grandmotherly floral pattern that held the biggest psilocybin mushroom I had ever seen. It was hard to believe I was about to eat the whole thing.

The crowded altar also held a branch of sage and a stub of Palo Santo, a fragrant South American wood that Indians burn ceremonially, and the jet-black wing of a crow. At various points in the ceremony, Mary lit the sage and the Palo Santo, using the wing to “smudge” me with the smoke—guide the spirits through the space around my head. The wing made an otherworldly whoosh as she flicked it by my ear, the spooky sound of a large bird coming too close for comfort, or a dark spirit being shooed away from a body.

The whole thing must sound ridiculously hokey, I know, but the conviction Mary brought to the ceremony, together with the aromas of the burning plants and the sounds of the wing pulsing the air—plus my own nervousness about the journey in store—cast a spell that allowed me to suspend my disbelief. I had decided to give myself up to this big mushroom, and for Mary, the guide to whom I had entrusted my psyche for this journey, ceremony counted for as much as chemistry. In this she was acting more like a shaman than a psychologist.

Mary had been recommended by a guide I’d interviewed on the West Coast, a rabbi who had taken an interest in my psychedelic education. Mary, who was my age, had trained with the eighty-something student of Timothy Leary whom I had interviewed and decided was a little too far out there for me.


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