So I got to work – my second job, the one that happens in the evening – already kinda spinning around in my head about some shit that’s been going on in my life lately, mainly related to She Who Shall Not Be Named. It was Old Time Night: a group of musicians play old time music all evening, which seems like it’d be cool, and it should be and would be except that it’s the same four or five musicians playing the exact same songs every week and doing it in the most gutless way imaginable. Then somebody said something about cider and I totally flashed back to:
This one night in 1997: I had this huge marble ashtray at that point into which I would put any pills that I happened upon, which were mostly painkillers, muscle relaxants and benzodiazepines, crush ‘em all up, stir in all the crystal meth I could get and then scoop out bumps on the point of a knife. I was also smoking a shit-ton of weed. Anyway, this one night, it would’ve been October or early November, this cocktail waitress/prostitute that I had a casual sex thing going on with “borrowed” a car from some other guy she was sleeping with and asked me to take her to work and then come get her when her shift ended because she would be too drunk to drive when she got off. I took her to work and then figured that since I was driving what was basically a stolen car and had no driver’s license, I might as well have some fun so I took the car for a joyride all over the goddamn county. There were a few cassettes in the car, almost all of which were pop music shit. The only remotely decent thing I could find was Chumbawamba’s Tubthumper, the title track of which was on the charts at the time. I knew a guy who ran a record label in Richmond which had included a Chumbawamba track on a compilation and I thought the whole anarcho-punk band crafting a hit single was hilarious and yes, I did kinda dig “Tubthumper”, plus I was blasted on a smorgasbord of chemicals, so I blared “Tubthumper” over and over while careening around the county, burning up some guy’s gas.
When I have detailed flashbacks to the late ‘90’s, it usually means something’s wrong. I started an interior scan for malfunctions and then realized that it’s officially autumn now – the time of year when I’m most likely to experience some mental/emotional problems. I don’t always have major issues. I’m properly medicated and I have a fairly sane and stable life, but I do get some little ripples and so I figured out what was happening: the change in season had tripped some wire which was crossing the recent shit and creating interference. I have ways and means of handling my mental/emotional disorders, so I decided to just put my head down, get through the shift and then draw on the available resources to prevent a major slide into depression: supportive and knowledgeable friends, prayer and meditation, avoiding any contact whatsoever with She Who Shall Not Be Named and other negative influences.
Well, aside from a few little mistakes on my part, the evening went as well as could be expected until the gutless musicians packed up their guitars and one of my coworkers hit “play” on one of the playlists on the house computer. My coworkers are all good and kind people and some of them are mildly subversive in hippie-ish ways, but they sure do love some godawful music. Most nights I’m able to just shut it out, but tonight I was already a little edgy and what came out of the stereo was particularly offensive: “Drugstore Truckdrivin’ Man”, the Gram Parsons solo version, not the slightly more tolerable Byrds; Pure Prairie League’s “Amie”; and then, “Ripple”, Jerry Garcia’s most heinous and unforgivable crime against humanity. As soon as I heard the opening notes of that loathsome abomination, I knew I couldn’t maintain. There was an hour or more left to go and unless something happened fucking fast I wasn’t going to be able to do it.
The coworker who had initiated the pollution of the atmosphere walked over to me and said she didn’t think anybody was going to come in, we might as well start closing work. This was the opportunity I needed.
“Well, if we’re going to start closing, how ‘bout we play something a little more upbeat?” says I. See, I’m fairly new to the place. I’m trying to get along with people and not rock the boat too hard. It’s not easy because I’m who I am and because I truly and genuinely hate so very much of what they love. I really really really try to tolerate the music they play. I do. But it’s so difficult sometimes. Music has a lot of power and I feel it keenly. I’m able to avoid horrible music most of the time, but when I can’t get away from it, it grates on my nerves. I don’t think I can just say to somebody “Hey, I really fucking hate this horrible shit you’re playing, mind if I change it?” That would be rude. Suggesting that we listen to something “more upbeat” while doing the closing work is a tactic that allows me to avoid being subjected to the Grateful Dead without grossly offending someone who I have to work with.
And it worked. I gained access to the computer. The trick in this situation is to play something that I can stand which won’t cause everybody else to run to the computer to switch it to something terrible. Tonight I was inspired. I pulled up Dick Dale, added the Ventures and hit the go button. Boom. Surf rock for the rest of the shift. Duane Eddy, the Belaires, Link Wray, a Woody-load of unknowns and one-offs. All instrumental. That’s important. Rock lyrics are almost inevitably banal to the point of being insufferable. Instrumental surf rock is like abstract-expressionism: completely freed from the need to represent anything, the artist can just go apeshit. There is no stupid narrative. Titles don’t matter in the slightest. This is exactly why so many early BDSR tracks are untitled. Recently, I have started titling stuff because it gives me an opportunity to throw more puns around, but no one should think that the titles are meant to “mean something”.
Fuckin’ A, a heavy dose of early ‘60’s single-coil twang in 4/4 time was all I needed. I was able to slam through the closing work in record time, my joie de vivre in full force, except for those moments when duty forced me to step into the dishpit where the disher was playing Rising Appalachia, who sound every bit as nightmarish as a pair of Ani Difrancos slathering patchouli oil on the corpse of Harry Smith while stroking a djembe. Jesus fucking Christ: hippies.
I bitch about rock’n’roll as much as anybody. It really is a bloated and hackneyed cliché, shaved and neutered by the record industry. Crass pronounced punk dead in ’79 or so and they were spot on. The garbage that passes for rock’n’roll these days is as embarrassing as a forty-year-old man with his collar popped up. White Stripes? Yeah Yeah Yeahs? For fuck’s sake, man. I’d rather listen to crickets and sirens. Or that massive flock of swallows that spent a recent night in the trees around the apartment. They made an awesome racket.
I gotta say, though, Dick Dale and the Deltones pulled me out of the ditch tonight.
It is no secret that this here Espresso Shaman has ingested a veritable shitload of chemicals. I was a walking pharmaceutical dump for a number of years and I don’t do that stuff anymore. Mind-altering substances do figure into many of the world’s faith traditions – most, actually – so altered states are within my area.
First, I need to define a term: an “entheogen” is a “god-containing” substance, as opposed to a “hallucinogen” which is a drug that makes you see weird shit. For my purposes, entheogens are derived from plants and have been tested and approved by traditional use. So peyote, fly agaric, psilocybin, tabernanthe iboga, silene capensis, salvia, morning glories, ayahuasca, Syrian rue, pitcheri, uncured tobacco, cannabis, kava kava and/or San Pedro are entheogens and blotter acid is not. I know, many people have seen god(s) on acid and many people have taken peyote just to get fucked up and listen to Ten Years After, but I’m sticking with that definition. There are several synthetics which appear to have some entheogenic properties, most notably DMT, but those haven’t been around long enough for any serious research to have been done so I’m leaving them out.
All traditional/pagan/primitive/nonliterate peoples, with the possible exception of those living above the Arctic Circle have used entheogens. As far as I know, all peoples that use entheogens acknowledge that they are a shortcut, a less-than-ideal way of achieving a desired state. Again and again, I have read accounts of grass-clad heathens telling anthropologists some variation on “In the early times, shamans didn’t need to use (whatever) because they were stronger. Now our shamans are weak and they need (whatever)”. The substance does the job, but other ways are more desirable. I’ll get back to that.
Eating a handful of ‘shrooms and listening to Ten Years After might be a lot of fun, but it is not even close to proper entheogen use. I’ve eaten ‘shrooms. We were probably listening to Royal Trux instead of Ten Years After, but it comes to the same thing. Getting fucked up is not seeking the divine. I can’t stress that enough. In any real shamanic/entheogenic-type situation, the shaman would have to go through a training period, an initiation into the correct use of the substance. She or he would have to come to know the specific deit(y/ies) within the plant/cactus/fungus, to develop a relationship with them. Use of the entheogen would take place under specific conditions, usually in combination with other, non-chemical, methods for achieving an altered state, i.e. fasting, sleep-deprivation or self-flagellation. Under no circumstances would any real shaman ever “trip balls”.
I know a few hippies who have been to South America. Every one of them has ingested a few of the substances listed above and every one of them will happily tell you about the good times they had drinking mescal and tripping balls on San Pedro. Fucking hippies.
If you want to use an entheogen – and I am certainly not suggesting that anyone should – you would first have to fast for forty-eight hours, at the very least, and stay awake for thirty-six hours, at the very least, before ingesting the substance. That most of that time should be spent in prayer and meditation goes without saying. Self-inflicted suffering – heat, cold, pain, and discomfort – can only help. Hanging upside-down for a while is good. Chewing on habaneros is always helpful. The many different cultures that use entheogens all have their own preparatory rituals which any student of spirituality would do well to research whether he/she intends to ingest entheogens or not - Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, by Mircea Eliade, is a damn fine place to start. After all that, you can eat the ‘shrooms.
Then again, if, as our sources say, the only reason modern shamans use entheogens is that they are weak, might’nt it be better to eschew their use? Should one settle for what is, admittedly, a less-than-ideal pathway to Divinity? Is it not more desirable and advantageous to follow the very best course? Of course, it is.
Fasting, sleep-deprivation, self-inflicted suffering can bring about altered states without chemical assistance. It takes a little longer, but that’s actually better. Mohandas Gandhi, who certainly knew about fasting, said “There is more to life than increasing its speed” and I couldn’t agree more. The long, slow, tedious and boring method is almost inevitably the better, especially when it comes to spiritual growth. I’m not going to get into the details of my own practice here because some things are private, but I do employ non-entheogenic methods to achieve altered states. And I do encourage others to do the research and follow the time-tested techniques. They work.
I must admit that I am not entirely certain that I would not use an actual entheogen. I am sure that they can yield benefits when used the right way. As I type this, Italian Ice, BDSR’s Ambassador to the Third World, is wandering around some tropical rainforest with a Hare Krishna, eating various cactuses and slime molds. Her reports to BDSR HQ have been quite entertaining and insightful. If I ever found myself in Peru, being offered ayahuasca by a local medicine man or if I were somehow allowed to take part in a peyote ceremony with members of the Native American Church despite the fact that I am a dirty wasi’chu, I would probably drink the Kool-Aid, so to speak. I don’t expect to be in either of those situations any time soon. It would be a big thing for me to ingest any mind-altering substance. I’d have to think and pray and be absolutely sure, but I might do it.
Another thing happening as I type this: the fine young fellows at HysM? are burning copies of Entheogenocide, which should be hitting the market very soon. This one is a slight deviation from the typical cacophony you’ve come to expect from BDSR: fucked-up stoner-sludge metal. It’s heavy, man, heavy and dark. 66.6 minutes of heavy, dark, stonerage in open G6 tuning, Locrian mode. You can pre-order it now.
There was this woman who I kept seeing around downtown who, for various reasons, stirred my insides in a way that I ain’t got time for at this point in my life. I found myself thinking about her and me and us and shit like that. A friend suggested that I talk with her, that I find out a bit about her. I saw the wisdom in his suggestion: surely, if I got to know her, she would reveal some tendency, character trait or belief that would kill any attraction and relieve me of the curse of desire. Unfortunately, I kept not running into her which meant I couldn’t strike up a conversation with her and therefore couldn’t find out what it was about her I couldn’t stand. Then, one night when I was at work, she came in with some guy who looked like a douchebag with male pattern baldness. He was touching her in a familiar fashion. Sure, I experienced a certain sense of having lost something that I never had, but mostly I felt liberated. She was unavailable and she was the kind of woman who enjoyed being pawed by douchebags in public. My attraction was immediately transformed to repulsion.
The song running through my head for the rest of the shift was the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Set Free”. Last thing I want or need is a woman taking up time and space in my life, even if it is just inside my head.
Still, there are some perks to having a woman around, so I decided to come up with a set of questions for potential partners to fill out. Any woman who answers the questions satisfactorily is one I would be willing to invest a little time into getting to know better.
Interested ladies may send their answers to the BDSR email. I’ll get back to you.
1. My favorite Roky Erickson song is
a) “Sweet Honey Pie” b) “Bloody Hammer” c ) “I Have Always Been Here Before” d) “Two-Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)”
2. If I was somehow allowed to participate in the Sun Dance, I would give
a) two pieces of my flesh for the People b) four pieces of my flesh for the People c) six pieces of my flesh for the People d) eight pieces of my flesh for the People
3. I was born during the _____ administration.
a) Johnson b) Nixon c) Ford d) Carter
4. To the best of my knowledge, ____ of my ancestors fought for the Confederacy.
a) all b) 5-10 c) 11-15 d) none (they were still in the Old Country)
5. Sex is
a) a sacrament b) confusion c) a necessary evil d) degrading and disgusting. Every time I do it, I feel dirty and ashamed, but then I want to do it again. I am a horrible, dirty person.
6. I vote Democrat, but really I’m a(n)
a) Socialist b) Collectivist c) Anarchist d) Abstract-Expressionist
7. Coffee is
a) coming right up b) necessary for the maintenance of a healthy body and sound mind c) the most sublime entheogen d) proof that the Goddess loves us and wants us to be happy
8. I know it’s wrong, but when I found out that ______ had died, I did a happy dance.
a) Ronald Reagan b) Jerry Garcia c) Michael Jackson d) Margaret Thatcher
9. The Goddess with whom I most identify is
a) Gaia b) Kali c) Freyja d) The Morrigan
a) Power b) Riot c) Galore (the band, obviously) d) it’s what’s for dinner
11. There is no such thing as too much
a) distortion b) garlic c) firepower d) Acid Mothers Temple
12. I’m too cynical to believe in true love or any kinda bullshit like that, but being in a relationship seems desirable because
a) two can live as cheap as one b) social conditioning, I guess c) deep down inside I haven’t really given up the fantasy of finding someone who will accept and love me just as I am, asking only that I respond in kind d) it ain’t gonna lick itself
13. When I cum, I
a) scream b) bite c) squirt d) break through the barrier that separates normal conscious from the direct experience of eternity
14. Before I die, I want to
a) travel b) transcend death c)make the world a better place d) build a wall of my enemy dead around me
15. Gandhi said a lot of good shit, but my favorite would have to be
a) “If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide” b) “There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever” c) “The essence of all religions is one. Only their approaches are different” d) “But for my faith in God, I should have been a raving maniac”
16. I’ve lived ___________ for so long that it almost seems normal to me now
a) in the zone of middle dimensions b) on the ragged edge of poverty c) at the mountains of madness d) beyond the lunatic fringe
17. Any person who eats meat, in any form, at any time, and who claims to care about the environment is
a) retarded b) lying c) ignorant d) insane
18. When I have some kind of emotional bullshit that I need to deal with in some way, I
a) yammer about it with my female friends until I’m over it b) process it with my therapist and/or sponsor/friends in some 12-Step group c) meditate d) fast for a day, go out to the woods, take San Pedro and run wild and naked with my Spirit Animals
19. The keys to a successful relationship are
a) mutual respect and selective honesty b) the willingness to overlook flaws and the desire to get fucked once in a while without having to go out and talk to people c) fulfilling interests outside of the relationship and the conviction that while it might be possible to find a better partner, it isn’t really worth the effort d) shared spiritual practices and the knowledge that your partner will back you in a fight
20. The Big Drum In The Sky Religion
a) is not a religion b) is not a religion c) is not a religion d) is not a religion
Recently, I announced via F’book and G+ that I was adding “shamanic advice columnist” to the already lengthy list of services that I provide. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I am a shaman and healing work is part of that, but it’s kinda difficult in this culture to get people to seek out shamans, especially in this town where I am known more as a cranky old weirdo than a frequent traveler to and from the Spirit World, so throwing it out to the online community seemed like a good way to get the ball rolling. I’m confident that it’s only a matter of time before I’m witching off warts and sucking bad magicks out of people in exchange for gifts of tobacco, goats and cash.
Several people responded with questions, most of which were not serious. One young lady, did ask a couple of questions, which I shall treat with below. She used her real name, but I’m going to rename her “Need Information Period” to protect her privacy and because it seems to be how these things are done.
When will I get my first period?
- Need Information Period
NIP, a girl's first period is called "menarche", which comes from Greek "mene", "moon", and "arche", "beginning". That you have not yet reached the "First Moon" of your life indicates that you are trapped, physically and psychically, in childhood, a state of being which, though it has certain pleasures, is changeless. You must break out of your stagnancy. I would suggest going into seclusion, preferably in a natural setting, fasting, going without sleep and praying. During the third night, offer a blood sacrifice to the Earth Mother. It doesn't have to be much - cut the insides of your thighs and let the blood run into the Earth. Menarche should occur within two days of the offering. If it doesn't, consult me personally. A more intense ritual would be needed in that case.
What would you advise me to do with my menstruation once I finally get it?
- Need Information Period
Well, NIP, that is a complex issue. Before I delve into your bleeding vagina, I should touch on a few things.
I am male and therefore have never experienced menstruation first-hand. My thoughts on the matter are, like so much else of what I’ve said in this space, uninformed and ignorant. I wouldn’t even venture to comment on this subject if it wasn’t already covered by so many of the world’s faith traditions, but it is, which puts it in my realm of knowledge.
The Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition, of course, generally denigrates and reviles all things female. One of many examples of this is:
“And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.” - Leviticus 20:18
Or, in other words, bloody sex is icky and bad and wrong and anybody who does it should be ostracized and left to wander and die in the desert, which is just stupid. There is, in fact, absolutely nothing wrong with uncovering a woman’s blood fountain and getting all messy. Feh to Leviticus, says I. However, it must be noted that I do not totally disagree with the Biblical writers, who at least acknowledged the import of menstruation. Among the pagans of antiquity and the modern era, menstruation was associated with powerful magic. Menstruating women were subject to many taboos, lest they accidentally interfere with the normal course of events. For example, menstruating women were required to stay away from hunters and the tools of hunting on the grounds that their “female magic” might negatively influence the “male magic” of the hunters and cause a food shortage. There is recognition of female power. The Biblical writers removed the power aspect and twisted the whole thing into misogyny. Feh again.
Following the Bible’s example, Western society in general has denigrated women and all things associated with them. In the past hundred years or so, women have made enormous progress toward equality - seriously, the Feminist movement has changed the culture unbelievably in just a dozen decades – but not without certain compromises that are, in the long run, harmful to women. Work-place equality has mostly taken the form of women proving that they can do the same work as men, which is fair enough, but which forces women to act as if they are men. Men don’t get periods, which means that they aren’t bleeding out of their genitalia for a week every month, which means that women are expected to pretend that they aren’t either, when in fact, they are. Of course, women are further forced to deny the fact that they experience certain intrinsic aspects of being female by the disgust, fear and loathing which our culture has for menstruation. No woman in the work force or out is immune from insulting comments about “that time of the month” any time she displays emotion or disagrees with the male consensus on any issue. Probably half the pain and discomfort women feel when they’re menstruating is the result of having to pretend that they’re not.
Fuck that noise.
What I would suggest NIP and all other females do with their menstruation is a radical departure from Western society’s norms. I won't suggest a return to a pre- or non-Biblical state of being, because for one thing, the information isn’t available, and for another thing, we now know that bleeding women don’t radiate waves of potentially harmful magic. I’m going totally rogue here, making shit up, but the shit I’m up-making is consistent with the basic premises of traditional paganry and I am completely serious.
Recognize and honor the Goddess within you, NIP. Chart out your cycle and take those days off work. If you get your cut early, just call in sick. Spend shark week in seclusion, meditating on the awesome power of your sex. Obviously, this tree-hugging dirt-worshiper would opt to go out to the Nat’l Forest, squat over a hole and bleed out while trancing out and running wild with various spirits, and I do heartily encourage that kind of activity, but I understand that not all femmes are quite ready for that. It’s a major step from popping over the counter painkillers and pretending nothing is happening in your vagina to all-out pagan menses rituals. It might be better to start gradually: take off work, turn off the phone and spend a quiet few days contemplating your womanhood. Relax, meditate, get together with some female friends, preferably ones who are also menstruating. Take a walk in the park or woods, but nothing too strenuous. If you have a sex partner, get a little messy. At the outset, you’re trying to undo the negativity you’ve been taught to associate with your period. After a few months, getting your period will stop being something dreadful and will start to be something you look forward to, a respite from the rest of the world. At that point, it would be easy to stop. This Espresso Shaman would, of course, encourage you to go further: to make that time of the month the starting point for intense meditation and ritual, focusing all the while on the awesome Goddess power inherent in all females. Whether you do that or not is really up to you.
The worst thing you can do with your menstruation, NIP, is fight it. Midol and vodka might mask the pain and discomfort, but the price will be the full realization of your Self.
I’m still figuring out exactly how I want to go about this advice column thing. For one thing, I need to come up with a suitable pun for the title. Feel free to ask questions. I’ll consult the Spirit Animals and see what they have to say.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.