The Sacred Bindweeds of Mesoamerica: Introductions and Background

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Introduction and Context

Attempts to scientifically categorise and understand the depth of personal psychedelic experience, (particularly the more decadent and visionary states that can be attained through high doses or skillful use), are often left severely lacking in regard to an appreciation of the otherworldly grandiose, eerie and often cartoonishly comical tricks and turns that can be visited upon the voyager. In a manner similar to the attempts of early anthropologists, attempting to really grasp or grapple with the fullness and rich texture of the subject is an impossible feat to achieve from the side-lines. One must submerge himself within the swamp of the matter entirely and without prejudice to advance toward the vital innards of the beast itself. Often, when approaching a subject of this nature (the psychedelic experience, magical practise and occultism, art and so on), how one slots themselves into the phenomena is an intensely personal exploit. There are many, many guides within both human and magical realms, but nobody can really teach you better than direct experience, and your own intuition. When pursuing greater accomplishment of understanding within these areas, a combination of exhaustive study and diligent experimentation is generally advised. If then followed through, one may find themselves lead to some truly bizarre places and experiences of such piercing luminosity and intensity that decades of mundane experience and gradual learning can be crammed into the space of a single day and night.

The work in question came to the fore after many years of such personal investigation into the psychedelic mystery, particularly the way it manifests with unending variety and ingenuity across different substances in accordance with origin (plant based vs synthetic), dose/method of use and history of use by humanity during our brief and tumultuous stint of being on this planet. My experiences have been inextricably linked with my occult practises, which predate the onset of psychedelic use by a year or so, in total, 7 years and my love of nature and the earth, which is even older. The study aims to go some way to give spotlight to what for me is a cornerstone of my own magical practise and hence, my life. This article will aim to outline the context, focus and meaning of the work, also highlighting specifics and covering the basis of the planned experimentation. Actual records and results will be issued and discussed in subsequent articles.

I am a scientist by training, something which precludes me to try and understand things on all levels, yet also in my heart I am an artist, seeing nature as the finest possible of artistic works, to which all human attempts must be compared with general futility. The peak point of the psychedelic mystery stands as one of the highest measures of this beauty and within it the creative genius of nature is sent haywire, using her ultimate and most densely complex tool, the human brain. From here, the potential of this miracle is unleashed and we are (in certain cases), presented with a living technology of such sophistication and limitless potential that in the vast majority of encounters, the viewer has no idea what it is or how to use it.

I would honestly say that the majority of my own experiences have had this quality, a training up until the near recent past where things clicked and the relationship deepened. I believe that part of what has enabled easier or smoother transition to “the meat” of the mystery and its unfolding toward the user (and I have a long path ahead of me yet), lies in biochemical change/neuroplasticity toward a habitually used chemical/familiarity with the state, and the unique property of animacy found within many of the traditionally used hallucinogenic plants. Many of these are either multi-alkaloidal by default or are traditionally prepared in an admixture. Variety and chaos abounds from plant to plant and often this is in strong contrast to purely artificial, “modern” psychedelic compounds. A prime example of an animate spirit behind a plant-based/organic hallucinogen is of course psilocybin mushrooms. These should by now be understood to have sentience of a kind that is so utterly “above” and transcendent of our own that to perceive it face to face is like talking to god(s) (putting it badly). Many of the “choice” plant hallucinogens just work “better”. Chemically, they abuse the body less and fit the brain more cleanly. They are more efficient and are true “keys”, wear as synthetics are more akin to a crowbar. Critically, with plants, you have a guide. The plants spirit and consciousness, manifested within you through symbiotic union of your biochemistry with its active component.

Often I have found that synthetic psychedelics are somewhat clumsy, devoid of real depth and brilliance and are often predictable and tiresome, even at high doses, after one has used them for a good period of time. A friend of mine would compare Mushrooms to LSD saying, “would you rather have incredible, boundary dissolving sex with a master-lover who knows you better than you will ever know yourself for 4 hours, or have a horny teenager hammer away at you for 16?”.

These are special plants, the ancients knew this and revered them rightly for their power, wisdom and sentience. Indeed, the classical view of the vegetable kingdom is one in which all plants are conscious, with plants of power acting as go-betweens to distil knowledge of their world into those capable and willing to listen.

Here is where modern scientific enquiry can only fail. By not recognizing the sentience of their subject, they deny themselves the true knowledge and understanding that come from actual collaboration from the offset. I intend by my own work here to approach the plant in a manner that runs close to the methods of its traditional use and with the full respect it deserves, attempt to bridge a gap of hundreds of years in order to witness this intelligence and learn what it might teach me, living in this modern world. The plants are viewed as collaborators in the project, nothing suggested is left out and they are welcomed to speak through me what they will.

I believe that the impulse given by most psychedelic encounters is a creative one. By art do they speak and if they are to gift us wisdom, so should it also proceed from us as art. Thus, the good old florid trip report is seen by me to be a fully appropriate and adequate medium for recording the work. Language is as much a prime tool of the psychedelic as visual art, and indeed the vines do encourage me to speak with liberty and excess when making my recordings.

 

So, with all this preamble being established, a question:

 

Why Bindweeds? Why LSA?

 

To be totally honest, the reason I wanted to explore the LSA bearing seeds of Ipomoea Violacea and Rivea Corymbosa was primarily due to a drought in my ability to reliably find psilocybin mushrooms. I had become convinced the plant based hallucinogens had far more to offer me than synthetics and the appeal of a long-term relationship with them was enticing. I also knew I could easily purchase large amounts of Morning Glory seeds online for a low price, thus ensuring a reliable supply to sustain my exploration for a long while.

In addition, LSA containing seeds and the vines that bear them have not really received the same kind of attention that other, more popular, plant based hallucinogens have. There is no Terence McKenna of Morning Glories. They have relatively poor PR and as a result, there was/is a void to fill. I felt that not only would the work have personal meaning, but would perhaps be “useful” in a broader sense. Additionally, a lack of attention meant increased mystery and less of a pretentious know all attitude from the general psychedelic community. LSA is generally viewed as an inferior substance, yet the seeds of the Morning Glory and (specifically Violacea, or “Heavenly Blue”), were placed on an absolute pedestal by the late Aztec civilisation, who termed the entity “Tlitlitzin”, or “Divine Black One”.

Aztec theology, culture and shamanism has also been a primary focus of my magical path for a few years now, and the whole thing just seemed to fit very neatly into the space left by psilocybin mushrooms. I had just finished my masters, had time + energy to spare and decided to give myself over to the routine use of the seeds with the aim of refining my technique of preparation and use in alignment with what records remain of Aztec usage as well as modern recorded use by extant indigenous populations within Mesoamerica today. I was to take an approach both (relatively) scientific and shamanic, hopefully coming back with something living and vital that would live through me and be revitalised by my efforts.

 


Preparatory Techniques

When researching the use of Morning Glory seeds as a psychedelic tool, one thing is sure to stand out to even the most casual reader: poorly planned use or direct oral consumption of seeds invariably results in nausea and often intense stomach pains. This factor is known very well to be related to the presence of various binding agents and chemical compounds within the black seed husks that trigger such effects. Leading on from this, all techniques used in processing and preparation of seeds for later consumption have as their goal the separation of psychoactive LSA from these unwanted nauseating elements. The simplest of these is the same in essence as was/is used by the Aztecs and by indigenous mesoamerican people to this day: a cold water extraction.

The fundamental steps for this process are as such:

  • Determine Your Dose. This is likely to be based on reading other people’s experiences, or through gradual experimentation.
  • Distil water. It is critical that chlorine free water be used for the extraction, as it is known to attack and degrade LSA (and LSD) in solution relatively rapidly. We will want to leave our infusion for several days, thus having true distilled water is a must. For this, a kettle, length of tubing (preferably of a material that would not leach chemicals into your water and a vessel for catching drips are all needed. The water should be cooled to a low temperature following its collection. The experience of the author recommends that using less water is not a bad idea, as the ordeal of consuming several pints of seed-fluid rapidly becomes intolerable to even imagine.
  • Grind Seeds. For this purpose, a stone Metate would have been used to produce a fine seed flour, thus maximizing surface area and aiding the production of an LSA infused solution. For us, a coffee grinder works fantastically well.
  • Add freshly ground flour of seeds to closable container of distilled water. This mixture should then be shaken vigorously and left to infuse in a dark, cold space (a fridge is ideal). Darkness and low temperature will inhibit the speed at which the LSA will degrade. Based on the experimentation of the author, 3 days and nights is a good length of time to aim for. Four days and nights does not seem to result in additional potency and runs the risk of potential degradation or contamination (which I guess could happen). During this period, the user should be sure to agitate the mixture around every 2-3 hours.
  • Strain Mixture. When the time comes to take the concoction, it should be poured through a fine mesh in order to strain out seed pulp, husks and the insoluble clear jelly-like binding agent. For this, tights or muslin work well, although the process is always time consuming. For efficiency, the author recommends using 2-3 sets of tights placed around the mouths of cups, each straining simultaneously. It is important to make sure you squeeze out as much actual fluid from the seed mash left in the bottom as possible or you will downgrade your dose. On the other hand, the user must be sure not to press any of the viscous jelly through the gauze or nausea is likely to follow.
  • Drink! After straining, a liquid with a dark brown-pink colour should be left in your cups. It will have a dank, earthy smell and taste which is not completely unpleasant at first. The user may choose to drink it straight, or combine it with some juice in order to improve palatability. The upside of using juice is that you will be more likely to be able to finish it faster. The downside is that you will be consuming up to double the volume of liquid, potentially resulting in incomfortable bloating.

Following consumption, onset may be expected to occur within 30-40 minutes, often enough trending toward 20-30 for myself.


Generalised effects in literature:

When placed in the context of other hallucinogens (naturally occurring and purely synthetic), the reputation of low-mid range dosed LSA (100-300 seeds), is that of mild onset, pleasant body load (if prepared correctly) and low-intensity visual disturbances (OEV and CEV). Generally users will describe it as being either “better” or “worse” than its cousin LSD, one would assume that personal preference being key here. Reports from the higher end doses (400-800 seeds), often take on a far more intense and typically rather dark and rending tone for unprepared users.

Encounters with conceptual loops and separate entities are common with higher doses. At especially high dose ranges, users often report increasing difficulty maintaining a consistent internal dialogue of self, the result being forays into what may easily verge upon temporary psychotic breaks. This should not come as a surprise, however, as this is one of the fundamental qualities of true psychedelics, that at high doses they are essentially ego crushers.

A general consensus seems to be that at low doses, LSA bearing seeds are mostly sedating, pleasurable and somewhat unremarkable and that high doses, they are difficult, painful and maddening (if also beautiful).

An interesting counter point to this (greatly generalised) range of doses-effects, is found in reports of indigenous use, reported dosages and perceived effects. The majority of information regarding the traditional modes of usage for these plants (and indeed the identifications), come from the conquest era of Aztec Mesoamerica by the Spaniard invaders. These reports are typified by contempt, arrogance and ignorance of the knowledge and culture of the native peoples, with the result that attention was given to the practise only due to morbid fascination and the association with devilry.

Many of the reports by these early “scholars” are listed in Richard Evan Schultes’ work “A contribution to Our Knowledge of Rivea Corymbosa, The Narcotic Ololiqui of the Aztecs”. As per the title, this work pertains to the Rivea Corymbosa alone and is a thorough review of taxonomic, botanical and anthropological info on the plant/seeds circa 1941.

For a far more complete literature review of historical and modern sources of information on this broad topic, I recommend this thread, by chaosmatrix user Entropymancer.

Interesting points to be made revolve around dosages, different modes of use/preparatory techniques and commonly cited effects.

Common uses fall into the categories of “healing” and divination (this not being strictly separate from healing practise and as a paramount sacrament in ritual sorcery.

Both the dosage and preparation of seeds are seen to vary depending on specific application and region, but for liquid preparations, common numbers range from 7-26 seeds (with different amounts for patient and shaman).

Ololiqui is also commonly described as being an important admixture to poultices used to help deaden pain and as an addition to resin used in the setting of bones. Reputed medicinal uses include as a sedative (not surprising), an anaesthetic aiding rheumatism and conferring above average pain threshholds (enabling hard labour and supreme feats of walking), an aid to reducing flatulence and as a treatment for venereal disease and cancer.

In acts of sorcery the seed is said to be have been added to unguents composed from a range of symbolically and magically charged ingredients such as the bodies of insects and snakes, as well as binding agents (ashes) and other plants (likely tobacco). Usage of the seeds in such a manner seems to suggest an invocation of the power and intelligence alongside the essence of other cosmological and environmental attributes/archetypes.

Restricting our focus to use in a liquid infusion, what strikes me as being significant is the relatively low doses supposedly administered to patients and used by shaman and the corresponding experiences and recorded effects, which manifest in a manner more akin to the high end doses of modern users. Now of course, the historical reports are concerned not with morning glory, but with Rivea Corymbosa, which is known to be notably more potent regardless, however one cannot help but reflect that indigenous usage of the seeds has an inferred “skillfulness” about it, with technique and manipulation of set and setting by the shaman allowing for an expression of the plants inner workings at far lower doses. It is also likely that for both Ololiqui and Morning glory, the currently available species viewed as representative of those used by the Aztecs and various Oaxacan tribes have seeds of much lower potency than their ancestors, with such traits being perhaps diluted by centuries of abstraction away from these species.

Noted significant effects in historic reports for me centre around the entry into a somnambulant trance by patient following ingestion of liquid, within which visions would come swiftly as in a dream. The supposed presence of small men visiting the users of the seeds who would help, give information and act as healers themselves. The isolation of the patient in a dark room (common shamanic practise). The effects seemingly desired were those encountered during sedative dream states, taking the form of concrete visions, information given relating to ailment, divination etc. This is in contrast with modern psychedelic use where allot of the time, median to low doses result in users noting phenomena while “awake”, as well as the sedative state, but not engaging with it. Only at high doses do modern users yield to the trance and encounter the entities.

What I gleaned from my research is that the approach I need take should be with a subtle hand. It felt to me crude and disrespectful to drink in excess of 500 seeds in one sitting in order to receive a significant experience. Moreover I felt if I was to be true to my original impulse, starting small and attempting to maintain things at a low level, proceeding the respect and skill, would be the best way to recreate the conditions of the plants’ original use and to enter into its particular slipstream in a way that was respectful and which might enable the cultivation of a stable and fruitful relationship.

 

Methodology and Results are to be presented separately (due to size) in articles proceeding from this one. Conclusions are unlikely to be obtained any time soon, but I hope to discuss and unfold what mystery presents itself through a development of technique, both preparatory and psychically. My goals lie in self development and in the cultivation of wisdom and internal beauty. I have reached a point in my own development where bending a knee to a plant in order to ask for its assistance seems to be entirely appropriate.