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Mythbusting 101
Lesson 9

 

The Tale of the Magic Garland

An Entheogenic Fable in Arthurian Legend

    Wild tales draw nigh now, which can dispel joys and raise exuberance—with both these they wrestle.
    Wolfram von Eschenbach,
    Parzival
    , Ch. X (opening the Gawain Episodes)

Having considered love and transcendence in Arthurian Romance through several lessons, it is time to return to a primary theme of the Grail quest: the wounding of the Fisher King. It may seem that we have already tackled this subject from several angles, and that we have encompassed the problem quite well. If fact, we have not yet considered the essential key to this element of the story. Not a surprising oversight, perhaps, for there is a pivotal theme of the Grail Legend that has been missed by almost every scholar writing on the subject. The reason for this omission is a literary trick used by Wolfram von Eschenbach to steer his audience away from a secret by treating it in an offhand, peripheral manner.

This is how the poet protected the initiatory secret encoded in the Legend.

Gawain and Parzival

Scholars call Wolfram's narrative device entrelacement, "interlacing." In his treatment of the quest for the Grail, the poet interwove the Quest theme with another, seemingly secondary theme, represented in the magical adventures of Gawain. To scholars, this seems like a moralistic device to contrast the spiritual character of Parzival with the worldly character of Gawain. We are asked to believe that we are being shown two types of chevaliers, the Gawain type being unworthy of the ultimate attainment. In The Literature of the Middle Ages, W. T. H. Jackson wrote of Gahmuret, Parzival's father, "he is below the great figures of the Grail company because of his lack of religious purpose (p. 118). He might have said the same of Gawain.

But all is not as it may appear with this lesser hero, Gawain. In order to see how the adventures of this womanizing rogue encode the pivotal clue of the Legend, let's review the story of his young sidekick, Parzival:

The noble company of the Grail live on Savage Mountain in la Terre Gaste, the Wasteland, a place where nature has fallen into decay, reflecting the decadence of the human spirit. Although they are nourished by the Grail, the nobles of the Grail family are unable to share this sustenance with the world at large. The Grail king, Amfortas, who suffers from a grievous wound in the thighs or genitals, can be momentarily eased of his pain by application of the bleeding Lance in the presence of the Grail; but he can neither be cured completely, nor can he die of his affliction. He suffers a special kind of anguish, and, bizarrely, the only way to alleviate the pain of his wound is by inserting into it the weapon that caused the wound.

Compounding this bizarre and tragic situation is a riddle concerning the one who can release the Grail family from their sequestration, heal the king, and attain the ultimate spiritual gift. The conditions for this event have been set by higher powers and inscribed in the starry code of the Zodiac. At certain moments, the celestial writing appears around the rim of the Grail, explaining how it must transpire with the one who comes to attain the Grail: He must be the son of a widow who arrives at Savage Mountain by chance, without any intention of seeking the place, and without understanding his mission beforehand. Being an naive, unsocialized fool qualifies him to attain the Grail, but, at the same time, it hampers him from asking the right question that leads to this attainment. Moreover, the writing on the Grail declares that no one in the noble company may assist or prompt the young knight in any way. He must come out of his own resources to the point of asking the the Grail king, "Uncle, what ails thee?"

Such is the curious set-up that awaits the young hero, Parzival. Wolfram's narrative tells in great detail how all these plot-factors play out over a number of years, involving two visits to the Grail castle by Parzival, and between them, the apprenticeship with Trevrizent. Over those middle years, the entrelacement unfolds. During the time Parzival spends with Trevrizent, Gawain goes off on an independent set of adventures. He and Parzival first meet in Ch. 6, and they ride away together at the end of that chapter, but then they are separated. Chapters 7 and 8 describe the rowdy exploits of Gawain in love and chivalry, then in Ch. 9, the narrative returns to Parzival and his decisive meeting with Trevrizent. Chapters 10, 11, 12 and 13 return to the adventures of Gawain, with almost no mention of Parzival. In Ch. 14, the two heroes are reunited and the entrelacement is completed.

Synopsis of the Gawain adventures.

Such is the narrative structure of Parzival. The story is complex and massively loaded with detail. Wolfram mentions 277 character names, including those of dogs and horses. There are over 150 place-names, many of which have been traced by scholars to locales in France, England and Wales. It is easy to get lost in all this material. Moreover, because the plot-factors that drive the action and determine the fate of the central character are so peculiar, with everything building suspensefully up to the decisive moment, we tend to miss a crucial factor in the story. The emphasis on the way Parzival comes to ask the Grail question is so strong that we overlook the answer to the question. It seems as if the Quest is completed when he finally puts the question to Amfortas, and that's that. But what about the answer to his question? In fact, there is no answer—or is there? In Ch. 16, Amfortas does not respond when Parzival asks, "Uncle, what ails thee?" In other words, the old patriarch does not tell the young knight (and hence, the audience of the story) what caused his affliction.

We do not know from the narrative within that scene (Ch. 16) what occasioned the wounding of the Grail king, even though we witness the act that heals it.

Needless to say, this is something we vitally want to know. What did Wolfram have to say about what caused the wound of Amfortas? A lot, actually. But he does not disclose what he knows in the main plot-line, only in the secondary line of entrelacement with the Gawain episodes. What he does not and cannot declare openly is told in a parallel story-line where Gawain figures as the central character.

The Cry of Amor

Joseph Campbell devotes the greater part of Creative Mythology, the fourth volume of his tetralogy, The Masks of God, to a retelling and interpretation of the Grail Legend. The full retelling begins in his Ch. 8, oddly named "The Paraclete." He presents his synopsis by chapters or Books: "Book I: The Black Queen of Zazamanc," and so on. Books VII and VIII cover the first set of Gawain's adventures. Books X through XIV go into the later adventures, the deep way into the entheogenic fable. (Beware that in treating X though XIV, Campbell inserts long digressions, which he calls intermezzos. One is 15 pages, followed by another of 30 pages. You can safely skip these digressions and stay with his synopsis of the story.).

To his credit, Campbell plays close attention to the Gawain episodes. He develops them extensively, as no other scholar has done. And he even discloses the initiatory secret encoded in those episodes, but without defining it as such. Creative Mythology was published in 1968. It seems that Campbell was deeply engaged in the Gawain episodes at that time, and for a considerable time before. His essay, "The Mythology of Love," (published in Myths to Live By), was developed from lectures given between 1958 and 1971 at Cooper Union in New York City. This essay pays close attention to how the Grail king received his wound.

In the Gawain adventures, the principal female protagonist, who is also a formidable antagonist, is the voluptuous baroness, Orgeluse. Campbell noted:

It is interesting that Wolfram makes this same Orgeluse the mistress of Amfortas and the person whose love has caused his wound and suffering.

The mistress of Amfortas? Here is the entrelacement at work. In the Parzival story line, Trevrizent describes the wounding of Amfortas (Ch. 9), but without going into explicit detail: Amfortas "chose himself a lady-love who seemed to him of goodly ways" (478, Edwards trans.) This is Orgeluse, but not named. " 'Amor' was his battle-cry," Trevrizent tells Parzival in his partial disclosure of the wounding event. To the grief of his people the king went forth seeking adventure and womanly delights. Then, "he was wounded in a joust by a poisoned spear... It was a heathen who fought there and rode that joust against him - born in Ethnise, where the Tigris flows forth from Paradise" (Ibid.). This is all the detail we get in Trevrizent's account in Chapter 9 .

Nevertheless, Chapter 9 contains some peculiar hints of what is next to be encountered in the entrelacement: Trevrizent—brother to Amfortas, remember—describes how the family handled the wounded patriarch when he returned to his domain. He explains that no medical books offered a cure for the poisoned wound. The family sorely wanted to heal the king, rather than just see his suffering alleviated with the bleeding lance. They resorted to extreme measures:: "We obtained the very twig to which Sibyl referred Aeneas..."(482). (The "Golden Bough" of Aeneas is widely thought to be mistletoe, the parasitic plant sacred to the Druids.) And, for good measure, they extracted the blood of the pelican for the healing potion. These remedies alone did not work. Next, they cut out the heart of a unicorn, and removed it's jeweled eye, set in the brow-bone. And they went further with magical arts: "We obtained a herb called dragonwort" (trachonte in the original), said to grow from the blood of a slain dragon, and to be effective following the rotation of "the dragon's orbit" (the apsides of the moon, rotating on a 18.6-year cycle). They continued to treat the wound with spikenard and aloe vera, but to no avail.

There is quite a repertoire of magical and pharmacological cures. Though Wolfram gives away the secret in this passage—the Golden Bough—he still does not disclose the story about how the magical plant relates, not to the healing of the king's wound, but to the act of wounding itself. This is the secret of what ails the patriarchy, i.e., the root cause of dominator pathology.

In the Gawain story line, we get the full story, told by the woman who precipitated the event of Amfortas' wounding.

Orgeluse of Logres (Welsh name for England east of the River Severn) is her name. What a piece of work she is. "Except for Condwiramurs, no more beautiful person was ever born. That woman was sweet and lustrous, well-proportioned and courtoise (lively, irrepressible)... She was a bait of love's desire, sweetness without pain, and a crossbow of the heart" (Ch. 10, 508ff).Voluptuous and insolent, Orgeluse taunts Gawain from the first moment they meet. She reels him in by warning him off, letting him know that she is trouble. It turns out that she feels this way because of what happened with Amfortas. The duchess Orgeluse is the femme fatale deeply implicated in the wounding of the Grail king.

"Talking Plant"

"Equal sorrow - or more - than Cidegast could give me, was given me by Anfortas' wound." Orgeluse speaking to Gawain (Ch. 12: 616)

Chapters 10, 11, and 12 present at length the complicated counterplot of the entrelacement, describing what happened to Orgeluse to get her into all this trouble. We learn that when Amfortas fell for her, she was already a woman afflicted with a hard destiny. She had a painful past to live down. She had been blissfully married to king Cidegast, a man who was actually a unicorn. This is the noble animal-man who commanded the love of Orgeluse. She calls him beas amis, "handsome lover," a stock term of the cult of amor. Beas is an archaic sliver of the Latin beatus, "blessed, holy." This is the Latin root of "beatitude," the word used to translate the Greek makarios that occurs repeatedly in the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are..." In Ancient Mystery Cults, Walter Burkert explains that makarismos was the title given in “praise of the blessed status of those who have ‘seen’ the mysteries.” In other words, those who have beheld the Organic Light. Once again, we have that extraordinary convergence: Mystery lore and the cult of amor. The best lover is a "blessed friend," one who has seen the Divine Light.

When Cidegast was killed, Orgeluse did not merely lose her first love. She lost the connection to all that he represented. The unicorn, I would argue, is a version of the Mesotes, the mystical totemic animal of the Europan vision quest. The single white spiral horn is an image of the soft "bore" of Organic Light that enters the entranced beholder through the third eye—the carbuncle from the brow-bone of the unicorn. Wolfram interweaves the herbal and alchemical lore in the two accounts with great finesse.

Orgeluse's loss is also humanity's: the sensuous body of the female disconnected from its mystical potential, and deprived of the man to witness and worship it. This is one part of the wounding, the loss of the capacity for carnal delight—or orgasmic surrender, as Wilhelm Reich put it.

But who killed Cidegast? And why? Orgeluse tells Gawain, "He was slain by king Gramoflanz, from whom you have taken this garland" (Ch. 12: 613). This momentous disclosure is part of a set-up, for Orgeluse has asked Gawain to pluck the garland earlier in this chapter, before she explains to him about King Gramoflanz. Look closely at this name. The suffix, -flanz, recalls the Urphlanze, the "primal plant" of Goethe's morphology. Flanz is old German for "plant" and becomes that English word by consonantal shift. Gramo- is literally, "I speak," but gramo- also refers to writing, letters, language, grammar, related to grimoire, "magical invocation."

In short, the name Gramoflanz means "talking plant" or "plant language."

German woodcut of a typical medieval herb garden. The depiction of a "plant-person" (lower right) is evidence of communication with plants among native peoples, who widely attest that plants speak to us as if they were people like us. ("The Garden of Health," Antwerp, 1533. In Witchcraft Medicine, Claudia Muller-Ebeling et al.)

The account of how Gramoflanz killed Cidegast is part of the sad romance of Orgeluse, the damsel in distress who will be rescued by her new love, Gawain. At the same time, it is part of an entheogenic fable deposited in the very heart of the Grail Legend: the story of how a "talking plant" figures in the wounding of the Grail king, the paternal imago.

Forbidden Knowledge

From Chapter 10 onward the story gets quite complicated. You can follow it in the Gawain synopsis, and here in three paragraphs is a synopsis of that synopsis:

    Upon meeting Orgeluse, Gawain enters an enchanted land "ruled by laws of a strange twilight compulsion" (Creative Mythology, p. 492). Drawn into the enchantment by his attraction to Orgeluse, the knight does not at first realize that she is accessory to it, yet she also holds the magic open for his intervention. The actual source of the enchantment is the evil sorcerer Klingsor. From the balcony of Klingsor's castle, Gawain sees Orgeluse in the enchanted wood below. When he rides down to meet her, she challenges him to the ultimate test: "You must procure for me a garland from a certain tree's branch... Thus you may seek to win my love" (Ch. 12: 600).

    As soon as Gawain enters the wood and plucks the girlande, "he saw a splendid knight riding toward him unarmed, wearing a bonnet of peacock-plumes and a cloak of grass-green samite trimmed in ermine, so long that it trailed to the ground on both sides" (JC, p. 498) This is King Gramoflanz, guardian of the magical garland, killer of Cidegast, and liege servant to Klingsor.

    Orgeluse regrets that Gramoflanz killed Cidegast, but equally so, she regrets that she has enlisted several knights against Gramoflanz, including Amfortas, who was poisoned by a magical lance forged by Klingsor and wielded by Gramoflanz. This is the bleeding lance of the Grail family (European nobility). And there is a further sinister twist in the plot: like Amfortas, Klingsor was castrated by a wound. In revenge for what was done to him by the husband of the woman he seduced (or raped), he put the natural world under evil enchantment so that he could forbid access to its healing powers. Now that Gawain has plucked the magic garland, the enchantment can be undone, but Gramoflanz demands a joust with Gawain, for the garland had been under his protection.

This is the entire sub-plot of Parzival, the core of the main entheogenic fable in Arthurian legend. It describes how the life-hating, sex-negative, repressive power of patriarchy (Klingsor) denies humanity its connection to mystical plant magic. But this "denial" is part of Klingsor's enchantment, and the power of the paternal spell depends upon a lie. In reality, denial of access to the magical potency of the "talking plant" depends on the plant, and not on the powers of patriarchy. The sorcerer puts a spell over the sacred grove ("Klingsor's wood"), but in reality, the wounded patriarch does not really have the power to counter plant power. He can forbid knowledge of it, but he cannot forbid the knowledge that it gives. Mystical illumination is an heroic feat won by plucking the garland, i.e., ingesting the plant. It is the plant itself and no human agency that gives or withholds access to its cognitive, mystical, and medicinal secrets. Thus, Gramoflanz, "talking plant," guards the enchanted grove.

Consider the beauty of the entrelacement: Gawain's contest with Gramoflanz represents a shamanic trial in which the hero gains from the magical garland the knowledge to defeat Klingsor's spell. The breaking of the spell on the Wasteland depends as much on Gawain's adventure as it does on Parzival asking the right question. The Grail Quest encodes an entheogenic fable which is, along with the question motif, the second key to attainment of the Grail. The conditions facing both Parzival and Gawain must be mastered for the Grail Magic to be realized, and released. The healing of humanity depends on unspelling the false magic of the perpetrators, the paternal tyrants who forbid ecstatic knowing because it is the single greatest threat to their dominance.

The power of this false magic consists in convincing us that it can forbid the knowledge that comes from the plant world, whereas, in reality, it can only forbid knowledge of that world.

Every story has a moral, and the Grail legend has a few to spare, you can be sure of that. To benefit from the lessons contained in this fabulous and complex tale, we must ask the questions that the story prompts in us, imaginatively, once we penetrate the narrative to a sufficient depth. For instance, we can ask how the wounded patriarchs make knowledge of plant magic inaccessible. Answer: they use the tools of anathema and taboo. They declare "Thou shalt not know about this." But the tool of taboo is not effective by itself. Human instincts are too strong and sane to be warned off something that humans know in the deepest way, as body-knowledge. The taboo will only work if the thing to be forbidden is demonized, made to look evil, dangerous, satanic.

From Old Testament times, theocrats (that is, patriarchal tyrants and their controllers, the urban priesthood) attempted to diabolize the intimate experience of native peoples who communicated directly with the non-human world. It is more than likely that the suppression of such experience began with the rise of agriculture, because the human relationship to plants as a mass-produced foodstuff is incompatible with the totemic food-bond exemplified in all indigenous peoples.

Not only was the Edenic paradise of the plant world made to look alien and evil, but those who carried the magical and healing knowledge acquired from that world were also demonized. The historical record on this is as clear as day. Church accounts of the persecution of the Gnostics celebrate the battle between Saint Paul and the "sorcerer" Simon Magus, who was thrown down from magical flight by the superior art of the apostle. Hypatia was demonized by Christian groups in Alexandria, and while she was being murdered, Peter the Reader screamed accusations at her, calling her a vile witch and a servant of Satan. (The defeat of Simon Magus, Saint Lazare Cathedral, Autun, France)

Satan and all that is Satanic is the creation of the wounded patriarchy as a ruse to scare humanity into powerlessness by forbidding it access to the natural magic that has healed and guided our species since time before reckoning.

The Devil sowing mushrooms (in foreground). Jacob de Gehyn II, 1565-1629. (From Witchcraft Medicine)

To overthrow the Paternal Lie, the falsity of its power must be exposed —exactly as happens in The Wizard of Oz. The power of "the Satanic" lies in its being an invention that works by the power (and credence) given to it by those upon whom it is directed. All sorcerers who are not consecrated to the powers of the earth are false, and must make it appear as if the genuine terrestrial magic is evil, harmful to body and spirit. Satanism exists, but it is the counter-projection of a sick few whose psychosexual wounding casts a morbid shadow into the psychic life of humanity. The agents of satanism label the Grail magic satanic. That is their main ploy. They want us, for instance, to imagine the Devil sowing mushrooms.

The vehicle of satanic power is the Lie, Drugh in ancient Persian. To a great extent, the propagation of the lie consists in a campaign against "drugs" that has been ongoing since Yahweh forbade Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of the Sacred Tree. In large measure, the Lie works because the "drugs" forbidden are not drugs, while drugs that really are drugs are not forbidden but peddled on a global scale by the authorities. This is an essential mind control tactic: deny access to the sacred powers of nature and encourage all kind of unnatural addictions.Everyone knows about the drugs that patriarchy supplies to the world, both legally and illegally, but almost nothing is known about the natural elixirs that carry the knowledge of human survival, and insure independence from the dominator system.

The paternal controllers are right about one thing: the natural elixirs are "a threat to society." This is no lie, but the truth of this assertion is also something they do not want to be known: namely, the plant-elixirs impart knowledge that transcends the scope and necessities of any given social order, because the the plant-teachers are guardians of the secrets of the long-term survival of humankind. The controllers desperately need us to attach ourselves blindly to society (i.e., family identity, culture, religion, nationality, education, conditioning), because they can manipulate society, but the phylogenetic program of the human species is as far beyond their control as it is beyond their comprehension.

The Magic Garland

We have noted a strong dose of herbal and alchemical lore in Chapter 9 where Trevrizent explains Amfortas' wound to Parzival. And there is more to come, a lot more.

In his retelling of the Gawain episodes, Joseph Campbell picks up the herbal lore that runs through chapters 10, 11, 12, and 13. Just before meeting Orgeluse, Gawain encounters a wounded knight whom he treats with an herbal compact. Little does he know it, but he is already in the enchanted garden of Klingsor (read: the realm of plant magic, but under the paternal taboo). He meets Orgeluse where water springs from a rock, close by a linden tree. In European lore, the linden is traditionally connected with shamanic acts of magic. Writing on the Scythians, Herodotus (Histories IV.67) said that the "Enareer" (male-female or transvestite shamans among the Scyths), who received prophetic powers from Aphrodite, "use the bark of the linden, which they split in three ways, wrap the strips around their fingers, and then loosen them in the course of saying spells." (Dance around the Linden tree, woodcut, Hieronymous Bock, Kreutterbuch, 177. From Witchcraft Medicine)

Orgeluse frequently taunts and insults her knightly suitor. A few minutes into their first encounter, she derides him for healing the wounded knight with a herbal compress, thus bringing attention, albeit negative, to his knowledge of plant medicine. No sooner do they meet than a little monster appears on the scene, Malcreatiure, a kind of deformed dwarf, the male counterpart to Kundrie La Sorciere. The narrator explains that his deformities are due to women indulging in the wrong plants during pregnancy. Yet Malcreatiure is "kinsman of the plants and stars( JC, p. 473). In the Parzival plot-line Kundrie brings healing herbs and potions to the Grail Family who are trapped in the spell of the Wasteland, and here in the enchanted wood, under Klingsor's spell, Malcreatiure presents her exact counterpart. Campbell says cogently, "the two enchantments were reciprocal."

In fact, Wolfram tells us that both Malcreatiure and Kundrie La Sorciere were sent to the Grail family by Queen Secondille, the Arabian wife of Fierfiz, Parzival's half-brother with whom he is united in Ch. 16. (Personally, I think he overworks the entrelacement a bit at this point.) In spinning this part of the tale, Wolfram gets in a basic entheogenic message about primal or indigenous people: "Our father Adam, who named all things according to their nature, and knew the movements of the stars and seven spheres, also knew the virtues of herbs" (JC, p. 472). Well there you have it in a single sentence, all that the theocrats don't want us to know about our origins and our innate resources!

Campbell subtitles Chapter XII of Parzival "The King of the Wood." As noted above, Trevrizent gave away the secret of the entheogenic fable in Chapter 9 when he mentioned the Sacred Bough of Aeneas. Anyone who has ever read Frazer has to get a huge shiver of delight at this disclosure. Just imagine: the motif of the Golden Bough is not just found centrally in the Grail legend, it is openly stated by a character in the story! And what is the motif of the Golden Bough? Well, apart from what I shall call Frazer's gloss (to be considered in future lessons), the Golden Bough is the mythic theme that points to the entheogenic factor in sacred kingship—but it points crookedly, as we shall see later on when we consider Carl Ruck's theory of royal empowerment.

In the current exposition, we would do well to ask, What kind of plant was the magical garland that Gawain plucked at the command of Orgeluse?

Professor Carl Ruck, who teaches ancient Greek and Latin at Boston University, has been intimately involved in the entheogenic revival. He co-authored The Road to Eleusis and Persephone's Quest with R. Gordon Wasson. In The Apples of Apollo, Ruck considers the apples of the Garden of the Hesperides as a code for various entheogenic plants used in shamanic practices in ancient Europe. "Apples and golden apples have been code names for mushrooms wherever both the mushroom and apples are known, even to the present day" (p. 50), he writes, suggesting that Amanita muscaria is most likely the specific mushroom encoded in this innocuous fruit. (Typical image of the tree in the Garden of the Hesperides, with its guardian serpent. See also Shaman in the Sky.)

To my mind, the amanita debate—i.e., the question of how it was used, in which specific shamanic rites, and what sort of psychoactive effects it induces—has a long way to go and has not even been clearly formulated. As for the magic garland in Parzival, I would opt for Datura stramonium, the common thorn apple, which is pictured in Bosch's Garden of Desires. It is closely related to D. inoxxia, the "devil's weed" in Castaneda's tales, and D. metel, the Indian thorn apple or black datura. The association of Datura with Orgeluse is a natural, because the elongated bell-like blossoms of this plant exude a fragrance of dangerous, alluring sensuality. You could almost say that Orgeluse is Datura in woman form.

D. stramonium is common to central and southern Europe, and prolific in Germany and Switzerland. In German folklore it is crudely called tollkraut. True to her taunting style, Orgeluse comments tartly about Gawain paying a toll at the ford that marks the boundary of the enchanted garden. Traditionally, knights were exempt from paying such tolls wherever they went. Again, the taunts of the femme fatale bring attention to the entheogenic features of the story. Datura is known for being used by shamans to kill and enchant. It is the perfect plant-ally for Gawain as he comes under Klingsor's spell.

At this point the question arises: To what extent has entheogenic lore been recognized in the Arthurian matter? Marion Zimmer Bradley, author of the hugely best-selling feminist Arthurian novel, The Mists of Avalon (1982), represents her witch protagonists as adepts in plant magic, of course. They are nature-savvy sexpots, variations of Orgeluse and Kundrie. In a later, less-known novel, The Firebrand (1994), Bradley depicts the entheogenic initiation of her heroine, Cassandra the Amazon. This happens at Eleusis, using the ergotic brew, the kykeon.

But this is historical fiction. Orthodox scholarship allows no such associations. Grail scholars such as R. S. Loomis stumble all over the entheogenic clues, but without identifying them as such. Even R. Gordon Wasson declared that he failed to find evidence for his entheogenic theory of religion in the wealth of Celtic myth and legend that engendered the Arthurian matter. This is patently absurd, of course, considering that the first thing anyone hears of Ireland is about "the little people," leprechauns who sit on toadstools, and the lovely witches who dance in the "fairy rings" where mushrooms grow, following the spiral patterns of mycelium underground. In Plowing the Clouds - The Search for Irish Soma, Peter Lamborn Wilson points out that the Gaelic word "pookie," an elfin spirit, stands for magic mushrooms.

(More significantly, perhaps, Wasson said that he found no evidence of entheogenic use among the Italic peoples. If this is true, it may say something about the problem of the unaccountable fascist impulse among the people of Latium, whose unique cultural mindset produced the Roman Empire. Can we link the lack of entheogenic experience with the social institution of violence? More than likely, we can. Such was the case in Hebraic culture, which came to be fatefully merged with the designs of the Empire.)


Big Surprise

No magical plant is a drug, as the Paternal Lie would have us think. Let's call psychoactive plants, including mushrooms, and all the potions and smokes that can be derived from them, elixirs. This word is from Arabic, al, "the", and ixir, "stone." In Wolfram's Parzival the Grail is a stone, famously called, in dog Latin punning on Arabic, lapsit exillis. As already explained, "the stone that fell from heaven" is the primary substance body of the Aeon Sophia, a massive current of conscious, animated luminosity. The Grail is the Organic Light and some plant elixirs are guides to the Light. In Parzival, Wolfram encoded the practical secret of the Mysteries: how initiates use an entheogenic brew or psychoactive plant to dissolve ego-fixation and encounter the living, undulant, milk-white luminosity, the visible White Light.

The survivors of the Mysteries initially found protection among the Celtic tribes of the hinterlands of Wales. In the Grail quest, the transmission of the Mysteries continued in such a way that both the identity of the Grail and the instruments for accessing it—the natural elixirs—were encoded in the legend destined to become "the secular myth that is today the guiding spiritual force of the European West" (Creative Mythology, p.564)—the very luminous node of creative mythology.

(Fred Weidmann, Munich. In Witchcraft Medicine. Depicted:
amanati muscaria, mandrake root, angel's trumpet, monkshood,
hemp, belladonna, and poison hemlock.)

Is it surprising that an entheogenic fable would be central to the paramount guiding myth of the West?

Well, come to think of it, Genesis, stating the chart myth of patriarchy, contains an entheogenic fable: Adam and Eve eating of the forbidden fruit. And lo and behold, Gilgamesh, the oldest surviving hero narrative, contains an entheogenic fable: the search for the magical herb of immortality. The folkloric festival of Christmas, the most widely celebrated mythical event in the world, is entirely entheogenic: the red and white attire of Santa Claus represents the amanita muscaria, the Christmas tree is the fir whose root system harbors symbiotically the mycelium of the fungus, the reindeer are shamanic animals who eat the amanitas and, like shamans, fly through the sky.

One wonders how many more foundational stories and folkloric festivals are encoded with entheogenic lore. That would make a fascinating study. But to defy and defeat the Paternal Lie, two examples are essential: Genesis and the Grail Legend. The first is patriarchy's attempt to script a taboo on natural magic, and the second is the inspiration for reclaiming that magic. The path to the Grail is the way home, the return to Gaia-Sophia in all her naked glory, the natural paradise where humanity was born and is ever reborn.

jll: 22 July 2006 Flanders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2017 by John Lash.