What is an entheogen?
What do entheogenic substances do?
And how does entheogen therapy work?
We’ll answer all of these questions plus much more in our ultimate guide below…
What Is An Entheogen?
There are many people who find words like ‘spiritual’ and ‘psychedelic’ to be a little odd.
However, they can’t deny the use of psychoactive sacraments in various religious practices.
An entheogen is a type of psychoactive substance that plenty of shamanic and religious activities use.
These psychoactive substances are typically the derivatives of plant sources.
But now since the organic chemistry is in practice, a lot of successful synthetic substances exist.
These substances are somewhat similar to entheogens.
People have been utilizing entheogens in a ritual context for over 1000 years now.
Chemicals like DMT, ibogaine, LSD, salvinorin A, psilocin, etc. are still in use today.
Some people worship Entheogens while others criticize it.
The use of entheogens dates back to centuries and centuries ago. And it’s still a part of the regular rituals at certain places around the globe.
The communities there, use it in a sacred manner.
A number of psychedelics have the legal status or acceptance in different parts of the world today.
At the same time, the law of many other countries limits the use of these psychoactive substances.
Spiritual use of Entheogens
One can see the spiritual use of entheogens amongst many different religions.
Different cultures rely on different psychedelics, or entheogens for their spiritual and traditional rituals.
One of the most commonly utilized entheogen in its spiritual manner is ‘Peyote.’ Huichol Indians of Mexico who use it.
There are a few places in North America where they even perform the North American peyote ceremony.
There are around 250,000 to 400,000 religious practitioners in the US who utilize peyote.
The concept of Mushroom worship dates back to 1000 BCE in Mexico.
The conquerors of the Spanish origin came up with their findings of the importance of magic mushrooms.
As per their findings, Magic Mushrooms hold tremendous value in the eyes of indigenous people in Mexico.
Ayahuasca was initially found to be used by Brazilian tribes.
They used in later in one of their most religious movements, Santo Daime. Cannabis has a sacred significance associated with them too.
Cannabis is also a popular recreation psychedelic drug. Communities like Rastafarian, Coptic and Hindu traditions use Cannabis as a sacred substance.
In the past, cannabis was even used during ancient prayers amongst Vedic, Taoist as well as Sufi practitioners.
History of Entheogens
Since ancient times, several indigenous people make use of different types of entheogens.
There are even a few countries where the use of entheogens is legal traditionally.
It was in the 20th century when LSD was discovered and psychedelic therapy was introduced.
During this time, both artificial drugs and alternative medical treatments started coming under the concept of entheogens.
Entheogens in ancient history
Archaeological records show great cultural use of entheogens. In Pazyryk, archaeologists discovered the use of hemp seeds.
This suggests that the seeds were used for certain ceremonial purposes between 5th and 2nd century BC.
The usage by Scythians confirms the historical reports that were previously presented by Herodotus.
Entheogens and religions
Various religious movements have utilized different types of entheogens for traditional purposes.
The most popular religious movements are biotas, such as peyote.
Also, semi-synthetic drug LSD, as well as extracts like Ayahuasca, are other movements.
Out of these, Santo Daime, i.e., Ayahuasca have churches as well as members spread across the world now.
Entheogens in modern times
In modern times, plenty of synthetic drugs are used. These drugs are similar to the psychoactive substances, that’s entheogens.
There are several such compounds which are first separated from the natural organisms.
Thereafter these substances go through chemical synthesis.
The most commonly utilized synthetic drugs are salvinorin A, ergine, DMT, mescaline, muscimol, psilocybin, etc.
There are various semi-synthetic drugs also like LSD into existence today.
Alexander Shulgin in PiHKAL and TiHKAL developed more than a hundred entheogens.
The drugs developed in PiHKAL were mostly synthetic in nature.
List of Entheogens
A few psychedelics or entheogens are legalized for usage due to their religious relevance.
However, they carry different legal status in different countries.
The same entheogen might be ‘legal to use’ in one nation while ‘controlled’ in another.
The list of legal entheogens or psychedelics is as follows:
- Magic truffles Psilocybin tampensis
- Magic mushrooms, Psilocybin mushrooms
- Fly agaric, Amanita muscaria
- Hawaiian baby woodrose
- Psychotria viridis, Chacruna
- Chaliponga (Diplopteris cabrerana)
- San Pedro cactus
- Trichocereus bridgesii (Achuma)
- Yopo (Anadenanthera peregrina)
- Vilca (Anadenanthera colubrina)
- Mimosa hostilis
- Morning glory, Convolvulaceae
- Salvia Divinorum
- Bufo alvarius, colorado river toad
- Echinopsis peruviana, peruvian Torch cactus
The most popular entheogens are as follows:
Peyote is an entheogen that’s derived from peyote cactus. Since 2000 years, this plant has been utilized by the Mesoamericans.
Moreover, it’s still utilized by the Huichol Indians of Mexico.
The ceremonies that these people perform are very similar to the ones of pre-Columbian Mexican rites.
The practices associated with peyote are different in different parts of the world. E.g., the peyote ceremony performed in North America is different from that in Mexico.
The Indian culture sees the ceremonies that differ in comparison to the rituals that the Christians perform.
Mushroom worship dates back to as old as 1000 BCE. You can find ‘mushroom stone’ artifacts in the southeastern part of Mexico and Guatemala.
Indigenous life has seen great involvement of psychedelic mushrooms. You can find its usage in remote areas across the globe even today.
R. Gordon Wasson found the utilization of psilocybin in the year 1955 in Oaxaca, Mexico. Psilocybin contains mushrooms.
Ayahuasca is a term that’s usually used to describe ‘teas’ that are extracted from botanicals found in Amazon.
The modern version of this plant substance is laid from a plant called Psychotria Viridis along with a vine called Banisteriopsis caapi. These sources contain psychedelic DMT.
When the practitioners of ayahuasca migrated to Western countries, there was a blend of Brazilian practices and Western culture.
It was then that the new religions came into existence.
One of the most prominent religions that involve the use of ayahuasca is Santo Daime.
The ceremonies of the culture involve ritual music and dance that lasts for the entire night — the congregations in the group drink ‘tea’ of this plant.
What is Entheogen therapy?
Entheogen therapy is the term associated with the practices that have the usage of psychedelic drugs in them.
These drugs majorly involve serotonergic drug substances like psilocybin, mescaline, LSD, DMT, 2C-I, etc.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies has performed a lot of research on the effects caused by these psychedelic drugs.
In these research activities, researchers carry out several studies on drugs like DMT, Ayahuasca, ketamine, MDMA, LSD, LSA, ibogaine, peyote, etc.
In entheogen therapy, the consumers of the drugs tend to remain in an extended psychotherapy session in addition to entheogen therapy.
This way, they’ve both before as well as after sessions to have a better experience with the drug they’re intaking.
The therapy involves the utilization of very high dosage of entheogens.
The main aim behind this dosage is to promote ecstatic, transcendental, religious, or some kind of mystical peak experiences.
They usually put on eyeshades and try to find their inner self during the therapy sessions.
Entheogen therapy’s practice is primarily in practice in North America. Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond initiated it first.
Later on, Keith Ditman replicated it.
However, people consider entheogen therapy to be really strong.
Some entheogens such as psilocybin bring about a permanent change in the personality of an individual.
Researchers across the globe conducted various studies on this.
As a result, they have inferred quite a few theories or deductions from entheogen therapy.
They use the entheogen therapy as a treatment for alcohol dependence.
The therapy is also used to subside nicotine dependence as well as terminal illnesses related to anxiety.
Research is in progress to understand the relation of psychedelic therapy for the cure of certain medical conditions.
These include obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and many other terminal illnesses.
Overall, entheogen therapy is extremely powerful and can permanently impact the life of a person.
As per the experiences shared by those who have undergone therapy, they go through mind expansion.
This mind expansion is usually more inclined towards some kind of spiritual enlightenment.
The word ‘Entheogen’ was first coined in the year 1979.
A few scholars in the field of mythology and a team of ethnobotanists invented it first.
The word ‘entheogen’ is as a combination of two ancient Greek words, that are- éntheos and genésthai.
Entheos in its literal sense means ‘full of god,’ ‘possessed’ or ‘inspired.’ This eventually turned into ‘enthusiasm’ in the English language. Genésthai means ‘to come into being.’
These two words together suggest the meaning of the term ‘entheogen.’ This drug makes the consumer experience feelings related to inspiration or spirituality.
The consumer feels inspired or more spiritual after consuming this drug.
The word ‘hallucinogen’ was replaced with ‘Entheogen.’
There were some issues with the usage of the word ‘psychedelic’ even.
This is because of its similarity with the term ‘psychosis.’
FAQs- The Short Answers
Question 1: What is an Entheogen?
An entheogen is mainly a psychoactive substance.
Indigenous people across the globe use it in a number of shamanic, or religious practices. These substances primarily come from plants.
Over the course of time, the definition of entheogens has changed.
Nowadays, there are several semi-synthetic and synthetic substances available.
These are synthesized using organic chemistry principles. And that’s why they’re not 100 percent natural.
These substances, too, have very similar properties to that of natural and traditional entheogens.
The different examples of entheogens are peyote, ayahuasca, mushrooms, DMT, LSD, LSA, etc.
Question 2: How to use marijuana as an entheogen?
It’s mostly in India that the Indians use marijuana or cannabis as an entheogen for cultural, religious and spiritual aspects.
The use of this substance dates back to 2000 BC. Both Pagan and shamanic cultures in the nation use this to feel rational.
The religion believes that after its consumption, these people can unravel the realms of mankind and discover the subconscious.
Certain Mexican-Indian communities use marijuana in their ceremonies as a ritual.
People from these communities leave bundles of marijuana on the church altar.
Thereafter, those attending the ceremony consume these bundles.
Question 3: Is alcohol an entheogen?
The answer to this question is a little controversial. There are many who believe that alcohol is as good as entheogen with low potency.
As a result, it affects the way the brain thinks after consuming around 4-5 drinks.
People tend to get a little philosophical and talk about the greater good in life.
The ‘high’ that they attain by confusing alcohol goes to a specific limit only.
After which, the person’s mental state stabilizes there and gets normal fairly quickly.