For those who desire nothing more than to cultivate inner knowing with a coven of the wisest & wiliest plant teachers known to man, the logical place to start is by spelunking the caves of one’s own unconscious. Dream divination, known as Oneiromancy by the ancient Greeks, allows us to peer into the depths, to know ourselves, and to establish a symbolic vocabulary that helps us forage through the morass of daily life with the prophetic poise of a wise crone.
The functional prophetess should be able to navigate the dreamlands by one’s own compass, retrieving useful information for both oneself and others. The requisite accoutrements include traveling with fierce intentionality, a basic understanding of one’s personal mythos, and, of course, a well-maintained dream journal. Dream allies are your fiercest comrades in the Land of Nod, unlocking doors and mediating communion betwixt you and the motley crew of etheric entities that reside in your unconscious. The dream allies listed below are a brief ethnobotanical survey of cherished pan-cultural Oneirogens, and should be treated as such. If anyone wishes to approach the allies, it should be done in good health, only when deemed appropriate by a hearty sign-off from your healthcare provider, and definitely not whilst pregnant or breastfeeding. Each of these plants are unique creatures with wildly variant properties, and a myriad spectrum of moxie from stem to stamen. Therapeutic dosages, though listed below, should be the jurisdiction of your herbal purveyor, as they know the persnickety potency of each herb they grow and peddle. And also, my dears, DO check your state laws, as many of the most prized herbs for healing and gnosis are psychoactive at certain dosages, misunderstood by an ignorant hegemony, and therefore may be illegal for consumption in your state (don’t worry, you are still protected under the law to poison yourself slowly on Diet Coke and factory-farmed meat).
The Dream Herb: Calea Zacatechichi
My most favorite dreaming ally is Calea Zacatechichi, known as the ‘Dream Herb’ by the Chontal people of Oaxaca. Indigenous to Latin America, she is often used by shamans and medicine folk to produce psychotropic benders of prophecy and mirth, producing crystal visions worthy of a witched-out Stevie Nicks divinatory diatribe. Like a liminal Charlie Rose, you can ask her all matter of thorny questions, which she will graciously answer in bouts of epic visions and narrative. This is a journeying herb, and her liminal landscape is one of heroes and villains, mythic motifs, and prodigious peregrinations. Though she’s often symbolic with an astounding archetypal imagination, many times her answers are so literal and linear that you will be re-reading your dream journal months later with slack-jawed astonishment. She’s very forthcoming with her brujeria, and I’ve never had her turn me down. The traditional method of smoking Calea in tandem with a strong infusion of her brew will produce catnaps with bursts of intense visions, whereas an infusion of the herb lends itself well to epic dream recall, intensity, lucidity, and bounteous hypnagogic imagery. My basic method is to brew a strong pot of Calea tea and steep it for 15 minutes, whilst cradling it in my hand and meditating upon my query. Occasionally, I’ll bundle up my herbs in a homemade teabag, and tie it with a tiny tag upon which my divinatory question has been scrawled. Bitter to the point of near un-drinkability, a few stirs of honey will add an air of gentility to the whole ordeal, though it may still inevitably taste like someone has vomited battery acid in your mouth. Do not let that deter you, dear seekers! In traditional Chinese medicine, bitterness quiets a wily heart spirit, and the quality detracts not from Calea’s lovely, generous spirit. Seeing as she is traditionally used by shamanic healers to solve village health quandaries, I think she is an especially robust guide for clarity in healing work.
Dosage: Begin with 1-2 grams steeped in hot water for about 10 minutes, strained, and drank before bed. Calea is a relationship, and this dose may need to be adjusted to find your sweet spot. I have come to find that 5 grams works well for me, and I steep her with garden mint and honey to quell some of the bitterness.
Source: Botanical Preservation Corps, Bouncing Bear Botanicals
Mugwort: Artemisia Vulgaris
With fragrant silvery spires that glow incandescent white in the moonlight, Artemisia herself harkens to both the poetic dreamscapes of the moon and the subconscious hinterlands of the mind. A muse to both Old Gods and mere mortals alike, Mugwort is the sacred weed of Artemis (or Diana, if you’re a rapacious, re-appropriating Roman), a humble herb that grows freely (like the wild Botanarchist she is) amongst freeway meridians, sidewalk cracks, and areas of blight, disregard, and disarray. Foraging for her is the delight of urban hunters, left to get their jollies amongst paved-over pastures and sagacious sprawl.
Though herself humble & hoary, Mugwort has the pedigree of a bona fide goddess in disguise. In an appropriately foxy compendium of sex & death meeting myth & medicine, her patron goddess Artemis was said to have bestowed all of her herbal knowledge upon Chiron, a centaur (hot!), who then passed it on to the martyred necromancer Asclepius (even hotter!). Asclepius then compiled the sacred medicinal arcana into the Materia Medicas of Ancient Greece, and taught ancient mortals the art of healing magic before being offed by Zeus for raising folks from the dead for money (even necromancer’s gotta eat!). Primordial seekers used to make holy pilgrimages to the Mugwort-laden Temples of Asclepius to practice dream divination, asking Asclepius for guidance to heal the sick and infirmed. Shall you not find yourself amongst the enshrined elite anytime soon, a clairvoyant cup of Mugwort tea drunk before bed produces visionary dreams, can enhance recall, and is often used by those who practice the art of lucid dreaming. Mugwort achieves this magical melee due to a chemical cocktail of constituents that prevent us from reaching a deep sleep, trapping us instead in the twilight hours of vivid dreamtime purgatory. That said, she may leave you a tad torn and frayed if used on the regular. With anything, do your legwork before starting any herbal regimen, making sure you are in suitable shape for such dalliances. And never take Mugwort internally if you are pregnant (or any of the dream allies, really), as it may stimulate uterine contractions at certain dosages. I’m partial to a few heaping teaspoons steeped in hot water for a good 10 minutes, then strained and served with a spot of raw honeycomb. She’s also quite divine whence mixed with equal parts Rosehips and Lemon Balm.
Dosage: 1 tbsp steeped in hot water for at least ten minutes.
Source: Wildcrafted, or Mountain Rose Herbs
Ubulawu Dream Root: Silene Capensis
Known by her kin as the ‘Herb of the White Path’, Silene Capensis is a South African dream herb famed for bearing gossamer visions heavy on shimmering colors and luminescent white symbolism. Though I haven’t met the White Lady in my dreams as of late, I will give Silene deep respect for increasing dream intensity AND recall, a sibylline cocktail of Orphic bliss. Learning to work with Silene bears infinite rewards for the psychonaut, offering diviners Delphic intimations of their personal arcanum, connecting the dots between personal myth and ancestral legacy. When approached with the proper intentionality (as entheogens always should be), she brings communion with the ancestors, and can deliver you messages from those departed. I did tremendous work with her over the course of a moon cycle, using Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Way of the Tarot as a tactile counterpart to my work in the ethers, the two overlapping to form a deep symbology that I still draw upon often. In addition to her pedigree as a dreamtime ally, she is used prodigiously in ceremony in the South African river valleys for catharsis and ritualistic purging, similar to the ayahuasca rites of Central and South America. Dissimilarly, Silene is not a psychedelic plant, and vomiting only occurs intentionally in behemoth doses during highly nuanced ceremonies. When taken as a dream ally, she is gentle and kind, with nary a disrupt of psyche or stomach in sight. The most astounding facet of Silene’s brouhaha might just be that a frothy brew of her twisted tendrils is ingested upon RISING from slumbers, with absolutely NO impact on waking life- all of the illusory vagaries happen between the sheets! Those with a penchant for Cthulhu and the Lovecraftian Deep Ones will inevitably love Silene, as her spirit form is a magical, alien sea snake that lives in the deepest waters of the river, straddling the boundaries betwixt this world and the next.
When I use this herb, I devote at least a week to her majesty, allowing the alkaloids to build up in my system over time. I drink the foam that rises from a macerated infusion of the herb in hot water on an empty stomach upon rising. I am one to abstain from drinking coffee whilst taking counsel from Silene, and those with more sensitive constitutions may want to follow suit. It is also customary to abstain from eating meat while working with this plant. Some notice enhanced dreaming after one day with her counsel, but I have found that my body responds to her magic a few nights after we have begun communing.
Inquisitive parties simply MUST read ‘Root, Dream & Myth: The Use of the Oneirongenic Plant Silene Capensis,’ a tremendous exploration of her mystic myth, published in Eleusis: Journal of Psychoactive Plants & Compounds, Vol. 4. Snippets of the perfectly prolix incantation can be found here: http://www.samorini.it/doc1/alt_aut/ek/hirst-xhosa-silene-capensis.pdf
Dosage: Start by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of the powdered root mixed in 1/2 cup water with a wooded spoon until foamy and frothy (depending on how fine your herb is, this could take upwards of a few minutes). I suggest drinking it first thing in the morning, at least an hour before eating. I recommend doing this for about a week until judgement is passed. If dreams are elusive, you can begin increasing the dose steadily.
Source: Botanical Preservation Corps, Bouncing Bear Botanicals
Egyptian Blue Lotus: Nelumbo Nucifera
If we’re in the business of discarding tombs both real and imagined (which I am), Blue Lotus would be an excellent ferry ‘cross the river Styx. Carrying in its serpentine, cerulean DNA a shamanic cocktail of disintegration (apomorphine) and communion (nuciferine), she truly is Hermetic gnosis manifest- a vehicle for the ecstatic alchemical separation of body and spirit, a botanical simulacrum of simultaneous ‘solve et coagula’. In tandem, the alkaloid Nuciferine serves to ‘strip off the garment’ of the lotus eater, while the euphoric tendrils of apomorphine liberate the akh, the luminous sun of our inner being. The resulting effects are both calming and euphoric, creating a numinous dreamtime space for vivid dreams and tranquil sleep.
As the sacred flower of the pharaohs, her plant manna was used ritualistically by the ancient Egyptian noblesse to produce shamanic ecstasy and hypnotic trance in magical rites, mostly involving the gruesome twosome of sex and death. Chinese botanists (my favorite kind, this side of Luther Burbank), were convinced the lotus had the ability to transcend the limitations of time, as they believed she flowered and bore fruit simultaneously. Like all flowers of the Philistines, Blue Lotus has her very own God presiding over those bodacious blooms. Nefertum is the Egyptian god of the lotus and perfumery, an archetype of rejuvenation and anointment. As an avatar of Nefertum, ingesting the blue lotus into your temple (lotophagus, as the Greeks say, cause Ancient Greek makes me swoon) is akin to the ribald Dionysian rite of enthusiasmos, a state of being quite literally ‘filled by the gods.’
Though her plant magic is hallowed and divine, the true reason I fell in love with the lotus is the story of how she’s pollinated (truly the hottest piece of erotica this side of Anais Nin). Sacred scarabs are lured into the dark waters by the lotus at dusk, no match for its irresistibly miasmic pineapple musk. They intoxicatedly feast on the central petals, so engorged with lotus liquor they fail to notice when the flower closes over them. The anthers then ripen and shed their pollen over the trapped beetles, whilst the flower descends back into the black waters of the Nile, for a night of Bacchanalian revelry in an underwater boudoir of velvet pollen, beating wings, nectar victuals and ecstatic sex. As Ra rises over the horizon, the enshrined altar re-emerges above the water, and the beetles are set free to do the walk of shame across the banks of the Nile.
Though we may long to morph into a lotus beetle and drink deep the nectar of the lotus straight from the boudoir itself, in this lifetime, ritualistic victuals of lotus wine will have to suffice. You can make your own sacrament with a decent bottle of Rosé, a few ounces of Nelumbo Nucifera, and a few shakes of a lamb’s tail. Simply take 20 grams or so of lotus, crack open your bottle, skim a few chugs off the top, and soak your petals in the juices for three days. You’ll want to re-cork your vessel and store it in the fridge until it’s time to commune. Like most lovely things, she’s a bitter pill, and her unguents may need to be cut with a little raw honey to sweeten the deal. For dreamwork, the blue lotus is typically taken as a tea before bed, with a recommended dose of 5 grams steeped in boiling water and then allowed to cool before drinking it directly. In comparison to the ribald rites of the ancients, when taken in these manifestations the effects are mild, sedative, dreamy and mellow.
Dosage: 5 grams steeped in boiling water.
Source: Botanical Preservation Corps, Bouncing Bear Botanicals