Deadly Nightshade Belladonna Atropa Belladonna Ancient Powerful Witching Herb

By Ina Woolcott

An ancient and powerful witching herb

All continents, apart from Antarctica, have seen Belladonna and similar alkaloids used by shamans, witches and sorcerers for thousands of years, who take advantage of the sensations of leaving their bodies, to access alternate realities to gleam wisdom, to fly through the air or to shapeshift into an animal by a shift in consciousness. It has been suggested that this is where the witches riding on brooms legend was started. The shamans and others who used Belladonna throughout the centuries were not looking to get high – they wanted to leave their minds and/or bodies and travel on a different path that few people are able to handle, either physically or mentally.

The word nightshade stems from the Medieval practice of some Italian women using eye drops made from this plant to dilate their pupils, and give the eyes a bright, glistening appearance. Large pupils at this time were considered a sign of feminine beauty, because dilated pupils were considered more attractive as pupils usually dilate when a person is aroused, thus making eye contact much more intense than it already is. This is where the name bella donna, beautiful woman, comes from. It had the side effect of making their vision a little blurry and making their heart rates increase. Prolonged usage was reported to have resulted in blindness. The juice of the berries was used to stain the skin a dark purplish colour.

This plant species is also named after the Greek word Atropos, the name of one of the three mythical fates controlling when humans died. She was considered the most fierce and inflexible of the 3 fates, her sole purpose being to cut the threads of life with the shears she always carried with her.

The ancient Greeks knew of the psychoactive and sensory effects of this plant, and it was believed to have been added to the wine of Bacchanals to give it a legendary potency. The maenods of the orgies of Dionysus would take Belladonna, either throwing themselves at male worshippers or tearing them apart and eating them

It can be deduced, theoretically, from the extensive references to the use of herbs, belonging to the nightshade family, in medieval texts, that these were frequently used to induce hallucinations and for recreational purposes.

Belladonna is one of the most important hexing herbs of days long gone. It was one of the main ingredient in witches brews during the Middle ages, often being associated with aggressive female sexuality. A flying ointment was made from Belladonna together with other plants. This was then applied to women’s bodies causing them to feel erotic sensations and hallucinate. The ‘witches’ would ‘fly’ to the Sabbath in this condition to participate in orgies with demons. It was thought that the ingestion of Belladonna would give witches the ability to ‘fly’ to far off places. This was probably in reference to consciousness going to alternate realities and experiencing what they found there. Experiments have shown that the sensation of flight, in the mind, is common with subjects under the influence of solanaceous compounds, similar to what seems to have been experienced by ‘witches’.

Legends tell of Belladonna being cared for by the Devil, that every night apart from one he spends tending his plants. He has exclusive rights to planting and harvesting the herb. Yearly on his one night off, Walpurgis night, he leave his herbs to prepare for the witches’ Sabbath.

It has also been suggested that the original witch hunts were brought about by the increased use of these herbs by those deemed peasants, and the decline in the churches control over the populace.

Belladonna was used during the middle ages to torture people until they confessed. The victim would be weakened and confused, not sure of what was real or fantasy, what they had really done or had simply imagined. Many false confessions were given because of this, with a lot of innocent people being convicted of crimes they had not committed.

This plant has a long history of being used as a poison, being called dwale. This name was either a derivative of the French word deuil, for grief or sorrow, or from the Scandinavian word dool, for delay or sleep.

During the time of Duncan I of Scotland’s reign ( around A.D. 1035 ), a whole army of invading Danes led by King Sven of Norway were poisoned and defeated by Belladonna. There are contradictory tales as to whether the Danes were poisoned by eating a meal that had been laced with Belladonna, or by drinking a liquor containing its infusion. In earlier times still, the troops of Marcus Antonius were apparently poisoned by Belladonna during the Parathion wars.

Roman priests were known to have ingested Belladonna before praying to Bellona, their Goddess of War, for a victory in battle.

A veneficae, someone who specialises in botanical drugs ) frequently uses belladonna as an ingredient in poisons giving their black art the name of veneficium.

Belladonna was listed in several pharmacopoeias, until 1788 when is was removed. It was added again in 1809. Up until 1860 it was used medicinally in England as an anodyne liniment, a fluid capable of soothing or eliminating pain.. During this time it was also used as an antidote for opium overdose, or for chloroform or Calabar bean poisoning.

A liniment, salve/cream or plaster was used to help ease the effects of gout and rheumatism and to counter neuralgia. Angina was treated by applying a plaster to the chest area, as well as being smoked to relieve asthma. It is reported that children were frequently given large doses to oppose the effects of whooping cough and false croup without adverse reactions.

Belladonna was also used as a cure-all, before antibiotics were discovered. It was used to treat pneumonia, sore throat, scarlet fever, typhoid fever, infection and even cancer. A concoction of lead, Belladonna and salicylic acid was used to treat sprains, as well as being a cure for bunions and corns. Atropine is very fat soluble and was frequently used in salves and plasters applied to the skin.

Related link:
Deadly Nightshade, Belladonna, Atropa Belladonna, Aphrodisiac, Relieves Urinary Tract Irritation
Deadly Nightshade, Belladonna, Atropa Belladonna, Dangerous Hallucinogen

San Pedro Trichocereus Pachanoi Cactus Hallucinogenic Mescaline

By Ina Woolcott

What is San Pedro?

San Pedro is a fast-growing columnar cactus who’s botanical name is Trichocereus Pachanoi, not to be confused with its close relative the Peruvian Torch Cactus. It is native to the Andes of Peru and Ecuador, but it is cultivated all over Peru and other places in South America. In its natural environment San Pedro grows up to 20 feet high and is multi branched. The cactus is light to dark green, sometimes glaucous (covered with a bluish, greyish, or whitish waxy coating or bloom that rubs off easily). Generally it has between 4-8 ribs. Groups of 1-4 small, yellow to light brown, spines are located at the nodes which are evenly spaced apart (circa 2 cm apart) along the ribs.

San Pedro contains a number of psychoactive alkaloids, including mescaline (3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine, 0.11 – 2.3%), and also 3,4-dimethoxyphenethylamine, 4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenethylamine, 3-hydroxy-4,5-dimethoxyphenethylamine, 4-hydroxy-3,5-dimethoxyphenethylamine, anhalonidine, anhalinine, tyramine, hordenine and 3-methoxytyramine. Mescaline is an entheogen and also found in Peyote (Lophophora Williamsii), as well as other species of the Echinopsis genus such as Echinopsis peruviana, and Echinopsis scopulicola.

Who uses San Pedro and for What Purpose

San Pedro has a long history of traditional use. It has become the most popular cactus in neo-shamanic rituals due to its excellent fertility and ease of cultivation. The San Pedro cactus is used by shamanic tribes in the Andes as a psychedelic and for complex healing rituals and more recently, the western world. The mescaline is most commonly extracted by cutting the cactus into slices, boiling them for 5-7 hours and then juicing it into a green liquid. The tea is drunk during the shamanic ceremonies which usually take place at night. Dosages vary according to the purpose of the ceremony, although it is generally used in low doses. Sometimes the San Pedro is used in conjunction with other psychoactive plants, such as coca, tobacco, Brugmansia andAnadenanthera.

San Pedro is used by the Huachuma, Shamans of the Andes for guidance, decision making, healing, spirituality enhancing experiences, shamanic trances, to access other realms and the spirit world, and to remain in balance with the natural world. In the mountains above the Peruvian village Makahuasi there are ancient stone meditation huts which are still in use today. San Pedro shamans come here from all over the Andes to recharge their powers, sometimes in solo rituals. San Pedro has also been used throughout history by a number of different pre-Columbine cultures and civilisations that settled in northern Peru. San Pedro is a religious sacrament, healing medicine, and spiritual guide who’s psychedelic nature has been documented for a minimum of around 3000 years. Its use has been a continuous tradition in Peru all this time. In an old temple in Chavín de Huantar in the northern highlands of Peru, a carving was found with the earliest depiction of the cactus showing a mythological being holding the San Pedro. It belongs to the Chavín culture (c. 1400-400 BC), and dates about 1300 BC.

Today’s master shamans use San Pedro on ‘mesas’, (altars) erected for healing rites to treat enchantment and bad luck. The mesa follows a sophisticated ritual – sniff tobacco with alcohol, ingest San Pedro, pinpoint the diseases, cleanse the evil and the ill person will get better. This rite is performed in the early hours of Tuesdays and Fridays, these being sacred days in the Andean religions.

Shamans who use the psychoactive plants claim that much of the knowledge and insights gained comes directly from the plants themselves. That the plants have plant spirits. One example is that psychedelic plants are claimed to have taught songs (Icaro’s) to those who ingest them. This has been found with San Pedro using shamans, Ayahuasca drinkers in the Amazon, the Mazatec who use hallucinogenic mushrooms, and the Huichol who use Peyote.

The effects of San Pedro are more pleasant than those of peyote. It tastes only slightly bitter and the initial feeling of sickness is not as likely, although vomiting can occur. Its effects are felt within 1-2 hours of ingestion and can last up to 15 hours. When the experience fully takes hold it is less overwhelming, more tranquil and not nearly as physical as that from peyote. At first drowsiness or a dreaming state is felt accompanied by lethargy. Then a slight dizziness is experienced, followed by a great ‘vision’, a clearing of all the faculties. A light numbness is felt in the body and afterward a tranquillity. And then comes detachment, a type of visual force, including all the senses as well as the sixth sense, the telepathic sense of transmitting oneself across time and matter, a kind of removal of one’s thought to a distant dimension. Other potential effects include intense sensitivity to light, for instance being able to see and feel every ray of light. People and things may also be seen to ‘radiate’. Long lost memories may come back, being able to hear and see far off sounds and voices. Emotions may also be experienced and gone through such as laughing, crying, screaming, feeling pleasure, fear, love, love for everything that is and everything that is not.

Unsurprisingly, taking their general contempt for native life and particularly the use of psychoactive plants into account, European missionaries were very negative when reporting the use of the San Pedro.

San Pedro has been used medicinally to treat nervous conditions, cardiac disease, and high blood pressure.

Is it legal?

It is legal to cultivate the San Pedro cactus in most countries, but in countries where possession of mescaline and related compounds is illegal, cultivation for the purposes of consumption may be illegal. This is how it is in the USA, Australia, Canada, and the UK, where it is currently legal to cultivate San Pedro unless it is for the purposes of consumption.

Related reading: San Pedro the Cactus of Vision – Plant Spirit Shamanism of Northern Peru