Dancing with the Little Red Man
I don’t do drugs. Mind you, I think they should all be legal, but I’m too old, too creaky, and have too many health issues. I don’t need to complicate my life, even as a spirit-worker. Perhaps if I weren’t taking certain medications for my migraine condition, I might occasionally walk the Plant Road, but right now, that’s just not in the cards, and it doesn’t have to be. There are multiple techniques and roads by which a spirit-worker can get to where they need to be. The Plant Road has never really been one of mine (1). That being said, it’s a powerful road and one for which I have the deepest respect. Depending on the plant allies with whom one is engaging, it can be potentially fatal. (This is why protocol and preparation are so important). Last night, without ever ingesting anything, I got a powerful taste of a particular spirit’s medicine and got taken on a rather unexpected (and initially non-consensual) journey.
My husband belongs to Dionysos and part of his sacred work is guiding people on plant journeys safely (2). Last night, after several weeks of preparation, one of our housemates had arranged to meet Amanita Muscaria, Little Red Man (3). He’s called “Little Red Man” partly in a nod to the vibrant color of the amanita and partly because the spirit of this mushroom often appears as a fierce little man with either reddish skin or a red cap or both. Sannion was all set to be guide and guard. Not being involved in this work, I was planning instead on working on my final paper for the school semester (which I did, for a couple of hours, at least). They went to do their thing in part of the house, and I went to my studio/office in another part in order to get to work. Ne’er should the twain have met lol.
About an hour into it all, I started to get massively nauseous (one of the symptoms of having ingested amanita – which I repeat, I had not at any point done). It took me awhile longer to realize what was happening, during which interim, I had several significant epiphanies about my paper topic, which I credit to the inspiration of Amanita). Finally, I gave up working, understanding that I was linking in way too much to the power of the Red Man, and went to the kitchen to get a glass of water with rehydration salts (important on plant road journeys – and yes I realize a mushroom is a fungus not a plant but consider “plant” shorthand for the whole breadth of spirits with whom one might work on this road—to stay hydrated before, during, and after) and sat down in the living room to wait for my husband to finish up his work. About an hour later, he came out, by which time I had the beginnings of a bad headache (which is why I don’t do plant path).
We chatted for a bit and realized that because amanita is one of Odin’s plants, because it is associated specifically with berserkers, which gift I have, and because I tend to be very open to the Gods and spirits that are within our household retinue, I had tapped right into the experience our housemate was having, though we each went very, very different places—or, more likely, amanita had tapped right into me. This is what I learned and what I share now about the power of this being:
- I always knew that despite various scholars’ meanderings, amanita ingestion does not cause the berserkergang. Only someone who was not a berserker and who had never tried amanita would think it did (4). Being a berserker is knit into one’s soul. It’s an inherent part of a person, not something learned or acquired; HOWEVER, when used by someone who is a berserk, the spirit of amanita grants speed, incredible speed (everyone and everything else seems to be moving and thinking and existing incredibly slowly), one hell of an advantage in battle.
- It renders one impervious to pain. The Berserkergang does this anyway, but it’s different with amanita. One sees the injury or pain, is aware of it, but is above it, unimpacted. The berserkergang itself has a healing capacity and can ensure some measure of healing to these things so perhaps this would have been useful in knowing where to direct that healing?
- I was several rooms away, working on an academic paper. I hadn’t ingested anything other than a cup of Darjeeling tea. Because of the factors outlined above, I linked unexpectedly right into the Red Man. Parsing this out later, we had a major insight. One person takes amanita and while the Red Man is affecting him/her, that spirit’s influence is beginning to affect the person next to that first, even before that latter person ingests anything. One person taking it augments the next, who augments the next and this would lead to tremendous power and cohesion in a battle situation. I can well see why Odin would suggest use of this mushroom to His warriors. I also suspect that a vitki or spirit worker or shaman offering to the spirit of the mushroom, engaging with it could ensure that the berserkers didn’t mistake their own people for the enemy in the haze of the battle fury. Such a person could direct, along with the cooperation of the spirit of the mushroom itself, the ride.
Ironically, Sannion had suggested before he and our friend began their work that I micro-dose (take a miniscule portion of the mushroom so that I would be inside its influence). I declined because A) I don’t do plant path and B) I had academic work to accomplish. I wish, in retrospect, that I had done as he suggested. I think it would have been an easier journey (I would have known I was taking a journey for one thing!). Today was rough. Because I hadn’t prepared (though I had divined and helped our friend in that friend’s preparations, including talking to Red Man which, of course, had me primed and open for his later influence), coming back to mundane time/space/head-space hurt and of course with me, that often means migraines. But it was worth it. I received information that transformed my research in exciting ways, learned something about one of Odin’s allies, and learned that the ancient contracts and alliances between Gods, spirits, and particular groups of our ancestors (in this case berserks) don’t just disappear. The groove is there and under the right conditions, can easily be activated again. This is a hopeful thing, because it means that we *can* restore the broken lineages and covenants our ancestors threw down when they converted (and even if conversion was forced – a horrendous and horrible thing, a violation on both sides in many ways—the broken covenants with the Holy Powers still exist). Our place in taking up and repairing those threads will be recognized by those Gods and Their constituent allies. That is a good thing, a useful thing, a blessed thing.
- Though it must be noted, that Plant Road work can be very powerfully done without ever engaging with entheogens.
- It’s always good to have an experienced guide the first several times one meets and engages with a plant ally, especially if that ally is an entheogen. It’s also always good to have a spotter, someone to hold the space soberly to make sure that one comes through safe and sound, or to call for help if something goes awry. I think the Gods like courage, not stupidity after all.
- CAVEAT: if you eat this without proper preparation, it will kill you horribly. If you eat too much of this, with proper preparation, it can still kill you horribly. Do not play around with this. Unless you are working under experienced supervision AND are called to the Plant road, it’s best to leave this mushroom and spirit alone. In our state, he is legal, btw. It varies state to state.
- There’s a trend in scholarship to ascribe any mystical, visionary, or magical experience to drugs.