Toxin and tonic. Nectar and poison. It is said that there is a “secret” drive in our genetic wiring to seek out intoxication. But why? What is the allure of riding these edges between danger and delight… and could they be an evolutionary tool? What even is an intoxicant?!

Here in 21st century pop culture, our attitudes have been corralled to fear poison in some contexts yet embrace it without hesitation in others… And yet, we need not look far to see the traditional use of so-called “poison plants” world-wide for intentional rites of initiation, divination, and edification. As a young herbaceous explorer faced with the flatness of academia, I began to look in my own ancestral backyard for answers... What I discovered transformed everything, breathing life into my herbal practice, my felt human experience, and my lived connection to history.

Enter- the under appreciated technology of flying ointments.

In Eastern Europe and beyond, powerful conscious-altering balms allowed for spirit flight- a means to gather insight from higher ground, revel in ecstatic edges, and bring down embodied data to better self and community.

In this class, we will take a lively look at the mythology and taboo history of women’s wisdom, inner alchemy, and the ethnobotany of entheogenic and narcotic plants, with a focus on the solanaceae family. Deeper still, we will examine the role of this type of work, including it’s modern adaptations, with philosophical considerations for the especially pertinent nuance between & beyond the binary of poison and medicine.

Example Curriculum

  Balms & Broomsticks :: The Taboo History + Modern Adaptations of Flying Ointments
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