Research Society for Experimental Tantra
From the forthcoming RasaSiddha and Daoist Immortal Alchemical Monograph
Abstract: This paper will examine the body of folklore of the plant Peganum harmala in the context of the Avestan haoma and the Vedic soma. The evidence for the identification of this plant at the heart of these entheogenic mystery traditions will be gathered from academic theories, etymologies, botanical and astrotheological folklore as well as surviving traces and bioassays of modern recreations of ancient drugs. The horse-riding nomadic Indo-European warriors that ritualized sacred plants preserved the mythological symbolism that stretched from ancient Greece to Tibet. After reappraising and examining soma arguments with the wild rue plant as guru theory, there is an extracted list of potential admixtures that when combined would produce an DMT-laden effect similar to the South American ayahuasca.
Keywords: soma, homa, Peganum harmala, entheogens, DMT
Comprising all treasures that are in heaven and earth, Come, Soma, as our faithful Friend. Rig Veda Hymn XIV Soma Pavamana (soma extract) You, Soma, are preeminent for wisdom; alone the straightest path you are our leader…Mightily art you by all your powers and greatness, by glories art you glorious, guide of mortals. XCI Soma
Soma: The Botanical Mystery
The Vedic Soma plant has been variously identified by many scholar as plants such as C. indica, to Ephedra spp. to Amanita muscaria to Peganum harmala or even to plants like rhubarb or electrum or purely symbolic. The list of plants suggested or actually named with soma-related cognates number to above a hundred. These may reflect that soma was something that existed in many plants, like the concept of rasa (the life sap, blood, resin, juice or extract) that were variously blended with each other or were substituted. Many scholars point out that at least two types of soma ceremonies were preformed, some purely symbolic and some actually containing the sacrificial “process” and, perhaps, ingestion (though again some argue the soma was for the gods alone). It must be noted that most of the attributes used to identify the soma plant come from the Rig Veda actually are from verses more descriptive of the extract or effects rather than the botanical identity of the plant, a matter which is utterly obscured intentionally by secretive priests or otherwise. Some of the earliest theories presented on the identity of the soma plant suggest Peganum harmala and this was also suggested by the noted South American anthropologist Claudio Naranjo (Flattery and Schwartz 1989). His deduction is intriguing in linking the same chemical complex as is found in Amazonian plant cults.
I have contacted many scholars and writers on the subject of the soma and most will favor a single plant theory (usually Ephedra, Amanita muscaria). It is interesting to note the lack of a straightforward study of the Vedic soma that is not pushing a single plant theory. Inevitably everyone of these theories is unsatisfactory and its obvious that each theory “cherry-picks” data and refusing contradictory points to fit the descriptions into their hypothesis. One could pick, as scholars have, any single candidate and argue with almost equal persuasion that in some area that specific plant was used in a “soma” context at a certain time. There are certain problems, not just of description, but in the parallel sudden cessation of the rites or in positing a vast conspiracy that simultaneously and effectively subsisted the plant and carried on as business as usual, as Flattery and Schwartz (1989) note. But such a dynamic has apparently played out with various mystery traditions across the ancient world, with apparently vibrant entheogenic traditions suddenly going extinct (or underground) or compromising with society by institutionalizing placebo sacraments. Likewise, the exoteric rituals for the masses (and priests at certain times) may have been placebo with a sacred potion being reserved for the elite such as posited in similar traditions.
Primary candidates for haoma/soma are Ephedra spp., Amanita muscaria, Peganum harmala, C. sativa, Nelumbo nucifera, Asclepias acida, Basella cord folia, Ceropegia decaisneanam, Cerepoegia elegans, Eleusine coracana, Ichnicarpus frutescens, Periploca aphyllam Ruta graveoleans, Saccharum sp., Sarcostemma acidum, Sarcostemma brevistigma, Sarcostemma viminale, Sorghum sp., Vitis vinifera (Afgan grape/vine), Humulua lupulus to alloys of electrum. This list was partially taken from Padhy and Dash (2004) who omit a number of common suspect plants, such as Peganum, and yet include the cultivated Rue, or Ruta. This list could be extended to over a hundred plants, such as Crinium latifolium called soma-vela to Somaraji or Veronia anthelmintica. The fact that fairly convincing arguments have been made with reference to diverse species can mean substitute plants, which was certainly a reality, but also may reflect a family of plants that were employed as admixtures or that soma was a specific quality that could be expressed in diverse things from the celestial to the botanical to the mineral and metallic.
Soma/Haoma: The Monoplant Theory
Having recently published a paper on the Vedic soma plant, as Amanita muscaria, spreading throughout Asia with various esoteric traditions a few words on the “monoplant theory” are in order. That the Vedic soma or haoma of the Persians was (ever) a single plant to a single given group has grown less and less convincing. There may well be an ultra-secret plant, or manner of exploiting an existing plant or plants, or some as yet unknown or never known plant or fungus that has long since gone extinct or countless other scenarios to explain Soma (or was Doniger speculates it may have only existed in the minds of the Priests). Various substitutes, various soma are mentioned in the Rig Veda (and subsequent texts from different times and places), and related or tangential traditions or sects may well have had rival interpretations.
The concept of soma evolved between different periods and all that is left to get a sense of these transitions are scant scriptural references and myths. This paper speculates that at some point the visionary plant/drink was admixture based and the King soma or guru or empowering plant may well have been the wild rue. The primary data that this plant was at the heart of Persian plant based mysteries and Indo-European nomads (Flattery and Schwartz) is utterly convincing and exhaustive. Their research has supplemented by many scholars and unearthed herbals in related traditions with similar admixture based cults speculated as existing in Islamic contexts using Peganum and Acacia (Shanon 2009). Below a list of related tryptamine carrying plants, that may have been combined with the MAOI containing rue, and thus there is some evidence of Soma as a DMT admixture similar to the yage cults of South America.
I posit a plant-spirit plant pantheon hierarchy with Peganum harmala holding the superior position paralleling the Ayahuasca cult of South America. Similarly, the ascetic Vedic seers (rishi), yogis, and sages used the psychoactive potential of the harmine and harmaline alkaloids as “skeleton keys” to the rest of the plants. Like the South American cults, a rigorous system and initiation, shamanic/ascetic practices, and dietary restrictions were employed, as were rituals and songs or hymns, invoking the god/plant Soma. The conflicting theories of identification of the soma plant are elegantly resolved as the admixture hypothesis explains similarly or identically named plants with those intentionally concealed or coded. Just one example as to the proximity and kindred associations may, again, be expressed in the relationship in ancient contexts with Peganum harmala and Acacia spp.. These two plants were burned in ritual contexts, the former as the incense, the latter as the wood of the sacred fire. Wild rue is the quintessential dye plant and Acacia has utterly ancient associations with tanning leather and both are used in a host of similar ailments and traditions. If combined they form the world’s most potent entheogen.
Peganum Harmala and Soma Revisited
Peganum harmala, Syrian Rue, Harmel, Harmal, isphand, etc. Raja Soma (?), Siddha Tamil SHEMAI-AZHAVANAI VIRAI, Simaiyaravandi, Simaiyalavinai. Ayurveda Harmal, Isband, Wild Rue, Foreign Henna, Syrian Rue. Ancient texts recognize at least three varieties of Peganum harmala.
Space precludes re-litigating the entire range of arguments of the soma candiates that range from the perhaps the most popular (Ephedra or Amanita muscaria though increasingly scholars I have contacted tend towards the former) to the lotus plant or to amalgam electrum. The Manava Dharma Shastra or the Laws of Manu has only one occurrence of the word soma and it is listed as a species of mountain rue (Flattery and Schwartz 1989). Flattery and Schwartz highlight the “wild verses cultivated” interchanging in various Indo-Iranian and Vedic mystic groups that mutually exchanged influence, plants and nomenclature. Likewise, they raise serious objections to statements that Peganum harmala only arrived into India with the invading Muslims and cite much earlier dates. But should it be a late and foreign introduction than that it would accord with the need to import and purchase it. A loss in the admixture technology and the increased blending and dilution of Vedic purity with introduction of Peganum to India and subsequent use by the lower castes may all have contributed to the end of the soma sacrifice proper. It seems also that plant-based prophetic traditions turn against or renounce the original source of their inspiration either for control or because the invoked forces are too unpredictable for the prevailing social orders.
The interested must refer to that work (Flattery and Schwartz 1989) for greater detail on Ruta or garden rue verses Peganum exchanges that become expressed in complex mythologies. At some point the high caste were forbidden to touch even certain plants, and such an injunction was also used by Wasson to validate one point of his soma argument, which is the institution of mushroom/plant taboos. This theorizes that past sanctified plants later become taboo when they fall out of sacred use or official use. So if a mushroom was once the holiest of sacramental rites it may not be handled either because the plant is feared or fear that that sin is committed by polluting without the proper ritual precautions. Much of this would depend upon the exact reason the sacrament was abandoned, if it was simply to control the oracular access to the gods or that the secret technology had become known amongst rival or lesser groups causing the priests to instigate radical changes.
One interesting point, in terms of low-class associations, would be Peganum harmala is the “plant sacred to the Pariah caste” and though Flattery and Schwartz (1989) do not follow this up, that low-caste was associated the Tamil nadu region that birthed Tantra. The Vedic priests were jealous of their means and methods to the extreme. Flattery and Schwartz cite Brahmanic and Sikh injunctions to never touch wild rue. One might speculate that Aryans abandoned their choice of plants as they became open secrets. The problems presented by a foreign plant brought in by Aryan invaders that is subsequently enshrined by low-caste Tantric mystics who rebel against Brahmanic rule may be reconciled with a number of theories. One may be similar to the death of Socrates as discussed by Carl Ruck, in which the philosopher shuns the secrecy and elitism of the orthodox mystery tradition and teaches it outside the priestly authority. Wild rue may have been appropriated at an early period into the non-Bhramanic castes in the evolving role of soma (intoxicant, entheogen, alchemical code word, sexual fluid and tantric associations) and the possibility of various cult specific admixtures. Yet another plausible option is just that the siddha masters investigated, as is born out in the writings and traditions that persist, every plant, mineral and metal and actively appropriated both Vedic/Aryan mystical/medical lore but also the pre- and post-Islamic holy herbalism and occult sciences of the hakims of the Unani Tibb systems. Finally Peganum has practical applications that give off psychoactive effects (absorbing the dye) and this may have become one of many such mysteries that were born out of the artisan class of which birthed many of the Siddha masters. The arguments will be confined to these examples in anticipation of a more scholarly prosecution of theories that attempt to clarify spheres of influence in Siddha herbalism.
Most Indian authors incline towards either Ephedra or to alchemical or metallurgical views of their own Vedic soma traditions (see Padhy and Dash 2004). Kalyanaraman (2004) who inclines to electrum as soma, nevertheless is willing to admit that plants became substitutes (though most Indian authors and scholars I have contacted or read have categorically reject almost any entheogen thus suggested as soma). But Kalyanaraman’s well reasoned discussions on Rig Vedic metallurgical riddles mention many botanicals as these were essential in the various smith rites. Various metals were rubbed and pounded with herbs or saturating them in extracts, resins and saps or treated with their calcinated herbal salts. This is the matrix in which various toxic plants, metals, minerals and other natural products were combined in a mystical context born out of the practical arts of the potters, dyers, smiths and other craftsmen. The priestly and royal upper-caste Brahmans thus represent one stream of alchemical symbolism that struggled with and synthesized with the lower-caste artisans.
Kalyanaraman (2004) discusses this conflicting caste dynamic in terms of alchemy and soma and touches upon the roles of “tanning, dyes, mining and alchemy.” This is related to the ancient associations of “tinting” of metals which were likely glean from working with plants and animal skins. He discusses the nexus tinting, dyeing and coloring connecting these associations with soma and osadhi, “a plant-mineral preparation used by the metallurgist.” Two of the main trees he discusses were anciently used to tan leather and one, the Acacia catechu or khadira may well have entheogenic tryptamine alkaloids as discussed below. P. 168 in book . The other tree mentioned with tanning is the holy tree that Buddha became enlightened under, the pippala or Ficus religiosa (high in serotonin). Kalyanaraman (2004) informs its synonym is asvattha (connoting equine symbolism) the dried leaves and twigs are powdered and mixed with certain juices and drunk as a potion reportedly good against throbbing eyes, fearful dreams and the designs of enemies. The wood of the asvattha was used for soma vessels, and the drill called pramantha that ignited the sacrificial fire.” These digressions come in the midst of Kalyanaraman’s pondering of horse-head riddles with twins and winged horses as purely metallurgical allegories. The Chandogya Upanisad VIII.5.3 refers to “soma yielding asvattha” and all of these associations should combine to emphasize that the soma plant complex can not be dealt with over-simplistic theories of a single plant used in isolation at a single time but a single group.
With respect to the absence of early references to “rue” plants, except the noted injunction to not touch it and that it is used by the “Pariah” caste it must be reiterated that it is conspicuous by absence but the same may indeed be said of specific mushrooms (both in India and China). But could a red, almost invasive growing psychoactive plant have gone unnoticed by both marauding Aryans with a long tradition of exploiting psychoactive plants and indigenous groups who scrutinized nature above and below the earth for their rituals and practical arts? Are the close associations with other deified plants with potent alkaloids only active in tandem with Peganum entirely coincidental? (there is also another species of mountain rue as soma and ruta is discussed by Flattery. another candidate is used in Indian alchemy Conyza anthelmintica a moon plant and it is called a mountain rue).
Kalyanaraman rejects Flattery basically saying that “harmal is burnt not pounded” (which it sometimes is ground before burning as well due to the popping of the seeds) and certainly it was for dyeing. Kalyanaraman’s meticulous research is unsatisfactory here as he links the crucial details of dyeing plants (which Peganum harmala is par excellence) and incense and ashes (which the burnt Peganum harmala as incense would yield as well) but doesn’t recognize Peganum as fulfilling either. Ancient Indian herbals I have seen in manuscript and cited in Ayurvedic literature suggest that Peganum harmala may have been called henna in certain areas as a general term for dyeing plants. Scholars reject other theories on the most incidental or minor reasons ignoring all the other textual evidence. The discussion of alchemical ashes will be the subject of a companion paper but the common feature of smearing oneself with ashes and the proto-homa fire rites and alchemical herbalism may well stem from the exploitations of plants that fulfill all of these functions. Mention Persian word for ashes Peganum harmala is a true guru of plants in that it is a medicine, dye, aphrodisiac, ritual plant, incense and empowering/potentiating other plants or rendering unlocking effects. Applying the ashes of sacred plants that effect metals to the body while engaging in ascetic practices and ritual imbibing of elixirs would be applying the same principles to one’s self. Flattery and Schwartz (1989) mention the blurring of harmal with henna in ancient folklore, the latter of which has mystic associations with the elegant drawings on the skin.
As an aside, I would reappraise the inexact and pejorative term “intoxicant” that many use in describing the effects of Peganum harmala and as used generally with soma as a more precise term is in order. Blissful, narcotic and entheogenic drugs have a place in yoga (the texts of the Tamil yogis use opium and C. sativa liberally), and intoxicants in Tantric ritual, and harmal can be all these with certain admixtures. As all these traditions likely stem from shamanic practices, plants and “psycho-sexual drug yoga” has a long history of India (Aldrich 1977). By itself, depending on dosage, it is trance inducing to visionary or calming and meditative. At high doses it can be dream like and pain reducing like opiates. (see Note) If anything, a general statement of the effects of a moderate dose Peganum extract could be described as a gentle antidepressant, as one expect with its MAOI action. The other effects would depend on admixtures. The mythology of India and related Aryan cultures enshrines a number of deities or their sexual fluids and progeny in many sacred plants. Many associated with Soma/amrita or the related rasayana and alchemical Tantric traditions are indeed potently psychoactive or potentially so when taken with Peganum harmala. The juice of plants and the semen of the gods is the same stuff of extracts, blood, saps and resins (rasa being the linking term from soma to alchemy or rasayana, rasa mentioned in the Rig Veda as Somarasa).
Given the ubiquitous presence of the wild rue, in esoteric circles and folklore as well as invasive and widespread growth, the lack of data on the plant in India is almost conspicuous by absence. I think the hallucinogenic mushrooms and their lack of study or mentions in Chinese herbals for example is a similar phenomena. These mycophilic cultures were unaware of these species, like the Amanita muscaria and other entheogenic varities and yet systematically documented every exotic plant and fungus, except those? But indeed they really seem to have been aware, as Wasson and Needham attempted to demonstrate, and Needham declares magic mushrooms as the highest mystery of the Taoist cannon and all references to it utterly occult (Dannaway 2009). So where yogis, gurus and Soma priests of an Aryan culture that religiously cherished “magic” plants just ignorant that wild rue itself is “entheogenic” (profound in effects at least) in middle to high amounts and psychoactive in low doses? And like the Banisteriopsis caapi of South America, it is something of a skeleton key to the botanical world and the king of plants (Soma raja). Like the caapi or yage or ayahuasca plant could be used alone or with other plants, potentiating many and activating tryptamines in plants that otherwise would not be orally active.
This perhaps specious line of argument for a Vedic use of rue is bolstered by some enticing data that was begrudgingly shared with me by a doctor in the Siddha herbalist tradition of Tamil. He confirms that Peganum harmala has a traditional esoteric use and cautioned me that I shouldn’t be rash in trying what he assumed I have read in indigenous and popular occult books claiming Siddha secrets that mention Pegaganum. He says they are scriptural but omit the important cautions and preparations to make the recipes safe and effective. Though cryptic, even evasive, the doctor did say that certain pujas to Shiva most be done, and astronomical considerations on time to begin ingesting are paramount. He stipulated that a paste of the whole fresh plant is to be taken on specific lunar days prior to ingestion. The manner was to apply this paste to the toes and fingers in a yoga asana and certain breathing techniques were followed. This seems very intriguing and credible as some of the most interesting data on Syrian rue in Middle Eastern countries involves the accidental or incidental exposure to the alkaloids of the plants in the common use of the dye in rugs. Indeed the complex geometry of the Persian rugs may well be inspired from the visionary state induced that is geometric and beautiful. The fez of the whirling dervishes was died with this plant as well and likely seeped into the skin as then sweated and spun in their ritual dances.
But while the Tamil speaking Siddha doctor did admit internal usage he was reluctant to allow me to write of the methods and I respect his wishes. But it is used medically and ritually, the latter being proscribed by preliminary ascetic practices, and seasonal and astrological considerations. This constitutes a very stunning bit of data for a use of this plant in the heart of the Tantric lineages, indeed in the region that birthed Tantra. After gather my information on horses and Peganum, as Flattery and Shwartz (1989) as mentioned below suggest rue excites horses, I asked him if there are any associations in Tamil ethnobotany. He responded by saying that mixing Peganum with another seed, Dolichos uniflorus is given to horses “periodically to increase its power and strength…it also works as a good aphrodisiac.” He also hinted of its use in ancient Siddha practices of 54 male- 54 female associated admixture plants also suggests complex psychotropic potions. Finally, his literal translation for the Tamil word for Peganum harmala, SHEMAI-AZHAVANAI VIRAI, is shemai- native of overseas azhavanai- “that which enhances total wellness” and virai a plant.
Horses to Water Plants
Parker and Lux (2008) in a most insightful article record this plant used amongst others in the Mahakala Tantra rites: “Forty-two of the Mahkala Tantra’s fifty chapters include formulas for using medicinal plants, and many of these plants are psychoactive. A partial list includes plants that have been identified as Acorus calamus, Areca catechu, Artemisia spp., C. sativa, Cinnamomum camphora, Datura metel, Myristica fragrans, Nelumbo nucifera, Peganum harmala, and Valeriana wallichii. The plants are employed to attain health, wealth, wisdom, and supernatural powers such as seeing underground and flying.” Peganum harmala has an ancient and widespread use as a magical incense, psychoactive as well as apotropaic, and indeed we find such a use for the soma as magical fumigant: in a prescription for a fumigation with soma as one of the ingredients. Kalpasthana (Meulenbeld 2008). While his entire paper notes botanical anomalies of identification between the Vedic and Ayurvedic periods with an emphasis on poison trees, Meulenbeld also cites authorities that believe the Vedic Soma was Peganum harmala. Yet a further point he makes in a footnote is that soma in the Vedic period is different than one mentioned in the Sushruta Samhita. But the Sushruta Samhita (537-538, SS.CS. 29.28-31) is not clear on this and states the best soma is found in the regions of Kashmir, again a region associated with the origins of a very syncretic merging of traditions into what became alchemical tantric herbal yoga.
One reads in the refutations of Flattery and Schwartz that the authors must have not experimented with Syrian rue, because if they had they would have been so disappointed with the effects they would have refuted their own theory. This is a strange assertion to make and I have read it in many different contexts enough but it’s patently false. First of all psychoactive effects are subjective and unpredictable to a large extent in just considering the strange cases of Salvia divinorum in which there are a significant number of “hard-heads” they call themselves who can not despite heroic doses experience what is induced by minimal amounts in others. Secondly, Wasson himself felt no effects from ingesting Amanita muscaria though a Japanese crew member became very “drunk” and high from his portion which indicates some genetic dispositions for sensitivity. The words used to define the psychoactive experiences, from psychedelic to entheogens, are either reductionist or theological to the extreme. What would be an ideal “yogic” plant that didn’t overwhelm with hallucinations, but let the mind steady to experience a deeper more subtle Samadhi that could, depending on dosages and admixtures, get decisively visionary?
This ever present, rampant weed exudes positive magical associations that are recorded everywhere its roots mingle with soil. From folk medicines to sacred incense, to uses in alchemical elixirs and siddha yoga this plant adapts to what is needed from medicine to spiritual elixir, and just like the perfect guru it aids and potentiates the power of other disciple plants. I have heard from people who use the herb in a yogic manner, including a small “sub-entheogenic” dose as a daily supplement and then taking larger amounts on specific practices as certain times. These range from pills of the powder to extracts and tinctures and a few external applications as well. One final note, I have read that Muslims introduced this species into India but find it listed in Indian herbals as an indigenous plant. Surely there was an ancient exchange in the medical systems of Unani, Ayurveda and Siddha and related alchemical fields that would introduce these species. Ancient appropriations of other culture’s mystic plants was rampant and the nonindigenous argument becomes less convincing when one considers the role of mercury in Vedic alchemy which had to be imported from China as India has no native mercury. “Rigveda, Soma is described as growing far away, in the mountains, and has to be purchased from traveling traders.” Of course the red color and dye would be most significant. The fact it is sacred to the lower caste, indigenous people is telling in its relation to Lord Shiva who forced his way into the Aryan Pantheon merging with the lord of plants Rudra. This creates some botanical mysteries of its own as to the confluence of ritualized plants from Aryan and local customs of sacred plants.
Delving deeper into the often dangerous realm of comparative mythology, none of the scholars and academics could give much of a theory of the origin of the term Peganum but my own suspicions seemed plausible to Ruck in personal correspondence that it may well have something to do with the winged horse, Pegasus. The ethnobotanist Ratsch mentioned the same suggestion in his monumental Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants (although the entry for Syrian Rue lists it as mentioned in the Koran but it is not, although it is listed in primary hadith which suggest Peganum to the “faithful” for courage in battle). The curious association with Soma and Shiva (Shiva the indigenous god who forced himself into the Aryan pantheon merging with Rudra) with a “submarine mare” (Doniger O’Flaherty 1981) in a host of strange myths that, despite elegant theories by many talented scholars, are very enigmatic. When one considers that Pegasus (Pega + Sus, Bridled Horse) was fathered by Poseidon (see Komita 1989 for horse and Indo- European attributes of Poseidon), and thus with underwater activities and flying one wonders of ancient myths that figure into legendary European beasts to the winged-steed of the Prophet Muhammad (also associated with Syrian rue and shamanic flight) to the soma horses to even the wind-horses of Tibet it is tempting to draw some precarious but intriguing conclusions. Flattery (1989) mentions an epithet of haoma is reflected in the Persian term naivand/nivand “swift” used only of horses and of Peganum harmala and the Avestan cognates that are precisely and specifically only applied to Peganum and horses and expressing “swift.” Flattery and Schwartz (1989) also mention that horses (and elephants) are excited and energetic after eating wild rue (other animals avoid the plant which was a sign of significance to ancient people either poison, magic or both). Bedrosian (2010) finds traces of twins, soma and a flying submarine horse lingered amongst the Armenians.
“Hither has Soma flowed unto the beakers, like a chariot-horse, a stallion swift upon his way. HYMN LXXXI. Soma Pavamana. HYMN XCVII. Praise of Herbs. Herbs rich in Soma, rich in steeds, in nourishments, in strengthening power,- All these have I provided here, that this man may be whole again.
Twins and Flying Horses
“Borne by rapid steeds of might wings pinion… Rig Veda I.116 Hymn CXVI Asvins
Crucially linked with the soma rites were the twin winged horses the Ashvins (that were yoked as in the original term of yoga to the divine chariots, the word means asvan means “being possessed by horses”) and inner heat (tapasvins), “Full of the honey are the swans that bear you, golden winged, waking with the Dawn, and they come not to hurt, they rain forth the waters, they are full of rapture and touch that which holds the Rapture. Like bees to pouring of honey you come to the Soma-offerings (RV 4.45).” Those unconvinced by the etymology will explain away the thunder carrying associations “the immortal steeds Cyllarus and Harpagus” rode by the Gemini twins. Truly ancient and widespread associations with the winged horses pulling the moon god (who had 27 wives who were stars) (soma) might further explain associations that emerge in the Vedas all of which were based on astrotheological considerations of constellations (see below). The horse sacrifice and botanical association of killing a horse associated plant may well be connected. Needham (1974) touches upon this subject in a broader discussion of alchemy, soma and entheogens “…in the greatest Indo-Aryan liturgy, the Asvamedha, or horsesacrifice, gold is inevitably prominent. The slaughtering knife was made of gold, for gold is the ‘shining light’ , and ‘by means of the shining light the priest goes to the heavenly world.”
Kalyanaraman (2004) notes the recurrent use of horse symbolism pasanam in Tamil siddha alchemical texts and the horse sacrifice alchemical cipher that permeates the Rig Veda and subsequent traditions. The Kundalini energy that flies past (oddiyana bandha) in yoga is also associated with a horse as well especially in Siddha terminology. “In Tamil literature kundalini is called a ‘horse,’ puravi which indicates the galloping force (Ganapathy 2003).” The horse associations that blend into internal alchemical practices of hatha and siddha yoga, like the internalization of alchemy in Daoism, that climax into the cranial soma release in the skull. The Siddha literature is saturated with psychoactive yogic preparations using all manner of spices and stimulating barks, roots (many of which are the precursors to modern recreational drugs) and toxic substances (which they considered purified alchemically like mercury). These substances also use significant amounts of opium and C. sativa in yogic mediations (Ganapathy 2004).
Associations of red dyes, from Biblical red skins (Allegro 1970) to Persian carpets find their way into cryptic passages in the Rig Veda where a “savory Soma meath” is presented in skins in front of the chariots of the Ashvins. This language of chariots, yoking, and horse energy can be said to be the creative matrix from which yoga evolved and here links the offering in a skin dyed read to twin flying horses. At the risk of beating a dead horse, Narayan (1987) informs that King Soma was called the Retas, Seed of the Powerful Horse (‘Ayam Soma Vrishno Asvasya Retah’ RV I.164, 35. Narayan finds the whole horse association a riddle, and he writes “We do not know what the Rig-Veda means by the Horse.” Peganum harmala seeds are called the powerful horse thought out the ancient world (even if the Pegasus etymology seems dubious the more important Indo-Iranian terms are solidly linked) and by symbolically decapitating them the priest was removing the horse’s head in conjunction with astrotheological events.
Leading Horses to Water
The underwater mare wanders the oceans with “fire of doomsday” in her mouth drinking the “floods of the doomsdays” of the sea water awaiting the day to render the whole word to ashes. Siva (trident like Poseidon/Neptune) is said to have created the mare from his third eye but the real fire is the “ambrosial fire” [saumya] in her mouth (O’Flaterhy 1973). O’Flaterhy also notes in the Mahabharata it says “Siva’s mouth is the mare’s head” which is interpreted as “Though art the Barabanala (vadavanala mare-fire) Mare’s head that ranges within the ocean ceasessly vomiting fire and drinking the saline waters as if they were sacrificial butter. The continuing association between aquatic plants and poisons, further discussed below, and the horse that drinks waters becomes interesting if the desert like Peganum was associated with this Indo-European of a magical plant that was the inverse of the waters, holding their potential yet existing in arid desert-like areas. The dryness, as if the horse was drinking the water in the area but holding the potential of the fire inside links up with macrocosmic and cosmogonic myths that clearly stretch from Greece to India that combine with plant and astronomical lore. O’Flaherty (1973) links these notions of the horse with the broader notions of fertility and rain of the Indo-European civilization (“noteably in Ireland”) where “Indra (the phallic god of rain) approaches Soma (the fiery liquid) as a stallion comes to his mare.” The tension in the Grail myths between the fertile land and the desert wastelands are no doubt heirs to these myths (as are swords and stones etc.) The fiery waters are found concentrated in the driest of mountainous regions in a horse-associated plant (Peganum’s toxicity to animals is well discussed but its associations with horses is persistent.)
The ability to control a plant that on different levels may be simply medicinal, anti-depressant to narcotic to visionary to entheogenic (dependent on admixtures) would well accord with the notions of Indo-Aryan notions of “horse-tamers.” As O’Flaherty notes this is an attribute of Shiva as Lord of Animals (Pasupati) and Rudra the god of drugs is also the “tamer of horses” in the Brahmanas. Desert plants mixed with aquatic or forest admixtures provide a rich symbolism both to the ascetic deep in the woods and the saddled nomads that eventually seemed to have spread plants like C. sativa and Peganum harmala all over the ancient world on their trade routes and camp sites. The fragrant buds or red pods could well have been the earliest trail marks, routes, encampents and towns as ritualized cultures settled near their resources. For whatever reason the official soma rites ceased (800 BCE) and substitutes were employed (Needham 1972) and this has been argued that for the Indo-Aryans the supply became to be difficult to maintain.
This line of argument never seemed appealing, although a mushroom like Amanita muscaria can be scarce) but certainly for Ephedra or Peganum this shouldn’t have been a problem. Nor does this answer why haoma suddenly ceased to be used in Persia at an early date. The answer to both may be that the creative and powerful visionary forces that birthed the cultures and religions became a threat to the priesthood who substituted placebo sacraments to control access to the gods and immortality, perhaps forgetting it themselves in the process. As the towns morphed to cities the power structure tightened its control on the forces that directly accessed the powerful divine inspirations. Likewise the rites could have gone “underground,” as Wasson notes of the mushroom cults of China, and certainly the reemergence of Tantric cults with similar pantheons, languages and even in their early periods possessing sophisticated iatrochemistry lend this credibility. The expunging of harmal from Indian records, once it became associated with various invaders and lower-castes, at certain crucial times account for its absence in all in all but the most occult references such as may be found in certain Tamil literatures. Such reactions in the past were not unheard as the Aryan Patanjali’s grammars were a reaction to foreign influence in a attempt to purify their language and codify Vedic practices and accepted rituals, mantras and asanas. The secret of the plants remained in the lower caste artisan classes of dyers, farmers and potters who birthed Tantra.
Chariots of Fire and the Origins of Yoga
9 Dear, grateful to the Gods, on to the beaker moves Soma, sweet to Indra, to delight him. With hundred powers, with thousand currents, Indu, like a strong car/chariot-horse, goes to the assembly
Soma Pavamana It may well be these associations of a magic horse-associated plant and soma defined the original essence of yoga. White (2009) explains yoga in the Vedas as akin to the French term “attelage” a “term whose semantic fields cover both the act of yoking, hitching, or harnessing; the conveyance (chariot) so hitched; and the draft animals (horses).” The chariot of the sun, the Vedic yajamana links the primary rigvedic verb associated with yoga to “yoke one’self to a chariot” and relates the poetic associations that “hitched” or “rigged” these concepts together, and I merely extended these associations to the soma as the flying horse plant Peganum harmala that one can hitch a ride to and fly to the gods. These associations seem to have existed in the Greek/Roman mystery traditions and unto Tibetan and even Islamic sources, as Muhammad’s winged steed Al-Buraq who ushered through heaven and hell. The horse sacrifices could also been of removing the heads of the plants, the pods, from the stems.
Peganum harmala like many of these plants listed here, generates intense meditation states, and aids in the increase of energy, heat, enthusiasm tapas or even telepathic powers siddhi as the harmine alkaloids from wild rue were originally designated as telepathine. Isolated forms of harmine can evoke images of snakes (nagas) plant spirits (yakshas and yakshinis) and visionary worlds, mystical realms and pure lands as well as interior microcosmic landscapes. Such images parallel iconographic art associated with the yage cults of South America and we posit here a similar complex of plant admixtures with Peganum harmala as the male equivalent to the female Queen of Plants, Banisteriopsis caapi Simple extracts in vinegar or lemon juice are sufficient. Yage is used as a medicine, shamanic ritual plant, war plant, aphrodisiac and magic purposes as well as a simple stimulant for hunting. Peganum depending on doses can be all these as well as dye and incense. It is a potent aphrodisiac especially in certain combinations, giving one the stamina of a team of horses. The taming of the effects of drugs and sexual energy, which generate tapas, is the main focus of the Vedic mysteries in tethering and yoking the afflictive passions. See White (2009) to dispel all notions of a pacified, pacifist of yogis and encounter the horse-trading warrior sadhu “wild on drugs” in combat. The associations persist into Tibet where Padmasambhava is depicted with a horse’s head upon his own, and traditions link the mingling of Buddhism and Bon with tethering to the phurba with a horse-head vajra hilt becomes paramount in Tantra (Dowman 1996).
As soma was a moon plant, it is prudent to cast eyes to the stars for understanding of related symbolism. The proto-Indo-Iranian cultures were nomadic and no doubt used stars to chart their routes across vast distances. The universal star lore that is consistent amongst diverse and widespread cultures makes one speculate about such a nomadic ancient people that spread such precise and sophisticated symbolism that persisted despite accrued cultural veneers. The astrotheological connotations with soma with the moon (and sun) are discussed at length in a separate piece. But it was also associated with the constellation the Crater or the Cup in a symbolic association that can be traced to Greece and Europe into Arab and Persian countries as well. The folklore is consistently associating the cup with magical drinks, wines, and beverages or elixirs of the gods.
The lore of celestial equine constellations is extensive linking the Equuleus, the Foal, with the “flaming shoulders” of Pegasus to ancient notions of the Equi Caput or Horse head (Allen 1963) which has soma associations. Allen also links Equuleus and Pegasus with the Acvini Horsemen of India. The proximity of Orion (Rudra-Shiva) and Taurus the Bull (the crescent moon can resemble bulls horns as well)are all clearly represented in Vedic myths. Various ancient coins depict winged-horses, with a bull’s head, a crescent moon and the three stars in a field while others have a horse’s head (Allen 1963).The etymology of Pegasus is said to be a compound of Phoenician Pega- horse and bridled -Sus though other etymologies suggest as a sky-ship. But it was a ship built by the shape-shifter Perseus and likened to a flying horse. In India it was the junction star of the Bhadra-pada (beautiful, auspicious or happy feet) nakshatras (lunar mansions) associated with “obscure” regents of the Vedic pantheon Aja Ekapat, the one footed goat, and Ahi Budhya the “bottom Snake.” Sagittarius was also identified with the horse, horse’s head or Horsemen Acvini (Allen 1963) as were the twins Gemini.
Tryptamine Admixture Plants
As Soma is the king and father of all herbs, the mother (the potential admixtures or 107 disciple plants that become the 108 kaya kalpa herbs or the 108 herbal metallic traditions of Tibet and Nepal). In a paper Tea As Soma, I argue that tea, botanically originating and consumed in a wild form in the birthplace of Tantra, became a substitute for soma in many Buddhist and Tantric lineages. It is interesting to not that the Chinese character of for tea is composed of numerals adding to 108. Other tryptamine contain plants such as Mucuna puriens (kapikachchhu) and various Mimosa spp., or mushrooms that are potentiated by Peganum harmala. In addition, rue and various mushrooms have been associated in ancient times as both an activator and remedy to mushroom intoxication.
HYMN XCVII. Praise of Herbs.
1.HERBS that sprang up in time of old, three ages earlier than the Gods,-Of these, whose hue is brown, will I declare the hundred powers and seven.
2 you, Mothers, have a hundred homes, yea, and a thousand are your growths. Do you who have a thousand powers free this my patient from disease.
18 Of all the many Plants whose King is, Soma, Plants of hundred forms, you art the Plant most excellent, prompt to the wish, sweet to the heart.
19 O all you various Herbs whose King is Soma, that o’erspread the earth, Urged onward by Brhaspati, combine your virtue in this Plant.
21 All Plants that hear this speech, and those that have departed far away, Come all assembled and confer your healing power upon this Herb.
22 With Soma as their Sovereign Lord the Plants hold colloquy and say: O King, we save from death the man whose cure a Brahman undertakes.
23 Most excellent of all art you, O Plant your vassals are the trees. Let him be subject to our power, the man who seeks to injure us.
7 What tree was that which stood fixed in surrounding sea to which the son of Tugra supplicating clung?
The reader will pardon the lengthy quotations from the Rig Veda that are crucial to establish a possibility of disciple-admixture plants that later became symbolic substitutes (though are some are psychoactive in their own right to justify lone use). Like the shamans of South America that combine many plants, either a single herb or in combinations, to their master plant teacher yage, a similar or parallel plant system may have been exploited by the Indo-Aryans and the cultures with which they interacted. Quite a few plants that are mentioned in soma ritual texts, mythologies or the offspring traditions of alchemy or Siddha traditions contain tryptamine alkaloids activated only in combination with the alkaloids found in Peganum harmala. Many of the herbs mentioned also have a continued use in rasayana or Tantric alchemical combination of herbometallic preparations that are said to confer various siddhas or aid in yoga. Other herbs would be empowered or potentiated by being allied with Peganum harmala such as is reported with C. sativa and various species of mushrooms and even Ephedra (Pendell 2005).
Ott (1993) dismisses Flattery as “grasping at straws” with his admixture theory but even in the earliest Vedic medical literature rarely if ever is a plant used by itself. One finds it curious that scholars such as Ott would accept the ergot hypothesis even though there is no modern bioassay to prove such an operation could be produced safely, consistently and on a scale large enough to satisfy the criteria described in the Greek myths. The burden of proof should perhaps be in satisfying that simply one plant was used as there is clearly a solar-lunar symbolism of an (complex) operation being performed and ancient texts describe various qualities of soma from different locations with different effects. It could be sophisticated psychopharmacology as suggested here or by Flattery and Schwartz (1989) or alchemical/metallurgical as suggested by Indian authors. Radical identifications of a mythical plant that discounts other theories (and subjects the writers of the theories to personal attacks in some cases) abound in entheogenic literature where theories are accepted or rejected usually on the smallest of details. It would seem that most mythic drinks were likely admixtures from the kykeon to the amrita potions mentioned in Tantric texts and like the Greek potion soma taken in a carrier beverage (in some texts curds, milk, ghee and barley with perhaps honey or other extracts).
For instance in a book of Indo-Aryan mythology (Narayan 1987) discussing spiritual food (bhaksha) there is a discussion between a king and a Brahmana. The King asks of the recipe and if the Brahmana which then goes to a long speech by Rama “which the king learns that the Kshatriya’s Soma consists in the juice squeezed out from the “airy descending roots of the Nyagrodha tree, together with the fruits of Udumbara, Asvattha, and Plaksha trees.” Here clearly different plants are mixed. If just Peganum harmala was ingested daily, and the admixtures on certain days then this could explain the daily soma sacrifices because ingesting any hallucinogen every day would build tolerance where is ingesting Peganum over time would give a anti-depressant effect and a sense of wellbeing from the MAOI (note). Narayan describes the proper foods and fasting rites and curious blendings of fruits, saps and resins in the soma context that have be understood as admixtures. The second tree’s name listed above in the mixed soma is associated with horses.
Punica granitum Pomegranate Daalom Gaach, Dadima (this is a term for wise old women in India as well) Punica granatum (Punicaceae) DMT in root cortex.
7 The Tree whose praises never fail yields heavenly milk among our hymns
Urging men’s generations on.
HYMN XII. Soma Pavamana.
Like twigs, of which some winged creature may take hold, you, Asvins, bore him off safely to your renown. HYMN CLXXXII. Asvins.
There is a substantial body of mythology in India connecting the pomegranate with various mother goddesses. Perhaps this is the Queen to the King Soma as a goddess that evolved to be called Mahadevi or Kali who are both often iconically associated with dwelling in or holding pomegranates. Raktavija was a demon or asura whose blood as seeds dropped in combat with other demons (in some instances pierced, interestingly with a trident) and this is identified with the Pomegranate tree. More than a few scholars have suggested the pomegranate as soma or haoma or a substitute that finds continued observance in tribal rites in modern times such as the Parsees (urvarâm or the pomegranate twig, Haoma (Modi 1922)). The Tantric traditions of Nagarjuna which evolved from the science of somarasa (soma juice) to rasayana or alchemy mentions the pomegranate in such primary documents as the Suvarnatantra. Here a specific variety is referred to and a katu rasa and katu Raktavija “denoting an astringent taste” is interpreted in the alchemical text to increase the power of rasa. The entire text deals with cryptic botanicals and aquatic plants and lotus like bulbs with serpents underneath them with Nagarjuna being taught his alchemical secrets by the goddess Prajnaparamita in a dream (Palit and Dasgupta 2009). The legends clearly accord directly with other plants of life from the soma even to epics of the snake that steals the plant of immortality from Gilgamesh. Associations with demons and serpents or the sexual fluids or blood of gods may well represent potent alkaloids or poisons that were consumed. See Alchemy and rig veda for discussion of snakes and soma cults and lower castes.
As most of the research on Peganum ultimately derives from Persian sources (meaning its most substantiated magical uses), its curious to note a Theosophical pamphlet from the otherwise suspicious Olcott (1882) on Zoroastrianism discussing the broader Aryan soma:
“Its ancient use is still kept in your memories by the Mobeds drinking in the Yana ceremony, a decoction of dried Haoma stalks, that have been pounded with bits of pomegranate root in a mortar and afterwards had water thrice poured over them.”
The mention of roots in this context is interesting because they are high in DMT alkaloids. Just for comparison, the main additive of DMT containing plant matter in yage brews is arguably Psychotria viridis: DMT 0.1-0.61% dried mass which is significantly less than Punica spp. estimates 0.4-0.9% alkaloids on average. While Theosophical writings are notorious for their New age-occult obfuscation, the pomegranate’s place in haoma/sauma rites is well attested to in a variety of sources. Flattery (1989) devotes an entire subsection linking the symbolism between Ruta, Peganum and Punica species by linguistic, color, and “seed” pod shape and seed filled associations. These associations between the Pomegranate and Peganum persist into Arabic expressions as well. But Flattery and Schwartz (1989) only mention Pomegranate as a substitute for the haoma/sauma but do mention a Middle Persian concoction of pomegranate and Ephedra extracts. As yage shamans employ additives to buffer and minimize negative effects, its not inconceivable that haoma/soma shamans wouldn’t fine tune their potions for maximum effect. A tree with the delicious edible fruit and seeds that had potentially psychoactive roots and that was used in the same ceremony that would activate those alkaloids is more than coincidental.
The addition of Ephedra would provide stimulation to counteract the narcotic effects of high doses of Peganum and other potentially DMT containing admixtures. Flattery and Schwartz also mention the three plants Ephedra, pomegranate and Ruta in combination in ritual which are symbolically close in the interchanging plants of wild and cultivated rue which they discuss at length. Should that combination have been Peganum and Pomegranate, which it seems likely would have crossed paths considering all the even scant textual evidence, then the result would be an entheogenic experience potentially more powerful than one’s in the ayahuasca cults. Even though Madhihassan doggedly pursues an argument for Ephedra as soma (stating categorically that all ascetics are old and therefore need energizers to which we can’t agree) he makes a strong case for the symbolic redness of soma, blood and rasayana mercury alchemy (Ephedra can have red fruit) the utter redness of Peganum and pomegranate and close ritual associations must be considered.
Pomegranate plays a distinct role in the herbo-metallic Tibetan Tantric Buddhist Jewel pills that at once spiritually empower and heal, and many have proven efficacious in clinical trials as well as from large numbers anecdotal reports. Tibetan Jewel pills may represent the culmination of the synthesis between Vedic and indigenous traditions that evolved into alchemy. Many contain about 108 herbs with metallic substances such as various purified forms of gold, mercury and minerals such as mica and rare gems. These pills are given during empowerments or by physicians and placed on alters or consumed for sickness or health reasons on certain waxing lunar periods. Certain herbs are given prior and after ingestion to open and close the “channels” sealing in the tonic properties and strict dietary, behavioral are suggested as are specific medical Buddha mantras. These pills range from treating arthritis and serious illnesses to more yogic and spiritual blends to even more esoteric ones that few if anyWesterners are likely to know of the details.
Desmodium spp. Desmodium gangeticum Sanskrit saumya, amsumat “rich in soma juice” DMT
This plant, as Flattery and Schwartz (1989), is rich in N,N-dmethyltryptamine and that it is not active orally unless combined with alkaloids such are found in Peganum harmala.
“What tree was that which stood fixed in surrounding sea to which the son of Tugra supplicating clung?
Like twigs, of which some winged creature may take hold, you, Asvins, bore him off safely to your renown. 2 He bellows with a roar arourd the highest twigs: the Tawny One is sweetened as he breaks them up. (this implies a blending extraction besides the soma plant)”
Acacia spp. Acacia catechu Khadira, cutch tree, khair, kath, katha. DMT roots and leaves
Ancient Vedic myths describe the gods creating a barrier, by means of a post, between themselves and humans and seers (rishis) that was also and eight sided thunderbolt, linking it with soma. It is used symbolically for one “who desires heaven” (Keith 1920). DMT is found in the leaves and roots. Ratsch (2005) describes its ancient use in Ayurveda and in India where its heartwood is boiled down into a potent extract for a number of ailments. He notes that in Vedic times the bark was known as somatvak and was associated with soma. The Acacia is primary in various yaksa plant-spirit cults such as the Khadiravati, which was the family goddess of certain Brahmanas and its bark is associated with “bestowing faith and might” (Kalyanaraman 2004). It is an additive to betel nut quids where its redness is the sexual fluid of the goddess and the lime is the sexual fluid of the god Shiva (White 2003).
Acacia suma Sami is also associated with soma and fire rites in Vedic contexts and is also a tryptamine carrier. Myths abound about sexual fluids of gods, usually Agni (explaining its role in fire rites as the wood is also extremely inflammable) and the sperm of Rudra as well (Gupta 1971). The ancient tree cults of India also associated various Acacia with the middle body of Brahma or from Katyani. Again, these plants are all associated with ritual fires, dyeing and tanning, and medicinal and divine mythologies.
Arundo donax DMT roots
The reed, often symbolized by the arrow, has a significant mythology. In addition to being a water plant (an attribute of many plants of immortality), it is often connected to soma. In a discussion on regions best associated with “good soma,” one of which is procured in Saryanavat, which Muller explains means “from reeds, arrow, made of reed, reeds tied together, and reeds tied together for soma oblations” (Narayan 1987). Muller identifies it with a specific lake in the neighborhood of specific lands associated with high grade soma plants. If the reeds were purely symbolic why would a specific region be selected as being especially rich in the “celestial juice of joy” and would such care be taken if it was simply functionary in carry in the soma proper? Other cryptic riddles refer to celestial arrows and most of these are identified as made from the aquatic sara plant which means reeds and arrow, and note that in Latin arundo means reed and arrow as well. Though many identify the sara with Saccharum sara this is used mostly for making rope not arrows.
The role of mercury in India, which has not native souces according to many authorities, has confounded much of the research into the origins of alchemy. The Indo- Iranian horseman had their rites, the Chinese their plants of deathlessness and indigenous groups apparently had their own immortality and proto-alchemical traditions all of which may have heard legendary echos from Sumerian or Egyptian magical plants. The blending of Chinese and Indian psycho-sexual drug yogas back and forth eventually culminated with mercury being divinized as the very semen of the god Shiva. Alchemical creation myths of mercury, the subject of a separate and lengthy monograph, with sexual fluids (rasa) and magic herbs, minerals and metals is well discussed (White, Doniger dates). While the exact dating is murky, the role of the god’s semen (Shiva was applied rarely and for a number of deities in Rig Veda mostly with Rudra the Lord of Herbs) being released after prolonged sexual intercourse (generating intense heat tapas). Mercury’s liquid metal and other peculiar properties and especially, perhaps, its toxicity instantly became appropriated into the Indian and sub-continental alchemical pantheon.
Another body of mythology related to the sperm of Shiva is found documented by O’Flaterhy (1973) in the birth of the son of Shiva and his consort. These myths blend the moon, soma, seed (semen) in fire with sexual tapas in myths that unify the various Vedic periods while attempting to reconcile the tension between the erotic householder and ascetic. Shiva’s fiery potent seed is either spilled or drunk by various (often the fire god Agni) which are various unnatural procreative acts that usually culminate with a son Skanda born in the “Forest of Reeds.” The sperm of Shiva is too hot to hold in his mouth so Agni vomit into a lake associated with the Krttikas, “When Parvati found Skanda, she picked him up to nurse him, and her breasts began to flow with milk so abundantly that it flowed like a river into the lake called Forest of Reeds. Six sons of a sage, who were in this lake in the form of a fish because of a curse given by their father, swallowed this mil and gained their true form (O’Flaterhy 1973). Even if these are later myths they are interesting in linking poisons, milk, shape shifting and sexual fluids with a Forest of Reeds. O’Flaterhy notes “sometimes the seed is mistaken for Soma and drunk to ensure immortality, here (in a variation of the myth in the text) it is mistaken for a poison and drunk to ensure death.” This interesting dynamic of poison/soma (like the therapeutic and toxic effects of mercury) is interesting in all psychoactive plant contexts but especially with those that had to be processed like the speculations of ergot or the safe manipulation of the DMT alkaloids. This is especially true of Arundo donax and related aquatic reed like plants like Phragmites which contain entheogenic alkaloids amidst potentially poisonous or at least nauseating properties in the plant. Nevertheless that the god Shiva’s semen be associated with such plants is profound considering its long association with soma and alchemical code word par excellence for Indian alchemists. O’Flaterhy also writes at length on the Indo-European motifs of a bird who stole soma or the bird who brings ambrosia or fire from heaven in a hollow read. This of course recalls Promethean use of hollow fennel, but one may speculate that in India hollow tubes like this were the prototypical chillam pipes and later used to form the clay ones, which are themselves microcosmic homa (fire rites) and soma offerings.
From the churning of the primordial ocean (where the aquatic notions of soma may originate) that threatens to kill the universe the submarine mare appears that is also, according to O’Flaterhy identified with Shiva. “Siva inherits one aspect of his fame as a drinker of Soma from Indra, who is the great Soma-drinker of the Vedas. Siva’s drinking of poison may be traced back to the Vedic sage who drinks poison with Rudra, an ecstatic practice which remained a part of Hindu yoga: the yogi is said to have the power to ingest deadly poison as if it were nectar. Similarly it is said, ‘By the poison which kills all animals, by that same poison the physician destroys disease… Here Shiva (the propounder of the Tantric system) prescribes poison which eradicates poison. (O’Flaterhy 1973). Reeds are also said to have arose from the lord of serpents, or the Naga King who taught all occult, plant, and alchemical knowledge. Very few plants, trees named outright in Rig Veda, some like haritala tree, haritala usually means orpiment (quote some other tree examples) pomegranate remerges continued to be used in alchemy may be coded, just as the roots on some trees, goddesses in the tree, the associations with a soma that was an oily bulb aquatic plants with serpent poisons underneath is persistent. The identity is a mystery. (note) A few words of effects and theories, as many of the arguments for suggesting rue besides Flattery and Schwartz, myself included, seem to evolve from people who have experimented with the effects of wild rue using ancient recipes and methods to profound effects. Gracie and Zarkov describe meeting entheogens in “trip reports” as well as some speculations on the use of the plant in ancient times as an Indo-European plant teacher. The Entheogen Review (Winter Solstice 1992) had a brief speculation on Arundo donax and Peganum harmala combinations as soma and admittedly such theories have been on the fringe of scholarly entheogenic research for sometime. One guerilla ethnobotany book is Blue Tide by Mike Jay that recounts at length his experiments with Peganum amidst some good speculations on its method of use in ancient rituals. Also, Ananda Bosman has put forth a theory I have not been able to read entirely and years ago suggesting a tryptamine cult in the ancient Vedas though details are sketchy and website that was around years ago is now defunct (at least to my searches) but although intermixed with ufos and conspiracy theories it must be counted as an inspiration, though I had speculated on similar cults in Islam, as cited in the Pendell text. One correspondent, a female doing yoga took rue and had serpentine visions whenever she closed her eyes and open eyed in the darkness but with a sense of well-being.
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