There is something that very few of us think about when interacting with plant spirits, or any spirit for the matter, in the paths of Witchcraft: we focus on the relationship between cause and effect, and yet we leave a ‘real’ inclusive analysis out of the question. In Witchcraft in general, and magical herbalism (and the path of poisons) in particular, it is necessary to bear in mind a depply contextualised view of the influence that spirits have in our lives. While the vast majority of us think we function this way:
NORMAL STATE + INTERACTION with X SPIRIT > ALTERED STATE
Interaction with spirits (including physically existing Poisons) works quite differently. Firtsly, we encounter a basic problem: we are never in a normal (non-altered) state. Each decision we take, each step we make, we are being watched by spirits and being interpelled by them. When we consciously make the decision of interacting with a plant spirit, we do not actually know when did that influence start, as it was probably something that we did not see coming: it may have been something that runs in the family, or its influence may have been motivated by a school trip you did in 3rd grade, or by the place you are living now, or the state you find yourself in.
In nowadays world, we are constantly interpelled by spirits, just the same as we have always been. There is one difference, though: we have lost awareness of that phenomenon. We think we make decisions on our own, and that there is a ‘de facto’ division between ourselves and our surroundings, but there is no such thing. We are born and exist in connection to All spirits: ancestors, substances, numena, other individuals’. Thus, all of our actions an decisions are dependant and affect our environment. In fact, one of the most important facets of Witchcraft is being able to see those threads that connect us to existence and other spirits, and being able to play and learn with them. Self-Alteration (that, in the end, is a part of life itself) is a neverending dance with Spirits, allowing them to enter in ourselves, and learning the mysteries they keep. Similarly, bear in mind that we are also simultaneously altering other spirits as well, as this is not a one-way road.
However, the reason behind stating this lack of a deeper analysis is specially rellevant to the Poison Path, as well as in some medicinal and spiritual trends today: we think we can be detoxified from external hazards, and that we can be freed from the burden of toxins and noxious spirits with cleanses, scrubs, and other implements. That would be just great, wouldn’t it? To be purified, emptied, and ready to be filled.
But why not, instead of trying to get rid of something just because we think is evil, trying to appreciate what that hazard is doing for us? Why not trying to see what is the toxin teaching to us about ourselves? Why did we get to interact with it in the first place? Why is it being so hard to let go of the toxin, in some cases? Why do we become addicted to something? We have demonized the Toxin in such a way that we can only think about getting rid of it, instead of learning from it. This is a sign of the times, in the end. Whatever you call it, we just want the BAD thing not to act its power on us anymore. But how on Earth will we be able to detach from a substance if we don’t know why we were drawn to it -or it felt drawn to us- in the first place?
Same goes for all kinds of Spirits: how comes that we sometimes seem to ‘attract’ noxious energies (or think we do), or we feel the need to be cleansed (repeatedly and for no reason)? It seems that each time we feel tainted by interaction with spirits, our first response is just ELIMINATING the symptom, instead of trying to understand the underlying cause, which, most of the time, is dependant on us.
All in all, it is just a matter of seeing a wider spectre of things, not solely relying on the factual interaction but understanding all the levels that are implied. It feels sometimes necessary to do the wrong thing, to create that Dark Alliance with the Forbidden, to love and cherish it, to understand what is right for us in the end.