Plants - Drugs Mind - Spirit Freedom - Law Arts - Culture Library  
Full Review
Witchcraft Medicine: Healing Arts, Shamanic Practices, and Forbidden Plants
by Claudia Müller-Ebeling, Christian Rätsch and Wolf-Dieter Storl
Inner Traditions International 
Book Reviews
Reviewed by Edzard Klapp, Ulrich Holbein, 10/22/2006

Two reviews: the first by Edzard Klapp, the second by Ulrich Holbein in the Vernal Equinox 2004 issue of The Entheogen Review.

Note: The reviews below were first published in the Entheogene Blätter and are based on the original German text Hexenmedizin [fourth edition, 2002. AT Verlag, Aarau, Switzerland, ISBN 3-85502-601-7]. The reviews have been translated and by Christine Bandow and Helen Hanna, and adapted to reflect the English translation of the book.
Please compare the following cures:

1. “To cure a toothache, find a willow or an elder tree in spring, carefully remove some bark from the eastern side of the tree, carve a splint out of it and scratch your gums with it until blood appears. Then put the bloody splint back in its place on the tree, cover it with the bark and tie it up. If the splint adheres and becomes a part of the tree again, then the evil will go away. If the splint does not adhere, the cure must be repeated next spring.”

2. “For toothaches the afflicted scraped his gums with an elder chip until the affected area bled. Then the chip was placed back on the branch from which it had been taken. […The] elder guided the toothache downward into the earth.”

The first quotation is taken from the Hauslexikon (household encyclopedia), Leipzig 1837 (volume 7, page 800, edited by Gustav Theodor Fechner). The second is from the book Witchcraft Medicine: Healing Arts, Shamanic Practices, and Forbidden Plants (page 45) by Claudia Müller-Ebeling, Christian Rätsch and Wolf-Dieter Storl, which I am going to review here.

Fechner provides examples of sympathetic medicine from old documents simply to encourage doctors to fight superstition. He proposes to invalidate superstition by directly confronting people with carefully carried out medical observations. In contrast to this, Storl goes on and on praising “witches’ cures” as everlasting secret knowledge that stems from the Paleolithic Age. Don’t expect critical footnotes for the examples Storl cites—there are none. The subtitle of this book in its original German edition is “The Rediscovery of Forbidden Medicine—Shamanic Traditions in Europe,” and Storl claims that witches and sorcerers “reach deep into the earth and tap into the healing waters of primordial wisdom.”

Claudia Müller-Ebeling’s contributions are the highlights of the book. Based on works of artists living in early modern times (e.g. Albrecht Dürer, Hans Baldung Grien) she presents the image of the witch as seen by these artists or their patrons. However, one cannot say if living “examples” of this image have ever really existed. There are only images that have been handed down, and subsequent ones based on them. I am certainly not convinced by the thesis that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the counterpart of a typical “witch.” Nor would I find any enlightenment in the depiction of Mary living in sin with the aged carpenter Joseph. Even then, being engaged meant for Jews that they had already achieved a legal marital status. Thus, when Luther (the first to translate the Bible into German) described Joseph’s fiancee as “Mary, his confidante and wife” he did not falsify any biblical content. Nowhere in the Gospels do the authors emphasize that Joseph was an old man when Jesus was born. He did not abstain from intercourse with Mary because of senile impotence, but out of obedience to God. The idea presented by Müller-Ebeling, that Mary lived in sin with Joseph only to avert her divine lover (to avert whom?) “who appeared in her lonely chamber—accompanied by a winged messenger—for insemination” [translated as quoted from the German version of this book, and worded less graphically in the English version] clarifies the message the author wants to convey: she disparages a chapter of Christian tradition only to romanticize abstruse pagan values. [It should be pointed out that nowhere in the English translation of this book is the relationship between Mary and Joseph characterized as one of “living in sin.”—Eds.] Duplicating this unearthly procreator (one: an angel, two: the divine lover who inseminates Mary) does not comply with the legend of the Annunciation, where nothing is said about somebody accompanying the archangel Gabriel. Or maybe Müller-Ebeling is talking about the Holy Spirit [St. Luke, 1: 35]? Describing Joseph’s marriage—a marriage without intercourse between the partners—as “living in sin” is not only a blunder but also reveals Müller-Ebeling’s bias. Throughout the book I got the impression that the author fancies a kind of romanticized, bleary paganism as an ideal version of the present we live in, or of our near future. May destiny save us from that! I found another statement—not in this book but on the Internet—proposing that female mystics may be considered the counterpart of witches (Michael Skoruppa, “Hexenbanner, Hexenmacher und Hexenjagden” from I like this idea better.

When Halley’s Comet appeared in the 1470s it was not yet called “Halley,” since Mr. Halley was born two centuries later. He lived from 1656 to 1742. Thus, Werner Rolevink, whom Müller-Ebeling quotes, cannot possibly have spoken—as she is assuming—about Halley’s Comet.

Storl acts like a watercolor painter imitating Turner. He applies colors but is very reluctant to add outlines to his images. Thus, the reader sometimes feels confronted with riddles, not knowing whether the author is talking about events in the Late Archaic Period or costumes and traditions of the generation of our great-grandparents, or whether one of the long-winded quasi-quotations stems from traditions in Holstein (in northern Germany) or in the Steiermark (in Austria). According to Storl, old wise women have passed on their secret knowledge of herbs and spells in a never-ending tradition since ancient times, without letting any of their opponents stop them. Instead of giving evidence or examples for his theses, the author confronts us with his odd mumblings, which get a bit tiring in the long run. When he does present facts—which is seldom enough—he leaves out the explanatory details. His favorite expression is “transsensual.” I searched the dictionary for this word, but couldn’t find anything between “transsegmental” and “transshape.” Storl may have hit on an interesting concept, but what is it? It is common knowledge that the name “Bockbier” (bock beer, i.e. “he-goat beer”), also called “einbeckisch Bier” (“beer from Einbeck”), derives from the town of Einbeck. Despite this, Storl claims that the name was given because during the witches’ Sabbath the devil himself, in the shape of a he-goat, serves up this beer. What will the inhabitants of Einbeck have to say about that!

Storl mentions the authors Lassa, Vogt, and Felicitas Goodman, but they do not appear in the book’s bibliography. (Felicitas Goodman can be found in the table of contents, under “F,” but who would look for her there?) [In the English edition, Vogt is cited in the bibliography, but Lassa and Goodman are missing. Goodman does not erroneously appear in the English table of contents, and she is included properly by last name in the book’s index. Lassa and Vogt are missing from the index.—Eds.]

Storl assumes that the reader knows what is meant by “pfeffern,” “schmackostern,” and “pfitzeln,” but I doubt that. These terms describe traditions and/or occasions related to begging/asking for things, such as is done on Halloween. The word “pfeffern” is used in mountains in the south of Germany, and “schmackostern,” which has the same meaning, comes from the former East Prussia (today the northeast of Poland).

When saying “Hirschlangen,” I suppose that Storl means Hirschlanden, a part of the town of Ditzingen near Stuttgart; the Old Palace there houses the “Warrior of Hirschlanden,” a statue made of stone. Storl says that this warrior wears a tapered headgear constructed from birch bark, but one can only guess that. I also doubt that many readers know who or what is meant by the “Warrior of Hirschlanden.” [We agree that not many readers would know what is meant by this, and wonder why the reviewer didn’t tell us.—Eds.] Furthermore, it is only an assumption that the statue’s sculptor intended for it to represent a dead person. Nevertheless, Storl presents this as a fact and does not give any further information about it. The “Fürst von Hochdorf” (the Sovereign of Hochdorf) was buried in a cairn (a burial mound). Even if it were true that the Hirschlanden statue, which is almost life-size, was once located on a cairn (Hirschlanden lies only a few kilometers from Hochdorf), there is no written evidence that this statue really incarnated a dead person who was buried there. Maybe it is the image of something or someone completely different, perhaps a deity or a transpersonal hero.

Storl assumes offhand that the traditional carnival celebrations in a region in the south of Germany trace back to pagan traditions. Nevertheless, there are many indications that the traditional carnival procession in the town of Rottweil, for example, first and foremost traces back to Christian endeavors, since it includes decidedly Christian elements. This can be seen in the paintings on the clothes of the people in the procession. Has Storl never heard of this, or would he like to withhold it from the reader? If the first were true, the author would be lacking sufficient knowledge; if the second were true, he would be pursuing biased intentions! This is rather a delicate subject, since under the Nazi dictatorship there was a research assignment in this field: Christianity, as one of the upholders of civilization, was to be devalued. At that time, there were also ludicrous attempts in that time to “Arianize” the image of Jesus Christ.

Storl creates a colorful but unstructured image of a type of woman, presenting her as a shaman, an expert herbalist, a storyteller, a midwife, and an undertaker. All this is phrased with the precision and commitment of the insert in a package of placebos.

Rätsch seems to believe that monotheism is a lapse of cultural history. How else could the following harangue against Moses be interpreted:

Moses was probably a trickster who was chased out of Egypt and who greatly impressed a dilapidated Jewish tribe with his little theatrical performances (for example, his “Indian” rope trick) and lured them over to monotheism. Moses is also considered the author of one of the most important folk works about witchcraft medicine, The Sixth and Seventh Book of Moses. (p. 82)

On one hand, Rätsch describes Moses as a historical person, but on the other hand he has this same Moses (maybe) also leaving behind this peculiar irregular collection of texts. Although Rätsch claims that The Sixth and Seventh Book of Moses is one of the most important sources on this general subject, he does not go further into these writings. What audience will enjoy reading the pejorative description of the Jews led by Moses as a dilapidated Jewish tribe?” Here, too, I have the feeling that—as with Müller-Ebeling and Storl—Rätsch would like to attract advocates and followers of neo-paganism with this book.

Apparently it did not even occur to Rätsch that in the context of history, monotheism can be seen as a reaction to polytheistic conditions. According to the Bible, Moses did all that was humanly possible to free the Jews from bondage. There is no word about banishing anyone—so where could Rätsch have found this? And why would anyone perceive Moses’ people as “dilapidated,” as Rätsch puts it?

It should be noted that compared to Storl, Rätsch’s style of writing is more detailed and factual. In fact, we can only learn from his style! This applies not only to his own writing but also to the material he edited. What you cannot find in the part Storl has written, you will find in Rätsch.

In a book about witches, the persecution of witches cannot be left aside. Rätsch assumes that “millions” of victims were burnt on the stake in Europe in the early modern age. With this assumption, Rätsch simply follows Gottfried Christian Voigt (1740-1791), the town clerk of Quedlinburg, who picked this number of victims as a rough estimate. He started out with the statement that 30 witches were burnt between 1569 and 1598, according to the files of the town archives. He then added ten more, claiming that the files were not complete. He extrapolated this number for a century and then for 650 years. He compared the number of inhabitants of Quedlinburg (at the time, about 11,000) to that of Europe (then 71 million) and finally calculated the total of burnt witches under the assumption that their persecution in Europe lasted 1,100 years. Thus, he concluded that as many as 9 million witches were burnt in Europe. What about population growth, differing intensity of this persecution at different time and in different places, its actual duration in Quedlinburg and in the whole of Europe? Voigt and those who nowadays still revert to his findings don’t worry about these parameters. Rätsch is probably not aware of who calculated the number he used without questioning its reliability. Today’s scientists assume that approximately 65,000 women fell victim to these persecutions in Europe, with 40,000 of them burnt in German-speaking countries. Bad enough, but at least these numbers are mostly verifiable.

Apparently in accordance with his co-authors, Rätsch reckons that the persecution of witches in the early modern times in Europe had its roots in the Inquisition. However, reliable investigation does not affirm that idea. For example, the Inquisition in the Basque region explicitly opposed the systematic persecution of witches (Behringer, Wolfg. 2000. Hexen und Hexenprozesse in Deutschland, S. 326, N. 21). On the contrary, research has revealed that it was the populace who frequently gave the impetus and asked local authorities to take actions against the activities of those evil witches. It is a tragic and terrible fact that there resulted an instrumental body so completely irrational in its thinking and actions, as documented in the Hexenhammer—a book about witches, witchcraft and how to persecute them—by Heinrich Kramer (also known as Heinrich Institoris). This development was surpassed only by events of the 20th century.

Rätsch describing the German narcotics law as a “modern version of the Hexenhammer” is mere polemics. It seemed more appropriate to me when the four-volume set Die christliche Mystik (Christian Mystics), written by Joseph von Görres in 1836-1842, was called the “Hexenhammer of the 19th century” by Uta Ranke-Heinemann, the editor of a 1989 reissue of the books, since this description pointed out the editor’s mindset (even though the epithet doesn’t do justice to Görres’ work). Rätsch would have been better off if he had consulted a few criminal law experts before publishing such a weird expression. Even in Hamburg, where Rätsch lives, there are attorneys who know about this part of the law.

Like Beckmesser (a harsh critic of one of Wagner’s operas) I highlight here only those points that bother me. This does not mean that the book is a complete failure—far from it! When one first sees the book, one expects a comprehensive introduction to the subject. In ancient Greece there was only one word for medicine and witchcraft: pharmacy (Φαρμακια could mean medicine as well as witchcraft or wizardry). This shows that these two activities were once inseparably connected, while today we see them as completely separate. Mysterium tremendum and fascinosum—these traits appear in the divine as well as in the demonic. There is much evidence that both good and evil can be experienced as different visions of the same inconceivable power. If any one of the authors breathed a word about this, he or she must have shyly hidden it somewhere in the book.

Given that psychedelic substances are mentioned several times, it would have stood to reason to look at this subject more closely. For example, there have been reliable reports during the past century about an incident near Avignon where many people suffered an ergot poisoning (John Fuller, Apocalypse ‘52). They ate bread made from spoilt flour and thus had heavenly and infernal visions that could alternate in an instant. At that time, they rightly suspected the flour vendor was guilty of neglect. Some centuries earlier they would have tracked down “witches” as causes of the event and called them to account for their evil ways. So what is a witch? The quite sobering answer: a witch is a woman who was denounced and convicted as a witch. The fact that Storl, Müller-Ebeling, and Rätsch attempt to make us believe something different may be considered deserving, but it does not change anything concerning the sad history of the persecution of witches. The book Witchcraft Medicine is not just fun to read. It also serves to document the wave of obscurantism that has become more noticeable lately. Numerous illustrations, most of which have been diligently chosen, contribute to the pleasure of reading the book. One example is the photograph of the Stone Age “Venus of Lespugue” (page 57, photo by Rätsch). I think I have never seen a more successful and impressive photograph.

The authors don’t bother mentioning that the Greek mistress of all beings (ποτυιαθηρωυ) reappears as the Madonna with her sheltering cloak, thus proving that even the most ancient representations also persist in Christianity. Over all, I encountered more gaps in the authors’ analyses than gaps in my knowledge that they were able to reveal and fill.—Edzard Klapp

“WANTED: A Green and Golden Moss Spirit, Instead of a Conjuror Named Moses”
A response to previous reviews of Witchcraft Medicine, the classic work on entheogens by Müller-Ebeling, Rätsch, and Storl.

Preanimism, animism, anthropomorphism, paganism, shamanism, pantheism, panpsychism, theopanism, gnosis, or neolithic polytheism—all these are wonderful ancient trends and pre-Christian religions. Only thousands of years later have their melodious names been coined. Every now and then solitary spoilsports appeared in the midst of all these trends, overly down-to-earth critics, thinkers, skeptics, pre-Socratics.

Instead of starting in the 18th century A.D., the Enlightenment was already set in motion around 600 B.C. Diogenes of Apollonia (450 B.C.), considered the Descartes (or Julien Offray de la Mettrie) of ancient times, made a clean sweep of things and did not hesitate to deny the idea that plants could think. How ungenerous of him! How unforgivable! And from its beginning, this tree-bashing raged on without cease, disguised in reality-emphasizing theories that were created quite cold-bloodedly. Jainism, which appeared even before Mahavira lived, even did without a god.

Buddha, king of enlightenment, disposed of teeming hallucinations and constructed gods, including uncontrolled growth of demons, in a quite rational way. He was like a cold shower on the prior religion of Bön, which was based on animism, shamanism, and entheogens. Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons ousted Gnostic phantasms. Wang Chung (27 to 97 A.D.) referred to the teachings of ying, yang, and tao as “idle talk.”

However, the trampled grass always rose again, including all the divine pandemonium and spiritual weeds. Willows that were topped burst out anew, and every little hole in Great Mother Mary’s veil was immediately mended before the next mental or unmetaphoric logger approached. But earlier trends persisted. There is no evidence of a Bodhi tree for the historic Gautama. However, the ineradicable religion of Bön continued to be active under the surface, and elements of its tree cult were inserted post de facto into the sprawling Buddhistic elements, thus allowing for Buddha’s enlightenment—which was dendrologically limited—to advance as the undisputed core of Buddhism, just because there was a religious fig tree. Tertullian sneered at the questionably feminine way in which Empedocles handled the pytha-gorean transmigration, and also at Empedocles’ plainly Darwinistic statement that he himself already had gone through different stages of being something else: a bush, a fish and so on. Later on, Maulana Jaladu-D-Din reported this about himself, too, using almost exactly the same words as Empedocles. Muhammad had three Acacias cut down in the Wadi Nakhla, since they were dedicated to the ancient Arabian goddess al-Uzza. A hundred years later, Saint Boniface had a millennial oak cut down that was sacred to Donar (the god of thunder). This oak was the beam in his Christian eye, so he had it cut down instead of just condemning it in a mental and symbolic way, like Jesus. Or denying it all thinking, as Diogenes had done. To put it in a nutshell: it was always male rigor—sometimes intellectual, sometimes with an axe—treading against female tree spirits. It was always an inquisitor against a dryad branded as a witch. First, the holy pre-Christian groves of trees suffered the cold shower of a thousand years of Christianity; then followed two hundred years of mining, heavy industry, and motor traffic. But earlier beliefs were still alive.

The irrepressible Germanic dandelion was still breaking through the Christian asphalt surface. A resistant Avalon reappeared stronger than ever and overran the strange intermezzi of Jerusalem and Jericho using the carnival, the Easter Promenade (a poem in Goethe’s Faust), the second and third spring, Early and Late Romanticism. The more the green and golden tree of life faded in our gray world—because people raced forward more compatible with technology, more acid-proof, more resistant to road salt and with less humanity—the more scarce, threatened, and intense became the shimmering, verdant better times and rays of hope (hardly visible behind the smog of congested areas) along with their elder tree grannies and ash tree spirits. Even Christianity, although considered hostile to nature, was impregnated from behind. Maybe the calm, peaceful, and romantic chapels in the woods, with fawns, holy Geneviève, cloistered gardens or floral legends, whispered in a more atmospheric, more conciliatory and more caressing way than the historic sites and the holy groves, which originally were very macho and concentrated on rituals just the way that later on, “Le sacré du printemps” made people feel uncomfortable and Greenpeace seemed too technological. Idylls and arbors by Spitzweg (the German impressionist painter) surpassed in sentimental emotionalism the lapidary myth of paradise. Even taxonomists and categorizers like Carl von Linné instilled an emotional life in flora. In retrospect, even the Garden of Gethsemane came to be a holy grove where the winds of night might have carried a passing hint of botanic-Buddhistic Lumbini voluptuousness. The enormous Handwörterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens (a concise dictionary of German superstition) by Bächtold-Stäubli flourished, overshadowing by far the hardhearted Summa Theological of St. Thomas Aquinas. It showed that superstition can be richer, more diverse, more beautiful, more detailed, and even truer than belief.

Researchers in matriarchy, spiritually inspired feminists, female mythologists, cultural anthropologists, specialists in ancient American studies and in ethnobotanicals define themselves as advocates of new paganism, Wicca, biosophy, pansophy, neo-gnosticism and entheogenism. Two hundred years after the Enlightenment in Central Europe, Rätsch (who does not want to be called a neo-shaman), Storl (who does not like being called shaman of the Allgäu), art historian Müller-Ebeling and the mushroom mythologist Wolfgang Bauer, built monumental fortresses: with their love plants, sacred mushrooms, toadstools, and psychoactive encyclopedias, pro-plant devas, intoxicants, flights of the soul, elemental spirits, and anti-Enlightenment without soul. Thus, they are critical of all academic science. “The world of spirits is not shut away / Thy sense is closed, thy heart is dead! / Up, Student! Bathe without dismay / thy earthly breast in morning-red!” Storl translates these lines from the first part of Goethe’s play Faust into a language of his own, assuming that witches’ medicine is magic and thus alienating those whose souls are dead and frozen and whose mind’s eyes are blinded.

But now several wiseacres (derived from Middle Dutch wijsseggher, which ironically means soothsayer or witch) and armchair philosophers, led by Edzard Klapp, are standing up. Instead of bathing their earthly breast in morning-red, they are subjecting the wonderful and lovingly produced standard work Witchcraft Medicine to criticism that’s suspiciously laden with biblical references. Klapp’s critique could be considered quite plausible in its details, if only his objections as a whole were not mere nitpicking. To argue against Rätsch’s description of Moses as a humorless conjuror does not lead very far. Klapp finds the book useless at filling the casual gaps in his personal knowledge. But hopefully the more important and justifiable objections of Klapp’s nitpicking do no harm to all those healing magical words. Klapp is skeptical of the bleary paganism that is supposed to be a panacea for enlightenment, reductionist straitjackets, and soulless positivistic science. This skepticism seems to be reasonable and gives us something to think about—at least more so than the review by Lili Chonhuber published on the Internet. Her review offers little more than irony concerning “graduate medicine men” and their strange expressions like “vitality of being” or “assurance of being.” She declares, “While the high-tech civilization is bombing the poorest countries back to the Stone Age, Müller-Ebeling, Rätsch, Storl & Co. are recollecting the true values of the Stone Age.” Behind Chonhuber’s observations there lurks a badly veiled belief in the progress of a hideously failed and super-mechanized super-civilization. “There is no silver bullet that leads us back into the past.” What a dubious assumption! What an evidence of the incapacity of her soul, when she claims that it is hard for her to believe that salvation exists in a world once more enriched with imps, rhizotoms, illness demons, and pea devas.

Another Internet review—or rather, Internet argument—by Uriel Bohnlich (please, don’t confuse him with Ulrich Holbein!) was much more to the point than Klapp’s or Chonhuber & Co’s. In this review Klapp’s scepticism and Chonhuber’s superficial malice are magnified to the fervor and vehemence of Tertullian. Bohnlich sees those all-too-scientific earlier stages glittering through in the book, stages that witch doctors would reject. Bohnlich defines the book’s language as a mixture of terms used in scientific and psycho-jargon together with the immense vocabulary used by the nature-adoring new pagan authors of 1910, such as Wilhelm Bölsche, Theodor Lessing, Bruno Wille, Hermann Löns, and Ernst Wiechert. Bohnlich gives the expression “the weaving of cosmic constellations” (used by Storl) as an example. He says that the “weaving” stems from Wagnerian music and Faustian gibberish. “Constellations” is borrowed from a comparatively scientific and, thus, soulless territory. He also points out that the use of the word “essences” [referring to the German word Wesenheiten used in the book] is antiquated, borrowed from theosophic vocabulary that in turn is referred to as “transsensual”—a modernistic description… Executives, archetypes and Hagezussen [an ancient German word for “witch”] are coupled with the graceful Freya. Old German vocabulary, according to Bohnlich, is constantly mingling with dispassionate technological words: Herbaria, the little old herbalist, is characterized as the “keeper and watchwoman of the local ecosystem”… All in all, quoting Uriel Bohnlich one last time: “Thus, that which was uselessly resisted, is sneaking into the supposed head wind.”

Here, we (i.e. Ulrich Holbein) can just sigh: So what? Even if the linguistic-stylistic “problem” of Witchcraft Medicine were not to be solved for the time being—if it existed at all—what we want to dispute here is that one way or another, Bohnlich, Chonhuber, and Klapp are lowering themselves to the size of quibbling nitpickers without a message or a vision; they are truly not following the tradition that includes Diogenes, Wang Chung, Saint Boniface’s oak cutting, Kant’s disproof of Swedenborg, and Adorno’s attack on occultism. Instead, a brain or spirit is needed who not only completely sympathizes with female shamanic entheobotanists and green people saving the world, but who can also somehow offer resistance to a fanatic humanity that is going down the wrong track of Christianity and technology. Or who can at least—in the age of city lights and pavement—reconstruct those better, more inspired by forgotten times and rescue their knowledge of healing. Most suitable for this would be someone who has it in himself to turn the only partially expressed theses and assumptions of “new paganism” or “natural mysticism,” (which have not yet been fully written) into a passionate manifesto. Or who would first give a melodic name to this movement—if it were a real movement. Should the whole thing be called “Humane Paganism?” Or would this again sound far too scientific? But New Paganism would sound too smoky and militant, and it has been existing for too long to still be called “new.” Moreover, it would also have to cover quite dubious groupings. Or maybe choose a name like Tree Spirits, by analogy with those who call themselves tree huggers? Or something along the lines of Graying (aging) Greens and Goethe’s “green and golden tree of life”: the “green-goldians,” the “green souls,” the “tree souls,” the “entheologics?!” Well, I will discreetly set aside this list now, for lack of time.

In a nutshell, what is wanted is a new Moses, a moss spirit, or a plant spirit, who smashes those Tablets of the Law in order to take part in dancing circles around the Golden Calf, or who—while dancing—makes up ten or eleven other, improved commandments. Or, who, even better, makes up maxims that take into consideration the pre-Buddhistic Golden Rule as well as the government’s constitution:

0th Commandment 1: Never adorn innocent stones with stingy commandments!

0th Commandment 2: Throw overboard today’s offers for consumers and for those who seek meaning in life—hyper-activism, bestialism (bestiality) over Cartesianism, Social Darwinism, Eurocentrism, photorealistic fanaticism, giantism, heroism, suctioned-off Catholicism, exuberant careerism, materialistic mass tourism, neo-nationalism, anemic Ecumenism, perfectionism, mind-withering esoterics, utilitarianism, terrorism, vandalism—and see what is left! Hopefully, extraordinary moments of sudden insight, free thinking, whole-body orgasms, a broadened awareness, coincidencia oppositorium, a going out-of-bounds, breakthroughs, inspiration, rejoicing, cosmic dreams, Olympic laughter, platonic one night stands, high inebriation, blissful nostalgia, trance, fusion, word frenzies, and, not least of all, unio mystica!

First Maxim: You shall have as many gods near me as possible! And stop putting gods before animals and camels before fungi! Divine idols are better than dead gods! And you shall always make yourself many colorful images of me! Please, pray to Flora, Pomona, Aphrodite, Cybele, Luna, Hermes, to the green fairy, the last manifestation of the witches’ goddess Artemis or Diana, instead of praying to Mammon, Blasphemo, or Toyota! Establish a phalanx together with Laotse, Theocritus, Pliny, et al., instead of global players, popes, and governors!

Second Maxim: Never again deny that plants think! You shall not cut, pick or pick to pieces, neither as reviewer nor as logger! The dignity of plants shall be inviolable! Do not touch but empathize! P.S.: If you have to pick a plant, then plant a little tree for every sheet of paper you crumple or write on. If you do not own a piece of land, you could just commit illegal forestation!

Third Maxim: Try to understand even unfriendly beings! Be nice to one another, including your parents! Be nice to inquisitors! Pray for the salvation of Hitler! Do not say anything against Moses, Wang Chung, Tertullian, the priests and pastors of this world, or Lili Chonhuber!

Fourth Maxim: Create your own rule here.

Fifth Maxim: You shall not kill! And not slaughter! And not mob! And not hurt! Don’t look for a loophole to excuse killing of any kind! And do not cut down holy groves only to put up a parking lot for handicapped people! On the contrary, declare domestic cattle to be sacred cows, i.e. golden calves! Imagine that even Microsoft has a soul! Call the control of your computer “Mouseclick”! Give names to your household articles! Be an animist! Declare livestock to be taboo, off limits! Never let a golden calf pass you without dancing around it instead of slaughtering it! All in all, the dignity of calves must be inviolable! Do not touch, but empathize! Eat more fruit! Amuse your human and plant companions and fellow-sufferers! All in all, never kill! (Not even child abusers or houseflies, if possible.)

Sixth Maxim: You shall not commit adultery! Instead, just try eating, caressing something else, and listening to music in stereo. At least, avoid uninteresting monaural fidelity. Turn masturbation into self-knowledge and the daily grind of marriage into pansophy and pansexuality. Be polyphonic, not monotonous! Get out of the line you are standing in. Don’t always be the one who just stays put, no matter what.

Seventh Maxim: Instead of stealing, beg for the object you desire in a charming way. Give huge thank-you presents, and remember to water your plants. Tax evasion and illicit employment (or non-union labor) are not mortal sins, but symbols of your longing for blind human devotion. Leave peanuts behind! The ocean is in front of you, so stop turning around to check the washing machine.

Eighth Maxim: Instead of lying, be a poet, try mimicry, and take time off to enjoy carnivals.

Ninth Maxim: Go on comparing the narcotics law to the book Witchcraft Medicine! Go on referring to the highest numbers of burnt witches possible, even if there were “only” 200,000 victims. Even if there had been only one victim, there would have been one too many! Let the ancient Pan go on piping his songs together with elemental spirits, and put the elves from 18th century French fairy tales far back into Paleolithic settings! A predated elf is better than households desolate because of psychic shortcomings! Oh, and if it bothers you that elves, pea devas, and elder tree grannies depend on anthropomorphism, then just create new elemental spirits that are more detached. The dwarfs and pixies mentioned by Wolf-Dieter Storl are quite easy to produce in the age of genetic engineering. Sylphs and elves take more time (on account of the problem with their wings and upper arms, not to mention foreseeable difficulties when adding the DNA of hummingbirds).

Tenth Maxim: Instead of envying your neighbor’s Porsche and his other stuff, just join him in raving on molecules and sanctifying ecstasies! No matter what grimaces appear on your faces! Let Bush and Saddam smoke the same joint! Make love not war!

Kiss your enemies, even if they don’t like it! Teachers who have been shot, forgive your students who have run amok! Forgive god and the other gods for being (fortunately beforehand) flighty and imperfect as you are! Nevertheless, go down in infinity and don’t ask what time it is! First, exaggerate and then increase slowly! Let yourself go, even if you are too small for that! But still leave the bathroom in the state you would like to find it in! Bathe in early morning-red, together with gods, golden calves, djinn, witches and those who burnt them, infidels, spoilsports, and “essences!” Rediscover forbidden cures! Buy and read Witchcraft Medicine by Claudia Müller-Ebeling, Christian Rätsch, and Wolf-Dieter Storl! Forgive Edzard Klapp, Uriel Bohnlich, Lili Chonhuber, and maybe even Ulrich Holbein! Wake up before you are woken! Die before you kick the bucket! Be awake, even in your sleep! Get well before you get ill! Amen! All right! Cheers! I have spoken!—Ulrich Holbein

Originally Published In : The Entheogen Review, 2004

Comments »

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed:



Note: Your submission will be considered for publication, no need to submit twice. Thank You!