Book Review – Psychedlic Mysteries of the Feminine Edited by Maria Papaspyrou, Chiara Baldini & David Luke

July 1st, 2019

Book Review
Psychedelic Mysteries of the Feminine
Edited by Maria Papaspyrou, Chiara Baldini & David Luke
Foreword by Allyson Grey
332 pp.
Park Street Press

In “Psychedelic Mysteries of the Feminine,” a diverse group of authors, artists, historians, scientists, ecologists, herbalists, shamans, poets, doctors, lawyers, and therapists deliver an interdisciplinary message of hope and healing for our traumatized and increasingly poisoned world. This book is a well-balanced collection of essays which draw on a large number of original sources and academia to explore the history of feminine themes in the tradition and usage of psychedelic pharmaka, from beer and cannabis to ayahuasca and LSD.

“Psychedelic Mysteries of the Feminine” is the product of several speakers and organizers for the Women’s Visionary Congress, an organization which disseminates harm reduction information and gathers women together from all over the world to discuss the role of psychedelics in their lives and our changing world. While the Women’s Visionary Congress (WVC) is mentioned several times, and the book includes one essay that is primarily about the WVC, the whole book is much more than just an advertisement for them or their core message.

The psychological narrative of the book includes discussion of Jungian archetypes of women as earth mother, goddess, medicine woman, and more, as well as exploration into what psychedelics can teach us about ourselves and our relationship to femininity (regardless of our gender identity, or assigned gender at birth). The historical context explains in short order how age-old expressions of patriarchal control of women intertwined with the attitudes of colonizers hell-bent on portraying indigenous peoples as savages, and how these factors (and others) also led to the vilification and feminization of psychedelics in the modern era in Western civilization.

Ritual work such as breath work, dancing, drumming, and meditation, along with newer types of therapies, are discussed in brief; these weave together the psychospiritual space of the shaman and the psychonaut, both today and historically, and assist in opening the gateways for energetic transformation, psychological breakthrough, healing, and vision. There is also some discussion of the threat presented by the psychedelic community to the very notion of gender: the psychonaut who peers behind the curtain of performative gender may find its value has depreciated upon return from the trip.

The problem of Western appropriation of indigenous cultures is of special note in the history of psychedelics, and several authors take time to explore these painful themes while exploring where we can go from here. Sadly, the Western tendency towards commodification and consumption, especially without a holistic template for healthy and balanced usage, also causes these drugs to be misused as a result of their lack of appropriate cultural context. As an example, most American citizens don’t have a cultural or social place where these types of pharmaka are accepted — let alone legal — so even though many Americans and American society as a whole would likely benefit from consciousness-expanding medicine and the spiritual messages that these pharmaka can bring, this will continue to be beyond our reach until we recognize and appreciate mystery, chaos, intuition, and femininity.

A few authors, discussing human rights, legal precedence, and the successes of other movements for radical social transformation, explore possible routes to affecting global legal and social change in tandem, while others talk about the growing cultural movement of psychedelic feminists and ecologists, and how these forces are coming together to affect new change and healing.

It’s difficult to summarize the main narrative themes of this book in a short article because throughout the twenty-three essays, there are hundreds of themes to choose from. There is the botanical and the herbal; the folkloric and the mythic; the emotional and the mental; the magic and the mystic; the political and the social; the historical and the traditional; the progressive and the contemporary. There is something for everyone and anyone who is interested in psychedelics here, and if there’s one thing this book makes clear, it’s that interested parties should pick a path and start walking, because there is a lot of work to be done on the path to a world which accepts and understands psychedelic experience as a healthy and illuminating.

Psychedelic Mysteries of the Feminine: Creativity, Ecstasy, and Healing on Amazon

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About the Author:

Sarah McMenomy is an artist and witch. Her craft incorporates herbalism, spellwork, trance, divination, auras, and more. Her work can be found at https://sarahmcmenomy.tumblr.com

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