You have probably heard of Salvia divinorum. Every proud psychonaut has smoked it at some point in his/her explorations and YouTube is full of homemade trip videos that demonstrate its short (a Salvia trip lasts for about ten minutes) but overwhelming, unpredictable and sometimes scary effects.
Salvia is known for its disorienting, dissociative effects. Users feel totally disconnected from their bodies and in general, it just isn't the type of experience that people find entertaining or pleasant. On the other hand, most people who smoked Salvia extracts didn't have much of a spiritual experience either. No diving into your past, no lessons or messages from the plant spirit. But in fact, there is a plant spirit.
People report flying, floating, being transported to other places and therefore frequently resort to Salvia to find lost objects, to see loved ones that are far away, and also to ask for specific gifts or favours.
Meet the Mazatecs
Shamans from many different traditions around the world believe that plants have Spirit and that they can speak to us from the position of friend or teacher. Salvia is seen as a sacred being by her people, the Mazatecs, who since ancient times have used the plant's leaves as a powerful medicine and divination tool. To them, Salvia is a channel to receive messages and knowledge about ailments - physical and spiritual - as well as the causes of those ailments and the treatments that will cure them. People report flying, floating, being transported to other places and therefore frequently resort to Salvia to find lost objects, to see loved ones that are far away, and also to ask for specific gifts or favours.
Salvia divinorum is also special because it’s an extremely rare plant, only found in the Sierra Mazateca (Oaxaca, Mexico). Here, it thrives in a rainforest environment where partial sunlight and humidity are in perfect balance. The Mazatecs refer to Salvia as Yerba Maria (Virgin Mary's herb), Xka Maria Pastora (leaf of Mary the Shepherdess). The Mazatecs are “nominal Christians”, which means they incorporated the gods and saints of Christianity into their own native practices and ceremonies, as per many cultures to whom Christianity was imposed. It is, however, very likely that the Mazatecs used Salvia long before the Spanish conquest.
So what can we learn from the Mazatecs about developing a relationship with this plant’s spirit, as they’ve done over the past centuries? Thousands of kilometres away, the Amazon people connect with the spirit of Ayahuasca in very similar ways.
Create your own Salvia ritual
We would like to give you the opportunity to embrace Salvia with respect. Try a different approach instead of just smoking the extract to induce a bizarre but meaningless 10-minute trip.
Like all psychedelic substances, the setting is essential to ensure a safe and pleasant trip. You need to prepare and purify your space. That includes your body, your spirit and your surroundings. At least a couple of days prior to your Salvia trip, try to eat healthily, abstain from sex, alcohol and other drugs, spend some time in nature, exercise, do anything you find effective in purifying your body and your spirit.
Prepare your space
Choose a quiet place, where you feel safe and comfortable. Traditionally the Mazatec rituals do not take place on Mondays or Fridays, and they always take place at night, in near or total darkness, before an altar. According to Peter Addy, who studied the traditional Salvia uses, the Mazatec say that “Salvia spirit is timid like a deer and bright lights and loud noises scare her away. So you have to be very still, very quiet, to allow her to come.” It is therefore advisable to have your Salvia experience at night and/or in a darkened room. If you light candles while you prepare your space, remember to put them out when you start.
Make an altar
Make a small altar with things that have a meaning for you and include some offerings to Lady Salvia. For example, flowers, seeds, stones, feathers, seashells ora lock of your hair. The Mazatecs use cacao beans, tobacco and copal resin on their Salvia rituals, as well as fertilized eggs, that have an important role – they are used as sponges to suck in bad energies. You will probably prefer to burn some incense. Palo santo wood, sage (Salvia officinalis) leaves and copal resin are good options here.
Set your intention
Whilst preparing your altar and space you can start expressing your intention. This is important because it guides you through the experience, it moulds your energy while facing the plant spirit. You need to actively interact as you offer a prayer to Salvia in which you state who you are and why you want to meet her. Ask her nicely to come see you. Tell her what you need help with. You may want to ask for a gift, for guidance or for a favour. Repeat your intention continuously and gently, out loud or in silence. This helps you to focus on it and not get distracted by other thoughts.
Have a sitter
It helps to have a sitter during any Salvia experience because around 10% of the people who do salvia - in whatever form - get up and start moving in a rather unpredictable way. Even if you choose to use only the leaves, invite someone you love and trust to participate in your ceremony as a sitter. Your sitter can help you prepare the space, meditate or chant with you and keep you safe while you are tripping. It is a nice, special thing to do with a friend and you can do the same for your sitter next time.
To chew or to smoke?
Salvia leaves contain about a dozen unique chemicals that are not found in any other plant, including Salvinorin A, the most potent psychedelic known as of today. For the Mazatecs, smoking dried leaves or extracts is quite sacrilegious and an offence to the Salvia deity. Salvia loves moisture, it only grows in fresh and humid environments, it should never be dried up and let alone burned!
Traditional ingestion of the plant consists in chewing or eating rolled-up fresh leaves (in the shape of a cigar) or drinking the expressed juice of dozens of crushed leaves. But unless you live in the Sierra Mazatec region, or you managed to grow your own salvia plants, it is almost impossible to get fresh leaves. The only alternative is to get dried leaves and re-hydrate them.
Chewing Salvia leaves
Soak about 20 grams of dried leaves in a bowl with water. Place it on your altar and leave it there while you prepare yourself and your space for meeting with the plant spirit. Once ready, gently squeeze the leaves to remove the excess water, then form a small ball (quid) and place it in your mouth. The effects seem to rely on absorption through the oral mucus. Chew slowly for as long as you can, keep it in your cheeks and don’t swallow it. When you cannot retain it anymore, spit it out and start again with new re-hydrated leaves. You can wash your mouth with a little tequila before and after the chewing.
During the first 10 to 15 minutes, you will feel little effect. Keep on chewing. After about 30 minutes, spit out the leaves. You should feel some effects by now. They remain for around 30 minutes and then start to fade away.
Smoking Salvia extract
Extracts are available for those who want a short, deep trip experience. In order to make them effective use a small pipe. All of the extract needs to be burnt, so you can inhale the entire dose in one go. Keep the smoke inside, while you hand the pipe to your sitter. Whilst doing this, the experience will probably have already started. You will realize shortly after why the Mazatecs don't favour the smoking of extracts - by the time you figure out what's going on, it’s all over!
Our Salvia extracts range from 5x to 40x. No matter which extract you take, the experience is exactly the same. The only difference is how much you need (rarely more than a pinch). Carefully read the warnings and user experiences before you try smoking Salvia extract. As mentioned above, Salvia can be very shy. Dale Pendell says in his book Pharmako/Poeia:
“Sometimes she has to get to know you for a while before she will come out and say hello. But once she appears, are there any who are more direct?”
For substance use, this is called reverse tolerance. Even with extracts, some people don’t have any effects the first few times they try it. Instead of giving up on Lady Salvia, insist on meeting her. Show her your genuine interest and you’ll be rewarded.