Cannabis Shamanism is supposed to be a joyous experience
“It’s going to feel like you’re in a playground and there’s somebody watching over you,” says one acolyte. Perhaps… if that playground were populated by unemotional followers of an unnerving Jim Morrison-channeling leader.
But let’s rewind a little. Our road trippers’ host, The Blue Morpho Foundation, is on a mission to free the world of mental illness using, in conjunction with conventional tools such as psychology, shamanism… and weed. A key practice is an ancient ceremony driven by a hypnotic chant known as the icaro. And lots of weed. Amongst the spiritual mumbo-jumbo are the vague promises of healing, love, changing for the better and ending conflict. As Gonzo says, “Here goes everything”.
No freeloaders - it’s BYO cannabis
Participants in the shamanistic ceremony must bring their own cannabis which is not a bad thing given the increasing suspicions of Gonzo, Nick and Parv that they may be at the mercy of a cult.
Given this is Colorado, where marijuana is legal, they are spoilt for choice when it comes to dispensaries. They settle on “frighteningly potent” cannabis edibles including the very trippy sounding Blueberry Love Bar Bites.
Cannabis is a plant... that helps you talk to plants
The somewhat aloof Hamilton Souther, “Visionary Leader, Humanitarian and Master Shaman” of The Blue Morpho Foundation, started having “spontaneous experiences of seeing spirits, energies and entities” after college. He’s been communicating with psychedelic plant life for years, learning the practice in the Peruvian Amazon with the region’s potent Ayahuasca plant. But since Ayahuasca is illegal in the States, cannabis is a suitable replacement for this variety of shamanism.
“I was communicating with the plant, I wasn’t just stoned,” says Hamilton. “The plant took me on a journey through it so that I could map it and understand like, all the different places you could go in it.” Okey dokey.
If you're going to be "healed" by a "cult", it pays to do a bit of research
So the boys are whacked out of their gourds surrounded by chanting followers of a God-like figure named Hamilton who is donned in a white skivvy. And the shamans all live together in the basement of a sprawling mansion. Nothing cultish there.
Spaced out on a mountain high, paranoia kicks in and our crew wonder if it was a sage decision to take part in the ceremony in the isolated wilderness with barely a soul knowing they’re there.
Cannabis Shamanism produces mixed results - very mixed
For Gonzo, Nick and Parv, the ceremony achieved varying reactions. Gonzo, an admitted skeptic ultimately withdrew from the ceremony and was traumatised. Nick, who had already had a cannabis-induced collapse pre-ceremony, eventually overcame his paranoia. And for Parv, “blazed off my face like I’ve never been, maybe ever” it was a positive experience of self-reflection, like being in “a safe, white bubble.” Well there you have it.
Watch Unplanned America series 3 on Tuesdays at 9.20pm on SBS 2. And watch episodes after they air on SBS On Demand.