Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In re a Power of the Poppy Review: for Del Schlosser

The awesome and talented Del Schlosser (who, tragically, was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness) posted a review of The Power of the Poppy a few weeks ago. Since I wanted to take a break from the Pantheacon discussions (entertaining though they are), I thought this might be a good time to address one of his comments.

Where my disappointment came in, was that as a fellow spirit worker, I had really hoped there would have been more spiritual information about the spirit ally of Poppy. It gets a passing mention now and again, but there isn’t even a chapter dedicated to those who wish to work with Her in any sort of real sense. I know that Kenaz has worked with Her as a real Spirit Ally, and I would have loved to read a little bit about hir experiences in doing so. I’ll admit; I read the book looking for this part, and when it didn’t show up, I was let down a bit. I get that the book is likely more marketable without all that woo-woo shit, but this is Kenaz Filan, author of the Voodou Love Magic book. I don’t think hir fan base would have been disappointed with a little woo.
There were  a couple of reasons I avoided talking about working with Poppy as a spirit ally.  The first is that I didn't want to encourage the people looking for "Real Hardcore Shamanism" to try anything that might get them in serious trouble.  In my opinion, Poppy literally is "the most dangerous ally" (the working title for the manuscript). Datura will chew you up, spit you out and leave you swearing you will never go near an anticholinergic plant ever, ever, EVER again.  Given the opportunity, Poppy will send you down a decades-long path of degradation, despair and ultimate death.

Providing bored Harnerites with instructions on how to meet Poppy via smoking opium, snorting heroin or even drinking poppy tea like it was ayahuasca would be irresponsible, in my opinion.  (That's not to say I wasn't tempted. That's not to say that at all... ). I took the harm reduction approach instead, providing information to people who were already interested in the topic about how they could approach Poppy in the safest possible manner.  If they wanted to construct their own rituals to Poppy, build a Poppy shrine or otherwise honor her, that was up to them.  I haven't found that Poppy was particularly interested in building that sort of relationship with me, nor have I run into many others who deal with her in that manner.

The second was that I felt many of the movements I described - bebop jazz, Seattle grunge, the Romantic fascination with opium ala de Quincey and Coleridge - showed how Poppy was doing spiritual work with us, even when we weren't approaching her in a shamanic fashion. Just because we don't strike shamanic bargains with allies doesn't mean that bargains aren't being struck. Consider the way Corn has left its mark on us even though we don't regularly make offerings to Corn Maiden anymore. (And whaddya know, it turns out that High Fructose Corn Syrup works on some of the same receptor pathways as cocaine and opiates and may be just as addictive).