For the uninitiated, all things "entheogenic" relate to the use of mind-altering substances in a religious context. The people really into entheogenic substances argue (convincingly, we may add) that humans have been using psychoactive chemicals in rituals for many thousands of years, and that they aid in raising consciousness, transcendental meditation, and vision quests, giving a booster shot to man's search for meaning.
That's certainly what will be up for discussion at this year's inaugural Detroit Entheogenic Conference. There are several such events across the country every year, where presenters discuss such substances as ibogaine, peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, and ayahuasca, and their use for everything from a trip to cloud nine to treating alcoholism. You get the sense that people into this sort of stuff fancy themselves descendants of the ancient apothecary or shaman, the spiritual doctor who uses the magic of the herbal world to heal the body and the mind.
And they wouldn't probably be far from the truth. But, as a colleague familiar with the scene told us, it's a scene often dominated by well-heeled, Caucasian males who want to trip out on the most exotic substances possible, with or without an isolation tank.
Well, that's no worry with this new conference. The representation of black voices, as well as female ones, seems surprising for a gathering of this sort. Speakers will include such African Americans as Hunter Havlin Adams III and festival organizer Kilindi Iyi, and women of color such as Bobbie Tosca, Kai Wingo, and Steffanie McKee, even Jose Soto, a sweatlodge keeper and ceremonialist hailing from the Taino people of Puerto Rico.
According to our pal in the know, this is such a rare forum of voices, usually unheard from, on a topic so stimulating and increasingly relevant, that any city would be honored to host it. We'll be keeping our eyes open as the event draws near, but those wanting a closer look can see the conference's website and reserve their tickets now.