ACUPUNCTURE AND TCM IN DOWNTOWN NELSON B.C. BRINGING YOU THE INDIGENOUS HISTORY OF WU SHAMANS AND THEIR USE OF ENTHEOGENIC PLANT MEDICINES.
Before we talk about the wu 巫 shamans of China and how they used plant medicines in ceremony, it is important to understand that an entheogen is a psychoactive substance that is used for spiritual or religious purposes, to generate a spiritual or religious experience. Entheogens have been used for thousands of years in various cultures and traditions around the world. They have been used in shamanic practices, religious rituals, and other spiritual and healing traditions. Some examples of entheogens include the psilocybin in magic mushrooms, the DMT in ayahuasca, and the mescaline in peyote.
The Mandarin character for “wu shaman” is 巫 (wū) is composed of two parts; the graphic radicals gong 工 “work” depicting the connection made between heaven and earth through spiritual practice. And ren 人 “person” doubled, depicting dancing shamans acting as intermediaries bringing together the Tian Dao 天道- Dao of Heaven with the Di Dao 地道 -Dao of earth through the Ren Dao人道)-Dao of man. The wu were considered prayer masters, priests and invokers or, women who were able to serve the Invisible, connect with the supernatural and by posturing bring down the spirits.
(Fun fact, by the late Zhou Dynasty (4th to 3rd centuries BCE), wū 巫 referred mostly to female shamans or “sorceresses” while male sorcerers were named xi 覡 “male shaman; sorcerer”)
The Wu shamans of China have a long history of using various plant-based hallucinogens in their spiritual practices and they believed that consuming the various plant medicines would allow them to access other realms of consciousness and gain knowledge and insight that could be used to heal individuals and communities.
Some of the most commonly used plants include the fly agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria), the datura plant (Datura stramonium), and the ephedra plant (Ephedra sinica).
The fly agaric mushroom is a highly psychoactive mushroom that grows in the wild in many parts of the world, including China. It has a distinctive red cap with white spots and is often depicted in popular culture as the “magic mushroom.” The Wu shamans used the fly agaric mushroom in spiritual rituals as a means of inducing altered states of consciousness and accessing the spiritual realm.
The datura plant is a poisonous plant that contains a variety of psychoactive alkaloids, including scopolamine and atropine. The Wu shamans used datura in a variety of ways, including consuming the plant in the form of a tea or smoke, or applying it topically to the skin. It was believed to have the ability to produce vivid hallucinations and was often used in spiritual rituals as a means of inducing visionary states.
The ephedra plant is a shrub native to China that contains the stimulant ephedrine. The Wu shamans used ephedra in various forms, including as a tea and to produce a range of effects including increased energy and alertness. It was also believed to have spiritual and medicinal properties, and was often used in traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for a variety of conditions.
Overall, the Wu shamans used these plant-based hallucinogens as a means of inducing altered states of consciousness and accessing the spiritual realm in their spiritual rituals and practices. They believed that these plants had the ability to connect them with the divine and provide them with insight and guidance in their lives.
It’s worth noting that the use of these substances is highly regulated and they are or may be illegal to use recreationally in many places, and have potential adverse effects. They should not be used without the guidance of a trained practitioner. Also, in some cases the plant might be endangered, so it should be considered carefully before using them.
If you have any questions about how plant medicines are used today in the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine, to support and encourage the healing process please get in touch with Dr. Pileski at blueherontcm.com and start moving towards embracing your inner wu 巫 shaman today.
Dr. Julia Pileski + Chat GPT-3
Blue Heron Traditional Chinese Medicine