1. Your new book is High Magick, about using cannabis in conjunction with magical practice. What inspired you to write the book?
I've been fascinated by this plant since I first encountered it as a teenager. Back then, I was strongly convinced that it was both magical and healing. As I got older, I dismissed those beliefs as youthful fantasy. But then, the science started coming in. During the 1970s and 1980s, researchers learned some incredible things about cannabis and discovered the human endocannabinoid system, the widespread collection of receptor sites in our brains and bodies that regulate numerous processes and keep our metabolism in balance. In the 21st century, historians continued the process of recovering the lost traditions of cannabis—and we learned that the plant played an important role in the beginnings of human culture and spirituality. So, once again, I became convinced of the magical and healing properties of cannabis.
More specifically, at the Starwood Festival in 1998, Stephen Gaskin, founder of The Farm community and author of Cannabis Spirituality, gave a workshop in which he focused on cannabis in relation to his own eastern-influenced practices. That inspired me to create my own workshop the next year, about cannabis and western esoteric-style magick. Those "Magick for Potheads" classes ran for many years and generated a lot of fun material. For a long time, I thought about collecting that material into a book but there was this War on Drugs going on. When that craziness finally subsided and legalization began in some states, I knew it was time.
2. Do readers need to have any previous magickal experience to use the information in High Magick? And is the book based on a particular magical system?
I've attempted to describe cannabis-related magical traditions from a wide variety of places and times and I hope that the reader will be able to follow the common fibers that run through them all. As I've done in my previous books, I work to distill the various practices down to their essences, so that they can be easily learned. I think that anyone could start with the exercises I've included and they may also offer some insight and inspiration to more experienced practitioners as well. The same goes for the cannabis information as well; if you're new to the whole idea of using cannabis, this might be a good introduction to the subject—and more experienced people may also find some pleasant surprises.
3. Why is cannabis such a powerful and effective addition to magical work?
There are probably too many good answers to that question to list them all her", but here's one example from neuroscience: The brain has two main modes that it operates in, “Executive Function," which is about focused attention and problem solving, and "Default Mode," in which we experience imagination, daydreams, memory searches, and more inward-directed experience. In our usual day-to-day functioning, these are mutually exclusive. Many of us learned this in second grade when our teacher told us to stop daydreaming and pay attention! However, with a little cannabis in your system, both brain modes can operate simultaneously, giving us the ability to focus our attention AND use our imagination, which is an excellent state in which to experiment with things like rituals, symbols, and meditation techniques.
4. Are there any caveats or concerns users should take into consideration when using cannabis for ritual?
At this point in history, prohibition remains the greatest danger for cannabis users of any kind. Aside from that, though, I usually suggest that people make sure they are familiar with both the ritual work and the cannabis, separately, before they combine them. Everyone's endocannabinoid system is a little bit (or a lot) different—so start low and slow and make sure you're comfortable with cannabis (and magick!) before you attempt anything more.
5. What do you hope readers will take away from High Magick?
I hope that readers will get a sense of both the historical importance of cannabis and its usefulness in modern life. We see a lot in the news about medical and recreational cannabis; I hope people will begin to understand that spiritual and magical cannabis can also be an important part of the discussion.