Hierba de la pastora (herb of the shepherdess) or diviner’s sage is a magical plant from Mexico, better known as Salvia divinorum. Most psychonauts smoke an extract of the leaves. This induces a short and intense trip that’s somewhat similar to smoking DMT. Personally I am more interested in the traditional way of use: chewing.
One has to make a quid of the leaves (traditionally 26, folded in pairs) and hold it in the mouth for at least 30 minutes. The main active substance, salvinorin A, enters the body through the mucous membranes. The effect is mild. It starts after 10 minutes of chewing and lasts about an hour.
The Mexican curandera María Sabina resorted to Salvia divinorum when magic mushrooms were out of season. In Oaxaca, the region where she lived, many psychedelic plants occur that have been used ritually for ages: besides Salvia divinorum and different psilocybin containing mushroom species, the LSA-containing Morning glory (Ipomoea tricolor) and its relative Ololiuqui (Turbina corymbosa) have been found.
According to María Sabina hierba de la pastora has roughly the same effects as magic mushrooms and both ceremonies are pretty similar: first the sacrament is consecrated with incense (copal) and prayers. After ingestion the participants lay down on their mattress in a complete silent and dark environment.
The ceremonies are mainly aimed at healing. The curandera is able to translate her visions into a diagnosis and a recipe for further treatment of the illness. While the effect of the mushrooms lasts 4 to 6 hours, a Salvia divinorum ritual takes 1 to 2 hours at maximum.
Chew it your way
For a long time I have some self-harvested leaves and a 10x extract from these leaves at home. Sadly the mother plant died. And although the plant spoke to me while she was alive, I never felt it was the right moment to ingest her. Up till now.
Unfortunately the leaves went slightly brown. They can be kept for a long time, but to be sure I choose the extract (which is very well dried). It’s a bit of a guess how much to take: if it’s a 10x extract, 2.6 leaves would be perfect. But how can you see when everything’s crumbled? After fiddling around for a long time I decide I have the right amount on my spoon. I don’t forget the incense and the prayers and then I take the bite.
Bitter. Of course. But it’s not that bad. It’s like many herbal teas: very leafy. Chewing. And more chewing. Indeed: after ten minutes my visual perception begins to change. Contours fade, colours get more intense. Objects seem to shine and sometimes they transform into anthropomorphous figures. After a while I also see faint patterns in different fabrics.
Calm and clear
I keep on chewing. Never knew I was able to produce such an amount of saliva… After a while my jaws begin to hurt. But I also start to like it. I suddenly feel very relaxed and happy and I decide to lie down. Beforehand I made sure there’re no bright lights or other distractions: just some candles. After half an hour I’m done with chewing, I swallow a part of the leaf material, the rest I spit back in a cup.
My mind is calm and clear. Different insights come by themselves. My boyfriend and I are in the process of breaking up, which often makes me sad. But right now I feel grateful for everything we’ve experienced together. I feel a strong trust in the universe: new things will come my way. I understand I shouldn’t grasp to anything: neither a person, nor an idea or situation. I can clearly see my dream for the future. I feel good, fresh and recharged: just like early spring: still quiet but full of promises. This feeling stays with me for a couple of days. Also I seem to have slightly more energy than before.
Hierba de la pastora
It’s not that I ‘saw’ her: the virgin, the shepherdess. But if I were to paint her spirit I would use colour pencils. A soft, sweet and powerful female entity in a long robe, with long hair, her face invisible. It’s not strange that in Mexico she’s equated with the virgin Mary: it’s the fate of many female goddesses throughout the world. But in my experience hierba de la pastora has a very different energy: more independent, I would say.