I was on my way to a funeral today at the leper colony near my home when I stopped to pick the flowers of Brugmansia, Angel’s Trumpet, a powerful hallucinogen. It contains scopolamine, among other psychoactive chemicals.
The hallucinogenic effects of Brugmansia were described in the journal Pathology as “terrifying rather than pleasurable”. The author Christina Pratt, in An Encyclopedia of Shamanism, says that “Brugmansia induces a powerful trance with violent and unpleasant effects, sickening after effects, and at times temporary insanity”. These hallucinations are often characterized by complete loss of awareness that one is hallucinating, disconnection from reality, and amnesia of the episode, such as one example reported in Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience of a young man who amputated his own penis and tongue after drinking only 1 cup of Brugmansia tea
In 1994 in Florida, 112 people were admitted to hospitals from ingesting Brugmansia. The concentrations of alkaloids in all parts of the plant differ markedly. They even vary with the seasons and the level of hydration, so it is nearly impossible to determine a safe level of alkaloid exposure.
The funeral was for a friend of mine who had been staying in the rehabilitation hospital at the former leper colony after suffering a stroke. Well, it’s not really a “former” leper colony as there are still a few lepers living there in small cabins along the river. I enjoy going there for walks because there are enormous 120 year old trees all around the property which had been deeded by the King of Chiang Mai to the Church of Christ back in 1905.
My friend’s funeral service was low-key and uplifting, and they incinerated him right there in front of our eyes, which seemed to this Westerner wholesome and not the least bit creepy. No use playing hide and seek about major life events. We had placed flowers in front of coffin, a decorated flimsy wooden box that burned away almost instantly.