On Dale Pendell (1947–2018)

Every plant is a teacher
But as in every crowd
There are always
A few loudmouths

–Dale Pendell

I went to town this morning and drinking my Americano at the coffee house while reading the comments on Kocku von Stuckrad’s memorial to Michael Harner.

But then the screen went all blurry, and I had to stand and walk over to the big window that looks out on Main Street, watching the cars and trucks go by.

Dale Pendell is gone too.

Dale Pendell reactivates the ancient connection between the bardic poet and the shaman. His Pharmako/Poeia is a litany to the secret plant allies that have always accompanied us along the alchemical trajectory that leads to a new and yet authentically archaic future.

—Terence McKenna

If you are a plant person, a “doctor of the poison path,” a student of entheogens, or an herbalist, and you do not have these three books — Pharmako Gnosis: Plant Teachers and the Poison Path, Pharmako/Poeia: Plant Powers, Poisons, and Herbcraft, and  Pharmako/Dynamis: Stimulating Plants, Potions, and Herbcraft — you are missing out.

They combine poetry, organic chemistry, alchemy, ethnobotany, mythology, plant shamanism, and art.

If a forest fire were coming at my house, I would grab these three and leave the rest of the ethnobotany/entheogen texts for the flames.

And now there won’t be any more. But as Gary Snyder wrote, sometimes “books are our grandparents,” and these can be yours and mine.

There is more about his final illness on his blog. Here is another tribute:

He paced back and forth, his delivery measured and careful. But this was no timid circumspection. His slow pace tried to give space to the spontaneous, to create deeper spaces for his risk-taking to dive into. At the time I was getting more and more into James Hillman, whose fidelity to the ‘Western tradition’ (not to mention his sobriety) is both edifying and frustrating. Dale rooted around in the same ancient Greek soil as Hillman, but also branched out into Native American shamanic conceptions of ‘soul’, and traces of intoxicated wisdom submerged in Western tradition. I was hooked.

 

On Getting Reaped at Lammas

large hailstone in palm of hand

The scythe of the gods — multiply by several thousands

A friend in Poland has a small farm, and he has been teaching himself to mow the meadows with a scythe. We have email conversations sprinkled with words like “snath” and “peening,” which I know only from reading.1)He is an American expatriate, but I suppose that he has learned the equivalent Polish terms as well. He says that his elderly neighbors think his scything technique is amateurish, whereas the younger ones wonder why he does not use a machine.

Nevertheless, we were scythed at  Lammastide.

On Friday the 4th, M. and I went to Colorado Springs for a “city day,” hanging out with my cousin at Coffee Exchange, thrift-store bargain-grabbing, picking up her laptop that was being repaired, buying wine, visiting a bookstore,  and also Nightingale Bread, where an Orthodox Christian baker speaks of “the spiritual symbolism of death and resurrection cycles (a plant’s grain milled into flour and revived as bread) inherent in bread-making.”2)A hefty loaf made from organic Turkey Red winter wheat costs $8, which makes it an occasional treat, but it is very good.

Then we came home to destruction. The first clue was the piles of leaves on the road when we left the state highway. Then M. looked at her gardens and went into shock.

Sunflowers—decapitated. Beans and tomatoes—blasted. Squash and gourd plants—nothing left but stems.

The corn looked as though though it had been machine-gunned. Many herbs were shredded. The nettle patch was reduced by half, while the woods were carpeted with fresh needles of pine and juniper, pruned from the trees.

I found a broken panel in the greenhouse roof, and the crank-up roof vent on the camping trailer was shattered. The plants in the greenhouse, mostly tomatoes, were unharmed.

All this just nine months since the last big forest fire and a week since some minor flooding on our road.

In the car the next day, she said, “Do you think we angered the gods?”

Who are “we”? The people on our road, under the narrow path of the hailstorm, which was less than a mile wide?

When you do anything agrarian — even vegetable gardening — that makes you vulnerable to weather, it is so easy to think that you are punished by some god when drought or insects or wind or hail wreck your crops. It is easy to think that someone is trying to teach you a lesson.

So what is the lesson?

Suillis granulatus

Slippery jacks. A little annoying because leaves and needles stick to them, but they *are* edible.

This morning while walking the dog I found “slippery jacks” (Suillus granulatus) appearing up behind the house under the pines — we see them only in wet Augusts, and this is one of those.

So it’s time to change and adapt — and look for mushrooms, while we hope that some parts of the garden will recover.

After Lammas, it’s hunting-and-gathering time. So that’s the lesson — move on.

Notes   [ + ]

1. He is an American expatriate, but I suppose that he has learned the equivalent Polish terms as well. He says that his elderly neighbors think his scything technique is amateurish, whereas the younger ones wonder why he does not use a machine.
2. A hefty loaf made from organic Turkey Red winter wheat costs $8, which makes it an occasional treat, but it is very good.