Genocide & Magic, a Psychedelic Constellations reflection by Danielle Hererra, AMFT
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It is not uncommon for some people to use certain psychedelics in a way that feels so disrespectful to my ancestral lineage that I struggle to even put it into words. It is a somatic thing. But here is what I want to say: my people died for this. They no longer exist. 0.8% of this country is indigenous. To understand that, to see so much of your culture lost — lost languages, lost rituals, everything colonized to a point where there is so much shame that my people ache to be more white — you have to imagine not being a full human.

It feels often that there is one last thing we have. It is a medicine that could cure our collective disillusionment and harm. If you hold the medicine in your hands you are holding its history with it — the murder, genocide, abuse, and pain. The medicine deserves the receiver's pause. Reflect on its lifeline. Consider where it came from. Consider what it took to bring you new eyes and healing. Then thank something. Anything. Believe for a moment that it could be something more than a chemical composition. Believe for a moment it could be something magic. And then have some respect for all the dead.

It almost seems silly to say, because it doesn't feel like much to ask for. But it is amazing how hard it is to ask for that. It is amazing how hard it is for people to hear. People do not want to face the grief. Even a moment. One conscious, full-feeling moment of acknowledgement of harm, of death, of loss. They say, "it was not my ancestors," or "my people did not do it," and absent of intention and grace, bring blasphemy to a sacred medicine by forgetting all that was sacrificed in bringing it to them.

We must acknowledge all the harm. It is critical to name, especially since psychedelics can lead to a kind of spiritual bypassing. People say, "I am one with everything." In the fresh mind, the harm was meant to be. "This too was part of the plan." And thus, the harm is absolutely perfect too. This sense of oneness cannot be disconnected from the reality that people are criminalized, assaulted, dying, or dead, from serving the medicines that brought it. If we don't take responsibility for harm, the medicine is not really working.

A psychedelic experience can feel like a rebirth. It is a time when we feel we are seeing the world anew. Our brains are fresh and ripe and ready to make new connections. We have to feed them. It is the time to try something new: to love in a different way, to go a little deeper, to diversify a bit. If we stay in our comfort zone instead, we will never grow. We need to be nourished and fed, with a range of new experiences and information. This is where the healing can be done. Step out of your comfort zone. Your brain is ready. It is ready for a new way.

I say this: welcome to this new world. It is beautiful. We are all one. But part of being one is that we really have to care for each other in ways that acknowledge all the harm. This country was built on genocide. That history weaves into psychedelics too. This new world has many other problems, but these medicines are spiritual tools to encourage us to feel them, and to solve them. This world is deeply beautiful, and deeply painful. The question to ask ourselves upon arriving is, "How can we authentically love this world and commit to making it better?"
Genocide & Magic
By Danielle Herrera
Danielle Herrera is a Bay Area Psychotherapist who works for Sage Institute and The Harm Reduction Therapy Center. Danielle is passionate about accessible social justice and psychedelic therapy, decriminalization of all drugs, representation of indigenous voices, poetry, and tarot.
For further reading, Danielle recommends, "Towards an Ethos of Equity and Inclusion in the Psychedelic Movement," a piece published by Chacruna.

This piece reflects the perspective of the author, independent of North Star, which serves as a platform for the message.

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