Nikki Wyrd is the Editor of the Psychedelic Press Journal. She is a director of the charity Breaking Convention, which holds a biennial multidisciplinary conference on psychedelics. Her copyediting work can be found in many books related to psychedelics, occultism and medicine. Nikki often talks at conferences and festivals, as well as holding space at retreats and workshops centred around shamanic/ceremonial practices. She enjoys dancing to psytrance, and following from her degree in ecology she encourages humans to consider how they can live in better relation with other organisms.
Nikki will be speaking at Trans-States: The Art of Revelation in September, a transdisciplinary conference that will explore the complex interrelationships between contemporary occulture, revelation, non-ordinary states of consciousness, power, structure, textuality and deconstruction.
High summer, a season of outside living, under the sky. The elemental wheel turns slow and steady, summer fire moves on towards autumnal air. The season of winds, of sunset skies filled with magical colours, a season where thought is so vital. For this turn of the wheel, in this part of the world, relies upon thinking in order for us to survive the next part, the fundamentally materialistic winter, when what will matter is the basic reality of our practices, translated into physical, undeniable, forms.
This turn lies ahead of us right now, that drop from air to earth, the most fearful of seasonal switches. The slow steady turn of the elemental wheel of the year, the melting from winter through spring to summer’s fire, now drops from air into matter.
That is the next step, which we clearly see ahead, through a mist of unknown days.
Between Lammas and the Autumn equinox, the season of air, we have to use our brains. Thinking, in ways that that bring us back to earth. What can we hear, what vibrations do we tune into? We can choose where to turn our heads. Those vibrations carry news to us of lives afar, seagulls squawking at dawn, the regular clip clip of a neighbour’s shears as they shape their hedge for hour after hour. These things matter, we all exist in the net woven by our surroundings, drops caught in the threads reflecting one another in a multitude of sparkles.
The light is waning now, the sun’s phase entering its last quarter, as days move from full to half. The light has not vanished though, but changed form, crystallizing the air to form the carbon of the plants around us. We see the past, embodied, and feel awe at this simple process of the intangible taking form, which gives us the foundation of our very existence.
Drops hang on blackberries, starting to ripen, the first one so sharp it is hardly edible; the second, interesting, half is proper ripe, the other half I discard. The third though, oh, the third berry, is sweet beyond memory, rich flavours more complex than the finest wine, the life energy sings and sizzles on my tongue, tastebuds and scent combining to fill my mouth and my whole head with fizzing, bubbling over chi!
We celebrate harvest throughout this season, from Lammas Loaf to Harvest Home. A time of ultimate planning and teamwork. A time of acknowledging the vital importance of the others we talk with, listen to, a time to share strategies. Lammas season is a joyful shout out to the social structures that support us, visits to beaches and fields and hills in company with our fellow creatures to enthuse us in readiness for the work of the days to come. Throw yourself into this time, throw yourself upon the ground and soak up the sun, draw it deep into your very bones!
Magic can be done to conjure for cleaner air at this time of year. On all scales, from the microcosm of personal spaces to the macrocosm of lessening your impact on carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere; open your windows, and walk when you can. Walk in green spaces, however small, a path with trees beside it or a tiny urban patch still do wonders for the soul. Go hunting for soul food; gather pictures in a camera, of things large and small, of things striking in their colours or shapes. Do it for the process itself, there may be a result you wish to keep but more important is the act of gathering, of noticing what is here now.
Sing, to yourself and whoever may be around you, sing like someone who is good enough at singing. In times past each group had people who could hold a tune, and these people were valued not because they were the best singer in the country, but, because they sang.
As the plants in our localities throw out the last burst of pollen into the air, those of us who notice this can think ahead and resolve to lay in a stock of locally produced honey before the next pollen season; taking a spoonful of this sugary substance regularly, before the pollen is released next year, can help our bodies to know, in a quasi-biblical sense, the bodies of our plant neighbours so that the tiny particles are familiar, and don’t cause such shock to our systems next time round.
Another set of particles that float into our noses are those kicked up by gentle rain falling on dry ground, the smell of petrichor (from Greek petra (πέτρα), meaning “stone”, and īchōr (ἰχώρ), the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology). This scent comprises the oils of plants which have fallen to the ground coupled with geosmin, a compound released from actinobacteria, lifeforms integral to a soil’s fertility. Some actinobacteria create filamentous networks like fungal mycelia, others fix nitrogen, or decompose organic material, or act to keep the soil chemistry stable enough for other lives to flourish. Geosmin (γεω- “earth” and ὀσμή “smell”) is the molecule responsible for the earthy taste of beetroots, carp, and certain mushrooms. It must be of great importance for us to notice, for the human nose is able to detect it at concentrations as low as 5 parts per trillion.
TL Phipson writes; “I find, on referring to my old notes, which are dated 1865, that the odour was due to the presence of organic substances closely related to the essential oils of plants and that these substances consist of the fragrance emitted by thousands of flowers absorbed into the pores of the soil, and only released when displaced by rain”.
As this scent enters our bodies, it brings memories and (often) quantities of a serotonin releasing bacteria; how strange and wondrous, that dirt can give us both joy and the improved brain function to help us garden well, growing diverse enriching crops to feed back to it!
In these times of warmer weather walking outside in green spaces and breathing is the best preparation for magical awareness. Cultivate feelings of the chemistry of yourself, the movements of your body, the motivational will of your spirit. Multitasking is all very well but its secret companion, multisensing, is the key to so much magic. Notice the huge variety of shapes that grow. Plants made of crystallized air—forms so different, each one a result of its seed-borne information and the environment through time and space which it has met along the way to where it is, to where you are walking, to where we are.
Breathing, we walk and our feet fall, stepping into a future as the present shifts. This fall from air to ground echoes the path of words to deeds. See yourself as you walk, see how the shape of your posture shapes your movements, see if you would like to alter it. Where are you coming from and going to? And, which plants can you see near to you, that might like to meet you, come home with you, and become part of your life?
As the universe continuously remakes itself, it carries the memories of the past not as preserved, static scenery, but as embodied behaviours visible in the forms and lives of today. You are one of these, and like any other form are the kernel around which the whole universe can be centred. As a human you have the unique gift of being able to imagine what it might be like for other forms. This is our true power, to empathise with anything in the world. We would do well to remember this, when creating our plans for the seasons ahead.