Friday, June 27, 2008

Dale Pendell. the Psychobotany Guy

I met Dale Pendell many years ago in Santa Cruz, CA at his home near Neary Lagoon, a compact little wetlands sanctuary flanked by a large sewage disposal plant--odd juxtaposition of the wild and the tame. As befits a psychobotanist, Dale's house was crawling with exotic plants inside and out, his front porch crowned by a gigantic Datura plant whose sinister-looking white trumpet flowers put out a sweet, seductive scent. Mercury Press had just published Dale's first book in the celebrated "Pharmako" trilogy which he was promoting while researching book #2.

Dale later moved from Santa Cruz into the hinterlands so I now see him infrequently but each time we meet I get a lot of juice from this guy. A while back we gave a seminar together at the pagan gathering "Pantheocon" at a big hotel in San Francisco on Valentine's Day. Dale talked about plants and I presented an early version of quantum tantra. At this same conference a pretty pagan boldly opened her blouse for me to show a paw print she had had tattooed between her breasts.

Then I met Dale a second time with his partner Laura in a mock Moorish auditorium at the "Sacred Elixers" conference in San Jose where he performed "Amrita" and other poems to an appreciative audience that included Earl and Sherri Crockett as well as Sasha and Ann Shulgin.

Dale Pendell's "Pharmako" trilogy surveys the history, composition and usage of a wide variety of psychoactive plants. The books themselves, like their author, are hard to categorize, part botany, part history--poetry, dialog, chemistry, commerce and physics. Reading one of Dale's books is like exploring a labyrinthine jungle with a witty and knowledgeable native guide. This guy really knows his stuff. Pendell calls the study of plant powers "the Poison Path" for which his trilogy is an indispensable field guide. This noteworthy trio of books is strange, scholarly and full of good sense.
  1. Pharmako/Poeia: Plant Powers, Poisons and Herbcraft
  2. Pharmako/Dynamis: Stimulation Plants, Potions, Herbcraft
  3. Pharmako/Gnosis: Plant Teachers and the Poison Path
The best introduction to Dale Pendell's life and work is Emily Green's LA Times interview "The Poet of Plants". Like Nick Herbert, Emily Green finds Dale Pendell impossible to categorize. Dale and his writings are in a class by themselves.

Recently Dale published "Inspired Madness", a book about Burning Man, and a collection of conversations with the controversial UCSC professor Norman O Brown, the author of "Love's Body". From a collection of Dale's plant poetry: "Living With Barbarians" comes this:
Every plant is a teacher--
but as in every crowd,
there are always
a few loudmouths.

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