Friday, November 18, 2016

AG appointee Jeff Sessions "Gaga" Over Marijuana Legalization

It's pretty frightening when a public official bases his opinion about marijuana on something Lady Gaga said. Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, who's been tapped as our new Attorney General, has a horrible record on marijuana and was deemed too racist to be a federal judge (in part because he'd joked that he thought the KKK was A-OK, until he found out they smoked marijuana).

Sessions also said in 2014 that marijuana can't be safer than alcohol because, "Lady Gaga says she's addicted to it."

He was referring to a statement made in 2013 by Gaga to a radio show, about smoking a lot of marijuana after she'd broken her hip onstage and was dealing with pain, anxiety and "coping." With weeks, Gaga had backpedaled on her statement, telling a talk show host she still loves to smoke pot, because it makes her feel like she's 17 again.

In 2012, Gaga lit up a joint onstage at her concert in Amsterdam, declaring weed "wondrous." She was quoted as telling The Sun newspaper: "I want you to know it has totally changed my life and I’ve really cut down on drinking." That year, both she and Rihanna dressed up as a pot fairy for Halloween (pictured).

In a 2011 60 Minutes interview, Gaga told Anderson Cooper: "I smoke a lot of pot when I write music. I'm not gonna sugarcoat it for '60 Minutes.' I drink a lot of whiskey and I smoke weed when I write." She added, "I don't do it a lot because it's not good for my voice." Sounds like she was able to practice moderation, unless she was suffering from the pain of a broken hip.

At a Congressional hearing in April, Sessions fretted that legalizing marijuana sends a dangerous message, and longed for the days of Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign. He said,  "I can't tell you how concerning it is for me, emotionally and personally, to see the possibility that we will reverse the progress that we've made.... It was the prevention movement that really was so positive, and it led to this decline. The creating of knowledge that this drug is dangerous, it cannot be played with, it is not funny, it's not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don't smoke marijuana." (Ah, but great ones do.)

Reformers are quite worried about whether Sessions will make good on candidate Trump's promises to leave state marijuana laws alone. Coming in after 8 of 9 states passed ballot measure for marijuana law reform, and 80% of US voters favor medical marijuana, Sessions will be going against the will of the electorate if he chooses to start cracking down on state-legal enterprises.

As I write this, a standing-room-only session at the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine is discussing, "Cannabinoids for Pain: Science, Politics and Clinical Applications," including the requisite anti-pot propaganda and a researcher studying the molecular mechanisms of cannabinoid receptor activation in skin cells for induction of analgesia, and the role of endocannabinoids in postoperative pain. Every week, new studies are coming out about the efficacy and safety of cannabis for pain relief.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Society (JAMA) found that medical marijuana states have 25% fewer opioid overdose rates than do states without reform. Subsequent studies have found reductions in opioid use, abuse, and traffic fatalities related to opioids in medical marijuana states. Yet the new administration could roll back these reforms and leave pain patients, heroin addicts, and alcoholics without the safer alternative of cannabis.

Yet, Cal NORML continues to get complaints from patients at Kaiser Healthcare who are being kicked off their opioid pain medications because they are augmenting their therapy with marijuana. Kaiser Health News (a supposedly unaffiliated PR arm), has not reported on any of the positive studies about marijuana and opiates and instead just interviewed an anti-tobacco zealot opining that marijuana legalization will lead to more cigarette smoking.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

QE2 and the Holy Anointing Oil

There's quite a lot made of the anointing with oil of Queen Elizabeth in the series The Crown, now airing on Netflix. 

First, in Episode 4 ("Act of God") The Queen's grandmother Queen Mary tells her that the calling to monarchy "comes from the highest source, from God himself. That is why you're crowned in an Abbey, not a Government building; why you're anointed, not appointed."

The following episode ("Smoke and Mirrors") begins with a flashback to Elizabeth's childhood, rehearsing the anointing of her father George VI before his coronation. "When the holy oil touches me, I am transformed, brought into direct contact with the divine. Forever changed, bound to God," he tells her, "as kings, priests, and prophets were anointed."

The coronation re-enacts Elizabeth's 1953 ceremony, when, according to The Telegraph:

The Queen was now prepared for the religious and constitutional peak of the ceremony, the anointment, when she was consecrated as sovereign. The ritual was hidden from view, by a canopy held over the the Queen by four Knights of the Garter. Behind the canopy, the Archbishop anointed the Queen with holy oil on her hands, breast and head. The oil was made from a secret mixture of ambergris, civet, orange flowers, roses, jasmin, cinnamon and musk.... 

Meanwhile, the choir sang “Zadok the Priest” – the words, from the first Book of Kings, have been sung at every coronation since King Edgar’s in 973. The anointment ritual is even older, going back to King Solomon himself, supposedly anointed by Zadok in the 10th century BC.

Solomon is famous for having hundreds of incense burners at his great temple, possibly burning the exotic spices brought to him by the Queen of Sheba.

Exodus says: "The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'Take also for yourself the finest of spices: of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of fragrant cinnamon half as much, two hundred and fifty, and of fragrant cane two hundred and fifty. . .You shall make of these a holy anointing oil, a perfume mixture, the work of a perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil.'"

Some think the fragrant cane (kaneh bosm) was cannabis, mistranslated in modern bibles as calamus, and that it was also the incense burned in ancient times. 

In The Crown, Nathan is also mentioned as an anointer of Solomon by the archbishop, who seems to see a change in Elizabeth after she is anointed. Nathan was a court prophet to Solomon's father King David, who wore a robe of linen when he danced and howled.

"Who wants transparency when you can have magic?" says King Edward the Abdicator in The Crown. "Put her in a robe and anoint her with oil, and what do you have? A goddess."

Both Queen Elizabeth and her husband are related to Queen Victoria, who may have been prescribed cannabis for menstrual cramps. The Royal Family is known to take kava, a plant with psychedelic properties, on their South Sea visits.

UPDATE 2/14/2023: Sir Patrick Stewart was interviewed on The Colbert Show tonight. Stephen remarked on how young he looked at age 82, and asked, "When they knight you, does the queen anoint you with some oil that keeps you young?" Stewart replied, "It's very interesting you should say that, because I felt that something happened in that moment," It's a magical moment....maybe it was a little oil on her hand when we shook hands....and that immediately took 30 years off my age."

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Cannabis Policy “Disjointed” and Ruthless

I could almost title all my posts these days, “What a Weird Week It Was.”

Yesterday, I got to see a rehearsal for the new Netflix series Disjointed starring Kathy Bates, produced by Chuck Lorre (The Big Bang Theory, Mom, Mike & Molly) and co-written by show runner and former Daily Show head writer David Javerbaum. The venerable, versatile Bates, in another great look for her—long hair, oversized glasses and a mumu—plays Ruth, a former hippie radical working as the proprietress of a cannabis collective.

In the witty, charming and quite funny pilot, Ruth and her son, an MBA, do battle over the future of the business, with her wanting to keep it focused on healing and her son focused on profits. It’s a somewhat accurate depiction of what’s taking place in the cannabis industry today. I like that, unlike the heroine of Weeds, Ruth is a pot smoker herself, in it for more than the money.

I invited Yami Bolanos along to the taping, because she has run the PureLife Alternative Wellness Center in Los Angeles for 10 years, and is a founder of GLACA, the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance. Last year, she helped pass a bill in the California legislature to end the practice of denying organ transplants to medical marijuana patients (yes, you read that right).

Yami liked the show, but objected to the depiction of budtenders smoking marijuana on the job. “If a budtender did that at our collective, they wouldn’t have a job the next day,” she said. Indeed, the episode was directed by James Burrows of Cheers fame, but I notice none of the bartenders on that show were drinking on the job. People like to assume that if someone smokes pot, they do it all day every day, but that isn't true for most.

Another woman I invited to the taping—Chelsea Sutula of the Sespe Creek Collective in Ventura county—couldn't make it. Turns out, she had been raided the day before by 30 some members of the Ventura County Sheriffs department and Oxnard PD. All of the medicine at the collective was confiscated, as was all the money in Sutula’s business and personal bank accounts. Her pets were put into confinement and she was jailed for 18 hours, most of it without food, drinking water, or a place to sit down in a cold jail cell littered with soiled maxipads. Repeated requests to call her lawyer went unanswered.

Because cities in Ventura County won’t license cannabis collectives, Sutula registered for a more general business license, and is now being charged with fraud. Until the raid, she had been paying state tax to the tune of $16K monthly, local sales taxes, plus unemployment and worker’s compensation insurance for her 20 employees, all of whom are now out of a job and will be applying for unemployment benefits. And the collective's patients, many of whom relied on the high-CBD medicines that Sespe Creek specialized in, will now be without a supply.

Some think Sutula may have been targeted for her support of Proposition 64, the measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana that will appear on the November 8 ballot in California. Local law enforcement officials oppose the measure, although one of them told her he expected some communities in the region would see the wisdom of licensing cannabis businesses in the wake of the vote. That the raid happened five days before the election may represent a last-ditch “smash and grab” by the cops before licensing finally happens in California.

Our cannabis policy is “disjointed” indeed when we can chuckle over the antics of a dispensary operator like Bates’s Ruth on television, while a real-life Ruth sits (or rather, stands) in jail for doing the very same thing. Netflix isn't the only network to join in on the trend: according to the Hollywood Reporter,  Amazon recently tapped Margaret Cho to star in Highland, HBO picked up six episodes of High Maintenance, and NBC is teaming with Adam and Naomi Scott to develop Buds.

My Godmother was named Ruth, so I happen to know that “Ruth” means “compassion,” which is why “ruthless” means what we all know it does: “having or showing no pity or compassion for others.” We need a lot more Ruth these days, and a lot less ruthlessness of the kind displayed this week in Ventura County.

Contribute to the Save Sespe Creek fund.


5/31/18 - All charges against Sutula have been dropped.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Goddess Isis, My Mom and Winona Ryder

Winonisis by Christopher T.
I was feeling kind of sad yesterday, partly because it was my mother's birthday, when I remembered that it is also Winona Ryder's birthday. Often I am cheered on this day by the morning radio news chirping something like, "It's 70 degrees in Los Angeles and Winona Ryder is 44 years old."

I realized too that it was the first day of the festival of Isis and Osiris, the Ancient Egyptian myth that was spun into the Mary and Jesus resurrection story in the bible. I'd connected my mother to the myth, but not, heretofore, Winona.

My mother's name was Inez, which we pronounced "I-nis" (a little like "I-sis"). When I was very young, I thought her name was "Icing," which is what I called the satin border sewn onto my baby blanket. I used to like to fall asleep fingering that soft, comforting strip of satin. I remember feeling the coolness of it the night I had a 104 degree temperature with the measles, and Mom stayed up all night rubbing me down with isopropyl alcohol while I hallucinated.

She'd hoped I would be born on her birthday, when I was due, but I took my sweet time and picked a birthday of my own a few days later, on the final day of Isis/Osiris saga. In that tale, Isis journeys to the underworld and brings her husband back from death so that they can conceive a son.

I have the great good fortune of knowing Ryder's parents as colleagues and mentors. In 1982, Michael Horowitz and Cynthia Palmer published the book Shaman Woman, Mainline Lady (aka Sisters of the Extreme), which first opened my eyes to the connection between cannabis and the female. It is on their giant shoulders that I stand, and they couldn't be more gracious, helpful or inspiring to me in my quest to uncover even more Shaman Women. Horowitz was also Timothy Leary's archivist, which is how Leary famously became Ryder's godfather.

Because we are in touch, they recommended I watch "Stranger Things" on Netflix, which in case you're aren't aware, is quite the phenomenon. In the last two nights' time I've managed to bingewatch all gripping episodes as a nod to Halloween/Samhain.

In it, Ryder's character's son is taken to the underworld and she must rescue him. That's so Isis.

I love that the show touches on MK-ULTRA, the CIA program that dosed unprepared participants with LSD to develop the sacrament as a weapon. The program, which was exposed in the Church Committee hearings, did much to unravel the peace movement of the 60s as well as, I discovered yesterday at the Oakland Museum, the Black Panthers.

Today, as a friend points out, it is very troubling that "ISIS" has become the known name of a terrorist group. Perhaps that is why President Obama more properly calls them ISIL.

More on Winona in How to Make an American Pot Party.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Hooray for Hayden

My reminiscence of Tom Hayden, excerpted from the book I may publish someday. I'm devastated. What a loss, and how lucky we are that he lived. 

Chapter 8—Hooray for Hayden 

Tom Hayden and his wife Jane Fonda in 1976.
When I tell people about Tom Hayden, I love to say that I went to hear a politician speak on the night before an election, and the question I most wanted to ask was, “Can you recommend a good translation of the Tao Te Ching?” 

In fact, the night of the lecture, which took place at the Phoenix bookstore in Santa Monica, I went up to ask Hayden that very question, because he had spoken so eloquently about it. It took a while, because I was last in line behind a group of his students from a class he was teaching at Santa Monica College. My friend Genie (a.k.a. She Who Remembers), who was taping the event and is also a big hemp activist, saw me approach him and yelled out, "Ask him about hemp!" I kind of paused, not knowing what to say, when he started picking up his papers to leave. Damn, I'd lost my chance to ask him anything. … 

A year or so later, when Hayden was running for Governor of California, my friend and fellow activist CJ started lobbying his office for him to appear at one of our hemp rallies in L.A. Finally, he agreed. This was an amazing accomplishment, since no elected official had set foot at one of our rallies before (in fact the only political parties ever represented were the Libertarians and the Greens). This one, on May 1, 1994,  was strange because the flags on the Federal building property on Wilshire Blvd. that was the site of our protests were at half-mast because Richard Nixon had just died.

Not only did Hayden come, he signed our initiative, and he gave a beautiful speech. He stood, very unassuming, with his hand on his heart, and he seemed to be speaking from there when he said:

I want to express my appreciation and respect for the many years in exile that many of you have suffered because of the cowardice of the political leadership of this state to address the issue of why we have legal tobacco and alcoholwhich my family has suffered from and your families have suffered fromand we have continued to impose not just criminal penalties but a social and moral prohibition and taboo on marijuana. There is no reason for this except cowardice and a generational conflict that seems to go on and on. 

Do you know what I am doing later on tonight? I'm going to a performance about the Chicago conspiracy trial. Some of these things never end. 

Let's express our compassion for Richard Nixon, who passed away last week, and let's express our apprehension for the Nixonism, the law-and-order-ism that continues to be mainstream political bread and butter in Sacramento. 

I'm here to say that the War on Crime and the War on Drugs have got to be re-examined. They are a quagmire of crime, of blood, of alienation, of tax loss, the destruction of our cities, the destruction of our people. 

This is one of the hardest issues for me, and for you, since the Vietnam War. It is a quagmire like Vietnam. There is no military solution in the long run to this madness. It's even worse than Vietnam in this sense, because you can't pack up and withdraw, you can't go home. We are home.

So I wish you well and certainly in my campaign I will speak with respect to the efforts you are making. I will try to raise the issue of the morality, the double standards, the economic benefits, the total political and moral blindness of our political leadership and challenge them to debate these issues. Thank you.     
To say he electrified the crowd would be an understatement. After his speech, CJ walked him to his car and told him she was concerned about the impending Three Strikes You're Out law, which would put people in prison for life upon committing three felonies. She told him that growing any amount of marijuana was a felony. “That's not true, is it?” Hayden asked. “Check it out yourself,” she said. “If that's true, I'll raise that issue in my campaign,” he pledged.

CJ came back to the rally and told us all the story. Then, she said, someone tried to give him a copy of The Emperor Wears No Clothes. “I know that book,” he said, “that's more popular than the . . ." “I can't remember what he said next,” CJ said. I took a guess. "The Tao Te Ching?" I asked. "Yes," she said, grabbing my arm. She took me around to everyone else to whom she told the story and when she came to "that's more popular than the..." I filled in "the Tao Te Ching." I realized he must have made that assessment from that night at the Phoenix, one year before. Was he actually disappointed that after hearing his lecture, all some hemp chick could think to say was, “Have you read The Emperor?” If only he knew, he did get through to me. 

A month or so later Chris and Mikki were in town and Greg and I staged our first-ever dinner party at the Love Shak. I ran out and bought second-hand plates at the thrift shop and saw this really cool coffee table for $15. I checked with Greg before making such a huge purchase, and he loved it too so we bought it. So just in time for this party we had plates and something to put them on! Ain't life grand.

CJ came by with a tape of the gubernatorial debate between Kathleen Brown, John Garemendi, and Hayden. Brown wouldn't allow the debate to be aired over the networks, but CJ had a friend in SF who got hold of it. Brown did badly (no wonder she wouldn't air it), but Tom was amazing. He came off so much more reasoned and intelligent than the other two. It was two politicians and a statesman. If the people of California had watched those debates, they would have immediately carried Hayden on their shoulders up to the Governor’s mansion. 

Already it was making my day just to see anyone with anything logical to say in a political debate, when the question was asked, “Do you support the Three Strikes You're Out initiative?” Of course, Brown and Garemendi couldn't wait to jump all over it with their support, no doubt hoping for the lucrative endorsement of the prison guards’ union. When it was Tom's turn, he said, "I am opposed to Three Strikes because it will put check kikers and marijuana farmers in prison for life." 

Hallelujiah! You could have heard me yell for miles. We all stood up, cheering. He called us farmers. Not dealers, even growers, but farmers. Not only that, he KEPT a PROMISE. I couldn't remember the last time any elected official had done that. 

I walked right over to CJ and told her, "You are responsible for that!" It was great to be able to congratulate her for her work. Those moments are too rare. It was by far the best political moment of the year for me. 

Of course, we called and got Hayden literature and passed it out at our tables and told everyone we could about him. It was hard to raise hope in such a bleak landscape, but as with Jerry Brown, I figured if Tom could keep fighting so could I.

Excerpted from Confessions of the Happy Hempstress, by Ellen Komp. Copyright 2016

Hayden won the International Awareness Tokey Award in 2012. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Martha Gelhorn, Leonard Bernstein, and the Ballerinas

Looking up war correspondent and third wife to Ernest Hemingway Martha Gelhorn after seeing the spotty-at-best 2102 film Hemingway and Gelhorn, I found this item about Martha and Leonard Bernstein trying marijuana in Mexico at the end of 1948 or the beginning of '49 in Gelhorn: A Twentieth-Century Life by Caroline Moorhead:

Another visitor was Leonard Bernstein, who turned up unannounced one day in Cuernavaca, proposing to move in and stay with her, and bringing with him a grand piano.....Martha moved him smartly into a house up the road, with a large pool, in easy walking distance. He wanted to play Scrabble, which she resisted, hating all games except for gin rummy, but one night, after he had been told by local musicians he met that marijuana made the music flow faster, they got ahold of four joints and prepared to experiment. 

Since they were both terrified of what might happen, they decided to boost their courage by having a few martinis first, generously poured into water tumblers. After a while, beginning to feel ill, Martha crawled toward the spare bedroom. As she reached the bed, she heard Bernstein fall heavily in the sitting room and lie still. She was sick all night; when she fell asleep, her nightmares were appalling. Next morning, she crept home, leaving Bernstein still unconscious on the sitting room floor. 

Too bad about the martinis.

Gelhorn famously said, "People often say, with pride, 'I'm not interested in politics.' They might as well say, 'I'm not interested in my standard of living, my health, my job, my rights, my freedoms, my future or any future.' ... If we mean to keep any control over our world and lives, we must be interested in politics."

Nicole Kidman, who played Gelhorn in the film, recently appeared in a biopic of Tokin' Woman Gertrude Bell but it hasn't been released, except in Germany. As Gellman she had some strong scenes, but in others was a basket case who need Hem to help her out. It was co-written by a woman and a man, I think I know which scenes were written by whom.

Going further back, a Joyce Kilmer essay, “Absinthe At the Cheshire Cheese,” published in his 1921 book The Circus: And Other Essays and Fugitive Pieces, states, "When Dowson took hashish during his student days, Mr. Arthur Symons tells us, it was before a large and festive company of friends.” He is speaking of poet Ernest Dowson, whose famous turns of phrase include “gone with the wind” and “the days of wine and roses.”

Margaret Mitchell, touched by the "far away, faintly sad sound I wanted" of Dowson's line, chose it as the title of her epic Civil War novel. In the 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses, Jack Lemmon leads Lee Remick into alcoholism (by giving her a crème de cocao-containing Brandy Alexander after she says she likes chocolate).

Symons, a Baudelaire scholar who reportedly had a psychotic breakdown in 1909, was an influence on Yeats and a member, along with Dowson and Yeats, of the bohemian Rhymers' Club, whose members reportedly used hashish. In 1918 he wrote a piece for Vanity Fair titled, "The Gateway to an Artificial Paradise: The Effects of Hashish and Opium Compared," in which he says hashish "has the divinity of a sorceress, the charm of a dangerous and insidious mistress."

The book Arthur Symons by John M. Munro says, “The years between the publication of Days and Nights (1889) and London Nights (1895) may properly be referred to as Symons’ Decadent period…..he experimented, cautiously, with hashish…. The footnote reads: “On one occasion, John Addington Symonds, Ernest Dowson, and some of [Arthur] Symons’ lady friends from the ballet all tried hashish during an afternoon tea given by Symons in his rooms at Fountain Court." Symons described the event:

"Dancers" by Edgar Degas, c. 1878
No word about the effect on the ballerinas, except perhaps for their laughter.

Despite Symons saying hashish (or the more beautifully spelled haschisch) had been Dowson's favorite form of intoxication in college, Kilmer downplays the effect it might have had on Dowson's work,  calling it "incongruous and unconvincing....He was an accomplished artist in words, a delicate, sensitive and graceful genius, but he was no more fitted to be a pagan than to be a policeman."

The moralistic Roman Catholic poet who wrote, "I think that I shall never see /A poem as lovely as a tree," Kilmer writes in his essay on Dowson, "There are, and there have always been since sin first came into the world, genuine decadents. That is, there have been writers who have devoted all their energies and talents to the cause of evil, who have consistently and sincerely opposed Christian morality, and zealously endeavored to make the worst appear the better cause. But every poet who lays a lyric wreath at a heathen shrine, who sings the delights of immorality, or hashish, or suicide, or mayhem, is not a decadent : often he is merely weak-minded. The true decadent, to paraphrase a famous saying, wears his vices lightly, like a flower. He really succeeds in making vice seem picturesque and amusing and even attractive."

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Viking Völvas and Cannabis Seeds

In 1903, near the Oseberg Farm in Norway, a farmer discovered a Viking ship built around 820 AD that had been buried for 11 centuries. The ship contained the remains of two women, along with two cows, fifteen horses, six dogs, several ornately carved sleighs and beds, plus tapestries, clothing, and kitchen implements, and—it was discovered in 2007—a small leather pouch containing cannabis seeds.

The find is similar to the Siberian “Ice Princess," a 2500-year-old elaborately tattooed mummy who was found in 1993 similarly appointed with a container of cannabis.

In 2012, archeologists found that hemp had been grown as early as 650-800 AD in Norway, most likely for cordage and sails for ships. However, speculation that the women were carrying cannabis seeds to enable them to cultivate industrial-grade hemp upon their arrival in the next world is disputed by the fact that none of the ropes or textiles found on board the Oseberg ship were made from hemp. “This suggests that the cannabis seeds were intended for ritual use,” writes M. Michael Brady.

One or both of the Viking women, whose ages have been estimated at 50 and 70, may have been a Völva (“priestess” or “seeress”). The older woman, possibly the legendary Queen Åsa, was buried holding a wooden wand or staff, “not only a shamanic implement but also an insignia of their profession. Indeed, the Old Norse term völva has been widely translated to mean a woman ‘wand carrier' or ‘magical staff bearer,’” writes Evelyn C. Rysdyk in her book The Norse Shaman.

"A metal rattle of the sort that a Völva could have used in rituals was found on the ship, fixed to a post topped by a carved animal head and covered with sinuous knot work," writes Brady. "Völvas are presumed to have employed psychoactive substances, as in burning cannabis seeds to induce a trance." In 450 BC Herodotus described Scythian funeral rites where cannabis seeds were thrown onto hot stones and "the Scythians, transported by the vapor, shout aloud."

"Women in ancient Norse society were the ones who primarily practiced shamanism or seiðr,” writes Rysdyk. “A woman who practiced this art was known as a seiðkona or völva. During the Viking Age, practitioners of seiðr were often described as women past their childbearing years [as were both of the women on the ship]. Like their Paleolithic and Neolithic sisters, these women carried the tools of their trade into death….A völva buried in Fyrkat, Denmark was buried with a box containing her talismans or taufr. These included an owl pellet, small bones from birds and animals as well as henbane seeds. When thrown on a fire, henbane seeds can produce a hallucinogenic smoke that gives those who inhale it a sense of flying which may have enhanced the völva’s trance. The völur who were buried in the Oseberg ship were similarly outfitted with a pouch of cannabis seeds for their journey beyond life.”

A silver-gilt, 10th-century figurine
found at Harby, Denmark which may
represent Freyja, a Valkyrie,
or a human warrior woman.

In A History of the Vikings: Children of Ash and Elm, Neil Price writes of hallucinogens being found in graves of völva, and the role of mythical women in Viking lore, such as the Valkyries, female spirits that guide the dead. "Contrary to the general assumption that the Viking warrior dead went to Odin in Valhalla, only half of them actually found a posthumous home there," Price writes. "The remainder traveled to [the goddess] Freyja in her great hall of Sessrumnir, 'Seat-Room'." 

Freyja taught Odin seithr (seiðr), the "highest, most terrible magic." Seithr could "confuse and distract at a fatal moment, or fog the mind with terror. It could strengthen the limbs or disable them, giving someone godlike dexterity, or reduce them to stumbling uselessness. It could make weapons unbreakable or brittle as ice. It was the magic of the battlefield, the farm, the field, the body and the bedroom, and the mind. There was nothing coincidental about its associations with the divinities of war, sex, and intellect." 

Other Viking goddesses included Idun, the keeper of the golden apples that ensured the gods' eternal youth; Eir, a goddess of healing; and Odin's wife Frigg.