Salvia divinorum: Gateway to another world
Salvia divinorum is a trippy, mind-blowing drug, and one thing I’ve discovered after years of researching it online is that it inspires a lot of trippy, mind-blowing art.
In this case, I’m mostly talking about paintings inspired by Salvia. There are a ton of other artistic mediums that have been used to explore Salvia or Salvia-related themes, including books, movies and music — but those are topics for another post.
The first place I encountered Salvia-inspired art was the website Deviant Art. I’m not even sure how I stumbled onto Salvia artwork on there. With Salvia, it seems like you get led to certain places and things whether you want to or not.
The world of Salvia Art
Take, for instance, this piece, titled “Slavia” (not sure if that’s a typo or a play on words), uploaded to Deviant Art by user SalviaDroid:
There’s a lot going on here, yet it does an amazing job of visually representing what it’s like to trip on Salvia. Note the seated person with their head being pulled down and around into a spiral. When I tripped on Salvia, I immediately felt like I was being dragged down and to the right, eventually being pulled along a never-ending spiral.
It’s not just me. This is a sensation described by countless Salvia users, and this painting effectively captures the sensation. The person’s mouth, agape, perfectly encapsulates the mixture of awe and fear the experience engenders.
What’s more, we can actually gain insight into the artist’s intentions, thanks to the Internet. On the Deviant Art page for this piece, a user asks the artist, “what do you think are these mirrored worlds,” referring to the image of the “tripper” repeating into a spiral. “parallel universes? our soul travelling through time? or just a silly trick of the mind?”
“I call them ‘Layers,’” the artist responds, “and to me they each stack together to create reality. Each is slightly different than the other but generate a much larger picture. Sort of like puzzle pieces.”
This is eerily similar to the conclusion I reached from my own experience with Salvia. In my forthcoming book, I describe the sensation of layers of reality being pulled off, like multiple layers of wrapping paper being pulled off a gift, never able to reach the present beneath them.
Moving on, it almost looks like the “tripper” is sitting in a theater or auditorium of some kind … maybe an amphitheater, given the presence of leaves. But look at the zipper — the one that appears to be unzipping some kind of wall. It’s revealing an audience of little one-eyed yellow people (Minions?) who are looking on, calm and detached, as the tripper’s reality unspools. The tripper was sitting in a theater, but it turns out he or she was not the audience — they were the show; the yellow people are the audience.
That’s another common thread surrounding Salvia trips — the sense that reality isn’t real, that one’s entire life has been some kind of orchestrated spectacle put on for the amusement of some unseen audience, not unlike the Jim Carrey film The Truman Show.
There are other elements to the painting that I can’t quite reconcile with my own experiences on Salvia: The man at the door, looking as if he’s stumbled into something he shouldn’t have. The spiral forming giant fingers at the end, and a spooky, grimace-y, one-eyed face staring at us from the center of the spiral. But that’s the beauty of good artwork: It keeps us thinking, interpreting.
Lady Salvia: Guiding us home?
For instance, here is a piece titled “Miss Salvia” by Deviant Art user farboart:
This piece is, to me, much more abstract than “Slavia (sic),” but it features one of the most prominent features of Salvia artwork: Wide open, staring eyes. These tend to represent the awakening of a third eye, of seeing reality, for the first time, as it really is. The veil has been lifted, and we can finally see what our lives really mean, what the universe really is.
We also have the depiction of a woman — just below the blue eye at the center of the image (and easy to miss if you’re not looking carefully) — and it’s somewhat ambiguous — to me, at least — whether this woman is the “Miss Salvia” of the painting’s title, or a human being who is meeting “Miss Salvia.”
This is another common element of Salvia experiences: Encounters with an extra-dimensional entity, often interpreted as a woman commonly called “Lady Salvia.” It seems unclear whether this entity is an angel or a demon, or something else, divorced entirely from human notions of good and evil.
In this piece, it looks to me as though the eyes are not actually the “third eye” awakening, but rather make up Lady Salvia, revealing herself to a young woman who has taken Salvia, not realizing the profound effect it would have on her perception of reality.
Here is a piece that’s similar to the first, titled “embraced,” by Deviant Art user shufflelot:
I believe this was one of the first Salvia-inspired pieces of art I ever stumbled across, and I found it both beautiful and frightening. But mostly frightening. I mean, just look at those one-eyed creatures: Total nightmare fuel.
But there’s a lot going on here. Notice, again, how the tail-end of the sleeping figure forms a spiral shape. And, like the first piece, there is a hidden audience — the two creatures hiding behind some kind of bush or something — looking on with cold detachment.
Then we have the creature that is pulling back the sleeper’s head to reveal a single eye on a stalk — similar to the creatures surrounding it, but without a fully-formed head. It’s almost like it’s an infant version of the creatures.
The symbolism seems pretty obvious. Our flesh bodies are merely a suit — clothing for the true creature underneath. Here, the creature peeling back the skin — much like Lady Salvia — is helping a fellow creature shed the flesh that masks the true nature of reality, helping to usher the infant creature into the “real” world — helping to birth it, in a sense.
It has suddenly occurred to me the significance of the creatures having only one eye in so many of these Salvia-inspired paintings. Every human being has two eyes. (Well, most human beings — I don’t want to exclude people who have lost an eye or who developed without one. But you know what I mean). We think of our “third eye” as being an addition to our two “normal” eyes. But what if, in actuality, the third eye is the one “true” eye. When we shed our flesh, the two “fake” eyes are lost forever, and we are left with our one, true eye. That seems to be what’s happening in “embraced.”
Explore the world of Salvia art
These three pieces represent just a small portion of the amount of Salvia-inspired artwork that exists online. There is a nice collection of links to Salvia art over at Sage Wisdom that is worth exploring. And, as always, Google is your friend: Simply typing “Salvia artwork” into Google will reveal some interesting pieces.
Art is all about exploring reality and what it means to be human. I think users of Salvia are uniquely qualified to explore those themes in their artwork. Don’t you?
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