Anthropologists and ethnobotonists consider an entheogen to be any drug which can facilitate a mystical or religious experience. To be categorized as such, each substance — whether plant or animal — must have a long and documented history of use, as well as playing a central role to the myth and culture of a particular ethnic group. Examples of entheogens would include the Peruvian jungle root brew known as ayahuasca; mescaline — a derivative of the peyotl, or San Pedro, cactus; tobacco — introduced by native Americans; and, of course, wine.
The Huichols — native to Mexico — believed mescalito to be bona fide, suggesting, as would the Good Doctor Hunter S., that there is in fact lime in the coconut and that you will see wildly vivid colors for fifteen hours in a row. It's also understood by the mescalitos that mescaline truth is a natural truth. What then does this suggest for wine?
In vino veritas! The Latin phrase suggests that there is in fact mad truth in wine. Writings from cultures throughout the past two thousand years speak of wine's truth and power. Eleventh century Persian astronomer and mathematician Omar Khayyam's words were translated eight hundred years later by Englishman Edward Fitzgerald.
Khayyam — in Sufi mystical verse and in Persian calligraphy — wrote, "A flask of wine, a book of verse, and thou besides me, singing in the wilderness."
The evocative poet, inspired by Rumi, refers to the power of wine in his spiritual interpretation “The Wine Of Wisdom” when he says, "And much as wine has played the infidel and robbed me of my robe of honor, I often wonder what the vintner buys, one half so precious as the stuff they sell."
Perhaps the poet recounted events a thousand years earlier, and the tragic downfall of Julius Caesar. When Cleopatra and Julius Caesar's paths crossed in the first century, Caesar did not expect to be wooed by what he considered a dainty and delicate woman. After many deep cups of wine were poured into his goblet from the hands of Cleopatra, he soon forgot about his wife and homeland of Rome. Caeser's troubles only grew, and he drowned himself in wine. But how could one even consider wine an infidel when seen through the words of the Chinese Wine Poets, the wise men of the bamboo forest, who brought wine — once corrupt and hideous — into the literati, making it admirable and romantic, to be enjoyed as a real charm of life.
Sung poet Su Tung P'o wrote an eleventh century poem entitled “The Red Cliff,” in which he exalts: "Let the people laugh at my prematurely gray hair. My answer is a wine cup, full of the moon, drowned in the river."
And let's not forget Jamsheed, Khayamm's fellow countryman. The Persian prince was credited with discovering wine after his wife drank rotten grape juice, thinking it would kill her, ending her pain, only to be healed.
Wine's power may be have more subtlety than that of, say, Carlos Casteneda's recollection of Don Juan's wild peyote escapades. It has been said once one consumes peyote, it stays in one's system for eternity, forever transforming one. It may not be Terrance McKenna's rooftop acid trip, and his account of the vampires of the Ganges, hungry for the souls of the dead, all while he was on the run, being tied to a hashish ring and a car bombing in Aspen.
What does this have to do with anything?
Wine has the power to bolster the meek and bring down the mightiest house. Think about that whilst guzzling your next $10 bottle, or sipping on a rare cult cabernet. You may be transformed. Cheers!
Remember, wine reveals truth.
Drew Stofflet lives in Carbondale. Correspond with him at email@example.com.