Modern culture doesn’t give me a lot of socially acceptable entheogens. It’s very possible that I haven’t searched thoroughly enough, but for now I’m more inclined to consider it an effect of ecstatic spiritual practices being too out-of-control, or maybe just out of fashion. Coffee, at least, increases productivity in Civilization.
I worked the graveyard shift at my first job. We had free instant coffee in the break room, which I never liked the taste of, but it was a time of great change and I’d try anything that would help me adjust or fit in. I’d put enough sugar that it would taste more like liquid candy. And I could feel it working for a while, and then it didn’t work as well to stop me from getting sleepy. So, I switched to caffeinated soda pop and energy drinks. Sometimes I wonder if the instant coffee was even really caffeinated, or if that was some placebo. Sodas hadn’t noticeably given me an injection of wakefulness before I decided to drink sodas for that purpose.
My corporeal roommate Cecilia is a coffee fiend, and generously provided me the opportunity to experience a greater variety of brews, all locally sourced. It amazes me that this substance is still legal, although when I describe what each of these would do to ‘you’ I mean ‘me, who drank it’ so these effects might just be the way my body metabolizes the thing.
Variant A (“Barako”). Highly acidic and very bitter. Drinking this is like being shaken by the shoulders and having everything you haven’t accomplished in life shouted in your face. After the anxiety passes, maybe 3 hours later, the chemical high takes a turn for the highly alert. Very highly alert. Reality Is So Clear I Can See The Whole Universe, alert. This lasts for 12 or 13 more hours, with twitchiness and possibly acid reflux.
Variant B (“Kalinga”). Woodsy and naturally sweet with a hint of molasses, like a floral tea that grew up thinking it was coffee and did its best to fit in. This ushers you gently into wakefulness, like drinking a sunrise…on one of those planets where the sunrise lasts for 19 hours. No perceivable tremors or any ‘burn’ to this high, only an endless stretch of wakefulness, it keeps the mind feeling fresh and ready for the new day even long after the sunset of that ‘new day’. Even long into the wee hours of the morning of the next day. This chemically-induced insomnia feels more natural, somehow more innocent, than even natural insomnia.
Variant C (“Sagada”). Full-bodied. Like drinking a two-hour power nap. 6 hours later, this will repossess that borrowed restfulness with interest. The caffeine crash pulls you into dreamless desolation, consumes you with a darkly burning exhaustion.
Variant D (“Benguet”). This coffee tastes unremarkably like coffee. A cup of this has no characteristic mouthfeel or flavor that distinguishes it from an average cup of coffee. It nudges you awake, maybe with a mildly unpleasant burning sort of high. This peters off about 9 hours later, and leaves you with the feeling of having stayed up for longer than your circadian rhythm would approve.
I take these chemical effects as some hint as to the nature of the spiritual significance of a given cup of coffee. Maybe A would be suitable for taking Craven’s Way (what I call Jungian Shadow Work), and B or D for offerings. The way I go about offerings is something new I’m figuring out, too: Going more by what I’d read than by anything told to me in a quest, I conjecture something like toradh that I believe the fairies imbibe while the corporeal form of the corporeal offering remains. (So, say I’d still drink the whole physical thing because the fae consumed half the toradh, which I offered. Can I take it that they really liked the offering if the offered coffee makes me sleepy? Or maybe I’d be possessed by an insatiable thirst or suffer ceaseless acid reflux, or some reaction more in the vein of Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”, because sharing offerings is like sharing toothbrushes?)
The ritual around the drinking of it would be another thing. Brewing and drinking A for taking Craven’s Way to confront a specific issue, would be different than drinking it simply because I aim to stay awake for 13 hours instead of 6 hours, or 20. (In the latter, I’d hum two rounds of the theme song of Galavant if recognizing the anxiety as chemically-induced wasn’t effective in detaching from that anxiety.) Or if, for whatever reason, some wonderful incorporeal acquaintance wants the rude A-brew.