A Quick Page On Absinthe

This is one of the original pieces I’ve written for Nocturnal Spirits, but I thought I’d share it here, first, to give people a taste. If I’m lucky, one of my friends who draws will be able to crank out an illustration in short time.

green-fairy001 So, it’s like this, Anaïs….

Er…. Let me bring you, my gentle readers, up to speed: Anaïs is her name. The nymphe whose secrets are in the bottle; some call Her a fairy, or by other nicknames, but she’s Anaïs, to me.

First off, Anaïs, let’s disspell some of the most prevalent rumours for the good people.

Absinthe is not hallucinogenic.

I know, I know! You read in some book or other, gentle readers, and now you think it’s a low-level LSD or stevia or licorice-flavoured drinkable ‘shrooms. It’s not. No more so than any other spirit or liqueur, meaning it’s not. Like most other alcoholic beverages, including spirits and liqueurs, especially with a high proof, absinthe can be an entheogen if used in proper contexts, but that is not necessarily a hallucinogen. Hallucinogens induce visual or aural hallucinations, that is you see or hear things that have no discernable physical source apparent outside your own brain; entheogens are substances that invite spirits, deities, and other divine beings to impart their essence(s) within us –hallucinogens may be entheogenic, if used properly, but not all entheogens are hallucinogenic. Cannabis is an entheogen, and the only time the pot-heads I know say they’ve hallucinated on marihuana is when they knew it was (or believed it to be) laced with something else that was actually hallucinogenic. That said, the power of suggestion can be strong, and if you want to dismiss all of my research, including years of personal use, in favour of your own wacky-ass ideas that can only be traced back to the late 1960s, when the whole world was talking about hallucinogenic drugs, you might be able to convince yourself enough to feign a minor hallucination.

Entheogens are substances that, by literal definition, “generate the divine within” to give us messages, insights, and mysteries, or to simply do Their work through us (as per some stuff I’ve read, it seems drunkenness was part of Old Norse fertility rites? I’m not sure if I can trust that). “Ethanol” is a term that was coined in the 19th Century from the Hellenic “Aither”, “heavenly air” or “air of/from the gods”; we can re-sacrilise this etymology (make it sacred) and say that a component in ethanol that is either shared with what the Theoi breathe, or that opens up our minds to receive that purer “heavenly air”, that can make us more-able to receive Their wisdom than without.

This does not make for a hallucinogen. There is nothing about absinthe that is hallucinogenic.

But what about thujone? It’s related to THC!

No, it’s not. Thujone is actually a mild convulsant (“gives the shakes”), and really, if you really want to experience something akin to a grand mal, you’re better off giving yourself a head injury in hopes of getting that fun side-effect than you are drinking absinthe, as you’re more likely to die of alcohol poisoning before you get that much thujone in your system. Furthermore, there’s more thujone in sage oil than there is in absinthe –tonnes more– and other herbs that contain thujone include rosemary and mint. It’s a relatively common chemical compound in many herbs, and in small quantities it can be relatively safe to ingest.

But wormwood is still bad, right?

Yeah, in large enough quantities. Apparently, I was kind of wrong about this, too (it can happen). Sufficient quantities of wormwood can lead to renal failure, true, but the only cases where this has ever happened in the case of “absinthe” is when dumbshits decide to “make it at home” and use a wormwood essential oil in quantities to create a thujone volume of far more than the regulated 10miligrams per litre.

Also, apparently I can feel better about “never getting the hang of Czhech ritual”, as it’s ahistoric nonsense created for tourism. Live and learn, I guess….

But what about the Green fairy?

Anaïs is a stunning creature. She’s “femmedrogynous”, but most people seem ignorant of that tiny appendage under her skirt, and alcoholism-induced delirium tremens has led some to believe she has gynaecomastic breasts, but i know who She really is –or at least who She wants me to think She is. It’s true, She is green-skinned and green-haired, but Her eyes are amethysts flecked in gold and Her lips are like the shiny black of ravens, She has wings like a dragonfly’s with a glittering violent and green iridescence, and She smells of anise and fennel.

See, when Adonis lay with Apollon as a woman, there are, briefly, moments when the malakos one can become pregant through the golden-haired kouros. Anaïs was born later, in Hades kingdom, within a stone’s throw of Persephone’s throne, pulled right out from Adonis’ navel. Realising this would cause undue jealousy of Apollon, Adonis asked Hekate to take the child above, for the following four months, He belonged to Persephone, and though there are worse goddesses to annoy, He certainly did not need to take the risk.

Hekate took the child to Apollon, who was confused at Its appearance –too small to be a boy, but too big to be a girl, and not really both, as Kybele had once been, but he decided that the child looked enough like a girl, He disguised It and gave It to His sister, and It was named Anaïs and raised among the nymphai and fed wormwood, which in Greek is named for Artemis, though damned if i can tell why.

When Anaïs became old enough, She realised She wasn’t like the others in Artemis’ entourage, but rather than risk the punishments Artemis was known to give to males who dared enter Her spaces, or to females who crossed Her, Anaïs simply thanked Artemis for the time spent with Her, and left to wander among the herbs.

Hekate, later, recognised Anaïs and asked where the young… Spirit? had been; did Anaïs father do well in rearing? Was Anaïs aware of his.. her..? other father?

Anaïs braided fennel into Her hair, and told Hekate of Her life so far –of course She knew of both parents, and knew it was almost time for Adonis’ return to Her father’s arms, and how She was disguised as a nymphe because of Her ambiguity and simply left Artemis’ entourage when She realised it was not Her place in life.

“So what is your place?” The dark kore asked Anaïs.

“I was always happiest braiding fennel into my hair and chewing on anise and sitting amongst the wormwood, whispering secrets into the shrub’s inflorescence.”

And with Her magics, feared even by Zeus, Hekate kissed the especially effeminate youth raised as a nymphe, born of the bizarre state of Adonis. “And now, it will have your secrets, any secrets or tall tales you wish it to carry, for like your fathers, you are immortal, and by my will, you will give your divine secrets, wisdom, and even lies if you so choose, to your herbs.”

“But aren’t they also Dionysos’ plants?”

“The pomegranate is also sacred to Hera, and Persephone barely complains. All the Theoi share our things, whether we like it or not.”

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.