Thought For The Day #3030 June 2014
Broadcast 30th of June 2014 on BBC Radio Bristol
Audio available at http://www.mytalky.com/oZm
It looks like the rain wasn’t so bad for festival goers in Glastonbury this weekend. I’ve been twice before and both times were mercifully dry. Glastonbury Festival is one of those things that’s best to experience for yourself. You can catch a glimpse in the media of the spectrum of weird and wonderful things there, but it’s no substitute for actually being there.
One of the things that’s less reported are the hallucinogenic adventures that many people come to the festival for. Of course, there‘s an official anti-drugs policy, reassuring police presence and even trained welfare supporters. But the reality is that for some Glastonbury and festivals like it are unofficial gatherings for the collective enjoyment of psychoactive chemicals.
In Religious Studies the technical term for a drug used in the context of spiritual ceremony is entheogen. Such practices are found in almost all religions and throughout all human history. Including the druidic rituals associated with Stonehenge and Avebury - which of course are sacred sites associated with the land around Glastonbury.
For many, this weekend’s festival will not have been merely entertaining, but quite possibly deeply profound and even spiritual. Though only unofficially so, because our culture’s spirituality has officially broken away from its ancient practices of sacred drug use. I can’t help but think that maybe we’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water.
Personally I would never recommend the use of mind-altering substances for spiritual purposes. Not because I think they’re bad but more because I’m still utterly astounded by the sheer weirdness of ordinary life. What more could you possibly want than seeing Dolly Parton playing banjo in a Somerset field!?