“Cannabis has helped me to feel safe in my body in a way that feels healing and allows me to stay present as opposed to checking out.”
It’s officially the witching month, and as some of us plan costumes and parties, others plan rituals and spells. To explore the ways weed finds its way into the lives and work of today’s magical practitioners, we’re chatting with a few of them this October. Prepare to see the power of this plant in a whole new way.
This week, we spoke with Vanessa Irena, the New Orleans-born, New York-based mystic, musician and artist behind Knifesex (if you’re looking for some seriously vibey music for your next ritual, follow her). Vanessa took some time to share how cannabis comes into play in her creative process, how it serves her as a healing ally, and a way to connect with the spirit.
Weedbox: You make experimental devotional music. Does cannabis come into play in your creative process at all?
Vanessa Irena: My creative work explores ecstatic and visionary states. It’s intended to induce trance for the purpose of ritual and dance or for its own sake. The process of creation is also ritualized and I have often used cannabis to aid me in the process. I find that it helps to open creative pathways when I’m feeling stuck or blocked.
Weedbox: You’ve talked about cannabis as an herbal ally for sex. How do you use cannabis to enhance your love life or your self-love?
V.I.: I grew up in an abusive household and so I learned to dissociate at a very young age. I’ve spent the past 20 years or so learning how to re-inhabit my body and also to feel comfortable in it and loving towards it. I’ve also lived with a lot of pain and shame around sex as a result of my abuse. When I was younger I would often use alcohol to bypass these uncomfortable feelings that were a barrier to intimacy. This was an unhealthy coping mechanism that was ultimately destructive and didn’t lead to the kind of real connections I was searching for. Cannabis on the other hand has helped me to feel safe in my body in a way that feels healing and allows me to stay present as opposed to checking out.
Weedbox: Do you ever make topicals or tinctures with cannabis? What is your favourite way to consume pot?
V.I.: I’ve made both tinctures and topicals. My favorite thing I ever made was a batch of Holy Anointing Oil which has its origins in Exodus in the Bible. There’s been a lot of debate over the translation of one of the ingredients in the recipe given (kaneh-bosm) but there’s actually a lot of compelling evidence that it’s referring to cannabis. There’s a great discussion about it in the book Cannabis and Spirituality which I highly recommend.
My favorite way to consume is vaping and as an edible oil. In New York where I live, cannabis is still illegal but I suffer from chronic migraines and chronic pain is one of the few conditions that will qualify you for medical use in the state. So I’m very lucky to have access to high quality product in many forms. I think everyone deserves to be able to access this medicine legally and I’m hopeful this will be the case soon.
Weedbox: Has cannabis always been a sacred part of your life? Do you use it both recreationally and in ritual?
V.I.: It hasn’t always. For a long time I couldn’t consume it without extreme anxiety and paranoia. I think this was probably because I was in a darker and less stable place in my life and in my experience cannabis acts as an amplifier, as opposed to alcohol or opiates which seem to dull or deaden our perception. I learned to approach cannabis slowly and with a healthy respect and I feel like I have a much more healthy and healing relationship with the plant spirit now. I now use it recreationally, medicinally, and ritually.
Weedbox: You grew up in New Orleans. What was the general attitude around pot there when you were growing up? Did you have a memorable first high experience?
V.I.: New Orleans is a big party town so I was was introduced to drinking and drugs at a young age. I was also pretty adventurous and reckless as a teen so I think I smoked the first time when I was around 12 or 13. I was in the backyard of a friend’s house with a bunch of other girls and I remember the ground beneath me starting to sway and feeling like the backyard was a huge ship. Then after I think one of my friends went back to my house with me and we ate an entire pizza, haha.
Weedbox: What are you doing for Halloween?
V.I.: My birthday is November 2 and I’m having somewhat of a milestone birthday this year so my husband and I are going to the beach for a week in the Dominican Republic. I’m sure we’ll manage to find something spooky to do there though.
Connect with Vanessa at knifesex.com and vanessairena.com or on Instagram at @knifesex and @irenavaness. Stay tuned for her new album some time next year.