Vice’s Hamilton Morris Interviewed on Hallucinogenic Fish [Guest Post]

sarpa salpa fish

In 2006 two men cooked and ate a fish which they had caught in the Western Mediterranean. Minutes after ingesting the fish frightening visual and auditory hallucinations began to overcome them. These intense visions lasted 36 hours. The fish they had caught was a Sarpa Salpa. A species of Sea Bream which is commonly found off the coast of South Africa and Malta and can induce ichthyoallyeinotoxism, a condition also known as hallucinogenic fish poisoning.

I recently learned that Vice columnist Hamilton Morris is assembling a team to capture and analyze a live sample of Sarpa Salpa. Morris is a writer and filmmaker and expert in anything psychoactive. In his column for Vice, Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, he mixes his subjective experiences with insights into pharmacology, neurology and chemistry. In one column he traveled to the Amazonian jungle to have the secretions of a “shamanic” frog burnt into his arm. In another he traveled to Haiti to be dusted with the voodoo “zombie” poison Tetrodotoxin. He is currently working on a complex research project about extremely obscure information related to psychoactive mushrooms.

I e-mailed Hamilton to find out more about his trip.

Stephen Baxendale: Do you have any theories on what causes the fish to be hallucinogenic?

Hamilton Morris: The sea is a rich source of halogens. Scientists have found a variety of marine iodo-tryptophans and chloro-tryptophans in compounds like the plakohypaphorines and some amazing sponge derived tryptamines, like 5-bromo-DMT, which has been demonstrated to have “antidepressant-like” activity in rodents and is possibly psychedelic in humans. It seems that many of the sponge derived tryptamines are of microbial origin and same is true for more complex compounds like TTX and probably the byrostatins. So I think it is likely the fish ingests some kind of a microorganism that biosynthesizes the compound, which may behave as a classical serotonergic psychedelic or may have some messier deliriant effects, based on the case reports either could be possible.

Do you plan on ingesting the fish yourself?

If I have positively identified the species as Sarpa salpa I will carefully ingest it, starting with 1µg of fish and incrementally increasing the dose.

Do you think consuming hallucinogenic fish will ever catch on as a recreational drug?

Well it was already popular in the Roman empire so it’s really a question of whether it will make a comeback.

For more information:

Wikipedia: Hallucinogenic fish poisoning

Hamilton Morris’ Vice column

Stephen Baxendale is a writer from Liverpool, England. He specializes in lowlife literature and fringe journalism

Photo by Steven Van Tendeloo / CC

Mystery of the Yeti

The TIP Records album Mystery of the Yeti 2 has a song by Hallucinogen called “the Herb Garden” in which there is a sample attributed to entheogen researcher Christian Raetsch and transcribed by fUSION Anomaly:

“you have heard of the yeti? the ubanamanamanala snowman? that is of course not an animal or a prehuman being, that is originally one of the shamans gods, the real name is Banjhakri, that means the shaman of the forest… so therefore nobody will ever find the yeti in nature, because you have to go in trance and then you’ll find the Yeti easily…”

“uhm, the Banjhakri uhm, the (…) man or the, the (…) shaman, the forest shaman, he wears a skin of, uhm… d-d-d-deer (jibberish) the symbol of this mushroom!”

“the yeti loves to drink shnaps too, so he’s like a real shaman… he, uhm, uh, if you want to contact him, you have to put some alcoholic offerings in front of the forest.”

“he has one dreadlock, that’s in honour of Shiva… i ask ‘then why don’t you have dreadlocks all over?’ he said ‘because, you know i’m, uh… pupupupu ap tepepep un nenenenn umndibdibdib dsedsedse de ann ktsingngngng to have dreadlocks all over'”

So this got me curious. I did a Google search, but didn’t come up with much promising material. According to this source: “Ban Jhakri is also the Nepali word for the smallest type of yeti, so it appears that yetis do exist, at least in the spirit world” and I found a site selling back issues of a transpersonal psychology journal with an article about “The ‘calling’ the yeti, and the banjhakri ‘forest shaman’ in Nepalese shamanism.” The other pages I could find were in other languages and couldn’t be translated. I also found that the term “Ban Jhakri” is often used to simply mean shaman. Someone on Barbelith says that the Yeti guarded Shangri La- but he’s a tabloid writer so I’m skeptical. I’m just wondering if anyone out there has any information that might clear this up, or suggest some further reading on the yeti/shamanism connection.

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