I Am Crassula

Julia Rometti, Victor Costales

This contribution is a mash-up loosely based on our interest in Succulent Strategies (the teaching and survival strategies of certain kinds of succulent plants and entheogenic cacti). These plants are often called the master plants, or in other words, the plants that “teach”. It is well-known that consuming these plants has been a profound source of knowledge for a number of communities and nations across Latin America. The conceptual articulation of this kind of knowledge is closely related to the concept of Amerindian perspectivism, developed by the Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro. Here the intersubjectivity of different kinds of beings is taken for granted. Through each physical specificity a particular kind of ontology is developed, proper to each entity or being. These ideas give a radical turn to what is known as multiculturalism, privileging the concept of multinaturalism, or multiverse. We see our interest in plants and their capacities to exchange with humans through this approach.

The anthropologist Anthony Henman, an important reference and an invaluable source of knowledge about entheogenic plants and their usage in mestizo and native communities across America, speaks of articulating a new kind of paradigm, a new ideological environment for the entheogenic plants.

The specific plant that appears in the images, and around which our contribution evolves, is a Crassula capitella, a succulent native to South Africa, whose alkaloid properties are not known or are inexistent. The shape of the plant develops in a series of fractalized forms known as chevrons, and recalls the geometries acknowledged through the interaction with the master plants, during the first steps of vision-shifting that they induce. In a way, these figures are a sort of primary impulse, allowing the articulation of a different kind of concrete knowledge to take place.

The chevrons form part of the basic graphic repertoire of certain Amazonian nations. Through the fractalization and combination of these signs, sometimes known as kene, a vast number of sets of more complex forms is developed.

A sort of sympathetic magic (magic activated by correspondence to or an imitation of its object) occurs. The African Crassula imitates knowledge, and is taught through a master plant which comes from the American hemisphere. In fairness it has to be mentioned that there are no succulents in the Amazon. The plant used for the same purpose is a liana, known as Yagé or Ayahuasca. The usage of entheogenic succulents, such as Echinopsis pachanoi (San Pedro or Wachuma) and Lophophora williamsii (Peyote) to name a few, usually takes place in the highlands, 1800 meters above sea level. As mentioned above, however, it is all about magical imitations and sympathy.

Magical Anarchism, another issue of concern hinted at in the text, is a cross between two political approaches to the construction of knowledge and the social, perhaps a new kind of ideological context, for San Pedro. It originates in a real encounter and the coexistence of a hands-on Spanish anarchist, expatriated in the Bolivian jungle, and people from a semi-nomadic tribe from the area, to who all types of hierarchy (political, cognitive, and the like) have to be constantly avoided. What kind of tension and perspectives might this encounter have created and developed?

This has been an ongoing question for us, and to which there is not yet likely to be a written or spoken answer, considering the means we have available. Perhaps it is not necessary to answer to this question, and instead leave it open to any sort of equivocation.

In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing
About the dark times
[Bertolt Brecht]

My leaves are fractals.

As fractal are the first sounds of a San Pedro song.

Zillions of infinitesimal vulnerable geometries compose the song of the Gigantón.

Me too, I am a constitution of hundreds of these tiny fragments.
An image of my own hidden nature.

I might practice sympathetic magic, imitating the invisible structure of things. Here and now.

The imitation of things.

The first notes of Wuachuma. The compositions of Aguacolla.

I am from South Africa. I am part of Succulent Strategies.

Or at least I wish I’d be.

Just need a good ride on the back of a Callahuaya and make him find out what I am good for.
Or bad.

They call me Crassula and they say I have a little head.

I prefer to be called Shark’s tooth and sometimes Planta hoguera.

The fire case. Campfire. Plant.

An ideal of senseless knowledge, unregistered, harmful in its neutrality,
its viral-spreading capacity.

I will imitate the snake’s skin. A face between the dense foliage will share my sympathetic shapes
as a tattoo. It will become the spectral double of things around. Alive in its hidden multiverse.

An aleatory swarm of chevrons, organizes itself into kene, becoming form abruptly.

I hypnotize without intention, a jaunt through eyes swollen by fire.
Through the pitch black notes of San Pedro.

The chevron composes songs, routes, names of animals and plants, juts out irregular gabfests.
Just to dive back later into the shifting abysses of memory.

Night is not my factor, but a defining condition for this particular song.
And my fourth or fifth name is Bonfire.

I am a succulent.

I absorb this strange and lucid geometry.

Like a fish will stain with colors of absolute zero.

The myth as a geometry where differences between points of view vanish
and are exacerbated at once.

The 1.2% of fresh plant material. Then fractals will show up, if you’re lucky.

I graft to my cactus buddy at 1,800 meters above the sea level.
As I graft to the back of a Callahuaya healer.

The cacophony composing the first clues of the fractal natures of things.
We creep without purpose, multiplicate.

Knowledge of zillion fractals passing through.

Imitative magic. Sympathetic magic of signs and the recomposition into a legible alternative.
The snake’s skin. The horizontality of something devoid of hierarchy.

Allowing the sight of the most elemental fractal.

I am an anarchist, soaked in the obtuse sound of San Pedro, my projection.
Fast-growing Echinopsis pachanoi.

I am grafted to the plant of the four winds. The sudden ability to be swept away.

With the serpentine glints soaked into wet darkness.

The chevron.

“… Auca-like: ethereal interminglings of animal and human…”

Anarchy spreads by fractals.

Magic and anarchy, one sympathetic to the other. One imitating the other. Enlisting each other, declaiming new unbound republics.

Telente. Ten-telente. Ten-ten-ten-te telenten teleten ten ten ten, ten ten ten ten. Telelenten. Ten ten. Tentelen.

My stem. My leaf. My song. Tenlententen. Ten ten telelen. Ten tan tan. Tan tan ten telen. Telen. Ten ten telelen.
Telen telen telen ten ten ten ten ten. Telelen ten ten ten ten ten.*

The night and the fire. The fractals, my elements, loom stubbornly through the darkness.
The dogs around the fire become me, as I become the night in front of your eyes,
and the night explodes in undecidable geometries.

Part of these geometries I claim.

I am from South Africa.

At this moment me and my fellow Succulent Strategists share the same pot, in a shaky arrangement of a veranda.

Some claim we are decorative.

*A slightly readapted quote from L’histoire de Sangama, 1950 1950, by Morán Zumaita Bastín, chief of a community in the Peruvian Amazon. Translated by Pierre Deleage.