A NEW THERAPY
The Psychonauts, a podcast by Leonie Joubert
Award-winning author and sciencewriter Leonie Joubert has tried her hand at another kind of storytelling with her podcast series, The Psychonauts, about “the strange new world of psychedelic-assisted therapy” and her experiences of stumbling upon an underground movement of self-styled healers and self-medicators.
Everything you could hope to know about psilocybin and the mushroom experience is in these 12 episodes, the last three of which Joubert is still working on. She covers the history, the legality, the local players and the experiences of some of those who’ve tried shrooms as treatment and therapy.
In the first episode, Tripping The Blues, Joubert relates the story of 67-yearold Lani Fisher, told at AfrikaBurn in the Tankwa Karoo. Fisher uses psilocybin mushrooms to counter the chronic depression she developed after a traumatic childhood.
Every few months she visits a “journey guide” to take what the psychonaut community jokingly calls a “hero’s dose” of dried magic mushrooms and then, in Joubert’s words, “she’ll wait for her body to dissolve around her. She steps across the portal and spends the night wandering about in a world of vaulted archways, dancing colours and mesmerising sound.”
Fisher became addicted to her body’s adrenaline hormone, racing cars and motorbikes to shut out her trauma. In her 50s, she was consumed by a darkness that threatened to destroy her. The mushrooms help reset her neurological pathways, dispelling the depression ... for a while.
Joubert also addresses the legality of taking magic mushrooms in SA. “There’s a growing movement of people in SA who are using them therapeutically, but must rely on an underground movement of traditional healers,” she says.
The second episode tells of the arrest in 2014 of Monica Kromhout, a former nurse who once headed the counselling organisation Life Line. She was charged with dealing in illegal substances, when in fact she was minding a group of psychedelic trippers.
In other episodes Joubert deals with what magic mushrooms do to the brain, how they can temporarily change our thinking, and whether psychedelics can put the brakes on addictive spirals. She also looks at how to explore consciousness through psychedelics and how they can bring relief from the existential terror of facing your own death.
Further episodes will look into the effects of Ibogaine and ketamine and whether curated psychedelic culture could be a way to bring people together to respect the environment.