Hmmm.... My experience is very different with "hedge witches" coming back strange.... (in that they came back more normal then ever!). But - most of my experience lies in a traditional setting where an experienced shaman helps you navigate the spirit world more safely. Especially if the people you met worked with deliriants and scopolamine containing plants without guidance, then I could see potential problems for some people. Plants with scopolamine (such as brugmansia and datura) can really mess up your brain if you do too much too fast - you are supposed to usually work your way up to some things.
For example - with those plants, the natives I know who use them say to either only use them under the watchful eye of an experienced traveler, or work with the plant in one of 3 safe ways: growing it in your living space, smelling the pollen, or sleeping with a flower under your pillow. The natives work with the plant many other ways, but only after they get accustomed to the plant and earn it's alliance. Then they may smoke it, eat it, or put a small amount in Ayahuasca - but only once they have worked up to that stage. Plants generally reward patience, dedication, and respect in my experience.
Some people dont realize that most plants have a light and a dark side, and depending on how you treat them, they can heal and empower you, or fuck you up.
I have met 70 year old shamans (working with similar plants and methods as hedge witches from what I can tell) who have started their practice as a child and are still quite sane and coherent. Some of them are even more lucid then your average joe on the streets.
As for taking every tradition and lumping them all together..... Well this wont work when systems have contradictions in them. But for example, if I already work with Amazonian plants, and want to also connect with local plants at home - I dont see the problem applying traditional Amazonian techniques to local plants (this has worked great for me so far). I also think it would be silly to turn down the guidance of my own heart or spirit guides because I felt called to something outside of my tradition. Sometimes things work really well together, and every single tradition in history has grown and evolved and incorporated other local practices into it. An Irish witch living in Italy may incorporate new ideas they encounter, a drumming shaman may discover an affinity for an entheogen, or a person who only learned spells in their tradition may learn to astral travel - doesnt mean they are polluting their system necessarily. I think what matters is if what they do works, and if it is respectful to their heritage.
Edited by travsha, 25 March 2014 - 10:19 PM.