family ties · Jude Cowell Art

Jamestown: Rebellion and Psychedelia

Although I have read of Bacon’s Rebellion before today, I never really appreciated the sneakiness and subterfuge involved when British forces led by Governor Berkeley were tricked into eating food laced with Datura stramonium, a powerful hallucinogen that kept the men acting goofy and having visions for 11 days! Perhaps this is an example of the earliest English psychedelia in the New World. I can find no word on whether they were eager to take a second trip.

Meanwhile, burning the settlement of Jamestown to the ground on September 19, 1676, rebel leader Nathaniel Bacon then proceeded to exit this mortal coil (‘Jexit’?) via dysentery on October 26, 1676 before troops could arrive in support of Berkeley. Thus, Bacon’s Rebellion faded out after a while though dissatisfaction remained for many of the colonists and life continued to be dangerous.

Nothing then did I know of my ancestors from Virginia or their links to the area around the James River in the 17th and 18th centuries when over 300 years later I drew a botanical depiction of Jimson weed, aka Datura Stramonium (pictured below) which grows naturally in North America but has been used for centuries as an Old World medicinal treatment in various cultures, and is considered sacred in India for its spiritual uses.

At the time, I simply thought the plant bore a lovely purplish bloom and deserved a pencil portrait in my Secret Moon Art collection! Purple is my favorite color, you see.

Toxic in larger doses, Datura has many nicknames. Perhaps you’ve heard of it as: stink weed, hell’s bells, devil’s trumpet, Thornapple, or locoweed, just to name a few. Even the venerable herbalist (and astrologer) Nicholas Culpeper described medicinal uses for this annual plant which can relieve asthma and is handy as an analgesic during bone-setting and surgeries with its active ingredient being the more familiar atropine.

So in honor of Bacon’s Rebellion and Berkeley’s psychedelic soldiers, here’s my interpretation of  Datura Stramonium, or as I like to call it, Jimson weed (in Moonlight):


And speaking of Natal Astrology (which we weren’t) do you know that there are cosmic links between the natal planets of Elizabeth Taylor and Cleopatra – one born in 1932, the other in 69 B.C.?


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