On Halloween night, I was invited to attend a costumed “Witches Tea Party” in New York City with my band. How could I resist?
It was hosted by an old friend. Prometheus* is an artist, activist and educator who specializes in Jungian psychology and psychedelics. I profiled his work as a “trip guide” for Filter in 2020. Since then, he has continued hosting events at art galleries and selling dream interpretations and other services in city parks.
The gig was unpaid, and my band was tired after an earlier performance that day. But we resolved to feel it out.
Prometheus had been promoting the event with a $60 price tag, which at least we wouldn’t have to pay. He justified it by saying all guests would be given “party favors.” When I’d shared the invite with several friends, two of them rejected it straight up. “Bro, he’s charging 60 to get into his apt party?” said one. “That’s outrageous.”
When psychedelic legalization has become a political goal, how people use these drugs ought to be a key consideration.
I wanted to write about this party for several reasons. Among them, it interested me that nearly all the drug use that night was “illegal” and unregulated in that sense; yet at the same time, it was structured and regulated in a social sense. It contained elements of care and wellbeing that are important to many people in a city as money-driven as New York.
When psychedelic legalization has become a political goal in places like California and Oregon, how people use these drugs ought to be a key consideration. In places like Oakland, which has decriminalized psychedelics, advocates are now pushing for people’s right—currently denied—to use them in communal settings. Despite the progress we’ve made, I imagine many politicians, businesses and even average voters might be horrified at the idea of authorizing parties like these.
We drove to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and Prometheus greeted us at the door, wearing a black robe and mask. He asked us to take off our shoes.
“One more thing,” he announced, and took out a glass vial. “A half tab for each of you.” I gladly accepted his offering of LSD, but stored it in my pocket. I had to drive 50 miles back to my mom’s house in New Jersey—in her car. Lola, our vocalist, popped a half tab right there.
Prometheus immediately ushered us into the back bedroom for a dance performance. A small, diverse crowd in costumes stood around the dancer. A low red light bathed a room decorated with tapestries and candles. “It made it feel like we were inside of a womb,” commented Lola.
Prometheus and his roommates had converted the cramped apartment for the night. Besides the “womb room,” a second bedroom was reserved as a quiet chill-out area.
In the fully lit living room, a table was laid out with drinks, both alcoholic and soft, and snacks. Guests chatted and passed around weed. Prometheus made herbal teas on request. Another man in a Santa hat handed out little bags with mushroom microdoses.
We ran into another old friend, Bruno, who hadn’t paid the cover, but did bring a bottle of liquor, some chasers and some paying guests. He ended up doing a hit of acid as well as weed and alcohol.
“You come thinking it’s just a Halloween party, then next thing you know he’s opening the door and trying to get you to go deeper in yourself,” he said later. “It opened me up to that space where I could talk and not care as much what you think. I’m always in a work mode, always on a grind … That’s how New York City is … It was very pleasant to step out of that space for a second.”
Prometheus pulled me aside and told me the main event was coming soon: an MDMA ceremony.
“I love your psychedelic guitar,” he said. “It would really help set the mood.”
I hesitated over the logistics. But a group of us ended up finding a new parking spot and lugging my equipment up three flights of stairs.
“You have to tell everyone what’s in the OJ!”
As I ran my guitar through the DJ mix deck, Prometheus squeezed most of the guests into the womb room. He had us in the palm of his hand. He passed around little cups of orange juice. Unfortunately, not everyone had gotten the message.
“You have to tell everyone what’s in the OJ!” someone called out.
“Oh, right! It has MDMA, but don’t worry—it’s a very small dose.”
The whole bottle, he explained, had enough “normal” dosage for five people, but would be split amongst 25.
“You’re drugging us!” cried one person. “Hol’ up, just so everybody knows—the orange juice is laced with molly!” The room erupted in laughter.
But he pushed his way out—a situation that should have been avoided with more clarity.
Prometheus calmed everyone by having us recite a poem.
“Good thing I wrote this down,” he joked, pulling out a tattered notebook. “Because I knew I’d be too fucked up to remember.”
It began, “I am the night, and I am the day…”
And ended, “…I will have no fear.”
Then the ceremony began. One at a time, he had us sit in the center of the room, facing a mirror, and ask our reflection—our “alter ego”—a question. We would search for the answer and begin a conversation.
Prometheus went first. People were clearly not sure what to make of this, but the room stayed silent. One by one, he rotated guests onto the chair.
“What do I need most?” asked Bruno.
“Money!” he answered himself. We all laughed again.
“A lot of people resonated with that,” he reflected later. “It’s kind of awkward because it’s a conversation with yourself but it’s also with everyone in the room.”
But, he added, “Because people are there and listening to what you have to say, it inspires you to be honest. What’s the point of sharing a deeper part of myself if it’s not really myself?”
Through it all I played dreamy guitar pieces. I had no idea if it sounded good. But Prometheus was totally engrossed in his work with the guests, which reassured me. Lola hummed slowly while I played.
“What came out of it were a lot of beautiful, vulnerable moments,” she said later. “And not everyone went on stage, not everyone had the guts to be real with the audience and expose their ego. For the people that did, I think it really opened up a lot of power and vulnerability for everyone else.”
Finally, Prometheus wanted to put me in the hot seat. I was very nervous.
He told me, “Ask a question that comes naturally.”
Prometheus was not judging or pushing, only guiding and caring.
I waited a long moment. “Am I doing enough… to get to where I want to go?”
Then, silence. No one spoke for an eternity.
“Ask another question,” he told me.
“How can I have more discipline?”
“You can ask another question.”
“Why do I sometimes get angry so easily, over petty things?”
Am I wasting everyone’s time? I thought. Do I sound stupid now?
But Prometheus was not judging or pushing, only guiding and caring. If it’s alright for him, it’s alright for me, I thought.
Finally I asked, “If I know it’s petty, why bother letting it stress me out?”
Prometheus let me go. Finally, the ceremony ended how it began: “I am the night, and I am the day.”
Later, as I was almost ready to leave, our friends asked us to play a song. We got a small crowd back in the womb room, and Lola picked a song we both wrote.
We started to play, amid the guests’ shouting and laughter. We reached the first chorus before they quieted down, and Lola kneeled on the floor. With nowhere else to go, I hovered over her with my guitar.
She let me play the riff a long while before she started singing. She held two shakers in her hands, and passed them out. The room started shaking and clapping.
Finally we reached the coda. Lola sang, “Let’s rise as one!” All the girls jumped to their feet. They snaked around the room behind Lola, stomping and shouting.
“The band and the audience were not disconnected—the audience was part of the band,” Lola said afterwards. “It felt like we were singing to the moon as a whole, like we were one. I was on my period too. It felt like a cult, but it was a beautiful cult.”
“Having the right crowd was the most important part of the night,” Prometheus reflected. “I wanted this party to go there. Most of the people there were already used to psychedelics and the self-defining path … People enjoyed the night because they could let themselves out and be around other stars.”
“The goal is not to commodify these drugs. If that’s the goal, you won’t have access to spaces like this.”
“He wants you to experience [the drugs] and be safe, and understand yourself as a result of it,” said Bruno. “I don’t want to call him a supplier, I feel like that term implies he’s just selling it willy nilly and that isn’t what he’s doing … He provides the outlet in a safe, controlled manner.” Comparing Prometheus to some of the sellers where he’s from in east Brooklyn, where he said K2 is often sold as weed, Bruno said the intention behind the sale makes all the difference.
Lola appreciated what Prometheus had created. “I normally use psychedelics by myself or in very small groups,” she said. “I really appreciated this setting because it was definitely scary but also really awesome and powerful, in the ways we connected as humans.”
“The goal is not to commodify these drugs and put them into the market, and make profit from them,” she added. “If that’s the goal, you won’t have access to spaces like this.”
“It’s having access to safe substances that can connect us to our higher purpose. And really help us create a beautiful world that’s not just dictated by money. I think a lot of people found it in that room. We left that party hugging each other and crying and feeling so hopeful about humanity and our future.”
*All names have been changed to protect privacy.