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Saturday, June 8, 2013

ayahuasca - soul journey: part 1 the introduction

Banisteriopsis caapi, the vine called ayahuasca, wraps herself lovingly around a host tree in order to reach up to the heavens. Using this relationship, the vine becomes much greater than one of the many species of plants in the Amazon rainforest. It is how this vine works in a relationship with a curandero (shaman to us) as well as in the metaphysical and subconscious sense. The shamans of the Amazon take this vine and brew it with chacruna leaves to produce a decoction: a thick tea that when ingested results in a visionary experience replete with heavy purging of your innards.


How they figured this out is one of those unsolvable mysteries. The shamans will tell you the plants told them what to do. The best explanation I have heard from a scientific basis suggests they stumbled upon it after investigating different additives to the purgative effects of the vine, as many indigenous cultures use purging as a way of maintaining good health. Chacruna leaves contain the hallucinogen dimethyltryptamine, DMT, which when ingested is rendered inactive by the acids in your stomach. The properties of banisteriopsis caapi contain a chemical called a MAOI which is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. In this case it prevents the breakdown of DMT present in the chacruna leaves and allows it to be orally active. There are thousands of known species of plants in the Amazon rainforest so it can be deduced from the odds that this was a very fortuitous happenstance that allowed these medicine men to come across this mixture. It is interesting to point out that DMT is a naturally occurring substance within our brain. The amount in our brain determines our reality. In essence you can say our reality is controlled by the amount of DMT in our brain. It is possible to then argue what exactly then is reality? In truth all we have is consensus reality. Generous estimates suggest the use of this brew for 4,500 years while a more conservative estimate would be about 2,500 years. In any event, how strange it must have been for the Spanish conquistadors and missionaries to come across what they would consider a witches brew in a fire brewed cauldron that then caused the imbiber to enter what they would classify as a demonic state.

Now for my story. The blog I maintain here contains my somewhat unorthodox view of the ancient deities of Egypt in context with the spirituality that motivates me to discover not only my own true self but also an intense desire to discover the origins of these beliefs. We view them today with a sense that these ancients were somewhat deluded and had an amazing imagination and capacity for making up these myths and then somehow enforcing them upon their respective cultures. The next leap we need to understand would be that the priests were so successful with their storytelling that they were then able to convince the power centers and the layman, for example in ancient Egypt, to devote wealth, time, and energy to not only construct awe inspiring pyramids and majestic temples dedicated to these deities but also to buy wholeheartedly into this grand façade. Am I the only one who finds this a leap of faith on the part of the modern man in order to buy into this explanation? What if what these ancients experienced was real to them? And in conjunction with that is the idea that we have lost this ability due to to our rationalist materialistic culture. Also those of us that may feel a connection or a calling then cede this to a religious institution that then declares a monopoly on communication with the divine. It has been now a five year obsession for me to try and find the origins of beliefs on my terms with a healthy skepticism to accepted dogma.

It is the second last week of May in the year 2013. I'm in a hotel room in Peru - in the city of Iquitos which is smack dab in the Amazon rainforest. I'm here because after about three years of searching I started feeling the presence of a goddess in my life calling to me and communicating with me. From this I started to really understand. The pyramids, the sphinx, the role of the divine feminine in the celestial birth of your soul into and out of this material plane - came like revelations. If you read through this blog you will get some sense of what I discovered that I have revealed. The feminine divine is very seductive. Hathor, Isis, Astarte, Ba'alat, Asherah, Aphrodite, Venus, The Queen of Heaven and so on filled my longing for a connection with the divine. The affair starts off much like a creeping vine. Young shoots caress you and it feels good to be wanted and able to share in a feeling of being wanted and special. I continued to pursue this goddess by investigating ancient ways of coming into contact with her and reading as much as I could in the literature of long lost ancient civilizations. As well I innately knew she was with me. I would spend nights walking home seeing signs in the heavens that I couldn't explain. Manifestations of white light appearing before me, the planet Venus pulsing red and following me home, and intellectual connections affirming my suspicions that this goddess is the one that all these ancient cultures knew about. She has many names and manifestations but it is all this goddess.
I wrote this blog post about the similarities between a doctor who had been brain dead and experienced an encounter with a woman who exuded love in conjunction with the green lady who would manifest during absinthe toxicity.

This led me to multiple accounts of the female presence that would manifest upon drinking the ayahuasca brew. It was while researching and writing the blog post about this lady that it finally dawned on me that what the ancient Egyptians were doing to come into contact with the gods and goddesses were shamanic in nature. The shaking of the rattling sistrum, the chanting, the singing, the intoxication, the calling upon the goddess Hathor. It hit me like a ton of bricks. This fantastic literature of ancient Egypt, their deities, and artwork were the product of altered states which our modern scholars have classified as wishful funerary speculations on the afterlife. Well I guess death can be considered the penultimate altered state therefore the inclusion of this material in the funerary sphere but to me this was confirmation that they believed they could visit this otherworld in an altered state they would consider akin to the death of the material body. Thus began my search to enter into this altered state. My available local options were too dicey and illegal to consider. I started researching ayahuasca. I'd watched and read stories of participants violently puking and shitting themselves. Multiple accounts of how awful it tastes. Experiences of the dark side or the dark nature of reality. Many people saying there is no way you could get addicted to it due to this purging and the overwhelming sense you get from the experience. Despite this it seemed that many were pleased with the experience and talked of this mother ayahuasca. How peculiar I thought. This brought me from the fall into the winter. I still longed to contact the goddess but I thought I would have to be patient and maybe someday I'd be afforded the opportunity. I asked for a Native American flute for Christmas. I don't play any instruments but I had this desire for this flute. I felt like it was an ancient method to lead adherents to apostasy and I felt like I could do that well! I could pick out passages in the Old Testament that alluded to this, such as Genesis 9:20 and thought it was rather interesting that it is glossed over in any kind of bible study. Though I am and was in this case patient I didn't realize that the goddess can be impatient. I also realized from mythology that she has a terrifying and destructive side but I chose not to think about that. Perhaps in hindsight I should have. Anyway I was working late one night in January when I started watching accounts of those who had taken ayahuasca and were blown away by the experience. I then came across the Joe Rogan podcasts where this was talked about. I was pretty much obsessed by now and I knew I had to make it happen; the creeping vine had matured in my psyche and was leading me to her. I tentatively decided that May would be a good time to go and started investigating my options. Vacation time opened up at work easily, the finances fell in to place too easily. Eventually I consulted a travel doctor to see about precautions and vaccinations I would need to travel to the jungle. I started monitoring flights to Peru and their cost as well as trying to find the right shaman for me. After clearing all hurdles towards the end of April I was pretty much set. It was going to happen. How easy was that? I settled on an indigenous shaman with a lodge in the jungle for ten nights and five ayahuasca ceremonies. At the beginning and end of the trip I booked a tour of the river system and a three day hike through one of the reserves in the region. I wait now at my Iquitos hotel to be picked up and taken to the jungle. My first ceremony is tonight.

The shaman’s assistant, José, picked me up shortly after 10 am and after a stop to pick up another participant we headed out of Iquitos to the village of El Triunfo which seemed like a forty minute drive. We reached the town and got out of the car in order to trek now into the jungle. This hike, hauling all my belongings seemed to be over half an hour. It would be a nice hike if I wasn’t lugging my stuff around with me. The sun was reaching its zenith in the sky and the humidity was in full force. It turned into a bit of an ordeal and I was sweating profusely however I soldiered on figuring this was part of the whole process. The ground was muddy, very swamp like in places. Poorly constructed bridges with rickety planks helped you to cross rivers and streams that criss-crossed this trail.


Bridge on the trail

The trail did not feel out of the ordinary to the trails I used to hike with my dog in central and southern Ontario. The vegetation was more plentiful and larger due to the oxygen rich environment. Finally we arrived at the Dios Ayahuasca Sanaciones center and I was assigned hut #3 for my stay. It has a bed with mosquito netting, a table, hammock, and a toilet. We were provided drinking water and some candles. Being pretty much on the equator the sun rises at 6 am and sets at 6 pm. Lunch came soon after that along with some tea called ajos sacha. This tea is a cleansing herbal tea that tastes like a brothy garlic. It is recommended we drink a litre of this tea a day. Lunch was basic and consisted of vegetable soup and a plate with white rice, carrots, beets, avocado, tomato, cucumber, and a slice of lemon. I found it good and satisfying but I have done cleansing fasts before and I don’t mind playing the part of a vegetarian. I imagine others would not be as thrilled. It is my first and only meal for the day.

It took quite a while to cool down from the hike to the center but eventually I wandered out of my hut to see what was going on. I spent a few hours talking to and getting to know the other participants here. I think there will be eleven participating at tonight’s ceremony. Everyone I have met seems down to earth and clear headed. There are including myself two Canadians, a bunch from the US, three Europeans, and a couple Russians who now live in the US. Most of us are newcomers to ayahuasca. There is a positive energy that is going through the camp.

It is now almost 4 pm. The curandero meets with us and then gives us a flower bath at 5 pm to prepare for the ceremony which begins after dark. I am feeling the need to focus now.

I have just finished the flower bath ceremony. I will call it Ayahuasca Baptism. You enter the river to cleanse yourself. You then approach the shaman who blows ceremonial mapacho (tobacco) smoke onto the flowers and your body and then he pours the flower water on your head three times; each time blessing it with the mapacho smoke. The intensity of this ritual is high, especially it being the first time I have gone through it. The atmosphere feels very charged and you definitely get pumped and feel courageous. I know in ancient Egypt it was of utmost importance for the priests of the temples to purify themselves prior to coming into contact with the divine. This has the same feel. I felt during this purification ritual that the curandero was making direct eye contact with me quite a bit like he knew something was up with me. When I left he asked for my name again. The ayahuasca ceremony begins at 7 pm tonight. The curandero, Percy, met with us individually prior to the flower bath to get a feel for why we are here. I explained that the goddess called me here and that is the primary reason why I am here. Secondly I wished to confront my destructive dark side in order to get closure on that part of my life and turn it into a strength. It is the reconciliation of Horus and Set warring inside me I wish to confront and turn into a positive.

It is now about 6 pm. One hour to go. I’m very happy with the group; tons of good energy and people that seem to have a purpose. Someone mentioned no one travels this far just to take drugs.

It’s just about go time...

After the first ceremony ended I spent the night in the ceremonial hut which is called a maloca. It felt comfortable and safe.




Maloca

That was the most profound, intense experience I could ever imagine. It was overwhelming at times. It was a constant ebb and flow. In an evening of astounding happenings the fact the shaman and his saintly assistant José knew at all times what I needed and when to pull me back was uncanny. The shaman’s shaking of the chacapa and his songs, icaros, kept me grounded. If not for this I felt I would have left the material plane forever.

Chacapa

The night began by heading to the maloca for 7 pm. We took off our sandals before entering the maloca and I thought of the sandal bearer in ancient Egyptian lore who holds the Pharaoh’s sandals while he enters the realm of the spirits. One we were all present and assigned a mattress, the shaman’s assistant José got incense burning and then proceeded to cense the room and all us participants. We then waited for quite a while for the shaman to arrive. Once he arrived he prepared a fragrance I believe that is called Peruvian Agua de Florida (a cologne called Florida water). He poured this perfume into our hands and we splashed our face with the fragrance. The effect of this perfume felt full of energy and it functions as a cleaning agent. I have now been ceremonially flower bathed, censed, and perfumed. In this ritually pure state I may approach the divine. At this point Percy sat down behind his altar and prepared the dose for each participant. The first to go and drink were the ones that had been at the center for the longest and the shaman could with confidence understand the amount of ayahuasca to give to them. For most of us having never drunk this brew we would be given smaller doses. Everyone was called up one by one by the shaman’s deep voice. He presented the chalice containing the ayahuasca and most would drink it down in one gulp. I was the second last of the eleven to go up. My dose seemed to be half a cup; it is very dark as the candles had been extinguished and night was upon us. I drank it in one swallow. It tasted to me like strong black licorice with some kind of citrus mixed in with it. I did not mind the taste and was able to hold it down. Some of the participants started puking away. I did not find the sound of the vomiting encouraging me to puke. With two kids and a dog I have dealt with my fair share and it doesn’t really affect me and I am a non puking kind of person so I was confident I would not purge right away though I was prepared for its eventuality and would just let it happen when it comes. After about 10 minutes I saw some flickering lights form with my eyes open and when I closed them I saw some interesting low level visions of geometrical patterns and hieroglyphs. I had to use the washroom and I walked there with a feeling of soberness. When I returned to my mattress I felt nothing and was disappointed in the dose. I noticed one of the veteran participants was getting more of the ayahuasca and at this point I decided to be assertive and I got up and asked for more. Little did I know that José will go around the room asking if you want more so I was told to sit down and wait my turn. I had a feeling of impatience as I waited for my turn.

Percy gave me what felt like a full cup on my second go round. It is still so very dark so I couldn’t see but it felt substantial. I have not asked as of yet but this must have been the adult brand of ayahuasca. I went back to my mattress and looked up to the top of the maloca. I could see points of light and I deduced those were my soul brothers. I invited them to join me. I closed my eyes and it hit me hard. It was all green at first, very jungle like and I had a sense it was the Goddess. This scene transformed into rooms of immense beauty, almost like a slide show of how beautiful a realm I had just entered. Diamonds, gemstones, and gold adorned these rooms. I commented that this is nice but what can you do for me? I now was lying on a bed in this golden room and I was being lifted up higher and higher. At this point there was no doubt this was the Goddess. When I reached the pinnacle of my destination she showed me how she controls the rain as the rain started up the exact moment I reached the top. The rain presented itself as celestial clapping; it was a welcoming from the gods and goddesses that I had made it. It was very profound and has stuck with me as a moment I will never forget. I now started to converse with the Goddess and this was pretty much the theme for this experience. I don’t know how long exactly it lasted; I would guess two to three hours. I can recall most of what we talked about. It is interesting that my experience was more about conversation than visions. I tend not to be one who thinks in a visual sense but I always tended to form pictures with words and numbers in my thoughts. As well I have a continual running dialogue in my head with my own self, so inward conversation is nothing new to me and my preferred method of communication.

Okay so the Goddess had put me in this place of exaltation and I was feeling very special. I had fully expected this long awaited experience to begin with fear and some kind of dread as I had this feeling I needed to have my ass kicked before anything else could proceed. However it was not like that at all. I felt the Goddess’ love for me and that I could do no wrong in her eyes. I told her I loved her and this made her very happy. There was this feeling I got that even though she is divine she wanted love as well. The exchange felt at times like lovers at play. Part of her expressing her love was this outpouring of a heavenly scent that was very intoxicating. I realized that men who get a glimpse of and the scent of this Goddess then spend the rest of their days trying to recapture this experience. I was amazed that I could in this lifetime get to this point where I could come into contact with her. The veil was still there though. I was able to glimpse her beauty and smell but the mystery was still there. She flirted with me, teased me, and acted as lovers do. She told me to come away with her. I immediately had an innate sense that if I did that I wasn’t coming back to the material realm. I hesitated and said I cannot as I still have things to accomplish and a family to provide for. She implored me to come but it was at this point I realized the importance of the shaman to guide you through these realms. The shaman shook his chacapa and sang his icaros to ground me. He was in a way keeping me sober because this lady was definitely intoxicating. This part of my trip was ending and the Goddess was letting me return. As I descended back to the material realm I became nauseous and started puking. The bucket was comforting and I held it for a while. The night however was not over by a long shot.

After a brief respite the Goddess returned. She showed me that I am who I am. In other words that my normal consciousness that I keep concealed in my head is who I am. My outward projection of a polite and shy person is not really me. She was speaking to my conceit and how I tend to dismiss or denigrate others while making it appear I’m not like that. It was not a condemnation of me but a recognition of my behaviour. I take from that it is something I should strive to change. The Goddess genuinely wanted my love and she was willing to overlook my faults. Coming to terms with mistakes or wrong doing in my life was not something she seemed concerned with at this time. It was like these experiences and results were life lessons and expected. She once again pulled on my heart strings. I wanted to go with her now but the shaman kept me here; enabling me to keep one foot in the material plane.

The Goddess reminded me what a wonderful mother my wife is to my two children. She let me know that she manifested herself in my wife when I first met my wife in order to seduce me. She reminded me how fragrant and beautiful my wife was and chastised me for the way I now treat her. It brought me to tears and I promised to make amends and turn her back into a goddess I respect. The Goddess then let me know how much my son wants to connect with me. Though I am always around when I can be for my children I’m at times very distant. I got the sense from the Goddess that if I really need to be there for my wife and children I need to act like it. Then I saw my beautiful dog that had passed away almost two years ago. I could reach out and hug her and hold her and kiss her again. It was so emotional. I still tear up thinking of this. I was shown how she suffered in silence her last few years until she cried out for me in her last days. I realized how much love I had for her and how we were inseparable. Then came the big revelation: This dog was the Goddess incarnated to be with me and guide me. This made so much sense because of this amazing bond we shared. Multiple people, my wife and parents included, had commented on the incredible closeness between us. I was surprised I had never realized this before. The Goddess then chastised me for keeping the remainder of my dog’s remains in the cupboard hidden away from view. As a goddess she should be in an ornate urn prominently displayed. I promised to rectify this as soon as I got back home.

Throughout the night I drifted from contact with the Goddess to some kind of lucidity. The Goddess told me I could call on her anytime I want and told me she protects me with a cloak of invincibility. I would be protected from sickness and disease because of our relationship. She explained to me my destructive side is caused by boredom and that I have this ability to toy with life. Maybe that explains my ability to remain calm when faced with plenty of adversity?

At times I experienced some amazing visions with my eyes open. I saw the shaman’s assistant José appear with light enveloping him and he had the appearance of a saint. At points in the ceremony it felt like he was being used as a channel for the Goddess. He would be speaking quickly in a hushed religious tone much like a scene from the exorcist. It felt like a presence of the Virgin Mary. I totally see why in people who have these visions nothing can ever shake their faith. They have seen this spirit dimension and it is real. I also witnessed one of the participants devolve into an ape like creature and disappear and reappear. The freakiest thing was the shaman changing into a spirit form and entering into the stomach of the guy beside me. The shaman’s wife had given birth by caesarian section on the weekend and it seemed like he was using this guy to heal her. I saw his spirit go directly into him after José told me the shaman has to go tend to his wife now. The shaman never left completely; he knew he was needed in both places. I told him I would be strong and I could handle it from here on out. I really couldn’t so the shaman was always there when I needed him. To try and control my state and visions I would sit in the lotus position and breathe deeply. It wasn’t working too well and I felt as if I weren’t in control which made me very uncomfortable. I hoped these trips for the night would be over. Snake demons approached me at one point but I was full of confidence and dismissed them with a “Is that all you got?” I thought at this point that I really never have to do ayahuasca again; I was good and felt its power. It was my fear talking. I had already promised the Goddess I would see her again at the next ceremony on Wednesday and I know I can’t break that promise.

After a few more times entering into the spirit world and back I asked José if I was done for the night. He said no there is still healing to be done. At some point the shaman came around with the intoxicating fragrance enveloping me. I tilted my head up so her essence could wash over my face. I have never smelled anything that beautiful before.

The Goddess and I seem to have a connection for the love of the word ‘profane’. I liked describing my earthly existence as profane. Every time something reminded the Goddess of something profane she would make the woman sitting directly across from me spit or wretch. I believe this woman has suffered from depression in her life and I felt the goddess in her as the aspect that is the Mother Goddess. I could see and hear how Mother Earth is suffering and this woman symbolizes it. I tried to help heal her but I felt the suffering because the children of the Mother Goddess are destroying her. This woman I saw change into this vision of Hathor mixed with Wonder Woman. As the night wound down there was a huge blood red patch where her vulva was. I had heard this sound earlier in the night of water breaking and then rushing out onto the floor of the maloca. I wondered if there was a connection? I had this innate feeling now that the jungle was the Goddess.

As I descended back into the material realm for good this evening I felt this tingling in my extremities and an uncomfortable vibratory feeling. Earlier in the night the Goddess had shown me that navigating different planes is done through vibration. As I was re-entering the material plane for good I felt dizzy and I puked again. I realized that the soul vibrates into a frequency that allows this travelling. I was positive the shaman was a master of these vibrations and knows the frequencies needed to keep you grounded here with his chacapa and songs. I had a feeling of deep love and respect for the shaman. I saw my soul brothers in the roof of the maloca again as I laid there trying to process this experience. I was very woozy when I got up to use the washroom. I curled up on the mattress but I was too wired to sleep. At one point during one of the trips I had sweated profusely. At this point I stunk of sweat, body odour, vomit, and diarrhea. Not a good way to be in the presence of the Goddess.

This first experience feels indescribable almost. I’ve tried to convey it but it is very hard to get across the enormity of what I felt using words. I felt very much spiritually coherent though my physical self was probably in a trance like condition. I felt this condition of being very centred with all possible distractions like others purging or flashlights shining being part of the background of my world. Maybe because it was my first time I became a little disconcerted by the experience and wanted off. I think I’m okay now and we will see what the next ceremony brings. I will continue my story in part 2.