Ayahuasca Ceremony? Tripping on Wha?
They say the Ayahuasca ceremony is a medicinal one —
“So we need a purpose and we need to wear all white and abstain from meat, sex, onions, garlic and what else!?” I asked my friend Flor, in surprise. The list of requirements for the ayahuasca ceremony was unique to say the least. Additionally spending the Saturday night before my 27th birthday in the jungle around a fire tripping on spiritual medicine instead of partying on a rooftop party is once in a lifetime chance. Right?
“I’m doing it! It’s on my bucket list. I’ll just fast for 2 days straight so I don’t puke.” And that’s what I did. Of course I still puked…
All of the responses I got from friends and family ranged from the what is that? to the Awesome! even to “You know 10% of the people who take that die?” Even my father’s response, after explaining what it is, “Now don’t go turnin’ into a junkie son”, in Lithuanian of course.
So what is it?
Ayahuasca or yagé (pronounced here Jah-hay), according to Wikipedia is extracted from this vine along with any variation of other vines and barks which diversifies the concoctions effects and varies from tribe to tribe. From what I understand, in it’s most common form, it’s a brown liquid with a strong but slightly bitter flavor.
According to the Taita
The Shaman, or taita (tie-tah), or as they’re called here, explained in great depth the ayahuasca ceremony from a spiritual and medicinal perspective.
The medicine seeps into your body and draws out the negativity and disease. Any negativity you experience is a result of the medicine exhuming it. The longer you can hold in the medicine the better, but do not force it. If it has to come out, it has to come out… If you don’t feel it, you’re free to consume it again.
The most important requirement of participating in the ayahuasca ceremony was to come with a purpose. Quitting drugs, overcoming depression or searching for a purpose, it can be anything. I’ll just say that this wasn’t just to trip balls for me.
How did I even get myself into this?
It all started with creating a bucket list (because I’m jobless now and I really have nothing better to do). And the chance took hold with an invitation from a friendly coworker who made some friends at a poetry night in the mountains. She gave me the dates and details, and I was in!
Four days later. Having abstained from marijuana since Tuesday, and from everything but water since Thursday, we were ready. I arrived at my friends place where there was an older man waiting for us in his aged apple red car to take us up to the mountains. I never would’ve found this place on my own. We got there early. By writing come at 7pm, they obviously meant come at 9. Oh well time to meditate…
The people started trickling in. Eventually around 25 people showed up. That guy has a tribal looking bandana, is he the shaman? No, keep waiting. “Patience, do your thing”, I kept telling myself enduring the sense of anxiousness & curiosity.
Finally our taita Henry appeared. He gave his introduction, answered any questions and then we proceeded.
The whole beginning I was like a lost puppy trying to figure out “Am I supposed to put my blanket here? No the girls are under hut… Ok, I go to that side.” I’ve been starving myself for this, when’s it actually start? Hence we cleared the place to make room for our blankets and sleeping bags and I continued to wander between my friend Flor, the fire and my sleeping space.
That brown powder you snort
A guide came by with long wooden pipe which he repeatedly: dug into a brownish powder, placed that end into one of your nostrils, told you to close your throat and breathe through your mouth, then blew the powder straight up that chute! Then repeated the process for your other nostril. Another Note: I asked the guides if this was normal in all rituals and he told me that it depends on the cultures of the group once more.
The purpose of this powdered tobacco mixture was to calm the mind and prepare it for the medicinal drink. And boy did that powder make you want to sneeze, spit and everything in between! Nothing psychedelic, yet it did the job of relaxing you some more.
The Beginning of the Ayahuasca Ceremony
Twenty minutes passed and suddenly came my turn. I approached the taita, clasped the cup with this strange brown liquid in it. I downed my dosage and felt the heaviness of the medication sink down my body. Then walked back to await it.
You have no way of knowing how it will affect you the first time. I hadn’t eaten/drunken anything but water for over 48 hours at that point and expected it to act quickly. Several minutes passed, then 10, then 25, then 40 and nothing. “Maybe this doesn’t have any effect on me” I thought. I proceeded to close my eyes and BOOM!
If words could explain, then my closed eyelids were a canvas for a myriad of the most complex shapes and colors. Spirals and chassis rotating around each other, everything built up by pieces, all interconnected with one another. Open your eyes and your back to the real world. For me the hallucinations only happened when I closed my eyes.
The people around you
While I was beginning my journey I noted how certain other individuals were seemingly knocked out into a dream almost instantly. Poor fellow to my left was having a nightmare, battling some evil dragons within I’m sure. Others had to vomit within minutes of consuming. The sound of vomiting was ever present, yet it didn’t muddle my experience.
The people’s interactions between each other were very limited; it was a personal journey.
They say if you’re struggling within, to stare at the fire. The yellow of the light will lift you up. And so I did, letting the light reveal manifestations upon the movie screens of my closed eyelids (I guess that must have been the DMT talking). And so it continued for 3 long hours, staring blindly at the flames thinking about anything and everything all at once.
Give her back when you’re done using her
And just like that! Within a moments notice, like a volcano my throat closed up and I knew… It was coming out… I puked out every drop of medicine I took in. I had to laugh. Crouching there on all fours over a bucket of puke, I had the cliché realization.
You take mother nature’s medicine, she helps you find your purpose through the night, and you give her back when you’re done.
Believe it or not, through the chaos of the visions I found my purpose. What is this jobless 27-year old’s purpose here in Colombia now? I decided I want to help people appreciate what they do have.
After alleviating myself, there was no more heaviness in my stomach. The guitar was being played as the taita sung aloud. The bristling shake of beads reverberating around his legs and neck. You could not help but move with the music. I’m embarrassed to use the cliché picture, but yes, it did feel like this.
I continued to enjoy my journey as I could notice the visuals gradually becoming less. The effects were apparent but winding down over the next four hours as I tried to get some shut eye after speaking to the fire. It was impossible to lull my imagination trying to fall asleep. The next thing I know, the sky has dawned and the time had come for the closing ayahuasca ceremony.
In turn, the taita concluded the ritual for each of us. He cleansed our body with incensed smoke, spraying us up-and-down with some liquid while chanting divinations. Around each person one at a time, as the music permeated our lungs. And so came to a close to the ritual…
We bade each fellow traveler our farewells as we left the camp. Some will say that ayahuasca changes your life drastically. Ayahuasca didn’t apply some Lord Kelvin Instagram on my life, but hey, it’s the small changes that add up. There I was, walking back down the mountain, heading home. All I felt was calm, hunger and how I’m going to ravage that dessert I prepared the day before…
My thoughts on the Ayahuasca Ceremony
Unlike certain drugs there’s no come down from Ayahuasca. I can remember with complete clarity what I saw the night before. Furthermore as a person with a guilty conscience, I feel no sense of regret or shame for doing it.
It’s not for everyone, and you have to know and trust the group your doing it with. From what I’ve heard, there do exist inexperienced shamans who don’t know how strong their brew is, and it can be harmful for a first-timer. Know your taita, make sure your taita understands that it’s your first time at an Ayahuasca ceremony and you’ll be fine.
It’s not for everyone, but for others the Ayahuasca ceremony is an age old tradition of self healing and being one with nature. Have you heard about any Ayahuasca myths? Share them in the comments below, I’m curious to hear!