Tripping in the Peruvian Jungle: An Experience with Mother Ayahuasca
The sun has set in the Peruvian jungle and I am sitting on one of the mattresses laid out along the wooden walls of the maloca – a traditional round ceremonial hut – listening to the sounds of the wild outside and trying to collect my thoughts. Five others are there in the circle and two shamans are preparing the setting by torchlight. The old shaman blows mapacho (jungle tobacco) into the air, flicks fragrant water onto the ground with palm leaves and whistles softly. Then he pours a dark, thick liquid into a wooden cup. The second shaman slowly carries the cup to the first one in the circle. Rhys holds it, silently putting his wishes into the cup before he raises it with a “Salut Maestro” and drinks the brew.
One by one everyone in the circle gets their cup and suddenly it’s my turn. I stare into the black decoction filling up the cup and silently ask to be guided to love. “Salut Maestro.” The taste isn’t as bad as I had feared, just very strange and somewhat bitter. Then the torch is turned off and we sit back in the darkness, waiting.
Many claim that Mother Ayahuasca has given them life-changing visions and say that you can access other dimensions or have out-of-body experiences. Some say they have faced death.
After a while Don Lucho starts again to whistle softly, and I think I can feel the tips of my fingers tingling with energy. I start to see some tiny faint rainbows erupting from random points in the darkness and after watching it for a few moments, I think to myself somewhat detached: “Yup, I’m definitely tripping” and am on my way to meet Mother Ayahuasca.
According to the indigenous Amazonian people, Ayahuasca (the soul vine) is medicine; a journey inside leading to deep insights, spiritual awakening and enlightenment. On a less spiritual level it is said to get rid of your fears by facing them, heal traumas, depression, addictions and even physical conditions like cancer. Many claim that Mother Ayahuasca has given them life-changing visions and say that you can access other dimensions or have out-of-body experiences. Some say they have faced death.
Whichever way you see it, it’s certainly not a recreational drug and needs to be treated with respect in a proper setting; preferably under the protection of at least one experienced shaman guiding your visions with spirit songs called Icaros, a system of communication between shamans and spirits.
I’m a drug virgin and have no idea what to expect so I just sit there and try to keep an open mind. The whistling changes into a gentle song accompanied by rhythmically rattling palm leaves, and I start to see more colorful, intricate patterns behind my closed eyes. I lean back and enjoy the show. Every now and again I see fantastic things like a beautiful black panther with bright orange tiger-striped ears and a blue glowing tail but mostly it’s spinning patterns and fractals like in a kaleidoscope and I see the sounds of the Icaros in those patterns.
My head is spinning with the visuals and I soon lose sense of time. At some point I can feel the typical purging coming up and move closer to the vomit bucket next to my mattress. I don’t feel sick but quite out of place sitting there as if in two worlds at once and never quite sure if the bucket is still there. When I spew it’s not gut wrenching as others had described it but it tastes absolutely foul. According to the shamans what we vomit during the ceremony is the physical manifestation of negative energy; the more comes out the better.
After that I lie down, curling up into fetus position, smiling and profoundly grateful for the feeling. The trip becomes more intense. The patterns have faded but I am carried to places, people and situations I won’t be able to recall afterwards. It doesn’t feel pleasant all the time and I have to tell myself that everything is okay and that the trip will end at some point. Focusing on the Icaros helps to keep me away from negative feelings. At some point I think “I am a frequency” and my body starts to shake with the rhythm of the Icaros “to align with the frequency.” (Those are my thoughts during the trip, and even in that state, I don’t quite understand what that means.)
According to the shamans what we vomit during the ceremony is the physical manifestation of negative energy; the more comes out the better.
It feels as if countless spirits and souls are present, and when I open my eyes I am surprised to still be in the temple. But even with my eyes open, it’s only my rational mind telling me that not more people are there.
Then I hear a voice next to me: “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” I hear myself reply, surprised that I am still able to communicate in such a mundane way.
“Are you sleeping?”
“Can you feel it?”
And then he moves on to Corey who has been throwing up the whole time – lots of karmic charge as they’ll explain later. I try to follow the conversation and feel pretty good about being able to focus on my surroundings if I choose to. I start to relax when I realize that the trip won’t get any more intense and feel soothed by the seemingly repetitive Icaros.
Then I start to imagine my friends in front of me and am amazed at how clearly I can see their faces. I imagine them happy, lighthearted and laughing, send them positive energy and tell them how much I love them, which, in turn, makes me feel very connected and blessed.
After three hours, a voice says that the ceremony is over and that we should go back to our huts. It comes as a surprise and I am not sure if I really heard the voice. Then I am asked if I can walk. I try to get up but the ground seems to move and I fall over twice before I manage to stand on weak legs, shaking like a newborn foal. People have turned on their torches, and I see crazy flashes where the light meets the dark.
It feels as if countless spirits and souls are present, and when I open my eyes I am surprised to still be in the temple.
Corey is still spewing up. The shamans lead us outside and back through the jungle to our huts. I see all kinds of things in the dark between the trees: a pale hand coming out of the ground and a swarm of butterflies of light in front of me. Then a group of old indigenous men sitting around a fire next to an imagined river, looking at us calmly as we pass, fully aware that we exist in two different realities.
None of it seems scary and I just enjoy feeling the energy of the jungle and the spirits around me. Not able to focus on more than one step at a time it feels like a very long walk back but we finally reach the hut where I get comfortable on the bed while the shamans are taking care of Corey who is still sick.
Photo credit: Dimitry B