Trip report (wham bam thank you):
Third time drinking ayahuasca with the local curandero. The first two sessions were ritual and moments of acquaintance with each other and with the plant spirit. With concentration and focus we encountered ayahuasca faintly in a dream like trance. El curandero kept saying that there was only one plant in the drink – he only works with one plant at a time, although he is well versed in a wide range of plants, including San Pedro and the dangerous Angel’s Trumpet:
Ayahuasca is both a vine and the name of the drink, which is the vine brewed with other plants. Ayahusca, the plant, does not contain strong psychedelic substances. But it contains harmala, which inhibits enzymes (MAO) in the stomach, which would otherwise neutralise the psychoactive compounds of other plants:
“Ayahuasca, an entheogenic brew traditionally used in strict ritual context by South American native tribes, is a mixture of Banisteriopsis caapi, a vine containing various harmala alkaloids, and another plant containing N,N-DMT or 5-MeO-DMT alkaloids, usually Psychotria viridis or Diplopterys cabrerana. Modern, western analogues to ayahuasca often substitute Syrian Rue for B. caapi and Mimosa hostilis as a DMT source. As DMT is inactive orally on its own, it must be combined with an MAOI when taken orally in order to cause psychedelic effects. ”
Therefore the ayahuasca vine is not a psychedelic substance in the conventional sense, since “all” it does is to incapacitate some enzymes in your stomach:
Once the enzymes are ruled out of the metabolic game the DMT, which can be found “everywhere in the world”, is let loose upon the body and mind. Hence ayahuasca -the drink- is a very potent cocktail. But he kept saying that we were working only with one plant, the ayahuasca vine – was that why the other two sessions were so mild, were we mainly generating a trance-like state through concentration and meditation?
Later I realised that I had missed the signs – the intentionality in his wrist as he quickly poured me three times as much as he had himself just had, twice as much as he afterwards gave Colona, and that it was his mother who had brewed the ayahuasca, since he’d been too busy-, as I was lying on the floor in my own vomit fluctuating between here and there, between a frightening, scary, all-consuming state of desesperacion in which my body, soul, mind had ceased to have meaning and where language made no sense, and another equally scary, yet humorous state in which I could perceive myself to be in the other state just described.
We drank at around a quarter past nine in the evening – ayahuasca is best drunk in the dark. After 45 minutes and with no conviction to focus and meditate to meet the ayahusaca spirit I went for a pee outside the little hut, across the volley ball pitch, walking away from the river that snakes past the little hut where we also held the first two sessions.
As I was just about to attend to nature’s call I felt a peculiar sensation in my legs, in my thighs. Instantly the bodily memory of DMT smoking experienced enveloped my entire being in the realisation that “Fuck, this is the real thing – buckle up, ’cause your reality is going bye-bye!” – I staggered back into the hut and sat down. Colona was bend over in her chair, her head buried in her arms, when she looked oddly up at me and said “I am on something, just so that you know..” referring to the conversation we had had about the drink – that with only one plant it could not work. The doubt and lack of trust that we had exhibited might have made him pour me a large portion, and the desesperacion, as the curandero called the fearful phase of the trip, was enhanced because the ayahuasca spirit wanted to teach me a lesson – so he explained later.
“I know”, I answered to the curled up Colona, “I am also having impact” – a few minutes later I asked if she was alright, if she needed help, which she didn’t – but I did. I was helped to lie on the floor and the journey began.
The tickling in the legs was like chain-reacting bio-photonic explosions radiating outwards into the entire body, from a million centres of origin to infinity – imagine fractal hallucinations explode inside your flesh and blood disintegrating your soul, body, mind and all that is you -and all that is the world that you know- disappears.
Lying there with nothing left to lose I shifted between open and closed eyes – soon the internal would be too scary and deep inside the dark forces, soon the opened eyes would remind me of me, my body and my mind: what is to become of it all??
This lasted about half an hour. After 15 minutes I begged for some softening and he went to work with his rituals and routines, singing, humming, hushing, shaking his leaf-brush in rhythmic motions, rubbing my face in puro (distilled sugar cane). The trip state for the curandero is a poetic space that can be navigated with song and dance and it felt good. Maybe I felt better because I was clinging to his leg with both arms, digging my nails and teeth deep into his thighs, saying in his name in love and faithful devotion. He giggled.
Later he’d tell that in the moment when I was losing faith in my (mental) survival a condor-like creature arrived and hovered above my desparate body for protection.
That made him calm and content that all was well. He also vomited violently, and I thought we were all doomed, poisoned, even though in the next moment I’d laugh at my fear and speak something to the effect of being ok. Sort of knowing it was “just a trip”. It was so difficult to find eyes, move hands and control language – all was futile.
After half an hour I crawled back up into the chair and shared a spliff with the curandero; and Colona, who had been focused on helping me was now lying in her own internal visions, and I began to feel my body again as something that belonged to me.
I sighed and breathed deeply and thought it had been a wild trip. Then I began to realise that I was still in DMT-world – in the eye of the storm. It made me laugh, I was still totally tripping, breathing fractal geometry and dancing with the spirits. Very peceptive and very good eyes. Focus, claridad. I began to stagger around in the hut, then out on the beach. The thoughts were parading through my mind, there was a colourful hue beaming from a circular frame laid upon my field of vision, – all coherent and meaningful. It was amazing, I was filled with love and lust for life – problems and questions stored up inside were dealt with, mostly successfully. Intent to live, content. Ready for direct action in life. Anything was possible – what a powerful plant!
Music came on from a hut across the volley pitch – the bartender was drunk by himself in the closed bar in the middle of the night and he played very loud music which was so beautifully felt inside my skin. I danced in the dark rain forest and felt fantastic. This was maybe another hour into the trip. I began to feel the forest and the river and I felt my body differently – it was not the body of yesterday, but of yesteryear, of ten years ago when I’d enthusiastically roam the jungle and mountains in India in mystical explorations. I had found myself in the way that I liked much better: fresh, open, welcomingly and welcomed. “You have energies from everywhere in the world”, el curandero had observed when I was rollin’ in vomit, “now you have also met the energy of the forest and you will begin to understand this place”. He knew.
I walked back into the hut and sat down on the floor and closed my eyes and journeyed through intellectual landscapes, which seemed to be what I mostly encountered, not so strange since I am in the middle of writing a PhD.
Colona was lying quietly and travelling in the spirit world by the wall, el curandero was sitting bend over in his chair and had been for maybe half an hour, obviously far from this place and his body he had taken advantage of our gained autonomy to perform the art of dreaming. I sat in the dark magic hut, with my back to the Coke sign up against the wall, towards the loud music, with my back to el curandero. The energy was stronger inside, in the dark, shielded from the sky to where the flows had reached when I was outside, there was a firmer connection. The extreme exhilaration of DMT permits you to go on walkabouts, but for seriously practicing the art of dreaming one has to sit or lie. The explorations of space and the body, however, were very liberating and it was while moving that I found the forest in me. Throughout the entire trip there was a humming, echoing sound that circumscribed everything, like a ring of fire on your perception, like nitrous ringing steadily. Still I sat in the same spot.
Then, suddenly, I saw and felt the energy of a bat coming past me, flying almost in slow-motion, and a slightly bending curve. It was past me and judging by its curve must have been on its way out of hut and across the river, just after passing el curandero, just behind me. Before I could gather all these thoughts and organise them into an interpretation of what happened, from behind me he loudly uttered “shyeeewww“, which is a sound he uses a lot to facilitate the energy flows of the ayahuasca spirit — and it was so clear, with no great marvel, simply accepted, understood and seen, that he had been away for half an hour and just returned in the spirit of a bat. I sat for a while still. The thought patterns were getting more and more academic so I tried to find paper and pen. The first attempt was futile, language in the mind was fine now, but on paper? Outside in space? Half an hour later I scribbled 10-20 pages of half and full sentences, questions, answers, concepts – both thesis stuff and about ayahuasca.
When reading Casteneda and the story of Milarepa I much enjoyed their exploits, but always understood the stories about journeying in the spirit of animals as poetic metaphor only – now my distinction between metaphor and reality no longer made sense. I will return to this in another entry called “Obfuscating the Details” in which we on David Graeber’s inspiration shall revisit the Greek dispute between substance and flow.
Around 2am it was fizzling out – we talked for another two hours and then we walked home, all feeling satisfied. Us with our strong trips and him with added power from observing our way of dealing with it. “It helps me” he said.
The trip, then, looked like this:
- Previous day: mentally preparing for fasting
- Morning – a bit of yoghurt and fruit
- Day – fasting, resting (had been up late)
- Leave home around eight o’clock
- 20.15 – arriving, chatting about the upcoming curandero assamblea
- 21.15 – we drink
- 22.00 – impact
- 22.15 – close encounter, rushing through spirit world, body flapping in cosmic storms
- Between 23 and midnight – regaining body and mind
- Until 2-3 – still in the eye of the storm
- From 2 to 4 – sharing ideas, poetic analysis, entering a psychedelic community
- The following day – still a strong mental focus and when adding cannabis it is greatly enhanced, alcohol also enhances, but maybe burns the positive energy away too quickly.
We agreed that we would have to drink again soon. For us this was the definite point of departure: we had embraced ayahuasca and wanted more of her power, which seems to make you (more) mentally stable and able. More sensitive to the world. And it is a great self-psycho-analytical tool. Next time, however, we decided, we’d approach the threshold of complete disintegration from the bottom – that is, with a smaller dosis and add more if needed. Now we have to work seriously with focus and concentration, not roll in desparate fear and vomit.
For el curandero the state of desesperacion was a common experience when he first began to drink around 20-25 years ago (he is now around 40), but nowadays he seldomly experiences it. You need to practice and you need to come to terms with the ayahusca spirit and yourself. If your energy attention is elsewhere the ayahuasca, which is a very jealous spirit, will act up and treat you mean to keep you keen. If you have doubt it will roll all over you like a freight train, in an offended manner.
The amazing thing about the ayahuasca culture in the Amazon is the embedded, balanced, embodied and community supported ability of the curandero to make sense in poetic terms of the outerworldly and outerbodily. As if all psychedelic memories, the European fragments of old and the contemporary psychonautic mess, were coming together: there is a language and a whole way of being in the world associated with the marvellous effect of the “vine of death”. It was clear that when he said “one plant only” he didn’t mean it in the way we understood it, for there was certainly something going on!
The whole next day I was in top shape – my mind was still on course. I read the really great introduction to “The Napo Runa of Amazonian Ecuador” by Michael Uzendoski, which helped it all fall into place. Excellent book, a must read for Amazonia dabblers. It was as if the ability to know and see and feel and think it all was never going to end. I had finally arrived in the Amazon, finally I began to feel the place and that there was meaning in my presence. What I had so far just perceived as a sub-suburban beach had been transformed into the quintessential rain forest in a spiritual embrace. I was in the Amazon and I felt welcome.
We met with friends and had a dinner minga (cooking and eating together), seven people, three bottles of wine and a few beers in a reforestation foundation’s house. We spoke excitedly about ayahuasca, San Pedro, prayed to Shiva, discussed philosophy of psychedelics, language (French, German, English, Spanish, Kichwa and even Danish were spoken) and planned a picnic to the magic cave. The second day there was a little left in the morning, then it almost all went with lunch. But something stays – the encounter with the ayahuasca spirit leaves you charged with what feels like an accumulative energy. If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger.
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