Last night’s ceremony… First I’ll describe the process a bit. 7:45 pm everyone comes to the maloka (preferably dressed in white) and sits on their assigned mat next to a bucket for vomiting until we start at 8. There are three shamans: Maestro Ricardo, who is the main guy, Maestro Miguel, and Maestra Maria. To help out during the ceremony there are a few facilitators. Felipe doles out the ayahuasca. Joe, Markus, and Cvita watch the room and help people out that are having trouble. Joel keeps track of a lot of the operations and logistics.
|inside the maloka|
When everyone is in place, one by one they go up to Felipe to get their dose. The measuring is very scientific. Ricardo has this glass that was probably part of a dinner set, and it has some pointed lines moulded in the glass that start at the bottom and go an arbitrary distance up the side. A pour all the way to the top of the lines is a full dose, but almost no one does that much. A more standard pour would be half way up the lines and called “medio”. All of the new people were served a bit less than a quarter. It tastes very earthy like Chinese herbal medicine, only very thick and sludge-like.
After your dose you return to your mat and wait for everyone else to get theirs, after which the lights are turned off and everyone lays in the dark quietly waiting for the medicine to take effect. When the medicine start to hit, Maestro Ricardo begins singing, and throughout the night the shamans sing, sometimes one at a time and sometimes harmonizing. The facilitators help people that are having a tough time by sitting on their mat and talking with or singing to them. The songs, or icaros, are in the plant language and are used to control the energies in the room and in the individual people. As the night progresses everyone gets called up one by one to sit in front of one of the shaman for a personal icaro. If after an hour or two you aren’t feeling a strong enough effect, you can go back up to Felipe for a 2nd dose, but if you are too late they won’t give it to you because you’ll drag the night out for too long.
You can hear people throwing up all around you in the darkness, as the ayahuasca causes them to “purge” negative energies. It also can cause one to purge out the other direction as well, in which case you’d have to make your way to the bathroom structure across the way from the maloka. If you can’t make it on your own you’d get Joel or one of the facilitators to help you get there.
At the end of the ceremony, when everyone has finished their journeys, Maestro Ricardo declares the ceremony over. Usually around 1-2 am. A candle is lit and people are encouraged to hang out and socialize if they like. You can also spend the night in the Maloka if you want. Joel then brings a basket of fruit around for everyone who wants some.
So my first ceremony was kind of anticlimactic. From a combination of a weak batch of brew and a small dose for the new people, there weren’t any visions or revelations. It was, however, a vivid trip. I saw all kinds of shapes and colors along with strong body sensations. Sometimes they would approach an object from the real world, but not quite. I also dodged purging. I came close, but stopped at the miserable edge. When I was called up for my personal icaro, which on the first night is to link you to your plant medicine (piñon blanco in my case), my visuals and bodily sensations were amplified 2-3 fold. This is when I came closest to puking.
I was getting very frustrated by my neighbor, a Belgian named Arthur. He kept turning on his flashlight (which we were warned not to do, as it’s disruptive to everyone else in the maloka) in order to spit in his bucket, instead of doing it by feel in the dark. He also struck up a lengthy conversation with his other neighbor (another talkative Aussie named Sharna) which is also a no-no. Just as I couldn’t take it anymore and asked them to keep it down, Markus came and told them to can it.
Towards the end I was just doing my best to stay awake, and when they called it I was definitely ready for it to be over. I retired to the seclusion of my cabin, as I really didn’t want to be next to Arthur for another minute.
Each morning after a ceremony there is a recap meeting at 9am. At this morning’s meeting the general consensus for the new people was that we need to take more tonight. Everyone else had varying degrees of success with the ayahuasca.
|One of Maestro Ricardo's parrots|
After the meeting I wasn’t feeling great, so I did my tai chi and stretching which helped a lot. Lunch helped too. Today we had three new items! Mashed potatoes, cucumber and tomato salad, and chicken. The change of pace was very welcome.
After lunch I tried contacting some of my loved ones but the wi-fi wasn’t working again. Like Joel said, “It’s so hard to get good wi-fi in the jungle”.
There’s a liquid called Agua de Florida that you can use to make your ceremonies more pleasant. I originally thought it was to drink, but I discovered in ceremony last night that it is a fragrant liquid you put on yourself. I thought I smelled it on other people last night and it was lovely. I decided to get some for myself, unfortunately the shop was out. Maybe someone will share. I have a feeling tonight will be tough.