– A Search for What Is Real in the Amazon Jungle of Peru
By David P. Crews
FINAL AYAHUASCA CEREMONY
A Vision of the Spirit and Heart
Note: This longer post concludes my Ancient Songs and Green Magic series on Ayahuasca. Please read beyond the fold for the final extraordinary visions and my Five Years Later postscript.
VISITING THE MURRAY HUITOTO TRIBE
from my trip journal:
Today, we boarded the boats to travel down the Rio Momón and on to the true Rio Amazonas: the Amazon itself. We rode a short way downriver from Iquitos to take a longer jungle hike and meet the Murray Huitoto people. This tribe lives a couple of miles inland from the great river, so we landed at a rough riverfront town and hiked through the beautiful dense jungle to find them.
The tribe was happy to dance for us and invite us in to see their world. We also delivered some needed medical supplies.
The chief was very welcoming, and although he spoke only Spanish to me, and I spoke none, we still had a very friendly conversation.
We swam in the small river here, enjoying the cool water and also the soothing mud from the banks – an exclusive facial and body treatment that would be costly in any big city salon! Rufus, don Howard’s red uakari monkey, joined us for some fresh jungle fruit and kept us laughing with his constant antics.
Back at the tribe’s camp, the matron of the group showed us their ayahuasca vines, planted at the base of certain trees and growing strong. As the vine is used, it is important to keep it cultivated.
Back at our lodge once more, it was time for our third and last ceremony.
THIRD AYAHUASCA CEREMONY
There is an ancient practice or technique in shamanism called “soul retrieval.” It is a healing for someone who has lost part of their spirit – their spiritual body. Perhaps they simply wandered away into a spiritual place and part of them did not return to our everyday reality. Perhaps someone stole that part of the person, or borrowed it and never returned it. Now the person is ill with a kind of emptiness or depression that cannot be cured by normal means. The shaman goes into trance state and travels off into the past or alternate realities, finds the part that is missing and invites it back. He or she recovers that spirit essence and reunites it with the ill person, making them whole and happy once more. This kind of healing is something a human shaman does, but it may not always be a human who heals.
“Anything will give up its secrets, if you only love it enough.”
– George Washington Carver
As my final opportunity to experience the tea approached, I re-evaluated my set of Intentions for it. After thinking about it, I realized I had been unconsciously self-centered in my original intentions. Instead of being completely open in my heart, I had been trying to get what I wanted while couching the request in careful language. I had been requesting, as if off a menu, to be shown the visions I desired. I wanted to see and learn what I wanted.
This time, I let go. I decided to simply open myself up and let Ayahuasca take control and lead me where, perhaps, I did not know I needed to go. She certainly did that in the first session! Having confronted Fear itself and then allowed to get my bearings in session two, I felt like I was oriented enough now to trust her and not be anxious or fearful this time. My new intention was: “Open me up. Show me Love. Let me be love.”
The Ayahuasca tea seemed slightly more viscous tonight. Once again, I felt fortunate that the drink went down rather easily and I had no problem with it. Since this was our final ceremony, don Howard and his wife Reyna placed wonderful little bead necklaces around our necks, each with a small pendant of Ayahuasca vine. Now, we waited in the darkness once again – waited for our next inexorable leap into the true unknown.
“For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror
which we are barely able to endure, and it amazes us so,
because it serenely disdains to destroy us.
Every angel is terrifying.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies
As we waited for the onset of Ayahuasca space, don Rober began his icaros. Several of the other participants were inclined to join in, and then many of the tribespeople in and outside the molloca also began to sing along, with a group energy that I found myself caught up in as well. It was a wonderful antiphonal surround-sound beginning to tonight’s ceremony and it boded well for the nature of this journey.
Once more, and to my relief, I entered Ayahuasca’s dimensions easily. As my head and extremities began to hum and vibrate with the powerful electric energy of the medicine, it grew in strength, then leveled off and remained a neon body buzz throughout the session. I saw some geometric patterns and some colors, but they were muted. Visual effects are easier to describe than other more internal effects, but now I noticed a different internal feel to this space from the previous ceremonies. The vine felt strong and it was deepening into me moment to moment. After some time, I was very deep, indeed, and I drifted on into another dimension.
Without warning or sign, I realized that something was coming towards me. There was no sound. As it drew near, it looked like a train or subway vehicle, which now pulled up at my left side and came to a stop. This seemed like an obvious invitation to board, but the train was too small to enter it. I thought, though, that I could probably get on top of it and ride it the way they do rail cars in India, so I climbed up and onto the top of the second car from the front. In a twinkling, as I did so, the train changed its form – morphing into a gigantic snake. I knew it was common in Ayahuasca visions to encounter these huge Ayahuasca snakes or jaguars or other elemental animal forms. It is sometimes a challenging test, but this seemed straightforward enough. I was going to ride the Snake!
One of the greatest of the negative effects of the teachings and worldviews of the received religions is the idea that humankind is separate from the earth. We are taught that we are “masters” of the earth, and “live on” the earth, and we are surely not here for long, so we must not be of the earth – merely visiting. We have a manifest destiny, they say, to dominate the earth and to use it as we will. If we should deign to care for the earth, then we are doing so as external service providers (in residence).
Many in the shamanistic nature and spirit community also tend to see us as “connecting with” the earth and sense it as a separate holistic being: a Gaia or a Pachamama – a Mother Earth. We are like children, perhaps, or stewards or guardians or even tricksters. We are those who do not know; those who look upon the earth with wonder; those who are sometimes selfish and other times simply happy, sometimes very aware and observant of the earth yet often lost in our own sense of Self.
In almost all human philosophies, however, there is this distinct sense that we are somewhat apart from the thing we admire and that we emerged from – the earth itself. It seems to be a distinction we attach to animals.
Rocks, water, and even plants all make up what we rightly would call “the earth.” They are earthy in nature and tend not to move about very much. Animals roam around and though associated with and coming from earth, they are not usually described as “the earth.”
It might be an interesting idea to play with then, to understand that everything that has ever manifested upon this beautiful spinning ball since it first twirled out of a dusty cloud is properly named Earth. Every dinosaur, every volcano, every breeze through a palm frond, every bug and bunny, and every human being that has ever been are all not only of the earth, we ARE EARTH itself. We are far more than just earthlings. We are as much the planet as any stone or leaf.
Try that out for a while and see if it changes how you think of yourself. “I am Earth.”
A poem and music track from my first album, Cave of the Jaguar.
Truth in a Strange Land
Truth alone shall appease this needful thirst.
Aloof and intimate.
Content with only that roaring revelation –
Hard and cold.
It stings like disappointment – the price
extracted from my past.
Closing and opening.
Deep and serious mystery. Clear light glory!
Laid out before me – seeker and supplicant to
That God only.
I shed my dear beliefs as rent clothing
slipping from straining muscles.
The new Truth is old. Shining and disturbing.
Old and very new.
Raw-nerved, I reach forward to hold, delicately,
The next awe –
An unexpected vista stretching on to newer rules.
Here is my original music track for this piece:
Information on this album, “Cave of the Jaguar” here:
When we humans are first toddling around, we spend a great deal of our energy trying to understand the overwhelmingly complex adult world we have been thrust into by virtue of being born. It strikes me as the equivalent of one of us adult humans being thrust into an advanced alien society, and spending much energy trying to adapt ourselves and our understandings – our worldview – to accommodate this new and far more complex reality.
The four year old child does this by constructing a simplified, childlike, cartoon version of the adult world that surrounds them. We adults tend to find this pleasing, amusing, and wholesome. We help this along by giving our kids toys, children’s books and games, and so on. Eventually, we know they will grow and expand their knowledge and the sophistication of their perceptions of the adult world that they will soon join in full.
When we enter the spirit realms directly through the sacred use of entheogens and plant medicines like Ayahuasca, we often encounter intelligent beings that interact with us. They are certainly different from us and may be quite alien – very “advanced” – compared to us. When we try to enter that realm, it seems to me we are like the four year old. We construct for ourselves simplified, cartoon interpretations of what we are being shown or exposed to. We see visions that we define in a way that must, to the spirit beings we encounter, seem childlike.
It is amazing to have such an encounter and feel the sincere interest and even love that comes from many of these Others. They may teach us harsh lessons, but also may give us gifts that seem like toys to us, but are actually much more meaningful in ways we are not developed enough to comprehend. Kind of like a four year old human.
ANCIENT SONGS AND GREEN MAGIC –
Ayahuasca and A Search for What Is Real in the Amazon Jungle of Peru
By David P. Crews
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I realized that I was now in the presence of the Spirit of the vine, Mother Ayahuasca herself. She never spoke to me in words. Her expression was one of contained joy, waiting to share something with me. She widened her expressive eyes, like an inquiry, and then she showed me something.
It was a coin.
It is pitch black. I am shaking violently from my head to my feet. My heart is racing – pounding like a mad drummer. Hot sweat is pouring off my hair, my arms, my nose – for I am facing down, crouched on my hands and knees. I do not know who I am. I do not know where I am. I do not know what is happening to me. I have just this moment emerged from a truly terrifying nightmare that was far more potent than anything I have ever experienced. The only sound is my heartbeat, hammering hard, and my frantic breaths, coming too fast as I crouch in the dark. I concentrate on those breaths – trying to calm them, willing them to slow down. Just slow them down. Push the panic back. I’m regaining some control. Wondering now, I turn my head to look up to the right and I am startled to see just the faintest dark silhouettes of human shapes, lined up in a long row fading off into the blackness. I am fearful of them. They make no sound and do not move. I begin to remember things, and I reach out my hand to feel the surface beneath me. It is a rough plank wood floor. I realize with some chagrin that I am, indeed, on the floor, trembling like a windblown leaf and draining sweat into a pool below my face. Then it comes to me, a memory I ran away from so fast that it could not catch up to me until this moment. Now it quick-streams into my mind in a flash of comprehension. I am in a sacred ceremony. I have partaken of a very powerful plant medicine. It is late at night. I am in a rude hut somewhere deep in a jungle beside a dark river. I remember. It is the Amazon Jungle. I am with others who have also partaken of this medicine and whose shapes now surround me in the darkness. I remember who I am. All of this has taken only a moment, and now, suddenly, a man is kneeling beside me. He is singing! I realize that he has been singing all this time, but I did not hear him until this instant when my mind focused on him. I know him. He is a shaman – the leader of this ceremony and the one who gave me the medicine. He begins to tap my head and body with a small fan of dry leaves that make a shushing sound with each beat, and then he leans down to my neck and then my forehead and makes a sucking sound as he draws some of this energy out of me – the energy that has frightened me so much that I have instinctively leapt through the dark onto the floor of the hut in order to escape. He spits that energy away from me, into the vast darkness, and immediately I begin to regain full control of my body and my mind. I am immensely comforted by the Shaman and by his singing and his ministrations, although I am still very shaky, upset, and drenched in salty sweat. A helping angel takes my arm now and supports me as I rise from that rough wooden floor and gingerly step back over to my seat, becoming another one of the silhouettes myself – lining up against the wall of the malluca, in the dark of night, surrounded by the chitters and cries of the night frogs and strange insects, somewhere along a fast brown river deep in the greatest and most potent forest on planet Earth.
That scene is an accurate portrayal of the aftermath of the first, terrifying stage of my experiences, as I pursued a philosophical and spiritual dream: to travel to the Upper Amazon and work with a special medicine that the indigenous peoples of South America refer to as the Mother of all Plants, a very special and unique substance known as Ayahuasca. (more…)