Ayahuasca is a plant medicine that is frequently used in rituals and ceremonies of the Amazonian peoples. Due to its psychoactive properties, the concoction has gained some popularity among travelers, who come to communities in the jungle to heal themselves or to delve into the world of energies, the unconscious and the Amazonian worldview.
In 2015 I isolated myself in a cabin on the banks of the Río Mayo, in the jungle of Peru, to drink, together with two other people and our shaman, this drink, also called the “rope of the dead”.
This is what I learned from that experience:
1. Ayahuasca does not cause hallucinations, it takes you on a journey into the unconscious.
Due to its chemical composition, ayahuasca is considered an entheogenic and non-hallucinogenic substance, which means that the altered state of consciousness that it produces connects us with our most spiritual part. Etymologically, “entheogen” means “to be inspired by the gods.” That is why it is usually taken to connect with dormant or blocked parts in our unconscious or to connect with the sacredness of the world.
2. It is not the ayahuasca that produces the “trip”.
The psychoactive substance that modifies our state of consciousness is DMT and it is not found in ayahuasca rope, but in the leaves of a low jungle bush called chakruna. Our body (which by itself secretes DMT in very small amounts, for example when we are just born) has the ability to neutralize the effect of the psychoactive substance. That is to say: the chakruna by itself cannot cause us anything. Ayahuasca is the one that has the ability to block the enzymes in our liver so that DMT is metabolized successfully.
The funny thing is that ayahuasca is the only jungle plant (among millions of species) capable of blocking these enzymes in our body. How did the shamans know?
3. The shaman is the mediator between the visible world of things and the invisible world of energies and spirits.
My shaman is called Braulio and I met him because my glasses broke and I had to find someone to fix it. And I found him. He was a small, dark man, with gold-plated teeth and a liquid look (that of those who know many things but do not need to tell anyone). With him we agreed to hold a ceremony on his lands by the river.
No matter what you ask a shaman, they will always end up answering you whatever they want. We, the outsiders, come with so much desire to know everything, to know what is in that other invisible world that is there but that we can barely touch, that we do not stop throwing questions like arrows. However, shamans know that each one must find their own answers and they practice their role of guide very well.
The shaman’s mission is to direct the ceremony, that is, to call the spirits (especially the spirit of Mother Ayahuasca) to heal us with their wisdom and show us what we have to do.
4. All natural elements have a spirit or anima.
For our Western mentality it is very difficult to accept that a tree, a stone, or something even more intangible, such as the wind or the ocean or the mountain have a spirit that inhabits each of its parts. However, the Amazonian worldview considers that each element has its own soul, with which human beings relate on equal terms (the end of Western anthropocentrism that humans are the masters of the world). In the ayahuasca ceremonies, those souls come to help us “see”. Under the effects of DMT our sensitivity to the invisible is enhanced and we are able to intuit or even see these spirits.
Many times we recognize the figure of the old Mother Ayahuasca, a little witch with rough skin like the rope itself (her personification on Earth). It is also very common for the boa, the viper and other snakes to appear: they are protective spirits of the jungle. The way that the shaman communicates with them is through their icaros or songs (the language of the Universe).
5. It is absurd to continue thinking that the invisible world is a copy of the visible world.
Ghost movies have suggested that if we see a spirit we will find a copy of its physical form, but in a semi-transparent version. Nothing further from reality. In the same way that the visible and physical world is very complex and is made up of millions of particles, from an atom to a megastar, the invisible world also has hierarchies and forms of its own, which are difficult for us to understand and accept. In my experience, I discovered that my way of noticing or feeling energies and spirits, especially during the feedings and in the diet process, was through the skin: tingling in the hands, sensations of physical discomfort, passing airs, etc. .
6. It is very important to diet before and after taking it.
As a medicine, ayahuasca has its own instructions for use. One of the most important is sticking with the process from start to finish. Depending on the area where you take ayahuasca, the shamans will have a different way of preparing you for it, but there will always be a diet to follow. This is: abandoning “harmful” or “strong” products such as meat, milk, coffee, alcohol, and even sugar for a time before taking and also for periods ranging from one week to three months after taking .
This happens because in the jungle, ayahuasca is taken more as a purge than as a connector with invisible worlds, that is, to cure diseases of the body (such as gastritis or even cancer). The diet, therefore, prepares our body to arrive as clean as possible to the encounter with the plant.
7. The toughest diet is the human diet.
During the period of rest after drinking, the shaman will tell you how long you should be without seeing, speaking, touching or, of course, having sexual relations with another person. It is simple: through physical contact we link our energies and it is counterproductive, after a “purge” or cleansing ceremony like this one, for other people who have not taken (“who have not cleansed”) to be near us.
To break the diet (both food and sex) a procedure called “raccoon” is followed. It consists of inhuming food or your partner with jungle tobacco or “mapacho” in order to clean them and protect ourselves. The tobacco soul is protective and is very present in all the ritual ceremonies of the jungle (it is also a powerful emetic).
8. You have a bad time, you have a good time, you enjoy yourself, you fear, you vomit, you heal.
The experience with ayahuasca is comprehensive and in all probability it will provoke very different and contradictory emotions in the same shot. Ayahuasca removes us from the inside and brings to the surface things that we like about ourselves, and also problems or traumas that we have blocked. It is important not to think of this in terms of “good” and “bad”, but as part of a complete healing. The shaman is always there to guide you and so that you do not fear. Choose it well: it must be trusted.
9. Ayahuasca is not a tourist attraction.
Whoever wants to take ayahuasca for fun, abstain and choose another substance. All over the jungle there are scammers who sell ayahuasca in bottles so that everyone can consume it in their own way. Please do not do it. The presence of the shaman is crucial, as well as an attitude of respect towards medicine, the Amazonian culture and ourselves.
10. There are many very interesting testimonies of the searches that human beings undertake through this medicine.
For example, the Ayahuasca Letters, a book that brings together the correspondence between the North American beats William Borroughs and Allan Gingsberg about their journey through the Amazon deepening in the taking of ayahuasca or yagé (it is also a beautiful travel and research book).
11. The true teaching is only one.
Love. No matter how many questions you have to ask the plant, no matter how many problems you want to solve, no matter how many traumas you want to overcome, the lesson that the plant teaches you is the only one: if we live through love (unconditional love for everything that exists, if we feel part of that Whole) we will be living in harmony with the Universe.