In order to connect with nature and have a moment of quietude and perspective before the unknown of the night, the participants take a gentle hike into the jungle of Guanacaste. Of course, the woman dressed in all white, nice pants and beautiful blouse slips on the muddy trail. It is not a rough fall but the back of her pants is covered in mud. A lesson before we even enter the space. A lesson to let go. Let go of expectations, let go of how we see ourselves, let go of how we think others see us. Let go and surrender to whatever is to come.
Sunset And Knowledge
The sun has fallen but the moon lights up the palm leaf cover of Usure, the Cosmic House, in the midst of the jungle. It was built by the BriBri tribe from Puerto Viejo, (http://www.monitor.upeace.org/– University for Peace: “An Interview with BriBri Leader Don Timoteo Jackson”). There are foam mats covered in sheets and blankets surrounding a fire. The fire looks grand, with logs woven together circling the flames. As I reflect later, I think of what an architectural wonder this construction is that keeps the torrential rain that pours throughout the night from coming in, and at the same time lets the smoke of the fire out.
For the ceremony, the women are directed to the right and the men to the left, with the Shaman’s alter Ego and the Shaman, “Hecka”, centered in the back. With long dreads wrapped in an abundant bun on top of his head, adorned with an elaborate sacred medicine necklace as wide as his torso, and a necklace of jaguar teeth layered on top, “Hecka” appears larger than life. Small tattoos rest atop the sides of his eyes and over his third eye, and his arms carry large tattoos and Kambo scars.
Of the eight shamans or plant medicine facilitators that I have met in the past year, Hecka is the most approachable. He welcomes everyone with a huge smile, offers attention and care, shares colorful stories, and tells jokes. You can ask him any question in the world and he will answer what he knows and tell you what he does not with a smile. He plays several instruments: mouth harp, harmonica, ukulele, and saxophone. And from deep in his throat he can make the most amazing sounds: the noises of the didgeridoo, and innumerable animal calls. The jaguar, warthog, and bird songs joined us through the heart and voice of Hecka.
Before entering the sacred space, everyone removes their shoes as a sign of reverence and respect. Feet gather mud from the entrance and minds gather curiosity as the time draws near. Besides those called as space holders for the ceremony, everyone is new to this medicine. Some are anchoring with their eyes closed, grounding into their intention for the evening. Others are looking side to side, from the fire to the spiral-shaped ceiling, orienting themselves in space. We are in the middle of the jungle, in an Usure, in the presence of a colorful Shaman. We are about to participate in a psychedelic experience that will change the way in which we see the world and ourselves.
Usure, Cosmic House
Hecka welcomes everyone to the “Usure”. With well-timed movements, he begins the journey with the story of man’s interaction with the animals. It is told vibrantly in Spanish which is translated to English. The man had a conversation with God questioning why he was given such a weak body compared to the jaguar’s strength in hunting, the serpents strong skin in the jungle elements, the monkey’s ability to climb and find a home. After hearing his complaints, God showed Man the harmony of the planet and the fusion of animal and man working together.
The Usure was built by the eight animals that man compared to himself in his cry out to God. The pig, with his ability to find water, chose the perfect location for the Usure. The jaguar laid the foundations of the ground. The armadillo dug eight hollows in a circle where the capybara, the world’s largest rodent and common in Costa Rica, carried the trunks from the jungle to place in the holes as pillars. The intelligent snake was the architect of this cosmic house and the spider spun vines spiraling from the floor to the center ceiling giving structure to the walls. The monkeys climbed and swung throughout the jungle gathering palm leaves that the ants carried to their place to be tied to the vines. With a final touch, the buzzard flew to the top to tie the tip of the Usure in completion. The animals made up for the human’s weaknesses and built him a home.
The story of the Cosmic House has been passed down from generation to generation. Perhaps each person tells it with a different animal instead of another, but the result is the same: a circular house lined with palm tree leaves, built completely with jungle sourced material. There are no nails, bolts or anything that one could buy from a hardware store.
“Botsu” with his BriBri companion “Camacho” and a small group of helpers looked up the material under the full moon and built this house by hand. While the Usure was being built, Botsu told stories of the Cosmos and philosophical aspects of the universe while Camacho did a lot of the heavy lifting. Botsu explained because of his light green eyes, he was chosen to build Usures as his calling in this life. This one was built for the purpose of gathering people around the world to open their hearts and minds and connect them with nature, humanity, and themselves through sacred plant medicine. Gratitude for this unique experience overwhelms many of us. We all know we are in a special place.
The plant medicine journey starts with an offering by Hecka of rapé. He pours a small amount of the finely ground tobacco and ash mixture into his hand, then scoops half of it into the Tepi stick, a pipe made of animal bone. Hecka places the Tepi into the nostril, and blows the rapé in a quick spurt. Rapé is not inhaled but blown out after a few minutes. This is followed by spitting and, for some, throwing up. Despite the initial pain and desire to fall to one’s knees, Hecka would have to even out the medicine and do the other nostril. He would give each person a moment to compose themselves, then do the other side.
Tobacco is a sacred plant within many indigenous cultures where it is used to focus the mind from distractions, change the intention or shift one’s mental state, or for grounding. Hecka, with the help of his translator, asks each person which animal they would like to choose to be. They are offered the jaguar, the deer, and the hummingbird. As I saw a deer on the glass beaded necklace of the firekeeper, that’s what I choose.
We are told the story of the hummingbird that being able to fly high enough could speak to God during a time of turmoil. The sound of the jaguar was heard from Hecka several times throughout the night including in a deep gurgling noise as he blew the rapé into one participant’s nose.
The men go first in a counterclockwise fashion, and after the rapé is absorbed by each one the effects, the discomfort, the struggle, are seen by the group. One woman declines but Hecka supporting and with kind words requests that she tries. And she does. Everyone is open to the experiences of the night and ready to accept short-term discomfort in exchange for long term growth.
For those of us familiar with “Sananga”, we each internally wince when Hecka tells the group that this is the next medicine he is going to share with everyone. Sananga is an eyedrop that burns intensely for ten to fifteen minutes. It is used by Amazonian hunters to sharpen their eyesight and we are told it will help increase the psychedelic effects of the visions to come.
Each person lays down and Hecka leans by them. “Close your eyes,” first in Spanish, then translated. The cool drops are placed near the tear duct. “Now open them and move your eyes around”. Each person upon the sting of the Sananga tries to jolt up into a sitting position but Hecka gently stops them with a hand on the shoulders. “Give me your hand”, Hecka says while he and his translator hold the hands of person with burning eyes for a few moments.
We could all hear the pain in the form of “Oooooh,” and deep breathing. One woman whimpered and cried and our hearts went out to her. Another, after the initial hand-holding, sits up, rocks herself back and forth and repeats her favorite mantra. It is a sharply painful experience. And then, the pain goes away. One by one, the group collects their composure and sat back at the edge of their mat. The night flows smooth and slow, no one walks fast or talks loudly. The warm fire calms our being, and the pattering of the rain on the palm leaves above keeps the presence of the jungle in our thoughts. Intention setting and the first cup of Ayahuasca (https://www.gaia.com/video/) is next.
To Be Continued……….https://thecostaricanews.com/ayahuasca-part-3/