A Travellerspoint blog

November 2008

The cuckoo calls

Plata o plomo en Colombia

Huh-huhh here I was at the shaman’s place together with our newly found friend Tom, ready for ayahuasca take 2. If somebody hasn’t read take one it can be found HERE. Naturally after the previous fiasco, my (Mickus) hopes were high but with some reservation. The shaman’s house was very basic and he lived together with his wife and several kids. When we looked into one of the rooms, it actually happened to be the ‘shamanic’ room housing a feather hat and different instruments and herb jars. In the corner laid what I first thought was a corpse under a blanket. Then it suddenly coughed and it turned out to be an old guy very much alive. Probably the grandpa of the house.

We started chit chatting with the shaman and he showed us some pictures of famous shamans and of his master shaman that lives down in Putumayo. He also presented us his shaman license which was kind of funny; a credit card size card with personal info and a face picture of him all dressed up with the feather hat. After this the shaman placed a mattress on the concrete floor in the courtyard just outside the ‘shaman room’ and told us to sit down. This would be our ‘resting’ area for the night. The shaman then talked for a while with Tom in Spanish as the shaman unfortunately didn’t know any English. One of the stories he told was about the different types of shamans there are. He himself was specialized in healing. His master, a famous shaman living in Putumayo, was one of the greatest currently living shamans and was a master in most of the fields of shamanism. He had the capability of shape shifting and had mastered one of the most difficult tasks of shape shifting into a jaguar!

After chit-chatting for a while it was time to try the ayahuasca. The shaman told us to follow him into the sacred room where he pored up a large bowl of ayahuasca. The taste was immensely bitter and not like anything I had tasted before. In lack of a better explanation, it faintly reminded me of stomach acids with a hint of washing powder in it. We gulped down a large bowl each. The grandpa also took one, as did the shaman’s 9 year old ‘soon to be shaman’. Finally the shaman himself drank a large bowl of it. We then went back to the mattress to wait for the visions to start.

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Ayahuasca is a sacred plant and has been used for healing and visionary purposes by indigenous communities in the Amazon basin for millennia. The brew is prepared by boiling the vine mixed with various other plants. The final brew contains the active ingredients of MAO Inhibiting harmala alchaloids and a hallucinogenic alkaloid N,N-dimethyltryptamine(DMT), which is only active when combined with the MAOI. Ayahuasca as it is called in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador means ‘Vine of the dead’ or ‘Vine of the soul’ in Quechua. In Colombia it goes under the name Yage. When consuming the brew intense vomiting always follows and sometimes even diarrhea.

So with the knowledge of these facts and armed with an extra pair of underpants we were anxiously wondering what would follow. And 20 minutes later I did. It started with a light cramp in the stomach that gradually increased. I tried to lie down in order for the cramps to ease and keep the brewin for as long as possible. This was only successful for a few minutes as suddenly the stomach spoke fiercely; ‘You have 3 seconds to get to the toilet, buddy!’ And in the light of the one candle placed on the concrete floor I made a dash for the toilet. Having thoroughly cleansed my stomach, luckily through the front and not the back door, I went back to sit. It was now that the more interesting part of the evening started. I will give only a brief account as a thorough one wouldn’t fit the purpose of this blog and surely bore most readers.

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First there were strong visuals when keeping the eyes shut. These geometric visuals where constantly moving, merging and changing shape. You felt yourself being transferred to another world. Not sucked into it, but rather like a wall was dissolving in front of your eyes. Then when opening one’s eyes the visual world started transforming as well. The texture of the walls and floor started changing. It was like one was transformed into a Mayan or Aztec temple. A lot of zigzag texture, similar to patterns seen on handicraft from these civilizations, was visible everywhere. Then suddenly a mouth harmonica started playing ever so slowly. It was like the sound could be felt on many different levels. Apart from hearing it, it was more felt on a visual and emotional level. It traveled the landscape rising and falling for a long time. Time had ceased to exist at this moment so giving a certain time frame of events would be impossible. The shaman then emerged from his room wearing feather plumes and playing the mouth harmonica. Everything was very peaceful all the time, and everything the shaman did made sense in a newly found way. At some point the shaman used a ‘smoke bowl’ (similar to what the orthodox priest use to spread smoke) in the room and the emotional landscape exploded into a different meaning. Never before had a scent had such a deep impact on me. He also used a ‘brush’ made of leaves and when flapping it in the air it gave a noise similar to a flock of birds in flight. Combining all these elements the shaman then started dancing and gaps in ones vocabulary hinders one from truly describe the surrealistic world one had entered. The dances he performed where magnificent, not in complexity, but how well everything fitted together. It was like he had painted up everything on one’s mind and by altering slightly his tone or movement he could change what was being painted on the mental canvas.

The emotions one felt and the sensory ‘bombardment’ makes one realize how limited in scope the normal day to day senses one uses and emotions one feels actually are. Ayahuasca shows that there are limitless different states of mind and a lot to experience, and in a way gives one a kick in the ass saying ‘Wake up! Why live in a robot state, when there is so much more to experience.’

The night carried on with the shaman withdrawing to his room back and forth, grandpa playing the mouth harmonica once in a while and us all taking more brew. One then started carefully and slowly moving around in the physical world, mostly on shaky legs to the toilet and back :), which it in itself could be made into a tale. The shaman and grandpa then continued taking more ayahuasca long after me and Tom had stopped. At the peak of the experience alien creatures came up close to me, never saying a word, they just came really close. And I thought; ‘What the hell is going on?’ Am I visited by alien creatures from another galaxy trying to make contact? Is this the spirit of the plants revealing themselves and trying to communicate? Am I seeing into the smallest particles of life, a window into the DNA structures and the cornerstones of life? A gateway to the Jungian ‘central fire’? My fears and hopes? Childhood memories or future events? Creatures from an archaic past submerged in the unconsciousness? Or am I just coo-coo in the head? A lot of questions that my current knowledge in this subject can’t answer if there even is one profound answer. But one thing is for sure: if anything should be learned from this experience, it is that everyone lives in their own reality, which can be quite different from one’s own. I must say ayahuasca showed me this quite profoundly. At some stage during the night when I was ‘out of my mind’ so to speak, a thought occurred to me: ‘Is this how it feels to be mad?’. This made me realize that the lines between sanity, insanity and unsanity don’t have to be that great; it just depends on the perception of the viewer. And in the end Aren’t we mere mortals in a sea of perceptions?

Afterwards, when walking back to the hostel at 6am and the sun was rising, I felt myself light bodied, full of spirit and in a higher state of awareness of myself and my surroundings. The whole experience was so different from anything previously experienced that it felt like the deeper meaning, if there was any, would take some time to digest. But one thing is for sure: my own belief in shamanism and its claim to heal and spiritually guide got a large credibility boost. Having been in ‘the spirit world’, let it only be an imaginary fantasy world created from the dimethytryptomines, and having being there with a skilled shaman that surely knew what he was doing, took the experience to another level.

The fact that the shaman had taken far more of the brew than us but still had managed to move around with ease in that utterly bizarre world guiding and making sure of our wellbeing, made me realize something: one can’t fail to grasp how successfully Christianity has succeeded in eroding the pagan beliefs and shamanism that connected us with our gaian roots in the pre medieval times. A transformation to an ego society with uncontrolled consumerism and rampant destruction of our natural resources is what I think might be the cause of modern society lacking a deeper spiritual meaning. This is one insight I think the ayahuasca tries to teach you by revealing how interlocked the animal kingdom is with the plant world. In a way, everything is a large breathing organism and having unbalance in one part will ultimately cause disturbance in the whole organism. Where does this knowledge come from? Hard to believe that it would just be a few molecules in the brew playing tricks with one’s mind and not having a deeper meaning considering its long traditional use and the general wisdom of the shamans. Could it be that the brew is just a catalyst opening gates in the mind, reveling parts of thoughts, perhaps from a collective consciousness, and letting them bubble up from the unconscious to the surface.

Anyway, I hope the modern revival in the interest of shamanism and spirituality will in time change the now glooming outlook of our future into a more meaningful one founded on value based society.

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Posted by AnnaMickus 16:06 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

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