As the sun set below the canopy of the jungle, one of the staff (there were several men and women from a village nearby that worked at the retreat doing…literally everything to keep this place running) came to bring me to the ceremony house. I grabbed a blanket, a waterbottle, my headlamp and my balls and followed the man to the maloca.
I was the last one to arrive because I was out in the boonies. Looking around the room there were mattresses laying in a semi-circle propped up slightly at the top. Next to each mattress was a little bucket in case we had to vomit. In the centre of the room was a single lit candle that illuminated the entire ceremony house (cool design). The outside of the room had a bench that wrapped all the way around. Seated across from us were the two Shaman and our facilitator Michelle Pfeiffer. In front of them was a table set with candles, a few gourds of liquid and a pack a darts cuz tobacco, like Ayahuasca, is a master plant used to ward off any evil spirits that may enter the ceremony house. To their right was a door that led to a bathroom where many of us would be spending a great deal of time.
The others had taken their places next to each other on the far side of the room and so I took the next available spot straight across from the Shaman. The second Shaman, (we’ll call him Horacio), blew Florida water (which I swear I misheard a million times and definitely thought it couldn’t be called Florida water but a quick Google search and, here we are, it’s Florida water) onto all of us as another method of cleansing us before the ceremony.
The Shaman told us that he would only be giving us a half-3quarter dose for our first time because he wanted to allow the medicine to acclimate to our bodies. I wasn’t about to argue with the doctor about my dosage. One by one, starting with the Shaman’, we walked up to the table to receive our dose. (Oh yeah, the Shaman take it too so they can be on the same level as us in order to guide us through the experience.
Now, I don’t think I made it clear just how fucking disgusting this shit tastes. Like, I have nothing to compare it to. It follows the Buckley’s formula x100, tastes awful but boy does it work. It’s like sour manure. That’s the best way I can describe it. I can honestly still taste it in the back of my throat sometimes. The memory is embedded in my mind and it still causes me to gag. So didn’t I pick the worst possible seat as I had to watch every other person take their shot and almost puke and make gagging sounds and shit before I got my turn.
After taking the medicine I sat back down on the mattress with my legs crossed as well as my non flexible self could cross them. The Shaman blew out the candle and I closed my eyes in the pitch dark. Outside the ceremony house it started raining (it did this a lot in the rainforest). The Shaman then began singing a special song called an icaro (YouTube Icaros, it’s wild stuff). Just as he began singing there was a loud clap of thunder (I can’t make this shit up…well I could but I swear this happened).
As the Shaman sang his icaros, my visions started. They were very light, I saw waves and coloured lines and stuff like that, similar to a mushroom trip if anyone reading this has ever experienced one of those. The lines seemed to move with the music as the Shaman sang and started to form cylinders. I lifted one of my arms and (eyes still closed) could see it in my vision and started trying to maneuvre it through the cylinders like the second stage of Star Fox 64 when you’re in the asteroid field and you have to fly through those colourful star things to get to the secret stages. After this I saw a large tree forming out of the ground and many vines branching outward from the trunk. Along the vines were thousands and thousands of eyes, half shut, staring at me. They all had deep coloured eyeliner, lots of reds, greens and purples. It was hauntingly beautiful.
It was about this time the second Shaman began singing. Now the first guy will sing to the entire group. After that, the second Shaman comes and sits in front of each individual and sings directly to them, but loudly enough that everyone else can hear as well. As he began singing to AJ I believe (eyes still shut) I began feeling an awful cramping in my gut. I decided I’d better rush over to the bathroom before the Shaman got to me because I didn’t want to miss my solo.
I very gradually rose from my mattress, took my headlamp and – because Ayahuasca disorients the fuck out of you – stumbled towards the bathroom.
*GRAPHIC LANGUAGE AND IMAGERY*
I sat down in the stall and was sweating BUCKETS at this point. I was still having visions and I could “see” a snake coiling around in my bowels. That’s not a euphemism, like an actual snake. But for some reason I just couldn’t go. I suddenly had this epiphany that whatever this “snake” was, represented the problem that I had to deal with and, given that this was my first ceremony, I was not yet ready to tackle this issue.
I went back to my mat and lied down to enjoy the rest of the experience. The cramping began to subside thankfully and the rest of the night was very relaxed.
Now, time doesn’t really exist during the experience. The ceremony begins around 8pm, then you go on a journey, then it’s over and you come back to reality. So when the Shaman lit the candle to light up the maloca again, I was unsure of just how long that took. Apparently about 3.5 hours which sort of blew my mind because it felt like it flew by.
AJ left quickly after the ceremony so J Balvin and I sat up discussing our experiences. Both were quite chill with not a lot of wild visions which I was happy to hear. I was also happy that I could now return to my house because now that my visions were over I was quite confident that there wasn’t an actual snake inside me but whatever it was I would like to go remove it in the privacy of my own crib.
With a lot of help, one of the staff guided me back to my hut and the first night of Ayahuasca came to an end.