The ceremony itself was beautiful and awe inspiring and terrifying and time-warping and healing on a deeper level than I could’ve conceived. It was also delayed because of the wildfires that ripped through the PNW in August and September. The date chosen for the rescheduled ceremony was another massive synchronicity for me as it “just happened” to fall on the feast day of one of my patron saints, the esteemed, super badass, and massively popular among occultists, St. Cyprian of Antioch; patron saint of magicians. To have the ceremony rescheduled to his feast day turned out to be amazing and this final synchronicity was the one that eased my apprehensions the most. I have been working with St. Cyprian for some time now; he was actually one of my first introductions to an organized occult practice and he has been an invaluable guide, teacher, protector, and patron to me in that time.
Back to the ceremony.
We arrived around 7pm, set up our nest of pillows and blankets and sleeping bags outside and sat around nervously until 10 or 11. First we were guided through some meditations and then the ceremony leaders administered some ritually grown “hapé”, a type of tobacco grown in the jungles of South America, by blowing it up participants noses via a large wooden tube. I was told that since it was my first time I couldn't have hapé and I was super fucking bummed and wanted it even more. Then the vomiting began and I was perfectly fine with being excluded. Once everyone had their nose and throats full of powdered tobacco and most of the vomiting had stopped it was time to drink the ayahuasca. The ceremony leaders began to sing their “time to drink the medicine song” and my testicles quickly ascended up into the back of my throat, my mouth was dry but the rest of my body was clammy, I felt like a stoned and paranoid frog with his balls in the back of his mouth. I was second in line to drink and when I was given my ceremonial shot glass and swallowed my testicles back down to their usual place along with the medicine I was surprised at how sweet the medicine was: I was prepared for bitter and earthy and viscous, all of which were present in abundance, but not for the sweetness, apparently there are a lot of sugars present in the plants involved and the act of simmering them down for days of ritual silence concentrates them into a shot that is kind of like mud and opium and cough syrup but also not at all like anything I’ve ever tasted on this earth.
Ayahuasca is, for those of you who don’t know, a potent brew of (mainly) Banosteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis, with other plants added depending upon specific ritual purpose or preference of the ayahuascero brewing it. B. caapi contains a powerful monoamine oxidase inhibitor or MAOI and P. viridis contains N,N-dimethyltryptamine or DMT. DMT is actually found in a ton of plants but remains inactive if ingested without something to stop our natural supplies of monoamine oxidase from neutralizing it before it gets to our brain. Did I mention earlier that I have a deep and abiding interest in drugs and pharmacology?
About 30 minutes after I drank my shot the guy who drank before me started puking quietly into his bucket so I grabbed my bucket and waited… and waited, and waited. Nothing. I listened as the visuals began to kick in to everybody else vomiting and began to feel a bit left out again. At this point my body collapsed over my ten gallon bucket and the visions began in earnest. I had enough presence of mind left to begin silently repeating: “Mother Ayahuasca, I come to you with all due respect and supreme humility to ask that you please heal me”. This trick I learned after a disastrous run in with the plant spirit of Salvia divinorum served to ease some of the pants-shitting terror that I felt when my body turned off and left me semi-conscious and in between two very different states of being. I was experiencing sound on a level I had never known possible, as the songs began to take shape in front of my eyes and enter into my body and transport my consciousness to wherever it goes when one is being operated on by ancient, divine feminine, plant medicine goddesses, angels, and their operating assistants. At some point I managed to lie down and let myself be completely carried away by the medicine. I have no way of describing what happened beyond synesthetic snippets of seeing surreal, faceless giants made of a vibration closer to sound than matter above me as if I were actually on an operating table.
I became aware that something was poking my physical self and came back to my body by small increments as the poking turned into gentle shaking. My eyes came back into focus on official reality and I saw my love poking me and giggled and poked her back. She laughed and said it was time for the second dose. I was genuinely shocked that anyone could take more than what I was already experiencing but managed to sit up, the world around me slipping between states and morphing in sacred geometry and outlandish colors dictated by the vibrations of the sounds around me. I stood up like I had been huffing ether and wobbled my way to the altar like Johnny Depp as Hunter S Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, dropped hard onto my knees and tried to focus my eyes on the fiery-aura dispensing the medicine. I looked into his eyes and he gave me what I thought was a scrutinizing look as if judging whether or not to give me another dose and then he poured the ayahuasca. I took the shot glass thinking he must have poured me just a drop and held it to the light to verify and was shocked again to find that he had poured at least as much in this time as the last. Giving a sputtering snort of a laugh I downed the glass and melted up onto my feet throwing a “haux” of thanks over my shoulder as I collapsed down onto my nest and was immediately blasted, like a particle of psychedelic gelatin in the hadron collider, back into the medicine as my body fell over frontways into my still empty puke bucket.
It was around this time that things began to get weird and would’ve been face-meltingly frightening if I had possessed the capacity for rational thought. A low-pitched roar, paired with overtones of amplifier feedback began to tear a hole in the fabric of my already awesomely altered reality. I found that I could “see” the vibrations of this sound combination creating a tunnel in time/space/reality/matter and this tunnel had a pull that I was powerless to resist. Someone in ceremony was sobbing: anguish made manifest bounced around unseen walls creating harmonies of echoing despair. Moments later I was aware of the sound and presence of a giant being snuffling around my physical head and was frozen with what should have been terror but was somehow too detached to be afraid: I was in the presence of something much bigger and older than myself, something that could have, with no effort, ended my existence. The thing snuffled and truffled and made elephantine blasts in deep rhythmic patterns all around the ceremony and I began to have the impression of insects or scorpions for some reason. Then came the demon. In a low growl I heard a being that I could not bring myself to look upon chanting “Om mani padme hum”. Certain that this being had emerged from the underworld, I could feel the flames curling around it like Tibetan buddhist representations of demons. Another voice joined in a much higher octave and their power was terrible and awesome and I became aware that they, as demons, were an intrinsic part of reality and were there, not to hurt anyone maliciously but to bring healing in their own way and that the fear I should've been feeling was most likely just a reaction to their levels of raw power and not any evil or negative intentions the beings were harboring. As Gordon White says: “sharks gonna shark”, they don't eat us because they’re evil or bad, they eat us because they’re higher on the food chain, and these demons felt similarly powerful and indifferent to human life. And yet they were here in a healing capacity, of that much I was sure even if I was too awestruck to look at them.
The chanting stopped and the music took on a less menacing vibration, I felt the heavy under/otherworld power and darkness begin to lift, light began to filter into the music, my spirits brightened with the songs, and I became sure that I had shit in my sweatpants and, not for the first time, decided that I was in no position to deal with it at that moment.
The icaros took on a playful tone and the leader of the ceremony did a dance that channeled, or made him look like, an old man stomping around the circle shouting “hey” and everyone laughed and played and the joy of shaking off all of the heavy stuff that had been drudged up by the earthbound/otherword/underworld spirits was pure ecstasy.
At this point I felt as if I’d been in the medicine for about 10 hours and it was still going strong though my body was now capable of sitting up and shifting between official reality and medicine reality, so I was genuinely gobsmacked to hear the ceremony leaders announce that it was 3:33 and, as such, time for the optional third dose. I felt amazing and was quite sure that I had done the work that I had come to do that night so I declined and enjoyed the rest of the songs on a more superficial level. I could still feel them reordering bits of my body and energy but they were no longer slurping me through wormholes like lightspeed linguini into alien landscapes populated with scorpion demons or giant star doctors or snuffling elephant monsters.
The rest of the ceremony was like being around a campfire with my best friends even though I only knew 3 of the other 12 folks there. I felt better than I ever remember feeling: it was like being rebuilt from the ground up on a molecular, energetic, vibrational, and physical level. Ayahuasca reached all up in me and got rid of a bunch of coping mechanisms that I had grown out of and optimized me for actually living my best life. Which sounds fucking ludicrous and if someone had said that to me on September 25 I would’ve told them to get fucked but holy shit this medicine works and it works in ways that are not understandable through the lens of official reality. I genuinely feel like I had a vibrational tune up and an energetic cleansing and a physical healing all at once and over the course of like 3 hours that felt like 12 because Ayahuasca operates completely outside of time and as the Mother of All Medicines she can do it all.
I started this post a few days after the ceremony and, as you can see, didn’t finish it until almost 2 months later (blame it on 2020). Before the ceremony I had taken a prolonged break from any and all occult practices beyond check-ins with my patrons and some light prayer after an encounter with some spirits that left me feeling like I had grabbed hold of a high tension power line with my teeth. More on that some other time. Since the ceremony I have gotten back into some regular practices with much better results than I had been getting before; I feel closer to that realm or like it is more readily accessible and easier to communicate with, like part of my tune up was optimizing me for this work.
There is such an amazing presence with Ayahuasca and she really does seem to be some sort of incarnation or avatar of the divine feminine spirit, the All-Mother, nurturing and healing, powerful and ancient, loving and playful, awesome and terrifying. I am so grateful to have been given the chance to experience such an incredible healing with such great people in a safe and familiar environment with experienced ceremony leaders and two great friends and my wonderful wife. I would honestly recommend this medicine to anyone; it was like being in Tom Bombadil’s house; love and magic and healing and joy dripping from the rafters. And what could be better medicine for an epoch-ending year like 2020 than that?