By CJ Keleher
The road was dark. My apprehension monumental. Anxiety and tense nerves had had me on edge all that day. What was I getting myself into? The question rang again and again in mind as I tread the pavement toward Melissa Wasi’s temple.
I arrived unsure of myself, second guessing my long made decision to experiment with reality itself, with my consciousness and mind. To try and submit to the mystical. I was there for an evening ceremony with ayahuasca and I was nervous as hell.
When I entered the shamans home there were a dozen people sprawled around his living room sipping coca tea and talking. A good energy was present and some joyous faces greeted me and eased my tensions,distracting my raging self doubts with interesting discussions and insight. The group was diverse. A husband and wife, a few younger couples and a bunch of free spirited explorers like myself from five different countries.
The Shaman arrived and explained:
“Keep the bucket close. Don’t vomit on the floor. Keep a noble silence at all costs. Do not scream aloud. Do not disturb your neighbours. You must face the visions. There may be diaharrea,”he said,” also trembling, chills and intensities which may overwhelm you. ‘ His briefing, spoken in a confident slightly accented English.
After our briefing, and a long silence of watchful analysis, one individual decided to backout, knowing the experience was too much. I couldn’t contemplate it. I’d waited three years for this experience I wasn’t about to back down. The shaman led us toward the temple. It was a circular structure among eucalyptus trees, he pointed out the bathrooms under the forests dark canopy, and warned us to purge in the stream if we did it outside.”
I had butterflies in my stomach when I finally entered the room, lit by candles and smelling faintly of sandal wood and incense. How can one not be nervous knowing you must surrender to a plant and experience? To deny what’s coming is to challenge it, and attempting to control something you can’t could drive you crazy. I worried about losing control but I found comfort beside a more experienced Dutch woman, who seemed unworried by the procession and had joked around during briefing.
The shaman sat in the temples center, shadowed by candles and flanked by cushions and musical instruments. He was aided by several fellow ayahuasaqueros and firstly blessed the bottle of brew, a pale brown liquid held in a two litre water bottle. He held it to his forehead, passing his intent into the ayahuasca, silent and safe he urged the sacred brew. He lit more candles, mumbling sacred vows of ancient origin and asked sandal wood was burnt around the drink. He reminded us to be humble toward the brew. To hold it in reverence and pass our intent into the foul liquid before we drank it down.
My palms were sweaty and I kept wiping them on the cushions and pillows beside me. The temple was ringed with piled blankets and cushions. I pulled a blanket closer and kept my water bottle on hand as the first participants knelt before the Shaman, thanking him with outreached hands. Turning to both sides they drank to life and learning, one after another. Finally it was my turn. I rose from under my blanket and knelt before the shaman. He raised the bottle of brew, filling the cup and handing it to me. I held the warm ceramic and told the ayahuasca my wish and raised the brew to my forehead before chugging the foul liquid in a few rancid gulps. I bowed to the Shaman and returned to my cushion mesmerized by the taste of the stuff. Somehow the taste seemed familiar.
The procession of participants repeated the process and then the temple fell into darkness, the candles were extinguished and we sat. We were alone with our thoughts, our demons and anxieties. My mind wandered. I had no idea what to expect but my eyes played tricks on me. IT seemed darker with my eyes open! Minutes after the lights went out the first person vomited violently into their bucket and I tried not to giggle. The brew sat heavily in my stomach but I was not nauseous. I tried to close my mind to the noise, held onto my moldavite pendant and hematitie for grounding and asked the ayahuasca to show me beauty, to be gentle, to enlighten my ignorant self, for it to show me the path of a balanced life.
I don’t know how long passed. Maybe an hour but the first visions crept upon me like a snake in the grass. The air quivered and I sat in meditative silence, wondering if the swirling lines and shapes advancing on the edges of my vision were true hallucinations. Open or closed I began to see an intensified vibrancy and fabric to my surroundings, despite the darkness.