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Monday, 22 March 2010

Surviving a Traditional Ayahuasca Ceremony - Page 3

Written by Katie O'Hara
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Staring at the dark outline of the thatched roof against the night sky, my eyes begin to glaze over.  Lightning flashes—illuminating the faces of the three men on the floor next to me.  The chanting of the shaman begins to blend with the sounds of the insects and nocturnal beasts prowling outside the shack, deep in the Amazon jungle.  My body feels cool and tingly.  I melt into the wall.  My eyelids feel like they are shutting from the bottom up.  Another dramatic bolt of lightning rips across the starlit sky, sending me back to my present circumstances.


Dizzy and sick, I pad out of the bathroom, barefoot, and resume my position.  I sit in agony while my stomach practices acrobatics.  An imperceptible amount of time later, I am heading back to the ominous toilet, but this time I have to ask Jhonny to remove the other guy from the bathroom.  I vomit again but I’m not comfortable enough to relax and empty my turning bowels in the communal area.

I return to the floor and Malo asks me to move closer.  I scoot toward him and lay down; sweat is rolling off my face.  He anoints my head with some of the smelly menthol liquid, placing his thumb on the middle of my forehead and two fingers in my hair, above each temple.  While grasping my head like a bowling ball, he says a prayer.  The tension in my head subsides a bit and I immediately become cool.  Too cool—my body is quivering in my damp t-shirt and thin cotton pants.  Shaking the dried leaves over my body, Malo blows more dense smoke toward my face, reminding me of the stale tobacco flavor in the ayahuasca, inducing water to rise again from the depths of my insides.  I turn my head away and Malo’s chanting soothes me into relaxation again.

My gaze softens.  It is very dark; a zipper opens a slat in the darkness.  Millions of insects pour out of the opening zipper, but they don’t frighten me.

My mind races; cockroaches, cicadas and ants crawl onto my body.  Then they begin to segregate—the ants line up and march in a line, the cockroaches scurry aimlessly on swift legs—so fast they seem to hover over the ground, and crickets feel with their feelers—their powerful sound echoing in my ears like little weather forecasters.  The ants work for their queen.  They gather food in an orderly fashion.  Then they have sex with her.  That’s what they live for.  They don’t know anything else.  Why don’t cockroaches line up like ants?  They run about scavenging for food—usually alone.  Does that make the ants better?  How could they be better?  That’s what the cockroaches know.  That’s what they learned when they were little baby cockroaches.  Just like the bees.  That learned to make honey.  The mosquitoes learned to drink blood, and the spiders make webs.  They are all bugs.  They are different.  Some we consider to be good, some bad.  But how can we judge the ones we think are bad?  That’s how they survive.  That’s the only thing they know.  They do what they do best.

Why do I hate cockroaches?  Fear.  Cockroaches don’t bite.  They are ugly, but they probably aren’t ugly to one another.  I’m not afraid of ants.  Some ants bite.  Yet cockroaches are a symbol of a dirty place.  Ants like picnics.

I am glad that Jhonny, despite having also drunk the liquid, is perceptive enough to notice my chattering teeth and covers me with a jacket.

I am still cold, and wish to be back in the jungle lodge, where I can strip from the sweaty clothing and lay under covers.  My lower back begins to cramp up, aching with tightness.  I realize that nothing will relieve me of the agony, so I just sit through it.  I do, until finally, after it seems I have been sleeping without actually falling asleep, Jhonny appears over me with my jungle boots in hand.  It is time to go home.

After I am helped into my boots, I thank the shaman, who seems to be in another world.  We set out into the jungle to walk back to the lodge with only the light of the new moon and Jhonny’s headlamp.  Another man is walking in front.  I am not sure if he was one of the men that drank ayahuasca with us or someone from the lodge that came to help us back.


(Page 3 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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