Citation: Ed. "Visions in the Rainforest: An Experience with Brugmansia (exp60674)". Erowid.org. Feb 13, 2007. erowid.org/exp/60674
The indigenous healers were teaching me about their lives and medicine in a small village deep in the rainforest. I showed absolutely no interest in ingesting anything, and unlike vacationing trippers, had never had any intention of even trying ayahuasca in the rainforest. However, after weeks of instruction and preparation, including ayahuasca ceremonies, my new teachers decided that I was prepared and should participate in a final ceremony using a plant they call maikuia. Only after returning to my country did I finally figure out what maikuia was in English. I was the only foreigner in their village. Some background information, a few days before I had been stalked by jaguars for four hours during a night hike, so that was fresh in my mind.
This is what I wrote in my journal early that day:
We have to fast after breakfast. F and I are going to ingest maikuia (floripondio). E and J are going to ingest ayahuasca. We will pass the night in the jungle, taking hammocks to sleep in. They tell me that F and I will lose our five senses for the night and we will have visions of the past and of the future. I am ready. It does not scare me. The only thing that gives me fear is being without my senses where there are jaguars like those that stalked us four nights ago. But, we will be four people, and they know the rainforest, the plants, everything. It will be a good night. Tomorrow I will have to rest for the whole day as all the broken connections of my nerve system reconnect.
This is a short excerpt from my journal several days later, when I had regained enough vision to write:
We ask the old stone our favors before we drink. We both ask for good visions and direction before swallowing the greenish concoction. I wander off and sit on a fallen log. F wanders off in the opposite direction. After an hour or more watching the darkness fall around me, I decided that the plant has not worked and perhaps it is because I am not ready.
Marching back to the village, alone and with no light, I meet E, who is on his way to take care of us. He says I must come back with him to the mountain. I insist on going back to the village and bed, as nothing is happening. Then we both hear it again. The two jaguars. Far away, but coming closer.
That settles it. I am heading back to the village. He stands silently as I go and retrieve F, lug him out of his hammock and slip back down the mountain.
There is another small post like the one on the mountain, and there we stop.
'You cannot go back to the village. It is forbidden for you to go there after you have ingested maikuia,' says E.
Just then, a large black jaguar, tall as E's shoulder flies toward us in the night. His spear is flung to the side and somehow gashes his right shoulder open. They struggle in my dim lantern light. E ends up killing the monster with his bare hands in spite of the wound. The lantern lights begins dimming. I think the battery light is going out.
My battery wasn't dying, my eyesight was. My vision was so dim there was no point in turning on a light. I think F must be in a maikuia coma now.
Two more jaguars arrive.
'We should fight these two and run to the village,' I say.
'We can't. First, I am injured. You are weak, and you and F must stay here for the night after taking our sacred plant.'
'My eyesight's dimming, your wound will be more of a detriment as the pain and stiffness set in, and look... more.'
Sure enough, two more pairs of gleaming eyes, crunching up slowly, watching us, but hesitating as they see the great dead cat at E's feet. I don't think about why the maikuia isn't working. I am busy calculating and trying to stay calm.
'I can't believe it! I can't believe it!' E calls. 'I've never known so many jaguars to pass through our territory.' This doesn't sound like happy news. And I have bigger worries than thinking about how the jaguars came to be there.
Then was the first time I thought 'What if this isn't real? I am dreaming in my bed back in the village, and all I must do is wake up.' I throw myself on a hammock, fall asleep, and wake up, still on that hammock. So this wasn't a dream. And my little snooze hadn't helped. More cats were circling, five or six. I tried to rouse F but he'd only half-smile, mumble in his language, and turn over. And E was gone.
Out of nowhere came human voices, a woman and a few children bringing food for E and his overnight stay. Climbing down from the village. I try to tell them they must not go on. They must turn back. The woman refuses, but hearing the crackle of the jaguars and seeing the large prey of E, she decides to wait down at this post for his return.
To my dismay, her children throw some blankets on the bamboo floor, no walls, half-finished hut, and they fall fast asleep. I could not rouse them. Now I definitely could not go for help. The jaguars have given up subtlety and are practically tramping on the feet of the children. One bent down slowly, but his eyes looking in mine, clamped a child by the foot in his jaws and slowly began to drag him away.
I had never killed anything larger than a cockroach in my life, but I couldn't hesitate. I grabbed a burning log and let it fall crashing over his head. The cat dropped the child and rolled over, dead.
Just then I noticed the poisonous snake, a toadheaded pitviper, crawling from our fire, I turned and hit that too. But with the first blow, it turned into a log.
Then, E was there and said he would help us for awhile, but then F and I really must go to the other mountain. I wanted us all to get up to the village right away and agressively.
Another family came down the path, the man even had a gun. They chatted in their language.
'Tell them to help us!' I frantically command, probably in English.
Two of the kids decide to stay with us, to my dismay.
'We are going back up the sacred mountain. Now!' E commanded, despite my protests.
His insistent and sincere expression puts the thought to my mind, again, that this isn't real. All I have to do is pass some test, I think. I should respect those who try and teach me. So I could go back to the hammocks on the mountain, trust E's judgment, and get a good grade on this test.
But if it IS real? The wrong decision is life and death.
'And the children?' I ask.
'They must learn to have no fear, too. Let them learn,' he says. I can't leave them.
I knew that fearlessness was only one factor in winning a battle against the jaguars. So I'd fail the test and look silly. I knew no martial arts, could hardly sheathe a knife, and really abhorred the idea of killing anything. But I would not leave the children.
'I'm not going,' I said harshly. Then, 'Please, stay, we need you.'
'You must be calm and unafraid,' E tells me.
'I'm not scared or frantic. I just can't protect these sleeping children in this poor hut. My eyes are going dim,' I reply.
In fact, the only thing I could see were the black jaguars. They were splotches of darkness blacker than black with brilliant eyes.
I sat down finally on a hammock, the cats watched us, but did nothing. Some of them rarely moved. I did not move. E told me F and I must go back up the mountain. I refuse. I convince E to sit for awhile on the other end of my hammock, trying to keep him there.
And thus began the waiting. The cats would hardly move, inching forward so slowly, then pounce! For some reason, they attacked more where I had a body part out of my blanket. And they attacked me the most. I would stay under the blanket as long as possible. Sometimes, I heard E frantically crying 'Cover up! Cover up!' I would throw the blanket over my head and E would beat the jaguar back.
After a long time of this, we were very tired. He began snoring and I couldn't wake him up sometimes. The cats seemed to tire out, too.
[Then my account goes into phrases that make no sense at all for a few pages, and then it starts making sense, but I switched to referring to myself in third person. The account continues for twenty-ish pages, filled with detailed experiences that I live over the next two days. Sometimes, I refer to myself in third person, sometimes even as 'he' instead of 'she.' Sometimes I lapse into nonsense phrases or Spanish.]
After a few days, I realize that although I had thought during the whole experience that the plant had not worked, I had actually entered a deep schizophrenic psychosis. I had no idea I was 'hallucinating' as everything seemed completely real to me. According to E, I had to be tied up as I was violently roaming the mountaintop, convinced I was saving children from stalking jaguars. I also had been attacking logs with burning sticks, convinced they were vipers. One time, I escaped and they found me standing in the middle of the fire we kept going on the mountaintop. Miraculously, I was not burned. For two days, I answered everything in English, convinced I was speaking Spanish. They would tell me in Spanish that they could not understand me when I spoke English, and I would get annoyed telling them I WAS speaking Spanish... though I was not. When I wrote this account days later, I could still barely see, and reading some of the nonsense I wrote, I was still not all there.
I was shocked to learn that makuia was brugmansia and probably would have never agreed to go on that vision quest had I known at that time. However, I was about as prepared as you can be. I was psychologically, emotionally, and physically trained by indigenous healers with over forty years of experience. It is against their tradition to 'speak against' your visions. Therefore, when I asked the shaman, for example, if he saw the jaguars I saw, he would reply 'yes' and ask me if I was afraid. I would reply 'no.' Their culture believes this plant helps the prepared person conquer their fear as they combat enemies in visions that last for days. I always had two 'sitters,' really guides that would ask me about my visions and ask me about my fear of whatever I saw.
If I had not been with these guides, I probably would have lost my mind, especially over the next few days, as I began to weave back and forth between lucidity and insanity without my vision. But they taught me to be calm and to fight any 'bad' vision as if it were a real enemy.
I took a dosage prepared by someone with dozens of years of experience, fortunately, as this stuff can kill you or land you in a psych ward. Even one of his relatives lost his mind for two weeks and wandered off in the jungle, lost for almost a month.
I am grateful for what I learned but would never ever ever do this again. You go completely schizophrenic. It is not like a normal hallucinogen that makes you see your friends face melt off or makes you see squiggly lines in the wallpaper. You are totally immersed in a convincing alternate reality while your body here on earth crashes around violently, hurting yourself, your surroundings, and even the people around you.
I respect the indigenous cultures who use the plant spiritually, but even they do not do it more than a few times in their life. It is the most powerful plant they know. NEVER mistake this plant for a recreational drug!
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