Citation: Dillon . "The Swish of the Schacapa: An Experience with Ayahuasca (ID 68635)". Erowid.org. Mar 5, 2008. erowid.org/exp/68635
'What we need now are explorers. We need many diaries of many explorers so we can begin to get a feel for the territory' Terence McKenna
The search for our spiritual selves is indeed a dangerous endeavor. It is a truly horrifying sight when the shells we occupy during our daily lives are ripped away, if only partially, and we are able catch fleeting glimpses into a space that is truly indescribable. I speak of scopes and terrains of such immensity and power that our fragile minds are 'blown away' by the sheer force of their existence, their aliveness, and perhaps most disturbing, their indifference. Somewhere within this awesome celestial synchrony of life we each exist, every one of us, participating in some unknown way; each act, every step infused completely with volition, with purpose. In the end, I'll bet, the only thing that makes sense it to find humor in the silliness of our lives, and to laugh at our tenacious efforts to find some meaning and purpose in a place where there is no single truth. In a place where the same leaf can fall off the same tree twice.
My experience with Ayahuasca took place four hours upriver from the jungle city of Iquitos, located in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon. I had read very little about the plant, but I had recently read about similar plants and the profound effects created when utilized in the right places, with the proper guides. Ayahuasca is a vine found in the upper Amazon rainforest, in which an extract is taken and mixed with several other local plants to make a drink. It has been used in spiritual rituals among Shamanic tribes dating back millennia. I will no go into great detail about the uses of the plant as all I really want to do is provide an account of my experience partaking in the ritual. I will say that I did not come prepared, as I had not undertaken the proper diet and other body cleansing responsibilities usually required before ingesting Ayahuasca. The guide at the jungle lodge I was staying at first tried to dissuade me from the experience. It took me two days to assure him that I was not simply looking for a new drug experience, and although I had no previous knowledge of the drug, I was approaching the situation with the humbleness, respect, and fear that it deserved. Later in the day he came and told me that he had spoken to a Shaman from a local village, and the ceremony would be preformed with me and him alone, beginning at ten that night.
I was disappointed at my reaction, which was rather mild at the time. This is something that I had been coveting for a long time; a pagan ritual with a real Shaman involving hallucinogenic drugs propelling me into unknown realms. I remained rather detached the remainder of the day, although I did develop knot in my stomach that would stay with me for another 5 days. In truth I was terrified, and a large part of me really wanted to back out. My reaction surprised me as I began to realize much I had truly come to believe in the legitimacy of what I was going to undertake. Not a few months ago I would have called myself an atheist. As the time drew near I realized that the elation and transcendence I had hoped for would not be something easily come by, and that nothing worth having ever comes easy, nor should it. Indeed this theme would resurface with a pitiless vengeance later that night.
I met Don Jorge about an hour before the ceremony. He was quiet and very non-assuming. I was not disappointed as he appeared to have the inner calm and knowing that I fantasized about. There was a ferocity to him that I would discover later, but nothing dangerous or sinister. I would come to trust him implicitly. I waited nervously while he prepared the room, a small bungalow at the far end of the lodge. I had earlier opted out of performing the ceremony at his village given there were no mosquito nets and I would be left exposed and unable to defend myself throughout the night. The lodge guide, Moses, instructed me on certain aspects of the ritual I was to perform. He spoke about his experiences, and continuously asserted that I must concentrate. This was unusual to me, since in my previous psychedelic experiences it only when I lost my concentration that the visuals and insights flowed more freely. Focusing too hard on these anomalies would shift me back toward a more normal perspective, and they would laughingly fade into the fog from where they came. I told him that I was scared. 'Good, fear is important I think…you must come to Mother Ayahuasca with respect. Tell yourself that you are going to have a good trip, and perhaps you will'. I silently followed Don Jorge and Moses down a wooden walkway to the farthest corner of the lodge. Other lodge residents, whom I had earlier boasted about my decision wished me luck, along with several villagers who were hired to drive the boats and maintain the lodge. They wore mischievous smiles as I passed. I took them as good signs that I was about to experience something profound, and painful, and completely mysterious. They knew I had no idea what I was about to experience.
I entered the room and took my shoes off, sitting on a mat against the wall. Don Jorge sat about three feet in front of me, to the right. All the candles were extinguished except for one, located between us. I had a bottle of water, some coca leaves to chew, and a vomit bucket. Moses said he would be in and out to check on my progress. Don Jorge began to chant and shake a schacapa rattle, a small branch of dried out leaves used as a spirit catcher. I shivered as he began to call up the spirits of Ayahuasca. His song was truly beautiful. I felt myself falling into a trancelike state as I followed its hypnotic rhythms. It followed a specific pattern, in which he would finish a verse, drop an octave and repeat the cadence, raise two octaves, and then finish with the original octave. The swish swish of the schacapa rattle blended perfectly with his song. Suddenly he blew out the candle and lit a pipe, filled with a very pungent tobacco. He blew three times into a bottle containing the Ayahuasca, then leaned over and blew smoke over my body; all of this done in perfect unison with the rhythm of his song. He poured me a glass, 'Salute Don Jorge', no thinking now, no backing out. I drank the foul tasting liquid. I fought hard to keep it down. 'Salute Dillon', Don Jorge tipped back the bottle and drank quite a bit more than he gave me. He leaned in close and began to hit the pipe in rapid succession, each outward breath coating me in the cleansing smoke. He gave it to me and motioned for me to do the same. I finally sat back and allowed myself to become enraptured by his song. I had about an hour before the fireworks would begin.
As I relate my experience I think it is important to note that not all of what I saw and felt was available to me at the time. There was way too much to process and encode into memory, and as I have reflected on the experience over the past month, new memories have resurfaced from the time fog. I have slowly been incorporating them into a somewhat coherent flow of events that I can now make more sense of. With that said, everything I am now about to say is deceiving. It has been 'dumbed down' into a scope that is understandable and workable by my small mind. The worlds in which I entered exist at a point beyond human understanding. I had no concept for and lacked the cognitive capacity to conceptualize the Being's that existed in that place. Without a guide, I would imagine the assault of the visions would be even more jumbled, incoherent, and domineering. He had a guiding presence that would draw me away from visions too intense and dark for me to handle in my untrained and undisciplined state. Words are utterly incapable of describing my glimpse into a realm where emotions, thoughts, sound, sight, smell and tactile sensations lost their distinctive edges, where egos dissolve and merge with the external, where I was a willing and knowing participant in the divine substance that exists inside and out of everything, a place all encompassing and saturated, completely saturated, with volition, with life.
The first hour was all waiting. I sat against the wall immersed in an oppressive darkness, listening to Don Jorge sing. His song would change from whistles, to a series of blowing noises, back to a mixture of Spanish and the native tongue of Quechua. I began to doubt myself and my right to be there. I felt fraudulent sitting next to Don Jorge; an unworthy privileged condescending foreigner, a decent of the conquering west who mercilessly plagued and nearly eradicated hundreds of such cultures. I thought that Don Jorge should be disgusted with me. He periodically leaned forward to blow smoke on my head, a gesture to cleanse and prepare me for the onslaught of the visions. I became very nervous that I had not vomited yet and was not feeling the effects of the vine. Don Jorge offered me a second glass, 'Salute Don Jorge…Salute Dillon'
I suddenly became aware that I was vomiting, a natural part of the process known as purging. By degrees I realized that I was taking turns with two figures sitting on either side of me. We each would purge in turn, and as it progressed I felt an intimate bond begin to form between us. I rather liked them. I was able to anticipate each surge of energy produced before each purge, as if different parts of me were connected to the two figures. I remember feeling that this initial cleansing was necessary before I could begin. Suddenly, I remembered that it was only Don Jorge and I in the room. The faces of my two comrades materialized. My two best friends sat facing me, Mike and Corey. Their faces were clear and more real than it is possible to conjure up in normal imagination. Corey was the quintessential Corey, the essence of Coreyness. Every nuance, every line on his face and movement of his body conveyed meaning, vivid and alive and powerful. We conversed without words, beyond language, straight the center on 'knowing'. I knew, without a doubt, what he conveyed. Our relationship presented itself as a singular feeling. It was right. I watched as all the bullshit our minds create melt away; actually melt away, visually and viscerally. The focal point, or essence of the meaning of our connection emerged amidst melting colors. He leaned forward and blew smoke in my face. I was overwhelmed by the immensity of it all. I had to physically avert my gaze before I would be consumed. I looked at Mike; a look of farewell. He abruptly stood up and walked toward the door. He turned to look at me over his right shoulder. Our paths parted, and his eyes contained, in that moment, the strife and pain and wonder in his life, while simultaneously expressing our relationship with all its struggles and triumphs. I purged. The pain was excruciating. It took precedence over the visions. I felt regret and lost time. I faded into darkness and agony.
Time was no factor, yet much passed before I regained a measure of control. I distantly, so distantly, heard the soft soothing rattle of the schacapa. I followed the sound. I felt my spirit moving, as if in a windless void, pulled forward by a force unknown. I was compelled to fight through a desire to faint. The sound turned to a pressure on my abdomen. I cupped my stomach with my hands to keep the sound close. Each rattle became a color, and each color became more brilliant as I drew closer and closer to the source. I suddenly became aware of Don Jorge's song, a glorious symphony of light and hope. I wept without tears at the majesty of the sound. My mind cleared and I opened my eyes. The room was black, yet superimposed on the darkness was what appeared to be an energy grid, luminescent, ever-changing yet constant. It ran through everything in the room, connecting everything in some immeasurable way. I sat for a bit in the colors, enjoying the temporary respite from the intensity of the Ayahuasca spirit. If I allowed myself to focus on any one aspect of the energy grid I would feel it begin to pull me in. I resisted by re-focusing my attention on Don Jorge. Each new discovery seemed to happen suddenly, without warning. All at once I noticed the sounds of the jungle. I could distinguish specific individualized sounds among the chorus of the jungle life. I could have spent the rest of my life lost in the intricacies and combinations of songs and languages of that beautiful moment. Each sound was its own language, with its own purpose and direction. Each sound had its own corresponding color and feeling. Everything merged and coalesced into an undifferentiated dance of feeling and expression infinitely beyond my ability to grasp. I did know, however, that what I was witnessing was a grand language, with truth upon truth, wrapped and tangled and connected. It was aware of me. It was fucking aware of me. A shutter ran through my body. I raised my hands in a defensive posture in an attempt to force back a growing pressure. They shook and danced along with the language of the jungle. A chanting began far off to my right. A soft, almost druid like sound, that grew louder and louder in my awareness. It was a message for me; a singular discernible distinct message that I could understand. We conversed. I was lifted up with it, my mind expanded and able to hold multiple concepts and chains of dialogue. It was a place remembered, re-experienced from some deep recess in my mind. I was profoundly aware that I had been here before. Again the intensity of it all grounded me. I realized that the sound I was conversing with were frogs. I crashed from the treetops and found myself again purging, frightened and in agony. Don Jorge loomed over me, sucking and draining off the excessive energy, ingesting it himself. He lite the pipe and his eyes glowed orange in the darkness, illuminated and floating in the free air. He passed it to me and I smoked, immediately purging.
The next few hours were a blur, and I am sure the lessons Ayahuasca attempted to teach me were too much for me to handle. I mercifully blanked out much of it. People I know passed before my eyes, floating before me. Each person in turn changed and twisted into a feminine-like deity, facing me, examining me in scrutinous detail. Her eyes were fantastic. She was talking with me, yet I was refusing to engage her. Her eyes held messages that I could not understand. I quickly learned to push the image away before it pulled me down into another lesson. Again and again she came, each time in the form of a person in my life. I resolutely pushed her away. How much I must have missed by doing this. I began to beg, whoever, for the visions to end. I was drenched in sweat, and my stomach and chest were sore from vomiting. Ayahuasca would not let me go. I felt true despair for the first time in my life. Time passed I suppose. I recall much agony. I remember realizing that I had to pass through a doorway, located just behind my left shoulder before I would be let out. The moment I decided to go Don Jorge changed his song. It became angry and menacing. A spirit hand shoved me backwards into a silent darkness.
I knew I was being given a gift. A presence lingered, pressuring me in the stomach and chest. I was nothing compared to It, this essence of blackness. I lost all fear and opened myself. I was shown death. That was my gift. I felt what death was like, or at least the moment before death. I was somber and detached, yet I felt it with a visceralness that I will not experience again until the moment I die. It was transcendent and glorious. It was the ultimate destroyer, soul crushing and the consumer of awareness. I loved and loathed it. I thought of it as the ultimate expression of the conflicting forces that make up life and death, without which there could be no existence. It was the source of all things, but only a small part. It played out its role indifferently. It would hear no bargaining. Together we sat for an infinite moment. I was content and without fear.
Don Jorge appeared. I was within my own boundaries again. He completed a closing song, running his hands down my head and over my back and chest. I felt the ceremony ending and my everyday ego returning. Moses came in and helped me get up and gather my stuff. He conversed with Don Jorge, who silently departed without a glance. I was drunk and disoriented. Moses led me back to my room. I felt a warm sensation on the back of my right calf. Eventually I looked down and saw a large tree frog resting on my leg. He jumped to the ledge right in front of me. My eyes were drawn to him and for a moment I stood and stared. Moses chuckled and whispered in my ear, 'Jorge says that your spirit animal is the frog' I tried to speak but could not form words. I purged.
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