The South American plant medicine known as Ayahuasca has become more popular to North Americans over the past few years with magazines like the Hollywood Reporter recently claiming hundreds of "parties" going on in the L.A. area, monthly, and others depicting it as a "cool" or "rad" thing to do.
I thought it best to give some words of caution for those who might be tempted to pursue what could be either a destructive or a wonderfully absorbing experience.
First of all, taking Ayahuasca is not a casual activity. It is
not a party drug. It is a medicine (the Grandmother medicine) that, in the proper hands, can be used to heal addictions and other illnesses, including cancers.
And, while it can, also, allow one to experience enhanced or higher states of perception, the untrained or misguided may experience horrific results.
The medicine...a bitter, thick liquid...is a blend of the ayahuasca vine, that grows in a double helix-like fashion, and a plant called chacruna. In various places and by various Ayahuasceros, other plants may be added, as well.
(Note that one should always inquire what, if any, additional plants have been used in the preparation, as well as the reason why.)
There are, also, three main types of Ayahuasca: yellow, the mildest, most prevalent in Brazil and with the
Santo Daime groups that have (mistakenly, in my opinion) Christianized their ceremonies; black, causing the strongest vibrations...more prevalent in Peru; and
coscobel, the smoothest of the brews...from northern Peru.
Because it is the Grand
mother medicine, as opposed to Peyote, which is the Grand
father medicine, Ayahuasca should always be imbibed within a circle...the traditional and most proper form for sharing feminine energies. When it's not, that would be the first warning about the worthiness of the Shaman or
Curandero, who is running the ceremony. (Note: an Ayahuascero is the one who makes the medicine and may or may not be a Shaman or
Curandero, who runs a circle...another reason why one should not try to make and drink Ayahuasca on one's own.)
The true Ayahuasca experience is 50 percent about the medicine and 50 percent about the Shaman. A bad Shaman can cause great harm to individuals within the circle, which should, ideally range from 4 to no greater size than 14 people. Any more would be too many for most any Shaman to properly handle and would be a good indication the practitioner is only out for money and should be avoided.
A good Shaman would, also, meet with each individual in advance of the ceremony to learn his/her intention for being part of the circle and find out about any physical or mental issues he/she might have. Not doing so would be another indication the Shaman is only out for money and should be avoided.
There is a proper diet that a good Shaman will give to follow before and after a ceremony. The only thing that seems to be common to all is not eating pork within a given amount of time pre and post. (Note that it is a chemical, not a spiritual reason.)
If you want to involve yourself in this what could be life-changing experience, make sure you investigate the Shaman involved and make sure the above-mentioned precepts are being followed.
There are four basic levels or stages to the Ayahuasca experience.
The first level is Healing of the emotional/psychological kind. It is my contention that the less one has worked on these areas in his/her life, the more difficult will be this cleansing stage...the one noted for regurgitation, crying, screaming out, etc.
The second level is Curing of the physical kind...working on ailments and/or addictions.
The third is the raising of one's Vibrational Level to allow for better handling of increased strengths of the medicine and facilitate moving to the teaching the medicine offers.
And, finally, there is the level of Connectivity where one is able to perceive the interconnection of everyone and everything and have profound visions and understanding of the operations of the Universe.
icaros (songs) and music, the Shaman takes the circle on journeys wherein each individual will reach his/her proper level. While one may have intentions, it is best, in my opinion, to surrender to what Grandmother wishes to teach. (Note that a person may move back and forth among the four levels within a single ceremony.)
Two things to remember, whether you are a new or experienced journeyer, is to always coat yourself in white light before a ceremony and to be unafraid to banish any visions that you find too disturbing.
I've tried to give a brief, general picture of Ayahuasca and what to look for in a Shaman, but I will be willing to give stronger recommendations/opinions on worthy Shamans in or from Peru and elsewhere, as well as whether this experience might be right for you.