What is the ‘Sloth-lounge’?
Sloth-lounge is the name of the container we have created with which to hold the ceremony in our specific format, which is shaped and adapted by those who participate.
Different groups from different cosmologies may use sacred medicines for different reasons. What is important is that the medicine is treated with respect, that some form or structure is created for the ceremony to take place, and that that form is respected by the participants.
Every person who participates in a ceremony is an intricate part of the evolutionary process. Rather than approaching the shaman as the sole healer, it is the communities unity and focus, together with the ceremonies facilitator which produces healing. The group achieves heightened states of awareness with the support and assistance of their peers. This is the core of Communal Shamanism.
I have been using Ayahuasca for many years and have participated in various ceremonies with either a religious or community/family context. I have seen the use of ayahuasca vary, according to the Religion, Cultural upbringing, or Traditional norms in the participating cultures. What is clear is that Ayahuasca is a tool for transformation and when that tool is used properly, with intent, then more clarity and direction is received by the participants in the ceremonies.
We create a direct connection with nature, with the forest. We do not use specific religious, cultural, or indigenous forms for ceremonies, choosing to honor all forms. We see ourselves in a new universe with different rules and we need to explore the medicines with an open heart and mind without dogma attached to religion, culture, or tradition. We honor the teachings of all, however, we choose to seek new answers to new questions and thus create a container that is safe for the participant to be able to process their own healing or insight. A new container with new songs and teachings will bring new information. Shamanism is something that we need to explore ‘in the moment’ and not from history books and hearsay stories. We tend to get stuck in cultural dogma when looking to the past for solutions. The connection is direct, there is no need for a preacher or shaman. Of course, there is a need for respect, compassion, empathy, and care in a ceremony.
The container created for the sloth lounge is largely created by a core of 4-5 people and is often assisted by 3-4 more singers/musicians for the ceremony. The ‘crew’ or people holding the ceremony are used to working together and by respecting each other’s space, are able to bring their medicine into the circle when the time is right. By working together often, we develop a good understanding of the songs and different talents of the participating crew.
Instruments used in the ceremony.
The Chakapa or Shakapa known as ‘Wind of the jungle’ is a kind of palm frond made from the leaves of ‘Pariana stenolemma tutin’. It is used as a rhythm and healing instrument during Ayahuasca ceremonies. The sound of leaves calms the participants and purifies the energy in the room.
Voice is the most powerful instrument and the expression of sacred songs to call the spirits and inspire the heart is expressed thru the singer’s songs. For the first two-thirds of the ceremony, we prefer that a concentration on medicine songs and icaroos is used with simple Chakapa or maraka accompaniment. Songs sung in the ceremony are well practices and prepared, it is not a time to be creative and spontaneous. After the ceremony, we usually enjoy the freedom of creation and spontaneity with music.
Marakas are used extensively in ceremonies. The maraka maintains the rhythm of the song being sung. In the ceremony, it is better to let one maraka hold the space, especially if the singer is using the maraka to create the pulse for his/her song. Be sensitive if you choose to join in with the maraka and try not to be louder than the leader.
The Didgeridoo is often used in ceremonies due to the harmonics it creates which is very similar to the vibration of the icaroos. The didgeridoo is usually played at a time when the medicine is strong or when the medicine is just starting.
The Drum is used later in the ceremonies with the introduction of the red path and African songs and songs from other cultures. We prefer that only one drum at a time is used in the ceremony. Having many drums in a ceremony is loud and can turn into a jam. Again we prefer that the space for jamming is after the ceremony. We also ask that only handheld drums be used and that Djembes and other loud drums are not used.
Flutes are often used in the ceremony when there are flute players participating. There are various places in the ceremony where the flute can be used.
Guitars are a fairly new addition to ceremony. Guitars are not traditional and I have always been against using guitars in ceremonies due to the harmonics it is governed by. I have always preferred earth-based harmonics and try to keep to those instruments for ceremony. However, guitars have become a part of the culture of traditional people from the forest and have now been used for many generations in those traditions that they have become part of the culture and many of their songs are sung with the guitar. So at a later stage of the ceremony, we begin to sing sacred songs from the Amazon tribes with the guitar.
Other instruments such as the Marimba, Tibetan bowls, mouth bows, berimbaus, and Mbiras are used when they are present and when there is someone confident to play them.
Generally, you should check in with the facilitator if you wish to bring an instrument into the ceremony. This helps us to be able to coordinate the songs and will tell you if the instrument you want to use is appropriate or not.