The Unfolding Story

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Ayahuasca / My Story

Ayahuasca / My Story

My journey with Ayahuasca began in 1996, and subsequently, much of my path for the past twenty-five years has been influenced by my experiences in and around various styles of Ayahuasca ceremonies. I have never spoken publicly about my experiences but now find myself in a place with the time and the space to write. My son is in the Amazon as I write this, and I have many relative reflections coming to the surface of my memory about the path I have chosen to walk.

Huni Kuin symbol of Protection and awareness

But before we talk about Ayahuasca, I would like to give you more information to give you a better context of this story. I was initially prompted to write a story about how I came to work with Ayahuasca by friends in Costa Rica who showed interest in the stories I tell about my past and in doing so, have uncovered many memories of past events that make more sense now than they did when they were happening. It has been an interesting time of reflection during the current plandemic and I feel that it is important for me to reflect on the past twenty-five years and share what I have learned from my experiences with others who are searching for answers. Follows is the beginning of an ongoing story that I wish to present differently. I would like the story to have input from people who are in the story or feature in my photos of the story. This way, by having more than one perspective to the story, because a lot of them are profound, I will interact with the readers of my story and follow prompts to write about specific occasions which I have already written about and expand the story there.

The Rustlers Valley Campsite, South Africa 1998

This story begins at Rustlers Valley, as I turn thirty-one years old in the year 1992. I had been involved in ceremonial work for four or five years, before drinking Ayahuasca. It was those many ceremonies leading up to my introduction to Ayahuasca, that became years of exploration and discovery for me. I was experiencing a world of new ideas, solutions, and teachings, many of which I had never thought possible or even considered. I put myself thru many initiations and explored as many ways to access the spiritual realm as I could, from Vision quests, Sweat Lodges, Trance-drumming, Fasting-dances, Meditation, Trance-dance, biodanza, Sound-Journeys, San Pedro circles, and Mushroom journeys. I was influenced and taught by various Sangomas, Medicine women, Curanderos, Pajes, and Shaman from various traditional cultures and from teachers who have awakened the inner Shaman thru personal experience.

The San Pedro in full flower

Until 1992, I had been practicing as a professional photographer in Cape Town, South Africa. I was developing a new business, a photographic studio, darkrooms for printing high quality black & white prints and I was shooting regular editorials for local fashion magazines and model agencies. I loved the work and was good at it. In 1993 I was awarded six awards in the “Ilford Profoto” awards that year for my entries. Two silver and four bronze. However, it was a difficult business for me to maintain financially. I was barely paying the bills every month. Although I was a good photographer, I was never a very good businessman. I had a self-owned business with no capital and no insurance on my equipment. All my equipment had been paid for as I did not like to buy on credit. Then suddenly in August 1993, I had a fire that destroyed my darkrooms and photographic studio on the slopes of Table Mountain in Oraniazigt, Cape Town. It was devastating. Everything I had worked on was burned. All my files, all my photographs, and negatives from years of work. 

That was not all, 1993 became a hell year for me. Firstly, losing my photography studio to the fire, a few months later I wrote off my car in a freak accident in Cape Town, and to top it all I was bitten by a tick and got a serious case of tick bite fever. Society seemed to turn against me. Suddenly all my friends turned their backs, the businesses I had credit with stopped my credit. I couldn’t pay my rent, my cameras were destroyed and I was not feeling any support from any direction. I lost faith. I lost faith in everything I had been told. I became a rebel. I wanted to know things that I didn’t know about. The world that I had created and believed in had crumbled. I saw the Beast, I saw the machine I had been working for. It took me losing every material thing that I owned to be able to see the truth. But now I started to question everything and went into a state of spiritual emergency. I rebelled. I was angry! I had been lied to by so many people. Lies upon lies. That “sugar gives me energy”, that the government had my best interests at heart, that one should go to a doctor when they are sick, and that a slice of lightly buttered toast, with one fried egg and a rasher of bacon, was equal to a bowl of Kellogs Rice Crispies with milk. I realized that I had to question everything that I had been told. I had been molded by my naivety. I was one of the rats running on this treadmill of society and now that I could see …… I wanted to get off.

Sweat Lodge

It was at this time in Cape Town in 1993 that I experienced my first Sweat Lodge. I was in a state of remorse, moping over my recent losses. A guy who had become my friend told me that he was holding a Sweat Lodge and that I should come and join them. I had no idea what a Sweat Lodge was at that time, but I was interested to visit my friend on the slopes of Table mountain where he said he had built one. I packed my swimming trunks, a towel, and a dozen beers as I didn’t know any better. There were only five people at the fire and the Sweat Lodge itself was a crude construction of bamboo holding up some old blankets big enough for five or six people to sit around the hot stones. When I arrived my friend told me that I should save the beer for later and join them. It was not a very well built lodge and it was nothing like the lodges I experience today, however it opened my mind to a new reality and my life was significantly altered on that day. I was given the name ‘Niyan’ by the lodge-keeper whose name was Warrick. I kept that name for thirteen years. 

Rustlers Easter Rock Festival 1995

A few days after that first sweat lodge, I heard about a community that lived in the Maluti Mountain foothills near Lesotho in Central Southern Africa, who were beginning to hold “Festivals” and do a thing called “Permaculture”. This community was experimenting with off-the-grid living and alternative lifestyles among other things. I didn’t know much else about it but I was drawn there and decided to attend the first “Rustlers Valley, Xmas, Free Festival” in Dec 1994. I had met a guy named David at a drum circle in Cape Town and he said that he was living in this community and that I should visit sometime. Well, he didn’t think that I would follow thru and visit and was quite surprised at my sudden unannounced arrival, but we became close friends over the next few years, a kind of spiritual brotherhood. We continue to hold ceremonies together when our paths cross.

Niyan(Nixiwaka) and Davide

Coming soon:

My Arrival in the Rustlers valley community and the subsequent developments…………………….

My introduction to Ayahuasca in South Africa and the path that began to unfold………..

Traveling to Brazil to learn more about the Ayahuasca culture and participating in the Feitio ceremonies, making medicine………

The unfoldment of the South African style of Ayahuasca ceremony and the integrations with local culture……….

And many more……

I will be correlating and linking photo albums and videos to color the stories. If you would like to participate or follow the unfolding of the story then please join my telegram channel here: https://t.me/rustlersvalley

This blog will help me to explore my writing technique and give me the opportunity to edit and expand the story. I will be publishing the complete book on Patreon, so if you feel inspired then please join my Patreon page.

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