My First Ayahuasca Experience
My first experience with Ayahuasca was in 1996, in a Tipi in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains in central Southern Africa. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I had been told that Ayahuasca (or ‘Ayawoshca’ as it is known by some South Africans) was the mother of all psychedelics and that it was an experience beyond any other. I had been experimenting with the use of psychedelics in combination with shamanic rituals such as Trance Drumming circles, Vision Quests, Fasting Dances, Sweat Lodges, and other healing ceremonies. Things most people had never heard of at the time. We were working with San Pedro Cactus and Fresh Psilocybin mushrooms. It was life at the edge and my wish was to be there, at the edge, where no one had been before, where there is creation and destruction in the same vision. I had been experiencing so many new truths recently, that I was very interested in this mysterious “Mother Ayahuasca”. So, I was in, I had heard from someone who had consumed Ayahuasca a few times and he had had an awakening experience. That’s all I knew. We were not yet connected to the internet at all, so there was very little information available to us other than what we had heard. I did not research Ayahuasca until well after my first three experiences.
I am referring to my first experience with the ‘spirit of Ayahuasca’ because; the first time I drank it was weird, there was no psychedelic experience for me at all. We all sat around in the restaurant with all the tables cleared out and the lights dimmed, the facilitator served everyone a cup of the brew which tasted bad, really bad, it was fermented and the vilest tasting thing I had ever experienced. Then we listened to recorded music for the next 4-5 hours. The staff toilet was just upstairs and that’s where I spent most of the next five hours. The only vision I saw was my vomit. I spent most of my night with my head and/or butt in the toilet. I had never puked and defecated so much in my life. My second experience was in a tipi with five other people but there was not enough medicine to bring the visions and we all just had a pleasant night around the fire feeling no real Ayahuasca experience.
Finally, on the third attempt nearly a year later, in a tipi, set up in the Maluti Mountains; we drank Ayahuasca around the fire after holding a Sweat Lodge. It was a big group of about 25 people. There were people from all walks of life, an incredible group who had heard about this ceremony. The medicine was strong and everyone in the group had some kind of profound experience. I experienced the most amazing world of geometric patterns and shapes. I climbed up the tapestry of life and saw the power of creation. The patterns I experienced were something I had never seen before. Later, I was to discover that the patterns that I had seen were the Shipibo designs. I did not know this at the time, but later, saw Shipibo patterns that were identical to the ones I had experienced. This is important because this showed me how relative the songs are in an ayahuasca ceremony and how the songs influence the visions. I had never seen or explored the Shipibo culture, but the songs that were being played on the CD player around the fire on that night, were Shipibo Ikaroos sung by various Curanderos; and seemed to provoke the Shipibo patterns which I experienced.
I can clearly say, that this was a turning point in my life, things were never the same again. I had seen an astral reality and countless beings that I had never before perceived or even knew existed. It was indescribable, all the incredible things I saw, the animals, the geometric patterns, the incredible colors, the earth alive and breathing, the moon singing and the clouds dancing; I became a spider and I was climbing the web of reality, creating and destroying as I went. It was profoundly beautiful and terrifying at the same time, but it left me with new ideas and a different understanding of reality to how I had perceived it before that day and I wanted to know more.
For the next six years, I worked annually with a Colombian Anthropologist who was holding ‘Ayahuasca Seminars’ and visited South Africa six times between 1997 and 2004. As South Africans, we had no idea how an ayahuasca ceremony was to be held. We had no experience with any of the rainforest cultures or techniques. The only link we had to “the medicine” was with the Anthropologist who would travel to South Africa to share the Ayahuasca with other people around South Africa. These gatherings were the first of their kind in South Africa and a few hundred South Africans were fortunate enough to attend and learn from the plant. The ceremonies; held in this small community, in the Maluti mountains, who had already been exploring various methods of shamanic ritual using plant medicines over the past few years; was my starting point for an understanding about teachings of the plant world and how to access alternate realities for healing, information, and inspiration. This started a chain reaction in the communities in South Africa and a whole new culture started to grow around the use of ‘sacred plants”.
In 1999 I began to build a ceremonial space on the slopes of the mountain, especially for Ayahuasca ceremonies and we continued to hold a series of ceremonies there every year. We planted ‘Caapi vines’ and ‘Purple berry bushes’ and started to grow seedlings. We grew thousands of the ‘Purple berry bush’ and distributed it to many growing centers around South Africa. Today these plants are growing in the gardens of these pioneers. The vines were never happy in the mountains and we were not very successful in getting it to grow there. However, the San Pedro cactus loved the climate and we had an abundance of San Pedro Cactus whenever we wanted it. I had planted over a thousand San Pedro plants around my home and along the slopes of the mountain. We often held ceremonies with San Pedro, as we did not have any access to a supply of Ayahuasca. All of these plants should still be happy and healthy where I left them and I trust that they have benefited many people since I departed from the home and ceremonial healing center which I built there.
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