3.2.1 Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca #

Binomial / Botanical Name Ayahuasca
Street Names Huasca; Yagé; Brew; Daime; La Purga
Major Active Compound DMT
Indigenous Source Peru, Ecuador
Form Beverage
RoA Oral
Personal Rating On Shulgin Scale +++


Ayahuasca is a brew, which is used as a spiritual medicine in traditional ceremonies amongst the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. Its ingredients include the banisteriopsis caapi vine and the leaves of a DMT containing plant, such as psychotria viridis or diplopterys cabrerana. Its preparation takes at least a number of hours, and sometimes one or more days.

The story behind ayahuasca, both factual and mystical, is extraordinary, and I was fascinated from the moment I first heard reference to its properties and potential. It was only a matter of time before I embarked upon a mission to experience it.

However, when I eventually arrived in Cusco I was suffering from jet lag, altitude sickness, and some sort of head cold, which I had imported from the UK. I was in no condition to engage what is frequently presented as a life changing experience.

The very next morning a nurse arrived at my hotel to purge me. This exercise comprised the drinking of cup after cup of rather unpleasant tasting volcanic water.

This continued mercilessly, to the point at which the resultant diarrhoea became fluid.

When the water torture was over I was provided with details of my permitted diet for the day (vegan), and told I would be collected at 7am in the morning (1st May, 2015).

This is what I had paid for and what, despite my pitiful state, I was still looking forward to. I wasn’t to be disappointed.

Ayahuasca is widely considered to be the Holy Grail of the ethnobotanical sphere. It is seen by many as invoking the ultimate psychedelic experience and by others as a doorway to a spiritual nirvana, or even to a rebirth.

The retreat itself was beautiful. On the edge of a small village, it was surrounded by hills, and was tranquil and peaceful. I was allowed to wander within its boundaries and make myself at home.

For psychedelics, set and setting are of vital importance, and this wasn’t lost on me as the shamanic ceremonies unfolded. Here I was, relaxing into an authentic and age old theatre of experience, which itself must have evolved over the aages to support the journey.

These weren’t for show: they fulfilled an extremely important purpose. They were supplemented with a private consultation with the shaman, and a personal reading of coca leaves.

By the time I was led into the darkened room for the ayahuasca drinking itself, I was feeling confident in the people around me, and comfortable with what lay ahead. I was ready.

This was well structured. I sat on my mattress with my two litres of water, and was provided with a bucket, into which I would vomit in due course. In front of me sat the shaman, a ceremony master, a facilitator, and a nurse.

The dark brown thick fluid was poured from a plastic bottle into a beaker and handed to me. I drank deeply, non-stop, realizing that the taste was foul and the smell was most likely to be revolting. When it was down I lay on the mattress waiting for something to happen.

The shaman engaged largely with the master. He also sang the icaros at periodic intervals, which was strangely haunting, but reassuring. It came across as natural and melodic: in fact, quite lovely.

Occasionally, the facilitator would approach and whisper encouragement into my ear. He would ask how I was, tell me all was well, and on one occasion rubbed a beautifully smelling fragrance into the back of my neck, which added to the ambiance.

I was aware that I was ill and that my digestive system wasn’t at its best. I was thus concerned about the possibility of diarrhoea. I really wanted to avoid having to go to the toilet under the influence, for either function.

I lay there waiting impatiently for hallucinations of some sort to occur, to hopefully distract my focus from my ailing body.

Time passed with a headspace but little else. I heard the other traveller in the room vomiting, struggling, and even being helped to the toilet before vomiting again, and finally being settled by the nurse.

Why wasn’t I vomiting? I knew that the real journey would not begin until I had. The discomfort of my prior ailments persisted, and I was feeling somewhat wretched.

Shortly thereafter, the master approached offering more ayahuasca. I accepted, expecting a top-up of maybe a quarter of a cup. A full beaker arrived again, so I drank it. The co-traveller didn’t need or consume any more.

Perhaps five minutes or so later, I vomited. I purged, and out it came. I intentionally avoided looking into the bucket, as I had read that this wasn’t a good idea. It can apparently appear to be some sort of toxic vortex, which was the last thing I needed to fall into.

I lay down and waited. There was no significant change initially, but I felt physically more comfortable and more positive. I scanned the inside of my eyelids looking for CEVs or some sort of hallucinogenic sign.

Then I found it. It was strangely like tuning in to some sort of wavelength.

Having got there, I could partially exit and tune in again almost at will.

In there were the colours and the visuals: much like you may imagine from the art representations of psychedelic hallucinations. However, there was more. There seemed to be some form of intelligence: a friendly benign other.

So apparent was this that I sought to communicate with it.

I asked myself what I wanted: what did I want to know? Did I want to explore myself, the personal issues from my own past? Not really, partly because I felt that I had already overcome most of the debris from my background, but also, there was a degree of fear.

I knew that I wanted to learn. I wanted to learn about reality, the world, the universe, as this would help me in itself. These were the questions I presented to the other.

I would think about a scenario, sometimes a serious real-world situation that I may have been involved with, and then ask what I should do. What was the solution? I got answers, and they always related to love in some way. It was within me.

Love was the answer, and that answer was presented rationally and in an appropriate way to each proposition, whether personal or external. This was beautiful. The entity, the other, was beautiful. The realisation was almost overwhelming.

I was able to look at an issue, any issue, however painful, almost from a third party perspective, without fear, without anger, without any negative emotion at all. I can fully understand how this can help to heal the deepest seated of personal trauma, and indeed, addiction.

I came out of that realm to the physical world and then returned to it with no fear whatsoever. In the distance the icaros drifted in and out, and was supportive and re-enforcing. I felt love for everything and everyone. I felt a healing.

After what must have been 4 or 5 hours, the ceremony ended and I was taken to my room. I was still very heavily under the influence as I lay on my bed. I vomited again. I realised that this must have been the second dose, and that much of what I had experienced thus far was likely to have manifested from the first.

I fell deep into it again on the bed. I may have dropped asleep or drifted away, as I was exhausted after days struggling under the weather.

About an hour later I was summoned to share my experience with the master, facilitator, and the other traveller. I was almost overcome with gratitude and love, as I articulated my experience. They listened intently.

More ceremonies followed, with the final one held under the stars, around a fire. It was absolutely magnificent: the canopy and clarity of the heavens, the setting, the entirety.

The journey was far from over.

For several days following everything seemed to be beautiful, everyone was incredibly friendly, and all seemed to flow so positively and kindly towards me.

This positivity followed me back to the UK and lasted for weeks and to a lesser degree, for months. Life seemed to be as it was supposed to be, and it always had a nice vibe.

Was this a life transforming experience?


Was I glad I did it?

Yes, absolutely. I felt that it bestowed perspective, tolerance, wisdom, and so many other gifts upon me.

Would I recommend it to others?

Yes again. It was one of the most significant experiences of my life.