(I became greatly inspired from my ayahuasca experiences on a creative level in particular. The drawings used throughout the page were designed and created by myself using pencil, pen and colour)
What Is Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic drink that is made primarily from the stem of the ayahuasca vine known as the Banisteriopsis Caapi Vine, combined with other plants such as the leaves from the shrub Chacruna, Psychotria Viridis; Sameruca and Psychotria carthaginensis.
The two parts of the plants are combined into what is known as a ‘brew’, created by a Shaman, which forms a drinkable concoction known as Ayahuasca and is considered the ‘Master’ or ‘Teacher plant’ by the indigenous tribes. Ayahuasca has been used for more than 5,000 years by the shamans of the Amazon as a way to reach heightened and altered states of consciousness.
The word ‘Aya’ means a separable soul and ‘huasca’ is the usual Quechua term for any species of vine. Therefore combined Ayahuasca means, the ‘Vine of the Soul, or Spirit’ or ‘Medicine of the Soul’. Ayahuasca is heated to boiling temperature together with the leaves of a shrub such as the Chacruna leaves and the vine of the Banisteriopsis. The leaves contain the psychoactive element known as Dimethyltryptamine or DMT (a naturally-occurring chemical in the human body that comes from the pineal gland in the brain, which is released when one dreams, is born and dies); and the vine known as the ‘teacher’. When both of these plant parts are combined, they provide the user with an intensive experience of self-reflection and cleansing. The two parts of the plants must be combined in order for the body to digest and absorb the active ingredients.
The Origins and The Western World
Ayahuasca is predominately found in the upper region of the Amazon in South America, in particular the countries Perú, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil. It is for ritual use, linking the spirituality and religion of indigenous tribes as a ‘soul healer’ and body cleanser and purifier. However, in recent decades more and more western people have been experimenting and experiencing the benefits of this incredible tribe medicine in order to attempt to heal current and past wounds, physical ailments, negative thought processes and many other forms of pain and trauma. It can also be used as a tool for accessing certain parts of the soul that were not already realised, expanding creativity and allowing for truly awakening ideas. The ‘medicine’ is not used for recreational purposes, but as a tool for connecting to ones soul, and is predominately used by shamans, healers, indigenous tribes, therapists, drug-addicted patients and spiritual-seekers. The main purpose is for the user to experience intense introspection, therapy, body detoxing and meditative states.
The Ayahuasca Ritual
Ayahuasca is taken in a controlled setting known as a ritual or ceremony, usually directed and monitored by a trained Shaman. The user can experience intensive psychedelic and physical happenings that can challenge them in ways they never imagined, therefore the presence of a Shaman is imperative to ensure the safety and well-being of the individual. The user will drink the ‘medicine’ and within approximately 20-60 minutes, the effects will start to take place, lasting anything from 1-8 hours, but averaging at around 3.
The ceremony is performed in silence, however the shamans and healers involved will perform singing sequences known as ‘Icaros’ and is usually combined with instruments such as drumming and shakers. The purpose of the sounds produced are to help invoke spirits to help with the individuals healing, but also to keep the user grounded. When under the influence of Ayahuasca, it is easy to become completely absorbed into the Astral Plane of existence; some mind find this experience disturbing and uncomfortable, therefore external sounds in the Physical Plane can help bring the user some form of comfort.
Ayahuasca can produce intensive psychoactive effects, which can create an altered state of consciousness; this altered state can allow the user to observe any current deep-rooted issues they may be experiencing. It is in this altered state of consciousness that the person can then assess their own unconscious mind. Every experience is different for each individual, however, the majority of the time, the user will meet their ‘true’ self. Aspects of the true self can be shown and ‘felt’ so to speak. The user must be open to change and surrender to what the plant teachers have to offer; the more the person resists, the less benefits he or she will receive. Therefore the user must be open to receive what the plants are offering them in order to better themselves physically and mentally. The user naturally becomes more ‘connected’ to themselves, others, and nature; having created a greater sense of being and awareness of the souls eternal nature. The person may become more ‘loving’ towards themselves and others after becoming aware of the negative habits they had towards themselves and others.
My Experiences With Ayahuasca
I had always been interested in understanding philosophy and spirituality in ways deeper than mere intellect. After researching relentlessly about plant medicines, I decided after years of unhappiness, it was time to book a flight to the Amazon jungle. I had reached a point in my life where I knew I needed some radical intervention with regards to my reliance on drugs and alcohol for ‘happiness’, self-acceptance and general confusion in life. To be honest, prior to my experience in the jungle I was pretty ‘asleep’ so to speak. I understood spirituality on an intellectual level, however, the previous years leading up to my experience in Peru, had been spent delving into unhealthy habits that had spiralled out of control, putting pressure on my relationships and work. I knew I had to face my inner-self once and for all and attempt to heal the deep-rooted, stagnant wounds that were holding me back from progressing physically, emotionally and most importantly, mentally. I was living predominately in the ego, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself that my temporary body was housing an eternal soul, my ego was my ruler.
My experience at the retreat become the biggest wake up call to where I needed to alter, rectify and purify my life. No words can describe this experience; think of every emotion possible and roll them into one. From the moment of returning I began the mental, physical and spiritual cleanse. However it is vitally important to remember you must integrate the teachings into your life in every sense. You can go on all the retreats and learn all the healing information in the world understanding only the knowledge intellectually, however, if you don’t make the changes in your life, you are completely wasting your time. You must become aware of where you need to change and find the techniques and tools that work for you. Everyone is different and reacts accordingly to different methods of healing, what may work for one person, may not work for another.
I have found plant medicines great teachers of all areas but in particular where to rectify the psyche, however subsequently you still need to do the hard-work yourself so that the teachings can fully integrate into the subconscious. It takes time and great patience to change non-serving habits and thought-patterns.
My Humble Opinion of Plant Medicines
I feel very strongly that ayahuasca and other similar plant-healers, are not the complete answer to our problems and life-challenges. They are certainly a teacher and a catalyst of where we can be shown areas that need meticulous change, however, they are certainly not a cure.
From my own experiences, I realised the hard work I had to do, was after the journeying with the medicines. It took 4 hard long years of pain and persistence after my Amazon experience, to unravel all that no longer served me, to purify and cleanse myself in mind, body and spirit. To really work on myself in every area has been a huge journey in itself. Ayahuasca and plants alike, were absolutely an incredible catalyst, but by no means a cure. They also open you up so much spiritually that you become uber sensitive to negative energies. It’s imperative to strengthen your aura prior, during and after any psychedelic experience as I learnt the hard way and wasn’t aware of this during my Peru experience; thus making my time when I arrived back home much more challenging and painful as I had a negative entity attached to me from the ayahuasca. Eventually after healing processes from various healers, I was able to rid the entity, but this stuff is not to be taken lightly.
More people than ever, particularly westeners are experimenting with plant medicines – so much so that the rate of consumption of the plants is outweighing the growth pace of the plants in some areas! There are many charlatans in the business; many phoney shamans that aren’t correctly trained and are purely offering retreats to people for financial benefit. It’s imperative that you seek out reviews when choosing where to go, if this is something you’re interested in, ensure that you choose wisely before spending thousands.
Images of My Experiences
The following images were taken in the Amazon Jungle in Peru, Iquitos at the Hummingbird Retreat in August 2013:
The pot of Ayahuasca we put together
This image was taken in Norwich in August, 2016, where I experienced two nights travelling with Ayahuasca. Again, another soul family.