Ayahuasca Ancestral Sacred Medicine - AYAHUASCA CUSCO PERU
The throb of the dawn chorus was strong in the liquid air of the rainforest as Jose walked down the path from his village that headed deep into the jungle.
His shoulders were already aching from the weight of the pack that contained basic provisions and tools, but the song in his heart lent strength to his steps.
Jose’s father and grandfather had used this path many times on their way to the cabin built many generations ago and maintained by each as the years passed. Jose could feel the life force strongly as he walked, Mother jungle, a living ecosystem, a Being of myriad colours, sounds that devoured anything built by man in short order, but whose strength was able to cure any ill if directed and tapped. Jose knew that the responsibility he carried on his shoulders was great, the knowledge of this pharmacopeia, of the prayers and medicine songs, the connection to the Master medicine beings through the plants and animals had been passed down through the lineage of many generations of healers and curanderos and now there was only one, he himself. Alyssa, his wife, also worked with healing, but this time it fell to Jose to begin the long process of preparing the medicine, Ayahuasca, that was the life blood of the forest, the messenger of the Gods, the Healer through visions and understanding.
Jose had left his village to study in the city and had learnt the ways of the criollos, he had a master degree in biology and was versed in the ways of modern life, he had seen many people and their ways and, unlike his father, spoke Spanish and English, meditated, practiced traditions from far away eastern lands and had seen many forms of the Divine Mother in his ceremonies. The new path that had gradually opened before him promised a new era in the lives of all, integrating the kinesthetic knowledge that his own people embodied in their every cell with the nature spirits and energy, with the developed mind of the new scientist and the heart of the mystic who lives for Truth only. Today however Jose had left behind his laptop and cell phone and worked on quieting his mind using techniques learned from one of his masters, a yoga adept with whom he had shared medicine in the city the previous year.
The day warmed quickly and the rainforest seemed to strain upward toward the hot sun in its quest for light and warmth. Jose drank sparingly from his gourd, his retreat or diet had begun the previous day and he felt the force of the connection with the forest, the energies and songs of the plants begin to stir in him as his covenant with the Mother was heard. On arrival at the cabin Jose would spend several days repairing what would be his home for the next four months and prepare for the intense activity of medicine preparation that lay ahead. He knew that the strongest medicine didn’t depend upon the recipe or method of preparation as much as it did on the purity and strength of connection with the forest and its spirits of the healer as he brewed the medicine, praying and singing, asking for the blessings and healing power from all the invisible beings that manifest as master medicine in the tropical forests of Mother Earth.
Throughout the afternoon Jose mulled over what he had learned of the new physics, molecular biology and how his perception shaped the world. It was wonderful that the science of the modern world had finally gained enough in understanding to vindicate and accept what his ancestors had always known intuitively. On his last visit to the city he had brought back a DVD player for his family and a copy of the new hit movie, Avatar, for his daughter, Amara. The whole family had watched and wondered that modern man would imagine that such a culture could only exist on other worlds, with a magical but very different race, when in fact the indigenous peoples of Earth had lived for millennia in such a way; within a network of life and consciousness that was all inclusive and embraced every living being as part of its body.
The path to the cabin was overgrown and Jose swung his machete methodically. The drone of the forest lulled him, allowing his senses to tune even more closely to the energies of the forest around him. His grandfather had taught him to become one with the forest and feel Her heart, hear Her music, not only to deepen the connection between himself and Mother Earth, but also as a protection against any dangers that may be lurking along the path. Birds flashed among the treetops and multi hued butterflies flitted through the leaves along the path.
Night fell quickly as Jose set up makeshift camp and drank his mate or herbal tea after a light supper of corn and rice. As he fell into a dreamless sleep Jose prayed for his family, the extended family that included all of humanity and Mother Earth.
The days spent walking fell into a rhythm that brought peace and deeper relaxation into the meditation-connection that was his tribe’s way from time immemorial. Jose was grateful that the cabin and sacred ground was so far away as the trip afforded him the opportunity to prepare his consciousness, cleanse and connect. He was well aware that the hardship of carrying the 40Kg of medicine back would only add to its potency but was glad that his wife had agreed to meet him at the cabin after 4 full moons and assist in the work. His father, Benito, had planted the vine, baniopsteris caapi , throughout his later life and Jose had continued the work since the responsibility had fallen to him. Benito had seen in visions how the need for medicine would be crucial during the great transformation predicted by all major traditions around the globe for millennia, and that the availability of the vine was limited. He had been instructed to plant both Chacuruna and Ayahuasca around the sacred ancestral lands by the cabin in preparation for this. Jose now saw the culmination of this work; he would harvest the black and yellow vine for this medicine, which would serve the many tourists and seekers who now visited him in search of awakening, deeper knowledge and understanding.
After eleven days of hiking through the forest Jose awoke at dawn on the twelfth day full with the knowledge that today he would arrive at his destination. His body was strong after the trip, his mind cleansed and ready. Unlike his father and previous generations of healers, Jose was vegetarian and had studied other dietary philosophies. His father had eaten some meat and fish, used sugar and oil, white rice and pasta, the foods that the northerners had brought from their industrial society, and thus his diets had been long and drawn out, punctuated by purges and weakness before his body cleansed and balanced. Jose on the other hand had the advantage of what he called a “semi-diet” for many years. He cleansed regularly, fasted, and used yogic techniques for intestinal cleansing. He ate only organic food grown by the new co-operative he and his wife had set up in his village and used the ayurvedic and macrobiotic principles he had learned from his friends all over the world. When he entered into retreat, dieting in the traditional manner of his people, he felt the strength and attunement flow much more easily and quickly than he had witnessed in his father and uncles.
His steps quickened as he neared the cabin, and he braced himself for the first sight of the small structure that he had left in perfect order only 9 months previously. Mother Jungle, or Madre Selva, devoured anything left behind, covering the walls with creepers, ripping open the floor with her strength and toppling the roof beams in order to feed Her soil and new growths. Fortunately the damage was not as bad as it could have been, Jose let out a breath of relief as he caught sight of what was to be his home for the next four months; the roof was still covered with the crisneja, or palm leaves, he had woven on his last visit and the walls were intact.. The cabin stood on a rise in a small clearing, its walls were sturdy wasai, a bamboo-like tree whose trunk could be halved and used in construction, roped together with vines, atop a raised floor of renaco and chihuahuaco, trees that had fallen at the end of their life-span. Jose had never killed a tree for the construction of this cabin; he knew that the spirits would be long in forgiving and that the sacredness of this place should remain intact in order for his medicine to be strong and pure. The walls were chest high and the netting that covered the opening between wall and roof hung loose like a sieve! Jose knew that the work of weaving new netting would take up the best part of the following day and was glad that he had brought mosquito netting from the city. He set up his bed and cooking area as twilight fell, but dusk was short lived and the night deepened into blackness as Jose settled into bed. Stars dotted the sky above the cabin and he heard the night calls of insects and birds as he fell asleep.
The days passed quickly in repairing the cabin, checking the Ayahuasca and Chacuruna plants, and collecting the special wood he would need for the sacred fire in the cooking of the Ayahuasca brew. His father had taught him to use capiruna, a wood that burned even when wet, from a tree that shed its bark every three to four months, thus protecting itself from any parasitic creepers that would strangle its growth, any creepers trying to get a hold on this tree would just be sloughed off when the bark peeled. Jose knew that the energy of this mechanism was released in the sacred fire as the wood burned and transferred to the medicine as a quality of protection, no negative energies were able to penetrate the smoke and heat of this wood and enter the brew as it cooked, and its quality of burning even when wet released in the medicine as the ability to heal even the most recalcitrant patient who had little preparation or understanding in energy and natural healing techniques. Jose added the wood from the ironwood tree to his wood pile, the densest tree in the forest, even when struck by lightning its strength survived. The molecules of its wood were arranged in a diamond-like lattice that gave amazing strength to the tree, this strength would also be transferred to the medicine, along with an even more important quality, the ability to conduct cosmic knowledge and influences down to the Earth, a lightning rod of understanding between the Father Sun and the Mother Earth, a conductor in the balancing of masculine and feminine energy within each one of us.
The ancient knowledge was buried in every cell and fibre of Jose’s being, as a Shipibo, a member of the Amazonian tribe who had been preparing and using Ayahuasca for millennium, he had received this knowledge as a genetic inheritance, an instinctive knowing. However he was the first of his line to understand consciously and within a scientific context how the medicine worked. Despite this, however, Jose knew that the living, healing quality of Life within this medicine would be increased many times if his heart and mind were connected, his prayer reach to the heavens and the ancient grandfather and grandmother healers worked with him during this special time of preparation.
Jose sat on the steps of his cabin smoking his pipe and praying to the spirits that tomorrow they accompany him as he harvested the first batch of Ayahuasca and Chacuruna at dawn after a full moon which infused the plants with a special healing energy. He pondered his decisions, taken over the last few days, regarding the recipe and method of cooking. Many of his people considered the original recipe to be the best, only Chacuruna, the leaves of which should be freshly cut, and Ayahuasca, the heart of the vine, well crushed in a special mortar which had served his father and grandfather in their time. The proportions varied according to the shaman, but Jose favoured the use of more chacuruna as its leaves were responsible for the visionary qualities of the brew. He had visited other villages and Shipibo communities with his father as a teenager and learned their recipes, his father’s old friend, Don Fredi, advocated the addition of chirisanango, lobosanango and toe, other master healer plants that he claimed activated the psychotropic effects of both the vine and the bush. This time Jose had decided to make three different brews: the first would be pure Ayahuasca, no chacuruna, a recipe his grandfather had favoured for use in special purges and detoxification. He was aware that many considered such a medicine not to be “hallucinogenic”, a word he didn’t like as it implied illusion, something that didn’t exist, a dream. Jose knew through experience that this was not true, he had partaken in many ceremonies in which this brew had been used, and his vision had been strong and clear. The scientist in him was curious as to the chemistry of this brew, and he was working with American friends on a project that would investigate the psychotropic properties of the vine at some point in the future. He surmised that the little warriors of the vine, so called by his people who claimed that the vine brought the courage and strength so necessary during ceremony, were in fact biochemical properties of the harmaline alkaloids, manifesting themselves in the form of serotonin, a hormone associated with the experience of love and trust. The second would be the traditional Ayahuasca, chacuruna mix, although this time he had chosen to use a little more chacuruna than his father had, mainly because he knew that his stubborn clients from the north and east needed more of its active principle, dimethyltryptamine, in order to break through the barrier of their strong masculine minds. The third was a mix of tobacco and toe, chacuruna and Ayahuasca, a strong brew that promised to provide the strongest visions whilst protecting him as he journeyed deep into himself and the universe. He would add only three leaves of toe, one of the strongest psychotropic plants found in the forest, and two handfuls of crushed tobacco and activate them through prayer and song as the mixture cooked.
His stomach rumbled as he rubbed his eyes and splashed his face with a little rainwater in the darkness of the pre dawn. The previous day he had only eaten a little rice for breakfast and fasted in preparation for the special task ahead. He silently sent a thank you to his wife who had journeyed to the cabin a week before his arrival in order to leave provisions that included the organic whole rice that she had begun to cultivate in a project destined to improve the quality of life for all his community a few years before.
As he neared the place where he had selected a vine for cutting a few days earlier on a reconnaissance trip, his heart increased the pace of its beating and a song of love rose up from within. Jose stepped from the path towards the vine and suddenly was blessed with the presence of one of the most powerful spirits of the forest, a boa eyed him from the trunk of a tree some ten metres away before slithering off through the undergrowth, a powerful sign of wisdom and high energy, a propitious beginning to his day. Jose bowed his head in respect to the powerful spirit of the Ayahuasca plant and asked for permission to cut, he allowed his intention of curing many people to shine through his hands and eyes as he raised his machete for the first cut. The cut vine sheared away from the supporting root and fell into his hands, a good piece that weighed almost four kilos. The vine he had selected was old but still not nearing the end of its life, in the full force of its power; Jose knew that the medicine from it would be powerful and smooth. Several years earlier he had experimented with younger vines and discovered that the medicine had punished him with visions of murder, youth being cut off in its prime, and he had learned the hard way that young Ayahuasca should be left to mature. The oldest vines produced weaker brews and should be used to make cuttings for new plants.
As the morning wore on Jose cut over twenty kilos of vine and filled his shoulder bag with the fresh leaves of the chacuruna bushes. He selected only the freshest leaves of medium size, another fact he had learned from experience, they gave the visions their brilliant colours and strength.
He arrived a little sore back at his cabin just as the sun was beginning to warm the grass of his clearing and sat for a moment with his back to the large back pack containing the Ayahuasca. He felt a little light-headed as he rose and began to crush the vine in his mortar, a good sign that promised higher states of consciousness that would permit him to communicate with the spirits of the forest. Jose worked methodically layering the crushed Ayahuasca with alternate layers of chacuruna leaves. He sang as he worked and his strong voice filled the clearing with the melodies of the icaros he had learned from his father and grandfather. The large clay pot which contained the medicines was then filled with water he had collected over the past few days from a spring that bubbled up from the earth some distance away from the cabin, a spring that was reputed to be sacred and high in minerals washed down from the mountain tops of the Andes. He had read of the work of a Japanese scientist who had researched the messages carried by water and smiled as he prayed to the spirits of the water, thanking them. All the elements were present now, earth in the form of the clay pots and the plants, air in the smoke that was beginning to curl skywards from the fire, water and the fire itself burning beneath his pots. He had built a special structure that accommodated two pots over the fire, thus saving wood and was able to cook double quantities in one session.
The day wore on and the medicine bubbled over the strong fire, slowly evaporating to the consistency of syrup. Jose had seen the brews being sold in the markets frequented by tourists; they were thin and liquid, a little sour as opposed to the deep bitter taste of his brew. Not only were these medicines weak and unable to take the journeyer deep into his psyche, they were also dangerous in that it was impossible to tell what other ingredients had been used in their preparation, or be sure of the energy of the person who had cooked it. The fire should be continually stoked, burn strongly and with a continuous flame, in order to transfer the sacred energy of the element fire, which transforms and cleans, to the medicine. Jose blew tobacco over the concoction periodically to purify and strengthen the liquid, allowing his heart to speak in song to the spirit of Mother Ayahuasca. As twilight deepened into darkness Jose covered the pot with the special lids he had brought with him and settled back to enjoy a mug of mate before retiring for the night.
The days passed and the pile of bottles of Ayahuasca grew in the corner of his cabin. The steam from the liquid brought him visions, of the past and his ancestors as they too prepared the medicine, of the future as it could be or not according to the decisions taken by humanity in this critical time of awakening and change, and of the spirits of the forest who had taught his people the magic of healing since time immemorial. His relationship with the medicine deepened and sometimes he was vouchsafed visions of the mother spirit of the medicine herself, the anaconda curling around his pots, floating in the air above them or watching him from some distance away at the edge of the clearing. On one occasion a new icaro was given to him by her spirit, one that he would use the first time he drank the medicine in ceremony to instill courage and perseverance in the participants.
As the full moon approached Jose began to eat a little more food in preparation for the long walk back to his community along the banks of the river. He slipped less easily through the crack between the worlds into mythic dimensions where the plants were beings and taught him their healing properties. As the day drew to a close and the night birds began to pour their song into the cooling air he caught a rustle of twigs and turned to welcome his wife and daughter as they stepped into the clearing. He folded them into his arms, feeling their warm familiarity against his chest, before pouring the mate he had been preparing into three mugs and settling into his hammock for the reunion.
The following days were filled with laughter as the three worked to plant the corn for his next visit, secure the cabin against intrusion and prepare the cuttings from the Ayahuasca vine for further plantation. The forty kilos of medicine he had prepared were safely stowed in three back packs which the three hoisted onto their shoulders before casting a last glance over the clearing and its cabin, home for the last four months, and setting out on the long journey home.
The load on his back seemed to get heavier and heavier as the long days of walking passed. Amara had lightened her pack at his expense after four exhausting days and no longer chattered as they wearily trod the barely visible path through the dense forest growth. The journey home took twenty-one days, almost twice as long as the outward hike, and Jose sometimes felt so tired that he could just leave the precious cargo right there on the path. Alyssa lent him her strength and songs, rubbing his shoulders each night before they collapsed, exhausted, onto their sleeping mats. Only the strength of Mother Earth bore them up as they stumbled back into their village and the welcoming arms of their friends and family who had prepared a feast in honour of their homecoming.
After resting for three days Jose boarded his small river boat that lay low in the water due to the medicine it carried and headed for the large town where his apprentices and clients had gathered for a celebratory ceremony and to try the new medicine.
As the ceremony began, all the participants seated in a circle, Jose recounted his journey back from the cabin, a few heads nodded in appreciation of the strength he had shown and in anticipation of the beautiful ceremony ahead. Icaros intertwined in the ancient Shipibo fashion as the medicine wove its magic path of healing through each heart, joining the participants in a woven whole of healing that reached out to the whole earth, a river of light inviting all to awaken, cleanse and heal. Jose felt tears of joy roll down his cheeks and his voice burst forth in gratitude for the amazing gift of Ayahuasca, given by the highest Mother of all for the healing of mankind.
From Cusco, take a "collective" taxi or minibus on Puputi Street or Calle Puputi in the direction of Calca in the Sacred Valley and get out in Qoya, the second village after descent to the Sacred valley. The cost of the bus ticket is 5 soles, the journey by bus is 45 minutes from Cusco. There is only one bus stop in Qoya, from which it is 20 minutes to our home. We can also pick you up personally from wherever you are, the price from Cusco is 60 soles for up to 4 people. Please call to reserve a pick up.