Ayahuasca becomes a fruitful experience only under the guidance of a skillful ayahuasquero!
Here is what I learned from the discussion I had this fall with Miruna and Radu Nagy, the founders of the Inca Energetic Medicine School in Romania, together with Florentina Popovici. Invited by Monika Puiu to Wayra Astrae, they told me fascinating things about the mythical and shamanic horizon of the Andean space.
Our discussion – reported in two previous articles – began related to shamanism and the specifics of the school founded by Miruna and Radu. As I understood its rich implications and as I talked about the inspirer of this school, the anthropologist and psychologist Alberto Villoldo, who composed a syncretic vision of medicine of spiritual origin from the whole space of South America, marked by mountains but also by jungle, it occurred to me to ask them about ayahuasca as well.
In recent years I have heard many Romanians recommending the ayahuasca experience practically anytime and anywhere, including in the living room, for “exploration”. On the other hand, from friend who is a real explorer of the Amazon region and who lived for a while with the natives, I know that this experience is in no way recommended for anyone and anyway. As such, we also asked Miruna and Radu Nagy how they see ayahuasca through the lens of their experience.
Radu: Ayahuasca is the jungle representation of the Great Cosmic Serpent and at the same time of the DNA spiral. She represents that power, the great laboratory of life and death. That is why, in our view, ayahuasca is to be taken in its own space – the jungle. But in Berlin, where we live, there is an Ayahuasca Academy, a New Year’s Eve with ayahuasca is also practiced. Yes, ayahuasca opens some doors, as does the Sanpedro. Sanpedro is a cactus, which also gave the name to the ceremony that takes place high in the mountains. In the Quechua language there is another another name for it, but the name Sanpedro was given to it by one of the Jesuit monks who tried the plant there. He had the vision of the gates of Heaven where Saint Peter sits – hence the name Sanpedro.
But if Sanpedro takes you to the upper world, ayahuasca brings you down to the lower world, where you are confronted with the vison of all the shadows, everything that threatens you, all the lack of life you have. Ayahuasca pulls it out of you, like shedding snake skin. The experience is quite traumatic, consuming. The body is subjected to a strong effect. It’s like a storm, you totally lose control – the ceremony is therefore recommended for control freaks, control addicts.
Maybe that’s why Westerners like it, I said, thinking that control obsession is a trait of the Western mind.
Yes, confirmed Radu. With ayahuasca you can do only what the plant and the wisdom of the plant wants you to do and what it can do with you at that moment.
Miruna: Ayahuasquero, the ayahuasca shaman, is there to help you.
Radu: He sings certain incantations that relax the energy field – icaros -, he does certain purifications with tobacco. During the ceremony, various entities appear – from the person’s past, family, etc. – and the shaman sees them and sends them back home.
Ayahuasca can have an incredibly liberating and even therapeutic effect. I have seen – and there are testimonies of people who have been cured, for example, of very serious skin diseases, cancer, depression. But it’s not a magic wand – for some people healing happens, for others simply nothing. But the experience is very strong.
Miruna: I would only take ayahuasca in the jungle, where it is natural. There’s no way you can get that kind of experience with ayahuasca in the city. You have to be in her space and be with a trusted ayahuasquero. Especially when you first take ayahuasca it is very important that it be an easier experience for the physical body. That’s why you should at least follow a diet for a few days: no sugar, no meat, no coffee, no alcohol, no factors that produce acidity or toxicity in the body. A true ayahuasquero teaches you to communicate with the plant, to ask questions. While he sings these icaros you can talk to the plant and this is a very useful dialogue – you are fully aware throughout, even if you are physically very sick. If you have near you an ayahuasquero who really teaches you what to do and keeps the space well, you can have an extraordinary experience.
It’s not advisable to do it alone in an apartment though, I said.
Miruna: Neither alone nor in the company of an insufficiently trained ayahuasquero.
Radu: Such an experience can take you down into the depths of the unconscious, it’s like a big deconstruction, it brings out all that is death in you, and your fears of death, and you need someone who knows the plant well and who is clairvoyant, telepathic, such as Don Panduro. When I was in the jungle for the ceremony, all people that were present, of different ethnicities, said that during the ceremony don Panduro addressed them in their language. When any of them was stuck in something, don Panduro would appear next to him and address them personally. by name, in his language, and told him what to do.
Miruna: You felt supported and guided. Those icaros chants are extraordinary – music is like a red thread, it gives you a framework through which to communicate with the plant. And the plant answers you, shows you pictures, you hear words. You are fully aware and you can remember everything. The day after the experience, we felt like newborns and as if all life had colour, as if we were waking up. It’s a totally recommended experience, but it is also recommended that you do it in the jungle, with someone you trust by your side.
Radu: And with a certain purpose. For us, it was part of our training. It’s not recreational at all.
Miruna: That root from ayahuasca is combined with another root and boiled for 10-15 hours, in a certain way, at a certain temperature – and these preparations are part of the ceremony. The shaman knows in advance the names of those who will participate in the ceremony. He also asked us for our zodiac signs to gauge how strong the group’s energy is. While the roots are boiling, the shaman casts incantations for that particular group.
Radu: The ceremony starts when the shaman goes into the jungle to look for the right plant and continues with the boiling of the plant. Beforehand, the ayahuasquero goes into the jungle and looks for exactly that plant that is ready for that group, for that person.
Ayahuasca is therefore an entity and the place where it speaks to our body and soul is a whole ceremony guided and watched over by its shaman, called ayahuasquero. Without such necessary mediation, living the experience can be powerful, disruptive, and that’s it: its purpose of knowledge and healing is lost.