Vine of the Souls
People say that a plant has no mind but it does have a spirit, it is alive and has magical powers. This vine is known as Ayahausca (aye-yah-wah-skah) and it is a sacred medicine. Once it is consumed you have the ability to talk with the spirits, see visions, predict the future and even cure any illness.
I was intrigued when I first heard about Ayahausca and I knew that I wanted to go to the rainforest in Ecuador and see the Amazonian shaman and drink the brew. I did have some fear of not knowing what would happen but I was drawn to the spirit medicine. I knew that I would be living in a hut with an outdoor bathroom and cold showers for 10 days and that was okay.
Victoria, John and I flew from Las Vegas to Atlanta GA where we met Gordon and then flew to Quito, Ecuador. We stayed overnight and the next morning met the other 5 participants in the Cayman Hotel. Jinny, Josh, David, Leon and Rita rounded out our group of 9 people. Our guide and interpreter Wancho met us at 12:00 noon and we got on a bus to Tena for a 5 hour drive. It was a long drive through the mountains, up and down hills, and many curved roads with lots of potholes. I loved the mountains and the people who walked the roads and most of them had infants snuggled in blankets on their backs.
Midway into the ride it started to rain and it got cold. We shut all the windows and bundled up. We finally arrived in Tena and proceeded to the Shaman’s property, up a long dark dirt road. We were almost to the top of the road when the bus got stuck in a huge mud hole. The family came to help get the bus out of the pot hole, but to no avail so we all had to get out of the bus and walk up the hill in the dark and in the rain. Luckily the family took everyone’s entire luggage to the huts. A delicious fish dinner was served to us and it was the first of all the meals that did not have any spices in it. I got used to eating like that and I no longer use salt, sugar or sweeteners in any of my meals now.
My hut was further back towards the forest from the other huts and closer to the outdoor bathroom. It was scary in the middle of the night when I would get up a few times to use it. My bed was comfortable and the mosquito net helped a lot, or so I thought until I got home and saw all the bites I had.
Notice the planks that I had to use instead of stairs. Now that was a challenge when it rained because it was slippery.
The next morning we all got up early and breakfast was served by 2 girls with smiley faces, Ariana and Mariela. A pig and many chickens and 1 strutting Rooster ran around all day long. The rooster woke us up religiously every day at 4:30am. The children were always around us and Jinny and I enjoyed them very much.
We rested the entire day and got to know each other and then the next day we anxiously waited for night time to come and the Ayahausca ceremony would begin. We went into the woods with the Shaman to collect the roots and leaves for the brew and watched Don Luis and his wife Inis prepare it. After many hours it boiled down to a small bottle of thick brown mud. Now the time came to make a circle in the ceremonial hut and Wancho interpreted the Shaman’story of how he as a young boy of 8 was recognized as being a Shaman in the making because he was strong. He told of having hot peppers rubbed on his eyes once a week for 8 years.
I was still a little nervous about drinking the Ayahausca and I asked for a small portion and I’m glad I did because it was the most awful thing I ever tasted. Twenty to thirty minutes later it started to hit everyone. One by one they were leaving the hut to go outside to throw up. My whole life I have resisted throwing up and now I was so nauseous. I endured this feeling for 2 hours and then finally purged and I felt better. I did not have any visions. I just wanted to go to bed and go to sleep. After a while the Shaman did healings on all of us for 30 minutes each. I did feel better the next morning and it was a day to rest and share our thoughts and visions of the night before. We met with the Shaman and he analyzed what visions he saw from the spirits. He told me he saw clouds and angels with me and I would live a long and healthy life. He saw a golden crown on my head.
Afterwards the children came and danced for us.
Before the second ceremony we had individual mist baths. We had collected different leaves in the forest and they boiled them with water and we sat with the pots at our feet and a blanket covered our head and entire body and we breathed the vapors. It was the first time that I can remember taking deep breaths and feeling my lungs expand to full capacity. It was a half hour of breathing and sweating and I felt wonderful afterwards.
At 9:00pm the Ayahausca ceremony began and I still had some fears but I decided to drink it again. The drink tasted better than the first time and within 30 minutes I got nauseous and this time it lasted for 3 hours before I purged. I felt so sick and kept wondering why I would do this again and suffer for all these hours.
I saw visions in the form of a movie, watching everyone and everything. I saw a field of green grass with white balls on the field and as I got closer I saw that they were eyeballs. I saw eyeballs peering out of buildings, stores, trees and many faces and I zoomed into their eyes.
I also had visions of people who looked like spirits walking out of the forest and the sky was full of prehistoric birds and bats. They silently walked past me and I felt very safe.
I asked what I needed to know and I saw images of my family and friends and knew the truth about all of them. That was a powerful experience.
The next morning I felt very peaceful but I did not know if I wanted to do another ceremony again and I rested and waited for the next day. I felt an internal cleansing in my body.
The third ceremony was very different because this time I did not get nauseous. We formed a close bond with the family and felt so loved and taken care of especially by Wancho.
After nine days of living with the Shaman and his family we were ready to leave and go to Otavalo. We said our good byes and knew we would never be the same again. A special thank you goes to Wancho who looked after us with much love and compassion and we will never forget you. He was our angel.
It was strange being in Otavalo with so many people and I was longing to be back in the rainforest. We checked in our hotel and went for dinner and then got up early to go to the market to shop.
We left late afternoon by taxi for a two hour drive to the Quito airport to catch our flight home. I reflected back on the 10 days in the rain forest and I felt so calm, peaceful and pure and I knew I had been healed from some of my illnesses.
It has been thirty days since I left Tena and I have eliminated 2 of my prescription medicines and I have lost 20 pounds. I only eat when I am hungry and I eat healthy foods. I went there to get well and to lose weight and I got what I wanted, thanks to the spiritual retreat and Don Luis. I look forward to returning to Feather crown in Tena again and spending time with the family.
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