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The morning after my first Ayahuasca ceremony I felt pretty amazing. Despite living in a den of mosquitos and sweltering jungle heat, I slept like a baby llama. A baby llama covered in mysterious insect bites. I didn’t have any big revelations nor did I purge like many people do during my first ayahuasca ceremony, but the sleep — 100. And when you are a male, in your 30s, who has to pee multiple times during the night: To sleep through the night is a beautiful thing.
I was about to head to breakfast, the most important meal of the day, but before I could go, Maestro Juan Flores shaman in training, Vina, rapt at my door.
“Turner…you haven’t done a tobacco ceremony yet have you?”
“No. Does that involve vomiting?”
The Ayahuasca Tobacco Ceremony
The tobacco ceremony – in the realm of Ayahuasca – plays an important role in the healing process. As I mentioned before, tobacco is viewed as a conduit for speaking with the plants. In the scientific sense, it helps activate Ayahuasca’s hallucinogenic properties, notably DMT, however, that is when the actually ayahuasca ceremony is going down. Outside of the ceremony, tobacco is seen as the ultimate purifier. It is common to use mapachos, pure tobacco cigarettes, to blow smoke on plants or other objects to bless them. Or you can drink tobacco like a sailor and puke your guts out like an addict on narcan. The point is, tobacco is used to cleanse the bad. The toxins we have inside of us – physically and emotionally.
A short walk down the hill and I found myself right back at the scene of the crime in the maloca – where the last night’s ceremony took place. In the center of the maloca, a mattress lay, with a giant water jug and the puke bucket.
It was time to purify this lost soul.
I sat on the mattress in the prayer position as Vina lit up her mapachos and started to blow smoke all over me. Then it was time for the main event. It wasn’t my first time experiencing tobacco firsthand, but it was my first time drinking it. Vina presented me a goblet filled with a sort of tobacco juice. In case you were curious as to what the tobacco ceremony juice tastes like, just imagine what pouring water into one of those used ashtrays the morning after a raging party. You know, the ashtrays with the million funky cigarettes. Swirl water around in said ashtray and put that water in a spiritual goblet. Delicious.
“Start drinking that jug of water.”
“How will I know when I am done with the ceremony?”
“Oh…you will know.”
Many people struggle through the tobacco ceremony. Some take all day to complete it. In the West, we tend to view vomiting as sickness or the aftermath of a good Saturday night, but in the ancient traditions of natives in Peru, it is seen as way to cleanse the spirit. Luckily for me, throwing up on demand was not a huge problem.
I am not sure what this says about me.
I finished 2 whole jugs of water in 30 minutes and exercised the demons within with a smile.
Plant Medicine Prescription by the Shaman
After the tobacco
vomit ceremony, Vina informed me it was time to meet the Shaman Maestro Juan Flores. I needed to discuss my treatment of plant medicine that I would take while at Mayantuyacu. Apparently many places that offer Ayahuasca only offer you the hallucinogenic brew, in Mayantuyacu however, the healing process involves many plants of the jungle. Each plant medicine is used to cure different ails.
I met the Shaman Juan Flores aka Maestro in his house at the top of hill overlooking Mayantuyacu. The first thing that strikes you when meeting Juan Flores is his energy. He has this soft, calm and relaxed smile could serene a screaming baby into submission. The second thing that strikes you when meeting Juan Flores is his big macaw chilling on his table. Medieval sorcerers have owls; jungle sorcerers have tropical birds, apparently.
My meeting began with the typical introductions one makes. Then I went into my ‘story’ about why I was there and yammered on about fear of failure, daddy issues and just about any other imaginary problem you could think of, but before I could finish my self diagnosed list if life issues, Maestro looks at Vina who was translating and said:
“Did you have a cocaine problem?”
Maestro asked the man who was endlessly ranting his problems.
“More or less.”
“Okay then. Here is the medicine you will take. It’s it called Cucuasi. It is to heal the feminine energy.”
And just like that I was on my way. Despite the lingering taste of vomit in my mouth, rumbling stomach and bug bite tatted legs, I felt pretty hopeful. It was a new day. I had a freshly cleansed soul and a bottle of strange, magic jungle juice potion that I would be taking in the coming weeks. I didn’t have any life revelations or visions of riding a donkey to El Dorado during my first ayahuasca ceremony, but I did have hope. I had only been in Mayantuyacu for 48 hours, but I could really feel the magic in the place. From the sultry night air to the steamy, boiling river to even the bugs. Everything in Mayantuyacu was there for a purpose. It felt like it was speaking to me. And it said:
Tanner, you are really messed up.