In the Village of Tamshiyacu, on the way to the shaman house we ran into 3 of the group i met at the jungle lodge. They were from Australia (they had paid $3000 each to fly to Peru) and had been at Shaman Luis retreat for several days. As well, there was a French man who i would soon grow to dislike. On the way i stopped to buy some fruit to eat once the ceremony was complete. At the shaman’s house we would wait for some time for Shaman Luis to arrive. It was good, i had been particularly apprehensive about the whole affair from the night before but was feeling much more relaxed about the whole event.
When Shaman Luis arrived we set out several chairs for our discussion. The shaman seemed an amiable sort, full of life, humor, and compassion. As one might expect from a local healer with 40 years’ experience. He spoke softly and Fabian translated.
Ayahuasca provides the visions, Chacruna provides the colours.
Ayahuasca is a visionary medicine, not a hallucinogenic. You control the visions.
You must not fall asleep.
When we were done Fabian said goodbye and went home and Shaman Luis rode off on his motorcycle to do some errands. I stayed at the house to wait until the shaman was ready to hike to his retreat. Several hours had passed and i was greeted by the French man. Although his English was not bad, his accent was so thick that i had a lot of trouble understanding him. He proceeded to tell me that he was sick and that Shaman Luis was a good shaman. He had already taken several ceremonies and was prepared to take more. He made a point of warning me about some unscrupulous practitioners of African black magic operating in Iquitos. They profess to heal but what they are really doing is transferring the illness to another, a kind of physical ailment Ponzi scheme.
Shaman Luis had arrived and was ready to hike into the jungle. I changed into my gum boots, which i had inadvertently selected too small, and proceeded to follow Shaman Luis into the jungle. The toe on my left foot hurt and i know i would have a problem there. My knapsack was too heavy, loaded down with all the fruit i purchased in town, some cloths, and my running shoes. This would become a problem later on.
On route, Shaman Luis used his time wisely to point out some of the many plant medicines in the jungle. One plant was particularly interesting as, when you touched 1 leafy branch the plant would proceed to lower that branch towards the stem. It really looked alive!
It seemed like a long walk as the weight of my bag was becoming intolerable and my toe was beginning to hurt. Eventually, we arrived at the retreat and Shaman Luis immediately put me in one of the cabins, it was the one on the left, in a group of 3. I took off my boots and woolen socks and replaced these with my running shoes. Not sure what to do, i sat on a chair in front of my cabin, looking for a sign. Shaman Luis came by and, using mostly his body language, pointed out that if you wanted to shower you should go that way, pointing to the way down. In addition, he pointed out where the dry toilet was and that we could go pee next to the building.
As i understood there would be no more food or drink i did set out to find some drinking water. Shaman Luis conveniently placed a 5 gallon drum on a table in the cooking area of the retreat. I filled up and went back to my cabin to lay down. I pushed the net aside and lay on the edge of the bed until it got dark. In the meantime i noticed a couple had arrived at the camp. They were Spanish of some sort; the girl was young and very attractive. I could not understand what she saw in the odd looking man with lots of hair all over his face.
I just waited for some activity and about 20 minutes after it got dark i saw some flash lights heading towards the Malaka (temple). I followed them and entered Shaman Luis’s temple. What was most striking was that there were no mattresses for people to lie on, only largish comfortable chairs with seat cushions. i remember that Shaman Luis pointed out that we must not fall asleep as this would defeat the medicine.
The couple sat on the right and i sat at the end. I realized that the French man was absent. Shaman Luis lit a single candle and set about to say his prayers. After smudging the participant’s crown (head) and the space with Mapacho he handed out a cup to each if us. It looked to be about 2 oz. Then, donning his headlamp, he came around and poured the medicine, each to their own preference. I asked for 3/4 of a cup the others appeared to have about 1/2 of a cup.
We drank our medicine, the cups were collected, and the single candle was extinguished. In about 5 minutes Shaman Luis began to whistle and shake the Chakla. I had some flashes of light… Nothing more for about 30 minutes.
In a few minutes a saw a light around the doorway to the Malaka and then, the door began to open. It was Phillipe, the French man, but Shaman Luis would have none of it. No… No… He said several times and forced the door closed with his foot.
Then the visions began, much unlike anything i had experienced before. Benign in nature they did not instill any fear at all. They were images of comfortable surroundings with entities/people offering me food and drink and trying to communicate with me. I purged violently with very little coming up. I did feel a little better but knew that i was not finished.
Whenever something negative did appear i discovered that i could simply wave my arm through the apparition and it would disappear. I had several conversations with different entities and, after some time, grew weary of the experience. I was ready for it to end. At times i would plug my ears with my fingers in an attempt to shut out the icaros. I heard several bouts of purging coming from the direction of the couple.
The ceremony had been ongoing for several hours and at different times i could perceive Shaman Luis’s single led head lamp in my field of vision. I was still clutching my bucket. At times i was not able to distinguish whether it was simply a vision or not and i attempted to scatter it away with a broad sweep of my arm. Shaman Luis was there, i knew, as i heard the most gut wrenching sounds coming from his direction. Designed to extract what might be remaining in my gut the sound continued. And then it came, what was left of my sickness was swiftly thrown out of my mouth. I did feel much better now.
In what seemed like a short time the ceremony was over and the candle was lit. We each did our best to pick up our respective buckets and dump the contents behind the Malaka, as instructed by shaman Luis. We gave these dishes a quick rinse in one of the rain buckets located on the long bench beside the main sleeping quarters and proceeded to stumble back to our prearranged cabins. I did not sleep well but was able to rest.
In the morning I awoke slowly to the sound of talking. I got dressed and made my way to the dining hut. The French man was there taking apart his laptop. Upon inquiry he told me that his knapsack had fallen into the water and everything got wet; his computer, phone, cameras and everything else. “Very bad… very bad…,” he said. He also could not stop complaining about shaman Luis; 1) not calling him to the ceremony (he had taken a nap and slept through the beginning of the event), and 2) shaman Luis not letting him into the Malaka after the event started.
My position on the matter was mixed. I felt bad for the Frenchman as he missed hit opportunity to drink once more. He told me that he was very sick and was travelling Peru in search of healing. He had warned me about people practicing Black Magic and that I must be very careful with whom I sit. The point here is that he meant well.
On the other hand, this was shaman Luis’s turf and, as such, shaman Luis was pretty much entitled to do as he pleased. I could not tolerate the complaining any longer and after a simple and tasteless breakfast of yesterday’s soup we packed and began our hike back to the village.
Once in the village, we walked to the location where the fast boats would dock, said our farewells and proceeded to embark for our return to Iquitos. Fabian was there, at the dock at Iquitos, to assist me in my return to my hotel
I felt good; my stomach sickness was all but completely resolved. I was looking forward to my next encounter with the medicine and shaman Luis.