The All-Star Shaman Ayahuasca Massacree


Photo by Russ Quackenbush

A night of intense psychedelic healing and journeying work in the Peruvian Amazon.

By ten in the evening, the casualties came hard and fast; even seasoned pasajeros were losing their caca in the moonless Amazon night, the buzzing of cicadas like power drills boring holes into our heads. I could hear others heaving and moaning in the dark. The five shamans hadn’t gotten around to singing, though we’d finished drinking by half past eight. You could cut the tension in the maloca with a bush knife.

Yo dudes, where are the icaros? Where are the healing songs that pour the medicine into the ceremonial space and ferry the travelers to parts beyond and back? From my mat I observed a dense crowd of gauzy, spectral forms milling about in the middle of the ceremonial space, a spirit equivalent of Japan’s busy Shibuya crossing. All the duppies, forest spirits, cosmic drop-ins, and head medicine spirits of master plants were in there, waiting for the band to play.

When we first assembled in the maloca for the night’s ayahuasca ceremony, an apocalyptic rain howled out of the jungle, pounding the palm-leaf roof of the building hard, rendering conversation impossible. The rain fell in sheets of bullets, hard and fast, almost shocking in its intensity. Dogs in surrounding villages went completely nuts, howling and barking. The downpour lasted for over an hour, full metal jacket.

Earlier in the day I’d spoken with Gilbert, who makes the ayahuasca at Nihue Rao Centro Espiritual outside of Llamchama, in the Peruvian Amazon. He’s a proud, cheerful, hard-working Shipibo native with a muscular physique and a winning smile. We hung out by a huge bubbling pot over a fire at the medicine shed where he cooks the brew, and chatted. Gilbert pointed at the batch that he was evaporating down to its final molasses consistency. He stirred it with a stick, offered me some fresh hot drops. Muis concentrado.

6/1/2016 2:46:15 AM

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