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Updated: Nov 6, 2018

Accounting a very special and vivid ceremony in Quindio, Colombia.

August 23, 2016

Returning to the Quindio region of Colombia, we were reminded at how beautiful the area was upon second viewing. The mountains running alongside each of the colorful towns and the vibrant green slopes (which seems to be a recurring theme) is simply enchanting every time we stand before an open aired window. We had tracked down a friend we made in our first passage through the area and learned he acquired a piece of property of his own. He told us of its whereabouts in Boquia, which is located just beneath the windy climb up to the touristy town of Salento. We got back in touch with him and he invited us to an opening celebration that would be happening in two weeks time.

( Rolling hills behind the town of Salento and the lush agricultural grounds )

( Regarded as having the most colorful streets, Salento is always vibrant )

( Quindio has its own variation of the commonly used Spanish architecture )

It was back in February that we had first met our friend, Lalo (Edwin) and his group of Yukon Canadians that were responsible for introducing us to a local shaman named, Taita Carlos. Taita Carlos is a multi generational curandero (healer) from Putumayo decent and regarded as one of the finest and most powerful in all of Colombia by his companions

Side note: While in Bogotá we met Carlos' brother, William, who also continues in the family traditions, conducting ceremonies for people on that side of the country.

Carlos conducts weekly and sometimes even bi-weekly ceremonies out of a nearby finca (farm) in El Caimo, just outside of Armenia. Routinely attending these gatherings are families often with their children taking part, couples, traveling extranjeros (foreigners) and anyone else willing and curious enough to go. It fostered a very genuine and uplifted community that gave the feeling of a family environment. Especially when you saw Carlos' father and mother overseeing him, with proud smiles upon their faces as he continued their traditional avenues. And then again when you see Carlos' son, beating away on the drum through the night.

It does not come easy to become a shaman. One must dedicate their entire life to it. As a youth, they are not blind to the fact that their peers are choosing more normal routes like becoming immersed in technology, living in urban cities, wearing modern clothes, eating convenience foods and inundating themselves with vices like television and alcohol. A person training to become a shaman will undergo lengthy dietas (strict allowance of substance) in which they will solely work with one single plant for sometimes months at a time. During this period they are set in isolation with the plant so that it can communicate to the student everything there is to know about its properties and healing effects. The student will then likely repeat this process with many of the other plantas sagradas (sacred plants) like mama coca, mama wilka, hauchuma (san pedro), hikuri (peyote) and the highest regarded master plant of them all, ayahuasca or yagé as its goes by in Colombia.

Upon the volition of our just met Yukon friends, we took a leap of faith, dropped what we were doing and went to our first ceremony with Carlos. After our initial experience having been so moved by the ceremony, we amended our plans to stay an extra week just to participate in another one the following weekend.

Now, after five months have passed, we have returned to Quindio and an instant rekindling of those bonds made back in February were ever present. We were excited to be back in the company of those spiritual and uplifting people and first chance we had, were back in El Caimo beneath the Maloka (indigenous 'house' with thatched roof) for another ceremony.

A week later, we packed up our things along with our pup, Coco, and headed from El Caimo over to Boquia, eager to see our dear friend again. The ceremony our friend Lalo invited us to was to be a totally special occasion. On one hand, Lalo was so grateful for the many blessings in his life and his girlfriend and he bought and worked extremely hard to convert this new property into a hostel of sorts. It was immensely beautiful to see him radiating in all that love and thankfulness. On the other hand, not only was the new property arranged to be blessed by the group of healers during the coming days for ceremonial usage, but also accompanying Taita Carlos was his friend, Taita Victor, a curandero from Mexico.

The week we had arrived into town, so too had this entire group returned from Mexico, where a cultural exchange had happened. And now here, in Colombia, it was their turn to get a cultural offering with Taita Victor and his ceremonial rituals. Victor brought along with him one of his sons (also in training to become a shaman), an apprentice, two singers and a female friend. It was a beautifully done ceremony with both Taita's and their assistants mixing different elements into the night. There was also a change to the usual music as the Mexicans were steering things with their added instruments and canciones (songs).

We were arriving just as the sun was edging off into darkness behind the opposing ridges. The air was clear, fresh and had a charge to it, as did we. Walking along the side of the road with our packs on our back and Coco trailing alongside, we followed the signs to the bridge. As we crossed onto the bridge, it looked down over the property and we got our first look at the space. It was beautiful, magical and truly captivating in all senses. Clusters of flowering trees encircled large open grassy spaces, tall swaying marsh plants nestled against the water runoff and a dirt road leading up to a series of cabañas. There were people mingling and beginning to set up while dogs played and this entire scene was folded between two opposing mountain ridges with the Rio Quindio curving its way through the property's basin.

Now, allow me to break into this story a little to preface and explain some things. I, your humble author, am a spiritual person and this journey was spiritual in nature for me. I have been on the road for many months and experienced many highs and lows. I have been suffering from the ego and distractions from the one TRUE self. It is not easy to be figuring out yourself, your future plans, understanding how to be self-reliant, understanding your partner and how to give space to that person so not disrupt their way of being. We are in foreign lands, figuring out how to potentially live and operate for the future, while also presently figuring out how to live and perpetuate the journey for today.

We are under constant and strict budget restrictions and we also follow a strict diet in places that seldom see or understand our needs. For us, we are searching for a connection in an area that suits us and is somewhere that gives back for all that we want to put in. And for us, we need help too. We need medicine when we are sick and we need guidance to cure those ailments that are locked deep within. There is history inside us. We are ancestral and through all these compounding layers we frequently lose our connection to Mother Nature, to Pachamama. One thing we have loved about this trip is getting to go deep inside the world and lives of indigenous people. We did so when we bravely crossed the ocean waters of Panama to Colombia and the Kuna Indians were there to give us shelter and we saw them everyday in Ecuador as they have emerged and become a proud and prominent class. The Quichua people of the Andes carry with them so much insight and knowledge that Western minded people lack, often forget and even dismiss; us included. We are on a journey to get back to a natural state. We are looking for home in an area that can provide spiritual connectivity, for ourselves and by proxy to our friends, family, neighbors, plants, animals, todos (everything).

One thing that has 100% helped us to break down those walls and barricades we have built up around ourselves, our heart and our spirits, is taking the sacred medicine, Ayahuasca (spirit vine). We knew it would be in the areas we were traveling too, but this wasn't a mission for us to seek it out. And it didn't happen that way either. The Mother found us and we simply put down our things and surrendered. We walked our broken and tired hearts into the Maloka and were reborn. We traveled away, going 4000 more miles just to come back to that same Maloka and be reborn again. And we will do this time after time until the process of spiritual cleansing is complete. Our bodies act like filters and trap impurities, develop sicknesses, hold onto resentments, sorrows and struggle with the many, many unresolved emotions we carry. As much as Pfizer is working to give us a 'healthy world' they cannot fabricate a drug capable of healing us in so many ways. For us, Ayahuasca does. Now, it's obviously a little hard to write to every dear friend, concerned parent and random reader that we're out here ingesting what most would consider to be drugs, but the purpose of this story is to intimately share with you our growth. To tell of our experiences, as we have done so the entire way and to open ourselves up to what the medicine has taught us: to rise up and become our highest self. To journey down and along the detours to the natural self.

Traditional Huichol art
Traditional Huichol art

Back to our story. The Mexican shamans were in town with the intention of sharing with us their sacred ceremonies and its medicine. In Mexico's past, you could go to jail for these acts and they had to fight to preserve these rituals and their sacredness. They now wanted to share it with the world and here they were, set to introduce it to us. We were to participate first in a Temazcal (sweat lodge), which is the ancient ceremonial practice of going into what's figuratively supposed to be the Mother's womb and enduring blisteringly hot rounds of steam. Water is poured over heated volcanic rocks to purify the body. The Temazcal was both brutal and fascinating. We endured 40 hot rocks and two 'doors' which are basically rounds. It's hot as hell as the Taita pours the water and only after we've all used our last good bit of oxygen to shout Ometéotl (bowing to the duality of the world) do they open the door flaps to let a bit of cool air circle around before the next round begins. As they carried in the second half of the fire scorched rocks, one by one, a helper inside would use elk antlers to fix and adjust the rocks being heaved in by shovel, sometimes coming dangerously close to a persons leg or foot. Another helper would scar a symbol onto some of these stones with another rock of sorts. Occasionally, Taita Victor would grab and handle the large volcanic rocks with his bare hands to help move them around. Unbelievable to say the least.

sweat lodge
The sweat lodge had finished construction that day

A little about Victor and his guys. It was before we entered the Temezcal when they had their shirts off that we noticed the deep scars on the chest of these Mexican 'Warriors'. There were rows upon rows of sharply protruding 'knuckles' along the breast and shoulder blades. Later we learned the scars were from what's called a 'Sun Dance' purification ceremony. The Sun Dance is practiced by many Native American tribes and usually takes place around the Summer Solstice. During the event, hooks are placed into the participants chest and they are tethered to a pole to endure the day's sun. This, along with their ceremonial tattooing left quite the impression about whom and what shamanistic forces we were encountering.

sun dance mexican ritual
Example depiction of a Sun Dance ritual

Between doors and despite having the flap pulled back, the additional rocks being brought in and ones already elevated body temperature (not to mention the shared heat from the 40+ other people) made the 'break' period almost as bad as when the steam was going. Sure, the temperature wasn't searing, but it was uncomfortable just 'waiting' for the heat.

The next round they sang and chanted, giving a warrior like energy to the space. I folded my arms and sunk my head as low as it could go. My arms burned as he rapidly poured ladle after ladle. And then, as we shouted another crescendoing series of Ometéotl, we knew that the end was near. The door came open and it was unbearable to wait for the disorderly new comers to figure out when it was their turn to crawl clockwise and exit. Panicked and pleading shouts of sigue, sigue, por favor (go, go, please) rang out and I too was lurching to leave. I crawled to the door and a hand lowered itself to me. It was Taita Victor's son, smiling and showing appreciation for participating in his ancestors' sacred tradition. We stood around the fire, mud streaked and jovial about discovering such inner strength. We were ushered down the slope into the river to cool off and seal in the Temezcal. With the spirits high and the energy booming, a massive, splashing, howling water fight erupted. We felt like great warriors emerging from that dark, sacred womb.

Nothing would help get this stuff down without the instantaneous feeling of wanting to retch.

We cleaned up and prepared the grounds for tonights ceremony, which was to be outdoors on one of the grassy open areas and beneath the luna llena (full moon). The ceremony was to be taking as much or as little Hikuri as you wanted and praying through the night to your ancestors. The peyote for us was new and less than desirable. They dropped a big spoonful of the powdered mixture into a splash of hot chocolate, which meant it had nowhere near enough liquid to let it dissolve. It turned into a thick, bitter sludge and was unbearable to drink. I tried little, slow slips. Big, fast sips. Nothing would help get this stuff down without the instantaneous feeling of wanting to retch.

huichol ceremonial attire
Example of traditional Huichol ceremonial clothing

Seated in plastic chairs around the campfire, everyone was given a candle to set up an alter space at their feet. The Mexican shamans gave good credence to the ceremony, dressing to the nines in their traditional Huichol attire. The men sang softly overtop the sawing rhythms of the archaic hand-made instruments (violin, ukulele, harmonica, rattle and drum). I very much enjoyed their reverence for the ceremony, but the effects of the hikuri were quite subtle. From what sensations I did have, it was earthy and grounding. Aside from a few fleeting visions, felt very little beyond nausea and the nights bitter cold. I struggled to stay warm beneath the falling nights moisture. By dawn we were exhausted and relieved to have survived the night. The peace pipes were brought out, signaling a closure to the ceremony.

( Example of música huichola )

We did our best to recuperate and prepare ourselves for the second night, which would be more to what we're accustomed to with Taita Carlos and the yagé. Previously, I had struggled with setting an intention for the night. The entire experience had been new to me, let alone the effects. This time I was ready. I knew my intention was to re-open my heart and I saw myself praying and using sacred objects, like the rose quartz a friend had gifted me, a ceremonial feather fan made in anticipation of the weekend, the Putumayo beaded bracelet and the aromas of palo santo. Also, weathering the previous night set in motion an aspect of ritual, prayer and endurance, which is similar to a night with the spiritual Mother.

sacred objects
Handmade ceremonial objects

At first it's a bit of a drunk and disorientated feeling. A sickness begins as the thick, syrupy yagé works and churns its way down towards the belly.

Fuerte! Preparación!

Before the ceremony began, I was already having visions. At midnight, like usual, Taita Carlos had blessed and prepared everything for us to come up and receive the medicine. There, as he stood before the altar space ladling out and mixing each cup specifically for the person about to receive it, he then blows over its top and delivers the yagé with the sincerest of looks.

It always sends me back to that first time when he ushered those fueling words of encouragement to tackle the night's splendor and harrowing bouts of discord. Fuerte, preparación (strength, preparation), he says deeply and emphatically to me, as someone might whisper to a stalled motor encouraging it to come alive in the next moment. You see, I didn't speak a whole lot of Spanish when I first came to these ceremonies, but I was able to understand enough to get that message.

I accepted the cup, whispered my intention to the Mother and wished well to all the others before drinking it down. I rather enjoy the taste, despite what many describe as the worst part. It gives me a sense of relief knowing I just took medicine and in the end it's going to make me better. Not long after, I was already feeling the effects. At first it's a bit of a drunk and disorientated feeling. A sickness begins as the thick, syrupy yagé works and churns its way down towards the belly. Usually diarrhea will come on quickly for me so I try my best to stay ahead of it by going to the bathroom early. When the effects are strong, I want to move as little as possible so I can focus on what the medicine is doing.

The most important thing to remember with this plant is always to surrender. Let everything go and do not hold back. Both figuratively and literally. This may all seem gross, but keep in mind the process is also referred to as, la purga (the purge). So, if you have to go to the bathroom, you get up and you go. If you have to puke, you do so despite what reluctance one might have about doing it around other people. And if you've lost control, you cry out and the multitude of healers will respond immediately to help rid you of those grasping, negative energies. I can't say I've ever had that happen to me, but I've been in the company of some pretty intense shrieking and wailing. There's a lot of tortured souls that come to these ceremonies and what's beautiful is that it's a shared healing undergone by everyone. Their pain will become your own. And their journey up and out of that pain will also be everyone's collective victory. Be ready to cry. Even be prepared to see images of yourself dying. Prepare for the seven rings of hell. All will be experienced if you can manage to let go and allow the Mother to come into your being, heal what is hurting you and allow the ego-driven self to come closer to merging with that divinely elevated higher self.

This is not for everyone, as most people are usually called to by the plant. Its home is in the jungle, and I emphatically believe its ceremonies should be carried out close its home. So much of the sickness we carry, I feel, comes from those distressed areas we live in. The jungle is pure, and yet completely relevant in the staggering sense of its importance to our lives every day. When you feel just how alive it is, you will understand how strong the connection is and why you would want to near it for an ayahuasca ceremony.

For me, the night became enchanting when I was coming back from the bathroom. I had puked along the way and was standing atop the hill looking back at the beautiful grounds glowing in the aire libre (open air). From this vantage, I could hear the rattles and drums beating furiously down near the river's edge. I genuinely felt the yagé alive, pulsing and coursing its way through my body. Since my first cup, the yagé has provided me with a recurring vision of a million insects marching along the jungle floor. I feel their legs pounding the ground like the drums beating their rhythmic march. The continuous crawl, covering the floor with their dense, iron-sided bodies. It shakes me from the feet up, and I feel their vibrations permeate up and down my spine, causing my limbs to follow suit and march along. I went carefully back down the grassy hillside to our little shared mat space and laid back down. It should also be noted that when you purge, the effects come on even harder. So, it goes without saying that by now I was deep into the medicine. The Chacruna leaves, which are behind the visual components of the brew come out early in this period as well.

I mentioned earlier that the Taita's intentions were to bless these newly acquired grounds? Well, to preface a little, its common thought in indigenous cultures that all things contain a spirit and are considered a life form like that of a human being, a flower, a hummingbird or even a quadrant of land. As I was laying down, I had begun to hear conversations amongst the shadows along the bridge where the entrance to the property met the dirt road leading in. After awhile of listening, I could determine it was the Taitas there in spirit form with these, 'other beings' and were coercing them to understand we would be transforming this land into that of a medicine space. They were talking in a language I could not understand, but was somehow able to gather what was happening. The 'negotiations' weren't going well and the dark forces were laughing in their faces challenging the Taitas to try their best against their lavish powers. But they needn't try, it was already happening in the collective space that we, medicine goers, were ushering into the night. They accompanied their words with music, as if a Charlie Daniels: Devil Went Down to Georgia matchup was happening. Later the next morning, I would ask them about this and they confirmed that occurrence happened exactly as I had heard it.

released from the constraints of time and free from the limits of the mind to see the most brilliant of patterns, colors so vivid they overwhelmed the senses and dimensions defying what a logical brain could interpret.

With the brew working hard for everyone, the power and energy of the night was surging to its maximum potential. The drums and rattles beat harder as they fell into rhythm with the sounds of the night insects. As Taita Carlos continued to do healing after healing on people that were struggling to get past their blockages, I too began to dissolve from my fabricated, ego-centric identity and was then able to travel beyond the physical realm and out into an vibrant oasis. I was released from the constraints of time and free from the limits of the mind to see the most brilliant of patterns, colors so vivid they overwhelmed the senses and dimensions defying what a logical brain could interpret. The Taita worked hard to lift me up, rise me from this shell of a being and I surrendered to the plant. He danced wildly through my visions, spinning himself into disguises of black and white patterns and used his shamanistic ability to slip between the folds of space. When I say that this man is powerful, I mean it from in these moments where I have seen him at his best. He is transformed into the power of the jungle. A thousand jaguars roaring at once. A million gallons of water going over a waterfall. A billion acres of rainforest, dense with life forms of cosmic displays. He wielded his harmonica as he stepped through the masses laying on their mats, weaving the spell of the medicine overtop of us. The fabric of the universe was there woven on top of everything like that of a red, glowing grid. It included all things, the grasses, the air you draw into your lungs, the muscle tissues down to your DNA. This overlaying web is the framework for all existence. Close your eyes or open them, it doesn't disappear. This is the Chacruna, the DMT-laden leaves at its best. Ridding your mind of all preconceived notions. Taking all of your ideas of what existence is and throwing it into a blender to make beautiful displays of what you thought was, to now be completely different. Pushing you towards a simplified, cosmically aligned, one true state of being. Light. Energy. Infinite. These basic building blocks of the universe pour themselves out in front of you. The visuals are intended to overwhelm, break down the idea of who you are, so the yagé is free to work. It dives deep into the traumas we lock tightly inside under guarded key. It uproots those repressed memories you bury deep. It buries you with the weight of all your shame, fear, doubt and self-hate that you had paid forth time after time. It will hit you with the weight of the world and the gravity of the universe pins you to the floor helpless as it slithers, deeper and deeper inside. It will not rest until it has found all of these objects that were kept only out of moments of weakness.

Do not think Pachamama is unkind or grotesque. She is relentless and unabiding to the usage of trickery you might get away with on your own mind, but trust in that just as she is the fiercest of mothers so too is she the most caring of all mothers. Her unyielding desire to see you as liberated from those moments of dark despair called forth in the darkest of hours, she was there and heard your every word. And just as her form was there, like that of an anaconda squeezing every ounce of impure thoughts from you, so too will she be there to comfort you and bring things full circle to understand where her compassions lie. As I floated over my body, I went through these rungs of hell with her and saw the extracted stream of negative thoughts trickle out from inside my head, down through the grasses and out into the river to be taken away, washed by Pachamama.

ayahuasca visions art
Example of similar aya-visions I had experienced at my peak

When the body and spirit has purged itself of these maladies, then the medicine is truly unlocked and able to work itself deep into the fabric of our being. If you can imagine, this is why people are sobbing, weeping and shrieking through the night. It is not easy to face these images. And they do not always come in such a literal way. The medicine works in a way that is best for you. Sometimes it can be a night of laughter, or gentle waves of comforting love, rocking the body into a state of bonafide bliss. Or it could be in the form of subconscious lessons where you'll leave the ceremony thinking you had no experience whatsoever, but pay close attention to the days after, as those latent messages will begin to take form.

With the peak of the visual effects now subsiding, I had moved back into my body and was noticing the person there next to me. I laid my arms over her and was overwhelmed with sadness for any mistreat I had ever given to her. The sudden shame I felt for being crude or using unkind words towards this wonderful, beautiful, spiritual and elevating person that I too was so spiritually connected to. A person, who unabashedly also loved and accepted me in my current form. How serendipitous to have discovered this person and to share in that lovely connection. I cried and cried, feeling the release of hatred and anger dissipating into the night as I witnessed her in grand visions. I saw images of her becoming older and more distinguished, growing as a sage in the ayahuasca ceremonies. She was adorned with spectacular feathers and everything about her seemed closer to that of her native roots. She was bound tightly to the energies of Pachamama and I reveled at her sight. And then, after the release of many tears, my heart felt healed. It boomed through the chest and with every full breath that I brought in, the strength of it grew by leaps and bounds.

( Grupo Takiwaska filmed this video at the exact location we attend ceremonies! )

As we laid there, tucked tightly together in what felt like our own little den of comfort, I began to hear a guitar being plunked as it was set to tune. It sounded as if it the notes were floating right above me and soon, the beautiful and enchanting chords of a musician from the local group, Takiwaska, began to play out. Grupo Takiwaska is fantastic group of musicians that have been providing the ceremonies with incredible music that weaves a spell through the night. Their experience with the medicine, allows them to know when and where to pick the energy up or to allow a simple, melodic flute travel out through the air in solitude.

This particular moment felt very special for me, coming from that place of darkness, rediscovering the love I felt and having Takiwaska's music crescendoing above. As I looked up at the full moon with the wispy, nearly transparent clouds arcing through the sky, I took in deep, full breathes and felt myself returning to the true and higher self. One that felt full of life, washed in purity and absolute with all things.

Thankfulness ... to the skinny Jesus looking guy who has been sitting up all night tending to the fire

Next, I entered into a state of perpetual gratitude. I continued to see visions, now of one of my spirit animals, the bimbo (turkey as its called in Colombia). The bimbo shook and rustled its feathers, as the chills of the night were shook from my skin. Turkeys in native iconography represent ancestral wisdom, abundance and gratitude. I felt thankfulness to my partner, to my Taita, to Lalo and his magical property that he opened to us, for magical places in general, to the skinny Jesus looking guy who has been sitting up all night tending to the fire, to the musicians and their amazingly intricate and profoundly talented skills, to Coco and his humble, beautiful, wild self, to the other dog we just met, Negro, that connected to us and goes with me to the bathroom each time and waits by the door, to Taita Victor and his friends coming all the way from Mexico to share with us their traditions and to myself, for being so inclined to say I want to change and taking the brazen steps needed to become who I am, for the opportunities to learn and grow and for being a carrier of light.

As the music continued, the sacred table was reopened for a second cup of yagé. This was usual for Carlos' ceremonies, as we believe him to work with a slightly weaker brew than most curanderos would use and also that he is serving it to the masses with upwards of eighty people attending a given night. I was eager to keep the energy flowing and to speak to Taita Carlos about how well things had gone. Like usual, he asks como está la medicina and he asked if I had any visiones (How is the medicine? Visions?) I said, Muy bueno. Si, espectacular visiones! (Very good. Yes, spectacular visions!) He smiled pleasantly at this and went to mixing a special cup, sure to put the power back in the hands of Pachamama.

Example of yagé being poured out by a shaman

This time I watched, as he mixed, ladled, dripped, wiped and blessed the glowing, frothy concoction that was then handed over to me in a rain forest shell. I accepted willingly and drank, feeling an explosion of effects immediately. I had gone far with the medicine so far, but was eager to see and learn more with it. I hadn't purged a lot up until this point and only a bit of the yagé had come out about an hour or so after the first cup. Despite fasting for half a day, an unbelievable amount of stuff can come out of you. After the second cup I was feeling thirsty and drank a few sips of water. This was sure to come up, but I was okay with that. I laid back down and let the music and visions continue, staring up at the gray blue sky illuminated by a bright, full moon. The crackling sounds of the fire echoed beneath my feet and I enjoyed the shared warmth between myself and the pile of dogs surrounding us.

A moment of comedic relief happened when Negro was laying at my feet and seemed to be happily gnawing away at something. Coco, which was to my side, perked up his head and started to growl. I shushed him, thinking Negro had found one of his bones and stated that tonight he was a part of our pack and was welcome to our resources. Coco kept growling, lightly but enough so that I would hear him. He huffed and looked from Negro to me, disturbed by the other dogs' actions. Negro paid him no mind and continued to chew contently and vigorously. A few minutes of this mild dog feud goes by and then I hear a pop sound and the air in my mattress goes whooshing out. I laugh incredibly hard, slightly disturbing those around me, but I couldn't help myself. I was so tickled by the lead up of Coco growling to Negro, Coco's warning to me and my ultimate ignoring of these events. Negro instantly realized his unfortunate doing and lowered his head to give a bashful look. Coco delivered an even better, un-amused look and slumped his head down with an air of contention.

Awhile later, I had to take on the task of purging, and purge fully. This is a very important part of the night as it gives a glimpse of what thoughts, energies and regressions have been held down inside. Knowing figuratively what is being expelled gives insight for what has been released and what my come again in the future, if similar trends are followed. I felt the immediate sense of relief afterwards and made my way back down from the hill.

From this point on, the night never seemed to be night at all, with the sky so illuminated. We were nearing dawn now, and I was refreshed to be awake. Still a little wobbly, drunk at times and still disorientated, but all the more, clear from the heavy effects of the medicine. The music began to pick up and this was the usual hour for which Taita Carlos gives his sermons. I listened and laughed as he cracked jokes, simplifying things for us to make sense of those normal human conditions we all encounter. Carlos as a man, is light hearted and kind in his words, never condemning or judging people, even if he sees them on a path wrought with unnecessary struggles. There is always the deepest of smiles on his face.

( William Palchucan, Carlos' brother, demonstrating incredible musical talent )

The night was hard for most, so there's still a lot of healing to be done to close out a ceremony. There's usually at least one healing circle, where chairs are put out in a line for people to sit in as he moves through the group one by one sucking out bad energies plaguing people's auras. To clean the aura, he uses often uses hortiga, a type of stinging nettle plant, that has a cleansing effect similar to that of acupuncture. These healing circles are immensely powerful, especially when someone as powerful as he is, is giving you his undivided attention. The shake of the surrounding rattles, the march of the beating drums, the spoken plant-language that is chanted through the air floating in and out of your consciousness, the surrounding jungle and the brushing whips from the hortiga across your skin works the medicine deep into your system and stronger than most times during the night. I liken these healing circles to that of a steam powered train hammering across iron tracks going through your body and into your soul. Afterwards he collapses into his chair at the head of the table and smiles lightly with his eyes closed. It takes a lot out of him and he has to recover fully before doing it again. For him though, it does seem like an everyday Saturday stroll in the park. He commands the energies of the ceremony so well and relies on his assistants to help facilitate the process as well. The maloka, as info, is used to help contain that energy for him to harness. Seeing as we didn't have the permanent structure in place at this new venue, even an overhead tarp was sufficient to help harness the energy of the medicine.

indigenous people giving rapé
Example of indigenous people giving and receiving rapé

We close the ceremony with rounds of Rapé, which is pulverized tobacco blown up the nose using a wooden straw. It never feels good and can make you explode into fits of sneezes and walloping coughs to expel the torturous slime that has now found its way to the back of your throat and trying to make its way down. That said, if you don't immediately breath it in, go have a seat and lightly exhale through your nose and wait, its very cleansing to the mind and body. After a few minutes you can grab a tissue and start to blow it back out from where it came in. Tobacco is used as a form of masculine medicine to balance out the feminine energies of yagé while also stimulating the mind's eye, or pineal gland in the brain. It's great for centering, mental clarity and getting people up, moving and feeling lively again after a tumultuous night beset by many of the lethargic effects of not sleeping.

The mornings are fantastic. You are exhausted, but it's a refreshing tiredness as the process was therapeutic and invigorating to the soul. You feel alert and notice so much more. The people are glowing in the eyes and the connection with everyone you talk to is so much deeper than when you first arrived. Lots of gratitude and hugs are given and it's hard for us to pull ourselves away from this place. The whole world seems to be centered around this little space as these people have suddenly found themselves so closely woven together. This is what a spiritual community feels like and this is our extended family, one which stays with us forever. AHO!

sunset in quindio colombia
Sunset over the finca in El Caimo.

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