My Fourth Ayahuasca Ceremony (or, lack thereof)
I was barely able to sleep at all after the third ayahuasca session (described in Part 4). I felt ill all night, almost as though I had a hangover that just wouldn’t go away. I felt nauseated and dizzy whenever I tried to so much as sit up, never mind getting up to go to the bathroom, so I tried to stay horizontal as much as possible.
I could’ve gone back to our resort room, but the short trip from the maloca to our room seemed like it would’ve been more than I’d be able to handle at the time, given my nausea. And even though the maloca was certainly not quiet afterwards (as staff came to collect everyone’s vomit buckets and the bedding from the various mattresses, clean the floors, etc.), I opted to stay there anyway.
I figure it was somewhere around 5:30 a.m. or so when the maloca was finally empty and peaceful. I remember the dawn, and the sky was filled with birds. The sound of the flapping of wings and calls to each other washed over me. Despite still feeling ill, I remember that transition from night to dawn as the sight and sound of so many birds filled the air was truly wondrous to listen to and behold. And after a while, I think I might have actually fallen asleep for a little bit – but only for somewhere between 30 to 60 minutes.
A little later, I noticed some people were making their way to the maloca for that morning’s scheduled yoga session. I would normally be among those attending, but not today. Instead, I watched from across the room on my mattress while half asleep, drifting in and out of consciousness.
When the yoga session was complete, two or three of the yoga participants came to check up on me. Unfortunately I still wasn’t feeling well, but at the very least I was feeling exponentially better than my very worst point from earlier that morning / the previous night.
One of the people who had checked up on me was a certified chiropractor. After describing my symptoms, she checked the back of my neck and could tell something felt out of alignment. She went to her room to retrieve some kind of mechanism or device which I believe she referred to as an activator. She asked my permission to use it, and I full-heartedly consented. As if by magic, I felt my nausea lessen as she used this interesting device (it made me think of an earring piercing gun in the sound it made) on a few key points around the top of my neck and spine. I’m not sure how it works, but I was sooo thankful and relieved. Soon after, I slowly regained my ability to stand up, walk, and – use the bathroom. (How exciting?) Yay!
If I recall correctly, Steve was passing by the maloca at about the point where I was starting to regain my ability to stand again, and so he checked in on me. I let him know I’d join for him for breakfast, and we walked down to the dinning area together – albeit rather slowly (and comically so!), as I still was feeling a bit nauseous and walking made me feel discombobulated, but thankfully it was not as bad as what I had been experiencing only shortly earlier. However, once seated, I found it extremely difficult to remain upright. I found that I felt so much better with my head resting horizontally on the table. If I tried to sit upright, it seemed to contribute to my sense of nausea. I couldn’t seem to stomach much. It was extremely difficult to ingest anything, but I tried. I was a pretty sad and pathetic sight, to be sure. (I’m pretty sure I evoked pity from all who looked upon me, lol.)
I don’t remember exactly how it came up (and it may have been during breakfast, although it was certainly some point after I regained enough coherency after last night’s ceremony) when Steve mentioned the frog(s) that had visited me in the maloca. What?! Apparently, the previous night during ceremony a frog had entered the maloca through the main doors and hopped all the way to the back wall, right up to my mattress. This was when I was experiencing a lot of pain, both emotionally and physically, and I was very unaware of my surroundings, so I hadn’t noticed it. He told me someone picked up the frog to bring it outside, but then not long after, another (or perhaps the same) frog came in and specifically went up to me and my mattress again!
I found this to be particularly eerie given that, when (after so much writhing pain) I finally purged last night, the thick goop that had emerged from me looked like the shape of a frog at the bottom of the bucket. (…Was this some variation of reading tea leaves? Ha!) Steve had also thought that the coincidence or likelihood of having not just one but two frog visitors come up to my mattress seemed extremely unlikely, especially given both the distance and the location of my mattress relative to the entrance of the maloca and all the other mattresses that it would’ve had to navigate around to get to me. He said that it almost seemed like the frogs were concerned or worried about me and wanted to check up on me. …Awww, what a sweet thought!
(Spoiler: I was yet to experience even another eerie frog synchronicity before the end of my stay at the resort!)
After my dismal attempts of consuming breakfast, I went back to our resort room and slept for the majority of the day. I was so sooo tired.
There was a fourth aya ceremony scheduled to take place that night, but I wasn’t allowed to take part. And believe it or not, this had nothing to do with my experience the previous night or how nauseated I felt afterward. The reason I was told I couldn’t participate in this last ceremony was due the fact that I was menstruating.
Despite my belief that the main reason my body had such a rough time processing the ayahuasca in the previous night’s ceremony (due to my body starting its cycle and having to process both a flood of hormones in addition to the ayahuasca I had taken), this restriction was not in any way related to medical safety or my specific experience. Rather, the woo-woo explanation as to why any menstruating woman shouldn’t be permitted to participate and partake in this specific 4th-night ceremony was due to something else entirely.
So just to be clear: Even I just wanted to be in the maloca / ceremony space without taking any ayahuasca for this last ceremony, I would not be permitted to do so.
The woo reasoning behind it all went something like this: A woman’s energy is extremely powerful when she’s menstruating – even more powerful than the Shaman’s. Therefore, menstruating women need to be kept away from the maloca / ceremony space while ceremony is in progress so as not to interfere with the Shaman.
I gotta say, I had mixed feelings about this. But on the other hand, I knew about this going in. Prior to going on this trip, I had done a fair bit of online research about ayahuasca and different people’s experiences, including reading and listening to (via podcast) some experiences about this specific resort and their practices. That research had led me to a particular article about their practice or custom of not permitting menstruating women to participate in the fourth ceremony – and apparently such a custom is not universal when it comes to ayahuascas or its slight variances of brews. (Oh yeah: The brew that night was being referred to as yagé; but if you look it up, apparently it’s still just ayahuasca by another name.)
One woman who had been understudying under various shamans had reason to conclude that this specific male shaman at this specific resort / retreat centre who leads the fourth ceremony holds some archaic religious beliefs related to women and menstruation (such that menstruating women are unclean and should be avoided, similar to the old idea that a practicing Jewish woman should refrain from going to synagogue); if this is true (and I suspect it’s quite possible), this would mean his desire to not allow menstruating women to be in or around the maloca during ceremony was in fact related to his personal beliefs and not specifically rooted in ayahuasca tradition.
(Interestingly, this wikipedia article says, “Many traditional religions consider menstruation ritually unclean, although anthropologists say that the concepts ‘sacred’ and ‘unclean’ may be intimately connected.)
This led me to wonder: Were his preferences simply masked or guised under reasonings of this “feminine energy” woo nonsense? Possibly (i.e. probably). But then again… maybe not? Either way, I didn’t press on the issue. But even so, I still think it was incredibly pretty ridiculous that I couldn’t even be in the space even if I refrained from ingesting any brew – especially considering the fact that this retreat centre was rather expensive and charged you the same either way.
However, not participating in ceremony did have one benefit: It meant that I could actually eat dinner that evening! Yay! (…More on that later.)
At some point (I think it was before the ceremony that evening), some staff aides and the previous night’s female shaman asked me and the one other menstruating woman in the group o meet them outside the maloca. (Note: I realized that it was possible there might’ve been more than only the one other menstruating person, but if so, they just kept it to themselves so as not to be forcibly excluded). The purpose of this little gathering was essentially for us to be subjected to a long rant about the sacredness and power of menstruation and feminine power blah blah blah, and why we bleed from a woo-woo spiritual perspective – which included a reminder as to why that night’s shaman does not permit menstruating women to participate: We’re just too energetically powerful, and he might not be able handle or manage that energy!
I don’t remember all the details of the woo-woo rant, but I do remember at least one of the woo concepts shared: Menstruating women are encouraged to collect their menstrual blood so that it can then return it to the earth. I think it had something to do with blood being drawn to the earth: Either it would get there through bloodshed via violence, or if we returned our menstrual blood to the earth, perhaps it would somehow create balance and the need for violent bloodshed would cease, or at the very least be lessened. …Hmmm. Okay.
On one hand, it was interesting to listen to and learn a different way of seeing things through a cultural traditional lens. But, being logically minded, another part of me was just figuratively rolling my eyes at it all.
Regarding dinner, I was told that the kitchen staff would make me just about anything I wanted (from available ingredients), including a dessert. Great! I asked if they could please let the kitchen staff know to make something vegan and gluten-free. They said they would and informed me to just show up to the dining area around dinner time (when everyone else was in the maloca).
So, at least I had a nice dinner to look forward to… right? And plus, since there was one other woman who also started menstruating, I wouldn’t have to dine alone.
Well… unfortunately, my hopes of a special and delicious dinner were dashed. When I arrived at the dining area that evening, the staff there seemed surprised by my presence. They had not been told to prepare anything in advance. But at least I got some heated leftovers of rice and beans from lunch (but there was no vegan dessert). I felt pretty pretty annoyed that I had been promised some really nice multiple-course meal that was swapped for leftovers. What a let down.
Either way, at least I dined with the other woman I mentioned above (she was able to get a bit better of a meal than myself since she didn’t have the same dietary restrictions). We shared some light conversation, then went our separate ways for the duration of the evening.
After walking around the resort grounds for a bit (I’ve been on an ongoing quest to close my activity rings on my Apple Watch every single day), I spent the rest of the night alone in my room. Despite sleeping most of the day, I was still somewhat tired from the previous night’s ordeal. But when I tried to sleep, I kept waking and experiencing strange sensations, almost as if I was still under a light influence of ayahuasca.
Could there still be some trace DHT in my system? Why was I feeling so strange? I started to wonder… Was it actually possible that whatever might still be in my system was energetically connected to those in ceremony at the maloca, amplified by my “feminine energy”?
Then I suddenly had a realization: Since ayahuasca seemed to heighten all of the body’s natural sensations, including the ability to detect energetic shifts (which I already knew I was able to do to some extent), it dawned on me that the reason why shamans also take ayahuasca during ceremony was in order to sense, detect, and energetically manage the various energetic shifts happening all around them. It suddenly made so much sense to me. If this was indeed all true (which certainly seemed to be based on my own experiences thus far), this meant that there could indeed be some truth to why that night’s particular shaman had a rule of maintaining the ceremony space free from the amplified energies that menstruation might create. …Huh. Fascinating. It might also help explain why I felt so odd that night. Could it be possible that I was actually picking up hints of energetic echoes from those in ceremony in the maloca despite the lack of direct proximity? It certainly felt like it.
This fourth and final ceremony was scheduled to last all night (at least 12 hours), which meant I’d be alone the entire night. I really wished I had someone with which to discuss my strange sensations as I was experiencing them – especially the insights I had as to how ayahuasca works. But unfortunately, I wasn’t going to be able to sleep much at all that night.
The previous day, I had been instructed to arrive outside the maloca especially early in morning. I soon learned it was to receive a protective energetic blessing before being allowed into the maloca post-ceremony. The blessing chants were familiar, similar (if not the same) to the one I had received during the last ceremony, as I was again able to recognize some of the Spanish words chanted. The chanting and feathers were soothing, but then I was sprayed with more of the same stuff from the previous ceremony as well. (Had I mentioned this before? It’s supposedly some liquid / spray that has “spiritually protective” properties. I’m not entirely sure what’s in it, but it has a very strong scent and it does not fade from clothing. It’s been hard to escape that odor since nearly all my clothes had been sprayed with it by now. Had I known I was going to be sprayed yet again, I wouldn’t have showered and literally just put on clean and fresh-smelling clothes mere minutes earlier! …Oh well.)
After being blessed and sprayed (heh, that almost sounds naughty), I entered the maloca. Everyone was still awake, up and about from the night before.
I found Steve and he told me about the evening, night, and early morning that I had missed. It sounded like it had been a pretty rough experience for some! But on the other hand, it also sounded as if it hadn’t been as bad for others.
Before long, I got to sit in and listen to the shaman’s closing wisdom. And immediately after, I had the honor of witnessing something I hadn’t expected — a wedding ceremony! Two attendees (who were already married and had been for quite some time) had decided to renew their vows with the shaman. (Apparently it’s a service the resort offers, so I don’t think it was 100% entirely out of the blue in that regard.) Another participant sang and played guitar. There were tons of rose petals scattered along the bride and groom’s path leading up to the shaman, where they kneeled in even more petals. It was surprisingly lovely.
Once the wedding ceremony was over, it was time for breakfast! I hadn’t eaten much at all the the previous day (despite being able to eat dinner, although as we know, that turned out to be fairly dismal), so I was quite hungry and therefore looking forward to breakfast more than usual. The difference in my energy was sooo much better than it had been the previous morning when I was essentially still hung over from (and based on my own assessment) too much ayahuasca. Many others noticed the difference in my energy, too, and commented on how it was so nice to see me feeling better and able to sit vertically! Ha!
As I was still tired from not sleeping so well the previous night (and Steve hadn’t slept at all), after breakfast we returned to our room to sleep some more.
And thus, the 12-hour yagé ceremony (that I missed) concluded the last of our series of four ayahuasca ceremonies that were to be held at the resort during our stay. That said, we still had another full day to experience the resort and the surrounding area.