The night before meeting Don Rigoberto, the master shaman, I had to be “cleansed” of the impurities in my body. In order to do this, I had to drink a bitter concoction made from strangely shaped leaves which were still floating intact in the cup. Shortly after drinking the brew, the effects kicked in. I was gagging with so much force, by the end I had the sensation I was floating in the air. The next night, ready for the ceremony, I made my way into the jungle to meet the master shaman. Once there, my whole body tingling with excitement, I took a bath with aromatic flowers, to protect me from the bad spirits I might encounter during my “trip”.
Ready to start the ceremony, the master shaman handed me the bitter mixture made up of a high concentration of Ayahuasca and Chacruna, a leaf with hallucinogenic properties. I drank the dark liquid slowly but decidedly, while at the same time, the master shaman drank the same concoction and started reciting his prayers. After a few minutes, my stomach began to contract, desperately trying to expel the mysterious drink. I began to gag uncontrollably and with such force that the liquid had soon been ejected from my body again. Once the gagging stopped, I sat up and realised that my body's attempt to reject the Ayahuasca had been in vain. The potent beverage was already inside me, flowing through my veins and into my brain before carrying me away on my trip. At the same time, the master shaman began chanting his ancestral songs, thus sending me off on a journey to the depths of my soul, my body, my mind and the Amazon.
Pucalpa-Iquitos, Peru. October, 2009.
© Luigi Abanto Varese
Canon EOS 500, Ilford SFX 200, Kodak HIE Infra red film, Nikon D70, filtro Visico IR720, Zoom H2 Sound Recorder.