|"It was more than pain. It was suffering."|
The first dose was done and Abanti was already scraping up another. There was no question of refusal. As he rang the bone against the shell, it occurred to me that he was summoning someone, or something. The jets of powdery tobacco entered me once again. A bright green cloud of excruciating vapor expanded inside my mind’s eye and then turned in on itself, swirling both outward and inward into iridescent fractals that filled me with their luminescence while folding both us within an evolving pattern. There was no way to look at it, since it was everywhere: a million unblinking eyes, a peacock’s fanning tail, a rainbow of undulating woven patterns, the shimmering plumage of a hummingbird.
|"As he rang the bone against the shell, it occurred to me that he was summoning someone, or something"|
|"A bright green cloud of excruciating vapor expanded inside my mind's eye and then turned in on itself, swirling both outward and inward into iridescent fractals" |
(art: Titia van Beugen)
|"A capricious hummingbird seemed to be playing hide and seek with me" |
(art: Clancy Cavnar)
I don’t know how many doses he gave me. At some point I whimpered, “Intaga,” and Abanti stopped. Tears streamed down my face. My breath came in sobs. My hands trembled, my face went slack and numb. Thick, dark mucus began to flow out of swollen sinuses onto my lips, neck and chest.
An eerie buzzing sound surrounded me, sometimes near, sometimes far, sometimes in front or behind, on one side or the other. I could never locate it, much less identify its source. A capricious hummingbird seemed to be playing hide-and-seek with me. There was something unbearable about that sound, not so much menacing as utterly incomprehensible and disorienting. I was confused, with no sense of space or time, and the euphoria had drained out of me and in its place came the nausea, rising like a sickening tide that rolled and spun me to that dizzy, unsettling hum. There are times when one can hold firm and fight off ayahuasca nausea through force of will. This was not one of those times.
“Jiromanka,” I called out: ‘The pot.’
Read the full article at Medium.
Excerpted from "Agony and Ecstasy in the Amazon: Tobacco, pain and the hummingbird shamans of Peru" Broad Street 2: 5-20 (2015).
Read another excerpt from "Agony and Ecstasy" on this blog.