Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ayahuasca and the Glory

Dear All: This is the fifth in a series of stories I began writing about in 1990 that involve my evolving ayahuasca experiences. For those who don't know what ayahuasca is, go back to the beginning of this blog, the oldest entries and work forward until you reach something called 25-Years of Shamanism. That will give you at least a little structure in which to read this piece.
And I'm going to tell you now that there are a couple of very raw places in this piece, and some of you are going to find out that I'm not nearly as advanced as you probably hope I am. Sorry. I'm just me.
But I think there's something to learn from this and I think it's honest and that's the best I know how to give you.
Nuff said. Here's a new ayahuasca piece. And if I get to it, I think I have two more to finish this series as of now, though it continues to evolve and after the next two, there will hopefully be others.
And thanks for reading.


Ayahuasca and the Glory

By Peter Gorman

It was probably nearly two years since I’d been splooched before I could return to Iquitos. I had moved to Texas to be with Madeleina and have her together her brothers Marco and Italo—Chepa, my ex was staying with her sisters in Fort Worth proper. But reinventing myself as a 52-year-old freelance journalist was nearly impossible and within months of buying our little house in Joshua I was two months behind in the mortgage and at risk of losing it. I managed to get lucky when the National Enquirer called out of the blue and gave me a few week’s work but that didn’t last long and I was soon behind again. Friends bailed me out and I pawned my guitar and my grandfather’s pocket watch and took a loan out on my 9-year-old 1994 Ford Ranger and even went to work at day labor for a month just to keep the house. After my breakup with Chepa and her moving to Texas with my daughter and then the move there myself to get the kids back together I was pretty much willing to do anything to keep that simple roof over their heads. And so when a couple contacted me out of the blue to ask if I had a trip coming up—though I hadn’t done one in some time—I told them I did. And when they sent the money I put it to the house, hoping against hope that I’d somehow be able to repay the theft before it was time for the trip.
Turned out I couldn’t and as the day of the trip came closer I thought of just not going at all. My friend Lynn, who’d been on an earlier trip with me, was already in Iquitos. He was taking care of some family business there as he’d married a Peruvian woman who had worked for me on my trips a couple of times—which is where he’d met her—and I thought that he might just be able to explain to the couple that I was sick and so the trip was cancelled. I would get their money back at some point in the future.
I didn’t do that. Instead I decided to tell the couple the truth face-to-face that I’d used their money to save my house and borrowed money for airfare. If they needed to kill me or hate me, well, they’d at least have me there in person. So I left Texas with $100 and arrived in Iquitos with about $15 after buying a ticket from Lima to Iquitos.
Lynn was generous enough to give me $100, which I used to get drunk my first night in town and then got robbed of the remainder. But in the morning, amazingly, Chepa got in touch to say a $1,000 check from a magazine for an article I’d written had arrived. I wasn’t expecting any check but thanked the heavens for it. Even more odd was that when she forged my name my bank cashed it for her and she was able to wire it the same day. So I had been saved from having to admit to my guests, who flew in that afternoon, that I’d embezzled their money.
The couple, young Russians who’d recently immigrated to New York, were lovely. Elona was a walking light stick, full of energy and joy. Pasha was smart and intense. He’d read a lot about ayahuasca and was full of questions about it, many I considered irrelevant. But he insisted on asking them so I did my best to answer. Lynn backed me up by noting that what was in the books was not necessarily connected to what actually happened in ceremony. I offered coffee, for instance, and Pasha asked about the caffeine-ayahuasca interaction. I told him to forget everything he’d read and just be with Lynn and myself and most of all, Julio.
Two days after Pasha and Elona arrived, they, with Lynn and Corrina and myself, boarded the riverboat to Herrera. Twenty-four hours later we arrived at Julio’s stilted, open-walled jungle hut on the Aucayacu river.
Julio was delighted to see us: he’d been my friend and teacher for nearly 20 years and had previously met Lynn and Corrina. And yes, he’d be delighted to make ayahuasca next day.


The ayahuasca Julio made looked magnificent. But by 8:30, when I took my seat near the little front gate of Julio's living room I was nervous. I didn't want anything, anything negative to attack us during the night like I'd been attacked two years earlier on the first night I drank with Lynn.
To that end, about 30 minutes earlier I'd walked slowly around Julio's house, soplaing—blowing Florida Water—to create a wall beyond which nothing with negativity was invited. All good spirits and angels, however, were welcome to come.
I'd made the ceremony up on the spot and it was simple and seemed almost silly, coming from me—with Lynn willingly walking behind me blowing sacred mapacho (Nicotiana rustica) tobacco smoke—but it also seemed like the right thing to do. So regardless of feeling silly I just made the wall and hoped it had power to work.
There were one or two moments when it seemed that while I was telling negative spirits to stay out that one of them was saying it was already there and would get me later. I brushed those aside as the properties of an over-active imagination and tried to forget them. Sure.
Julio began right-to-left with me first. Not long after I drank my panic set in, even sitting there near Julio, and not long after Julio said his prayer I was outside, knees knocking, feet tapping, hands shaking. "I can’t do this. I’m not ready for this!" I was shouting to myself as the buzzing in my ears began, disorienting me. I could feel things were going to be thick and deep, not playful at all. I was having a hard time preventing my nerves from jumping from my skin.
I could not, would not, close my eyes because I knew I would be taken away somewhere scary, somewhere where I had no control. Somewhere where my fear would paralyze me.
I did make an attempt to be brave: I told myself that if Phil Blumenau were here he’d calm me down and say: "Hey Peteball! You can do this," or something like that and instantly I would be confident I could get through anything. But Phil was not there and I could not muster the courage through the thick, disorienting sound and the grinding of the gears that move the blocks of the universe in slow motion. My legs were shaking, my feet tapping.
I stared open-eyed into space to keep a level of stability for fear of disappearing if I let go. Suddenly, colorful lights appeared in front of me. Colorful lights that were sort of like Christmas lights but compelling. They filled my vision and read a simple A.
A bright "A" and I heard myself saying something like "Oh, sure, and what does that stand for, Anaconda?"
And as I said that I moved from the ground to sit on one of the three cut log pieces that made up Julio’s steps and of course I realized the A stood for Ayahuasca.
As I realized that, the A pulled back and revealed that it was just a crest on a hat. A pointed black crushed-velvet hat which sat atop the head of a giant of a being dressed in a similarly made crushed-velvet cape that swept to the ground and reached to the heavens and was dotted with that looked like jewels. When I looked closer I realized they were jewels in the shapes of the planets, stars, the moon. They glistened fantastically. And then I realized they were not jewels or lights on the cape at all but that the cape was the entire universe and the glistening jewels were actually cut-outs in the material that allowed the universe light to come through the cape in the shape of the stars, planets, and moon. It was the cloak of the universe itself, and if it were removed the universe would be revealed to be all light.
The being was male and overwhelmingly terrifying, though he didn't threaten me. Just his enormity, his unknowableness itself was terrifying. This being was strong and stately and elegant and definitely a ‘he’.
He came down in size to the point where I could see his hat again, though he still appeared to be hundreds of feet tall, and asked if I was ready to follow him. I said I wasn’t, that I was too frightened.
He told me not to be frightened, just to follow, that it was time to work. The work, I knew, involved learning the next part of becoming a curandero.
I said I couldn’t. I was not ready for ayahuasca work that night.
He was disappointed but not angry. He wanted to know why I couldn’t work, why I was afraid. I told him I wasn’t ready to give myself up to being torn apart by ayahuasca and blown to bits by the universe.
Like the being in the previous dream two years ago, the man who asked me to follow and promised me the answer to the question of how to love Chepa—and which I got after the splooching—this being was not bad, not evil. If I could summon up the courage to follow him something immense would occur. But I still couldn't manage to let go—of my fear, my ego, myself, and allow myself to follow him.
I told him I had things to do before I could follow and become a curandero. I had to fix things with Chepa and with my work so that my kids could be taken care of. I had too much to do to follow yet and go through the world and change.
He turned and started to stride away, then turned back and said, "Go fix your problems. Come back when you’re ready to work."
He said it plainly, then turned and walked away. No rancor, no anger, no sadness. Just plainly.
And of course as he left I realized that Julio had probably sent him and that I’d just refused a great gift because of my cowardice. But I couldn’t do anything about it, paralyzed by fear in the face of it all.
I apologized silently to Julio but believed that what the man said was true: I should come back when ready to work, which meant follow him to wherever and through whatever hells I had to go through to get somewhere new.
Just after the man disappeared, I vomited. Good, strong and clean. Up came the ayahuasca and the cup of lemon water I’d had a couple of hours earlier, out onto the dirt in front of me.
I looked at the damp spot on the ground.
Suddenly a man dressed identically to the first but of a more normal size, was standing to my right.
"Go ahead and leap into it," he said.
"How?"
"Put your intent into it and leap."
The vomit had become a Merlin mirror. The phrase I’d so often told people about, the vomit being a sort of magic mirror through which you could leap to travel anywhere in the universe, suddenly for the first time made honest, physical sense.
The spit was only 10-12 inches wide but the portal—clearly that was what it was—was as large as I needed and all I had to do was intend through it to be in it. I thought about it for a minute and then looked at it again and saw the caped man’s face looking up at me from it, grinning a devilish, dark grin, and of course I got scared and stepped away. But I knew the portal had been real, and was ashamed to be so afraid. All those years waiting for that door to materialize and when it did I was a small small man unable to jump into and through it. Ah, nuts. Julio had just been wasting his time with a chicken like me.

There is a gap after the Merlin mirror missed opportunity. I remember my shame and fear and then coming out of that space and listening to the other guests, seeing that they were alright—although Pasha seemed to be vomiting quite a bit—then finding a spot outside Julio’s hut but near the stairs where I could lie down and things calmed down. The doctors came and worked on me a little. Sort of a guest appearance and things got sexy for a while with cartoon sized sexy women prancing and preening and then the beautiful world of ayahuasca tickling me, making me laugh. Bittersweet because I knew I’d lost an opportunity but it was way, way over my head.
But then, out of the calm I found myself being walked up large stone steps by the same being who’d been with me at the portal. He brought me to a set of doors. Tall doors, Very tall. With rounded tops and a very high window: You would have to be a giant to look through that window, maybe 20 feet high. The doors were made of simple but strong oak and were reinforced with a cross-beam perhaps every six feet. I think there were three cross beams on them. They were like castle or church doors.
"This is where the wishes are," he said, indicating I should enter. "There is still time to do the work."
This is where the wishes are, I repeated to myself. Of course, just as I thought that it occurred to me that I hadn’t asked for wishes. I had wished for Chepa’s heart to be cleaned, of course, so that there would be a chance she would realize she loved me and didn’t need to be afraid of being in love, but I wanted to do the conquisting so it would be real.
What other wishes? For my family to be together, for us to have fun as a group again.
But behind those doors lay something bigger than that, I knew. The wishes. Maybe all the wishes in the universe lay there. How? Like Christmas presents? That made no sense.
And in the moment of thinking that a row of demons came through the doors—without opening them—and roared past us: They were human-like but tall, and all of them were eating furiously. But they had no fronts on their bodies so as soon as they ate the food fell to the ground. And in seeing them I realized that the wishes that were probably in that place were only base desires. Desires for wealth, power, fortune, fame. Desires for Cadillacs, for oil, to run the world. Or desires before they took shape. I shivered: I felt that behind those doors probably lay the very heart of man's desires. All the lurid evil imaginable. The willingness to trade in lies and lives, the deals with the devil himself.
The demons that had passed were creatures of unimaginable and unfulfillable hunger. Desires in creature shapes that could never be satisfied, creatures who could eat a universe and never be full.
I might have those base desires but I didn’t want to be one of those every hungry creatures. No, I did not want to go through those doors at all.
The man did not urge me. He had brought me there but did not insist I enter. When he understood I would not pass through those doors he grew sad.
"There is still enough time to do the work tonight," he said again. Then he walked me down the stair and into a system of a kind of living computer.
We moved through living wiring and tubes at the speed of light. "Would you like to see the cell of your soul?" he asked.
And into the heart of the living machine we flew until we came to a tiny tiny box. He made it start to turn one side toward me. "That’s the cell that runs your soul. Would you like to see your soul that runs that cell?"
A tiny speck in the box began to glow. The tiniest speck. It began to throw off light until in a moment it began to blind me, engulf me. The power was way too much to witness and again I grew afraid and opened my eyes and lay on the ground near Julio's home.
A little while later the man told me he could have given me so much that night. He was sad when he said it. I asked: "Why don't you come in a form that doesn’t always terrify me? Like the doctors years ago, why not present as a nurse and tickle me as they did at the end? Why do you always play to my fear?"
The man didn't answer my question. He instead took me to a place where something was gleaming. It was something golden and red and green and it was like a crown as wide as my sight and taller than my sight.
"I could have shown you the corona," he said.
I looked at the crown presented to me. It was so golden it radiated light and life. I realized it was moving. It looked like a crown in the shape of an impossibly huge pipe organ so large you couldn't see the sides or top or bottom of it.
Closer, the pipes were each alive and pulsing. Some were like serpents, others stars and planets, or winding DNA stairways 100 feet wide and infinitely tall. Millions of dots of light made up others; growing flowers on long orchid like strands made up others.
It was the most glorious isness I'd ever seen. I was in absolute awe. This was life at a level normally impossible to perceive, what our eyes are not programmed to receive. I was speechless, in speechless awe of this life force, this universe center, this pulsing core of isness.
And I knew that though I was seeing it, what the man meant when he said he could have shown it to me was that had I had the courage I would have been in it. Would have felt it pulsing through me, would have known all things knowable and unknowable, felt all things feelable and unfeelable, been all things be-able and un-beable.
The man left me with a glance and disappeared. With him the crown pulled back and disappeared as well, until it was a single star that rolled it’s edges into itself , became a cluster of interlocking gleaming rings, then disappeared and left all darkness.
I stayed on the ground and laughed and cried. I had gotten more than I could have imagined, yet knew I’d missed something unimaginable.

The sound of vomiting suddenly took my attention and I stood and walked up the log steps to the hut platform. Elona was sitting peacefully, as were Lynn and Corrina, but Pasha lay on the floor, writhing, still vomiting. I checked on him. He was fine, just having a difficult time with the cleansing. But it didn’t stop. For perhaps two more hours, as Julio chanted, Pasha suffered through what was the most physically difficult time I’d ever seen someone have under ayahuasca’s influence. And he wouldn’t get up and let me take him outside. He just rolled around in his own vomit—I put towels under his head so that he’d at least be reasonably clean, and Corrina, who had not taken the medicine, tended him wonderfully, wiping him down with moist towels and wetting his lips but not otherwise interfering with him.
Julio chuckled at one point and said: "I don’t understand a man who vomits in a living room." He laughed again, "Well, maybe it’s just impossible to do anything else." And then he began to chant again.

The next morning occurred one of the only, and certainly the longest, conversation I ever had with Julio.
Pasha and Elona, wanted to ask questions about what they’d seen. I explained that Julio and I didn’t often communicate with words and that while I would ask their questions they would most likely get no response. Julio simply didn’t understand my Spanish or pretended not to understand it.
They insisted and I said alright, so after the morning bath to put everyone back together and after Julio had sweet, light coffee with several dried bread rounds, we gathered around him on the floor of his living space where the night earlier we’d drunk ayahuasca.
Elona said she'd seen herself, no, had been herself riding on a horse…
I translated her first phrase and was surprised when Julio interrupted.
"What color was the horse?"
I was amazed. He'd never done that before in 20 years and 100 visits.
I asked Elona what color the horse was and she told me it was blue and white. I translated for Julio. He looked at me, impossibly deep eyes gleaming and said that was good. Blue and white was a good color for a horse to be riding.
Elona continued: She had ridden into a Greek temple, through vast columns, but she had arrived nowhere as the columns continued endlessly.
I translated the vision and Julio thought for a moment. I imagined he was going to do what he always did when I spoke: Listen attentively and then ask what I'd said. He didn't. He said the riding of a blue and white horse into a columned building signified success, but as there were no walls to the building, no rear and no place arrived at it signified that she hadn't chosen what to do yet. He assured her that ayahuasca had said she would succeed at whatever she chose but told her to choose soon as Pasha had two enemies at his work who might cost him his job.
Pasha interrupted to say that was true but that he had not told anyone.
Julio just laughed when I told him what Pasha said; he told me to tell Pasha to watch his back; one of the enemies had already put something negative into him.
He urged Elona to pick something, anything, to do as things were very auspicious for her. He echoed the fact that she might have to carry Pasha for a while if his enemies succeeded in unseating him.
As for Pasha, he said he had not seen much of anything because he'd been vomiting for so many hours and demanded to know how it was that he’d had such an awful time while his wife was having wonderful visions.
Julio explained that he’d wanted to paint Pasha with the colors of ayahuasca but that when he got inside he saw that Pasha was like a room filled with broken old furniture and peeling paint and garbage in the corners. "Who could paint in a room like that?" he chuckled. So instead of painting Pasha, he’d spent the night preparing him. "And there was a lot to clean out. But tell your friend that now he’s ready."
I have forgotten what Lynn saw, perhaps because I was so blown away by Julio's conversation about both Elona and Pasha.
Though I rarely even tried to tell Julio what the medicine had shown me, that morning I needed to, so I showed Julio the pictures I'd drawn: the the hat with the letter "A", the man in the cape, the doors, the hungry creatures.
Julio said the man with the cape was one of his guardians and that he'd sent him to me. He asked me what I’d done when I met him. I said I'd sent him away in fear. Julio shook his head in dismay for a few moments, then asked if the man had said anything before he left.
I told him the man said to come back when I was ready to work. Julio said that was both good and lucky. He said I should stop being so frozen with fear, that I should be fearless.
I told him about Merlin's mirror and how I was to afraid to go into it and he repeated that I should stop being afraid. I must be fearless.
I told him about the gears and the slow motion blocks that form when the sound begins to hum in my ears and that it makes me afraid and makes me feel overwhelmed. He said the sound was the sound of the gears of the universe, the mechanics of the whole shebang (he used a phrase that I didn’t get) and that again I shouldn’t be afraid. These were all good things ayahuasca was sharing with me.
I then told him about the doors and the wishes and how I knew there were perpetually hungry creatures inside that would come out and overwhelm me, consuming me over and over with base desire if I opened the doors.
Julio was ready to explode, partly with laughter, partly with frustration. He said that it was rare to go to the doors, but that if I'd had the courage to enter I would have met three men at a table. I could have asked them for anything I wanted and they would have given it to me.
"Anything?"
"Whatever you want. They can give it to you. Just ask them and you get your wishes."
"But what about the creatures I saw there?"
"Yes, they were there. Forget them. Forget your fear. All of these spirits are bravo, aggressive. They like bravo. If they are bravo, you be more bravo. If they are 100-feet tall, make yourself 200-feet tall. Then they will respect you and you will not be afraid. They will only scare you if you are afraid of them."
He laughed, then told a story of himself as a younger man studying ayahuasca. "There was a man, a fierce spirit, blocking my path. He wouldn’t let me pass and said he was going to kill me. I was afraid too, but I was determined to pass him. So I told him to kill me. And the man stabbed me three times. But each time he turned the knife around at the last second and stabbed me with the butt of the knife. And then he let me pass."
Julio laughed. "You must do the same."
I thought of the Matses Indians and how, in the old days, when you met them on the river they held weapons and yelled at you and tried to get you to leave, threatening to kill you if you came out of your boat and into their village. Of course if you had left they might have killed you for being a coward. I don’t know for sure because Moises, my jungle teacher taught me during my first visit to a Matses camp that you had to face them. It was probably 15-years earlier and we’d followed a young Matses man with a tattooed face from our jungle camp to his. It was the then-new camp of Papa Viejo—an old and fierce warrior who’d fought against Peruvian troops and conducted raids on Peruvian villages and towns. When we arrived at the camp Papa Viejo came running at us, holding a shotgun. He stopped maybe 20 feet away and pointed the gun at Moises and began yelling in his own language. I wanted to flee but since Moises didn’t budge, neither did I. So I stood with Moises who held our gun on Papa Viejo and screamed even louder than he had. I thought sure we would all be killed, but instead, after a face off, the men put down their weapons and said hello.
I told Julio I would try to be more brave. He said I was doing all this work and not getting what I could, even when he was helping by sending his guardian to assist me. "Agarra tu cojones," he laughed, seriously. "Grab your balls."

Two days later I got the chance.
During those two days I came up with the phrase: "I am Peter Gorman, son of Thomas and Madeleine Gorman, father of Italo, Marco and Madeleina Gorman, spouse of Chepa and I have business here. I have been invited here by Julio Jerena."
I must have repeated that phrase a thousand times between Thursday morning and Friday night, determined to implant it to the point that even if I was disoriented I could say it. I hoped it got my gumption strong because I was determined to do my best not to be so afraid of all and everything on the other side of ayahuasca.
Which didn't mean I was confident I could pull it off, of course. In fact I was sure I would crumble like a sissy in a fight if it came to it. But still I practiced that phrase and concentrated on the feeling of loss and how awful it was each time I refused something ayahuasca offered out of fear and then later realized it was a gift.
The night we were to drink, only Lynn and I were going to participate. Elona had gone to bed. Pasha and Corrina sat with us, though, although neither wanted to drink.
Julio began the ceremony with his prayers and we had him pour a huge portion for Lynn: after all his drinking and his successful but short visions he'd never really gone to the other side and needed to. I took a regular portion. Julio took just enough to keep us company.
I wasn’t long before my world began to shift: the sound of the gears began to grate in their slow, metallic fashion and I realized I was on the boat again.
Instantly I was afraid but found the courage to repeat my mantra: I am Peter, son of Thomas and Madeleine, father of Italo, Marco and Madeleina, husband of Gilma, and I have business here.
I was spinning upside down when I tried to say that to maintain order and instantly on saying it I found myself in a dark void. Pitch black, empty. Nothing.
I got my bearings—that is to say I felt myself stand in that vacuum, and began to walk across it, thinking there must be something if I kept walking. I wasn’t walking toward anything but more nothing, but still, I’d never been in a space that didn’t go somewhere sooner or later, so walking seemed like a reasonable thing to do.
Going was slow and frustrating since nothing appeared on the horizon, so I decided to make myself 40-feet tall to make my strides longer. I did and began walking with giant steps across that void and in no time found myself in a forest.
I had no idea what forest or where it was but kept on walking through the trees on a kind of path.
In moments I nearly stepped on a tapir, s small white sachavaca with yellow stripes on its fore-quarters and back. Nice bright yellow.
"Are you ready to work tonight?" she asked in a lovely, friendly voice.
I said yes and added the mantra that I am Peter, son of Thomas and Madeleine, father of Italo, Marco and Madeleina, and I have business here.
I almost felt silly saying it to the lovely tapir but she just laughed and told me that in that case I should follow her.
I knew it was a trick, of course. I knew the moment I stepped behind her on the jungle trail she would turn into a giant tapir or monster and kick me into hell so I left a little space between us and silently repeated my mantra.
She was so sweet and didn’t do what I thought she would. Didn’t do anything mean.
In a few steps she came to a black hole in the ground and hopped over it. Then she turned--the sachavaca was definitely a she--and said: "Why don't you jump into that?"
And surprisingly but good, I did.
In the hole was a thick clear sort of gelatinous goop--or should I say the hole was made up of the viscous goop. It wasn't wretched or slimy or constricting or something that prevented me from breathing. It was just goopish, but so clear that it was black.
Down I went into the thick stuff, afraid but excited. Down I went in and through until I reached a sort of bottom where the sachavaca was waiting for me.
"Come," she said, and I followed her down a hallway of some sort into a room where I saw planets and the stars. Like a 3-D projection of a mini-universe. The sachavaca asked if I would like that. I didn’t understand. She asked if I would like the power of the planets and I said okay, but still didn’t know what she meant.
"Okay," she said, and started to leave the room.
"What do you mean?" I asked, or something like that.
"From now on all you have to do is want to be on a planet and you will be," she explained.
I thought I would try and thought of Saturn: Instantly I was a giant, standing on the rings of the planet, looking out at the universe. Some of the rings were narrow and some were thick. Some were made of gray dust while others were smooth like glass. I stepped from one to another and nearly fell because they moved at different speeds.
I jumped onto a reddish ring and was nearly knocked down because it was made in part of huge stones that moved beneath my feet.
It was glorious.
I tried the moon and got to a cold, dark place and looked down at earth, so close, so huge.
Then the sun and felt the heat of its fires roar around me, though I don’t remember hearing them.
"Just want to be there and you will be," she said, bringing me out of my reverie.
She walked out of the room and into another chamber filled with plants.
"Would you like this?" she asked.
"I would like to know how to heal with plants," I said.
"Okay," she said.
"You mean I can do it now? You just say okay and I can do it?"
"Yes. I just gave it to you."
"But how do I do it?"
"You just have to talk to them and they will tell you how to use them."
I don’t remember if I said anything, but do remember her saying: "The problem is most people don’t know how to talk to plants. They ask: ‘What good are you?’ to the plants. And of course the plants, being perfectly themselves, are already good, so that is not a question they can answer. They don’t have to justify themselves to anyone or anything, so they won't even answer that.
"But if you ask them, ‘Excuse me, I need help. What use might you be to man?’ then they will tell you. Some are good for food or beauty or firewood, others are medicines and all sorts of things. You just have to remember the right question."
"And I can do that now?"
"Yes. I gave you that present. Of course you won’t do it so well yet. You will have to practice to get good. You should touch them and feel them and then ask them. You can sleep with them or near them too. They will tell you how to use them. You should start with the trees in your back yard. Ask them what use they might be to man."
We left that room and I wondered if any of it was real. I mean, I know it was beyond my imagination to invent all of this and I had never read it, but still, I wondered if I were really being given things, if I might ask for X-Ray vision or mind reading and such.
The sachavaca answered my silent thoughts. "You are being given gifts but you can’t use them selfishly. That doesn't mean you cannot benefit, but that’s not the reason you have them. You can’t see through girls’ clothes. I won’t give you that. It’s not important. You can have mind-reading but only in limited fashion. If it is important that you get something from someone’s mind, not something selfish but something important, then you will have the ability. But circumstances will dictate.
"What’s important to remember is that we are lending you these powers. They are not yours. You must use them or we will give them to someone else. You must not abuse them or we will take them away. At the most inopportune time. Use them, don’t abuse them. Don’t lose them."
She took me to a room with animals and serpents and said I could talk with them if I wanted. I said okay and we were leaving the room when a fish appeared underwater and told me not to forget him and talking with fish, too.
I asked her why I was getting these presents. She said they’d been watching me for a long time.
"Everyone gets watched. We've been taking care of you for a long time."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Like guardian angels. Why do you think you have always managed to escape harm when you invite it with drugs and drinking?"
"I don't know."
"Because we're watching. Do you remember the other night in your room? At the hotel?"
I cringed. I’d arrived in Iquitos after being away two years and hadn’t had a drink in 13 months and then immediately got drunk and had taken a fat prostitute to my room. I asked her for a blow job then passed out. When I awoke my money—about $60—was gone, but nothing else was touched. Not my passport, camera, tape recorder, nothing. It was just a stupid drunk thing to do.
"I remember," I said.
"Well," said the sachavaca, "you have no idea how close you came to having your penis cut off by her."
"What? Why?" I said, shivering at the image.
"You were just one too many fat, middle-aged white guys who made her suck your smelly, unwashed dick. You were the last straw. So she took out her nail file and was about to cut you when we intervened and told her spirit that it would be better just to put the file away, take your money and go. She almost didn’t. And then she was going to take your camera and medicines and we reminded her that if she just left with the money you would live with it and your own stupidity. But that taking your things would make you go after her. She rethought and took the money and left."
"Buy why are you protecting me?" I asked, secretly hoping that there was something special about me or my reason for living that would be explained.
"When you were a little kid with rheumatoid arthritis and you were so fat and sick, well, we felt sorry for you and decided you needed looking after. So we did and do."
I was a little crushed with the idea of a sympathy guardian angel. Not what I was hoping for at all.
"You're not a bad guy. You just don't do some things so well. Like money. How many times you’ve got to the end of it with no way out and something saves you? That was us."
"What about when I get home?" I asked, knowing I was two weeks away from losing the house again. "Can I have more work?"
"The work will be there when you get back. Have confidence. You are a good worker. It will be waiting."
For some reason, I believed her.
"What about songs? Can you teach me icaros?"
"When you need a song you will have one. If you use them enough you will learn a lot. Have faith. We’re taking care of you."
"Can you fix my family?"
"Do you want Chepa to be back and in love with you?"
"Yes! No! I mean, I do, but I want to do that. I don’t what you to do that. But if you could wipe us both clean of some of the bad things we’ve done over the years so that I could have a chance of conquisting her, that would be great."
"Are you sure you don't want me to do it?"
"Yes. That's my work. I may fail but if I succeed I will know she really loves me again."
"Okay."
"Do I have a chance?"
"Keep not drinking. That’s very important. Don’t clutter yourself."
"Can I have more children with her?"
"We might help to have two more but what good would it be to give you two more angels if you are going to keep smoking and die before they get the good from you?"
"But it’s hard to quit."
"We’ll help. Your cigarettes are going to start tasting bad. Over time you will hate them. But you will still have to finally quit if you want to live and have more babies. And of course you have to decide if you really want Chepa. She may take some time to be free for you and you could already have Gina."
Gina was a woman I’d met and begun an affair with in Iquitos during the several days I was there before we left for the jungle.
"She’d be great for you."
"I know," I said. "But I would rather Chepa and my family get better."
"Then don’t confuse things with Gina. Don’t try to have both or you won’t have any."
Gina was lovely. Chepa was my heart.
I wanted to get up and go out to pee and have a cigarette.
"You could do that," she said. "But I might not be here when you get back. If I were you and you were giving me all these presents I think I would wait on the cigarette rather than risk losing you."
She was right and I didn’t go anywhere.
"Good choice," she grinned.
We began walking again and suddenly we were out of that world in Merlin’s mirror and in a more familiar ayahuasca space.
"I'm going now," she said. "But I will be there when you need me."
She started moving away and the man from two nights earlier, the man with the moon and stars and planets in his hat and cape, appeared.
"I am Peter, son of Thomas and Madeleine, father of Italo and Marco and Madeleina, spouse of Gilma and I have business here. I want to go to the room where the wishes are."
I don’t know that the man laughed at me for my carrying on, but I don’t remember him being impressed, especially as he was one of Julio’s guardians and he’d come to help me at Julio’s request.
I moved with the man until we were on a long narrow sort of walkway. Devils and horrid creatures lined the sides of the walk but I kept repeating my mantra and they never really formed. Except for one of them who leapt onto the walk blocking the path. He was big and scary and had two heads and then bodies formed from his left and right side, completely blocking the path. He would not let me go.
"I am Peter, son of Thomas and Madeleine, father of Italo and Marco and Madeleina, husband of Chepa and I have business beyond you."
And then I was beyond him, like Julio said I would be, and at the doors.
I knew the creatures would be in there but for some reason had courage in the mantra and willed myself through the doors.
The creatures were indeed there, but they were only a foot tall that night and they rushed by me easily. They did not frighten me that night.
I looked around the hall for the table Julio said I would find. It was just around a bend in another room. At it sat three men, thick and strong, all with broad hats like sombreros and scarves pulled up across their faces so only their eyes shone.
They greeted me and shook hands. The middle one, though imposing, shook softly and I wondered why. Just then he put out his hand again and took mine and squeezed hard.
"Is that better?" he asked.
I laughed at myself.
"What do you want?" he asked.
"Julio said to ask you for anything I want," I said.
"We already gave you everything. You want more already?"
"I want to be a curandero. I want to talk to plants," I said.
"You already can. The sachavaca gave you that and a lot of other things."
"But Julio said to ask you," I protested.
"You did. She is one of us. When you asked us to come in a shape that wouldn’t terrify you we sent her. The only problem is that she will be your guardian forever and she’s not very macho."
The men all burst into laughter.
"But she is one of us, don’t fool yourself. And do as she said: Use the gifts. Don't abuse them or you will lose them. And if you need more gifts, now that you know where we are, you may come back when you need to. We will be watching you."
"And my kids?" I added.
"They are being cared for too. So is Chepa. The sachavaca is very good. Don’t let her fool you. She is very powerful. She just doesn’t look as macho as the first guardians we sent. But they were too much for you."
The men laughed again.
And then I was outside the doors and the sachavaca was waiting and said she would be watching and that was the end of that and I was just back at Julio’s, lying on the floor of his living room, listening to him sing.
The next morning I tried to talk to Julio about what happened, but ran into the same problem I did most of the time: I spoke, he nodded and asked what I had said. I repeated, he nodded and asked "What was that? I don’t understand." I finally gave up and began breaking camp for the return to Iquitos.
When we were set to go I went to Julio to give him a hug. He took me by both arms and looked into my eyes. "Yah, Pedro. You did alright." Then he chuckled. "You guardian is muy bonita, very pretty."

10 comments:

brief_respite said...

Beautiful story, Peter!

bamboo said...

Excellent read.
One day i'd love to share with you my first true experience with the mother.

Piers Alder said...

What a wonderful account, inspiring and in fact challenging.

How long ago did these events take place?

Peter Gorman said...

The story above occurred in 2003.

The Grudge said...

Fantastic read!!!! I am sad at how much time has passed since I have drank. I have so much work to do and wouldn't be suprised if the next 15 or more times were straight purging. How I miss that horid, so bitter it makes you mad, yet so good for the soul taste.

Marc said...

Good story !!

Jorge Luis Villacorta Santamato said...

This writing is a piece of gold!

I liked very much the begining and the way the money appeared!

Now, I understand how it was possible that the money appeared so fast recently. It was evident that Mr. Gorman is a powerful psychic, but it makes even more sense now that I know that he has angelic guardians working long hours for him...

Jorge Luis Villacorta Santamato said...

Mmmm...

maybe... this piece of writing is gold!

phoenix said...

Whoa! that was some post! laying it all out like some big ayahuasca vomit. keep going, good stuff...

JungleBaby said...

Hey Peter,
great story. Is Julio Jereda last name Pineda. If so, he is my maestro's maestro (Alberto Torres Davila). Do you still go down to Iquitos? I am in NYC for the time being but actually live in Iquitos. I recently finished my documentary on ayahuasca shamanism The URL is:

http://metamorphosisfilm.com if you're interested in checking it out!