Sunday, September 23, 2018

Another explanation of water with sapo/kambo

Thought I just wrote about this but then today someone asked if it was necessary to drink a gallon of water prior to sapo/kambo use. This is what I wrote:
If you do the medicine Matses style, Sapo style, there is no drinking of water beforehand. But the Matses were hunter/gatherers when I met them, still eating tree barks for carbohydrates because they did not have fields. They would put pineapple tops down to make them grow on hunting paths and such, but they were not yet agrarian. What they needed sapo for was to clean them out, steady their hand with a bow and arrow, allow them to walk several days with little sleep, little food, and little water. Now the Brazilian groups that we subsequently learned about who used sapo, did it Kambo style: The Katukina and Yaminawa were more agrarian and fishermen and less depending on hunting. So it might be--and this is only my hypothesis--that they suffered more stomach ailments because of their diet, and so needed the Kambo to clean their stomachs out. Their style emphasised drinking water--one or two liters, never a gallon, which could kill a person who weighed under 100 lbs--to help produce vomiting, which would clean out the stomach of rotten material. So your question is "is it necessary to drink lots of water prior to sapo/kambo use" and the answer is: IF you want to concentrate the medicine on cleansing the stomach, drinking a liter of water will ensure vomiting, and probably vomiting bile. If you want a full body detox and reset, do not drink water and do not worry about vomiting, because the Matses never thought of that as necessary for the medicine do do the work.

My friend John passed

So I got a call a few days ago from someone I did not know. He said that my friend JOHN had died and that I was on the list of people to inform. I thanked him and hung up.
John came on my trip to the jungle about 4-5 years ago. He had signed up for it a year earlier but never showed up in Iquitos. I called to find out what happened and his sister told me that John was in the hospital: He weighed over 400 pounds and had gone on a starvation diet to get down to 300 to do the trip, but when he reached 300 his body went into shock and he wound up sick. So he was fine, but would not make the trip.
A year later, at about 300 or just less, he came. My trip is not physically difficult but there is a lot of climbing in and out of canoes, some walking, some hiking. He did the parts he could do, and he did them well. For a real softie he was a tough ass motherfucker. I liked him.
After the trip he'd send me cards for Christmas, Thanksgiving, my birthday, St. Pat's day. He was a wonderful gentleman in the old school style. If he read a good book he'd write me a postcard suggesting I read it. When we occasionally spoke he was always engaged.
He had colon cancer when I met him and though the person who called me about his death didn't go into it, I suspect that's what killed him.
Good people come in all sizes and shapes. He once wrote the lyrics for a song for an up and coming music person and they were wonderful. He'd laugh like nobody's business. He was one of the good guys and today I sang for him to help him cross--though he probably did not need any help--and my friend Drew, who ditched this plane about 18 months ago and now helps people find the bridge to cross to get to the other side, had him well in hand, so I think he's good.
Good bye, John. It was my pleasure to know you. Thanks.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Sapo/Kambo: Similarities and differencies in use

Someone asked me about the difference between the frog medicines Sapo and Kambo. They are the same medicine, but used differently by different indigenous groups. This was my response, after which he had a follow up question that I also answered.

Kambo and Sapo are the same medicines, but generally applied differently. Sapo, utilized by the Matses/Mayoruna indigenous group (which includes the Matis, Marubo, Matsis, and perhaps others) is moistened with saliva--from a strong person with a good heart--to impart that person's spirit into your blood stream along with the medicine. It is taken as a rule before meals or a couple of hours after them, with no special preparation. The burns for sapo tend to be fairly large, about half the size of a cigarette, and made from tamishi, a jungle vine.
   Kambo is moistened with water as a rule, with the recipient drinking 1-2 liters of water before the session to help produce vomiting to eliminate bile. The burns are quite small, often made with the end of an incense stick or something equivalent.
   Kambo is not generally considered successful unless there is vomiting.
   With sapo there might be an urge to vomit, but most people don't, or if they do, it's just the elimination of bitter orange bile.

The person writing to me then asked why there were different ways to utilize the medicine. This is what I answered:

Different indigenous groups do things differently. In Brazil, kambo style was used. In Peru, where most of the Matses are, and where I first discovered sapo (I didn't discover it, the indigenous did. I just happened to be the first person ever to publish an article about using it) they have their own style. In Brazil, among the Katukina and Yaminawa and others, they have a different style. It might have to do with the fact that the Matses, when I ran into them in 1985, were still primarily hunter/gatherers, so they needed the medicine to work a certain way, (which involved a complete body clean up to aid in hunting, long walks with little food, steadiness of hand when shooting bow and arrow), while the Brazilian groups were more agrarians and fishermen, so maybe they needed the medicine to clean out infections in the stomach, so used the medicine in a way that focused on that. All speculation, but in my experience, the indigenous generally do what is needed for them and no more. So my explanation makes sense--though I cannot swear it is right, just an hypothesis.

Monday, September 17, 2018

On leaving the space during ayahuasca ceremony

Someone on FB posted recently that during an ayahuasca session they decided to leave the space and return to their room. The people running ceremony did not permit that and the poster saw that as a sort of imprisonment--if a temporary one. I disagree. This is what I wrote:
On my trips we make an arcana outside of ceremony space that people can use. They an look at the stars, lie on the clay, just get out of the intensity of the ceremony space. But they cannot go beyond that arcana until the circle is opened. Beyond that space, which is beyond where you can hear the curandero singing, are thousands of spirits who wanted to come to the ceremony but were not invited. If someone rents a tear in that invisible wall those spirits enter and though each only has a tiny bit of energy that we can feel, tens off thousands at one time will knock everybody flat on their backs and cause hell to break loose. So I make it clear before ceremony: If you are here for ceremony, whether you are drinking or not, you are staying put. You can go to sleep, you can sing to the trees, you just can't put the rest of us at risk by leaving.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Preparing to serve Sapo, the Matses frog medicine

Someone wrote to me today saying that when they serve sapo/kambo, the frog medicine, they sometimes do not feel connected to the medicine. They said they wanted to feel more connected when they served and could I help. This is what I wrote:
Dear X: When I am serving any medicine, I always start by cleansing myself. In my case I use cuma lunga and agua florida. It's a 20 second cleanse, but it gets me out of being me and gets me into the medicine space. You could use mapacho, a quick meditation, a rattle, anything to get you out of being you and into being a medicine server. 
     Then, though it is NOT traditional, I sing the people for the first four minutes or so of the event. I sing to the frog to come and cleanse the skin, the blood, the heart, the lungs, the stomach, the liver, the kidneys, and then the head, the spirit, the soul of the person/people being served. I ask that it eliminate toxic things that those people do not need. I sing for it to work deeply but with tranquility so as not to cause fear and add to their toxic load. When I am done I am quiet. Somehow that attunes me, and it eases their entry into the medicine. When I forget to cleanse myself beforehand I can feel it immediately: I might be scraping the stick with saliva and realize it feels like I'm spitting on a stick, rather than sharing the best clean part of my spirit with them. So I stop, apologize to the guests, cleanse myself, then continue with what I was doing. That's the best I have for you. I hope it helps.

What's up with us humans?

I've been pretty busy since I came back from Peru at the end of July. Had last week's cover story in the Fort Worth Weekly, about the local Roller Derby scene, which is enormous but I didn't even know about a few months ago. This week is the Weekly's Best of Fort Worth issue and I had about 15 categories to do there. On Thursday my editor Anthony gave me a short investigative feature to write about a company wanting to open a private high-stakes poker club here in Fort Worth and I got that done and in print yesterday. In between I held my 10 day sapo (frog medicine) course for two people, had several guests over, and this weekend hosted ten former jungle-trip guests of mine here at the house for a medicine weekend/reunion. Yesterday I got both the Crown Vic and one of my Ranger trucks inspected and registered. And I've been dealing with insomnia, getting maybe 4-5 hours of sleep nightly, most of that just nodding out at the computer.
So there is that. But what about the world? What about the atrocities in Yemen? What about a president who denies the death toll from the hurricanes in Puerto Rico — most of which were the result of horrible federal response to that catastrophe? What about Judge Kavanaugh being rushed through a Supreme Court vetting so fast, considering how much of a paper trail he has that's not been reviewed, that it looks like the fix is in? And there are a million other things that make my blood boil. I just want to grab humanity by the neck and shake our collective heads and ask what's up? Can't we just do right by one another? Can't we all play together nicely? I guess not. And I'm sad about that. I'm mad about that. Damnit. Nuts.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Making noise during Ayahuasca ceremony

Someone on fb posted that they always roar all through ayahuasca ceremonies. They are unaware of it but it apparently goes on all ceremony. There was some back and forth on the issue, and I finally decided to weigh in on it. This was my comment:
If people are deep in the medicine and begin to make noise, whatever it might be, I always allow it for a few minutes because I don't want to interfere with their process. But once it becomes problematic--is taking over the space--I try to get them to walk out of the ceremony space with one of my team and walk them to the edge of the protected area, facing away from the ceremony hut, where they, under the eye of one of my team, may sing, dance, roar, scream, do whatever they like or whatever they are being compelled to do by the medicine running through them. But I do not let them stay in the ceremonial space and take over for a long period. I explain beforehand what the protocol will be and that the experience is not a participatory one: People came to the Amazon for the trips to hear the curandero sing, not to hear someone rebirthing. But I don't ever want to have people feel they cannot do what's necessary. They just can't do it in the ceremony hut. But outside, facing the forest away from the hut, they are welcome to do what they need for as long as they need. And always under the watchful eye of one of my team.