Three years ago today, July 25, 2017 I had arrived in Iquitos, Peru to spend a few weeks in the low jungle, before going to the high jungle and the mountains. I had had my first experience with the mother plant, Ayahuasca, on Good Friday that same year. I knew I had to go to the source, to the jungle to experience more of what she had to teach and show me. My first experience in Lake Worth, Florida around a campfire, in the woods, administered by my teacher, Joe Iron Eagle, Head of the Red Nation, with whom I have had the honor and guidance though many sacred ceremonies, including sweat lodges he has hosted. I have the greatest confidence in Joe Iron Eagle. Earlier in the day I saw my friend, and great Shaman, Athena. She was walking dogs on Palm Beach, and I was working at my job in the exquisite courtyard Via Amore on Worth Avenue. I told her that I was going to experience the Ayauasca that night for the first time. We both acknowledged the significance of the day being “Good Friday.” Good Friday: the death of the ego. It was a profound sharing…. Jesus’ death on the cross…to resurrect the highest, purest. My first ceremony I called “BLA BLAH BLAH”, because the entire night, between purging, which can be a big part of the ceremony, and in my case was paramount, I lay right at the fire’s edge, flames in front of me, all I could say was “BLAH BLAH BLAH”, laughed about it, and purged again. In the morning before our sweat lodge as we all shared… One of the other participants told me that he had been to four or five Ayauasca ceremonies, and not able to purge…but because of me…and my disgusting purges, he was able finally to purge! Haha… I knew my ego was “Blah, Blah, Blah”…every time I open my mouth. It was a lesson in keeping my mouth shut….I obviously still have a long way to go. This lead me to Peru…to the mother, to experience Ayauasca from the source, with the Shipibo Indians, who have used this medicine for a thousand years, and have a culture built around it. There were four Shipibo Shamans present in the Maloka (the ceremonial circular space where we stay for the the ceremony). There was the elder, eighty years old and had been a shaman most of his life, a shaman who had forty years experience with the medicine, one with twenty years experience, as well as a female shaman, who sang the Icaros during ceremony with the men, adding the most eerie sound to the already particular and unique sounds produced to follow on one’s journey. Icaros are the sacred sounds, and can be tailored to your own experience or in general, often sung accompanied by a shaking instrument. There were eight facilitators for the thirteen of us who were taking the medicine. I felt very safe.
For ten days prior to ingesting the medicine one is encouraged to have an absolutely pure diet, no alcohol or marijuana, no salt, no sugar, no meat, a lot of vegetables and pure rice and fruit. The day prior to the night ceremony, is spent in preparation for the experience. I was quiet and isolated the entire day in meditation. The formal preparation began with a flower bath, which in the jungle entailed a bucket of flowers in water to pour all over myself, around four thirty about three hours prior to ceremonial ingestion of Ayauasca. We were all given a place on the floor, in the maloka, on a small mattress pad with a bucket (for throwing up…yes, the medicine is also known as “la Purga”, as one is throwing up all the emotional debris that no longer serves us) in the circle around the periphery, with the pouring station in the center of the circle. The shamans elevated a little in back.(If I recall correctly).
It’s my turn, I am called up for my pour. I am given options for the size cup I want to take. Alice in Wonderland. I don’t pick the smallest, nor do I pick the largest. I pick somewhere in the middle,(I’m a middle child!) about five ounces. I know I can always ask for more during ceremony…which I did do. The dark rust colored liquid (from combining two plants ayahuasca and chakruna) is vilely disgusting. I got it down. I go back to my mattress. I spent the night between throwing up in the bucket by my mattress, some revelatory hallucinations there and in a tiny bathroom across a suspended foot bridge (as we were along a tributary of The Amazon in Peru …The Ucayali River) everything was build on stilts. The bathroom was a necessity, as one expression Ayauasca users say is “Never trust the fart”. One can purge from both ends. At one point I was in the small bathroom, with all my clothes off. Sitting naked on the toilet seat, with the purging bucket in front of me, encapsulating my head, which literally hung into it, not throwing up. I was transported to the high icy mountains of Peru in my hallucination, and there I had a meeting with the “Bird People”. It was beyond cold and high. They were crowning me. I was laughing about my crown…a throw up bucket , me naked on a toilet in the middle of nowhere in the jungle in Peru…how exquisitely poetically humble… They were thanking me for my work with EKOTECTURE. They were thanking me for my dedication and service. I was crying. I kept saying, “I only arrived here today. This is my first day here. You don’t even know me.” Then in the distance I could hear fireworks. We were four hours from Nauta, in a dugout canoe along the river, the nearest town called Liberdad, consisting of about ten stilt huts, so why was I hearing fireworks and celebration?
I heard my name called, “Jill, are you OK?” “Yes, I’m fine” I said between my sobbing. “Jill, come back to the circle. It is best if you can stay in the circle”. I agreed. “I have to put my clothes on, and I’ll be there”. Facilitators of this medicine have witnessed many different scenarios, the least of which might have been a middle aged woman taking her clothes off in a secluded, tiny bathroom. “Why are there fireworks?” I asked. “It’s Independence Day for Peru and it is midnight”. It struck me: EKOTECTURE is purely about Independence: Independence from the fossil fuel grid. Independence and sovereignty for all humanity. This is why I was honored. I had to be humbled…absolutely butt naked on a toilet in the low jungle of Peru, crowned with a throw up bucket, which had encircled my head as I sat on the shitter. I had to be pure and humble to accept this crown, and this mission. I laughed at how honored I was, and how “humbled I was”. I felt humbled by these people honoring me…very humbled.
Earlier today, not knowing the date, discovering it was the 25th, remembering that to be St. James Day, and then Peruvian Independence Day, reminded of an experience six years earlier than Iquitos, in 2011, at Bury St. Edmunds, England. My mother, at the time, 93 years old, myself and my niece, Amanda were visiting a friend in this exquisite Suffolk town, with the famous church and ruins of an Abbey (once hosted The Rolling Stones concert, more importantly may have been the site where preMagna Carta documents were discussed), in a town dedicated to a saint (Edmund), and a church dedicated to St. James, annually celebrating his day the: 25th July. Another “coincidence”…. I was getting ready to embark upon my first “Camino”, Camino de St. Iago”, pilgrimage of St. James: walk from St. Jean Pieds de Porte, France across Spain 500 miles on The Camino de Santiago. Another pilgrimage on this pre Camino time in the UK to Canterbury. My hostesses in Essex, Rhonda Hewitt and Chris Gostling, had given me Ken Follett’s, Pillars of the Earth, about Cathedral building to read. Staying up all night reading, hearing the birds singing out my window harkening the arrival of dawn…for more than one night, immersed in fictionalized history. Rhonda had lived in Canterbury years earlier. I planned a meeting with Richard Hawkins, an environmental architect in Kent, to promote EKOTECTURE and see what he was creating in the field of sustainable architecture. The ride from Shoeburyness, Southend-on-Sea takes some hours. We arrived in Canterbury mid morning. The Cathedral is huge. The spot where Sir Thomas Beckett was murdered is marked by an extraordinary metal modern sculpture suspended from the ceiling, commemorating the moment somberly. I felt for myself that history, which I had just read. We wandered throughout the massive buttresses. Oddly, there was an announcement on a grand scale, piped throughout the enormous walls, begging us all to be silent. It reached the ears of thousands of visitors who filled the place. Everyone obeyed. Every Friday noon all are invited to participate in reciting The Lord’s Prayer. After a moment of silence and the prayer the announcer continued, “The Deacon of Canterbury Cathedral is present in the nave”, with whom if you wished you could have private council. How marvelous! But where was the nave? The structure was so huge, it was hard to tell where the nave might be. In a smaller church it would be clearly evident. In the dappled gray natural light filling an almost empty area, where wooden auditorium chairs were aligned, sat the older Deacon of Canterbury Cathedral, hunched over… alone. Could this be possible? Was I the only person seeking this holy man’s council? He gestured for us to sit. I sat next to the deacon and I told him that I was leaving on a pilgrimage of St. James. I requested a blessing. When he heard, he asked me if I had known that Canterbury, after Jerusalem, after Rome, and after Santiago de Compostello, was the next most important pilgrimage spot in all of Christendom that in fact there was a Pilgrims’ Hospital and a “Pilgrim’s Stone in front of The Cathedral. He invited me to accompany him to the Pilgrim’s stone, and there he blessed me….And yes, My Camino de Santiago was a revelation
I consider the extraordinary rich life I have lived, and I am grateful. I am grateful for giving myself the blessing to have had such experiences. To be a co-creator with God.