This is of prime importance. If you decide to drink traditional medicine, it is essential to have the right administration. This needs the right person (with the right lineage), at the right place, and with the right intention.
To get the most out of it, and to keep safe, you want this to be a conscious journey from preparation on-wards.
Why not just go and see the group who has lots of followers and promotes themselves on facebook?
Sense and intuition check, this method of self-promotion and ‘smoke screens’ effect, is a front, which usually has very little substance. A legitimate shaman don’t need to advertise their retreats, as other people who have attended previously are already doing this for them. Once you’ve attended a ceremony with a maestro/shaman who is so absorbed in helping people, sharing his icaros (special songs sung during ceremony) with love and good intent; you too will want to open this channel up to as many as you can. Distributing the healing further to your friends, family and communities at home. You might (or not) find a retreat or medicine centre who has a facebook page, this is different. They don’t generally advertise organised retreats here, some shamans are gonna be tech savy, they’re human. But let the information about particular retreats come to you by word of mouth from people who have been there; tried and tested.
OK, so where does one find this ‘legit’ shaman?..
Usually in the jungle, where the medicine comes from, close to the heart of the Amazon; and by heart I don’t only mean geographically speaking (there are of course charlatans in the jungle too..). In finding these people, you usually need a contact. A reference if you will. If you don’t have one of those, then start to mix in circles whom feel good to be around and who may associate with traditional medicines; such as yogis, drumming/shamanic music circles or even better, anything which makes your heart sing. If you need the medicine, it will find you. Perhaps this means breaking out of your routine to make some new friends, and find some new information along the way.
You may also hear of ceremonies being held closer to home than the Amazon, again, these can both be legit and a scam. Ask yourself, how did you hear about it? Do you know anyone whose been? If recommended by a friend, word of mouth – if you trust this friend then perhaps it’s worth investigating. I’ve attended a few ceremonies out of the Amazon. All have been legit but most haven’t been right for me, one there wasn’t enough medicine, one it was a different medicine, and none had the safe container of the jungle; yes the countryside but no jungle, or full on South American nature and nurturing. Nothing compares to learning from something in it’s homeland, but then that takes an investment which isn’t always accessible. We have to work with what we have at the time. If you’re in a space where it’s too expensive or you can’t find a shaman to trust, at least go to a yoga, Qigong or meditation class; the skills taught to you there (again with the right person guiding you), will help to further prepare you for your Ayahuasca journey.
A final note about ceremonies closer to home, a couple of good friends of mine attended an ayahuasca retreat in some Italian mountains. It was organised by people also proposing to run training in working with Aya, they had a negative experience lets say. This was a money making excursion, too many people cramped up in poor conditions, not paying attention to a proper diet to support the plant medicine, disturbing advice/insistence during the sharing to vulnerable individuals (potentially emotionally and psychologically dangerous behavior towards the attendees), and upon investigation with friends in Peru – it would seem their lineage is false. I’m talking about a big group, with a big facebook following whom I thought was legit, until I heard about this ceremony and dug some more.. Just because facebook tells you about it, doesn’t mean you need to believe in it!
So, let’s say you’ve got your ticket to Peru, or you’re ready to book but you still don’t know where your shaman is..
Chances are you might find a contact when you reach Peru (we had 2 lovely girls join our retreat later on because they met our shaman’s girlfriend in town, and were from the same country as she, thus sparked a trusting connection, an organic interaction). Take discernment about trying to book an ‘Ayahuasca tour’ from one of the agencies in a shop or on the streets of Cuzco or Iquitos, or anywhere else for that matter (I met a guy in Cuzco who asked me if I wanted to go to the jungle with him, although I was greatly missing the jungle at this time, I also quickly worked out his intentions were not about my healing and safety..).. If it needs proper advertising, odds are, it’s not very good (think junk food); it’s people in anticipation of making money and therefore, their intentions are already not in your favor. In this case, again, ASK. Ask friends, teachers, peers in those circles you join for yoga, meditation, tai chi, nutritional medicine or somewhat, there is probably someone who knows someone!
Another report from different friends who were doing Ayahuasca several years ago; they were on a floating raft going down the Amazon river (in the pitch black, as usual), and had the impression that their shaman didn’t even show concern about them or their safety. As one of them did nearly fall off during his psychedelic journeying!.. This, and hearing reports about the bodies of people who have died during ceremony and then simply being discarded, without a word makes me urge you to take caution.
The medicine it’s self is made by the shaman or someone close to him, and it is essential for it to be done with love and care. It needs to be a pure brew. There are an abundance of medicinal (and toxic) plants in the jungle, there also are those which suit some, better than others. You want to be in a space where the shaman is completely aware of the energy, where he knows you are contained, and working with a medicine he trusts for your gringo composition. Of course, there is always some risk, just like there is when taking any other medicine or thing which alters you for a few hours; mitigate these risks and do it properly!
Many people who try ayahuasca, fall in love with it (despite the purging and challenges of needing to work on what it shows you, both during, and most importantly after the ceremony), this is generally due to its ability to bring profound clarity and healing to the one drinking it. But if it’s not prepared right, if the intentions are not clear and pure, then the outcome probably wont be either.
Consider a doctor, if he’s only in his work to make money, the pharmaceutical companies can then use him to recommend their drugs and he makes even more money. At your appointment, he will give you the most expensive pills he can, pills which have been manufactured as a part of a business (i.e. to make money) and although they might treat your symptom of migraines, there will be a whole host of side effects and ill effects you’re not sure of; and he hasn’t bothered to treat the reason why you have this problem. Furthermore, because the main aim to give you this particular drug was to make money, no care has gone into your well-being; so you suffer to make someone a quick buck..
Perhaps a crude analogy but like the advertising one (i.e. if it needs to be advertised, it’s probably junk you don’t want or need anyhow) – they have logic. When embarking on such deep work, you need to keep your logic and intuition in check at all times. Best wishes and enjoy your reset and deprogramming!