The Bitter Cup: Ayahuasca – beware the hand that serves you

As ayahuasca tourism explodes into a frenzy of expensive retreats, gringo-shamanism, one-night love-ins, and do-it-yourself thrill-seeking across the planet – a shaman from the Amazon sends a postcard on which he writes, only this….

beware the kiss

of the vine of death.

If you were sick, I mean really – and abandoned on a sandbank in the Amazon -would you trust a chain-smoking motorbike mechanic with a fetish for vomit and a blunt machete who turns up out of nowhere, and says…

“I can be help you if you be come, come with me.

 I will be show you how to love de medicina.”

Deep in the ancient forests of the Amazon, where healing arts have been honed for thousands of years under strict and secret lineage, a shaman of an unknown tribe blows heavy plumes of Marlboro Red from a rickety stool under a banana tree.

His practice is a jungle garden. His ‘consulting room’ is air conditioned by plants, and his library is living all around him; in blossoms, cloud, roots, shoots, animal visitors and continual dialogues with nature who informs his powers of diagnosis and prescription.

The currandero was five days late for our appointment.

DSC_0054When he finally boomed into camp on a supped-up Yamaha, wild curls dancing behind him, he wore a grin so wide it instantly erased my resentment for the long and cranky wait.

This was a meeting I was forced into, really – having had no intention of ever ending up on the ayahuasca scene, let alone in a shaman’s wretched camp.

I came to the jungle assisting a team of American medical volunteers for the CNN-awarded outreach project, Amazon Promise.

It was in deep jungle, far away from Iquitos, that a recurring undiagnosed health problem struck me down again with its presentation of angry circular welts, allergies to everything – fatigue, fever and painful, deforming joints and nightmares. After two years’ under care of Sydney specialists I knew the pathology: disorders of the white cell count, acute and unattributed inflammation factors, evidence of infection, progressive decline with no known cause, and no known cure.

At the peak of the illness in Australia my feet and hands were reduced to livid claws too fragile to bear the weight of even a sheet. I had been placed on large doses of steroids and their related chemical cousins. I was warned I was unlikely to walk again, and told to ‘toughen up’.

My questions of experts from rheumatology, infectious diseases and oncology had not been welcome and I spent long, expensive years in a state of chemical dependency and shame.

So ending up here, on a splintery bench in the rainforest for one more shot at a happy ending did not seem intimidating at all: I was used to feeling confused and cranky.

I was also well aware that here in the jungle, shaman give a medicine so powerful for its effects it is known as the vine of death. That didn’t bother me much. Most of the drugs I’d been taking the last few years were likely to kill me in the end.

What did bother me was that I was here at all.

I had been ‘miraculously’ cured of my symptoms a year ago after a juice-fast my brother recommended from a book. 10 days of beetroot and miso soup brought on a hell of nightmares and weird thinking at the end of which I was pain, welt and arthritis-free enough to climb Kilimanjaro and five other of the world’s highest ranges for charity.

touching the void

But here in deepest, darkest Amazonia, I had plunged back into a hell much worse than the first. It was an ER doctor, a veteran from a Boston hospital, who pleaded with me to find a jungle healer.

“What Western medicine knows about what you have is the equivalent of a bucket’s worth of ocean,” he said.

“Get yourself to a shaman.  Bring back something useful.”

So I set out to find a shaman. In Iquitos. Which is a bit like looking for a raindrop in a river.


They call it zombie-fever. Bleary-eyed ayahuasca tourists; the sick, the lame, the lost and confused who have descended on Iquitos these last ten years in search of healing through the psychotropic plant brew, yage, which they call the medicine, or of a new career in shamanism.

They peddle cures, wisdom, enlightenment and a new world order through the medicina – anybody with access to the plants, a website, a poncho and a customer can promise all this. And make a fortune from it too.

In the States, where ayahuasca is the new decaff soy latte, apparently, they call these self-styled shaman yogahauscas: fakes.

It’s a glib nod at the destruction of the yoga idea at the hands of a pandemic of over-paid and massively under-equipped so-called yoga teachers infecting the planet and using yoga to turn tricks and gain status. But it doesn’t keep the droves away.

20-something white Americans, with no experience at all of a cosmology outside of their middle class suburban roots easily call themselves shaman, yogis and healers these days. And a culture of experience-junkies, health addicts and soul seeking materialists are apparently willing to go along for the ride in their thousands.

Diego Palmer, who reinvented himself as a ‘shamanic healer’ after a failed tech career in the city of Lima, and used the status to lure thousands of tourists into his ‘ayahuasca tribe’ and real estate empire. Then died young. You can read about that here.

In Iquitos, and all over South America these days as the ayahuasca craze widens, deepens and complexifies – it’s almost impossible to know who holds the real keys to using the plant medicines, and who just knows how to make a buck off the craze.

Let alone who might kill you in the process of your quest. Accidentally, or on purpose.

The ayahuasca story is these days rife with rape, deaths, freak outs and bad magic.

In the jungle, the locals mostly shy away, but hordes of gringo healers, jungle side-winders and scouts prey on the tide of sick, sad, curious, depressed, lonely, grieving, soul-seeking incoming, just like most of them were preyed upon when they first set out to taste the medicine.

It’s an ugly scene in Iquitos, and it’s getting ugly everywhere the medicine is being used outside the strict, sacred and ancient protocols of its rightful and only custodians; the shamans of the Amazon. There are deaths and rapes, fakes and all manner of weirdness in the circus that has been conjured up around the promise of ayahuasca.

~ * ~

It was into this nightmare I knowing stumbled. It was into a full-scale freak show, with my life at stake, that I desperately pointed my embarrassingly broken intuitive compass.

Though I was sick and getting sicker, it turned out I was blessed with a sort of radar for spotting the villains who crossed my path – it was easy, really -almost everybody seemed like a conman. Healers spruiking on the streets, medicine men peddling out of tour offices, shamanic yoga quest peddlers whose posters about healing, vision journeys and uniting with the soul of Paccha Mumma for US$3000 a week – they were exactly kind of creepy narcissists and self-made gurus you get bored of after 10 years in yoga. The ones I met first came off sort of mystical and aloof, and soon revealed themselves to be entrepreneurial sociopaths with a vampire up their sleeves. The ones I saw on posters and online were obvious juveniles who couldn’t possibly understand the complexities yet of normal life, let alone of one in crisis.

Screen Shot 2019-11-20 at 7.46.13 pm.png
Take this guy, for example, Levi Banner, of the notorious Yoga Barn in Bali. He landed up here after teaching beginner yoga at a community college in the USA, and found that using the word ‘shamanic’ sold seats on yoga mats – so he did it. But this is neither yoga, nor shamanism, and Levi Banner is a very silly boy making a buck on things he knows nothing about.

I hunted for a healer in this city of dealers for more than a month and come across every breed of charlatan, con man, gringo wannabe, yoga bunny and naysayer as I got sicker and sicker and weaker and more desperate to believe that the legends of great cures and wisdom in the jungle were not a hoax.

The greatest name around Iquitos is Rivas. The Banco.

He is one of the Grandfathers of plant medicine and a very wealthy man, by all accounts. It was exactly due to his Big Reputation that I had struck Rivas off my list.He is a man whose very name holds a gravitas – the music in it. And who is rumoured to weild a hold, a dangerous, deep, intimate hold, on anybody who comes under his influence. In Iquitos, Rivas is feared. And that, as it turns out, is exactly what to look for when first embarking on the quest for a shamanic healer.

Rivas is also famous. He is credited with curing the Dalai Lama of liver problems, and who knows what else he might have offered sages of other lineage on Earth at this wonky time. There is gossip about his genius, his libido, his wealth. But I wasn’t interested in celebrity, I wanted the real thing. Somebody genuine, authentic,remote and exotic. As a result, I ended up with Rosa, who had a lot of stuffed toys, some fascinating stories, and no idea at all what to do with me.

She had plied me with the toxic juice of a rubber plant to help cure me of parasites and was taking me to her jungle camp for further ‘healing’ when, an hour down the Amazon, she apparently had a sudden change of heart. She made a pretty loop in the speedboat, pulled up beside a muddy verge, and shoved me out with no instructions, food or even a goodbye. Then she fled into the jungle steam.

It was not a great start to my ayahuasa healing adventure.But it was no worse really than things had been in general. So I sat there, sweating and inflaming, listening to the water lapping on the bank and the howl of far off monkeys.

About an hour later a tall, slim man and with remarkably white tennis socks turned up in a rickety dinghy. He was an ambassador for the Maestro, the said.

The who?

The Maestro. Vamos!”


And so it was that I found my wretched self before none other than the Banco. Himself.

It was his cigarette smoke that hootchy kootched around me as his sweat wilted the flowers on his Hawaiian shirt.

The Maestro, I knew, was a legend in Peru. He was feared and adored in his region and quietly famous around the world for his power with the plants. He guarded the dignity of the medicina with a ferocious respect, and had openly declared that we are in a time of great war on Earth – over nature, over power, over everything.

He was on the side of the plants, he told me. And an enemy of those who either destroyed their habitat or offended their honour.

The Maestro was credited with cures for aches, pains, indigestion, infertility, snakebite, depression, cancer, arthritis, warts and every complaint of the soul. He was to be admired for his drumming, respected for his temper, and the only man to go to in Iquitos for advice on how to fix both motorbikes and photo copiers.

His patients came from simple villages along the chocolate-coloured  jungle rivers and all the wealthy continents. And occasionally, apparently, stumbled in as orphans – like me.

I was in no condition, really, to be meeting a legend. I could fairly be described at that time as scruffy and irritable.

I offered a scowl and a floppy, swollen handful of hideously deformed fingers by way of introduction. He shoved my hand aside to crush me in a wet and fragrant embrace.

Now! How are you?” he asked in melodic jungle Spanish, pulling up his wooden stool. “Come! Sit here. Relax, smoke de cigarette?

I want to know de  ev-e-ry-theeng!


How you in de heart?

How you in de feelings?

How you in de self?”

And so began a journey you will likely never take either in classic Western medicine, or in the circles hosted by gringo entrepreneurs who have recently got hold of the medicine and market ayahuasca tourism.

You cannot sell this sort of a thing. And you cannot buy it in a pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all ‘retreat’ setting. It does not bless any one night stand flirtation which might involve a ‘dose’ of so-called ayahuasca, and cannot abide even the slightest sniff of hippy thinking, according to the Maestro.


To know ayahuasca – or any other plant – requires that sort of wisdom you cannot serve in a cup.

What true ayahuascaroes cultivate is an ancient process of diagnosis, treatment, care and insight strongly based on relationship – primarily to nature. Many died in keeping this alive during the persecutions of the Conquistadors. Many were exiled as they kept the covenants of their lineage through the carnage of the rubber boom. Do you think the secrets, the wisdom and the protocols of rites this sacred are given away lightly?

Those who were passed the rites have cultivated their intimacy with the plants through long, solo pilgrimages in the jungle dieting specific species, meeting with the blessings and terrors they keep, made secret pacts and sacrifices and willingly entered a theater of war and magic to earn the right to give ceremony.

Many are declaring, now the fad has hit the mainstream, that appropriation or abuse of the ‘medicines’ are acts of war to be avenged.


It takes a lot more than knowledge of the recipes, a few icaros and a splattering of shipibo artwork here and there to suppose the role of currandaro – let alone of shaman.

“These gringos!” says Rivas. “They do not know what the very bad danger they are making.”

A true ayahuasca journey has nothing to do with hanging out with your friends taking communal ‘trips’ into the psychedelic. It has nothing to do with visions. An ayahuasca journey is a quest designed to crush you like  leaf, make your chemistry and fate visible to an initiated healer, who can sing you back to being the right size, shape and recipe for the life that wants to live you. It is conceived by a sort of fate, conducted down a river deeper than it appears, in a craft made of fear and trust.

When you active the bonds of chemistry and destiny that cause ayahuasca to appear before you, you have conjured a genie even the most powerful healers do well to treat with awe.

“She is the wise one,” says Viejo, adoring the little leaves of  stems we are going to cook with.

“She be the beautiful one.

The empress of all the plants, of de everything.

But Ooooo, she be  the terrible, terrible  jealous one.

The vengeful one.

She be not be liking to be fucked with.

Not de one de little tiny beet.

I was diagnosed by the Banco during a long, gruelling, hideously uncomfortable ceremony in which I drank a cup of ayahuasca and he summoned a storm off the jungle, conducted it over our heads in a tempest I was sure would destroy us all, and then played his bongos in a ferociously passionate duet with three hours of wild thunder.

I puked weakly in buckets. Was struck by non-stop rushes of weird cartoons and a neurotic, insane, paranoid voice – my voice – that commentated hysterically, uselessly, loudly, and clearly needed to be  snapped off at the neck.

I was diagnosed with being totally city-fied. Tragically estranged from my own nature, and virtually mad – like most gringos. The Banco looked at me through his ayahuasca-shot chocolate-deep eyes, sang in my face his weird love songs, hit me with his feather swatch and caused me to projectile vomit an alarming torrent of hideous brown water writhing with miniature crocodiles and shards of computer chip all over my self. He looked pleased for a moment, huffed, tossed his hair and went back to his wild percussive duel with the roaring night.

The next day it seemed that my case was treatable and the plans were underway. For my recovery I was apparently to live in the shaman’s camp for as long as it was going to take. “You be live here, in my paradise,” he beamed. “Maybe two weeks, maybe three months.. we be see what the plants, she’s saying”

The camp, far from what you may be ‘shopping’ for now, if you are considering buying a pre-paid, web-marketed, $2000-a-week ‘authentic shaman experience’ in the Amazon – was slightly lacking in mmm… charm.

It was a sort of  ramshackle jungle squat with hungry-looking chickens, a dubious-coloured bog and a slightly worse than average rat issue. My home would be wooden yurt with a moldy single bed and an even more moldy pillow, which were to become my heaven as the healing journey began.

On the second day he told me, after a long diagnostic massage in his plywood temple, examination of my rash and conduct, evocations of deities from the jungle university and lots of poking about;

“You have de poison in de blood and de heart-ache long time.

You have de blockages in de love, and de many hurting not go away.

You must have take out de metals here –  in de teeth.

You must be cleaning de liver and de whole body.

You live here.

With me.

We play de bongos

and talk with de nature.


And so it was.

Every day for 8 weeks and more I slouched about camp in bare feet, listening to Viejo on his bongo, being served jam jars, bottles, bowls or fork-fulls of vile, bitter, weird and unnamable things. I was woken at dawn with potions that sent me back to bed, sweating, fainting, retching. I developed a routine of rising, falling, sparkling then shuddering between ceremonies, visions, hellstorms of grief, confusion and rage, and vomiting in buckets, or preparing to vomit in buckets, and running a constant dialogue of wonder and irritability that my life had come to this.

There was Viejo, greeting the dawn with a Marlboro dangling from his lips and a bongo on his belly, singing like mad to the quivering garden.

There was Viejo, preparing me another concoction of leaf medicine, ordering me wrapped in honey, buried up to my neck in dirt, asking me to sing to the plants, drawing me a picture of the 13 chakras, holding my hand as a jungle dentist drilled the amalgam from my teeth and watching me puke my miserable guts up about three times a week due to one ‘medicine’ or another.

There was no ‘between’ the medicine. There was only the medicine.

And I don’t mean ayahuasca. I mean everything. Everything was medicine: the screaming whistle of the jungle bugs, the twisting heat, the soggy bed, the starlight, dripping off banana leaves, the hideous shit and puke and spit we lovingly poured into Pacha Mumma, who would know what to do with it.

And Viejo… singing as he tenderly stripped down his Yamaha. Viejo, caught in rapture at the tinkling of motorbike parts as they sun-dried on the washing line. Viejo, carving me a harp. Viejo, teaching me to play it as the hallucinations and the nausea washed over me. Viejo, offering me a litre of pure tobacco juice, saying only ‘Drink. All. Vamos!‘.

And there were my own miserable thoughts as I wrestled with an inner dialogue that was variously unhappy with my body, my life, my circumstances, my pain, the heat or my diet of salt-less rice, fish guts, steamed plantain and vile or psychotropic juices.

I was prepared fresh medicines from turmeric, passionfruit leaves, resins and slimy things served in recycled tubs and bottles by the doctor himself, and or by his friendly staff who sat with me while I drank tinDSC_0028ctures, hideous goop and poisons that did things unmentionable by a lady.

The mechanic held my hand when their effects were diabolical.

He enthusiastically inspected buckets-full of my vomit, searching for signs and clues and bubbles which would lead him to either frown deeply or throw out his arms in joyful rapture when he found de something that he was looking to get out of my body.

These triumphs were usually a puddle of froth or an asymmetrical slime blob that I had troweled the depths of my being to wring out in misery over a bucket. They were sometimes fragments of dreams. “Look! Be looking de here! Look! ees thees! the sad! She is coming out from you and she goes home to de Earth! Vamos! Be happy! This is de beauuu-te-full!” he would shout in raptuos joy at my sagging post-vomit being, dangling grey and sweaty out of a hammock somewhere around the ratty garden.

The maestro played the harp when his plants were ruthless.I often begged him to stop because his presence seemed to amplify the agony of the process.

Then he would sit close by, gently de-greasing bits of motor bike.

He never once left me alone. He never once refused my questions. He called me Princessa, and was as concerned with my psychological journey as he was with my physical ones.

After he made me hallucDSC_0039inate, shiver and puke for a full day to get de bad liqueed out of my gall bladder he took me on the back of the bike on a day trip to a spring and restored my joy for life.

When he thought he had squeezed a good puddle of de bad out of me, he had me scrubbed raw with a laundry brush and commercial bleach, then wrapped in mud for a full afternoon before we drank the ayahuasca – which seemed mild in comparison to the other plants.

In the Western model this would all, I know, be considered quite ridiculous. Such a level of personal involvement with a patient would be frowned upon for sure, and if one were to be so indulged – just imagine the cost!

In the tourist model, there’s nobody can give you even half the actual experience.

But in the larger part of the world, and in the oldest medical traditions – the Chinese, Tibetan, the curranderos of the Amazon, the Australian Aborigine – from whom the pharmaceutical industry still takes it cues for synthesising medicines – what’s being offered by doctors and ‘healers’ would be equally unthinkable.

Listening, connecting, sharing the experience are as much part of the cure as the treatments.

In fact, any treatment or remedy that has not been made and blessed by the healer is considered next to useless.

Which is why I warn you ….

Beware who you drink with, where your plants come from, and how much faith you give to the new gringo market in ayahuasca.


The power of the bond between healer and patient is equal to the power of the cure – without trust and confidence, says the maestro, an illness can only be cut at the stem, it cannot be removed at the root.

A cure cannot come from a person who is ‘dabbling’ with the medicines. “Ayahuasca, she is dangersousssss. Oh, very she be danger. When you play with her, like with any strong woman, she can seduce you, she can be suck you into a very very bad world of delusions.”

Likewise, he says, a cure cannot come from a bottle, but only from a living dialogue between the patient and the healer, the healer and the Mother. He spent hours of his day caressing, listening, adoring his gardens, the clouds, birdsong and moonlight.


Since this adventure I have been free of my illness and interested in the doctor/patient relationship which in indigenous medicine is not without its challenges.

When a shaman asks you to drink his deadly medicines he is well aware he causes fear – and it is this he wants to work with. The disorientation and surrender in a patient who is put in a threatening curing situation is the very means by which a shaman finds a gap in the ego wide enough for him to create change.

But not all shamans are equal. And many you will find are not shamans at all – despite their feathers and their pretty websites. So tread this path with care…


95 thoughts on “The Bitter Cup: Ayahuasca – beware the hand that serves you

  1. Wise choice. It took me, I think, about 3 months to be found by the ones who helped me. It was a nerve-wracking time, a great test of my self and my judgement – which I actually failed, as I wrote… which is when everything changed : ) Stay open… best wishes to you.

  2. Hey, I just wanted to offer you a suggestion. I recently read a book and am working on doing a sort of analysis on it. Its of the best I’ve ever read, and is called “The Time of the Black Jaguar” and says on the cover: An offering of indigenous wisdom for the continuity of life on Earth”. The Author is Arkan Lushwala, and I really suggest it for you or anyone who is interested in Indigenous traditions, medicine or otherwise. I think if people are searching for an authentic experience they shouldn’t approach this situation as if it were a capitalistic shopping mall, and go in with the expectation that your money will buy you authenticity… I think reading this book, or books like it, will help give some preliminary understanding and awareness of yourself and how “The Self” is understood through these traditions – and when you go, you’ll provide the authenticity yourself. Something like that. If I need to send you the book, for free, I will – as soon as i have some money to do so, I’m interested in buying a bunch of copies and sending them out. But rather, it would be best if you were interested enough to get it yourself. Thanks! Love~

  3. Hello Kathleen,

    Thank you for sharing your story! Did you manage to get a respond from passionflower regarding contact info for Viejo Banco?
    I’m also suffering from a certain disease and looking for an authentic shaman. I would really appreciate if you could contact me via e mail;

    Much Love, Alex

  4. Hello Passionflower,

    Thank you for sharing your story!
    I’m also suffering from a certain disease and looking for an authentic shaman. I would really appreciate if you could contact me via e mail with contact details for Viejo Banco.

    Thank You and Much Love, Alex

  5. DALE! How did I find you here? HAH! Can’t wait to see you again in Brazil! I knew it had to be you, based on the piranhas!

  6. Shamans come in many forms, there are lesser and there are greater – its about finding the right one for you and seeking until you find them in any country not just the Amazon. Blesssings. S

  7. Thank you for writing, and best wishes to you. I am right now in suburban Australia and have made it my focus here to find Aboriginal people to learn from. I’ve found them in surprising places, and ready to teach – I hope you do too.

  8. … what a great writer you are! I wish I was always this succinct and clear. It’s nice, we agree. And i admire your thoughtfulness. To respond to your question about spiritual as well as physical healing – yes – I would say so – they are the same thing in a way. The people in Peru have very specific things to say about psychology, ancestry, stress, sadness and body sickness.. I hope to be able to share more of this part of their story as I go along. Thank you for your well-wishes, and please stay in touch. jade

  9. I found this just in time! I’ve already spent about a week in Iquitos desperately searching for a healer who’s just that. I’m not physically ill, as far as I know, but I’ve been suffering from depression and a deep angst since my experiences in Afghanistan as a shameful part of the American war machine.

    With an existential sigh, I registered yesterday with a packaged retreat knowing it’s not what I want or need. Thankfully I haven’t paid anything yet.

    I don’t know if you’re willing to help me find el Viejo, but if you are, I’m deeply grateful. Please let me know.

    Thank you for your article!

  10. Oh dear… sometimes I wonder if folk who comment have just not read the article at all…. if you’ve heard the message, and persist in hippy thinking, then that’s your choice in a free will universe…

  11. hello passion.. it was such a pleasure to read this and thank you for your insights and cautions.. looks as if this is the man i would like to visit.. is he still working with people? especially long term.. all the best of everything.

  12. Thank you for your compliment. It is truly appreciated. I have had a feeling for a long time that writing is something that I should be adamantly pursuing, but not sure what to write about! Fiction is nice to read, but I am sure that I lack the imagination for it. lol. I would actually love to write more on this subject and all other spiritual and physical healing methods, as I truly feel that once we, as a whole, learn how to balance ourselves inside and out, we as a whole can heal and our home on which we live, can heal as well. We, the world, truly need to listen to our ancient healers and teachers, they are the ones that are still the most in touch with what I consider to be the real “reality” and not the one that we actually live in. I would love to meet with any spiritual teachers that want to say all of the important things that the rest of the world needs to know, but don’t really know how to “put it on paper”, so to say.
    I would love to stay in contact with you in hopes that I can help you and others to continue pursuing this balance that we, as a whole, desperately need. If I can be of any assistance in any way, please feel free to let me know!

  13. Hello Love,
    Truly appreciated your article. I feel connected to your maestro. Could you please send me his info as well? Seeking healing and apprenticeship from only the most authentic shamans.


  14. Hi there
    Great article, i really enjoyed reading and am glad you are feeling better. I have been wanting experience ayahuasca for around 10 years now however i am very hesitant on going to a retreat i find on the internet.
    Do have any suggestions on how to find the right healer?

  15. hallo, i am looking at retreatrs as well, i found Hamilton Souther, what do you think, if you dont mind. thanks

  16. Please can anyone clarify the legalities surrounding Ayahuasca in the UK currently since I am confused about the legal implications of taking part in such a ceremony and will I be putting ,myself at risk from a legal standpoint.
    Thank you

  17. Seriously, this article rocks. You said everything I think and feel about the same subject. It reflects my respect for Sacred Ceremony, Shamanism & Medicinal Plant use and why I take it very seriously. I had some great experiences near Cusco with my Shamanic Mentor using San Pedro, and when I travelled through Iquitos, I never met the right Shaman or found the right space to which I would journey with Ayahuasca, so I didn’t, and I still haven’t. I know the right time & place & person will come, and I have time to let that unfold. It worries me greatly, the abusive use of it in western culture, especially with not-yet-matured shamanic healers, or people who use it in a ‘party sense’. Thank you for writing this article, you are an incredible writer too. I am now following your blogs, and I would love to connect with you privately on facebook or email if you are interested. Hopefully you can find my email on here (first time ive ever read connected via a blog!). xx TJ

  18. Arrrgghhh,,, I wrote a reply on here but its not showing up so maybe it didn’t post or there’s a delay?! The short version is: Your writing is amazing, I agree 100% with all your experiences & perspective. I’m also really worried about the abuse of medicinal plants. I’m on a shamanic journey myself. I’d really like to connect with you via email or facebook if you are interested. Wish I could explain more, but im tired! love ya work, keep it up. xx TJ

  19. Hi passionfruitcowgirl.. Thank you for this article…I have been researching for about two years now on where to go to find an authentic experience. It seems like common sense that anything web-marketed or publicized is not likely to be genuine or reliable. I am willing to push myself beyond my comfort zone to encounter such an experience but it also seems like an enormous gamble to travel to the other side of the world (for me) in hope that the right or fitting opportunity will present itself to me. I would love to find some advise or guidance just as a stepping stone to finding a good shaman as it seems like a stab in the dark otherwise.

    I would be so grateful if you could help me or advise on some way to get find a reliable shaman.

    Love and Peace to you,


  20. 8 years now, and no recurrence, so I take my hat off to this man still – no need for further investigation for me, I am well and have been ever since – more or less : )

  21. Hi, I may be traveling to Iquitos in a week. The first time I spent time there after 3 weeks my autoimmune condition had a 50% reduction in antibodies. For the past 4 years I have fried everything I could possibly try to kee lowing the number and fully heal and I’ve been unable to. I would much appreciate getting connected with the man who helps you because I don’t know any one currently in Iquitos to work with.

  22. Hi Passionfruitcowgirl!
    The article is exacly what I feel. I want to ask you for help with finding good shaman literaly anywhere after suffering from depression and.benign aches all over body for decade. At Being 30, this route is the.only. one.I have hope for.
    I will highly appreciate any Advice
    All the bestto you Love

  23. Sean, I have Lyme , i am very curious, how do you threat lyme? It is quite expensive for me to go to Peru for 2 years but if it can be cured I am willing to try. Please any more info on this? Thank you

  24. Hi and thanks. I would also like contact with your shaman if at all possible. For me its about PTSD, direction and motivation to go on in this pointless life. I am in NZ so its an expensive trip but kind of important. How much did you pay this shaman if I may be so forward. Thanks in advance.

  25. I’m so glad I found this article now. I’ve been struggling with PTSD for about six years now, and I’m currently researching Mama Ayahuasca before I make the commitment.

    I Started looking into psychedelics early last year, ended up in Oaxaca, MX in July. I spent an entire week searching for a shaman that heals with sacred mushrooms, but to no avail, I ended up tripping on mushrooms with three strangers just 7 hours before my flight on the balcony of my cabana. The desperate things I did there just to escape my problems… However, the mushrooms gave me the ability to peer deeper into my psyche. I performed tech support on myself you can say, but I’m still afflicted with anxiety, irrational fears, and depression that stuck on me with Gorilla Glue and duct tape.

    I decided to look into more powerful psychedelics after I had a vivid dream of a green-female-spirit calling me into a round fountain, and asking me what I am looking for. Eventually, I stumbled on Ayahuasca but was skeptical of how almost too good to be true these retreats are.

    I 100% agree with you on this “The power of the bond between healer and patient is equal to the power of the cure – without trust and confidence, says the maestro, an illness can only be cut at the stem, it cannot be removed at the root.” For about five years, I’ve been in and out of psychiatrist offices, only to have my gut biome and liver nearly obliterated trying to digest western medicine. Which, in truth is like replacing a band-aid on a wound on a daily basis, or cutting the illness at the stem, not the root.

    Thanks for sharing your journey with the world. I decided to take one similar to yours. Do you mind sharing a few pointers on how to find the maestro?

    Thank you,

  26. Greetings, Just came across your article and it really hit home. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    I was wondering it would be possible to share Viejo Banco Rivas contact info?

    Thanks in advance

  27. Hey,
    this was a really nice journey – had to read it 2x times 🙂

    – I wish i will have the opportunity to find some shaman like Banco to treat my daily horror.
    maybe someone can help me ? im from germany.

    And any ideas about DMT/Changa – could it help in “some way” / i mean theres no connection between the healer-plant and patient … just you and the substance.

    Greetings and thanks !

  28. Hi Jade, I hope you are well. I know you probably get these requests a lot, and I’m sorry to be yet another, but desperate times…

    I was wondering if you had any advice for removing dark entities, poison darts, or general black magic acquired in Ayahuasca ceremonies? I’ve been chronically ill for 11 years after I spent a year in Peru doing ceremonies with various shamans. Ironically, I went there for healing from depression and trauma (was not seeking a high), and ended up becoming quite physically ill in the years after the ceremonies.

    The last ceremony involved what felt at the time like the shaman sending a dark, spider-like entity to feed on my energy or soul. I’ve been to a few healers and shamans since then who said they saw nothing suspect in my energy body, but maybe they were wrong. My memories of that last shaman lead me to believe there IS something there, but I’m not sure what to do about it.

    Thank you for your time, and thank you for writing about the darker side of the “love and light” community.

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