The following story is part one of my sacred medicine journey with San Pedro cactus led by a remarkable female shaman, Felicia, in the beautiful valley of Vilcabamba, Ecuador. This was my first experience with plant medicine in a ceremonial environment. You can find part two here.
Synchronicities Lead to a Sacred Medicine Journey
A woman I met recently said, “be careful about what you think in Vilcabamba because it has a way of coming true…fast!”
She wasn’t the first person to talk about these magical qualities of Vilcabamba, Ecuador.
A new friend of mine here was intent on introducing me to this particular woman right around the time I wrote the last post about going to see a shamaness (Felicia) speak on Saturday afternoon at the Nutopia conference. He told me that he thought we might have some things in common. Apparently he also wrote her an email on Saturday morning about myself and forwarded a link to The Travel Creatives website.
After the talk I was strolling around the town’s center with the kids, buying some organic produce for dinner. A woman hollered out from across the street, “hey, what did you think about the talk?” Happy to speak to someone new, I went up to her and started chatting. It only took a short time to realize that this was the woman I was supposed to meet. She had just checked out my website that morning and was familiar with us. Very cool, synchronicity #1 for the day.
She mentioned that she was participating in Felicia’s (the shamaness) sacred medicine journey the next evening. I was a bit hesitant since the ceremony involved the plant spirit medicine of San Pedro cactus, a psychoactive cactus used in the Andes for healing and spiritual ceremonies for over 3000 years. It also involved staying out all night in the cold and sleeping (ha!) on the ground. I was totally intrigued, but figured that such an intense ceremony might come for me a little later in my ’round the world journey. Here I am three weeks into a 15 month adventure, and I was still working through the kinks of my former American life. I wasn’t expecting a crash course in my connection to Pachmama (“Mother Earth” in the Andes) quite so abruptly.
But as this woman explained that this would be her third ceremony with Felicia, and my research on Felicia only exposed positive feedback, I began to tingle with excitement and certainty that my time was coming now. I was nervous and surprised at my boldness to take this “sacred medicine” leap. If you read my last post you might notice that I did sort of call it. I did say that I was seeking out my own personal vision quest! Ask and it is given…
I had some personal questions to ask Felicia in order to ease my mind that this ceremony would be appropriate for myself at this time in my life. Well, you’ll never believe it, but she appeared right in front of us walking into the general store! There it is once again…the synchronicities of Vilcabamba.
With simplicity and candor, Felicia thoughtfully answered my pressing questions, and yes, there happened to be one space available. She told me to call her in the morning if I was still interested. I totally agreed, thinking that maybe a little marinating time would reveal if this was the correct path to take. I am not in the mood to be impulsive these days (for now, those days are numbered!). After talking with my husband that evening, we all agreed on the logistics of family and home stuff regarding my all night absence. The next morning I awoke still feeling positive about joining the group. I began the day attempting to fast (as I was told).
The hardest part of this whole story was trying not to eat 8-10 hours before the ceremony. Gosh, I am such a piggie. I nibbled on fruit, avocado, and lentils up until about 5 hours before, and napped the rest of the time as a way to not think about food. Ha. I was just embarrassed with my food obsession!
My Journey Begins in the Dark
It was dark when I arrived at Felicia’s about 9PM. The giant firepit was roaring as the six of us (plus Felicia and her assistant) huddled around with sleeping bags and supplies. She first went through logistics like where to pee, etc., where we could roam, and not to throw anything into the fire. We were each handed a barf bag and told not to throw up on her lawn. Then the sacred medicine ceremony began.
First we went through the smudging ceremony in which the sacred palo santo wood is burned, and the smoke is whisked around our bodies with a bundle of beautiful parrot feathers (from her parrot, Pepito, that looked on throughout the night). The smoke is said to clear the air of negative energies and draw in positive energies. Palo Santo smells amazing and the feathers made the swooshing sound of a giant bird flying too close. I felt peaceful and relaxed after the process. She also smudged her drum, mallet, rattle, and other objects I could not see in the darkness. The ceremony is held at night to symbolize the feminine aspect and the returning to the “womb.”
Secondly, Felicia went through a comprehensive prayer ceremony in which we prayed for all our family members, all of our friends and acquaintances, all people, ancestors, the animal kingdom, the plant kingdom, the earth, and the cosmos. No one was left out. So we absolutely prayed for you! This seemed to take about an hour. It was deliberate, beautiful, and complete.
Thirdly, Felicia brought out her amazing drum covered in the fur of a leopard-like cat. It’s tone was very quiet and somewhat muffled. She sang a beautiful song in Spanish about plant medicine healing our body, soul, and mind. She passed the drum around and everyone drummed their personal rhythm. Some people barely played it. Some people sang a song with it. It went around the circle until the drumming ceremony was complete. Now, after a couple of hours of quieting our minds and connecting to the circle, it was time for the San Pedro cactus.
One by one, she came to each of us with a cup of the cactus tea and a lemon wedge as a chaser. Each of us sat with our tea for a moment adding our own personal prayers and then quickly gulped the extremely bitter tea. The lemon certainly did help. After the cactus tea drinking ceremony was complete, everyone seemed to get into their sleeping bag to go to sleep. I just followed suit. I was tired anyway so I fell into a curious sleep next to a crackling campfire under the Vilcabamba stars.
This is how my day went as I prepared for a sacred medicine journey with San Pedro Cactus. My next blog post will reveal what insights the night brought to me. I had absolutely no idea what was coming. (Well, I had plenty of ideas, but the cactus did take me by surprise!)
Let me know what your thoughts are so far…
Here is a map of where The Travel Creatives are: Vilcabamba, Ecuador