NYT Reporter trips on Ayahuasca in the Jungle
Andy Isaacson - Oct. 13, 2010
ILLUMINATED by a single candle, the shaman’s weathered face appeared kindly, like that of a sympathetic doctor, with painted red marks also suggesting a calm, fierce authority — both qualities that I would rely on during the dark and uncertain hours ahead. He sat on a wooden stool carved into a tortoise, and wore turquoise beads around his neck and a crown of crimson feathers. A table beside him displayed the modest tools of the ceremony: a fan of leaves, jungle tobacco, a gourd bowl and a clear plastic soda bottle containing an opaque, brown liquid.
“You will start to feel a reaction in about half an hour,” the shaman, Tsumpa, said, as my guide translated. “When the effects come, you must concentrate on what the medicine is trying to communicate.”
The open air of the hut, animated with night sounds, grew still with expectation. Tsumpa grimaced as he drank the brew. After pouring a bowl for me, he cupped the gourd in his hands and for several minutes whistled a sweet melody into it — the high key of a tin whistle or courting bird, seducing the plant spirits to aid me.