Archivos para la categoría: Ayahuasca

Harner01Harner02Harner03Harner04Harner05Harner06

InoMoxo_232InoMoxo_233aInoMoxo_233bInoMoxo_234aInoMoxo_234bInoMoxo_235a

Instantes más allá, donde nace una calle de ancho polvo paralelo al corretear del Amazonas, Avenida Calvo de Araújo, dice una tabla muda en lo alto de un palo. Todavía la dosis de ayawashka que me brindó el brujo anoche no ha retornado al aire, persiste en mi sangre pese a que ya es añil, de puro blanca, el alba. En las chozas contiguas se instalan ajetreos, frituras, cuerpos lavándose, rumor de desayunos. A nuestra espalda el Amazonas pasa sordeciendo y luminando el cielo. Escucho un avión, encumbro el rostro, lo veo descender y reducirse, tornarse wakamayu, posarse con plumaje centelleante en la copa de aquella apasharama. No sé por qué recuerdo lo que nunca he sabido, acaso el brujo Don Juan Tuesta está informándome de lejos, atrás del ayawashka, hace veinticienco años, cuando tomé la droga por primera vez, anoche: el wakamayu es dios de otro tiempo, arden dos esmeraldas en lugar de sus ojos y no hay nadie detrás de aquellas lumbres verdes y vanescentes, el ánima del wakamayu es adorno sin razón ni pasión, sitio vacío, y los grandes espíritus son grandes porque en vez de aniquilar el wakamayu en su vanidad lo sustentan en su ausencia: trocan las esmeraldas por granos de maiz y el wakamayu mira entonces las cosas del cariño, se distrae de sus ojos y sus dientes y únicamente come las hambres del cariño. Yo lo estoy viendo ahora, abre las alas, ya no es un wakamayu, canta con voz lacrada, wapapa transparente es el avión que he visto, que ha caido, y su cuerpo se disuelve en el canto, convertido en qué llovizna de hojas coloridas, tan lentas y sedosas. Y cada hoja es música diversa, cada hoja resbala en una nota y su caer sin fondo es su sonido, ninguna alcanza el suelo, el brumor del Amazonas las restriega y borra contra el aire tibio. Cierro los ojos, intento desbravar los postreros efectos de la liana-del-muerto: la mano del Amazonas, puedo verla, es rugosa y grisácea. De nuevo los entreabro: no, hay nada. Solamente la voz de Don Juan Tuesta cintila a mi derecha sobre la espintana recostada en el filo de la plaza Rumania y se impone a la mano azulmarrón, domeña a esa serpiente de cinco cabezas que el río-mar alarga hacia nosotros.

La primera vez que tomé ayawashka tuve una sensación idéntica pero más durardera: la certeza de tener dos cuerpos y verlos y tocarlos, dos césares tumbados en el piso de la casa del brujo. Porque fue aquí en la isla Muyuy y en la misma vivienda de Don Juan Tuesta, a los trece años de mi edad, que me fue presentado el ayawashka. Y sucedió. Eran otras imágenes, otros colores pero el desdoblamiento remedaba al de esta noche que no quiere irse. Ahora no son únicamente dos cuerpos míos los que alcanzo, un instante sí, a comprobar, un instante no. Me veo, por relámpagos, al costado derecho de Don Juan Tuesta, sentado en la espintana derribada, y a la vez a su izquierda, aunque con una cara que se aparenta mía, que lo duda y tiende a borronearse y a rehacerse luego con facciones que reconozco y no pertenecen a mi rostro. Acepto sin embargo que se trata de mí, como acepto que jamás alcanzaré a explicármelo con palabras y con plenitud. Me estoy viendo, en dos cuerpos, a ambos lados del cuerpo del brujo de Muyuy. Y recibo su voz desde dos sitios, dos existencias, dos identidades, estamos en 1953, dos memorias que de ser tan ajenas ya me son familiares.

There is, however, a particular direction of focus that applies to almost every shaman double: toward the head of the figure. This emphasis, which can be termed “cephalocentrism,” dovetails with the generic body proposed above; a generalized body contrasts with and therefore helps draw attention to the large, complex, and more detailed head area. A natural way of perusing such an asymmetrical top-oriented figure, moving upward from a quick intake of the body to a slower study of the head, may in fact help establish authority in the effigy. By leading the eye up, skimming over the body to rest on a dominant head, the perceptual experience is one of looking up. When one looks up at someone’s face, one also may naturally “look up to” that person. Even if viewers are actually looking down on a small work of art, they are encouraged to look at it as if they were subservient to it. Although not objectively true, it is as if one is looking up at something bigger than oneself, up into a large, strong, often fierce, and impressive face.

Looking up as a cultural value correlates with the visionary experience of suspension, of rising up and beyond the body. If decorporealization feelings (numbness, loss of feeling, lack of gravitational pull, flying) encourage the down- play of lower bodies in effigies, the intensified experiences of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and synaesthetic combinations of the senses find appropriate artistic expression in a relatively emphasized head.5 Few ancient American effigies delineate the details of genitalia, navels, elbows, necks, or buttocks, much less all of these. Yet, by contrast, faces are complete in all but the most extreme cases of abstraction.

In several of the case studies, body parts (as well as spirit selves or shamanic paraphernalia asso- ciated with each) are rendered two- dimensionally more than facial features, another way the body is less “fleshed out” than the head (figs. 6.3, 6.5–6.7, 7.7, 7.10–7.12, 8.4–8.7). Facial three–dimension- ality may be exaggerated to communicate the dramatic, contorted expressions some entheogens cause (figs. 8.10–8.13; Schultes and Hofmann 1992: 119). These contortions may be suggested two- dimensionally in order to create the sense of the third dimension, as well (figs. 7.1, 7.2). Further- more, the face often combines the three- and two- dimensional messages, being typically deco- rated with the body’s most elaborate painting, stamping, and/or tattooing, which gives the head more visual saliency. Not merely decorative, facial art refers directly to visions in a number of ways, from spirals projecting from the eyes (fig. 7.10) to bands of illumination through them (fig. 5.5) and undulating lines across the face (figs. 4.3, 7.4, 7.5, 7.8). The eyes are obviously a central focus of this attention, as will be discussed.

Noticeable artistic emphasis on the head is in some senses measurable and literal. In gen- eral, a high ratio of head- to- body size charac- terizes almost all styles of ancient American art. While this reflects in some sense the corporeal reality of Native Americans in the tropics and mountains, the artistic effect is exaggerated wellbeyond mimesis. Figures considered here as sha- manic embodiments range from 50 percent head (fig. 4.5), to 35 percent (fig. 5.1), to a low of 30 percent (fig. 7.10). While it is beyond the scope of this study to compare head- to- body ratios in shamanic effigies to those in other human- based imagery, it seems safe to say that shaman doubles have heads at least as large as or larger than other types. It is a widely accepted generalization that varying the relative size of figures and other ele- ments in ancient American art as a whole is used to distinguish between lesser and greater levels of power, importance, and authority (a choice known as hieratic scale). Here it is displayed not only between figures but within them.

Featuring the head as the seat of authority makes particular sense in the shamanic context, as power comes from having experienced visions intrance. There is a natural asymmetry in the human body: most of the sensing apparatus is located in the head, only the tactile being distributed throughout the body. Since visions activate all the senses (and then some) but remain predominantly visual, the head—and by extension the eyes— best serve as the “locus” of visions in the body. It is important to qualify this immediately: while in Western culture the idea may prevail that visions are “all in the head,” meaning they are percep- tual illusions and visual tricks of the imagination, brain chemistry, or psyche without reality value, a shamanic culture does not define or limit them as such. Yet, because everyday sight and visionary sight overlap, the eyes and the other sensory appa- rati in the head are inevitably going to be where visions are associated, and so artists will gravitate there to communicate the visionary state. Even if the shaman is believed to be Elsewhere, it remains true that her senses are engaged even more fully than they are Here, and they are not experienced as contained within a body, as we saw in the case of the spinning spherical soul that retained sensesof smell, taste, and more. The enhanced senses not only converge in the head but with each other, and so depictions of synaesthesia will natu- rally occur in the head (figs. 8.8, 8.9); even when they do appear in the body, the artist may make the body into another head by adding eyes (figs. 7.1, 7.2).

To embody the various disembodied but heightened senses, special artistic treatment of the facial features contributes to encoding complexity and visual interest in the head. Eyes are of the utmost significance; however, the mouth, nose, and ears may be singled out as well. Later I will discuss various types of “trance eyes,” denoting a person in trance and/or transforming as taking on otherworldly and animal- self vision.

The mouth may be emphasized to reference the sense of taste that can be activated in visions. Its prominence may reflect the importance of shamanic physical and ritual actions that involve expulsion from the mouth and ingestion into it: vomiting, vocalization (singing, chanting, and speaking), blowing, spitting, oral spraying, ingesting entheogens, and sucking out disease and other attacking objects, which are ingested, then spit out again, completing the cycle. There is no doubt that the mouth serves as an obvious place to signal animal selves, especially by multiplying, enlarg- ing, crossing, and baring the teeth. One prime, dramatic example is the snake tongue in the more human side of the Cupisnique split- face represen- tation (fig. 7.14).7 Perhaps the most characteris- tic choice is to substitute long, pointed fangs for small, square, human teeth, encapsulating “preda- tory animal” as a general category. If the artist spe- cifically chooses crossed pairs of canines among smaller square teeth, then the referent is jaguar or puma (figs. 3.1–3.3, 7.14, 7.15, 7.27a). If denoting crocodilian or shark, the choice is wide jaws of minute, pointed teeth of equal height (figs. 4.6, 7.10). Because humans share teeth with most other animals but not certain other body parts such as tails or hooves, the mouth may be a feature well suited to ambiguous representation, as in the Chancay female shaman whose small, modeled, human mouth is literally overlaid with a wide, painted (I will argue whale shark), open maw (fig. 7.10). The human mouth may be expanded hori- zontally in other ways, as with enigmatic raised elements that “crocodilize” some doubles (fig. 4.7). Further infusions of ambiguity draw attention to the mouth, as in a split lip to refer to that of an alter- ego deer and/or to congenital anomalousness (fig. 5.1). Thus, the mouth can encapsulate many roles, aspects, and actions of shamanism and so communicate the important concepts of paradox and transformation in shorthand form. Its location as the viewer begins to look at the face helps the mouth focus the viewer on the conceptually sig- nificant upward sweep out of the body and into other states of being.

The specific depictions of ears offer opportuni- ties to draw attention to heightened hearing as a visionary perception. Ears arguably reference the diagnostic and curative information the entranced shaman receives aurally from supernatural sources and the magical chants, rhythms, and songs passed down verbally from master to apprentice. An artistic choice may be to give them deep inden- tions (fig. 4.2, 6.11, 7.10; Stone- Miller 2002b: 128, catalogue no. 268) to convey sounds entering the head, enlarge them beyond the normative (fig. 7.15), or outline them (fig. 5.2). Ears easily function as a status- indicating location in the ancient Americas because of the symbolic value of large and elaborate earrings. Often, earrings appear as part of the piece (figs. 4.6–4.10, 4.13, 7.19, 7.21), or separate real ones were inserted into pierced holes (ibid.: 103, catalogue no. 208; 186, catalogue no. 432), or both (fig. 4.3). While these types of ear decoration choices are not limited to shaman effi- gies, they do establish any figure’s relative social status.

Animal and human selves combine through ear substitution, such as vertical, human- shaped ears with cylindrical earspools on an otherwise croco- dilian head seat (fig. 4.6) or bat ears on an upside- down human figure (Calvo Mora, Bonilla Vargas, and Sánchez Pérez 1995: 57, fig. 26). In the split Cupisnique transformational head, the ear of the more human side has been replaced with an ani- mal head (fig. 7.14), which strongly suggests hear- ing with animal acuity during trance. It is not clearly the head of a particular species; again, ambiguity in ear form plays into the same issues of transformative flux as in other bodily parts. The exaggeratedly large, fanned ears on many Moche shaman effigies (figs. 7.3, 7.15, 8.14) cross over into the rounded, alert, feline ears of the animal self, especially those of the ocelot, which are quite large and white inside (7.17). Markedly round ears are found in Costa Rican examples as well (fig. 4.9), and some even specify the markings of deer ears (figs. 5.2, 5.8). Spirals are common in artistic versions of jaguar ears (fig. 5.18), perhaps denoting odd sound effects or information coming into the ear or making an interesting synaesthetic parallel with visionary perception of spirals. Double spirals are found in the ears of a Moche head with fangs, open trance eyes, and individual- hair eyebrows (Berrin 1997: 150), characteristic features of trans- formational shamans and animalistic visionary heads.

The nose, though perhaps less so than other organs, may nevertheless be activated in visions and therefore is ripe for human- animal artistic substitution and ambiguity. A flatter nose belongs to an animal, especially with nostrils that are more evident than usual (figs. 4.12, 6.10, 6.11; Stone- Miller 2002b: 143, catalogue no. 311). The nose of the Pataky- style jaguar is midway between human and animal, projecting like a human nose but arguably snoutlike and accented with whiskers (fig. 5.18). The Moche ocelot shaman effigy has a narrower, humanoid nose as well (fig. 8.1). An enigmatic double nose constitutes one of many facial and head protrusions underscor- ing a transformative state (fig. 4.7, 7.14, the more human side). As regards figure 4.7, her alter ego being the crocodile is not surprising, since by far the most salient and fantastical nose throughout Costa Rican art is the flamboyantly spiral nose/ snout seen on nearly every image of a crocodilian (figs. 4.2, 4.6, 4.9). The spectacled and brown cai- man species inhabiting Costa Rica do have snouts with prominent ball- like ends (Ross 1989: 62–63) that are likely the concrete inspiration for this ele- ment, but it becomes truly visionary emanation in its spiral elaboration (fig. 4.2). I speculate that the exaggerated nose may also represent the bellowing sounds that crocodilians make when their mouths are open and noses therefore elevated (Ross 1989: 104–108). A spiral nose appears on the more trans- formed half of a Cupisnique face (fig. 7.14), and a spiral nose connected to the spiral eye is a par- ticularly rich case of unified but multiple sensory experiences referenced in a Costa Rican stone effigy (fig. 4.9). A Wari jaguar- shaman figure has a spiral nose (fig. 7.27a), as does a sea lion in a Moche visionary scene (fig. 8.17). The key role of the spiral in trance perception seems to mean that it can be substituted or added to various sensory organs to denote their enhancement.

The importance of the crown of the head or fontanel as a spiritual entry point is reflected in effigies that may be open at the top or that wear fancy headgear. Effigy doubles can have a pri- mary, large, semifunctional opening on the top of the head. In one case (fig. 5.1), the large open- ing allowed the artist to support the leather- hard clay with his or her hand and thus better achieve the highly burnished surface. It also makes it pos- sible for something to be placed inside her body, although there is no evidence that there was, and literal inclusion of substances is not necessary if container- effigies are understood as spirit vehicles. In the case of the Moche goblet (fig. 7.15), the opening means that one would drink from the top of the head, the practical and symbolic functions obviously conflated. Other figures of shamans often combine marking the fontanel (fig. 4.8) and/ or back of the head (fig. 4.11) with the technicallynecessary firing hole. Yet the crocodile shaman (fig. 4.8) features an outlined, raised fontanel hole differentiated from the other holes in the back of the head and between the buttocks that actually released the air pressure during the firing. Thus, the fontanel hole was not necessarily practical but seemingly carried symbolic weight.

Another artistic choice actively implicates the fontanel area in a different way, by placing a real or depicted alter ego in that location. A full figure of a feline may be placed on the fontanel, as in figure 4.13. In the crocodile- human head seat (fig. 4.6) a person would sit on the crown of the head, and the archaeological evidence supports such seats as being used as benches for special group meetings of important people, perhaps shamans (Stone- Miller 2002b: 136). In a telling arrange- ment, during meetings or rituals such seated shamans would become the living alter egos of their seats’ dual beings. Birds are often placed in this position as well, particularly in greenstone carvings (ibid.: 155–156). Clearly placing the ani- mal self directly on the fontanel seems to cement the visionary content of this location. It visu- ally and conceptually doubles the head, dramati- cally juxtaposing the human and animal selves, the before and after of transformation.

Placing animals atop the head shades into a wide variety of headwear that occupies the same position and connotes status and/or the shamanic role. Sometimes two- dimensionally indicated, such as a painted headband (fig. 7.10), more often headwear is three- dimensionally part of the effigy. A crownlike hat found on a ceramic female figu- rine with jaguar features (fig. 4.12) is seen on many high- status female figurines (Wingfield 2009: 16). A stacked or tiered headdress type is character- istic of Costa Rican stone figures with transfor- mational masks/faces (fig. 4.9). Headwear may be both painted and projecting, as in the Moche goblet’s strongly modeled headband elaborated with the diagnostic ocelot spots and stripes (figs. 7.15, 7.16). In a more extreme case, the Chancay figurine’s painted headband was obviously aug- mented with now- lost materials attached by holes to the head itself (fig. 7.10). Such actual dressing of doubles certainly made them all the more equiva- lent to their subjects; real head cloths are included in Chancay fiber effigies (Stone- Miller 2002b:268). Depicted headgear not only can accompany real feathers, textiles, or hair but can cross the line back from hat to alter ego draped over the head: in the Moche goblet nearly the whole animal is present, with the frontal ocelot head in the center, two outstretched cat paws to either side, and tail falling down the back of the head (fig. 7.16). Simi- lar circlets or ringlike headdresses made from real birds do survive for the Moche (Donnan 2004: 62; Bourget 2006: 25, fig. 1.18). Such wearing of sym- bolic alter egos again underscores how costumes and transformational imagery are not really sepa- rate categories in shamanic practice (Stone- Miller 2004: 54–58).

As shamanic cephalocentrism might suggest, there are many other forms of the clearly doubled head, making it one of the most diagnostic com- ponents of shamanic art in these regions. Double- headed felines (figs. 4.14, 8.4–8.7), crocodiles (figs. 4.2, right, and 4.15; Stone- Miller 2002b: 127, catalogue nos. 264, 266), sometimes as shamans’ benches (figs. 4.7, 4.8), Vision Serpents (figs. 4.16, 4.17), and people (figs. 8.2, 8.3) are represented. At a basic level, showing a being with two heads is an immediate way to signal the out of the ordinary. If depictive of reality, then one is certainly anoma- lous with two heads, perhaps the most dramatic human congenital condition. More symbolically, with a two- headed animal self one may be consid- ered “extra animal.” With the sense of one’s head and consciousness expanding and “double” the intensity of normal sensations during the vision- ary experience, a second head as an artistic device certainly makes sense. The dual role and con- sciousness state of the shaman is aptly communi- cated by a being with heads looking in two direc- tions, whether pinwheeling (fig. 4.14) or back to back (fig. 3.2). Ambiguously single/dual heads that encode two readings, more and less human (as in fig. 7.14), epitomize this concept that more heads equals more sensing in both terrestrial and other- worldly realms, as well as more flux between the two.

Narby

También surgió otra imagen repetida en las mismas tomas. Es algo que con el transcurso del tiempo ha llegado a tener un papel central en mis visiones, tanto que sospecho que es el equivalente, en términos de yajé, de los arquetipos descritos por Jung. Era como el juicio final pero sin el significado cristiano, entre otras razones porque la imaginería siempre ha sido netamente indígena. En ésta pinta me encuentro en una sala grande y majestuosa, delante de una mesa muy larga, estilo colonial, detrás de la cual se encuentra un grupo de espíritus. Y tengo el sentimiento de estar ante seres que comprenden todo, los cuales conocen claramente mis malas conductas. Por lo tanto, la visión no trae tanto el sentido de culpa, aunque si puede ocurrir, sino sensaciones de asombro, abnegación, adoración y hasta alivio, porque uno está libre de la compulsión de fabricar una personalidad frente a los interlocutores, en contraste con la vida normal. Más allá de la parte emocional, el aspecto más destacado de esa pinta es su composición visual. Es un escenario imponente, de volúmenes grandes y elementos estilizados dispuestos en orden simétrico y polifacético, elementos, nuevamente, que figuran en el diseño pre-colombino.

And then a voice began to speak. “Hello,” it said.
There was no one I could see, just a voice, but not one I recognized.
“Hello,” it said again.
“Who are you?” I asked, hoping it was just a voice I was inventing.
“You know who I am,” it said plainly.
I did. I sensed it was the spirit of ayahuasca. I know that seems crazy, and it seemed crazy to me as well, but I also knew it was true and I began to get terrified. I believed in the spirit of things, and I knew the power of ayahuasca, but I’d never imagined anything like that disembodied voice. It wasn’t just a spirit or a vision or anything like talking with Clare or even my mother. This was like being in the presence of something unfathomable.
I opened my eyes, hoping it would go away if I ignored it. It didn’t. It was just waiting me out. “What do you want?” I asked finally.
“You’re the one who called me,” it said. “You’re the one who keeps calling me.” “I don’t mean to. I just used ayahuasca to get ready for the trip, and to travel and see things…”
The voice said that wasn’t true. It said I called because I needed things and I was getting what I needed; my immense sorrow, my confrontation with my desires and fears. The voice said that this was a time for cleansing, for emptying out, not for proving I could visit friends on ayahuasca.
What it said was true, and my initial fear of its presence began to subside. But then it asked me if I would let it enter. It was such a strange request that I was taken aback. The ayahuasca was already inside me, I said. The voice said no, that wasn’t what it meant.
Suddenly I saw a snake wrapping itself around my head. I saw my head open and a side view of my brain, as if it had been cut in two and I was looking into it. It looked like the inside of a bee colony, all tunnels. Dozens of snakes appeared and began sliding into the tubes of my brain. At first it felt wonderful, like immense power and motion was sliding into me but then I wasn’t sure that I should let them. I thought that maybe I was being fooled, that Julio had warned us that while some of the spirits we might meet were good, others were evil and I was afraid that this might be an evil one. What if it wasn’t ayahuasca, or if it was, what if it was some awful and dark part of it?
I asked the voice what the snakes meant, why they had to enter me, but I didn’t get an answer. Part of me thought it was a kind of test, but another part of me thought it was a kind of trick, and that if the snakes were allowed to disappear in my brain I would never get them out. I don’t know what I thought that would mean but it was terrifying. Whatever it was, I knew it wasn’t the right thing, that I shouldn’t let those snakes into my brain. I began to pull them out by their tails. They were strong and hard to dislodge and the longer I fought the more I was sure that if it really had been the voice of ayahuasca speaking with me it wouldn’t have asked me to let it enter in such a terrifying way. I felt like I was fighting for my life, that if I lost I would be enslaved forever.
The moment I got the last of them out I was no longer sure I’d made the right choice. It was like the vision of the Matses I’d had earlier. The minute they put me down, I felt I might have missed something extraordinary. I asked the voice why it hadn’t just talked with me, why everything seemed to be a test designed to make me fight it.
It answered that it had already given me so many gifts that I should have some faith and trust. It said I shouldn’t ask for so much without giving anything in return. The voice didn’t sound angry or disappointed, it just said those things then disappeared, and I knew my visions were done.
I opened my eyes and stood weakly. The ground was glistening and wet. It had rained at some point but now I stared at a sky full of falling stars and tried to absorb the lessons I’d been given. After a few minutes I stepped off the porch and joined Larry. I wanted to tell him everything I’d seen and heard but was afraid that if I did the voice might come back and I didn’t want that to happen. Instead we walked to the river quietly. He told me that he too had experienced the lesson of letting go, though neither of us talked about it in depth.
When we returned to the house both Moises and Antenor were asleep but Julio was waiting up for us. “Una noche fuerte,” he said. “Bastante espiritos.” A strong night, filled with spirits.
He asked us to sit, then sang a song for each of us. While he did, he washed us down with mapacho smoke, then rubbed the camalonga on our hair and torsos. “To see the spirits don’t cling to you,” he explained. He’d never done that before and it felt intimate and generous. I wondered whether he sensed or saw something of the nature of the experience that night which made him think it was necessary. He didn’t say. I remembered the incident with the machete and almost laughed. He’d seen everything. His cleansing was good. The moment he began to blow smoke on us my fears disappeared.
When Julio was finished, he said good night and went to bed. I stayed on the porch for a long time, trying to figure what I’d seen and heard. I thought of what Moises had told me when I first began studying with him: Ayahuasca gives you what you need, not what you want.
I finally gave up thinking and just stared at the sky. I felt alive and liberated. I wanted to embrace the night and the trees and everything in the jungle. Probably an hour or two passed before I grew tired, got into my hammock and went to sleep.
In the morning we bathed in the river, thanked both Julio and Sophia with some presents, then set off for Herrera to start our hike. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I’d forgotten to ask Julio about the voice and the snakes, and by then it was too late to return.

Before proceeding, it is pertinent, I think, to cite observations made some thirty years ago by C. Naranjo (1973«). In an experimental setting, Naranjo administered harmaline (one of the chemical constituents of Ayahuasca) to thirty-five Chileans with no knowledge about Ayahuasca. Especially salient in the visions these subjects had were serpents, crocodiles, felines, and birds of prey (see also Naranjo, 1973£). The felines mentioned included tigers, leopards, and jaguars (but apparently, not lions). I find the similarity between these findings and those surveyed here striking.

Traditionally, Ayahuasca is closely linked to serpents (see Dobkin de Rios, 1973; Harner, 1973c; Luna and Amaringo, 1993; and Lagrou, 1998). Serpents are also extremely common both in my own visions and in those of my informants. Indeed, in both my data and those of my informants, serpents are the most common animal and, in fact, the most common single content item reported. As described in Ch. 1, the very first figurative items I saw with Ayahuasca were lizards and in my first major Ayahuasca experience serpents featured prominently. Subsequently, I have seen serpents on many occasions. On several occasions, I have also seen crocodiles, both natural and mythological, and dinosaurs. About a third of the serpents I have seen were mythical or non-naturalistic in one way or another. Some of the serpents were adorned with flowers or shining scales. Phantasmagoric and serpents like those of mythology were also reported by my informants. Amongst these were gigantic serpents, serpents characterized as ‘cosmic’, winged serpents, and ones made of or emitting spewing fire. At times, serpents appear intertwined in pairs, with one serpent coiling around another; this motif is discussed at length in Narby (1998). My own experience is that, in general, serpents appeared either as the first figures in a session or whenever I was embarking upon a new stage in the session. Why serpents are so prominent in Ayahuasca visions is an intriguing topic that I shall discuss elsewhere. Here I will just note that the associations I had with serpents in my visions were of wisdom, enchantment, seduction, and healing. A grand vision in which I saw serpents in conjunction with disease and cure is reported in the next chapter.