Back to the Village
We got back to the village, my first time in over six months, and I felt different. I felt like a person in actual Ayahuasca apprenticeship. Plus, I was now unofficially seeing Luco. That brought up a whole slew of other emotions and self-judgements as I worried what the people in the village thought of me. People kept asking me if I was embarasada. Pregnant! (No, just gordita – chubby. Eye roll.)
I was also the only gringa out there (seems I’d just missed a few others from the center who were out there for Christmas.) I quickly realized how limited my Spanish was, especially amongst the difficult dialect, and I learned fast that I had to trust and go with the flow on this. I am in another country, in a small village, with very limited resources as to getting back on my own. It felt right, and it would be easier on me to just trust him.
We were staying on the Elder’s floor, this time in a mosquito net. I was enjoying getting to know the Elder on a more personal level as well. He was seeming more like a normal guy, and less like an intimidating shaman.
I was starting to see, too, that none of these guys are perfect, and none of them are saints. I had them all on this Holy pedestal, thinking that with that much wisdom, must be pure light. But they are regular people with regular problems, issues, and vices as well. It was good for me to kind of get my head out of the clouds and realize that no human is without their own filter.
Luco’s Emotional Purge
One night, we were all hanging out in the evening in the living room. It seemed like every kid from the village was there, to watch a music DVD on his television (there are only about three TVs in the whole village, and without cable or anything DVD is the only way to go.)
It turned into kind of a party, where all the adults were dancing and drinking, and the kids were just dancing. As things wound down, I had my first experience understanding how alcohol can be applied as a medicine.
Luco and I had both had a bit to drink (beer, none of the shamans I know will drink liquor.) We were sitting next to each other, him singing merrily along with the love songs on the DVD (half to me.)
All of a sudden, I saw it. His eyes welled up with tears. All the emotion, pain and sadness from having to release his job and all of his friends was being pulled out by the alcohol.
I held his hand and felt such pain in my heart for him. He knew it would all work out; he had even told me that the Medicine had already been showing him what he would be doing next. But still, we are human, and emotion needs to release.
We connected intensely through eyes as he let it purge. We understood each other without talking. It was gonna be okay, my expression told him. He nodded as the emotional wave subsided. It was a very intense moment, and really made me realize how real this guy truly is.
Shamans are Regular Humans
Soon, we learned that the family didn’t want us staying there anymore. Apparently it was bothering the new husband of Luco’s ex-wife (or something), who is the daughter of the Elder. She doesn’t live in the house, but she’s around a lot.
There also seemed to be a bit of resentment brewing from the Elder as well, as Luco was beginning to show signs of a potentially building a life independent of needing to work for an outside Western counterpart (it’s a different dynamic if we’re in partnership).
This is often the catch-22 of needing the Westerner to bring the people and interpret both the language and the concepts. Not to mention, I was getting a little tired of being put in the awkward position of his family constantly asking me for money.
When he asked Luco is was one thing (he didn’t seem to care, since they’re family and you help family when they need it) and I didn’t care at the beginning, since this is a village and of course I wanted to help out. But when it became an expected thing and turning to excess, it was getting difficult.
Plus the Elder was drinking a bit too much for me to handle. But still, I enjoyed seeing him as a regular person with regular issues, not this all-powerful being on a pedestal. He’s clearly a good guy at heart, and I liked the guy.
So obviously we didn’t want to stay where it would be uncomfortable for anyone, not to mention I was dying for my own space.
Luco had had a house with his ex-wife, but he’s been living mostly in Iquitos since they split. So we went to the tiny hostel for $1.50/night. It was just a small, hot room with community outdoor toilets, but it worked for me.
Luco began telling me more and more about himself, his life, his past. He mentioned the girl taking care of his kids in Iquitos a few times, and I was starting to sense there may be something more going on between them, but I wasn’t sure.
I was quickly realizing that there were some major cultural communication differences, above and beyond the actual language. Here, things go unspoken if they are believed to be in the best interest of everyone to do so.
In the States, that’s considered “lying by omission” as my mom taught me once when I was in trouble. I wasn’t too worried about it…we were not committed, and he seemed very into me and I would just deal with whatever came.
I was enjoying the ride. And intuitively, I knew the work in the Medicine would trump whatever form our dynamic would take. The priority was the Ayahuasca apprenticeship, and the rest could be worked out.
Begin Ayahuasca Apprenticeship
We began talking about my Ayahuasca apprenticeship. I had planned to stay until the beginning of March, but felt a strong pull to stay longer. He was thrilled when I asked him about staying through mid-April. Ideas started flowing immediately.
“What if I brought some friends out from the States to do ceremonies? Maybe that could pay for my apprenticeship!” He thought it was a great idea. We were currently doing ceremonies with the Elder when he wasn’t at the other program, but Luco assured me he could do ceremony by himself.
I still wanted to try it out first, just to make sure. I was comfortable with the Elder and the Western shaman running the show, and as much as I loved Luco, they have always called him an apprentice rather than a maestro (Master Shaman). and I didn’t quite get a handle on what all of that meant. Finally, I asked the question again.
“So, I don’t get why he [the Western shaman] is considered a master shaman after just two years, and you’re still an apprentice after 25 years. It doesn’t make sense!” I needed to understand this if friends were going to come down.
“Meghan, I don’t want to be called a maestro or master shaman. I never will accept that title. I don’t like the whole system. It’s only been used relatively recently since the Western world took interest, and to me, I will always be learning from the Medicine. Therefore I will always be an apprentice.
Plus, there will be things apprentices learn “under” me that super cede my knowledge. They will pass me in areas. Then who is the “master” and who is the “apprentice”? Not to mention the ego that runs rampant when people run around doing whatever they want, claiming that they can because “they are the Master!”
I don’t want it. I just want to be a guide, work with the Medicine, and do my thing. It’s all I know how to do.”
Wow. I sensed a bit of resentment in his voice. I never thought about it that way.
“So why does everyone think you were his [the Elder’s] apprentice?” I asked.
“I first trained under my brother Celiz, until he died. Then for the last fifteen years or so, I had been training under Don Julio, years before he ever met the Western guy and took him on as an apprentice. Don Julio had teamed up as equals with the Elder, though Don Julio had the seniority.
When he passed, the Elder naturally took over the “top” role in the mesa (group of shamans who drink Medicine together). So when it worked out that I got a job through him, it was just easier to label it like I was his apprentice, instead of going into the whole technical story unnecessarily.
He probably wouldn’t have wanted me with too much experience anyway (possibly a perceived threat – shamans are very competitive out here since money is so scarce.) so I had to play low since I really needed the work. I didn’t mind, I love working with the people, no matter what status I was perceived at. It’s all a larger picture anyway.
“How did your brother die?” I asked. He looked down and shook his head, like it wasn’t the time yet.
Ayahuasca Ceremony Style Differences (Within the Same Lineage)
The ceremonies were very different than at the previous program. It was amazing how different styles create such a different experience in ceremony. And Luco and the Elder cooked the exact same medicine at both places! It was really interesting to experience.
I think being out in the jungle village versus closer to the city had something to do with it as well. Both experiences were equally valuable, and perfect for the training I needed at each moment. But I will say, it was nice after I finished the “management and purging madness” training and shifted to the more chill, fun stuff!
There was definitely more of an eerie jungle feel in the village, with lots of animal spirits around for various reasons. And a much more natural, jungle-style pace than the boot camp approach I was used to from the other center.
For about a month, I was in my intensive language phase, as I didn’t even hear English the entire time. Time spent bonding, exploring the village, going out, having ceremony at the Elder’s, and basically cleaning up as the early stages of my Ayahuasca apprenticeship got underway.
I was still dealing with a lot of internal struggle: trying to release the feelings for my ex, worrying about Luco liking other women more than me and these other ones floating around in the ethers, suspended fear that none of this was real and it was all just a fantasy that would be crushed into oblivion, along with my tender heart.
The head trips continued as they always had throughout my life, but the difference this time was that Luco was having none of it.
“Meghan, you have got to learn how to manage these dark energies. I can’t be in a relationship with someone who can’t, I’m sorry. I know you’re just starting, and of course I will be patient and wait for you. But you’ve got to be willing to let these beliefs go.
It’s a balance; management. You can’t just stuff them back in every time, but you can’t let the words wildly fly either and purge them all over someone else. It’s a dark energy, not your true self. But you are responsible for how you deal with it. “
His words stopped those thoughts in their tracks. All stereotypical Western logic says that I should be paranoid about dating a South American dude in Peru, and how they have all their women, etc, especially since he had a girlfriend before.
But internally, I was hoping what he was saying was true, and I’d be able to learn to manage these energies. I got the feeling it had nothing to do with what the other person was or was not doing, it was more about how I handled it. So theoretically, if I could manage the energies and if he did end up cheating on me, I would be okay either way. That sounded like a plan.
Actual Plans are Brewing
One day, Luco and I were hanging out in the river, and my intuition overrode my headiness.
“How much would it cost to build a little hut to live in while I’m here for my apprenticeship – just a couple months a year?”
“Around $1000 for a small place.” Hmm. That’s not bad at all, even if I was only using it three months out of the year. And Luco could use it the rest of the time, since we would have been staying together anyway. I would have to think about it.
Within a couple days I was feeling a strong call to build the house, and build it big enough to have a couple of extra rooms for people to stay in. This would let me pay for my apprenticeship by bringing people from the States.
The Medicine is so amazing and life-changing, I would have to share it anyway! We planned to simply run groups when the Elder was in between sessions at the other program.
The house design got bigger and bigger. I kept thinking it would be better to start out making it ready for ten people rather than having to build a new one as things grow. Luco had already had a design in mind, as more and more of his previous vision was being shared.
Gathering Intel on the Women
I finally asked him about the girl taking care of his kids.
“Yeah, we were dating lightly over the last year or so. But it’s not committed, and she knows all about you. When you and I get to the point of dating exclusively, she knows it will be finished. She knows all about the vision, and says she’s cool with it.”
“And you really think she’s cool with that?” I asked. It was hard for me to believe she could date someone, knowing he was waiting for someone else to come along.
“Of course. She’s really chill. It’s more like a ‘just for fun’ relationship rather than a serious thing, for both of us. Life in Iquitos is crazy alone.”
His logic sounded very machismo and suspicious by my Western female logic’s standards, but somehow I could tell he was telling the truth (as he saw it at least). I didn’t like this, but it was true we’d only been dating about a month, and we didn’t need to dive into a serious relationship. I didn’t even know what was going to happen when I left in April.
We were still in the “trial period”, so I figured we’d just see how it goes. As long as there were no secrets, and everyone was cool, I was okay for now. But I fucking knew it about that chick. Nice to know my intuition is still in tact, even when I’m in a honeymoon phase with Luco and the Medicine, and my blooming Ayahuasca apprenticeship.
~ Meghan Shannon Elder (@beyond_meghan)
Ayahuasca Preparation and Integration Specialist at Beyond the Ceremony
Accelerated Spiritual Development Coach at Beyond the Whirlwind
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