In eleven years of taking part in Ayahuasca and Huachuma/San Pedro ceremonies, I've seen a gazillion miracles. Bodies healed. Traumas purged and untangled. Massive awakenings and consciousness expansion. A hell of a lot of joy and bliss and gratitude.
But I've also seen unbelievable darkness. Shamans who intentionally manipulate people out of anger and a hunger for power. Ones who lack integrity and think it's appropriate to doctor people when they themselves are in complete breakdown.
And the sexual passes during ceremony. Oh yes, that happens. I've been there firsthand. Twice. The pain, betrayal, and sadness is more than I could ever express. (So are the lessons, by the way, so I have zero regrets. I accept perfection in all.)
This has led me to very consciously explore why so many shamans go dark. I have heard many, many accounts from people who have had challenging, confusing, and straight out traumatic experiences. Part of that is our filter, I get that. Some of us are so lost in our stories of trauma, we project them on everyone we meet.
But there are some seriously rogue "healers" out there, and this deserves to be called out.
Being a Shaman: The Nearly Impossible Task
To any of you who have the aspiration to achieve this sacred moniker, bless you to pieces. If you're just starting out, you have the gleam, the glow, that burning desire to be of service and to partner with these glorious energies.
I had it in spades. I also had the "Can a white girl from Montana really do this?"
Aya's answer was perfect: "Sweet girl, why can't a white girl from Montana do it?"
Since I had no solid answer, I took on the challenge. She was calling me loud and clear, after all, and who wants to tell Ayahuasca no? Not this girl.
No one can tell you how hard it will be. Egos don't believe it anyway. We hear the sordid tales and think - I can handle it. This is my destiny. And that's true if it IS your destiny. Either way, it doesn't matter. Whether you feel called to sit or to serve, it's your journey. The destination matters not.
But why is it so bloody difficult to do this job?
Because it's not a job. It's a goddamn lifestyle. It's a balls-out full on commitment that is all-consuming and will ask ALL of you. More, actually.
This process becomes your wife, your husband, your mother and father, your first born child, your best friend. You have to be willing to sacrifice anything and everything to do it, because trust me, that will eventually come due. And if you're not willing, it's going to kick your ass. Which it will do anyway, but it's easier when you're a willing participant....
So what ends up happening isn't rocket science - eventually, no matter how disciplined a shaman is, the world creeps in. The dark, nefarious, temptation-filled, deliciously deviant world. And if you tangle in duality and think you've got the upper hand....oh, my friend, you have lessons to learn.
Please Stop Worshipping Healers
Part of the reason a shaman gets too big for their britches lies squarely on the shoulders of the participants. Especially us Westerners. In traditional tribal cultures, the medicine man or woman is just another member of the community. What they offer is cherished and sacred, but no more so than anyone else. Every task is essential to survival, so there is no hierarchy.
We Westerners have a different perspective. All this energy stuff is magic to us, and we get awed by what we perceive the shaman can do. But the pedestals we put them on guarantee they will eventually fall off. It's not human to see them as anything but human. It's not fair to expect perfection. If we appreciate the job they do without elevating the ego, we can also help them not get so inflated that the universe has to orchestrate a downfall.
So it's up to all of us to strike a balance. Give someone your power, and you are asking them to abuse it.
When a Shaman Goes Rogue
Anyone in any position of authority has an ego to wrestle with. And that right there is a full time job. But what happens to people in leadership? They get lazy. They think they've reached the top. They think they have nothing left to learn.
And that's when the energies take over. We are here to live and learn, after all. Not to arrive and get all snooty.
So to own this role of healer means you have to be in INSANE integrity with yourself and your core tribe. No bullshit. No hiding anything. You have to own your shit. Own when you're triggered. Own when you're afraid. Own when you're sexually attracted to someone in the circle. Own when you want to get drunk and runaway.
At the very least, you own this to yourself and the medicine. You have elders that can keep you honest and aligned. You work with the medicine all the time with humility and a sincere desire to see your delusion and heal your hurts.
And yet you can't let your guard down IN ceremony, as you are the gatekeeper, the protector, the tone setter.
Don't ever, ever work with a shaman who doesn't work tirelessly outside of ceremony on his or her own path. How that appears is personal. But if you get the feeling they have the perspective that they've "arrived," I would simply arrive somewhere outside of their circle. Because that's poppycock.
So it's a full time lifestyle. And just when you think you've got it down, spirit will throw another curveball to teach you another lesson.
A shaman often lives on the outside of the tribal community for a reason. Isolation helps to keep things clean. The more they tangle with the stories of the people they serve on the outside, the more it can compromise their ability to keep us safe on the inside. (I know this one well. I do not exaggerate when I say this was almost a deadly downfall for me.)
In that, self care is also essential. We've all heard the "healer, heal thyself" saying. This is never, ever a past tense statement. It's always in the present. And that happens with self care. A LOT of self care. Every day, without fail. Eating right, meditating, time with nature, connection with guides, hot baths, loving relationships, etc. etc. etc.
We gotta love on ourselves to have the love we put on others be authentic. And healing is nothing BUT love.
The Awesome Power of Power
At the end of the day, anyone who wants to be a healer has to be damn clear what their true intentions are.
I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that most people - whether they admit it or not - are attracted to the power.
Money is power, so it's deeply entangled. And most of us have a very dysfunctional relationship with the spirit of money.
But you put the awesome power of the plant spirits in the hands of a power hungry ego, and dear God, craziness can ensue. If they are adept at turning around whatever happens on you using spiritual rhetoric, that's a dangerous dude (or dudette) right there.
So shamans go dark because THIS is duality, and that is its core job - to bring us our lessons of expansions through trials and tribulations.
Ideally, said shaman who has a dip into their own humanness takes a break. They have the awareness to not project this on others. The own it to the people that love them, and have the power to ask for help.
But that doesn't always happen in such a sweet and tidy way...
So How do You Know You're in Good Hands?
What you're looking for as a participant is not perfection. It's not a guru or an uber-human. It's just one who is authentic. They have a clear method of working on themselves. They exude compassion, but with healthy boundaries. They have a love of integrity and know that's the key to success.
And they better love and respect this medicine more than life itself. If you don't feel that, run.
Since most of us don't get access to the shaman before we actually sit, there's a lonnnnggg list of questions that I recommend you ask the organizers. As one who organized for over a decade, it disturbed me when people didn't ask me questions.
Some of the key and essential questions include:
How long has the shaman been doing this work? How did he/she train to become an Ayahuasquero? Where does the medicine come from - who makes it, and what plants are in it? How many attendants will be there? How many sitters? What do I need to bring? What is the recommended diet? Is there any after care assistance?
If you want the full rundown, reach out to me and I'll help you target the exact questions that are right for you. Knowing you're in good hands is literally the most important part of this process.
And because this is a wild world, and our egos are immensely complex, it's up to us as participants to take responsibility for where we sit, and who we do this work with. Thankfully, we have lots of options these days, and there are people doing this with love, integrity, and pure intent.
Just because there's a lot of bad seeds doesn't mean there aren't plenty of golden threads. And just because even shamans are human doesn't mean they can't adeptly dance with their darkness and keep others safe in the process.
Choose with your whole heart, go deep, and enjoy the ride. <3