Ayahuasca Ceremony: Exploring the Ancient Amazonian Tradition

APL Shamanic Journeys retreats blog
An ayahuasca (or "iowaska") ceremony is a traditional Amazonian ritual where participants drink a brew made from indigenous plants: the ayahuasca vine and chakruna leaves. Traditionally, guided by a shaman, the ceremony aims for spiritual healing and self-awareness, often involving intense hallucinations and emotional insights. As indigenous people often say, "Ayahuasca is not a joke," highlighting the need for careful consideration of medical and psychological readiness due to its potent effects. A profound ayahuasca ceremony have a potential to change you and change your life.

What to Expect During an Ayahuasca Ceremony

An ayahuasca ceremony is a powerful religious ritual used to purify both the body and soul. Traditionally, Amazonian tribes have used ayahuasca as a purification tool. Beyond its psychedelic effects, ayahuasca induces physical cleansing, often causing vomiting and sometimes diarrhea. To prepare for the ceremony, participants follow a special diet, avoiding certain foods and drugs.

Ceremonial Structure: What
Happens During an Ayahuasca

All in all, the ceremony can be described as the following process:

Ingestion and Initial Phase (0-30 Minutes)
After drinking the ayahuasca brew, which is known for its strong, bitter taste, it typically takes about 20-60 minutes for the effects to begin. During this initial phase, participants often feel a mix of anxiety and excitement as they anticipate what is to come.

Onset Phase (30 Minutes - 2 Hours)
As the brew starts to take effect, early symptoms include nausea, dizziness, increased heart rate and heightened sensitivity to light and sound. This period is also when vivid hallucinations begin to occur, including geometric patterns, bright colors, and various visual and auditory phenomena. The shaman guiding the ceremony begins to sing the "icaros," or sacred songs of the Amazonian tribes. These songs form the music of the ceremony and help guide participants through their experiences.

Peak Phase (2-4 Hours)
This is the most intense part of the experience, where participants undergo deep emotional and psychological journeys. During this phase, individuals might confront profound personal issues, memories, and emotions. Physical reactions such as nausea and vomiting are common, and these are often considered a form of purging or cleansing.

Plateau Phase (4-6 Hours)
The peak intensity of the experience starts to diminish during the plateau phase, but participants still experience significant psychological and visual effects. This period allows for more coherent reflection on the intense visions and emotions encountered earlier.

Come Down Phase (6-8 Hours)
As the hallucinogenic effects gradually fade, participants often continue to process emotional and psychological insights. This phase can leave individuals feeling physically and mentally exhausted, but it also provides a calmer space to begin integrating their experiences.

Post-Experience (8+ Hours)
In the hours and days following the ceremony, reflection and integration of the experiences are crucial. Participants often find journaling, meditation, and other reflective practices helpful. Insights gained during the ceremony can continue to unfold for months, leading to varied personal interpretations and reviews of the experience.
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Personal Experiences

It's crucial to view ayahuasca not as an end in itself but as a powerful tool for self-exploration and personal growth. This plant medicine is not a magic solution or a straightforward path to enlightenment, but it can offer profound insights and transformative experiences. An ayahuasca ceremony has the potential to be one of the most meaningful and enlightening experiences of a person's life; however, it can also be challenging and even traumatic, sometimes leading to intense emotional distress or PTSD.
With over a decade of facilitating ceremonies, we've observed a broad spectrum of outcomes. Some participants describe ayahuasca as the ultimate tool for self-honesty, bringing suppressed thoughts and inner demons to the surface. For those with the strength and courage to confront these issues, ayahuasca can illuminate pathways to resolution and healing. Ayahuasca definitely has power to change you.

To illustrate the diverse impacts of ayahuasca, here are a few quotes from past participants, providing personal perspectives on their experiences:

«The best decision I ever made till now. Feels like my life can finally start. I got aware of my attachments, that were holding me back since childhood and released them in an overwhelming shamanic ceremonial process.» [link]

«Incredible and life changing. Doing it first time, I genuinely didn’t realize that my mental health could be this good[link]

«I felt a profound sense of inner peace and clarity after every session, and I'm grateful for the positive energy and calmness that surrounds me.. I highly recommend this spiritual healing for anyone seeking emotional, mental, or spiritual balance or guidance.» [link]
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How to Prepare for an Ayahuasca Ceremony: FAQ

Participating in an ayahuasca ceremony is a serious decision that requires thorough preparation. Individuals should prepare themselves both mentally and physically. Mental preparation typically involves setting a clear intention, while physical preparation includes following a special diet. For more information, read our article: Preparation for Ayahuasca Ceremony

What to Bring to a Ceremony?

Different hosts conduct ceremonies in various ways; some provide all necessary accessories, while others do not. To ensure comfort, an individual should bring:

• A place to lie down, such as a mattress or yoga mat
• A pillow
• A water bottle to stay hydrated
• A vomit bowl
• Napkins
• Clothing appropriate for the climate.

What to Wear to a Ceremony?

You should dress comfortably according to the surrounding climate. If the ceremony is in the Amazon (the jungles of Peru or Ecuador), wear something light. If you're in a ceremonial space with AC (for example, on a retreat in Europe), you might want to bring a blanket for warmth.

How Many Ceremonies Should I Do?

Answering the question "how many ayahuasca ceremonies should I do" can be challenging. It is generally recommended to attend 3-4 ceremonies during a retreat. This allows you to fully experience its effects, gives hosts the opportunity to identify the appropriate dosage, and ensures your process is thoroughly completed.

How Long Does An Ayahuasca Ceremony Last?

An ayahuasca ceremony typically lasts between 4 to 6 hours. The duration can vary depending on several factors, including the specific practices of the shaman or facilitator, the dosage of the ayahuasca brew, and the individual experiences of the participants.

What To Eat After The Ayahuasca Ceremony?

Right after an ayahuasca ceremony, people usually don't have much of an appetite, but if you're hungry, easily digestible foods like apples are fine. For the following three days, it's important to stick to your initial diet, avoiding foods that interact with MAOIs.

What To Do After Ayahuasca Ceremony?

Right after an ayahuasca ceremony or retreat, individuals are often in a very vulnerable state, so it's important to create a safe and supportive environment for processing the experience. Avoid crowded places and emotionally draining conversations. Ensure you have a quiet space for self-reflection, where journaling, meditation and sleep can be ideal activities during this period.
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