There are a number of articles that have been written on the miraculous healing potentials of Ayahuasca, and it has featured in respectable mainstream media publications such as Time, National Geographic, Elle, Men’s Health and the New York Times.
This article is intended as a testimony, to share both my experience of an Ayahuasca ceremony, which took place at a Life Transformational Shamanic Retreat, and my path to healing from the subsequent mental and emotional trauma, confusion and devastation that I experienced after an Ayahuasca ceremony.
He led them from the darkest and deepest gloom;
He snapped their chains.
Psalm 107:14 (NLT)
Part 1: Ayahuasca
Ayahausca is a powerful hallucinogenic/psychoactive brew made out of Banisteriopsis Caapi (Ayahausca) vine, containing the hallucinogen DMT (Dimethyletryptamine) which is activated by MAOI (Monoamine oxidase inhibitor). The Ayahuasca brew has a long history of ritual use among indigenous shamanic groups across the Upper Amazon throughout Peru, Columbia, Ecuador and Brazil, and is associated with healing in collective ceremonies.
This ancient practice dates back centuries, having spread outside of indigenous groups in the latter part of the 19th century, such ceremonies can now be found through a variety of contexts such as enlightenment retreats, neo-shamanic workshops, self-discovery weekends and eco-lodges specialising in spiritual tourism.
Ayahuasca, known as “the vine of the soul”, “Mother Ayahuasca” or “the teacher plant” amidst Ayahuasca communities, is believed to be able to provide healing, insight and revelation into life’s many mysteries. The chances of accidentally stumbling across the Ayhuasca brew would be less than one in a million, and when asked about the discovery or origin of Ayahuasca, some shaman today still maintain that it was the plants who told them about the extraordinary potentials of the ancient brew.
Ephesians 6: 12-17 (NIV)
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full Armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand. Stand firm then with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Shamanism is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive or interact with a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world.
A shaman is someone who is regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing.
Evocation is the act of calling upon or summoning a spirit, demon or other supernatural agent.
Holistic-evolution. Traditionally Ayahuasca is used in South America by both Curanderos (Healers) and Brujos (Witches and Sorcerers) for the purposes of healing, divination, gaining knowledge/power, but also for witchcraft, warfare, and bringing harm to others intentionally through alliance with malevolent forces and entities’.
Part 2: My Story
I had always been very interested in holistic healing and health, and had long since set out on a path of trying to achieve success, happiness and personal fulfilment by reading countless books, attending courses, workshops, motivational talks and seminars which were presented by the world’s leading authorities and internationally renowned authors on subjects like mind power, personal mastery and spiritual growth, in the hope that I might become a complete and integrated human being.
I had also been struggling with a substance addiction for just over ten years. My addiction started socially, just after finishing school. My life soon spiralled out of control, and I eventually reached a point where I had to undergo a sedated detox. I managed to abstain for just over two years, but relapsed soon after.
Shortly after my daughter was born, I entered into the Celebrate Recovery Program through Mighty Wings Rehabilitation Centre. I was also diagnosed with adult ADHD and prescribed a nauseating amount of exceptionally expensive prescription medication. Mighty Wings is a Christ centred organisation, but I was however a non-believer at the time I began my recovery. The program helped me tremendously and I was able to make vast improvements in various areas of my life.
Despite my best efforts, tremendous success in recovery and a strong support structure, I began to deteriorate emotionally and reached a point where I knew I needed help. I had often hoped in various forms of energy healing modalities, like Transformational Kinesiology, and had already attended a number of workshops and self-discovery retreats; as such I had become aware of the ceremonial use of plant medicines (Ayahuasca, Iboga and San Pedro).
After hearing about Ayahuasca, and having been faced with a number of significant mental and emotional challenges while trying to overcome addiction, I became interested in the numerous accounts, and powerful healing possibilities associated with this ancient indigenous shamanic practice; so when the opportunity arrived I decided to attend a shamanic life transformational retreat.
I must admit that I was not entirely aware of what the practice of shamanism actually entailed at this point. The organisation which hosted the retreat had a large following, and appeared as being helpful and compassionate when I first contacted them. The course seemed to overflow with exciting activities which appeared to offer the answers and healing that I was so desperately in search of.
Down the Rabbit Whole
This 5 day retreat would comprise of: “Yoga/ Detoxing/ Hiking/ Animal Communication/ Life Coaching/ Transformational workshops/ Sweat Lodges/ Find your Voice Music Workshop/ Sacred Plant Ceremonies (Ayahuasca, Changa, San Pedro ) Forgiveness Workshops/ Releasing Cellular Pain/ Reconnecting to Gaia/ Taking charge of your Wolfpack and Fear/ Talk on Death by a Palliative expert and Writing a new sacred contract with life for the new year.
I arrived at the Resort on Friday the 15th December 2017. I was greeted with a hug and welcomed by the hosts, who referred to the retreat as their place of love. Once everyone had settled in, we began preparing for the Ayhuasca ceremony, which took place at 18:00 that evening.
“The resort and ceremony area”
Part 3: Ayahuasca Ceremony
(A journey into the dark abyss)
Exodus 10:21 (AMP) A darkness which [is so awful that it] may be felt.
As we began preparing for the ceremony, the members of our group gathered in a circle. The hosts introduced themselves, and explained their intentions behind developing the retreat.
We were invited up to the altar, and while drinking in (the brew is given in a tea cup size serving) were told to honour the mind, soul and the eternity.
My experience started off gradually and I began to notice numerous fields of geometric patterns emerge, but soon felt that something was wrong. I started to sense an overwhelming presence of evil, and asked one of the facilitators; “Why is everything so dark?” She responded, “There is no darkness here, this is you, what you are seeing is your own darkness, that is your inner self, don’t you see?”
The Shaman’s drum is one of the major tools, if not the most important tool of the shaman. This is because the drum enables the shaman to go into a deep trance which is vital for journeying in the Otherworld, for clearing space, for sacred dance, for calling spirits, for divination (divining the future) or getting messages from Spirits.
The mood quickly began to change, it was now aggressive. “We are going to journey to hell, to see the other side of death, but once you have conquered hell there will be nothing left for you to fear, nothing on earth or after death,” they explained.The hosts began a ritual performance of song, chanting and drumming. (Shamanic chants are used to call upon the spiritual powers beyond our visible reality).
I then found myself being thrust into what seemed to be some sort of otherworldly realm. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I did not know. I could not tell whether I was alive or dead, or whether what I was experiencing was a vision, or if it was actually happening. I lost all perception of time, and could not tell how long I had been in this state. There was no beginning and no end. My experience was one of absolute delirium and my only understanding during the ceremony was that I had been deceived, while believing that I would be trapped in this unfathomable abyss of terror, chaos and turmoil eternally.
Hebrews 6:19 tells us that hope is the anchor of the soul. Hope is the force that keeps us steady in a time of trial. Ref: Joyce Meyer | Battle Field of the Mind
It was this eternity of anguish, in a solitary place as dark as the grave, were I felt sorrow. It was because of this hopelessness, that I was overcome by distress. I felt a deep sense of regret and remorse which caused my soul to sink, and I began weeping, but only in vain. ‘By sorrow of the heart, the spirit is broken’ (Proverbs 15:13). Our ceremony ended in the early hours of Saturday morning, as the sun began to break. I was in state of confusion, unable to mentally process what had happened. After breakfast we were rushed off to the next activity (cults use mind numbing techniques like debilitating work routines which serve to supress doubts about the group and its leaders). The day would comprise of a number of Transformational workshops and talks.
Our second ceremony took place on Sunday the 17th December at 18:00. (Multiple ceremonies are usually encouraged at Ayahuasca retreats). By this stage I was exhausted from insufficient rest coupled with a busy schedule.
The hosts began their ritual performance of song, chanting and drumming. Once again I sensed an overwhelming and frightening presence of evil. My vision began to distort, the appearance of the hosts transformed, into large animal like creatures and no longer occurred to me as being human beings.
I began to hear animal-like noises in-between the chanting (hissing, howling and grunting), and a number of the people in our circle began to vomit which the hosts encouraged by knocking on the floor. The hisses seemed to echo and travel around the room, and they would sing, “The angels fall at our feet, come demons, come home children.”
I felt as helpless as a lamb, stuck in some sort of unfathomable dark, eerie wilderness, or void of absolute terror and turmoil.
The earliest known depiction of a Siberian shaman, by the Dutch Nicolaes Witsen, 17th century. Witsen called him a “priest of the Devil” and drew clawed feet for the supposed demonic qualities.
I had somehow still not managed to figure out exactly what was going on, but was terrified, knowing that I was in a great amount of danger, and that there was nothing that I would be able to do about it. I cried out for help. One of the facilitators sat beside me, and brushed over my body with a large feather saying, “Come; leave him now, he needs a break.” As she did this I experienced a brief moment of complete tranquillity and bliss, but then as she walked away and vanished, seemingly into the distance, my unthinkable nightmare began all over. I tried to close my eyes to escape the terror of what I was seeing, but as I did this I was overwhelmed with the most unfathomable, crude and detestable visions of human death, destruction and of the crucifixion; which visions were so unthinkable and nauseating that I began to purge.
In-between the chanting, they would sing; “There is only a sky above us, nothing more, no hell beneath our feet!” A dark, demonic, shadow-like figure appeared, and hissed (sounding exactly like what you would expect to hear from a serpent) at the members of our circle and began to snicker as it withdrew into one of the hosts.
I now realised that I was not at a healing retreat, but rather that this was a satanic practice and that the hosts of my ceremony to who I had so willingly entrusted my life had only intended to bring me harm through their alliance with demonic entities.
It was this very moment, in which all of my previous unbelief and doubt was shattered, and I was overwhelmed by the immensity of the truth, God is real, and our Saviour lives!!
In the midst of what can only be described as pure evil, endless terror, chaos and anarchy, I had just received the greatest gift that could ever be given, which is being able to believe with absolute certainty in Jesus Christ.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quite waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His names sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23 (NIV)
Stand firm then with the belt of truth buckled around your waist
Part 4: Road to Recovery
As I arrived at the airport, I received a call from a friend, who had also been at the retreat, but left after the first ceremony. My flight was only booked for the next day and so He had offered that I spend the evening at his house, which was close by.
As I climbed into the car, He asked; “Ryan what happened, why did you leave, are you ok?” I responded; “this is not a healing retreat, it is satanic”. He paused briefly, and with a very serious expression said, “I also had to get away, it was just too evil, did you hear the way they were howling, they sounded like animals”.
I arrived home the next day, and breathed a sigh of relief, believing that my ordeal was over. As I fell asleep I began to experience terrifying demonic nightmares. I woke later that evening in a state of delirium, and suffered from a complete psychotic meltdown. I felt as though I had somehow, mentally been thrust back into the same ceremonial void which I had experienced during the night of my ceremony, and began to hallucinate, hear noises and experience visions.
I spent the next few weeks living from day to day, trying to survive between psychotic mental breaks. I lived in fear, constantly feeling overwhelmed by a dark, evil, ever-lurking and consuming presence. My visual field would often distort and shake.
As this happened, I would experience demonic visions, hear animal-like hissing sounds and could feel my stomach muscles turn as I frightfully cringed. It was like being mentally confined to the depths of hell while physically still being on earth. The stress began to affect my physical health; I started to experience chest pains, heart palpitations and was diagnosed with stress induced gingivitis. I eventually decided to consult with a cardiologist, who was unable to find any physical fault.
I began trying to read the Gospel, but was unable to understand the context of what I was reading, or even why I was reading it. I received both counselling and prayer, but my nightmare continued. I tried to pray but was mentally overwhelmed with disturbing visions and thoughts at every attempt, and so unable to pray and in the midst of mental chaos and anarchy I would raise my hands and shout; “Jesus I love you”, in the hope that He might hear my desperate plea for help. In spite of every effort, I could just not seem to find the help, healing and guidance I was looking for.
I began to feel isolated and condemned. My mental health seemed to be getting worse and I started to perceive the world and everything in it as being evil. I felt evil and because of this I started to believe that I was condemned and that my prayers would not be answered. Had God turned away from me for good? I began to lose hope in salvation and considered seeking medical assistance. After some contemplation I realised that if I turned to the medical industry for help, I would be dependent on their medication for the rest of my life. I was just not ready to give up and decided that despite my seeming hopeless circumstances, feeling condemned, isolated and abandoned; I would continue to hope in Jesus.
I now realise that this was without any doubt the most important decision I had ever made, a true declaration of faith and the turning point in my life. Although I had lost all human reason for hope I had decided to stand firm and hope in faith!!
Quieten your spirit, open your heart and God will speak to you through the scriptures.
Angus Buchan | The booth – (Finding quiet time in the presence of the Lord)
Part 5: My life restored through faith in Jesus
2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind
Morning after morning, and throughout the day I would come aside to spend time with Jesus, in my booth. It took tremendous effort and a great deal of self-discipline at first, because I had often felt discouraged and as though I was not making any progress.
I had started a Bible reading plan, so that I could understand the context of what I was reading. I had also started reading Christian books, written by renowned authors so that I could learn how to spend time in God’s presence, how to hear the voice of the creator and how to receive His guidance and life-giving instructions.
Through persistence, this challenge which seemingly required a great deal of effort became a time of intimate fellowship and joy, and I slowly began to grow more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him.
I had started to enjoy spending time with my Saviour; in fact I looked forward to it. The Gospel became real; His Word quite literally came to life and it felt as though God would talk directly to me through His scriptures, providing a way of escape.
Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV) You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” Declares the Lord, “and I will bring you back from captivity.”
During the times when my storm was at its absolute worst, and I felt as though I was drowning, desperate and helpless, I would withdraw to a nearby nature reserve, to spend time alone with God by reading His Gospel and Christian books (Battlefield of the Mind has helped me tremendously). I would also read Psalm 91 every night. It was often during these darkest days, that I felt closest to God, surround by the peace and tranquillity of the Holy Spirit. Although I could not understand why I was still struggling and my circumstances where still so bad I could almost hear that still, small voice saying, “Trust me.”
My deliverance was not immediate, there were often days when I felt down-hearted, discouraged and even physically exhausted from the stress. I struggled with my mental health. But as I began to hunger for the deeper things of God and magnify Jesus in the midst of my storm, the chaos and anarchy slowly started to die down and wither away. My faith began to grow and little by little, God showed me the way out, until I eventually reached a safe landing.
While being faced with a number of significant challenges and writing a song called “Different”, singer/songwriter Micah Taylor said; “I kept praying Jesus can you stop these things can you stop the storms, but I am finding out that sometimes the best question is not Jesus can you change these things around me but instead God can you change me so that I can handle the things that you are walking me through, so I keep singing and praying and believing because I know that He is changing me”
As I write this, it has been exactly one year, to this very day since my ceremony and one year since I decided to follow Jesus. I am writing my testimony of a sound mind, and a grateful and loving spirit. Through faith, God has restored every aspect of my life and being. He has restored my mental and physical health to complete fullness. I believe that this great miracle of healing alone would be enough to fill any soul with gratitude; but God is loving and delights in blessing those who call upon His name.
On Friday the 13th July, while at a praise and worship evening, Rev Festus Marumo walked over to me and said; “Ryan; God has given me a word to share with you. There is something in your life that you have been working very hard for, I don’t know what it is but it is something that means a great deal to you; God wants you to know that He is going to bring this into manifestation, He is going to give it to you and He is going to give it to you now!!”
I was awarded primary care of my three year old daughter on Tuesday 17th July, after an exhausting legal process which had lasted over a year and a half. She had been taken away through addiction, an unstable relationship and was living in difficult circumstances. I went to fetch her that same afternoon.
I have almost completed the qualifications required for my chosen career. It is an academically based career that I had dreamed of for many years but was never able to achieve.
My life has been given a new meaning. It has become full and exciting, because I now have a real and living experience with Jesus Christ.
Romans 1:16 for I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes
In one of the most powerful letters ever written, Paul’s letter to the Romans, he reminds us that theGospel is the power of God unto salvation, to do the things that we do not have the power to do, like experience daily deliverance from the plagues of destruction that have been brought into our lives. That is what the Gospel provides – that is what Salvation is.
Romans 1:17 for in it [in the Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed, from faith to faith, even as it is written, the just shall live by faith
This is why the Gospel is such good news; it offers righteousness, a right standing with God, not by works, but by faith alone – “from faith to faith.” What important words. Don’t miss them. That is, totally and completely by faith, from beginning to end. Paul offers an Old Testament quote to substantiate what he is saying. It says, more accurately “for he who is righteous by faith shall live” (Habakkuk 2:4)
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians; ‘Now God has deposited with me the treasure of the Gospel’ (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Could it be that we fail to recognise the supreme value of this good news, this great treasure, this Gospel?
When we grasp the inestimable worth of our salvation, what it cost God to purchase it for us, and the infinite and eternal benefits that it provides for us, like living by faith, we won’t be able to keep from sharing it. What a great message from Paul in the book of Romans! (Ref: Dr Richard L Strauss – Good News Is For Sharing – Spiritual Gold)
Romans 10:17 “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” [the Gospel of peace]