The Many Faces of Madre Ayahuasca
Since I first met her just over three years ago, Madre Ayahuasca has appeared to me in a number of guises. I first knew her as an old crone with a face full of warts. I subsequently realized she was appearing to me this way because I had been rude about her in an article I had written, which, following a description I had found, compared her taste to that of “being produced by boiling a toad and putting it in a blender”.
After I had tried to repair my relationship with her by giving her tobacco, she then came to me as a slender, featureless young girl, dancing in spiral movements through the worlds she inhabited. As I got to know her better, and she became more formless – but still a distinct and strong presence – I appreciated the way she combined a profoundly benign with an exacting, no-nonsense, demanding nature. She would often tell me to sit up and not lie down. One day, after many attempts to fully enter and stay within her realm, and when I was feeling a level of comfort, stability and security there, she turned to me and asked me: “OK you have managed to get here. But what are you doing here?”
I quickly understood I did not have an adequate response. To answer in terms of my own learning and development was by no means good enough and curiosity was even worse. It took me months to find an answer.
Much later, when I was determined to free myself from the confines of my mind, the answer suddenly came to me: “I was looking for God”. I rushed to find Madre Ayahuasca to tell her. She was a tiny old woman tending plants in a small plot, dressed in traditional, bright-coloured, Shipibo clothing. I eagerly told her my answer. She said nothing but gave me a withering look, as if to say: “Really, that was the best I could come up with”.
Crestfallen, I sat down beside her and watched her in silence looking after the plants in her garden. Finally, she turned to me and said that as I had now known her for an extended period of time she would allow me to enter kindergarten classes with her.
The next few days I was really excited. I was imagining kindergarten classes with Madre Ayahuasca like the Waldorf kindergarten my sons had attended – beautiful wooden curves, soft coloured cloths billowing in a light breeze, tadpoles in aquariums and trays of little plants and seedlings. The night of the first class arrived. I got myself ready to receive Madre Ayahausca’s teachings, which I thought would be about ‘plantitas’ and ‘animalitos’ (little plants and animals). And the theme of the first class was………the holocaust………..followed by the horrors of war. Never let it be said that Madre Ayahuasca does not have a sense of humor.
Later she said to me: “Look you have to stop being so naïve: I need people around me who can look fully in the face of everything that is happening in the world”.
Another time, months later, I was wondering in a chocolate-coloured, cartoon-like world, which looked like it had been designed by Wal-Mart’s chief architect. I started to think how much I did not like this world and wishing instead for a world like an Alex Grey or Pablo Amaringo painting. A voice, possibly Madre Ayahuasca’s, told me not to judge the way her world was appearing to me.
As I continued walking through this world, it changed into an Afro-Brazilian slum with half-ruined buildings and garbage in the streets. I came across a dilapidated, two-storey, old stone building with an open entrance and stone staircase leading up to the first floor from the street. There was a jukebox outside. A prostitute was draped against the jukebox. She was black, voluptuous and oozing sensuality, looking for clients. Slightly shocked, I realized it was Madre Ayahuasca. She beckoned me up the stairs. As I climbed them, I understood that she would be in the room above to receive me. I could see and feel an intense, sheer white radiance coming from the room above, which was just too much to bear and I had to retreat down the stairs.
Shortly after this, I had a similar experience with her. One night, I saw that an airplane was arriving and landed on a runway near me. The door of the aircraft opened, some stairs unfolded from the door to the ground, and a guard of honor descended, flanking the two sides where the door met the ground. I saw that an important person was going to come out of the plane. It was madre ayahuasca. Again I felt her radiance and knew that I was still not ready to see her in her full beauty and splendour. With that realization, and without her appearing, the guard of honour ascended back into the airplane, the stairs were hauled up, the door shut, and the plane took off. I thanked her for dropping in to see me.
Gratitude is always the best response to her.