As I indicated in my last post, I have recently completed a seven-ceremony, sixteen-day dieta. This dieta was held in a beautiful, new maloka about 30 kms out of Pucallpa, just off the only road out of Pucallpa which leads to Lima.
The maloka is situated at the end of a peninsula that leads into a small lake, which is a fish farm. After ceremony, it is possible to sit on a verandah overlooking the lake, gazing upwards to the stars and downwards to their reflections in the water.
In the words of the lovely, poetic, ceremonial song ‘Agua de Estrellas’, which you can listen to here:
“En tos ojos de aqua infinita se bañan les estrellitas……. mamá” (In your eyes of infinite water, the little stars bathe……. mother)
We share the maloka with many creatures. As my first ceremony was coming to an end, and the singing in the maloka died down, I became conscious of much rustling, twittering, and the occasional fluttering above me in the roof, which is a traditional construction of palm leaves. At first, I thought this was insects, but later I learnt, when I saw their excrement around me in the first light of day, that they were bats. That also made sense of my experience of feeling that small objects had been falling on me during ceremony.
As I listened intently to the noise made by the bats, I sensed they were wanting to communicate with me. Our short conversation went as follows:
Bat(s): “Take to the hills.”
Me: “I’m too old for that now.”
Bat(s): “Well then, tell your children!”
I have had a number of ceremonies where I have sensed and seen some form of coming apocalpyse, which, given the current state of the world, seems a definite possibility. In fact, a few ceremonies later, when I felt myself to be in and part of a much greater field of consciousness, I had a strong sense, which I have felt before, that something was coming, which would hugely disrupt this field.
A further two ceremonies later, whilst sitting on the verandah looking at the stars on a particularly clear night, I asked my friend who was running the dieta, if he had a similar experience(s). He replied in the affirmative. He said he had no idea what might be coming and when it might come but he had sensed for a number of years that something was on its way and that the pulse of everything was quickening.
We agreed that there was no shortage of candidates for one or more of the four horsemen: famine, serious disruption to food supplies, war, nuclear war, new forms of disease(s), environmental disasters due to climate change, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, misguided geo-engineering, even the open appearance of extraterrestials.
As the Irish poet W.B. Yates concludes in his poem, ‘The Second Coming’, written almost a century ago in 1919:
“Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
And what rough beast, its hour come around at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
Accordingly, I wrote to my two sons with this message from the bats. I felt reassured by their responses. Without being fearful, anxious or paranoid, in their different ways and according to where they were each living, they were taking measures to deal with this possibility – if indeed it can be dealt with. One of my sons made the good point that the best way to deal with this is to be part of a strong, mutually supportive and resilient community, which brought to mind the work of the Transition Movement.
As the dieta went on, I enjoyed listening to the bats during ceremony, and even being shat on occasionally by them, which I imagined as a kind of annointing.
My fifth ceremony was particularly intense. The mareación (the word used in Spanish to describe the state of being that one enters into after drinking ayahuasca) was very strong and long-lasting. At some point, when I was lying down and concentrating on the visual patterns that the Shipibo call kené, I realised that the bats were taking me to their palace. As we approached, it was full of intense white light, such that I could not make out its details or get closer to it.
Then the bats showed me their Temple. This was in the form of patterned, geometric, hexagonal and octagonal images, mainly in different shades of green, that were constantly changing and turning themselves inside out. The interesting thing was there seemed to be an absence at the center of the Temple, as if the bats were also awaiting the ‘Second Coming’ – that is, a force to guide them.
When I spoke later with a friend about this, she pointed out that bats had been associated in the Middle Ages with witchcraft, and that the whole tradition of healing magic, especially as practiced by women, of which bats were an important element, had been crushed by the Inquisition amongst others.
This interesting article about bats, magic and folk medicine states that: “In 1332, Lady Jacaume of Bayonne in France was publicly burned because “crowds of bats” were seen about her house and garden”.
I asked my Shipibo teacher what was the significance of bats for the Shipibos. In reply, he told me an interesting story.
He said that in the past, if a young man wanted to sleep with his girlfriend, without being married to her, he could do the following:
He had to go to the river just before dawn and club one of the bats flying there with an oar. The bat then had to fall into the water, dead, with its face up in the water – otherwise the actions he then had to do would not work. He then had to carefully and respectfully wrap the dead bat in his bag, carry the dead bat with him all morning and fast until midday. In the night, he could then go to the house where his girlfriend lived and slept in one room with her parents, quietly walk to the mosquito net under which the parents were sleeping and hang a thread there. This would enable him to make love to his girlfriend without the parents waking.
These experiences with bats recall previous experiences I have had with mosquitoes. In one of my early ceremonies on this dieta, I was taken to pay homage at the altar of the mosquitoes, which was full of light and exquisitely beautiful – I don’t think the mosquito spirit king is granting me any more audiences since I failed in my attempt to stop killing mosquitoes.
When I was with the bats too, I saw that, although they eat mosquitoes, along with other small night-flying bugs, the mosquitoes are actually allied with them. They are more like brothers than enemies. I had the sense that the mosquitoes willingly sacrifice themselves for the good of the greater whole, which is the functioning of the eco-system to create maximum diversity. For this reason, they are amongst Gaia’s most loved and faithful servants.
One of the descriptions that I like very much of Madre Ayahuasca is that she is an inter-species communicator – that is she can enable contact, conversations and learning between different species. We do plant dietas to help us learn from the plant spirits. Writing this now, makes me wonder something that has never occurred to me before – what are the plant spirits learning from us? (If you have an answer to this, please comment below.)
Part of me is amused that, rather than be in contact with the classical, high-status megafauna of the ayahuasca spirit world, such as jaguars and boas, I engage with mosquitoes and bats. At the same time, I feel privileged to be granted this contact. I hope it won’t go away for writing about it!
(Image above found at: http://wisdomoftheanimals.com/animal_totems/Bat_animal_totem.html)
This experience with bats led me to investigate them further, especially their shamanic role. I was surprised and pleased to find that there is a lot of interesting information about this.
I particularly like the passage below, which comes from this interpretation of medicine cards:
“Tribal teachings say that you are responsible for future generations because you are the ancestors of the future. Whatever you do today will affect the next seven generations.
Every decision, every thought, is to create a state of stagnation or rebirth for those that follow you on the Good Red Road. If you are blocking yourself, you may be blocking the generations to come.
Bat flies at night, and in the night are born your dreams. These are the dreams that build future civilizations, so nourish them well.”
Further good information about bat medicine can be found in the three links below: