My relationship with San Pedro has been one of love and fear. I visit with him about once per semester and have experienced from it the most powerful healings. I shared in this blog my first encounter (read about it here) where I was shown the bliss of love and the mystic beauty of nature and my second one… a mixed plants ceremony w aya and peyote (read about it here) where I was able to heal several phobias… and another encounter where he decided to visit during my Aya journey and took me out of this world in a 36hrs cosmic trip to Sirius planet (read about it here).
Last week I took several newbies down to the Sacred Valley of Vilcabamba, south of Ecuador, to experience this powerful medicine and was faced with the all too frequent questions: what should I expect? Is it similar or different from Ayahuasca? So I decided to write this long overdue post about the similarities and differences between these two medicines that I have come to love so much
SP journeying lasts significantly longer than Aya, about 8-16 hrs vs 4-7 hrs, It`s taste is nothing easy to swallow, earthy tones or what you would expect a cactus to taste like; I find it however significantly less disgusting than Aya which can be either extremely bitter (when just recently brewed) or have the most disgusting sweet/rotten undertones (gagging here…) . The SP cactus grows in the Andes mountains, it likes the intense sun and moisture of the highlands and was traditionally consumed during the day (only after the Spanish conquistadors arrived was it turned into a night ceremony thing) and it traditionally entails a social, outward sharing ceremony around the fire that at some points feels like a community celebration. Ayahuasca on the other hand, thrives in the heat and humidity of the jungle and is traditionally (in Ecuador) set in a ceremony in pitch black darkness, and expected as a solo/deep inward journey.
After one hour or so of consuming Aya you are most likely going to feel and know you are under its influence… With SP it`s not unusual for the inexperienced to mistakenly think they are not under its influence for a few hours before realizing “something is off” its beginning can be so much more subtle….As for purging, About 75% of people will throw up with Aya… in SP I find it to be about 30% of people, shaking and trembling are much more frequently encountered ways of purging with the cactus… In addition (and in most likely higher doses), I have seen what I call the “the SP freak out effect” on about 30% of people…. It’s like a purging of emotions where you feel like someone has drop over you years’ worth of locked emotions and you feel them uncontrollably running through you leading to a very characteristic “freaking out” face in the poor soul experiencing it…. Sometimes I tell people: with ayahuasca you are more likely to purge physically; with SP you are more likely to purge emotions….
Most of the time SP visions happen with your eyes open, as a slow but certain “blending of dimensions”: when fixating the eyes in either the fire, or any other pattern is not unusual to have it come to life in the strangest of visions… It`s not unlikely to continue to receive visions and messages during sleep or meditative time for days after its consumption.
I also personally find SP to be less communicative and prone to explaining things than Aya… personally this was initially the biggest turn off for me with this plant, I felt a little bit left alone to deal with the experience with no guidance… I missed the reassurance and confidence the “wise voice” gives me in my Aya journeys…. I think that is just not his style… I’ve heard him a just a few times… the very first one when I was going through the “freak out SP emotional purge” and screamed internally to ask for help and guidance (just a bit complaining about not having such and asking is there no guide here? Is there no one to explain this to me?” he answered: “you tell me” letting it be clear he expected me to figure things out for myself…..)
The wild card factor
Another thing that has made my relationship with the SP cactus to hold a significant amount of respect and borderline fear to it, is what I would call “the wild card factor”….I find Aya to be very predictable, with variations of the degrees of intensity 97% of people will pretty much have similar experiences… visions/purging/etc….. (And there will be 2 in a 100 that will react in tremendously unexpected ways……) With SP I find this wild card factor of the “unbelievably unexpected” reactions to be much more frequent.. .. Maybe a 20-30% of the time someone would go wild…. Or in about 20-30% of the times it would make me go act in so very much unexpected ways; under its influence I have almost punched a 2 meters man in his face (I used all the willpower in the world and a freezing cold shower to barely stop myself), thrown myself out to my husband (at a time when we were barely talking for at least a year…) and attempted (thanks God my husband stopped me) to get rid of my clothes in a very public ceremony….. (I`m a VERY modest person otherwise); It is not without reason that I approach this plant so unfrequently (vs. Aya) and with the upmost of fear and respect, but I also believe I’m in that small percentage of people that gets very affected by it and that this may not the normal effect it has on people…..
I`ve said it before: nothing can prepare you for your first encounter with this sacred plant, or for that matter for your second, third etc ;). In my most recent journey I explained to him that I wanted to have a trust/loving relationship with him, and asked for the grace to get to hear him or meet him… It didn’t happened in the ceremony, but he came over in a dream in the posterior days like a very sweet old grandfather that lovingly took care of me: found me in the cold, put a blanket on me, fixed up a hot beverage and some food for me and when I saw it, I was surprised he knew about my dairy intolerance and ask him how did you know? He put on a warm smile and said “I know” … sweet, loving San Pedro grandpa… he knows…