Black magic and dodgy shamans: The dark side of Ayahuasca

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Image by Cor Gaasbeek from Pixabay

Lately I've been writing about my experiences with ayahuasca/yagé. If you've read them, you'll know that my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. Every day, my life seems to be transformed in a positive way.

While I have touched on some of the inner work I've done, I have not shared many of the finer details as it's deeply personal. And while inner work can be scary since you have to face who you truly are, I have not had any nightmare scenarios where I'm terrified and want to die or the whole thing to be over.

Yes, I get a lot of amazing, trippy visions on ayahuasca. However, it's not that common after looking online and talking to other people who've taken it. So don't think that by reading my blog, you are in for a similar treat if you decide to take it. Every night is different, every ceremony is different, everyone's experience is different, and you literally don't know what you are going to get. Remember that ayahuasca is a healer and a teacher who demands respect. If you're not prepared to take an honest look at yourself and possibly experience an 'ego death' so that you can heal and learn, then don't do it. It's not a recreational drug.


Image by @carlgnash, with permission

If you type ayahuasca into youtube and you will find numerous 'documentaries' of Westerners jetting off to South America in search of this life-changing medicine. What they get is completely different to what I've described in my posts. To be honest, if I'd seen them before going to Rythmia, I may have thought twice about going. Many of these participants face demons and experience the worst nights of their lives. If you have a ton of shit that you haven't dealt with—or pushed way down and ignored—then you will probably experience something like this, especially on the first night. It's also likely you won't be able to move on until you've dealt with it. I've heard of people getting stuck in loops until they've got the lesson Mama Aya is trying to teach. Only after you've faced your inner darkness does she show you the sweetness.

That said, what if the fear you see is not coming from your own mind but something external? When should you "go into your fear", as Gerry Powell of Rythmia says, and when should you be extremely cautious? It's a good question and one that's not talked about nearly enough.

As ayahuasca tourism has exploded in recent years, so too has the number of scammers and fake shamans who don't have your best interest at heart. Sit in the wrong ceremony and not only may you face a repressed memory you don't know how to deal with, but you might also be attacked by black magic. Both can affect your mental state for a long time afterwards. First, if you are not in a place where you can process your trauma—which is where Rythmia shines since they have trained psychologists on staff who can help you between ceremonies if required—ayahuasca is likely to fuck you up more. And second, what do you do if you've been infected by a negative entity that's now attached itself to you?

A friend of mine has been involved in organising yagé ceremonies for quite a while and has told me several stories, all with the same theme. People have come to her after drinking medicine who now have mental and/or energetic problems because a shaman 'did something to them' during ceremony. Removing these entities is a process in its own right.


Image by Mustafa Alpaslan from Pixabay

Jonathan Evatt wrote a very detailed review of how unscrupulous shamans can negatively and seriously affect your wellbeing. If you are thinking of taking ayahuasca/yagé, you should absolutely read this so you're not going in blindly, as most people do. And if you think he's making it all up, then I encourage you to read through the hundred or so comments at the bottom of his post.

Evatt argues that the majority of shamans in Peru, in particular, have at least some mal-intent towards participants. Building on this, I have it on good authority that black magic is practised by many 'shamans' around Iquitos, who are looking to cash in on the ayahuasca trade. So what is driving this growth in bad/fake shamans? The usual suspects of course: money, influence and power. Just like their Western counterparts (aka, doctors) Indigenous healers are not immune to the ego boost and status that come with being a recognised healer. They are still human after all. Alternatively, anyone with access to the plants, some accommodation, and basic website skills can set up a 'retreat' and market themselves as a shaman, regardless of their background, knowledge and intent.

Real or fake, shamans are making all kinds of promises to unsuspecting gringos wandering the streets of Iquitos (and now further afield), looking to fill the void that our materialistic, consumption-driven lives have left so many of us with. These days, it's almost impossible to tell which shamans are the real deal, and which are seeking to make a quick buck.

I have a friend in Peru at the time of writing, who I will use as an example of why ayahuasca can be so dangerous. She messaged me earlier saying that the owner and shaman at this '#1 rated retreat' are practising black magic. The first ceremony was full of first timers except for her and her friend. However, both of them realised things weren't quite right when the staff didn't even do something as basic as sage smudging, and things went downhill from there. The shaman and the assistants refused to help anyone, even those calling out in terror. Then adding to the already abundant fear in the maloka, the shaman sang icaros with dark messages. My friend speaks enough Spanish, which many tourists do not, and could tell they were not songs of healing. My friend also felt the shaman trying to insert a psychic dart into her. She held it off thanks to her light being stronger than his dark, and because she only took one cup and thus, was not fully under the influence of the medicine. She left in disgust the next morning. Her friend only stayed because he's paid for a week's worth of food and accommodation. However, he has not participated in any more ceremonies saying it's just not worth the risk.

I have another friend who told me about a retreat in Mexico. In that one, three people left the day after the first ceremony, convinced the shamans were practising black magic and appearing as demons to them. I don't have any further information on this one, except it adds to my message of 'be careful'.


Image by Prettysleepy2 from Pixabay

Ayahuasca absolutely opens up portals to other realms and dimensions—and no, it is not all love and light. Dark entities exist and some shamans actively work with them to feed off the fear of ceremony participants. If you are not operating in a high state of vibration to begin with, then these low vibration energies/entities can attach themselves to you. Even if you are strong, you still might not be a match for black magic.

A shaman's job to create and hold a sacred space during ceremony and keep the participants safe. This begs the question, how do you find a trustworthy shaman? At the very least, do some googling, although given the glowing reports of this retreat in Peru, I wonder how useful even that is. What kind of magic is the shaman doing that so many people are willing to give it such a high rating?

For me, talking to people who've drunk a particular shaman's medicine is the best way to make an assessment, although I realise that can be difficult. Simple questions like What was your experience like? Did you feel safe with that shaman/those shamans? What about the other people in ceremony? Did anyone leave after the first night? Why? These are good questions to start with. You should also ask these questions. The more information you have, the better.

I would also look at what the different retreats are offering. Are they just serving ayahuasca/yagé or do they offer other plant medicines like San Pedro, Peyote, DMT, etc. and frog poisons (Sapo/Kambo)? If it's the latter, approach with caution. These medicines all work differently and you shouldn't chop and change between them without allowing time for integration. Furthermore, legit trained shamans typically only work with one entheogen and are definitely not experts in all of them. So naïve Westerners think they are getting a good deal by going to a one-stop shop and taking something different every night. At best, they are cheating themselves out of the healing/lessons each medicine has to offer. At worst and they are putting themselves in the hands of an inexperienced shaman.

From my own extensive research, I was confident that Rythmia offered a safe space to take Ayahuasca/yagé. Although it's run by Westerners for Westerners, they take their work very seriously. All the shamans have received at least 12 years of training from a specific Indigenous lineage and make their own medicine. This means they know exactly what's in it, including the intentions and icaros that go into each brew. Each week, 80-100 people show up and almost no one leaves without completing all four ceremonies. I've never heard anyone mention black magic and Rythmia in the same sentence and there are literally hundreds of positive testimonies online.

Similarly, I did my research when I drunk with the Colombian taitas (shamans) that came to Panama in May. I couldn't find any bad press on the shamans. Furthermore, the organisers answered all my questions, and genuinely cared about the people that were coming to ceremony. Their honesty and commitment to creating a safe space is even more obvious to me now that I've gotten to know them better.

I will be drinking with a different Colombian taita next weekend. In the lead-up, I have spoken to several people who've attended his previous ceremonies and I feel comfortable with my decision to sit with him. I know the organisers and I know the shaman makes his own medicine. Of course, since this will be my first time with him, there's still a risk. However, I do feel like I've done my homework.


Image by Simon Matzinger from Pixabay

What about drinking by yourself?

Given what I've said above, you may be thinking that drinking ayahuasca on your own is the way to go. The short answer is no. If you're by yourself and you go to a dark place, no one can pull you out. This is dangerous and could leave you with serious mental issues/suicidal thoughts. My favourite aya blogger, Tina 'Kat' Courtney, goes into more detail about it here.

What about drinking with your mates?

"If you sit with someone who pours and hopes for the best, you are at risk of facing energies that neither of you are equipped to handle." Tina 'Kat' Courtney

Like drinking alone, drinking with your hippy mates who've done ayahuasca a few times won't help either if you get into serious trouble. One of the worst stories I've seen online on how not to take ayahuasca is here. This woman basically did everything wrong and the people she was with were reckless. You can scroll through the comments to find out why.

Similarly, if your mate says "just neck it and listen to Bob Marley", which someone did say to another friend of mine, then walk away. This person doesn't have a clue or any respect for the plants. (Thankfully my friend didn't follow his advice.)

I cannot stress the importance of having a good and experienced shaman to guide you if you decide to take ayahuasca. However, knowing who to trust is becoming increasingly difficult. The best way is to find people who know/have worked with the shaman/s you're considering. At the very least, try to talk to someone has attended their ceremonies. And if all that fails, save up and go to Rythmia.


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What a sobering article, choo.... But I guess this is kind of come with the territory of having a boom in any industry. It is sad that there are 'healers' who are not out to look after people but who are after the same things we in the capitalistic world are plagued with. But naturally, such things make sense.

I am glad that you did all of your research first, carefully and with great care, before you undertake your ceremonies, and I think, having read your entries, the results clearly show that, with informed decision makers, the ceremonies' returns can be really rewarding.

As usual, I find your article very easy to read and full with positive flow. I hope others who are interested in braving ayahuasca/yage ceremonies will heed your words :)

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Yeah, the same could be said for a bunch of traditional Indigenous/Eastern practices. Yoga comes to mind, which has been totally integrated into Western culture now, but mostly without the original Sanskrit/spiritual meanings. However, yoga is obviously far less dangerous for your mental health! And I to be honest, I like where Western practitioners have taken it (aerial, acro, etc.).

Did you see my last aya post? I think you were on hiatus when I published that one. I loved that night (although I love all my nights).

I need to check your blog actually and see how your zodiac series is going. I took a week off social media.

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O i must have missed it cuz i was away > __ < i will check now for sure ! thanks for letting me know that I might have missed one <3333333

A break is always good, from time to time :D Glad you are back, though <3!

You’ve been visited by @porters on behalf of Natural Medicine!

Thanks for bringing this to peoples attention! I think that not just for ceremonies with ayahuasca, but any place like that where you are opening yourself up to forces, it's best to act on the cautious side and be sure you are with someone who can keep you safe and on the right path!

Consider supporting Natural Medicine through continued use of the #naturalmedicine tag, or delegating any amount through clicking below. We're all for empowerment through natural wisdoms, and love to support those on their healing journey. Come join us on Discord if you're not already there! We'd love to have you.

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It's a really important topic. I'm trying to help an Australian friend of mine find a safe place at the moment, given the cost of Rythmia. It's so hard. There are just so many dodgy shamans around now. Hence, my inspiration for this post.

Hey @choogirl, taking ayahuasca is not to taken lightly. I feel so sorry for anyone who goes to a sham session etc. Scary.

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Fully upvoted because I love shamans !!!

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Thanks! The good ones are awesome, the bad ones, not so much...


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There's dodgy practitioners of everything everywher x_x one of the guys in my last kung fu group told me about this tai chi person they knew who would teach chikung, and then stand behind people in a similar pose and the person in front would collapse.

My instant reaction was...well let's just say I was somewhat mad. Advised friend to bail and suggest everyone else in that particular group do likewise. Gung ho young stupid me probably wanted to fight the guy too but while I could probably have spiked him good I would have got my arse kicked because I'm definitely not a tai chi master xD

Bastiches give everyone a bad name >_<

Anyway was great that you got good experiences and thought to put out the warning for other people wanting to give it a go too :)

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Lol. Now I have this vision of you standing there with "spirit goat" ready to fight.

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Lol. That's awesome.

Yes this is with almost all the life altering therapies where if you have a lot of stored shit it just pulls you off completely, but I am sure with Mama Aya it must be very strong. One my friend who did it, for the first night she had very scary visions and she was only crying all through out the session. Experience is surely personally depending on individual life journey. Thank you for sharing.

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Yeah crying is very common. There's always someone in tears! I cried all my first night and well into the next day. I was good after that though and I wasn't having scary visions. I hope your friend is ok and has benefited from the experience.

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Yes she is doing fine. She felt very free after that. The shaman also helped her a lot, in the Shaman's face also she could see a tiger roaring out. She was ok after he played some music for her. But after the whole experience she feels very much liberated.

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That's good! That's what supposed to happen.

Seems like this could also be a very dangerous thing. Good to have someone to accompanion you. But i think you really need to trust this person. Stay safe!

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Not if you're in the right environment. It's amazing and beautiful if you are with the right shaman/s. I would not go to Iquitos for ayahuasca though, that place does seem toxic and dangerous.

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Another thing i heard is that some people need to throw up after they drank ayahuasca. They feel somehow sick. Did you experience this?

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Oh yeah, there is a lot of purging that goes on while you're on it. You don't vomit once it wears off though.

You'd think with these sort of experience, you'd at least find a place recommended by a friend so you know you're not putting yourself in safe hands. Even though the actual experience may differ from person to person, at least you know what you're drinking and help is at hand if required.

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Yes. But sadly, many people don't do enough research, or they go somewhere and that place doesn't offer the support and training you need to get the most of out ayahuasca. Like I said, it's getting harder and harder to work out which retreats are ok and which aren't. I'm trying to help an Australian friend find somewhere at the moment since Rythmia is very expensive. It's turning out to be a nightmare.

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It sounds like some of those shamans are starting to show their true colours. I was told by someone who's visited various countries in South America since the 70's that Ayahuasca never used to be seen as a healing tonic in the way it's used now, it was used mainly by shamans to "see" things that weren't able to be seen in a normal state. The healing aspect seems to have been packaged into the experience mostly for the tourist dollar.

Tribal battles were common and the shamans from each village would wage war against each other on the spiritual plane as well as the earthly plane. They would use Ayahuasca to send poison darts to other shamans and enemies and unscrupulous shamans would use it to attack anyone they didn't like, some of them just hate gringos.

That's why intentions are so powerful & you tend to get what you expect or need from Ayahuasca if you prepare for it the right way. As you said random results are common if you don't focus on your intent when you go into the experience. When it's coming from someone who puts a loving healing vibe into it and they are genuine caring people, more than 9 times out 10 that's exactly what you will get.

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Yeah, I've heard that too. Only people with serious disease were given the medicine back in the day. I also think they amp up the hallucinogenic components now as well, to please the participants, who generally pay a lot to retreats to take it. That said, I've also heard that many Indigenous shamans have been given permission by the plants to take this medicine to the West because we need it if we are to stop the destructive path we are on, which affects everyone. So perhaps, this is part of the evolution path? I don't know.

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I've heard similar things from local shamans, if that's even an appropriate way to label them. One guy makes jokes that he has a TAFE certificate 2 in shamanism. Jokes aside they tend to think that there is a need that is becoming more urgent for people to wake up to our destructive ways and Ayahuasca is helping a lot of people to wake up.

After all my experiences with Ayahuasca and DMT I feel that they are the vessel of a message (spirit?) that's been encoded into all life and the message seems to have its own intelligence as though civilisation follows a predictable path and then comes to a crisis point where the message needs to be headed or all will be lost. The last few times I received the "message" it seemed a lot more urgent than it did 10 years ago.

If there ever was a time when when this world needed Ayahuasca now would be that time.

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Lol. A level 2 certificate in shamanism. That's awesome.

Yes, Aya totally carries the message of spirit. I get that everytime, regardless of what else I see/get. Interesting the difference in urgency you've got between 10 years ago and now.

Sounds pretty dangerous If you meet the wrong people who want to manipulate you. You really need someone you can trust 100%.

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