Vine of the Soul: 7:: Rebirth

Illustration by my friend, Abraxas

Another ceremony, another day. I have been with the Medicine now for a few hours, listening to the wisdom she offers. She tells me things that give me a deeper understanding of the world, the universe, myself. Many of these I remember later and write down, but many more slip away like the edges of dreams.

At some point during these conversations, I become aware that one of my Spirit Helpers, Snake, is present. My Guides are always in my awareness, but this is different. This feels more physical, more real, as if a large snake is in the room with me. As I begin to focus on this sensation, I feel as though Snake is inside me, perhaps in or on top of my belly. My vision dims and I seem to be seeing through grey scales. Grandmother tells me that transformation is coming.

Snake, with scales and ridged belly muscles begins to undulate through me. I FEEL him, and I know that he FEELS me. We are very aware of each other and the sensations of being together in one body. He stretches, tests, writhes, expands. It is painful, this merging. Grandmother whispers to me, “find the beauty in the pain”, and I focus on her instruction. Snake expands until all of his body fits within all of my body from foot to neck. I feel Snake’s head trying to push through the narrow passage of my neck and jaw. This is very laborious, and I feel it is an impossibility.

“Unhinge your jaw, sister”, the Medicine whispers. I ponder this. Snake begins to unhinge his own jaw, to make his large head more flexible for this final aspect of our merge. I observe the process, amazed. Can I do that? I try to loosen my jaw. Recently, jaw clenching  has become a habit for me. The Medicine gently reminds me that a locked jaw is good for nothing. One cannot eat, breathe, speak or transform with a locked jaw.

I work at it. I loosen my mouth, I tilt back my head. My ego tells me that my behavior may look strange and I cover my upper body and face with my silk pashmina. The privacy this affords me lets me focus on my task. I breathe, stretch, open my jaw, my throat. I feel Snake pushing through, eager to “see” though our soon to be shared eyes. It hurts, and my eyes fill up with tears from the effort. Finally, finally he pushes through. The relief is immense. I take a deep breath and tears flow down my cheeks. I feel Snake wanting to see with his new set of eyes. I open my own cautiously, still under the cover of my shawl. I sit up, lift the edge of the fabric and gaze around the room…

It is intense, vivid, colorful. This shared vision is amazing. I see details and patterns I have never before noticed. I scan slowly from left to right and back again. Eventually I cover my face again, aware that I have been scanning the room in an intense and strange way. My ego tells me to stop being weird. I lie down again and Snake and I explore our newly merged body. He is amazed by my hands and arms and moves them. I am thrilled with his strong belly muscles and I roll them.  Snake will never again be outside of me, we are forever merged. We explore our new merge for a while.

“Unhinge your jaw, sister”, Grandmother says again, abruptly bringing my awareness away from the exploration of my new snaky body. I am confused at first, wondering why I must do this again. I begin to feel contractions in my low belly, a tightening of the strong snake muscles. I open my jaw again, as best I can. The belly muscles ripple from the root upward through my body in deep spasms. I cannot breathe, my body tightens and turns rigid. My eyes stream tears of pain and effort. Finally, in a rush of the out breath, I release what my body worked so hard to expel. I am amazed when nothing solid exits my mouth- this purge is purely energetic.

Over and over my body spasms then contorts with deep gripping contractions that feel like reverse childbirth. Over and over I release energetic matter from deep within my body. This is hard, I gasp for breath and cry in between spasms. My tears are both from pain and effort and of happiness; I am deeply grateful for this cleansing release. Around me in the room, a man sings a gentle love song on his guitar. Another brother plays a giant didgeridoo, which sounds like a bull elephant. Fantastic. I continue my energetic purging for several hours, long after most have left the community area. Gracias, Madre. This is healing…

Psychological trauma has long been treated by shamans using spiritual ceremonies and plant entheogens. Guillermo Arrevalo, a Shipibo murailias (master) shaman, had this response when asked if European and American cultures are suffering from spiritual and psychological crisis: “That’s what I see. It is clear among many people. Indeed, many of them also suffer from depression. Others are enslaved by their work. Others are hooked into materialism and they have been neglectful of the spiritual part of themselves. Many of them have been badly treated by their family. They suffer emotionally from this, often from their father’s behavior toward them. This happens both to Europeans and Americans—this depression.”

Ana Llamazares, Argentine anthropologist, researcher and professor has much to say about Western spiritual disconnect in her article “The Wounded West”. “Materialistic reductionism—i.e. the conviction that the world is only the narrow slice of material reality—has worsened our existential situation. The consciousness of interconnectivity, of our natural participation in the web of life and in the cosmic order, is only possible if we transcend the immediate dimension of the material and access other subtler levels of reality and perception.” Llamares goes on to state that the Western life view of separateness ultimately creates feelings of “anguish, anxiety, depression, fear, abandonment, and a long list of psychophysical manifestations, from the now common stress to the increasingly frequent degenerative diseases and cardiovascular conditions.”

[Author's Note: My purpose in these writings is to share my 
personal experiences. I am not suggesting that working with plant 
entheogens is an appropriate path for everyone. In fact, I caution anyone who wishes to work with these plants to do so only after 
great consideration. All people considering this path of 
exploration should work diligently to find authentic healers to 
work with. Persons with addiction issues, those who have been 
diagnosed with mental illness and people with deep emotional 
issues should work directly with healers who have the knowledge 
and professional background to address after-effects that may 
arise from this profound work. The magnificent artwork on this 
post was made for me by a friend, Abraxas, after listening to my story.]

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