San Pedro Ceremony - Day One.

The San Pedro experience was going to be a "most of the day" thing.

Unlike the plant medicine ayahuasca, we would be ingesting the San Pedro ("huachuma") first thing in the morning, at about 8:00am.

The morning of the first ceremony I woke up reluctantly. The altitude sickness was still affecting me - with heavy breathing simply from walking around in my room. I hadn't slept well since arriving in Cusco days before, and that was an unusual experience for me. I am always a good sleeper.

I showered. Put in my contacts. Brushed my teeth. Pulled on leggings and a lounge-y mini dress. Comfort was going to be key. We would all be sitting on a hardwood floor, with a blanket and pillows, for hours.

The ceremony was to take place in the yoga studio at the retreat center.  Lucky for me, it was right next to my room. I shared a small garden space with it.

I walked into the room a few minutes before our start time. The shamans were already there, as were a few other guests.

Of those attending, most - like me - had not done San Pedro before. But with the exception of two people, we had all done ayahuasca with the shaman (Mal) leading the group.

Whenever you meet someone who has attended a Blue Morpho retreat, you instantly fall into comfort with them. Those who have been through the shamanic and plant medicine experience have an approachability about them. They understand the impact energy between people and a space has on them. They've connected to that profound sense of "oneness." And they respect it greatly.

I knew two of the fellows attending the same retreat already. I had met them at my first ayahuasca tour in January of 2014. They were younger than me, but had actually attended the same university as me. (Go Wildcats! Beardown!) I hugged them both when I saw them the first day. They - like me - had developed a love of the shamanic experience combined with plant medicines. So much so that one had decided to pursue the path of the ayahuascero. A shaman who works with ayahuasca. The other had decided to quit a very lucrative job in the tech field to disconnect from a "go, go, go" and "money, money, money" mindset.

They and others eventually filtered into the room.

I found it odd to be getting ready for the plant medicine at the start of day. With ayahuasca, you took your medicine, sat back in the dark, closed your eyes, and let the medicine reveal what it needed to for you.

But with San Pedro, you had light and Sunshine as an external factor. I worried that I would be too distracted by these to focus on my meditation.

Also... I was worried about the purging experience.

I had read a book the first few days in Cusco about the San Pedro experience. In it, the people interviewed talked about the purging they experienced. For the most part, everyone had a story of vomiting.  And despite Mal telling us that San Pedro was gentler than ayahuasca (which didn't make me purge by vomiting - except once), I was still worried.

There were no buckets by our mats. The two "banos" were outside in the entryway of the studio. And there were only two. Mal told us that we likely wouldn't vomit. But if we did feel the need, feel free to "fertilize the garden."


The ceremony began with Mal whistling an icaro (medicine song) into the Inca Kola bottle that contained the San Pedro brew.  It had been made over a period of three days, and only with a specific part of the cactus. By making it with a specific part, we were told, it was going to be more gentle.

The recipe for it had come from a man I had read about in the book a few days before. He had trained other San Pedro shamans, and had a gentle ease about him. (We got to briefly meet him a few days later.)

Once Mal finished, we each went up one-by-one to receive our medicine. Similar to the ayahuasca ceremony, we each sat before him while he whistled an icaro into our cup.

"How much ayahuasca do you normally take, Heather?" he asked before pouring my cup.

"About an eighth," I said.

He poured the San Pedro up to three quarters full of the small plastic cup, and then sang my icaro. I closed my eyes while he did it.

I realized I hadn't "taken medicine" from Mal personally in over a year. At my last ayahuasca tour, the Peruvian shaman (Don Alberto) had poured each of my cups.

When he finished, I open my eyes and thanked him. I took my cup back to my blanket. I waited for everyone else to receive their cup.

When we all had them, we said "Salud!" to each other and threw it back.

The brew looked like apple juice, but thicker and gelatinous. It tasted like pure alcohol... Which made sense, since the San Pedro cactus is mescaline.

I rather liked it.

"It's way better than ayahuasca," I said to the two women next to me.

They looked at me like I was crazy.

Because it takes a little while for the medicine to start its magic, Mal first gave a little bit of a lecture about the medicine, and Mark (the astrologer) gave us more insights into the various planets in the astrological chart. For this first ceremony, the shamans would be "calling in" the energy that each planet represented. And the medicine would guide us to understand how that planet's energy impacts us personally.

After about 30 minutes, I laid back on my blanket and closed my eyes. The icaros were to start, which would activate the medicine in us.

After having done 10 ayahuasca ceremonies, I found it easier to find the medicine in me. I relaxed into my space. My hands were next to my body. I envisioned a white light growing from inside of my body and stretching beyond me being... And into the room.

This is how I start most of my meditations, having learned it from the ayahuasca medicine.

The shamans chanted, sang, played instruments.

I let the medicine converse with me...
Everything felt as it normally does. Or rather, as it does just after I meditate for a few minutes. My mind was calm. My body was relaxed. I was neither tired nor wired. Breathing was effortless. I was aware of what was happening in the energy around me.
"Just open up your mind. Don't hold on to any thoughts. Let it all just pass through you."
"Hear that? That's an icaro about Mercury. This is a critical planet for you. Comunication. Communication. Communication. You're a storyteller."

I didn't want to retain any thoughts, as my inner dialogue suggested that I do not. This first San Pedro ceremony was just going to be about purging energy and getting latent thoughts out of my mind.

This was the first part in the cleansing of mind that week...