I cannot count the number of sexist comments I have heard from ayahuasca shamans, nor the times that inappropriate sexual advances erupted from an otherwise healing indigenous ceremony using this matriarchal plant. It is ironic to me that this master plant, which is often referred to as a mother or grandmother, is so commonly served by men who have trouble with sexual boundaries when it comes to their female clients.
The themes I have most often noticed – other than the glaring natural salvation of undeniable personal and ancestral healing of this incredible psychedelic plant – are issues with women and money, the same as any other patriarchal culture. When I experienced a four hour long ayahuasca download on the importance of women in leadership roles, sacred sexuality, and empowered feminine sensuality, the first comments from the male shaman presiding were: “It is important for you to always cover your shoulders and body so as not to be seen” and “You really ought to find a man and have some children.”
Although I consider the shaman my friend, his comments could not have been more counter to the vining consciousness of the supreme Mother temple priestess goddess download I was experiencing. My first thought: “Some of this Catholic crap has got to go!,” as I was certain no Amazonian tribe member would tell me to wear a tight fitting bra or, for Christ´s sake, subdue my raw sex appeal. I recalled the villagers in the most remote Amazon I once visited as topless women in only skirts.
Having worked with presencing tantric energy in my massage practice, these comments felt like a slamming door on my awakening power. After dozens of sexist criticisms and witnessing near rape and lack of sober consent scenarios with South American male shamans, it was certainly no surprise. What struck me was the sinking feeling in my gut saying, “Men are all the same” and “Grab her by the pussy” as I thought of the stream of rich male clients who seek massage as a treatment for lacking not only touch, but a sense of authentic connection with the divine feminine.
I recalled the shaman telling us that the most important thing when in Incan ruins during a ceremonial state is not using the mind to decipher every detail of the ancient reality or building structures, but using the energy body to open and connect to your own personal experience of healing and ancient wisdom.
This is the illness so common in modern Facebook, alcohol, commodity culture – a sense of aching separation. Connection is the remedy. Tantra is a form of profound energetic connection which does not deny the sensual. Yet, my experience with South American male shamans has commonly been one of sexual approach, slut shaming, little knowledge of basic consent protocols, and asking me to cover my shoulders. Once, a 30 year old American male shaman several years my junior even suggested he was “more clear” and knew best my life choices, echoing Catholic notion of the male priest as the true channel to the divine while the congregation blindly awaits his wisdom. Although it is arguable that a spiritual elder may have wisdom hard won by an ordinary householder, this is a slippery slope to male ego dominance which is very common in the ayahuasca culture.
Arguably, enduring Native American sweat lodges in long dresses shows the same extreme concern about stimulating tantric energy while in a state of deep ceremonial communion. While I respect the desire to nullify sexual distraction during profound altered states of entheogenic and ceremonial healing, I feel strongly that entheogens ask us to more fully engage our kundalini and tantric awakening. Ayahuasca, with her undeniable feminine presence, is a Great Mother after all, and surely has fostered many children with pure sexual Shakti.
This presence of misogyny in the Amazonian ceremonial world is appropriate today because it is a microcosm of the global collective consciousness, which in the superpower of the U.S., is one of Trump child molesters, Clinton sex scandals, and Pizza Gate rumors. Those in power do not know the sacred balance of the divine feminine and masculine. The scales are tipped to the absurd and to gross exaggerations of toxic masculinity seen in nearly daily Trump scandals. Our President allegedly hired Russian prostitutes to urinate on Obama’s former bed. Nothing could be farther from chivalrous.
This is why the 75 year old grandfather Maestro shaman of 60 year experience groping my friend’s body in the remote Amazon during ceremony did not shock me whatsoever. I’m a woman. We are used to watching our backs walking in a city at night, dressing like tomboys when trying to avoid sexual tension and conflict in foreign countries, and universally eyeing the male authorities of academia and consciousness as possible perpetrators. This necessary ingrained pattern of distrust of the masculine does not give the feminine space to breath.
It reminds me of the time a San Francisco male in the polyamory community heavily scolded me for having an affair with a married man, saying, “It’s your fault. You should know, ALL men lie.” The deep sexual wounds of our culture and the extreme privilege of rich white males extends even to the liberal polyamory scene in these instances. The women are so dependent on the relationships that they quietly accept the idea of denying accountability by refusing to stand up for anything.
The ayahuasca Goddess download movie screen of my mind is full of erotic temple dancers and profound tantric priestess healing while the male shaman presiding is typically either playing psychic footsy with me or stealthily attempting to seduce my girlfriend.
At one Iquitos ceremony, a middle-aged woman who had never experienced psychedelics before ended up in a hot and heavy affair with the shaman directly after the weeklong retreat (made apparent to me as they had sex in the bed next to me on the night of the last ceremony). This was made more ridiculous by the American group blithely congratulating their newfound love. The sinking feeling in my gut was heavy as I speculated psychic vampirism and the likely psychological wounds involving authority figures and psychic sovereignty, all of which came to pass as the relationship quickly devolved into a disastrous feud.
However, I pause to consider my comments. I want tantric energy to be fully welcome in a state of communion but I deny the male his power of attraction and advances. What is missing is the profound knowledge of the shadows of sexual energy, of creating an energetic exchange with consent, sobriety, and reciprocity and appropriate power exchange. This brings me to the concept of sacred commerce.
Ayahuasca has become an economic force in the Amazon, corrupting sacred connection with the greedy power of the dollar. Again, the feminine sacred and the power of sacred communion has been devastated by money and misogyny. The microcosm of this ayahuasca mirror of the human condition could not be more accurate as global leaders puff their chests, sparring on Twitter about their nuclear arms race, forgetting the importance of our environment, the children of the future generations, and the deep knowing of sacred connection – of the origin of commerce as sacred and balanced energy exchange.
This wealth of experience in both psychedelic ceremony and energy work with utilizing tantric concepts, leads me back to the importance of teaching sexual healing and connection, of reinventing the sacred and reinviting pre-Catholic forms of empowered femininity. I do not want to see a sexually submissive, quietly tolerant asexual Hilary Clinton run for President, I want to see a powerful, sexually attractive, wise woman with a strong voice take that seat. When considering any culture or religion, the first thing to notice is if the women are happy, empowered, and full of life force energy.
We need more women shamans as well to anchor this burgeoning movement and protect the sacred balance as well as more female leaders in all realms to cultivate a global mood of safety and transition. The scales can still tip to balance. As the elders tell us, we are looking in edge times, times of transition. The immaterial is close at hand. We must choose to consciously form it.
One hundred years ago, Trump raping and beating a 13 year old girl in his past would have been an expected bit part in his overall tragi-comedy. Now, we have at least heard her voice. This is progress.
It is time for the divine feminine to erupt from all corners of the earth, whether entheogenic or academic or political, or in ordinary households. Mother ayahuasca keeps showing me – It is time for the great awakening and this includes sacred commerce, tantric healing, and awareness of the manifest intentions behind our subconscious desires. The scales are tipping and this gross imbalance is only a momentary extreme to shove us through the birth canal of a New Age.
May we remember the balance. May she rise. For those who sense the critical nature of this time and feel weak, I say, as many visions have said to me, “We need you. Have faith in the fire in your heart. Begin.”
Image: Jessica Perlstein