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The Vine of Death

My death experience on ayahuasca

It has now been five months since I ingested the dreaded "vine of souls" or "vine of death", better known as ayahuasca. It has taken me this long to be able to write about it because I am just now recovering from the experience. This was the first time and the last time I will ever take ayahuasca. The experience was the most traumatic yet eye-opening experience of my life and I won't soon forget it. I honestly don't know how I am going to explain what happened to me as there are really no words to describe the experience, but I am going to try to convey it the best that I can. I am nervous just writing about this, but I believe that I must share this with all of you.  First, let me preface the trip report with some background information.

I first started experimenting with psychedelics in March of 2008. The very first thing I took was mushrooms. I had such an outstanding experience! As that first trip was coming to a close, I knew I was going to be doing this for years to come! Over the course of the next seven and a half years I had an innumerable amount of experiences on everything from LSD to smoked DMT, from mescaline to mushrooms, to salvia to 2c family and pretty much everything else under the sun. I have definitely had my share of heroic doses and out-of-this-world experiences too! 

But nothing, I repeat, NOTHING prepared me for ayahuasca.

For me, ayahuasca was this great unknown that I had only heard about through trip reports and documentaries. I always wanted to try it, but I figured that the only way I was going to get a chance was to go down to Peru and participate in a ceremony and, for me, that was unrealistic. I had no money to spend on a trip like that, so I always resorted to the fact that I wouldn't be taking it in the near future. Unless I got a higher paying job and some vacation time to go do something like that it wasn't going to happen. Therefore, ayahuasca was always just a dream for me; it never seemed like it would be a reality, at least not in the foreseeable future. Well, that all changed in May of this year (2015) when I met a man at a drum circle event who claimed to be a shaman and a maker of the sacred brew. He told me that he held ceremonies frequently in my area and that if I was ever interested in taking part in one I could come free of charge. This was a dream come true for me! I gladly accepted his invitation and we actually set a date for a private ceremony in which it would only be him, a friend of mine and me. I felt more comfortable doing it that way and he was cool with the idea too. So everything was set in place, and as time went on and the date of the ceremony drew nigh, my anticipation grew stronger and stronger.

Finally, the day of the ceremony arrived. I did everything I was supposed to do up until that day. I fasted for a week and a half prior to the ceremony in which I literally only had fruits, vegetables and water. Twenty-four hours before the ceremony I fasted from all food sources and only had water. I also made sure to get myself spiritually aligned in the weeks leading up to the ceremony. I stayed on a steady meditation schedule, I made sure not to over-stress myself at work, I tried to be as loving to everyone around me as possible and I made an effort to make sure that nothing negative remained within my being by ceremony time. So, on the day of the ceremony I made my way over to the location in which it would be held. It would be held inside of my friend's warehouse which was empty for the most part. I will admit that the location probably wasn't the best set and setting and this may have effected my trip in some way, but we tried to make the location as spiritually positive and uplifting as possible. We laid down large cushions and blankets all over the warehouse floor and we lit incense and candles and played meditative music. I also brought a hand drum, a flute, meditation beads and the most comfortable clothing I could possibly find. My friend and I spent about an hour making the place as comfortable and positive as possible. Then, we spent about four hours meditating while we waited for the shaman to arrive. I did everything that I possibly could to ensure that the experience would be positive. I followed every guideline that the shaman had told me to follow. I couldn't have been anymore prepared...I was ready.

The time had arrived; the shaman would arrive any minute. My friend (we will call him Z for the remainder of the report) turned to me as we anticipated the shaman's arrival.

"You sure you want to do this man?"

"Yeah I'm sure...I've been wanting to do this for years now, I'm not going to back down at the last minute," I said.

"I'm scared," said Z.

"Yeah me too, I just want this guy to get here already, I'm tired of waiting."

"Yeah, he's late."

"I know, I'm about to call him to see where he's at."

I gave the shaman a call, no answer. I waited for a few minutes and gave him another call, no answer. Minutes turned into an hour and one hour turned into two hours. 

"What the fuck man? Is this guy backing out on us?" I said.

Finally, he called back. He apologized for being late, explained himself, and then said that he was on his way. I was relieved! Now I knew that this was definitely going to happen! But he told me one other thing that made me a little nervous: he would be bringing another person with him, a shaman apprentice that he was training. 

"This is a smaller ceremony than normal, so I figured it would be a great opportunity for him to get some solid training, is that okay?" The shaman said.

"Yeah, that's fine I guess." I remarked.

Finally after much anticipation, the shaman showed up to the warehouse, but there wasn't just one other person with him, there were two! 

"Shit, who's this other person?" I thought. 

It was the shaman apprentice's girlfriend that he decided to bring along with him at the very last minute. So, there were a few changes in plans that threw me off a bit, but overall I remained calm, cool and collected about the situation. 

We welcomed everyone into our abode, into our medicine space, and we all sat in a circle on the cushions and introduced ourselves and made small talk for a few minutes. But we had waited long enough and it was now time to begin. Everyone was given a bucket and then we passed around the jar of ayahuasca so that everyone could cradle it in their arms for a moment and put their intentions into the medicine. After this the shaman started pouring the doses into small shot-like glasses for everybody and we were also given spoonfuls of honey to help get the brew down easier. The shaman apprentice rolled up a large cigarette of real, South American tobacco which he explained was extremely strong and was used as a sacrament for the ceremony. He went around the circle and took large puffs of the cigarette and blew the tobacco in our faces and all around us and while he was doing this, the shaman was singing an icaro. After this we all took our shots of aya. I believe it was probably the worst thing I had ever ingested! It tasted like an extremely potent form of mud, that is the best way that I can describe it. I almost blew chunks just drinking the damn stuff! It took everything in me to keep it down, but I did. Z and I looked at each other and smiled. We knew we were in for something spectacular. 

"Ooohhh...whew," the shaman apprentice sighed. "I just hope that everyone has a safe journey tonight, ayahuasca can be very, very intense," he said. 

That's not really what I wanted to hear after I had just ingested the stuff, I mean, I knew it would be intense... but the shaman apprentice's remark got me a bit nervous. So, I just sat quietly and tried to focus on breathing. I was rubbing my meditation beads with my eyes closed, just breathing, in and out, in and out, long, deep breaths. Then, after what may have been about twenty-five to thirty minutes, I started to feel very heavy. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my head and as this got more intense I started to see colors and fractals spinning right in front of me. 

"Shit, this is starting off pretty intensely," I thought. 

Then, it got heavier. 

"I can't last like this for too long, this is a bit too heavy, did he give me too much? It is supposed to be this intense already?," I thought to myself. 

Then, it got even heavier. 

I could not see anything in front of me, not even my own hand, everything was just colors and patterns oscillating in and out, to and fro. Then, the visuals started to speed up. "Fuck...fuck, fuck, fuck...this is too much," I thought. I started to panic. I was really losing grip on reality. "Okay, breathe, just breathe, you're good, you're good, you're just...uh...I'm a...shit, this...this is it, I'm going to die right now!" I was so scared! The visuals got even more intense and they started to take on forms, but these forms were completely and utterly alien, they were like nothing I had ever seen before. All I know is that these forms were not benevolent at all! "Oh no, this is not happening, not like this!" I screamed inside my head. Reality folded in on itself and I remember this life just passing away like a dream. It was literally like, once I stepped into this other realm, my life just faded like a dream, like a dream you wake up from and barely remember. I tried to hold onto the thoughts of my earthly life as much as possible; I did not want to let go. What about my family? What about my girlfriend? What about my job? What about all the memories? They were fading and fading fast! In one last ditch effort to hold onto my life I thought of the final thing I could possibly think of..."I need an ambulance right now! I am not going to die like this!" But I couldn't even speak or move, so there was nothing I could do, finally I let go of my life and was catapulted into an alien realm. The things I saw in the alien realm were beyond human words or concepts. When I say alien I mean COMPLETELY different from anything you can even imagine. I can't hardly even re-imagine what I saw on the other side, it was just way too foreign. All I know is that things were moving extremely fast, beyond the speed of light, and I encountered beings that were not happy that I was in their realm. The message I got was, 

"You're not supposed to be here and now we're going to make you pay for trespassing!"

This was the worst thing I could have possibly imagined, or not imagined. I died and went to hell! The concept of love was totally nonexistent, there was nothing but torture beyond all reason! My soul was being dissected. These beings were exploring every part of my soul-consciousness and they were doing it violently! There was no anesthesia, I felt every pin-prick with the utmost intensity! The pain of my soul literally being ripped to shreds was beyond agonizing and it felt like it was taking place for all of eternity! I would never know anything else but this shameful, dreadful, nightmarish pain! The beings explored me inside and out, up and down, through every known and unknown fiber of my being, and as they tore me apart, they threw the pieces of me away as if I meant absolutely nothing! I didn't know what to feel, was I feeling? What is feeling? What IS? All human concepts were shattered to the tiniest pieces and then cast into oblivion within what felt like an eternity and an instant all in the same moment! The beings violated me and explored my most private areas. Then, my dissected soul was put on display for all existence to see! Nothing that was hidden remained hidden; I was completely exposed. There are no words to describe the utter chaos and dread that was taking place! I figured that this was going to be the rest of my existence, but finally I was somehow lifted from that place and I found myself in a void. However, the void wasn't black, it was actually full of bright light and I knew that I had reached my final destination. The light void was everything and nothing all in one, it was the reality before the Big Bang, it was pure, unadulterated, unmanifest consciousness energy. It was pre-conception, it was the existence before existence, it was the realm before the womb, it was home! I was completely astonished and I was able to have a personal thought in that realm, I thought to myself "This is Consciousness!" Then, from far away I heard a voice singing, "You're back home, this is what you've always known...this is what you've always known..." I began to feel at peace and then I was able to have another thought, "Who is that singing?" It kept repeating, "This is what you've always known..." Then, I began to feel joy as I thought, "I made it, I really made it!" I felt loved and comforted and then I felt myself looking upward and I saw the shaman's face. He was the one singing the song! He was guiding me through the experience! I felt much gratitude towards him and a sense of brotherly love because I knew he was looking out for me! I stayed in the light void for what seemed like an eternity. At some points I got afraid again, but I always felt like there was someone guiding me and that I would be okay. 

Eventually I looked down and I could see the tattoos on my arms. 

"What? Am I coming back? Am I really back?!?!" I couldn't believe it, I was returning to my body, I was returning to Earth!

I was still tripping mega balls, but I was able to look over at Z and he looked at me in total astonishment. His eyes were so huge, it was as if he was saying, what in the hell did we get ourselves into?!?! He had a face of great, great worry and concern and I couldn't tell if he was worried about me or about himself, but I had no time to think about him because I started to feel extremely sick! I quickly grabbed my bucket!


I felt like I was throwing up my guts and as I heaved with the greatest intensity known to man, I could feel extreme pressure in my head. Every time I barfed the visuals began to get more intense again. 

"Please God, not another round, not another round, PLEASE!!!" 


It felt like every orifice was gushing out. I threw up until there was literally nothing left to throw up. At the same time Z was violently throwing up too and the scene in the warehouse at that moment was extremely frightening. I felt like everyone, including myself, was dying from throwing up. Finally, I stopped and the shaman patted me on the back. 

"You did a good job, you made it," he said. 

I thanked him for guiding me during the experience, if it wasn't for his guidance I don't know what would have happened. I looked over at Z.

"You all right man?" I said.

"Yeah, I'm fine, the question is are you all right?" He said.

"What do you mean?"

"You really went out there for awhile, I was pretty concerned for you."

"What are you talking about?"

"Well, you rolled around all over the place, you must have rolled about twenty feet away from your original position, then you threw up while lying on your back and started choking on your own vomit, we had to get you off your back, you were choking pretty hard for a minute."

"Holy shit!"

"Yeah and you were speaking in tongues and saying all kinds of crazy things, you really went out there man. I tried to clean all the vomit off of you but you kept rolling around, so you may want to go to the bathroom and clean yourself up a bit. You've got vomit all in your beard and on your shirt and everything."

Apparently Z didn't trip that hard, and neither did anybody else, so they all smoked weed and watched over me as I went into another realm. To this day, I still don't know why I tripped face and nobody else really did. However, the shaman's apprentice had something to say:

"That's the reason why I'm doing this work, so that people can have an experience like you did. Everyone could see it man, you totally broke through. You know why you went so far? Because you went straight for the heart, straight for the core. Your friend stayed in his head, that's why he didn't go anywhere, but you went for the heart and that's why you soared."

I couldn't believe what had just happened. What was THAT?!? It was by far the most intense and insane experience of my life. I didn't know what to think, but I was just so happy to be back in my body and back on Earth. At this point in time, which was about 5 hours after ingesting the brew, I was completely coherent but still tripping enough to have fun. I remember being so ecstatic! During this portion of the trip I played the musical instruments that I brought and juggled some clubs for a bit and talked about the experience with everyone else. This part of the trip was great fun!

Finally, we all laid down on the cushions and went to sleep. I was still having some minor visuals while trying to go to sleep and I really wasn't able to fall asleep until after about two and a half hours of lying there awake. The next morning came and everyone said their goodbyes. I thanked the shaman for everything and gave him fifty dollars for his time and for the brew. Z also gave him fifty. We felt he deserved a solid hundred for his time and effort and he was very grateful for that. At this point, I was at peace, but in the next few weeks and months to come there would be chaos once again. I had many nightmares of my soul being ripped apart again. At one point they were so bad that I thought I might die in my sleep, so I would try to stay awake all night or at least until I couldn't possibly stay awake any longer. This tormented me for awhile. I tried to meditate and remain calm about life, but I kept getting tormented by this ayahuasca experience. At one point back in September (2015), I thought that I may have to see a psychiatrist because I was really starting to go insane. It was hard for me to even perform daily tasks. Fortunately, that all started to dwindle and now I believe I am one hundred percent again. It took me this long (5 months) to really get back to normal again and I am glad I am finally okay. Needless to say, I won't be taking ayahuasca again. One trip like that was enough for me.

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