In the plant medicine world, it is believed that all of the plants have a spirit or consciousness. Some have male spirits and others have female spirits. Basically, it depends on the lineage and tradition you check in with as to the consensus of gender allocation for each plant spirit. They have both in essence, as do we humans, but they also tend to present with a dominant expression of energy, either masculine or feminine.
I resisted using Rapay for a long time. I spell it phonetically, but it is also spelled "Rapé" and pronounced "HAP-aay"
It comes from a different tradition of working with Ayahuasca than what I am used to, and when I saw it being used for the first time by participants at one of the retreats I was present for, it felt like it was not being used in a sacred way. Rather, it looked far more like people were just using it as another tool to get more of a psychoactive"rush", some administered it for the attention, some as a substitute for their addictive patterns of behaviour, as a distraction for themselves from themselves. For some, all of the above.
The stuff itself is basically Mapacho (or sacred nicotina rustica/ jungle tobacco). The Mapacho itself facilitates sacred ceremony in the Amazon by cleansing a person's energetic field and for protection from negative energy (when used with intention). Mapacho itself is a formidable ally within the plant spirit kingdom and He usually brings messages to me about the hidden areas of required healing within people who attend ceremony.
The Mapacho ash that is finely ground into powder (or snuff) and often mixed with other healing or cleansing herbs is what is known as Rapay. A pea size bullet of powder is blown like a dart into each nostril and can be used as a healing ceremony on its own (that for some yields many strong visuals and for most an altered state), or as an accompaniment to drinking Ayahuasca.
The nicotine content of Mapacho is at least fourteen times higher than commercial tobacco and so the effects are immediate via the nicotinergic and muscarinergic receptors in the brain. It contains beta-carbolines including harmala alkaloids also found in Ayahuasca Herself (these act as MAOIs giving a slight anti-depressant effect). Hence possibly why Rapay is also known as the Son of Ayahuasca. Because He prepares you to receive Ayahuasca, in that He both stimulates and grounds you. The Rapay is blown using a thin wooden pipe into first your left nostril (to clear out what you wish to release) and then your right nostril (to bring in what you wish to manifest).
So in a nutshell, it stings to begin with, but once the discomfort dies down and after some coughing and spitting, it will calm even the most anxious mind and yet keep you very present - and in spiritual terms, realigns the chakras, and serves to decalcify and activate the pineal gland.
My Personal Journey with Rapay
On most days I keep a spiritual practice and I feel empowered, calm, loving, centered and that I have let go of a lot of my pain from the learning experiences I've survived throughout my life.....and yet there are some days when I feel that I still have some work to do on forgiving certain men (and women) who felt so disempowered personally that they needed to assert themselves over me sexually, physically or emotionally in an abusive way, to make themselves feel better.
Just like many others out there, I too have had to do more than a little personal release work around issues of domestic violence, rape and gross disrespect towards the feminine.
Although I can say now that my journey has been growth promoting and has taught me a lot about myself and about victimhood: just when I think I have healed everything there is to heal, forgiven everything there is to forgive, released everything there is to release, I usually discover another little viper on my personal multi-headed hydra of pain.
The spiritual teacher, Matt Kahn, says that pain is a sign that you are on the fastest track to spiritual evolution. I would agree, and I would also add to it that being constantly self-reflective and genuinely and lovingly curious about your patterns can yield wonderful results if you are mindful about how you approach them.
Sexual molestation and emotional and physical abuse are experiences that I personally had to navigate growing up without tools to process it all. When I think deeply on it, the brutal truth of the matter is, is that as a result of my early conditioning, my low self-esteem led me into a future path of connecting with men (as a young adult) in relationships wherein I continued to allow myself to be raped and abused emotionally and physically over the years, with an exasperating inability to just walk away and stop the abuse.
I know there are many women (and men) out there who can relate to this.
Needless to say I have really struggled to trust people over the years, wondering if I was the crazy one and they were all normal. In fact, I even had the tendency to be hostile towards men I considered energetically similar in age or disposition to those I had been abused by in the past.
I have always considered Ayahuasca my spiritual Mother and that I am one of her daughters. And so when I reflected deeply within myself as to why I had such an aversion to Rapay and to the sorts of men I observed "abusing" it, I saw a correlation to certain types of men and how they had abused me in the past. I was about to attend a Columbia style Ayahuasca ceremony when I had this realization. The offering of Rapay is common prior to such ceremonies and so I decided to be open to sitting in ceremony with a machismo male shaman (something I usually avoided) and to try Rapay for the first time, mindfully observing what the teachings might be.
I felt the sting of the Rapay as it hit my nervous system, but then I felt the calmness flow through me as tears streamed down my cheeks from the impact. Then the rest of the ceremony ensued.
I first purged out and forgave each of the people who had left a negative impression in my mind about Rapay. Next, I was guided to forgive my two older step-brothers for their sexual abuse of me as a child, and then, furthermore, I was instructed to forgive each of the partners I have had who resorted to violence and rape to control me. It seems like a lot, and it was. And yet in that space, it was systematic and easier to digest.
Then, the spirit of a well known Columbian Taita appeared to me in my visions and said: "you need to start working with Rapay now". And then it was done.
I am not one to procrastinate - so I soon began to work with Rapay on its own in a therapeutic and healing context for people who could not participate in other medicine journeys due to their medication, and with great success. I began making my own Tepi Pipes (used to administer the medicine). I cut the wood, assembled them and lovingly painted them all myself. Besides my creative energy being freed by this particular medicine, something very beautiful came out of my openness to heal a part of myself that could not reconcile itself with male energy. And I was able to share that healing energy with others in a unique way.
I learnt that mindfulness, openness, and curiosity can be wonderful initiators for the miracles that forgiveness can birth. I can more easily be friends with men now. I am attracting different kinds of men into my life now. And I am confident in their presence and aware that not all men are the same.
And on a side note: I knew something big had shifted for me when I was recently given the opportunity to speak in a tribunal against my two stepbrothers (by a religious community of people who had previously rejected my claims that my childhood abuse had ever happened). Put in a position of power now, I had the ability to destroy their reputations, to reciprocate and create a fraction of the emotional havoc and trauma in their lives compared to what they had caused in mine. And if given this opportunity several years ago - I might have taken it.
But now, I chose not to. With all honesty (and not without some emotion), I told those religious elders that as long as my step-brothers' own children were safe, I wanted to give those men a chance to be better and that it would not be a loving act to drag them to a religious court. What they have done is between them and God.
And that was when I knew that the karma between us had been lovingly corrected. A deep healing for me on many levels.
I feel I still have some forgiving to do around some of my personal life experiences (as with all of us, our healing continues throughout our lives and it is a process), but I feel much more on my way to being free.
And finally, I can stand tall on the other side of a very dark abyss of pain that lasted most of my life, and bless and compassionately assist those who are still passing through it.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Scarab Deva has more than a decade of experience assisting and supporting people with the integration of visionary plant medicine experiences. She offers spiritual counseling, tarot, and other therapeutic practices for spiritual growth.