Updated: Jun 19, 2021
Art by: Tina Marie Elena
I have been a sacred medicine facilitator and shamanic healer for fifteen years now. And what a journey!
I can safely say that my true understanding of Ayahuasca and what it means to serve medicine only began once I embarked on the sacred journey of ‘dieting’ also called 'dieta' (not to be confused with the ayahuasca diet). This is a physical and energetic merging with what are considered Master Teacher plants in the Amazon.
Circa 2008 I was one of those (and this seems to be becoming the norm nowadays) that came to facilitating Ayahuasca ceremonies as a calling. And I was pouring medicine before I began a formal training (which also seems to be the norm nowadays). And while it was always clear that the teachings came from the plants, I later discovered the importance of taking time to sit with a teacher or Maestro with a deep ancestral connection to this medicine, to learn through being in their energetic field and also to have my own energy cleared and balanced regularly. The dietas I speak of are delineated by extended periods of isolation, fasting, and eating only a handful of bland foods for weeks or months at a time: no salt, no fat, no sugar/fruit and perhaps only one small meal a day. The impact on the physical body can be brutal as there is a deep breaking down of the flesh and spirit, so that a rebuilding can begin. Only once the dietero has surrendered everything including their body, ego-mind and spirit to the devas (spirits) of the plants and animals of the jungle with an unshakable trust established, is the dietero truly ready to be taught.
This cleansing and realignment process is considered an ongoing set of initiations for any healer working with Ayahuasca. Traditionally any fledgeling healer with a talent or a calling for it needs to embark on a profound journey of self healing and self discovery which usually starts in childhood and continues on throughout their lives. And it will be a number of years, maybe even decades before they are ready to pour medicine for others.
Bear in mind that for people who have grown up in the jungle, whose ancestors and community have been hunting, fishing and foraging as a way of life for many generations, this dieting process will feel completely different than for a westerner who grew up with electricity, running water, food in a refrigerator and supplies always available in grocery stores.
Hence there is an important distinction to make between the dietas done by westerners and the ancestral dietas done in the traditional way. Often 3 - 6 months or more, the ancestral dieta will be spent mostly in silence, in isolation and in deep contemplation while learning from and receiving direct messages from the sacred plant devas or spirits. The most powerful beings that grow in the soil of the earth are considered Master Teachers, and under the right circumstances they will provide the ardent dietero with enhanced psychic, prophetic and healing powers. The Shipibo say that a talented and determined few (advanced mystic healers known as the Banco or Merayas) may even be granted the ability to bilocate and shapeshift, transforming themselves into any animal they want to; this only after at least ten years of isolation in pristine jungle, maintaining celibacy, abstaining from animal flesh and eating only green plantains and a certain river fish called Boquichico.
For any westerner who desires to hold space as a ‘facilitator’ with the sacred medicine Ayahuasca, I implore you to start with the deep journey into self - the ‘dieting’ of Master Teachers.
Not only is it important to know how to protect yourself in ceremony energetically and psychically you will also need an understanding of how to compassionately and deftly hold space for others going through what will be some of the most transformative experiences of their lives. You will need to be able to read their energy and know what is ailing them - really ailing them. You will also need healing allies known as ‘plant doctors’ who have your back when you unleash the power that is Ayahuasca, by pouring medicine for those who put their trust in you. There is also a more comprehensive list, of course.
Over the years I have completed a number of dietas with Shipibo and Meztiso Maestros, determined to come into deeper communion with the sacred and magical Amazon jungle and Ayahuasca that unlocked so much for me in terms of understanding and healing my own traumas and that of others. The way westerners are led through diets is different to how it was traditionally done. What with these dietas becoming so popular now, it eventually became more challenging to ensure that I was in isolation, eating clean dieta food and able to sit quietly, not getting entangled in the energy (and drama) of other dieteros. And yet conversely I will always be grateful for the experience of sitting in ceremony with these incredible Shipibo healers who sing the arkanas for me, whose ancestors have sung these songs and worked with these plants for many generations - this was the greatest honor.
And through trial and error, I found that the more I focused on being isolated or alone as much as possible, eating sparingly and strictly, the resultant growth and learning was exponential.
And beyond the incredible experiences I have had with these medicines (both psychoactive and those used purely for healing certain ailments) it was the jungle itself and the pace of the wilderness that continued to be the most understated part of the healing process. Having no access to technology, waking early and sleeping soon after the sun has set, hearing the birds and the insects and the odd fish jumping in the river. No stimulants like red meat, salt, fat and sugar, which in the west we consume in excess. No caffeine, which literally keeps most of us going from one productive hour to the next. This slowing-down allows for the unwinding of overactive minds and tight fascia together with a more sensitive ear for the songs of the plants and the whispering of our hearts.
Somehow, it seems to be the actual diet of nature itself, that left the deepest feeling of peace in my body.
Needless to say there are many who flock to Peru now, westerners all having been given messages to work as a 'Shaman'. And hence it’s the soft, open or social dietas that are happily being offered by many centers for westerners, and for good reason.
Firstly, the resilience of the western body is not the same as someone who is native to the Amazon.
The bodies of westerners are accustomed to receiving a multitude of nutrients from foods enhanced with vitamins and minerals. We are also used to a more comfortable style of living with access to first world conveniences and so sleeping on a hard floor for long periods while fasting, and with ongoing deprivation of minerals and nutrients can at times cause more health issues for us than it will heal. I have come back from dieta with hair falling out from hormonal imbalances. I have even heard of others acquiring life threatening diseases when they left the jungle after dieta. Granted, traditionally, the disease or illness is considered an indicator that the body is actually healing, according the vegetalistas, curanderos, paqos and other indigenous healers. Still, this is a heavy experience to live with and surrender to as a westerner.
Secondly, we are not used to extended periods of complete isolation.
This is a disposition that needs to be developed over time (like a muscle to be built). If there is a lot of unhealed trauma in that person, or a deep ancestral burden (which lets face it most of us do have) the overwhelm of being in quiet contemplation without distraction can quickly exhaust our capacity to hold space for ourselves. A vipassana retreat will teach you how challenging it is to sit in silence with only your own thoughts for company for ten days. Imagine the added challenge of a dieta where there is even less stimulation and structure but with psychedelic plant medicine, lots of fasting, many long hours under your mosquito net journaling or lying in a hammock (when mosquitos permit).... smoking many mapachos (jungle tobacco). I usually find it to be incredibly therapeutic for the first two weeks and then extraordinary things start to happen. My perception of reality starts to bend. I am hypersensitive to the people within a 20m radius of me, I cry at the slightest thing, and a deep awareness and appreciation of my body returns, after existing in a heavily cerebral culture.
Dreamscapes are enhanced, creativity shoots through the roof and for me after two weeks I start to interact directly with spirits and disincarnated beings. Around this time I will often wake up in the pitch darkness of the jungle to footsteps outside my tambo (not belonging to a physical being) or to the sound of a woman wailing in the night. I have often woken up to objects moving in my room, large bodies crashing towards me through the undergrowth and to the sounds of furniture moving or whispering coming from the empty room beside me. Trust me the jungle is alive with a lot more than just mosquitoes and cockroaches!
Thirdly, most westerners do not have ancestors that they can draw this sort of strength and ancient knowledge from.
The more I have learned about ancestral healing, acquiring deep awareness of how the soul moves between lives, as well as the collective soul of an ancestral lineage and how it evolves and flows between timelines, I have grown to accept that the wisdom of the soul is filtered through the unique makeup of each of our physical bodies we inhabit. Hence, the endocrine system and how well it functions as well as our unique DNA bank of ancestral memories will determine much of what we have chosen to be empowered to accomplish in any incarnation. Hence the importance of ancestor worship in indigenous cultures around the world.
I have written at length about my personal experiences that led me to the jungles of Peru. However I am yet to disclose what kept me returning. In a nutshell, I was burnt out, sick to my bones and unsettled in myself, having experienced my fair share of traumas in childhood and adulthood. Having left an abusive 8 year relationship, my ongoing adrenal fatigue and digestive issues cascaded into my lymphatic system and my womb began to retaliate with what brought me to be treated alongside the chronically ill and Cancer patients.
All the while I was flying all over the world facilitating plant medicine ceremonies almost every weekend and trying to complete a Masters Degree in Psychiatry. I can run down a list of what I had tried to heal myself, and I’m sure any suggestion you have will be on it (including Ayahuasca, Wachuma and Kambo). After more than $25K in out of pocket doctors bills, alternative practitioners and countless trips to the jungle for healings, I had to surrender to what my illness was trying to teach me, that something non physical was reaching out to me to be healed.
I discovered that it was my heart that was truly weighed down by how I was treated as a pariah by my family for working with Ayahuasca.
Nothing I did could normalise this in their conservative religious perspective. And still I struggled on, exhausted, because I had made so many sacrifices to work with this sacred medicine, feeling that this mission was more important than myself, there was no way I could let go. Deep down inside though, I was sad and afraid to change what I had been doing for almost 15 years. I was still unable to say no to all the people in need, constantly asking me for medicine ceremonies. And whilst people were leaving my ceremonies all shiny and new, with miraculous healings and clearings, excited for what was next, I fell deeper into a state of burnout and depression unable to find a solution for myself, and full of shame that I could not heal myself.
Eventually I was back in the jungle completing yet another dieta with Noya Rao (trees need to be dieted for at least a year collectively). This sacred tree is considered so precious by the Shipibo that hardly anyone knows where they grow. This time I was blessed with profound healing songs (icaros) and a deep connection to the stars I had not had before. In ceremony I could now hear their songs in my mareacion (altered state) and feel them in my heart. This was then transmitted through my voice and into my icaros.
And, I came to the realization that something really big needed to change in my life...again. As is usually the gift of dieta.
I was just blind sighted as to what though.
I just knew that I had been living out of alignment with what was in my heart for such a long time and it was affecting my physical and emotional health...... and my womb.
I did not know how to find my way out of the cage I had created for myself, as this was all I had known for 15 years. And just like that, my wish was granted, but in a way I could never have imagined. By way of a worldwide pandemic which meant I had to continue with my isolation process and revisit my own personal self healing journey without distractions.
What I found personally, was that a more targeted and potent healing for me happened during the following five months living in my tiny 445 sq ft apartment in the middle of Denver, than in all my jungle dietas put together. I arrived home days before the borders were closed and continued to sit quietly with myself and eventually with the Rose plant spirit. Perhaps this healing was still part of my Noya Rao dieta (Noya Rao is said to open the path of light for a dietero) or perhaps it was because I felt safe in my own home so that I could open up those traumatised parts of myself. Perhaps the quietness of the whole world allowed me to just be and reassemble myself without the extra pressure of rushing off to do healing work for others.
I had already begun doing solo diets at home, with lovely results. However as the onset of Covid began, I started to work with the plant spirit that seemed to just find me in the midst of the fray of uncertainty and fear of those times, the Rose. She reached out to me and extended her tender petals of heart healing to the parts of myself that I had struggled to reach in the jungle. I can not say why exactly, perhaps it was just the right time, or perhaps it was the fact that I was not distracted by dodging mosquitos and horse flies, feeling fearful of strange noises at night, feeling unsafe as a woman in isolation, (there were times when I was all on my own living on an isolated piece of land not too far from a small village where not everyone was friendly, and with no lock on my door) or not having to deal with all the energy of other dieteros (being the sponge that I am).
Don’t get me wrong, dieting in the jungle is a powerful initiation process and builds a special kind of resilience that I am so grateful for. I would also say that healing is possible wherever you are, when the time is right and you are able to focus with laser lucid clarity on yourself. Working with plants in your own space and in your own time can be just as rewarding. For some that means a journey into the Amazon away from everything for a month. For me, it was also about learning to sit determinedly in my tiny apartment and surrender to what was.
Franz Kafka famously said, “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
Sitting quietly in my tiny apartment, The Rose showed me my connection to the womb shamans of ancient times and how their wisdom still flows through my veins and lives on in my bones. The Rose as a plant spirit took me into the depth of heart healing and mysticism that touched on memories from my own ancestral lineage. It was as if we knew each other. And now I truly understand what is meant by connecting to ancestral support when delving into the world of spirit. She brought through a level of healing for me that none of my jungle diets (as beautiful and amazing as they were) could. She brought me to a deep space of reassessing how I now choose to conduct my healing work.
What with the rise of sexual misconduct in sacred medicine ceremonies by male facilitators (and also by one or two female facilitators that I know of), I have since been inspired and directed by The Rose to create an online group container for women to heal their hearts and wombs both physically and energetically. By healing our wombs we are healing our ability to hold boundaries and we are activating our ability to attract healthy relationships. Wow....wish I had known that 20 years ago!
To me this is the healing that women with sexual trauma need first and foremost. Hence in the Divine Love Codes Immersion & Mystical rose Initiation, I combine powerful ancestral healings with 5th-dimensional alchemical and light body activations, therapeutic hypnosis, shamanic journeys and a mystical initiation (solo at home dieta) with the Rose. This feels like it is the way forward for many of us who have already been working with sacred medicines but need to deeply integrate and heal parts of themselves too traumatised to open up in a masculine container…...and also for those who the experience of Ayahuasca might not be right for at this time.
For me, healing my heart and the trauma trapped in my womb space in a gentle and safe container was what really shifted the deepest physical and emotional issues that had eluded me for many years.
You can find out more about the next immersion I am facilitating here: https://www.scarabdeva.com/rose-dieta-immersion
In conclusion, one of the Ayahuasca ceremonies I was facilitating about four years ago, I was given a message that her work (Ayahuasca) is slowly coming to a close. And that now, we need to have our hearts opened as much as possible till the end.
Perhaps this was just a premonition for myself indicating my own way forward.
And yet I later learned that on the journey of ascension, the bridge between 5D (Unity Consciousness) and 3D (Mental, Logic Structure) is 4D (Heart).
Hence why I called this new container The Divine Love Codes Immersion & Mystical Rose Initiation.
That bridge is for us to adopt and live with a purely heart based consciousness - true compassion.
So whether that message was for me, or whether it was for the collective - I guess remains to be seen.
About the Author
Scarab Deva is a shamanic practitioner with a masters degree in Psychiatry, a certified Kundalini Yoga Teacher, a Reiki Master and Family Constellation Facilitator. She is dedicated to assisting her clients with the integration processes before and after their psychedelic and sacred plant medicine experiences. She is now leading women through the sacred healing practices of the ancient womb shamans. www.scarabdeva.com