The Grandmother Medicine

I’ve attended a handful of ayahuasca ceremonies. By my second time I knew that no matter what my intentions were, the medicine takes on a personality of its own. It feeds you what you need to see. Unlike other psychedelics this experience feels like having a dialogue, a conversation. It’s not contemplative, it’s interacting with an outside power. People refer to it as remembering, like you’ve always known these things.

Illustration by Roz Crews

You drink the medicine, a really thick bitter drink almost like coffee grounds, and you sit there and wait to feel something. Usually there’s a little bit of a visual hallucination, but it’s really different for everyone. My second time, I started to see some things, these fractal geometric patterns that turned into a staircase, very implied and superimposed on the room we were in, and all of the sudden I saw an old woman holding something, going up the stairs.

I tried to follow her but then she always kind of rounded a corner and wouldn’t show me what she was holding. I wanted to see it, but she wouldn’t let me. She was beckoning me in still. I had a series of reflections about my life and love and a wave of feelings. And then I ended up in this room with a guy I used to see playing with two little kids. One was a four-year-old girl, and I was there too, playing with them. We were painting the guy’s toenails together. I couldn’t tell if they were my kids or his or ours, but we were all together. And then I slowly moved away from that and it was back to this older woman, a grandmother, still holding this bundle, that I still couldn’t see but decided it was a child.

Next thing I know I feel the purging come on, and I’m on my hands and knees vomiting my brains out and that’s when my physical body fractaled out to be all these different creatures giving birth. I realized the grandmother was holding a dead child and that the whole lesson was that I will be a mother one day, and in order to have a child and fully be able to own giving birth and making life is to be totally okay with losing it.

There was a lizard, a cat, and myself, and glimpses of everything in between connected on this evolutionary chain. All of these animals gave stillbirths. The lizard had partially collapsed eggs, the cat had these bald lifeless kittens, almost warm but still cold, and I was eating the kittens. I was going through all the emotions of all of these animals. And then I was this hipster Park Slope mom, and I was feeling overcome with grief but also thinking “Oh my god. What am I going to tell my friends? There’s a baby shower planned, I took time off of work…” and then the lizard was just gyrating, vibrating. I only experienced it to the depth of each creature.

As the cat, I was hungry so I ate the kittens, but I was aware they were my failed offspring, but the emotions were definitely not as complex as the human emotions of losing something you were expecting. The lizard was more energetic like a buzzing, like something was broken, but accepting that it was broken.

They call ayahuasca the grandmother medicine. Peyote is the grandfather medicine. Peyote is very masculine, and ayahuasca is very motherly. I think it could possibly propel a man to have this experience. I think at a certain point the medicine goes beyond gender. They say the phases are like responsibility for yourself, your family, then your friends, and your world, and your ancestors, and it just keeps going. It’s about how much empathy can you have towards other things. Men and women are pretty similar on a molecular level in the grand scheme of things. A lot of the differences are learned social constructs which are very very new compared to the concept of life in general, so I think if you get deep enough, a man could have any experience.

Without having this experience, I wouldn’t think gender is as transcendent as it could be. The experience with this medicine makes me realize men and women really aren’t that different. I think a lot of the things that make us different are social constructs but my feelings are somewhat contradictory about it - because I feel strongly heterosexual myself, and so it’s not like I feel sexually ambiguous, but I don’t know how much of that is learned - it’s hard to tell. Even answering this question I come from a biased place, because I am conditioned in this gender. On an evolutionary scale though, we used to be just these cells that divide in half, fertilize themselves, etc., but down the line it became way more specialized. 

Submitted by Anonymous, Edited by Arianne Keegan