sátira & sociedad

A millennial’s search for meaning pt. 1

Among the Muybene

Escrito por: Ariel Bleiberg
Visuales de: Angela Kote

Normally you’re supposed to be there for six months or more before you undertake the Muybene ritual, but Paco, my shaman, said I was ready after just a week. Also I had a flight back to New York the next day and I couldn’t extend my trip any longer because Vicefeed refused to let me take more days off…fascists. I had been considering quitting and running my own start-up anyways, but I was still undecided on whether I wanted to make a consumer-connecting platform app or go with my pet networking (petworking) idea. Of course there was also the issue of funding, and the issue of learning how to code, but that’s kind of the entire reason I came to Peru to try Muybene in the first place.

I already know that you haven’t heard of Muybene. And if you have heard of it then you’re probably reading this a few years in the future, after it’s become the next biggest fad in psychedelic culture. But before you start making assumptions: no, it’s nothing like ayahuasca, the current biggest trend in psychedelic culture. Every vaguely countercultural millennial (which is every single one of them) and their grandmother knows about ayahuasca at this point. It’s become so commonplace and pedestrian that it might as well be sold at the duty free when you land at Jorge Chavez. And it’s sad too because it used to be a legitimate spiritual medicine meant to heal those in genuine pain, but us westerners saw to the end of that, when we commodified it into another be all end all I-got-higher-than-you-did-this-summer party drug. Now, profit driven “retreats” run by greedy pseudo-spiritual charlatans litter the rainforest, offering the plant to any tourist willing to spend enough, and believe me, they are doing it wrong. I should know, I’ve done ayahuasca countless times, it barely even affects me anymore.

But Muybene is a nowhere near the same entity. Paco’s retreat is run with a much different approach; he won’t let people join unless they’re suffering from serious physical, psychological, or spiritual damage. Also, he charges less. Having spent some years in New York when he was younger, he understands the sensibilities of these young kids and is able to tell who really needs it and who’s just fiending for the next trend. Of course, when I told him about my own dilemma, he said I was a perfect candidate for the ceremony and quite worthy of receiving the medicine’s guidance (although I can tell he was definitely leaning more towards petworking). We got along really well, and that’s a good sign because trust is such an important thing in the Shaman-student relationship. During my time in Peru, I had the misfortune of coming across several other so-called Shamans who were nowhere near as professional or authentic as Paco. I won’t get into it, but all you need to know is that not a single one of them was actually an indigenous Amazonian and a good number of them were just white hippies who had moved here from the US, Europe etc…I think I remember Paco mentioning that he had some Puerto Rican in him, but his connection to the Amazon and its people was unmistakable. You’d understand if you met him, which you probably never will.

On the first day, he explained to me that Muybene is an ancient tribal term for “sublime goodness,” or more literally, “that which is beyond the good.” Unlike ayahuasca, it’s not a drink, but rather a powder that is sprinkled onto any common dish, such as arroz con leche or lomo saltado, which have both been tribal staples for thousands of years, and then consumed. Like many other psychedelics, vomiting is normal, and that’s why a preliminary fasting period is essential to the ceremony. I admit, when Paco told me I was going to have to exile myself to the jungle for an undetermined period of time, I was alarmed, to say the least. But after we had established trust and rapport, I began to understand why it was necessary. “It’s not just about preparing your stomach,” he explained, “it’s about enhancing the disconnect from the material world, while simultaneously accentuating the inner-primal animal connection with the objective, physical reality of nature.” When put in those terms, it made perfect sense. But I was still kind of apprehensive, so he agreed let me keep my phone with me, just in case there was an emergency, on the condition that once the battery died, I would not seek to recharge it. (Yes, I was just as surprised as you are to learn that there was cell reception in this part of the Amazon. It must be due to the life energy of the ecosystem or something like that…) I think that was the moment when I really began to feel like I could trust Paco 100%.
After the seventh day of my fasting, I was definitely starting to become delirious. That’s when Paco found me lying in a ditch and crying my eyes out, screaming something about fascists. He took me back to his hut and the ceremony began. It’s an unexpectedly simple affair. All he did was light some candles and began preparing the meal. Empanadas was going to be main course tonight. Once it was ready, he asked me if I was. I said yes. But nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.

To be continued…

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