YAJÉ HAO - Sunrise Renewal Ceremony
It is Secoya tradition to cleanse the body before partaking in a Yajé ceremony. Many different traditions have their own way of cleansing before the ceremony, usually by drinking a purgative plant.
One Shipibo retreat center uses a combination of two medicinal plants. One plant is a lily called Azucena, and the other a tree sap called Oje. Some ashrams will drink a very strong tea of licorice or even just copious amounts of saltwater. All these traditions have the same goal in mind, to cleanse the digestive tract, liver, gall bladder, and lungs. This essentially tones the body and gets rid of blockages so one can get to the deeper healing. By doing this and following a strict diet, it allows one to be more present and will assist in going deeper.
The Secoya make a watered-down version of Yajé using just the leaves of the Yajé (Ayahuasca) vine and the leaves of Yajé Oco (Diplopterys cabrerana). Yajé is extremely bitter and helps to cleanse the liver and regulate PH in the body. Most westerners, unlike most other cultures, don’t have bitter foods in their diet.
Besides cleansing the body, the renewals are a way of allowing one to purge up all unwanted substances, thoughts, and attachments. The Secoya do this during the Sunrise ceremony so they are prepared for the proper Yajé, and are less prone to purge or move around during the all-night ceremony.
The renewal brew is made in the evening before the ceremony. Then at 3 am everyone meets in the Yajé Wai (Ceremonial Lodge) where hammocks are set up. Each person is called up to get their first gourd of yajé hao. They then take their gourd and head to a bench on either side of the lodge and drink the renewal. It is encouraged to hold the first gourd in for about 15-20 minutes. After this time most people start to purge, and one should go and receive their subsequent gourds.
I suggest that each person tries to drink at least three servings if not five or more. Drinking more allows you to go deeper and clean out the bile. After you are done purging it is best to lie in your hammock and rest. Even though this brew is watered down, it is extremely strong. It can be quite a shock when it comes on so quickly. Though, it doesn’t last as long as a proper Yajé ceremony. Usually, it will last between one to three hours. By 8 am we are ready to have breakfast and go about our day.
YAJÉREPA - Night Ceremony
Once we have cleansed ourselves with at least two Sunrise Renewals we are prepared to go deeper with drinking proper Yajé. These ceremonies last all night long.
Everyone is encouraged to stay in their hammocks in silence throughout the night except to go up for more medicine or the bathroom. We start around 8 pm calling each individual up for their first cup. The first round is a primer to get the body and mind ready for the rest of the night. After an hour or two if you are still not feeling much, or you simply want more, you are free to come up whenever you want and as many times as you want. That being said, you rarely need more than two servings.
It is really good if you can come up for a second or third serving, as at this point the elder serving will do a blessing by singing over your cup passing the visions and lessons into the medicine.
Typically, the first half of the ceremony is silent. The jungle is full of life and the music it makes is out of this world. In the Secoya perspective, the actual ceremony starts around 3 am, this is when they say the veil is the thinnest between us and the heavenly realms. At this point the elders will start to sing, calling in the heavenly spirits. This is beyond profound as they can sing for hours, sometimes the same song. It can feel like you are put in a trance as the songs and medicine work together.
Sometime after sunrise, the elders will do healings, at this point we will also offer water and yoco. Yoco is a traditional drink made from the rasped bark of the yoco vine. It is believed that yoco helps seal in the lessons and energy of the night. Around 8 am we will have some fruit, juice, and tea. Everyone is to stay in the lodge until the elders leave as they know when the yajé has passed. If you are still feeling the medicine and want to stay, someone will stay behind if you feel the need.
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