Featured art by Claire Christerson
A little over a year ago I was commissed to write an article about San Pedro (see: San Pedro: The Master Teacher and Spiritual Healer) for a colleague that runs an informative website called Entheonation. While the notion of the medicinal properties of cactus was something that piqued my interest, and I really enjoyed researching/writing about it, I never actively pursued “finding” an experience to commune with this particular medium.
I’ve journeyed with DMT, Psilocybin, LSD, Ayahuasca, Cannabis and MDMA – and all the gradients of remembering/”understanding” these medicines have facilitated have allowed me to discover a deeper connection to my heart, humanity, the universe and nature. From finding freedom from emotional paralysis, to discovering the depths of my inner strength, and ascending to new levels of appreciation for the all-that-is, each gradient has had its own particular “color”/energetic correspondence, but San Pedro walks a path of its own.
A Little History on San Pedro (via EntheoNation)
San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi), otherwise known as the Cactus of the Four Winds, Huachuma or Saint Peter’s Cactus, is a fast growing columnar cactus native to the Andes Mountains – which can grow up to 20 feet high. It is usually found in Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Ecuador – but is also cultivated in many other parts of the world.
San Pedro has a history of being used in Andean medicine for healing and religious divination for thousands of years, and archeologists suggest it originates from the Moche culture which flourished in ancient Peru from about 100AD to 800AD. It is also believed that the name originates from Saint Peter, who is believed to hold the keys to Heaven.
While San Pedro cactus is similar to Peyote, because it also contains the psychoactive alkaloid mescaline, it is different in several ways. First, concerning legality…Peyote is illegal in United States to cultivate, own, or process (including seeds), unless you’re a member of the Native American Church, while San Pedro is legal to grow and own (including seeds) as long as the intention is not to process or manufacture mescaline. Secondly, the mescaline content is different in each – with the mescaline content being very high (200-500mg per 6 g) in Peyote, and a bit lower in San Pedro (.1 to .331). It is also important to note that Peyote tends to be a lot more difficult to experience due to its rarity, and San Pedro can be a lot easier to come into contact with if you’re seeking that type of journey.
A Practice in Patience
“In shamanic cultures, synchronicities are recognized as signs that you are on the right path.” – Daniel Pinchbeck
Synchronicity has been an ever-present reality from the moment I made the conscious choice to live my truth, and explore a greater reality beyond our cultural programming of the work-to-retire, get married to get miserable, have a kid/house/white-picket fence/”someday my prince will come” mutant matrix. I left my job working for a pop culture blog in 2012, went on a solo journey to the rainforest in Costa Rica to do ayahuasca, started Evolve and Ascend, and a continued unfolding of my soul’s purpose has been the theme over the past few years.
The more I continued to allow, the more the path became clearer, but I found each time I pushed, the universe would push right back at me and give me a harsh (yet necessary) reality check to put my ego in place. 2016 was a year of chaos, destruction, and push-back from the universe, which lead to a push-forward into 2017, a gracious year of allowing, and flow.
The tides of the flow of allowing, allowed me to flow into an experience with San Pedro last week, and the divine timing of this sacred medicine unfolded exactly as I needed.
San Pedro was described to me by the facilitator of the medicine as a “practice in patience”, as it takes a few hours for it to fully enter your system, and the whole experience lasts around 14 hours (or more). Typically the medicine is served as a tea, but we experienced it in pill form, taken over the course of 3 hours.
Ebb and Flow
“Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates.” – The Kybalion
When San Pedro begins to affect your consciousness, it first feels as though a subtle wave of change occurs, and can best be described as a vibration of sunlight penetrating your energetic field. The medicine’s spiritual correspondence relates to masculine energies, the energy of the sun, and (in my personal experience) serves as a vehicle for remembering light through a presence of warmth. It feels a bit like the feeling of being at the top of a rollercoaster for quite some time, but then that washes away and feelings of bliss/peace replace it. The rollercoaster of bliss and uneasiness is a bit cyclical while you’re in the presence of the cactus, but there’s a strange comfort in the uncomfortableness. There is a presence of levity, and warm “static”, and the cactus carries a prickly softness that can actually feel quite lovely. While feelings of nausea/discomfort may occur, they eventually subside after some time.
In the book “Plants of the Gods” by Richard Evans Schultes, the author offers this quote about San Pedro cactus from a shaman:
“the drug produces .. drowsiness or a dreamy state and a feeling of lethargy..a slight dizziness..then a great vision, a clearing of the faculties..It produces a light numbness in the body and afterward a tranquility. And then comes detachment, a type of visual force..inclusive of all the senses..including the sixth sense, the telepathic sense of transmitting oneself across time and matter…like a kind of removal of one’s thought to a distant dimension.
[it is] always in tune with the powers of animals and beings that have supernatural powers… Participants [in ceremonies] are ‘set free from matter’ and engage in flight through cosmic regions… transported across time and distance in a rapid and safe fashion”
While the medicine has an astral quality to it, it is not like other entheogenic medicines (in a visual sense) as the visions are subtle, and can best be described as auric or a bit more colorful in nature as opposed to fractal/geometric.
As the spirit of San Pedro worked through my soul, the revelations were conscious and grounded, more “Ah-Ha!”/Eureka moments about the NOW as opposed to the non-linear unfolding of time/space, past/present/future like ayahuasca’s lessons work.
Set and Setting
Why/how the experience was so profound had much to do with how the medicine was received, who was offering it, and the shared space and community that embarked on the journey together. Timothy Leary’s infamous quote about “set and setting” is essential with any internal/shamanic journey, and it is important to reiterate how crucial this is to having an experience with the highest possible potential outcome.
Love and graciousness should permeate the intention of who you enter this space with, as this will echo back in how the energetic pattern (geometry) of time is woven while you are learning from this great teacher.
While everyone’s individual experience will be subjective to their intention and level of consciousness, San Pedro allowed me to experience some profound, extremely grounding revelations about the juxtaposition between pain and pleasure, experience and understanding, time and space. A common thread within many of the shamanic sacraments and medicines is the notion of purging to “get well” and pain as a way to exorcise our “demons”, and this concept came through my concsciousness while in the presence of the cactus.
Perspective shifted on why it must “hurt to heal”, and a series of questions kept coming to mind. I found myself wondering if these medicines always “hurt”, or do they hurt so much now to show us how separate we are from nature? Perhaps these “revelations in pain” are necessary in order for a personal apocalpyse to occur so you may have a shift in perception, and a greater understanding of your role in the whole? To realize that we are not foreign from nature, nature is where we come from and where we return to.
“People fear what they don’t understand and hate what they can’t conquer.” – Andrew Smith
We have become culturally programmed to hate what is “foreign”, to fear our darkness, to avoid the shadow. However, when you find the courage to take a step in the dark, you may come to discover a unique illumination, from the slivers of light that will become present in time. If you make a choice to walk into the darkness, eventually you may come to know that love is the invisible glue that binds, and light is the container everything is held in. Darkness is a temporary illusion, but the light is ever present.
Comfort in the uncomfortableness allows for a true communion with nature, as nature is always in flux, and all is always in the process of change. Our teacher, and facilitator touched on the notion that we are living in the times of “prophecy” and that shamanic communities currently believe that in the future there will be no “safe places, only safe people”, and the cactus allowed me to find solace in current state of affairs, by finding confidence in my role as an architect in the shape of things to come.
San Pedro, like the sun, allowed its warmth to shine brightly through my spirit, and gave its own unique illumination in a soft, subtle, profound and pertinent way. This loving power, was a great reminder of the “Power of Love” (this song actually came on at 11:11pm during our ceremony), and that pure potential can be actualized when you actively participate in the creation of the present, by weaving together the threads of time.
Advice for Those Seeking San Pedro
If this medicine calls to you, some key factors to remember are patience, safety, acceptance, and remaining open to receive whatever it is you need (even if its on a subconscious level). Allow what’s meant to be to unfold, breathe through the process, and eventually you’ll find your way home.