Mystic in Mexico Part IV: The Portal

Sun PortalThe following post is the fourth in a series. To read from the beginning click here for Part I.

As the night progressed, one by one, people laid down to sleep, but Crystal, Fernando and I remained awake. I sat upright, avoiding the temptation to lie down, knowing it would induce sleep. Each time I felt sleepiness descending upon me, I’d eat another wedge of peyote and the it would lift. I did not experience the nausea some people describe, but I also did not experience any far out visions beyond that first subtle one of the Blue Deer. I’d forgotten my watch at home, but the constellations, as they rose and gradually made their way across the sky accompanied by the bright moon, served as a timepiece. Gradually Orion appeared, followed by Sirius, the Dog Star, the brightest star in the night sky.

I have a particular affinity for Orion and Sirius, hailing from when, on still winter nights in my youth, I often lay in the deep snow blanketing our yard to gaze at the night sky. Aside from the Big and Little Dipper, the only constellation I knew was Orion. We’d learned a song in school about Orion and it played over and over in my mind’s soundtrack as I looked skyward. What other thoughts I had lying out there wrapped in my snowsuit, I don’t recall, but even then I knew there was much more to the Universe than my young mind could possibly comprehend.

Orion-in-Oct-1024x805As the night of the peyote ceremony progressed, I grew impatient for sunrise, feeling night would never end. The moon had arced its way across the sky and sat above the western hills behind me, shining down upon us like a huge flashlight. Orion tilted towards the hills laying on his side just above the moon, while faithful Sirius remained, as always, to left of and below his foot. I turned my gaze back to the fire and tried to concentrate on Guadalupe’s chanting. Something told me that sunrise would be a significant time in the ceremony. I bided the time.

After what seemed like another hour, I again looked over my shoulder to check the progress of Orion, Sirius, and the moon in their descent toward the hill. What I saw left me befuddled. Orion and Sirius had disappeared below the hill, but the moon remained in the position I’d last seen it. How could that be? I looked back at the fire, thinking it must be a trick of my vision and Orion and Sirius must still be there. I turned again to check and saw that indeed they were not. I nudged Crystal who sat quietly next to me.

“Did you notice the moon,” I said, gesturing with my head. She shook her head no, so I asked, “Look at where it is now. Please take note and then let’s look again in a while.” She agreed, noted the moon’s position, and we turned our attention back to the fire and Guadalupe’s chanting.

A while later, Crystal got up and left. When she returned, I thought it was a good time to check on the moon, time having been tangibly marked by her departure. I couldn’t believe my eyes! There it sat, in exactly the same place, a short distance from the top of the hills! When I pointed it out to Crystal, she smiled the same mischievous grin that Ayax had exhibited when I mentioned seeing the blue deer.

Finally, the sky began to brighten. As dawn approached, Mario instructed us that we should take our last piece of hikuri. Once again I chewed the strange cactus up into a mash. Having swallowed it, I prepared myself mentally for what I thought would be a sunrise ceremony, but rather than gathering into a circle and chanting as I’d expected, everyone began gathering their things while they chewed their last piece of peyote. Convinced that I needed to see the sun rise, I stubbornly ignored the others and sat cross-legged on my blanket watching the eastern horizon. Every few minutes I looked over my right shoulder to check on the moon, which remained hanging above the hill. I now knew for certain that it hadn’t moved for hours.

As I sat and waited, I remembered that people report seeing a green flash at the instant the sun breaks the horizon, so I focused my attention on the brightest spot, only breaking my glance briefly to check on the moon. The activity of the others around me was getting boisterous – they were talking, gathering their belongings, walking between me and the where the sun would rise. I wondered why they would ignore the most important moment of a new day and tried to stifle my annoyance. Eventually, I felt I had to stand up, or I might be swept up in their activity. So I stood, continuing to stare at the horizon. When the sky got so bright that it became clear dawn was imminent, I decided to ignore the moon and kept my eyes focused eastward.

In a flash of whitish yellow light, the sun suddenly appeared above the sea and the sky filled with an intensity that contrasted sharply with the many hours of darkness I’d just experienced. As it rapidly rose, I began to feel the pull again of the moon and turned my whole body to face it, half expecting it to be gone. But no, there she was hovering in exactly the same position. I turned to look at the sun, then again to the moon. Back and forth I went, conflicted about which body I needed to gaze at. I wanted to combine their energy somehow and felt as though I was a link between the two. After several minutes of trying to look at them both, the sun morphed into a strange rotating silver disk, so I focused my attention on it. Then I realized it was not a disk at all, but a hole, a portal of some sort. Beyond the portal the sky turned golden, the sea became lavender and a perfect right-hand wave broke continuously. Behind the wave rose a steep volcanic mountain covered in lush vegetation. I realized I was being beckoned to pass through the portal to visit the idyllic scene.

Despite feeling incredibly drawn to go ride that perfect wave, a different kind of wave, one of fear rolled through me instead. What would happen on the other side? Where would I go? Was this some cosmic trick? Find out in Part V of Mystic in Mexico: Sirius Wisdom.

Mystic in Mexico Part III: The Blue Deer

Venado AzulThis is the third in a multi-part series. Here is where you’ll find Part I and Part II.

We were then instructed to stand before Guadalupe so that we could be blessed. The sky was dark now, but a soft orange light glowed on the eastern horizon. As Guadalupe blessed the other participants, I kept my eyes on the horizon as the light grew stronger until finally the moon crested. Gradually, it rose to cast a long shaft of soft orange and then yellow light across the sea’s smooth surface. It appeared enormous so close to the horizon, powerful, and surely blessed the occasion with its presence. The full moon happened to be in my astrological sign, Gemini, that night. I watched it rise to the sound of Guadalupe’s soft chanting behind me. Crystal called me when it was my turn and I stood quiet and still in front of Guadalupe as he moved the feathered wand first to my left, then to my right, placed it between my hands as he brought them to my heart. Finally he held it to my forehead. I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer for guidance.

Now that we had been blessed, we were permitted to eat our first piece of peyote. Mario had carefully cut a golf ball-sized button into wedges. He showed us how to pick the small prickly hairs off the outside skin before eating it and explained that they made the cactus taste bitter. I imagined they also didn’t feel very good stuck in the roof of your mouth and tongue! I cleaned my piece thoroughly and put it in my mouth. I’d heard that peyote can be so bitter as to make you want to vomit and that some people do indeed. Mario instructed us to chew it down to a pulp before swallowing it. As I did so, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it tasted much better than I’d expected. It was not bitter at all and had a texture and taste a bit like a cucumber, but with fibrous strings mixed into the soft meat. Next I noticed it also had tiny hard pieces in it, like sand particles.  When I’d chewed it down into the texture of baby pablum, I swallowed the pulpy mass down.

It was time to enter the temescal. Crystal invited me to enter first. I removed all my clothing except for my bathing suit and a light cotton sun dress I wore over it. The night air was fresh and humid, the sand soft and cool on my bare feet. The sweat lodge is a low structure constructed from PVC tubing and boughs of a local shrub called Palo de Arco (literally “bowed branch” because, like willow, it is easily bent and shaped into bows). The PVC might seem incongruous, but it is practical. The dome-shaped skeleton of soft branches and plastic tubing is covered with many blankets and tarps all the way to the ground.  The result is a pitch black cocoon-like space that retains the heat and steam of the hot rocks. There is a hole in the ground at the center of the tented space that is about three feet by two feet wide and almost three feet deep. This is where the hot rocks are placed. I squatted down low and, duck-like, entered the lodge where the tarps and blankets were thrown back to create a low doorway.

One by one, my fellow travelers joined me, gradually forming a circle around the pit. Once we were all inside, Crystal asked each of us to say our name and tell the spirit of Hikuri what our intention was for being there that night. One of the participants asked to be helped in his quest to quit drinking. As the other participants spoke, I turned inside to see what intention I carried in my heart. When it was my turn I shared what I’d found there, “I seek knowledge of the spirit world and to open my heart.”

Fernando began to bring in the now white-hot rocks one at a time. As each rock was dropped into the pit, we all chimed, “Bienvenida abuelita! (welcome little grandmother).” As the rocks were placed, I could feel their heat snaking up out of the pit and across my legs. After seven had been delivered, Fernando came back into the lodge with a bucket of water and the door was closed tightly behind him. Crystal took the bucket and after chanting something I didn’t understand, poured the water onto the rocks in a constant slow stream. A strong blast of steam rose and enveloped us. Outside, Guadalupe continued to chant his mysterious prayer songs.

The first thing I noticed was that the steam did not burn the inside of my nose when I inhaled, like it had the first time I participated in the temescal. Others were breathing quickly, as though under stress, but I settled in and felt the heat enter the cells of my body. Crystal began to sing a spiritual song. I closed my eyes and began to move slowly side to side in time to the beat of her song.

Once the steam dissipated, Fernando left the lodge again to move more hot rocks from the fire into the pit. Again, we sang out, “Bienvenida abuelita!” as he dropped the rocks from his shovel blade, one by one into the pit. This time he brought 13 rocks in total and I felt the energy in the small space rise as we all anticipated the stronger heat they would create. Another bucket of water was brought and, once the door was sealed, poured over the rocks. The intensity of the steam was acute, yet I felt remarkably comfortable and hummed along as Crystal sang. Someone began to chant Om and I joined in. Mystified at how comfortable I was, thinking I had not even broken a sweat, I reached up to feel my face only to discover that I was, in fact, sweating profusely.

I guess this is an effect of the peyote, I thought and was grateful that I was more comfortable in the sweat lodge this time around. I closed my eyes and appreciated the feeling of the humid, heavy heat.

At one point I opened my eyes and saw an oblong blue light above our circle. There were two dark spots at the top of the shape, where it was widest and a dark line running vertically down the lower three quarters. I knew it hadn’t been there earlier, but guessed one of the blankets on top of the lodge must have blown back to allow the light of the moon to glow through a blue tarp. But when I listened for the wind, I heard nothing.

When the sweat lodge ceremony was over, we crawled out of the small sandy space one at a time. I removed my dress and, as instructed, poured cool fresh water from a 50 gallon barrel over my head and body to cleanse myself of the toxins I’d just sweated out. The water was quite cool, but I enjoyed the sensation of it washing over my body.

I dried off and put on warm clothes. One by one, we gathered around the fire while Fernando busied himself adding fuel.  Blankets were laid out around the fire to sit or lie on. I joined Crystal on one and wrapped myself in a heavy blanket I’d brought to guard against getting chilled. The heat from the fire felt good and I turned slowly in a circle so it would warm my whole body and help dry my hair.

Guadalupe and Mario remained seated on the white plastic chairs on the South side of the fire pit where they’d been when we entered the lodge. Guadalupe continued to chant quietly and I wondered if he would do it the entire night. We chatted amicably amongst ourselves until I heard Mario telling Mauricio, “Yes, you may take more Hikuri.” I looked to Crystal for guidance. She nodded and said, “Yes, you may take Hikuri as often as you want. Let your intuition guide you.”

Mario added, “It will help you if you find yourself getting tired.”

I took another wedge, cleaned it, and chewed it to a pulp.

Guadalupe paused from his chanting, got up and stretched then. He looked around and asked no one in particular, “How was the temescal?”

Ayax, the cardiologist, replied, “We were visited by the venado azul.” (the blue deer)

I looked at him in surprise and repeated what he’d said, wondering if I’d misunderstood, “Blue deer?”

Guadalupe looked at him intently and replied, “That is an auspicious sign.”

Ayax continued, “Part way through the second round, I saw a line of small blue deer prancing around above the heads of the people across from me.” As he spoke he pointed away from himself and motioned with his hand up and down. “A line of four small deer trotting around the circle.”

Guadalupe said quietly, “El Venado Azul is the messenger. It is a good sign.”

I turned to Ayax and asked, “So it was not the moon shining through one of the tarps that I saw?”

He smiled mischievously at me and asked, “What did you see?”

I described the blue light I’d seen and turned to Crystal to ask her if the moon had shone through the roof of the lodge, but even before she answered, I suddenly realized I’d had a vision of the head of a blue deer.

The Venado Azul is the guide, messenger, and guardian of the sacred land the Huichol call Wirikuta, where the peyote cactus is collected. This spirit deer also symbolizes peyote and their names are sometimes used interchangeably. The Huichol refer to “hunting the blue deer” when they go on pilgrimage to Wirikuta to collect peyote.

I sat and questioned what I’d seen. My mind, the product of years of scientific and western dogma struggled to accept what I knew on a more visceral level to be true. Ayax’s vision was so similar. I felt a wave of understanding pass through me and acceptance of their explanation seemed to make me feel lighter. I felt my chest open and expand as I decided that the vision of the blue deer was a sign that my quest to know Hikuri was not misguided.

In Part IV: The Portal Hikuri extends an invitation to travel to another world. Will I go?