“I know you have worked with medicine before, but have you ever done Bufo, the toad?”
This question came by often, with the addition that even when you have worked with Ayahuasca and Kambo, Bufo is something else. The stories sounded so intense, that I never even really considered this one. Why would someone want to feel like they’re dying – for real?
But then there was this message from someone I never met before: “Hey, we love what you bring to this world, and the medicines tell us to invite you. Would you come to our Bufo alvarius ceremony next week?”
And of course, it was that one free day between the madness of Christmas and Newyear, in a fully planned week where one day’s plans got canceled. If coincidence isn’t real, then who am I to decline this invitation? My belly was a yes, and I decided not to think about it too much, to prevent any worrying.
Biking to the center of Amsterdam some days later, my nerves got me a little. Each and every time when there’s any medicine involved, even if it’s cacao, there’s a part of me that is afraid. I guess it’s a fear of losing control. Fearing losing something I identify with. Not so much intense emotions, and my discomfort with throwing up pretty much disappeared after all the Kambo sessions that I did.
Just a Wednesday, an apartment on the top floor of an old, typical Dutch building with steep stairs near the Amstel. About ten people gathering together. The smell of sage fills the room. As I sit in the circle and look at the altar, the instruments, and the medicine, it makes so much sense: the shamans being in cities, the plants gaining popularity. This all was once only accessible when you were indigenously born. But the world changes and we change with it. A medicine journey in the middle of a city can be just as sacred as in the jungle. It’s all about intention.
“I’m not a shaman”. Somehow this seems to be how real shamans introduce themselves. There’s such a humbleness in those I met who touched me deeply. “We’re all our own shamans. I’m merely here to be with you in the process. You can see me with your eyes open or closed.”
Raul explained us in Spanish what Bufo is about and how it works, while his beautiful partner Filipa translated into English.
The Bufo medicine comes from Bufo alvarius, a toad living in the Sonoran desert in Mexico. It consists of secretions containing tryptamine 5-MeO-DMT, the strongest natural psychedelic known. These secretions are taken from the toad without the animal being killed or hurt. The dried secretions are put in a glass pipe that is heated. You inhale the smoke slowly. The effect will start very soon, and you will sort of faint or be unconscious. The effects will last about 15-20 minutes, although during the trip time doesn’t exist, and it can feel like forever.
People working with Bufo report several amazing effects, like clear insights, liberation from stuck emotions, a deep sense of oneness, or liberation of stress. Just like with each other medicine the effects can last for days, and processes can start, including feeling emotional, down, or the complete opposite for the next week or two.
“We all have thoughts. The space in between thoughts is pure consciousness. Bufo helps you to get access to this space of consciousness. It’s scary because it’s like the death of the ego. Everything you identify with: your name, your job, your status, your relationships – it will all disappear. Your body can struggle, it can feel really heavy. Other people feel orgasmic. You might see things or realize things. Bufo shows you duality and non-duality.”
Check this 40 minute documentary about Bufo alvarius to meet the toad, and learn the history of this ritual that possibly only exists for some decades (and meet the man who presumably smoked dried toad venom first!) >>>
Image: screenshot from the movie Bufo alvarius – the Underground Secret via this link.
The people before me all responded differently. Raul held the glass pipe, heated the Bufo with a lighter, and told them to breathe in, breathe out deeply and then inhale the Bufo smoke slowly. A little time after inhaling they would either drop or be guided to the floor. Every time I saw Raul’s face changing into something toad-like. The way he guided was different each time too. From waving feathers, leaves and making sounds, to singing, to seemingly uninterestedly sitting nearby. They all went through some intensity, and then came out lighter.
It wasn’t like Kambo, where your heart rate goes up to the most intense beat you can imagine. Or the puking, or the sweating. I didn’t see any of that. It calmed me down a little.
Then it was my turn. Standing up with Filipa to my left and Raul to my right, he asked if I was ready. Yeah, I feel ready. I’m less afraid of dying as to leaving my children behind. But I’ve seen everyone coming back from dying today, so let me die. It was as if I could feel my spiritual guides surrounding me, telling me it was alright. A light presence hovering somewhere high above me, giving me confidence. Right time, right place, right medicine. Even if this would be a struggle, it would be the right struggle.
“Breathe out deeply, and then slowly inhale.”
The glass pipe came close and I started inhaling the smoke. It tasted like something between burned hair and burned skin, and it hurt my throat. I relaxed my throat as much as I could and kept inhaling until Raul told me to stop and hold it in as long as I could.
The effect came fast and intense, as if I felt back heavily into the earth, while all I could see was an overwhelming, warm light. With closed eyes, I saw all kinds of circling fractals moving towards my third eye in high velocity. Most had gorgeous colors, some were black and white. In waves, undescribably intense sensations hit me. Yes, this must be what dying feels like. It felt like g-forces were pushing me out of my body.
There were some waves that could have turned into resistance, but relaxing into the experience kept me in the realms of the colored fractals. My thinking mind kicked in, telling me that maybe I should make sounds, or have my body making movements. As soon as I gave those thoughts attention, I moved away from the beauty, and it felt like I was being pulled back into a dualistic world with judgemental thoughts, a kind of harshness and more of what I know when my inner critic is at the wheel.
But I had a choice. I could focus on the colors and the feelings. With my eyes closed, I clearly saw Raul’s face. Focusing on his eyes as an anchor point I instantly went back to just being and feeling. I felt the inner panther I know so well very strongly. I saw the jungle. Not like in pictures or movies, but the version of feeling it. I could see the vibrations and feel the colors. The music from the phone felt like a band of amazing musicians playing right next to me. The singing of Raul and instruments he used felt magically all around me. My voice started singing in a language I don’t know – and know so well, as everytime my inner medicine woman takes over, these are the sounds that come. And it’s not just mine, I’ve heard other people making the same sounds, including the shaman next to me.
“Shashashasha, datataaaahh”. My body wanted to curve in all kinds of directions. Waves of anger passed through, I needed to spit out old stuff. A process that started in the shower some days ago after having a cough for weeks, that culminated during mediation with my ex. As my intention for today was to invite my desire to love freely, without attachments, old patterns or karmic bonds, the purging didn’t surprise me and felt really good.
I became conscious of the words of the song: “Remember why you’re here”.
I couldn’t tell how long I’d been inside this journey. It felt like hours, but probably it was no more than 20 minutes. I slowly felt a sense of presence coming back and sat up. When I opened my eyes I saw Raul sitting in front of me. It felt like a deep conversation without words. A being seen and appreciated for nothing else than being. A ritual unfolding where my mind, slowly kicking back in, was wondering if I did it right and what I should do next. I could allow her to settle, and tune in into my knowing. That’s all I needed.
We bowed to each other without words and all the more respect. He bowed forward and whispered in my ear: “You’re a magical person”. Little did he know that ‘magic’ was the word I worked with all year. The word that came to me almost a year ago, like every year a word comes through. And it made me realize: after looking for magic around me for twelve months, by the end of the year I find that yes, there’s magic around me. But the biggest source of magic is inside me. I may know and embrace that, and then the magic will be reflected back to me.
Raul & myself, right after the ceremony
Over the next days, I felt both the gratefulness for having felt oneness, the non-duality within duality. I felt nourished and filled with deep love and joy. At the same time, the world felt a bit two-dimensional, as is something was missing that I now knew existed. Colors were a little duller and more grey.
Looking back, some weeks later, I notice there’s more love in my heart. I see other people on their journey, figuring life out in their own ways, and I can start crying for the sheer beauty of it.