The internal journey of Peyote

  Aug 11, 2014   Edmond

I had been warned by many tattooers that when you do Peyote you have to confront all your demons at once, I was terrified of what was coming, I had paid $300 dollars months in advance to arrange a Peyote spirit walk and as I drove east from Tucson, deep into the Arizona desert.

It felt like ages, I stopped to get water and a little food as I was instructed by the organization, The Peyote Way Church of God, who by some form of bureaucracy had manipulated the courts into convincing them that this native tradition was part of some far descendant of the Mormon Church. After a couple hours I took an off ramp and followed the word-by-word directions I had received. I ended up on a 20-mile dirt road that was wash boarded pretty bad and kept my speed down. I was driving my last possession, my 1993 jeep wrangler and on my way home from being abroad for 4 years. I still had to get the jeep a long god damn way after this.

I was excited to get this out of my way in order to head to the coast, I was sick of being fucking landlocked for so long. I saw a couple of hawks on the way in, letting me know I was making the right choice, that I was protected. When I was a child, after taking all my firearms courses and went on my second grouse hunting expedition with my father. The first ended up being a turkey shoot and I had learned that the birds were as dumb as they were tasty. There in the brush was a grayish brown bird, just standing there. I called to my father, I was a little unsure if it was a grouse and didn’t want to kill anything for no reason. He answered me from afar, is it gray is the head this or that, I mistakenly answered yes and then with a trigger pull and blast from my 410 shotgun had mistakenly shot a wounded hawk. My Father and I later determined that a hawk on the ground, in the brush was quite strange and we assumed it had been wounded by some drunk hunters, who were flying up and down the logging roads drinking and shooting their guns in the air for no reason, giving us noble hunters a bad name. I watched my dad slit that dying hawks throat in mercy, and it was the only time I heard my father call on God. Its my belief that with that mercy and my horrible mistake, that that hawks spirit jumped into ours and my father and I are always connected to that beautiful bird of prey, so like in all things, the hawks somehow the death of that hawk was proof that everything is connected.

I was in the center of nothing and slowly climbing into the dry mountains ahead of me. Hours of driving went by and the jeep bounced around on that graded road enough to make me piss blood. Finally after a long dusty journey I came to a red mailbox that said peyote.

I drove in and parked in the front of what looked like a Manson hippy commune or something. There were old cars parked in the overgrowth and trailers dotted around the 160-acre property. The house was decorated with glazed tiles with Native style artwork on it, most of them with the peyote cactus mingled somewhere in between. As I hopped out I immediately noticed the no tobacco sign, my heart sank a little. A skinny older woman came out and hollered my name, I greeted her, it was Annie, the woman I had frustrated over our correspondence that had lasted a few months as she reluctantly allowed me to partake in their ceremony. I apologized to her; she accepted and started the tour. Showing me the 3 spots on the property that I could choose to use for my spirit walk. Each one sporting a small canopy, a fire pit, a chair and not much else except a candle at all three. She showed me the room where they grew the peyote where hundreds of tiny little cacti, some with little buds starting to bloom, the button where the hallucinogenic comes from. I learned that for peyote button to grow it takes years.

As we walked around the property she let me know how earthy and strange she was, I enjoyed it actually. Someone I could freely express my feelings with. Annie warned me of the rattlesnakes, that especially around 5-7 at night they come out hunting the mice and I would need to keep my eyes out. After about 30 minutes of hearing about the goddess, and the holy sacrament I told Annie I was afraid. She didn’t really make me feel any better, but she certainly didn’t make me feel worse. She told me that the peyote knows how much I can handle and will only take me as far as I was able to go. That it wasn’t like other hallucinogenics and that rather than visual it would be more of an internal speculation, opening up the right side of my brain. She also said it takes about 5 hours to begin, that I would get sick and that the high itself lasts about 5 hours. She showed me to a small room where I would be sleeping that night, sharing with another man. There were to be 3 people that would be doing spirit walks the following day; that disappointed me a little honestly, I thought for whatever reason I would be alone, but none the matter. I drank lots of water and walked around the property snapping a few photos. Then sat inside for a while and read. I had 22 hours to go without eating or smoking. The whole place was pretty weird. I kept thinking this was probably what the Manson family compound was like. I could see the blood on the walls and the screams of terror around every corner. 4 hours passed, not being able to smoke or eat left me only with reading. Finally my roommate walked in the door. He was a talkative man named Matt from Ohio. He kind of annoyed me at first until I noticed that he had laurels tattooed on his inner arm, I found that very strange, like Apollo himself reaching out to me in someway. Apollo was here, the hawks all the signs were now here. How very strange, I got the feeling that the coming adventure into the spirit world was going to have a huge impact on me bad or good, it was what I was supposed to be doing.

I read until my eyes fucking hurt, doing my best to not think of giant bowls of guacamole or fresh tacos, or even just a fucking tomato with salt on it. Something other than water. I put cigarettes out of my mind and just buried my face in my kindle. About 2130 I said fuck it and took a Tylenol pm in order to cheat my way into the morning. I didn’t sleep great but I got to 0630 in the morning before I had to wake up. I took a cold shower because I wasn’t patient enough to wait for the water heater to click on, brushed my teeth and then laid in bed until 1000. 4 hours to wait until I could get started. I kept looking at the bizarre paintings on the walls, weird Native style paintings in my room of the cacti and of naked men and women with very strange looking genitals. My allergies were kicking my ass and to be honest I was really looking forward to being done with all this shit and back on the road where I am my happiest, driving like hell forever and ever where no one can fucking catch me. The day just fucking dripped by; I was nearly frantic at this point from not smoking, bored to tears and wanting to get the fucking show on the road.

I learned that Matthew, the guy married to Annie had been taking small doses of peyote daily for years; to me it looked like he spent most of his days in their little pottery den in the back of the guest house I was staying. My allergies were kicking my ass and I was counting down to 1400. It had now been 22 hours since I had eaten or smoked. I started to get extra anxious and 25 hours had passed I was chomping at the bit and finally at 1500 I got my instructions and a jar of tea in a recycled organic salsa bottle. Annie told me to sip it slowly, one sip every 20 or so minutes, let the nausea die down and take another. I packed all my shit down to my personal spirit tent area, there was a canopy, a reclining camping chair and a fire pit. It was hot in the high desert and the flies and bugs where everywhere. Including giant horse flies that kept landing on me and biting my legs. I nervously held the bottle while turning the lid. I gave the thick mixture a sniff and took a big swig. It tasted so bitter, like old spent coffee mixed with burnt banana peels and nutmeg. After about 5 minutes I already felt pretty strange, but chalked it up to not eating or smoking for so long. I took another big gulp right after. I felt the peyote medicine go right down my throat to my stomach and make a knot. 40 minutes later I took my third big gulp and had smashed through about a quarter of the bottle. Annie told me a quarter would do it but try and get a little further. Right after that sip a dull floating numbness fell over me and I kind of froze in my chair. My mind calmed and I just sat there feeling nothing for a while. I was really surprised it hit me so quick; in my experience I metabolize drugs really quickly so I was worried I would get too high to drink more. Annie told me I wouldn’t feel anything for about 5 hours and here I am 40 minutes later high as shit already. I took another sip and as I moved my chair into the shade my legs got wobbly under me and nausea hit me hard. Even in my water I could taste and smell peyote all around me, the back of my tongue felt swollen and I breathed deep as not to throw up. My head was empty as if I had taken too many shots of tequila and I entered this infancy where I just wanted a warm embrace of my mother or grandmother, something warm and familiar. In hindsight I think it was some strange fear of the early intensity that I was going through.

Tears filled my eyes until I shook it off and took another big gulp. I was here; it was now goddamn it I was going to get as far into the spirit world as I possibly could. Another huge gulp, this time getting to the thick materials at the bottom. The nausea floored me this time, I couldn’t really even move without feeling that horrible knot in my stomach and feeling sick. I writhed on the ground making myself filthy like an old vaquero. I battled that for about an hour, maybe more before patterns started to appear in the blue sky above me. The bright white wispy clouds gave way to geometric patterns that grew in complexity the longer I stared into them. There were 15 peyote buttons ground up in the tea I was drinking and I was about a third of the way down, with how sick I felt I wasn’t sure if I could do anymore. I had to though, and I fought off the disgust I felt in my gut and on my tongue to take another huge gulp and fought keeping it down for another hour and a half. To get my mind off the drama taking place in my stomach I burned the white sage that Annie gave me and kind of soaked in the smoke. White sage always calms me down and helps me let go of any negativity, I love that smell and it got me in a better place mentally. I wasn’t very panicked at this point; I was still very calm and coherent. It was about 1730 at this point and the sun was getting low in the west dropping dramatic shadows on the desert and the sounds of all the creatures started to change as the creatures of the desert night started to weave into the soundscape around me. The air cooled and sacred geometry was dancing all around me still. The sky was changing color and greens took over the mountainous horizon and my eyes started playing tricks in the failing light. As the light faded the sky, like some blue bubble seemed to raise slowly higher and higher to give way for the stars to begin to dance.

I was excited for the stars; in the middle of the desert I expected them to be spectacular. In my head strange things started to happen as I ascended from my infancy, I was able to look at myself and my addictions, my dependencies and the things I bring into my life that are negative. This was the first gear in my drive to understanding myself. I was learning quickly that mescaline is more about learning about your self than about anything else. I looked up at the blue sky and a giant rolling wave in the color rippled across the sky and as it did night was upon me and the sun was gone, the stars sparkled I couldn’t help but let out a gasp of awe.

Holy fuck I was high, holy fuck this was amazing and holy fuck I need some more. I took another big gulp it didn’t taste the same anymore, it was uncomfortable to drink but it didn’t bother my stomach anymore. The thick putrid bottom of the bottle was like some bitter toothpaste I nearly had to chew to swallow. I was beating the urge to throw up and for every minute I did, the further I would journey into the spirit world. The noises of the night seemed to surround me like when you get spooked watching a movie at home and realizing its in surround sound. It had this dull roar that had me a little jumpy. In the distance in the field I was sitting in I could see movement and I wasn’t sure if it was my eyes or if it was real. The moon was already out and I could still see pretty good as I stealthily navigated up to the bushes that obscured my vision, there was a spotted horse and a black one grazing and stomping their feet now and then and giving the occasional nay. I sat back down and smoked a few cigarettes. At this point I could give a fuck about the rules of the church property, no one would take from me what had already begun. It made me very nostalgic, my old days with LSD. My favorite tripping buddies came to mind, Brian, Scott, Sam, Heath. How we would look at the miracle of the universe each night and by morning have figured it all out, only to awake later to find it all rebuilt in all its complexities. Such wonderful times we would have, and such great hallucinogenic adventures. With that thought I threw the jar back long and hard. I didn’t give a fuck anymore I needed to go fucking deeper, all the way in. At the bottom of the jar it got thick and pungent, the taste and texture turned completely foul and I kept going. I put the jar down and gasped, taking big deep breathes. I kept telling myself to hold it in, biting my tongue and lighting a cigarette at the same time. My mouth was watering and I was fighting keeping it down, I stood up and wobbly I walked into the darkness that had now fallen thick onto the valley. I fumbled around in the darkness for a while putting any worries of shadowy beasts or rattlesnakes aside. I became aware of the world around me around 20:00, and by aware I could feel everything that was happening around me, every sound every change of light I could feel the air dropping each degree in temperature. I was cold so I started a fire with the firewood I was left with.

The heat and glow delighted me, I was happy in that moment and sat close to the fire and watched it dance as the orange glow shot into the darkness of the sky and left streaks vertical up to infinity. Sitting in front of that fire in the darkness I was able to start to see the things I want in life, I am not sure if its so difficult to identify for everyone else, but in that moment I really wished to share time with the people I loved, I wanted to gather my dad and mom, sister, my dearest friends from around the world and all the women I love and just sit them all around a fire, or in a room even and just sit there and watch them all interact in silence, watching them all smile, listening to their laughter. What joy that would bring me, a happy tear rolled down my cheek. After all this time in this mad journey I really realized that all I really want now is to share how wonderfully chaotic and painful life is on this wretched little planet. In that moment it was clear to me for the first time in a long time who I really was. Those happy thoughts gave me this energy that is difficult to describe, I sucked down another cigarette and stared at the clouds above me illuminated by the half moon, I stared blankly, unable to really focus on any single point, I stood and kept staring until the sky changed and the patterns got really intense, pulsing geometric patterns that started to swirl I felt the air go still around me and a point in the sky went darker than the rest as the entire sky transformed into a swirling vortex. A giant black hole above me and I didn’t avert my eyes I stared long and hard and could feel myself leaning forward into the vortex as it started to suck me, could I go up there I thought as my gaze still didn’t divert, a long time passed until finally I shook my head and unfortunately reality snapped back into its place or at least some of reality. I sat back down in my chair and stoked the fire. A satellite crept across the sky and I watched with a giggle when the stars around it started playing space invaders, trying to shoot it down with little 8 bit beams of light blasting it.

At this point in my experience I was really digging into my own head, deeper and deeper I was heading down the rabbit hole. This trip, and everything I have pretty much ever done I have roared into arrogantly and in the end I am usually humbled, I suppose that is how anyone gains experience but that thought gave way to a more important discovery. I have worked really hard to silence my ego, how often I do love to run my mouth, but for the most part I try to keep that voice inside at a minimum, thinking that the ego is the source of all evil. Maybe it was time to let my ego run loose, if arrogance leads you into self-discovery and learning then it cant all be bad. My unquenchable thirst for knowledge and learning ultimately lead me to peyote and to push my boundaries a little further. I had already accomplished what I came to do in that Arizona desert. I felt content and just sat back smoking cigarette after cigarette until my first pack landed in the fire. The constellation Perseus was directly above me holding the Gorgon’s head, the coyotes were making a fuss all around me, almost circling me with their high pitched yelps and barks, I could feel them getting closer and closer but I didn’t fear the beasts, their sounds becoming almost 3 dimensional, the crickets were chirping and I could hear cows in the distance and the soft mumble of ghost voices just beyond the distance of recognition. It got colder and colder and I sat there for hours rolling so many thoughts over in my head, it was so internal now that I still cant figure out how to put it all into words. I pulled out my headphones and started listening to rock n roll for a while. As I did I watched the mountains across the valley start to shrink slowly as I looked at my hands, they looked bigger, slowly I could feel myself growing bigger. My camp looked tiny below me and I grew to 100 feet tall, I was bigger than the mountains and had to hunch over as not to hit my head on the celestial sphere above me. The rock n roll had switched on my adrenaline and mixed itself with the peyote and I became who I was really born to be, the ancient gladiator, the warrior, the general and the fucking Demi God. I could feel the adrenaline letting itself loose, it tingled in my giant fingers and I could feel it running down my legs, the world around me blurred into obscurity where I couldn’t make out any of the tiny world below me and I laughed loud and deep as I clenched my hands tightly and I felt my eyes dilate I was headlong inside the spirit world and I was the god there. I flexed my muscles until they burned and pulled against my bones and let out the most primal scream one has ever heard. It was a war cry. I gnashed my teeth and growled. I was a monster in full control of everything that surrounded me including this reality. Space and time slowed until I could see the heart of the universe glowing in front of me, it had yielded to me in that moment, showing me its very secrets. The awakening of my ancient warrior was intoxicating and lasted for what must have been hours.

Then the unwelcomed door opened and I slipped unwillingly back into my former plane of reality and the focus of the valley came back to me I sat back down and heart still pounding I smoked a few cigarettes. I checked the clock, it had been 12 hours since the start and the comedown had begun. The internal conversation was still going on really heavily in my head and as I sat there I got hungry and started to think of climbing the trail back to the house to call it a night. I started to question if I was still high. Finally I watched the fire burn to coals and packed up my stuff and awkwardly started up the trail, backpack on, sleeping bag in had, holding a flashlight and the empty peyote jar.

There was a small tunnel of trees between my camp and the house and I walked up through the blackness keeping my light on the ground in front of me when I heard a large movement in the bushes. I looked up from the ground to see the pale spotted horse who squared off to me in the trail. It was a giant creature and he was looking right at me and I at him. He had four eyes that would blink in unison, giant and dark staring into my soul. I could tell he was on edge; his back foot was poised to kick. This beast and me just stood there for what must have been 10 minutes. He would not yield the path and I walked back down to the fire putting another couple logs on the coals taking it as a sign I wasn’t yet finished with my trip. As I sat there in the cold, the skin on my legs burning from being too close to the fire I just enjoyed those last moments in the dark. It was a beautiful thing I had done, I confronted my fear and went deep into a quest for self-enlightenment. My last great adventure was over now and I could finally start the journey back to where I came from. To my left I heard the pale horse and his black partner rumble down the path, allowing me to leave. I grabbed my stuff and walked back up to the house where I had a cliff bar finally after 37-38 hours, it tasted horrible and was hard to chew but I was happy to get some food in me. I laid in my bed for a while and just stared into blackness until finally I was asleep. In the morning I woke at about 6, grabbed my keys from the table where they were left by Annie and packed up and blazed.

The 20 miles of dirt trail didn’t seem nearly as long and I was very calm and content. I drove about an hour before I had service and started making some calls and texts to let everyone know I was ok. I called my mom and dad and told them of my experience, to which they were quite receptive and excited for me. I got the number of my sister’s friend Megan in San Diego and after she agreed to put me up for the night started the 7-hour drive through the incredibly hot Arizona desert into California.