Interview With a Shamanic Healer

For our our humanities project at University we were given the task of researching any topic and relating it somehow to the idea of  ‘Post Truth’ and ‘Fake News’. Myself and my friend thought it would be interesting to explore the use of Psychoactive drugs, focusing mainly on LSD, Psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and DMT. Our goal was to compare case studies alongside the current UK drug laws and highlight as many instances of ‘fake news’ as we could in the hopes of educating people. Along the way we were lucky enough to have interviews with various people from Criminology lecturers to a psychedelic scientist (I will upload these interviews too) . One interview which stood out particularly was with Neil Kirwan – a healer who works with Shamanic techniques. We asked him about his experiences and here’s what he had to say

Link to our psychedelic project blog – https://apsychedelicdiscussion.wordpress.com/interviews/

Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

I host plant medicine retreats in Portugal. I work with entheogenic plants and non entheogenic plants so it’s not just the ones will take you on a journey that I look at. I’ve been doing this now for seven years and I went through learning with a traditional Quechua woman. I also learnt from a guy in the UK who was hosting retreats and I apprenticed with him for a short time. Now I continue to work through doing a dieta with the plants – I’m currently doing a dieta with a tree called chuchuhuasi. The purposes of these dietas is to connect with the spirit of that tree or plant and learn from it and conceive its healing power and connect with its energy. So then if I have a client come to me with a specific problem, the more plants that I’ve got as allies the more I can help solve the issue.  That’s how a lot of it in in the amazon is done. The shaman drinks the ayahuasca and it tells him which plants the person needs to help their healing.

How were you first introduced to this topic?

I was travelling and I’d started to read a book called ‘Wild’ by Jay Griffiths and she’s been around lots of different tribes and one of them was about when she drank ayahuasca and I read all about it. I felt it was calling to me big time. I didn’t quite get to Peru, I went to Costa Rica. But I found a Quechua woman from Peru and drank with her and it was the most intense, incredible experience of my life. It put into place a lot of thoughts and feelings I’d had about life since being a little child. It all made sense to me. I didn’t think I’d drink again that first time but as I was coming back into my body it just grabbed hold of me and said ‘no, you’re definitely going to be doing this again!” I didn’t really figure out that this was what I wanted to do with my life until three years ago and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

Would you say it’s recreational or spiritual?

I would say there’s always the strong element of spirit with everything. Even the term ‘psychedelic’ has a lot of connotations to it for me – it’s often used to reference to if you see loads of crazy colours so in that sense it can diminish the experience a bit subconsciously to it just being about colours and shapes and patterns. Also psychedelics, psychology, psychiatry. I appreciate it all working with the mind but from me and my work and the experiences I’ve had I’d say I’m working with souls and spirit. It’s the entheogen, which means ‘to contact’ that which is divine. People get in touch with who they really are and it’s such a massive break through experience for a lot of people.

Do you think that all this knowledge could be beneficial to the medical world?

Absolutely. I’ve had a doctor on one of my retreats and she didn’t really know what she was getting into but by the end she said “If only I could refer patients to you.” The world would be much different if there was more access to this. If you look at Gabor Mate(1), his work with addiction and ayahuasca and various other plants. Even mushrooms and their work with depression. There’s a lot of research coming together that’s showing it’s definitely there and can help but there is this real stigma that we need to get over for that to happen. I do also feel like, although they are very beneficial, they need to be handled with care and people working with them need to be well assessed and they need to be given the right after care. It can bring up very challenging things for people so having support before, during and after the process is vital.

Do you think that gap between the 1970s and now of there being barely any research into psychedelics was needed? And is there a resurgence of research?

I think for me there’s a deeper happening here whereby the plants that I work with ( and ayahuasca in particular being the main one) seems to be reaching out and gaining more popularity than ever and is practiced now around the globe. If you look at it the Amazon is being destroyed, the planet is being destroyed. We are out of control in a way with our destructive patterns and behaviours. We’re all in pain for some reason and that’s why we’re doing that. What happened in the 1970’s was the LSD phenomena blew up and it frightened the government. It frightened control mechanism. It frightened industries – petrochemical industries and more. Industries that make money from destroying the planet. It also frightened a lot of people what it could mean for their power and it also started to be weaponised – if you look at MK ultra and things like that. A lot of things went wrong when they did that. It comes back to that they definitely have a use but can be used either way. What I do think they (psychedelics) can do is take us to levels of deeper consciousness where the effect of any healing and harm is greater than it is at our normal awake level of consciousness.

Is ayahuasca legal in the UK?

There’s two countries in Europe where it is not legal and that is France and the UK. This is why you’ll see ayahuasca retreats in places like Portugal, Germany, Holland etc. Legality is an interesting one. There was a court case in 2007 where they tried to prosecute someone with a katsam pedro cactus – so that’s a another plant I work with. These cacti are legal to own and possess so why would the chips and the powder made from it not be legal. I think the pot materials for ayahuasca are legal but once it’s mixed together it becomes illegal. It’s not so much ayahuasca as a substance that’s illegal but rather DMT. There’s a guy called Adrian Freedman who’s still being prosecuted for ayahuasca and he still practices all over Europe. It’s such a tricky area for the authorities. There was a psychoactive substances act brought out in the uK last year saying that anything that has an effect on the humans brain is banned.  The legal high’s is what started happening so I think that’s the main reason it got brought in. To be honest with you I don’t think the majority of policemen don’t have a clue what it is. What’s more is that for picking a mushroom, you can go to prison for longer than a child molester/pedophile which is crazy. You’ve got the contradiction of the government saying that marijuana has no medical benefit but then the UK is the biggest exporter of cannabis in the world . There’s even an MP who condemns cannabis but her husband makes money from a cannabis farm. It’s a mess.

Do you see any significant changes taking place in the coming years in terms of how psychedelics are perceived?

I think it’s changed hugely already. I’m seeing all kinds of people come to drink ayahuasca with me. I had a woman who was 78 years old come and I’ve had my own mum come and drink too. People are seeing the benefits it can have and it’s quite inspiring for people who may have had a misconception about these plants. When you look in the media, there’s still so many scare stories and any opportunity but that’s a bigger problem. If anything is going to change it it will be through education and the internet and people being able to find the information for themselves. Right now you’ve got so many people doing research on these plants, mushrooms and their therapeutic benefits. There are people making documentaries too so I think the tide of opinion will change. There’s only so long that a government can ignore scientific evidence for.

Do you think there’s a stigma on who takes psychedelics? Is it often young, white, middle class liberals?

In the 70’s psychedelics were associated with hippies. The new kind of “hippy” in this time is the new ager which is quite young, liberal, doesn’t have a job etc. But the truth is that I get engineers, doctors, nurses, psychologists, builders. I had a guy come who had just been in remission from cancer and he was really smart about it for he understood that his disease manifested from something emotional within him. Even though the symptoms of cancer had gone he knew that he had to deal with the emotional side of it or else it would come back. It’s a massive range of people from all ages and backgrounds. I have former gangsters, drug dealers who have started to find a new path in life and want to change their ways. Nobody gets turned away and the only people that would potentially be turned would be those who have real strong mental health issues and working with antidepressants because it reacts quite badly with the medicine. There is still a route for them with ayahuasca but it just needs to be very carefully managed. I think that’s part of the problem. Because it’s not socially accepted and legal there will be people doing it underground without proper care and knowledge. Bad things will start happening if we don’t start having honest conversations about it and making it legal. As you can tell I’m very pro legalisation.

How would you define shamanism?

Shamanism comes from Siberia. The term itself means ‘one who knows’. It’s been used by anthropologists as a catch on term. Anybody engaging in spiritual practice in a tribal setting is labelled a shaman. The term changes and varies depending where you are. For me, it rests on the belief that unseen forces are driving the world that we see physically. Shamanism allows you to connect with those unseen forces and work with them. If you look at a cactus and you just see the plant but you don’t see the spirit of it. Shamanism allows you to interact and understand those unseen forces which is why it’s not something that belongs to only certain people. It belongs to everyone. It’s your birthright to explore this stuff and be able to work with these plants. They grow on the ground you were born on. But then you get the people that say if you do that we will put you in a cage. Even if you cause no harm to anybody and it’s a really positive outcome for society it gets dismissed. A lot really has to change.

Do you think that this interest in ayahuasca is also emerging from a more secular society? Do people want something to believe in?

These plants certainly connect us to some kind of truth that when we see and feel it we know is real. What’s hit me the most is that everything is inside of me, it’s not outside. So divinity, God or any title you want to put on it comes from inside me and every one of us. We’re all connected to that. Whether we’ve all come from that place and are all that one single intelligence that was alone in the darkness and decided it needs to do something and create. We’re now living on this planet and we’re all the same but we’re all different and this is our experience. If we’re all in the darkness we’re not going to experience anything and these plants have taken me to that place, they’ve taken me to the start. It’s scary and lonely and we created and made this existence come to life. Everything serves a purpose but in a sense it also has no purpose. It’s a dance and everything is part of it. Everything we experience in reality is like that and the only thing that transcends duality is love. Love is everything. It’s all of it, even the bad stuff. People are searching for meaning and that’s what these plants do. And unlike a religion, I often say, priests are in the business in telling and I’m in the business of showing. You don’t need to believe a thing that comes out of my mouth but you can experience it. Terrence McKenna had a theory that mushrooms are the reason we evolved. He called it the food of the God’s. It is a massive subject.

What advice would you offer to young people who are curious about psychedelics?

My advice would be don’t overdo it on research. Don’t allow your head to be filled with too much second hand opinion on what’s out there. Let your own first hand experience be the truth of the matter rather than what others are saying. I’d also say find a safe place where you can work with these plants and show them respect. Don’t, for instance, do them in a bad environment and make sure you go in there with a sense of an open heart and respect for what they’re about to give to you as a gift. If it doesn’t feel right in your gut it probably isn’t. Don’t rush into anything. Be with the right people or person and don’t ever do it alone. Always have someone there who isn’t in that world to look after you if anything goes wrong. And if you think you can fly, take off from the ground!

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Blood and Oil

Here’s a short story I started writing for one of my creative writing classes called remake/remodel – it’s unfinished but will update it when I am. The task was to write our own interpretation of a Vampire story . I tried my best to be original and in the end came up with a Vampire detective story set in London during the Industrial revolution. The name ‘Victor Vaughn’ was inspired by MF Doom:)

London. 1800.

“Are you ready?” said the pale woman. The blonde woman nodded while brushing her hair to one side, revealing her long neck. With one hand the pale woman grasped the back of the blonde’s head. With the other she gripped her upper arm as she leaned in to the exposed skin. She hesitated. “What is it?” cried the blonde. “Y-you’re sure about this Cynthia?” The breath on Cynthia’s neck sent shivers of anticipation down her spine.

“Of course.” That was all the confirmation the pale woman needed as she went on to pierce the untouched skin with her teeth. Cynthia’s face scrunched in pain as blood was drawn by the contact. Neither woman noticed the eyes watching them from the crack in the door. The pale woman let go of the blonde and wiped her mouth with her hand.“How long?” enquired Cynthia whilst clutching at her neck. The pale woman picked up a cloth from the bedside table and dabbed at the wound.“I can’t be sure. A few hours? I’m sorry for the blood. I tried to keep it as clean as I could.” She winced as the iron scent reached her nostrils. “I must go now, my love. Get some rest and dream of the life that awaits you.” “Of course. Meet me at St Paul’s.” The pale woman agreed and with a kiss goodbye, she snuck out of the blonde’s bedroom window and onto the foggy streets of London. She had barely walked a few meters when a blood curdling scream had erupted from the window she had exited.

1pm. The next day.

Viktor Vaughn delicately wiped the pig’s blood from around his mouth. He was sat in one of two odd armchairs in his cluttered study. The shelf behind his desk was filled with a combination of books, empty phials and other knick knacks he had collected through the years. Along with the dead pig, there was a pile of paper work and books sitting atop his oak desk.  He examined the remaining carcass. Pig wasn’t his favourite. He had much preferred the sweeter taste of lamb’s blood. As he was preparing to be rid of it, he heard the door of his Georgian home open. He didn’t flinch for he knew exactly who it was. The familiar voice of his assistant echoed through to him.

“Viktor?”

“In here!” he replied sternly, eyes still on the carcass.

The door of his study opened to reveal Mallory Malloy. Mallory was an unconventional woman of her time to say the least. She paid little attention to her appearance and more to her work as an aspiring detective. Malloy had a particular kind of beauty, Victor often thought. She was far from striking but the longer you examined her features the prettier she became. She scrunched her nose at the smell of the dead pig upon entering the room. “Bloody hell. As much as I’m all for our species coexisting I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing that!” Victor chuckled at her reaction. “Not to mention the smell! Ugh – You do know they’ve started selling blood bags down at the market for your kind, right?”

“Yes but it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a good hunt once in a full moon,” he replied.

Mallory pulled a face “Well it’s vile.”

“And what, pray tell, is the reason for your visit today Malloy?” said Victor, changing the subject.

“Haven’t you heard?” she sat down. “The mayor’s daughter’s been found dead. Body was only discovered this morning – poor thing. People are suspecting the Vampaneez” Victor furrowed his brow.

“And what makes them think that?”

“She was found with a bite mark and drained of blood.”

“I see.”

Over fifty years earlier a group of Vampires had revealed themselves to human society after centuries of living underground. Victor being one such being. With his charming persona and eloquent way with words, he helped shape the future they now lived in. He’d made it his life’s work to educate humans on vampire characteristics and eradicate any fears. It was revealed that vampires were capable of surviving on animal blood just as well as human, with some even claiming the taste to be better. Whilst Vampires naturally lived over one hundred years longer than humans, surviving on animal blood alone still meant that death was imminent. Feasting on human blood, however, secured a vampires immortality. Naturally there were still those who saw humans as purely a source of eternal life. Such vampires were deemed the ‘Vampaneez’. Victor had attempted to rehabilitate them in the past but failed. “Of course nothing is set in stone yet,” continued Malloy “I ran into the Mayor’s assistant on the way here. Told him I’d come by later.” She pulled a face and added “Course, you’ll have to come along with me seeing as these idiots still don’t think a woman is capable of solving a crime.”

“Patience is key Malloy. You’ll get your recognition.” Mallory’s features softened and she smiled, revealing dimples. “I’ll only be a moment” he added. Victor went on to open a drawer in his desk from which he retrieved a pump like device. He then stood up and took a large phial from the clattered shelf behind him and attached the device to it. He inserted the gadget into the remaining carcass and extracted the blood. A midnight snack. “I’ll just get rid of this and we’ll be on our way” he said referring to the decomposing pig still sat on his desk.

Twenty minutes later, Victor and Mallory found themselves knocking on the door of the Mayor’s home – a rectangular structure made up of marble and glass. The mayor’s assistant, a small freckle faced man, answered. “Detective Vaughn. Right this way.” They were led through to the Mayor’s study. Unlike Victor, the mayor kept his study minimalist with only a desk, two chairs and a neat book case filling the space. The walls were painted white which made the room seem larger. Mayor Pennyworth was sitting at the desk with a miserable face, his circular glasses perched at the tip of his long nose as he examined some paperwork. He looked up at the new arrivals. “Mr Vaughn.” He stood up with the help of his cane to shake Victor’s hand. “And who is this?” he enquired, taking in Mallory’s presence. “This is M-”

“Mallory Malloy, Sir. I’m Victor’s apprentice.”

“My assistant.” corrected Victor.

The mayor eyed Mallory up and down. “Surely a woman shouldn’t be -”

“With all due respect, Sir, our society is at the height of change with the Industrial revolution and the integration of our species. I assure you, Miss Malloy’s intelligence could rival any man’s.” The mayor’s white beard stood out against the crimson colour his face had become. “And I believe we are here to solve a murder.” interrupted Victor.

“Very well.” replied the Mayor. Mallory spoke “I’m very sorry for your loss Mr Mayor.”

“Yes, I pray you never bare the pain of losing a child” he answered.

“I know this is difficult, Mr Mayor, but we need you to tell us exactly what had happened that night. Every detail you can remember.” said Victor.  Mayor Pennyworth pushed his glasses up and pinched the bridge of his nose at the mention of his daughter. “On the night of her murder, Cynthia and I had dined together here in my home. She seemed afraid and spoke of being followed by a dark shadow.”

“A dark shadow?” said Victor.

“I mean no offence to you personally Mr Vaughn when I say this for you are not like the rest of those ungodly creatures – but I know it was one of them. Drained of blood, she was!” he let out a cry and clutched at his side turning to sit back down. “I fear my heart can not take this any longer, Detective. Please. Find the creature who did this.”

“We will do our best, Mr Mayor,” Victor answered.

4:00pm.

Cynthia Pennyworth was just as beautiful in death as she was in life. Her naked body currently lay atop the autopsy table and was currently being examined by Victor and Mallory. Riley O’Malley , the Pathologist, stood to one side.

A Psychedelic Love Story

Darling won’t you meet me

Meet me in my universe

Where you dont find a way to fight

Kaleidoscopic tales are flown through the time lost in the stars

The freedom to believe in things just shows you who you are

 

Fly away away away and stay the day

Just to see and feel what’s real and then love will never stray

Your crystal eyes are a witch’s delight

They carry the essence of ever true sight

 

To know what’s beyond is beyond what we know

So through windows and breaths we peek  into the show

All space for worry is filled, each edge is softened out

The colours are your friends, trust them without a shout

The deep love which connects us all ignites within your soul

You see us for what we truly are, the spirits young and old

 

So fly away away away and stay the day

Just to see and feel what’s real and then love will never stray

Your crystal eyes are a witch’s delight

They carry the essence of ever true sight

A dedication to the victims of the Manchester Attack

Since coming to University in September Manchester has become a second home to me. The spirit of the city never fails to impress me and I am proud to be a part of such a bright, cultured and inspiring energy. Hearing about the recent attack at the Ariana Grande concert left me in a state of shock and so here is a small tribute from me in the form of writing to all those innocent lives lost that night. RIP ❤

On the 22nd of May 22 lives shone bright

On the way to what they thought would be a magical night

With songs in their hearts and stars in their eyes

Those innocent souls now reside in the sky

In rainy Manc, we work hard like the bee

And like the bee we will unite and stand equally

So this is for the boys and girls who will never again sing

Never be able to dream, for evil has ripped their wing

But our hearts don’t carry hate and we do not slander

For we are Manchester, and we don’t look back in anger.

Poem: The Refugee

I based this poem loosely on my mum’s experience of war and becoming a refugee during the Balkan wars in the 1990’s. However I feel as though this piece can be read and appreciated by anyone who has been affected by the horrors of war and the changes that come with it. 

 

At the end of my street stands the lamp post under which I had my first kiss,

The bombs wiped that lamp post away with just one hit.

The cafe opposite my school is where we’d skip class and cause trouble,

There’s nothing left of that cafe now but rubble.

That September I was to begin my University degree,

Instead I had become a refugee.

I packed enough clothes for two weeks away,

Who knew then I’d be gone for a decade.

The day I left my home the sky was shedding tears,

Bullet holes and raindrops mixed with people’s fears.

So there I stood, scared, in a new country all alone,

It was then that I realised I had no choice but to grow.

War is something you see in books and films,

It’s different when you know the people being killed.

It’s funny how they say time flies when you’re having fun,

For me it seemed as though time flew whilst on the run.

Book Review: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

In the Summer of 2015 I first picked up the book described as ‘the greatest novel in any language of the last fifty years’ (Salman Rushdie). At the time I was unable to appreciate the full genius of the novel as I was often distracted with other things. However two years later I am reading it again and can honestly say it is spellbinding.

The novel centres around the Buendia family through the history of the rise and fall of the mythological town of Macondo.  Although I haven’t yet finished the book, I am mesmerised by Marquez’s ability to chronicle the tragicomical nature of life and death through the written word. In addition from what I can tell so far from reading OHYOS, the book is dominated by themes of human nature, political impacts, historical repetitions, life, death, peace and truth. The character of Colonel Aureliano Buendia stands out particularly to me as it is through him, I believe, that the reader is able to fully understand the theme of solitude which is referenced in the title itself. He is the first human born in Macondo and is described as ‘silent and withdrawn’. Furthermore it can’t be denied that each character Marquez has brought to life on paper becomes deeply rooted in the heart of the reader as the story goes on.

Finally in my opinion the first line of a novel often gives a reader insight into the quality of the narrative. In this instance the very first line is one of the greatest ever written. It begins with ‘ Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.’ I strongly recommend this book to anyone looking for something insightful and possibly life changing to read. I will post more reviews as I continue reading the book.

One hundred years of solitude