Bwiti initiation in the Cameroun (from a young Western male) (September ’99)

March 21, 2012

Subject: My ibo trip in Cameroun

Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1999 21:37:29 EDT

Hi,

I’m the other ‘westerner’ that ended up with Nick in Cameroun, thought you might like to hear some from me. I am also writing this for a few friends and in this spirit I also created a site to hang the few photos that did come out- it’s not ready yet, gimme a day or two.

Unlike Nick I had never taken Ibogaine or Eboga prior to our trip, though I’ve known about it for some 5 years. I am not a junkie… and if it’s of any interest, I’m 35, birthplace xxxxx, xxxxxx citizen, presently residing in Israel and 3D artist by trade.

My intention in taking eboga was to experience a ‘rebirth’. This was to be my ‘heart of darkness’ sort of trip, down the river of my psyche into the dark night of the soul to be born thru the crack of dawn…. I figured that there’s a death involved but I saw this as a letting go sort of thing- but more on that later- a friend of mine, btw, called eboga a ‘killer-app’, ha!

In practical terms I saw myself dealing with my past, emotions, coming to terms with things and humbly walking away a changed person. I also got a lot from Nick, especially on the flight in as we happened to be sitting together.

So let’s fast-forward to Friday evening, half an hour after the abbé mumbled something and shoved a very generous amount of chopped up vileness into my mouth. There’re five of us, his 2 daughters and a nephew from the city, ages 10, 12 and 17 respectively. I’m lying on my right side, practically on my arm, on a banana leaf (Nick and I got a straw mat to go under the leaf). I’m wearing a pair of underwear and a sheet that the Abbé carefully fashioned into a diaper and a pair of wreathes and a crown made of eboga flowers and leaves (1). The abbe’s wife otherwise smeared us with red goo. There’s an infernal racket coming from the other room, a nightly occurrence since our arrival that lasts from 11pm till 8-9am. A racket made by, among other things, a bunch of drummers beating a non-hollowed log which gradually changes into your head bone. By then we had all consumed a fair amount whereupon we were asked to get up and wobble into the chapel where we were the focal point of a human merry-go-round (2), followed by the must-see ‘headless chicken’ voodoo schtick (3), which ended with us doing a good zombie imitation back to our banana leaves.

Shortly thereafter, we all started to shiver from the invigorating combination of wind, cold and sweat. Now and again some eboga was burnt upwind and the wreathes started to work their charm… And this was more or less when it hit me; I paid to go to hell! I’m in hell and this is the worst and probably last mistake of my life, and I paid for it, unlike all the assholes in history, I had to pay for it… and that’s when I had to go to the can.

Well, that’s the lite version, the truth is, I felt I was coming around, gradually awakening from a life-long slumber. My senses for one thing were enhancing themselves, I could ‘zoom in’ both visually and auditorily, albeit I was also seeing lots of motion trails, rippling effects, heaving objects and emerging visuals, but I wasn’t paying attention to them things, I was appreciating this expanding awareness. On the other hand, this did make the very recent ‘me’ appear pretty lethargic and sort of stumbling thru life. And you know that inner voice, the one we’re supposed to get to shut up with meditation, I had the distinct recollection that mine was screaming in horror whenever I’d take some eboga. And if it was panicking back then it was in a foul mood now… I started seeing snapshots and little movies from the recent week leading up to this present moment blend in with all kinds of shit from my entire life, and they all seemed to be casting me in a very dark and ugly light. When I try to shake it off I find myself staring at a dirt floor, perpendicularly, shivering, painted red, reeking and nauseated with a bunch of drummers in a little voodoo chapel in Central Africa, and I know that I’m just commencing a 3-4 day ordeal, when yes, I discover that I will now have to attempt an impossible feat or shit myself in the middle of a ceremony. Gimme five!

I don’t know how I got up, I know I couldn’t for a little while but from the moment I decided to get up, things were different. The abbé pulled me into a seat by the temporary doorway and went about me as though I was a drunk whom he intended to easily sway back to his cot. I humored him at length by answering him in a very clear and concise manner which, nonetheless, failed to convey my lucidity and urgency. I sensed that he wanted to see to what extent he could carry this on and I had to resort to some rudeness. On one hand he seemed incapable of seeing me as clear-minded and functioning- in spite of sporadic body movements, while on the other, he seemed to be following some bad script, playing an intimidating authority figure. And this goes for most of them, they all played very intimidating characters, as though we were constantly on the verge of transgressing on a very sacred and dangerous aspect of the ritual. My other impression was that they take some of the plant’s side-effects too seriously, probably for a lack of comparison to other hallucinogens, and that they abandon themselves to the experience, nonetheless, their manner was patronizing and irritating. I wouldn’t let them help me across the obstacle course that runs between the chapel and the outhouse. Again, I’m asked to timidly trepidate over to the can lest my ability to walk unaided offends the gods and brings forth their wrath. The outhouse consisted of four tin walls with an opening up a three rung ladder -middle one missing- right on the edge of a 6 foot muddy bank- right Nick? … Suffice to say that I cleared my colon in 15 seconds. As I sat there on the can, recollecting myself, I experienced pure gleefulness as I gave a thumbs up to a passing, smiling cloud. Shortly thereafter I overheard the abbé and his brother talking in French about Jxxxxxx, who arrived a few hours earlier, and how he showed up without the money. It was while listening to the two of them scheming and conspiring, that I burst out laughing- at them and at the strange coincidence- my last and unfinished project at work was to design a backdrop for a stage set, a virtual parody of a tv game show called; “It’s All About The Money!” I hated the name and couldn’t come up with anything for it, but now it was so cool!

Back on the leaf, I started to feel ok but I knew that this wasn’t going to work for me, I wasn’t going to budge an inch out of my body under the circumstances…. People were peeking in on us out of curiosity, while those that were supposed to look over us would take advantage to just stare, especially psycho lady, and it wasn’t long before I realized that they love to hear themselves give long pep talks. At some point the abbé came by, by then Nick and I got something to cover ourselves with but I was to keep on shivering till late morning. I told him that I wanted out, that this wasn’t right for me, that I was under the impression that we would be left alone and that that is crucial for my trip. I also opened up about what they did, how they went about us and the abbé would encourage me on, telling me that this was helpful to them, repeating key points. This got a bit absurd and while I didn’t crack a smile, it was plenty funny; witchdoctor is told by white boy how to run the show, witchdoctor takes notes.

While I contemplated the option to move to the secluded room where our bags were kept and where the door could be kept shut, I told the abbé I wanted Axxxxxx to take me to a hotel. This seemed to stress him out to no end, and shortly afterwards he was engaged in a heated argument just outside with at least 4 or 5 other men. Then he’d come back and we’d talk for a while followed by more heated arguments … this went on till I was more or less convinced that I was in a very bad situation… And it was impossible to do anything about it- I couldn’t let them know that I was ‘on’ to them, just like in some horror movie where if they know you know you’re good as dead… In the end it was agreed that I would move to the room but that I would have to wait. Once alone, I enjoyed having reclaimed some autonomy over my trip, proud of the way I handled myself in a few instances and then a wave of relief came over me and I cried some. I felt victimized by their treatment, hushing and rushing us thru a bunch of rituals and then all their fighting that nearly killed me from anxiety. And although it felt as though this was a scarring experience, it all dissipated with this short cry. I thought it was Saturday midday when I moved locations but time got all warped up, way back sometime.

All this while, when I wasn’t preoccupied for my safety or dry heaving or plugging my nose while fumes wafted out of me from that “automatique” as Nick calls it or hell’s sewage in a glass as I do, I would remember events from my past. On a few occasions I was shown the connections between events and emotions and other things, but a lot of what came up I saw as old garbage so I made up a trash can and simply tossed things out. I sort of surprised myself with that one, it wasn’t deliberate and it seemed to appear by itself at the end of a recollection.

I don’t know when I fell asleep nor when I woke up but I was brand spanking new when I did. I believe that the first thing I noticed was that a huge weight had lifted from my shoulders and my jaw wasn’t tense from gritting my teeth all night (bruxism). I felt as though I had traveled far and accomplished a lot and that things will be all right from there on. I was in awe of my hands- you know the look from bad sci-fi flicks- but I was utterly amazed by them and by the incredible piece of machinery that we call the human body. I kept getting visuals of a walking body, one that revealed designs, considerations and wisdom …it brought to mind the Bard’s “what a piece of work is man, how noble in reason…”. I felt the presence of angels, kept hearing trumpets and a celestial celebration. I felt a shower of cascading love- and all this went on for hours- I was radiant, fully present and loving every minute of myself…

Later on the abbé came by and he seemed to respond to my new wattage, I talked at length about a number of things and it seemed to have a soothing effect on him. At some point I asked him if I would be leaving for the hotel sometime soon, figuring it was at least Tuesday. I was shocked to find out it was only Sunday morning… I decided to return to the chapel. Now I don’t know how to convey this, it was as though my face was beaming love, I’ve never felt anything like it, I’d put my hand in front to see if I can feel it. Children would peek in and we’d exchange smiles, the Abbe’s wife and the grandmother came by and they exclaimed that I was ‘so beautiful’… it was as though I was a Buddha!

At any rate, I resumed taking eboga in the other room. A few hours later, as I was drifting off, something quite strange happened. I suddenly catch myself bursting into a childlike tantrum, trashing my fists about, yelling ‘no! no! no!’!! I could see wings on both sides and it felt as though my fists and forearms were making contact! The wings were lulling me, angels were beckoning me with the fanning of the feathers…. If you ever heard it said that the soul is a coward… I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t believe that I threw a tantrum- I was on the threshold of leaving my body, of taking the elevator up but here I was, an angel-beater!

And one last thought on the above, it retrospect it seems that instead of ascending as expected, but impossible given my disposition, my higher self descended and I got to experience a majestic aspect of myself for almost two days. Waking up Tuesday morning, I knew with some sorrow the moment I regained consciousness that it was gone, though not quite entirely.

Now Nick was a blast, he was having these conversations with the other side, Jxxxxx and I were howling at times. He would just burst out as though interrupting someone to correct him, and on a few occasions, them. At one point, The three of us had to take part in a ceremony in the chapel and Nick is led, seeing as he wasn’t all together there, and there’s a moment where things got real quiet when Nick bursts out with excitement and incredulousness at being shown thousands of unseen plants and animals…most of the time it sounded like the made up dialogue for Star Trek- but much more authentic!! I don’t know where he was but I envied him and as those of you who have spoken to him know, he’s a fast talker, but on this stuff he was ballistic. Too bad the pictures I took of him conversing didn’t come out and even more so that I couldn’t record him.

So much for the highlights, I took some more eboga but after a few hours I realized that I was toast. And in spite of what came out of me in the can that one time, I felt clogged up, seeing as how the chopped up root would ferment in your belly, warming it up with a sensation not unlike an expecting volcano and I told the abbé so. He suggested that I take this remedy that would just clean me out completely, he claimed that I would only feel very tired from it. He spoke so lightly of it that I had no idea this thing could kill me. Jxxxxxx was supposed to take it a day after but when he saw what it did to me he felt so lucky. It didn’t taste anything near as foul as eboga but it still makes me shudder when I think about it. The first few times I vomited weren’t too bad, nor the first few times I went to the can, but this darkness and fatigue came down on me and I still had to puke and go to the washroom, sometimes within seconds of each other… Nor did I know that the ordeal would last some seven hours. I was sick, nauseated and debilitated for a few days after, I had a horrible taste of the stuff in my mouth that lasted much longer- I had to buy Sprite almost every night around 3am from the night clerk because of it. I’m sure that it was a shock to my system.

Well I guess that’s it, I quit smoking, I don’t drink coffee or coke anymore but it’s not a piece of cake. I know I handled a lot of baggage though not all. I noticed now, after a few weeks, that I started waking up with a tense jaw but it’s much less in intensity or frequency. My drawing skills have greatly improved and I’m told I look better. On the less than optimal side of things, I sort of don’t care to see friends or family since my return. And this gal that I thought I had a crush on, who may or may not be a big reason for embarking on this trip, well, I can’t seem to step things up with her. In some respects I feel that the pendulum is swinging back, way back. I intend to do another trip in another month or so, but this time I’ll pass on the festivities….

Now was it worth it? Sure, seeing as I’m back in one piece and unlike Nick, no malaria. And I’m grateful for the experience, a lot of coincidences and freak luck went into making it happen and it sure felt as someone above was pulling strings and favors. But I can’t recommend the abbé. For starters, the arguments. Heated arguments day and night. I understand that Sue Shapiro experienced something similar during her initiation, and yes, maybe this is an overall African trait, but so stressful and annoying- when it’s not scary… And you haven’t heard a baby cry till you hear one with super lungs go on for hours on end- my second night of the initiation, a small child discovered one of the babies had died in a room adjoining mine. She started crying and wailing and they all came and brusquely shushed her up- only to burst into argument…

Axxx on the other hand, who is Gxxx’s brother-in-law, was great, he saw to it that we were comfortable, he’d come by to check on us and he carried himself with a certain dignity that was sorely lacking in the abbé and company. Someone stole one of my two disposable cameras. I purposely left some cash in my wallet while hiding the rest and 200 French francs went missing. But that’s nothing compared to the vibes I got… About two hours after Nick and I arrived, after spending that much time with the abbé, I stepped outside to light up a cigarette and Nick joined me. A minute later I wanted some bugspray and went to the room only to find it locked from the inside. After knocking a few times the abbé sheepishly opened up, I had the surest feeling that he started going through our stuff, that he just couldn’t help himself.

Sometime after our trip, the abbé insisted that Jxxxxxx give him his discman- and unless you got a bunch of cds and a system and a few of these pricey discs, the thing is useless, yet this abbé insists that he loves his solitude and some music to go with it and that this was perfect for him. Jxxxx, after an unpleasant moment, obliged on the grounds that he’s indebted to him for kicking his habit, but later on came to his senses- and Jxxxxx brought the abbé a ton of expensive stuff!!! And this goes for the others too, Jxxxxxx and I had already showered and changed for some closing ceremony when the women (especially this psycho lady who wielded a sword around and played the part of St.Michaels) decided to bath Nick while he was still tripping. I told them to wait for the abbé but then they went ahead anyway, I came out to find Nick sitting on a stool with his eyes closed trashing his arms around trying to hit someone, while they dump a bucket of water on him…. They all seemed to enjoy subjugating us.

On another occasion, Nick, who by then was resting a lot, got fed up with the unattended howling baby and started to walk out of the compound, I was laying on the couch in the living room and next thing I know, he’s dragged back fighting by the abbé.

And speaking to Axxxxx, I find out that the abbé approached him to tell him that he had run out of money, just as we were supposed to start the initiation. He wanted to ask us for more but knew he’d run into trouble with Gxxx, who specifically instructed him not to bring up any money issues.

I didn’t like the way some of the 30 or so guests looked at us, as though we were intruding on a private affair, while on the other hand, they were feasting for a week on the $1200 we each paid. Maybe they had to pay the abbé as well. The bag of eboga roots cost the abbé 400 francs and that was enough for 5 of us and all the ‘automatique’ the guests could care for. Yet the abbé would go on and on as to how expensive the initiation was- how expensive the candles (sic) were!

His parting gift to me, and neither Nick nor Jxxxxxx cared to come back with me, was a note, to be opened on the plane. The note was a list of things to send him; computer, television, radio and so on. And I only went back because I relented into giving him back the eboga that he agreed to give me, almost 2 cups worth, on the grounds that it was prepared for that particular ceremony and it would be dangerous to otherwise take. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure they included something other than eboga, one thing for sure, there was something green and leafy chopped in with the root- I assumed till now that it was eboga leaves. He promised to replace the amount with fresh stuff, it didn’t feel right and sure enough I only got a few teaspoons of the new stuff, which Nick later estimated would only keep me up overnight.

Look, some of the kids were great and some of the older girls too and the grandma was my favorite though she was tough at first and they tried to service us and in some ways they were doing a good job, mostly Mxxx, one of the daughters. But the abbé is a charlatan and a two-bit swindler. Somebody looking for a life-changing experience simply deserves a better facilitator and experience.

Now about the ‘pilgrimage factor’… For starters I didn’t care for the confessions, atonement, postulating, ritual bathing and all-night pandemonium, but that’s just me, I guess living in the Holy Land will do that to you. ‘Pilgrimage’ implies a sacred place that one must journey to- subserviently, hoping one’s pleas falls on a sympathetic holy ear, or that a tough journey earns you travel miles, I don’t know, it just reeks of organized religion and I hate it. A quest, on the other hand, empowers the initiate on an inner journey- on the outset! The aboriginal people of Australia have their ‘walkabouts’ and Native Americans have their ‘dream quests’ just to name two… Eboga is truly amazing and powerful, and travelling to a distant place to initiate oneself (as opposed to being initiated) is great on all levels, but to not do so in every way and manner that liberates and empowers you is a pity and a waste.

At any rate I intend to set something up where some friends and others can come here to Israel and do it in the Judean desert, or in Jerusalem or by the sea of Galilee. I want to facilitate and not make a living out of this… bottom line, the setting and company should appeal to the initiate and dignify the process. In the meantime, I am trying to purchase some through Gxxxxx and maybe Jxxxxx will help out. I’m actually waiting a bit on it since Nick tells me that it’s best to wait some 3 months before doing it again. I hope to work with Gxxx and from what I’ve spoken to him I understand that Gxxxx’s other setup, in Gabon, is much more likely to succeed as it involves a few women only and they all reportedly share a better disposition. Regrettably, a personal matter determined that we end up with the abbé and not in Gabon.

Like I said, I look forward to my next trip and this I know; you have to make as much of your first trip stick in order for the second trip to be of any consequence,

Forever endeavor,

xxxxxxxx

1. The wreathes, which go over the head and under each arm, were releasing the most hideous odour from being crushed under our weight. Jxxxxxx, found the smell so unbearable and not realizing where it was coming from, squeezed his head under a couch seat to breathe fresh air from a hole in the wall.

2. Placing the right hand on the left shoulder of the person before us, with around 25 or so behind us, we proceeded to shuffle our way to the six holy corners of the chapel whereupon the first guy started spinning around, dragging us like spaghetti on a fork.

3. It used to be a goat, according to the abbé, but then I don’t think the other guy would have done a jig while waving a goat around. The headless chicken btw, kept turning its protruding neck bone as though looking for its head.

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