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Hamilton Souther Making Ayahuasca at Blue Morpho Peru. Photo by Keith Aronowitz
Maestro Ayahuasca Shaman Hamilton Souther on Cannabis Shamanism
NAILED Magazine, Ladybud, Conscious Living TV
by Zoe Helene
Master Shaman Hamilton Souther, founder of the Blue Morpho Ayahausca and Shamanism Center in Peru, has seen countless lives transformed through ayahuasca, the powerful South American hallucinogenic beverage prepared from the bark of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and the leaf of Psychotria viridis (often called charcuna). He says his new cannabis-oriented disciplineis "on par with people's ayahuasca experiences."
"I developed a way to transfer and share the shamanic guidance via live streaming technology, icaros and ceremony," Souther says. "This discovery and shamanic impact is very exciting because it will open up shamanism to large numbers on a global platform. I call it Blue Morpho Cannabis Shamanism."
Souther's traditional ayahuasca shamanic training in the jungles of the Peruvian Amazon, plus 12 intense years leading back-to-back ayahuasca "journeys" in Peru, has taught him that intention is critical to success in ceremony. With his new 420 Ceremonies (Cannabis Friendly), he says, "the intention is love and how it can transform humanity." Through free live-streaming events for people 21 and older, Souther says he "wants to be able to shamanize people without charging for it."
"I do not promote cannabis use nor dispense or sell it," Souther says. "The use of cannabis is a personal decision. If you decide to use cannabis, it should be in accordance with state laws. Cannabis use and possession is illegal under federal law; however, the federal government has stated that it will allow states that have passed recreational and medical cannabis laws to continue to regulate the use, possession, cultivation and sale of cannabis."
How did you come to work with cannabis?
This last year I tried medical cannabis to deal with chronic pain from a hip fracture and subsequent nerve damage that I had a couple of years ago. I had a mystical breakthrough, and I saw how I could use cannabis to perform my shamanism. I started experimenting on myself and then with close friends, expanding the practice slowly. The responses have been as magnificent as I get at Blue Morpho.
Were you a big cannabis user before this?
Oh, no. I had recreationally tried it, like most people, but I had not had a good experience.
Mostly it took me to places I would consider the dark side of the plant: paranoia and sloth and feeling sort of stupid and not really able to speak, those sorts of things.
Then when I got into ayahuasca, ayahuasca was very clear to me that my training was going to be with ayahuasca and no other plant. And so I stopped using any other kinds of plants. I focused entirely on the Amazonian ayahauasca plants.
When I came back to the Unites States from Peru, I started working on modern shamanism and the Source Movement, which is shamanism in music and entertainment. I was suffering from debilitating pain, and I didn't have any access to the plants and the diet that I had in Peru, which kept the pain at bay. In the States, basically I had the choice to try prescription narcotics, so I decided to try medical marijuana. I got my medical card and went home and did my first exploration with it, and I had an ayahuasca-like experience.
In what ways was it the same and in what ways was it different from ayahuasca?
It was the same in the sense I was transported into pure consciousness state where the transcendence of physicality was held for three hours. I set the intention to connect with the plant's head medicine spirit just like we would with ayahuasca, and as soon as that connection was made, the head medicine spirit communicated that she wanted to shamanize, she wanted shamanism to be practiced. She basically demanded icaros, so I started singing icaros, then she demanded growth, then all of a sudden I wanted my chakapa.
♥ “I mapped the plant, and from there knew this could definitely be used in a very advanced practice of shamanism. This is on par with any other master plant spirit medicine used in the shamanic context.” - Hamilton Souther
You felt the cannabis plant spirit was female?
To me, head medicine spirits are non-gender, but we don't have a very good non-gender word in English so I usually relate to that based on how the spirit appears to me. I don't presuppose how that spirit is supposed to appear to me. I presume the spirit can appear to me in many different forms because the head medicine spirits are all shape-shifters. They can take on many, many forms.
I experienced a female-oriented presence and entity structure that was immense, and I felt from her a tremendous amount of kindness, support, enthusiasm and excitement around my arrival into that space. Without any sort of egotistical tone, it was a celebration, like, "Hey, you're here!"
And this is all the first vision?
Yes. I was in a transcendent space lasting three to four hours. There's a lot of shamanism you can practice in that period of time. I started basically mapping the space and consciousness within the plant.
So you "mapped" the plant?
I mapped the plant, and from there knew this could definitely be used in a very advanced practice of shamanism. This is on par with any other master plant spirit medicine used in the shamanic context.
What do you mean by "mapped?"
From a shamanistic perspective, you navigate medicinal plants via accessing different gateways within them that represent different states of consciousness. Those different gateways kind of define and color the nature of the experience that you have while you're in them. So, I was shown in the ceremony the gateways to fear, paranoia, sloth, medicine, joy, transcendent states of consciousness, love and the heart.
Like a labyrinth?
Yes, very much so. Very much like a labyrinth but moving based on intention and moving through different states of consciousness.
What happened then?
My sole notion of medical use to treat chronic pain was quickly trumped by the notion that not only could I treat chronic pain this way--because the chronic pain went away--but I could also use this to practice shamanism and give an intention and a direction to the experience, continue to treat the physicality but bring the plant spirit medicine to the experience the way we would in the Amazon. Then I just started practicing with the intention of treating the chronic pain and exploring the shamanism.
By the third ceremony the head medicine spirit showed up and was demanding to practice shamanism at my highest level, and it went on for thirty or forty minutes to the point where I finally opened up into a space that was filled with medicine but void of all other spirit.
Is that unusual?
This is very unique in shamanism because normally the spaces that you go into are already predefined. They're filled with entities, beings and spirits. This was a created but basically empty space filled with medicine that could be used for transcending consciousness and movement to love, but it didn't have any shape or structure.
♥ “I experienced a female-oriented presence and entity structure that was immense, and I felt from her a tremendous amount of kindness, support, enthusiasm and excitement around my arrival into that space.” - Hamilton Souther
And then you went back down to Peru?
I went back to Peru and participated in some ayahuasca ceremonies, and it became clear to me that I would return to that space and structure it to become the medicine space where I would practice shamanism with cannabis.
One of the first things I did in ceremony in Peru was to make sure that the head medicine spirits in the Amazonian tradition were in alignment with this movement. I didn't want to do anything that would jeopardize the clarity of the relationship I have with them because they are the cornerstone of my ayahuasca practice.
So the ayahuasca tells you, "Go back to the States and work on this cannabis shamanism." Did you come back to the States right away?
As soon as my time in Peru was done I came back to Los Angeles and started to work on the medicine world.
Set the scene for me. Where you smoking or eating cannabis?
Interesting. And that lasted long enough?
The effects usually last about an hour to two hours, and the ceremony lasts about two hours so it's possible to ingest once but it's also possible to ingest a second time.
What happened then?
I went into the ceremony and structured the medicine world. I basically created it through the invocation of different spirits and bringing different philosophical definitions into that state of consciousness, giving shape and form to the space.
Did you do that based on what you do with ayahuasca or were you creating from scratch?
I would say that creating the space was a hybrid of traditional Amazonian shamanism, which I practiced for many years, and modern shamanism, which I created, and universality, which is the other universal philosophy practice that I created.
I know it's difficult, but can you put that into simple terms?
I would say that I gave shape and form to the state of consciousness that I went into so that it could be acceptable to others. So instead of it only being a state for myself, I gave it a kind of acceptability that I would be able to guide other people into.
Is it like a set design or maybe a 3D computer-generated alternate reality?
It's an alternate reality! It's exactly like an alternate reality, and it's based on the same philosophical principles that life is based on. Gravity. Physicality. Spirits. Things. Divinity or Love. Light. Movement. Direction. Dimension.
So are you thinking of doing this in Peru?
No, I'm planning to do this here in the United States, in Colorado, with people streaming all over the world. The date of our inaugural ceremony is April 20, 2014, and I'm coining the phrase "420 Ceremony."
How will you bring people into this space you've created?
Once the space is created you bring people in exactly the same way that you take people into ayahuasca or any other visionary shamanic practice. You start to call through an invocation, which can be done verbally or through icaros, to bring that entire shape of the space to the ceremony. It's the same way a master ayahuasca shaman calls medicine at the beginning of a ceremony and the room starts filling up with shapes, colors and patterns and starts to get denser in its energy and we start to go into that shaman's medicine space.
Are you singing any icaros, and if so, are they the same ones you sing with ayahuasca or are new ones coming to you from this plant?
Yes, there are icaros, and they are a mixture of all of the things you said. There are ones that come directly through the head medicine spirit of the cannabis plant, and there are also traditional icaros of the Amazonian plants. Every single night new icaros are channeled.
They come to me in Spanish, but I can also sing them in English.
Can you sing one?
Open the heart
Take us though heaven
Open the mind, open time
Open spirit, flow through
Shine, medicine, shine
Envelope the mind, envelope time
Redefine time in one
Shine, medicine, shine
Everything is now
Lovely! Can you explain "shamanic technology?"
"Shamanic technology" means how we actually practice. It's like the difference between being in an ayahuasca medicine ceremony with a trained shaman and not. Icaros, invocation, and chakapas are part of the shamanic technology. The system of communication between the shaman and the spirit, the language of the icaros, and the dialect itself is part of that technology. The mesa is the ceremonial center, and the way the shaman defines that ceremonial center is key to the nature of the experience that people have in that ceremony. The ability to protect the space and offer a space so that the states of consciousness are stable is shamanic technology.
♥ “Shamanic technology means how we actually practice. It's like the difference between being in an ayahuasca medicine ceremony with a trained shaman and not. Icaros, invocation, and chakapas are part of the shamanic technology.” - Hamilton Souther
Photo by Chris Kilham
Ayahuasca journeys can be intense and sometimes difficult. Does this happen to you with cannabis?
I've had some rough rides with both ayahuasca and cannabis. I've had to learn how to ride those out. I'm not a sufferer, and I'm not afraid to look at things I need to look at. With cannabis I can feel pretty freaked out, and I know I'm not alone in that, but with the shamanism I can guide myself and others away from the negative spaces.
How would you guide someone who started off down the wrong paths in a cannabis ceremony?
It's a good question and the answer is in the technology of the shamanism. In ceremony, you are transcended into this medicine world and you navigate within the world according to your intention. If you have the intention to navigate out, the whole world will help you navigate out of a negative space. We close those gateways so that people don't have those experiences.
So if someone tunes into this online and gets into trouble and you're not there, what happens?
The shamanic technology being used and the way the space is being held is a portable space. It can be everywhere and in different locations, and we've recently had multiple states connected at the same time and multiple mesas being guided via live streaming. The experience that people had was that they transcend physicality to a place where we are all in one and the shaman--me--is present.
And they all felt that they were connected.
Everybody. I have done some initial tests of the ceremony connecting with people in the USA, Canada, and Peru. Some partook in cannabis, others didn't, and everyone said that the ceremony induced a powerful trance and that it was very positive.
People have to understand that shamanism is a guided experience. Just like in a guided meditation, it's the guide's responsibility to help frame and understand the experience into a way so that you could go deeper into and hopefully benefit from it.
So on April 20, we tune into your station and get ready to join you and the rest of the tribe virtually.
Exactly! The 420 Ceremony Event will be streamed live online through a private channel. I am hoping to get 50,000 to 100,000 to participate.
In contrast to an ayahuasca ceremony at Blue Morpho, where you carefully prepare the brew, this is a BYOB (bring your own bud) event.
If people decide to consume cannabis, they use their own, which they know and feel comfortable with. They are responsible for the cannabis and their consumption of it.
And you're in Colorado, right smack in the middle of the Green Rush, where it's legal.
I am, yes--but you can stream live from anywhere in the world. It was such a phenomenal thing to discover this kind of shamanism for me. It opens up the possibility of continuing my work in many more places. So this is about spreading the work on a wider scale.
And you're not charging people to join in?
I am doing this for free and covering the out-of-pocket expense myself, so budget is small. I do not want this to be a big commercial venture but rather grass roots, underground and all about love, not money. Free for people is key to me. I want to be able to shamanize people without charging for it!
The ceremony intention is pretty intense.
To raise consciousness through love to end global conflict.
I can get down with that. See you on the other side.
See you on the other side.