My Ayahuasca Odyssey

by Ecuador, Encounters

Call of Mother Aya

When I was 15 years old, I read one of Isabel Allende’s books, where she narrated her Ayahuasca experience in the Peruvian rainforests. I knew I was going to do it at some point in my life, without really understanding why. And I waited patiently for years.

Last year, I finally heard her call. She was calling me to do it in Quito, Ecuador, the place where I was born.

Incredible synchronicities led me to Nicolas, a shaman who held Ayahuasca retreats in the crater of a volcano in Quito. As soon as I said “yes” to drinking the medicine with him, he congratulated me, and then warned me:

“Francesca, every time someone makes the decision to go into a self-discovery journey, there are 2 energies that start acting out. One that wants you to move forward with the experience, and the other one that tries to stop you through fear. Be on alert. Your ego tries to hold on to uncertainty to make you feel fear. There’s a part of you that knows you’re going to heal, so there’s this other part that will try to defend itself.”

“Don’t worry, that won’t happen to me. When I make a decision like this, I always go through with it.”

Well… the following morning I woke up with the flu.

Being sick that morning reminded me of how cold it would be up in a mountain, and how unprepared I was for that. As I was about to message Nicolas to tell him that I wasn’t ready to do it there, I realized that what he had warned me about was actually happening. My ego was defending itself, and I had almost fallen for it.

In preparation for the ceremonies, I had to write my intentions for taking the medicine. I wrote down three. They had to do with healing and getting clarity around specific things in my life.

On the first day, we built the campsite in the crater, which was covered with beautiful lush greenery. We had a smoothie for lunch and rested. The less we had in our stomachs, the better.

There were 15 people in the group. Ecuadorians, Germans, Venezuelans, French, and Dutch. A beautiful mixed group of all ages and backgrounds.

The center for the ceremonies was a white 7M tall teepee. It had a fire pit in the center, where the fire would be kept alive for the entire retreat. Around the fire, there were thick rectangle-shaped foams placed on the floor, so we could use them for seating or laying down. At the back of the teepee, there was a shrine and five chairs, for the shaman and the others who were there to support us.

Right outside of the main teepee, they had built 2 smaller teepees. Separated toilets for men and women.

The Ceremony Begins

At around 7:30 pm, we all started heading to the teepee. I was quite calm at that point. Which wasn’t what I would’ve expected.

Everyone took their seats and the shaman initiated the ceremony with blessings.

Before taking the medicine, he poured tobacco mixed with water on our hands, for us to snort. This would clean our airways and help us become grounded. Weird feeling. It burned the inside of my nose all the way up to the back of my brain and made me feel quite high.

He then told us that we needed to trust in what Grandmother Ayahuasca had in store for us. It was important that we surrendered to the experience.

“It can be very hard. You will most probably need to throw up. Diarrhea isn’t uncommon”.

Yes, I was ready for that.

A small glass of Ayahuasca started being poured. Nicolas was pouring a specific amount based on who he was serving it to. He then would bless the glass and offer it to each person saying “medicine for your body and soul”. Each one would receive the glass, turn towards the fire, press it to their chest and bless it themselves asking for guidance – or at least this is what I thought they were doing.

Everyone sat quietly around the fire.

He went around the circle and it was finally my turn. Nervous, anxious, eager… I saw him pour a very small amount into the cup, and I was happy with that. He called my name, I stood up and went up to where he was seated. “Medicine for your body and soul”, as he handed me the cup. I thanked him, turned to the fire, put the cup in front of me and asked Grandmother Ayahuasca to help me in my journey. “I trust in you and surrender fully”. And in it went. No turning back!

I sat back down in my spot and waited for the medicine to kick in. Suddenly, people started running out of the teepee in desperate need to purge. You could hear how much they were releasing. It sounded so painful.

In the meantime, I was still very calm and nothing was happening to me. I closed my eyes to meditate for a bit, and then… I entered the abyss.

Psychedelic Realms

I went into the same crazy space I had first discovered in my DMT experience, 2 years before. The difference was that here I never forgot who I was.

This realm was filled with shapeshifting rainbow-colored sacred geometry. There wasn’t a logical order to it. It felt as if little beings, like playful jokers, were taking me for a ride. There was this emptiness feel to it, very hard to describe. Silence echoed around me. All my DMT experience was coming back to me, which made me a bit anxious. It had taken me 1.5 years to overcome it.

I opened my eyes and went out of the teepee. It was dark, but the moon and the stars were shining brightly. I walked for a little, looked back at the teepee and saw the head of a wolf at the top of the tent, protecting it. I went back in to sit down again, and as I turned to the entrance of the teepee, I saw another beautiful regal wolf, sitting, guarding it. We were being protected by incredible creatures.

The effect of the first cup soon wore off, and I was back to normal again. Tired, I debated if I should ask for more or just leave it like that and go to sleep. Again, I had to fight with my ego and power through. Resistance was coming from fear.

So, I asked the shaman for more. He blessed the drink and handed it to me in the same way as before.

I went back to my spot, grabbed my notepad and pen and began writing my experience with the first dose. Bent over, on my knees with my back towards the fire, I only managed to write half of a small page when, suddenly, overpowering dizziness took over. My hands began losing their form and merging with one another.

In that moment, the wildest ride of my life was starting…

Into the Sacred Abyss

As I closed my eyes, I dove deep into the abyss of sacred geometry, but much harder than before. I was being bombarded with mandalas moving at warp speed as they shapeshifted and transformed into seemingly unrelated imagery. So many colors and shapes enveloping me, taking me on a whirlwind of emotions. It’s impossible for me to describe all that I saw. I do remember clearly seeing god’s and goddesses’ faces approaching me.

I opened my eyes and the visuals stayed the same. I turned around and laid on my back. The teepee was filled with a rainbow-colored geometric spiderweb. These insane visuals were the most amazing thing I had ever seen. So beautiful, intense and vivid.

My level of overwhelm was extreme, at this point. I was being sucked deeper and deeper into this crazy new realm. It was like coming in and out of a profound trance. I kept fighting it, trying to come back to my center but it felt impossible. It was so uncomfortable and hard.

La Purga

After some time like that, I had to run out of the tent to finally purge.

I fell on my knees on the grass, under the night sky, releasing this powerful force that was demanding its way out. It was all liquid. A very acidic liquid that wouldn’t stop coming out through my mouth. It was the most horrifying feeling I had experienced. I was literally on my knees, waiting for more to come out… while still being sucked in and out of a trance. There was no relief or clarity after the purging, either. I wasn’t only releasing through my mouth… my eyes and my nose were watering like crazy. All the tissues in the world couldn’t help me clean up such a mess.

I was in pain. Constantly moaning, not knowing where I really was or what was happening to me. My mind was spinning, trying to grasp what was going on. It couldn’t. This powerful and overwhelming abyss wouldn’t release its grip on me. My body, my mind, my emotions, were being turned inside out.

I felt like I was dying.

I would get seconds of clarity, where I was able to get a grip on where I was and what was happening. Similar to what I’ve experienced with LSD, I would look in a different direction and swiftly would become entranced once again. Nothing of what was shown to me made any sense. My brain had been thrown into a blender and I was fighting like crazy to get it back.

At one point, I said -out loud- to myself:

“Why the fuck would I put myself through something like this?!”

I spoke to myself out loud throughout the whole 8-hour odyssey. Yes, it was a true ODYSSEY!

“This is only for the brave. This is only for the brave”, I kept repeating to myself.

Then, I remembered something the shaman had said to me before the ceremony.

“Whenever you feel lost, try to remember what your intention is for doing this. What is your purpose?”

With the little to no energy I had left, I lifted my hand off the ground and placed it on my chest. Looking at it, trying to center and calm myself, I said: “What is my purpose?… I’m here to heal”. I repeated it several times in both English and Spanish.

As soon as I said that, a bright light shone from above making its way through the sacred geometry portals, restructuring them. It felt like divine beings had come down to guide me.

Healing the Family Tree

They began showing me visions, scenes from my life and my family’s life. Incredibly vivid visions would form one after the other, showing me the journey that my family has gone through, even from before I was born. All of these visions were linked to one another, and they would linger in front of me until I understood what they were telling/showing me. As soon as I understood the message and said the revelation out loud, the geometry would shift into the next event I needed to witness.

Not only was I witnessing what has happened, but I was also being my different family members within those scenes, feeling their emotions and their thoughts. Family members that are still alive, and others that have already passed away. They opened up their lives for me so I could see their processes and reasons for certain previously-inexplicable things in our family’s history.

Hidden doors had opened up for me to heal wounds that were being carried by generation after generation within my family. Wounds that affected all of us, deeply, and that only a few consciously know about.

I was being blessed by Grandma Aya to go so much deeper than what I was expecting. It wasn’t about healing my personal wounds. It was about healing the roots of those wounds, which is so much more powerful!!

I was mind-blown by the whole experience. It was so incredibly special and beautiful.

Fighting the Way Back

My body was extremely weak. I was exhausted. I was still on the floor, coming in and out of the trance, still vomiting, but I was able to consciously go through the passageways She was guiding me through.

My dizziness stayed strong throughout the whole night. I would also go cross-eyed and stick my tongue out from time to time. Don’t ask me why.

I kept repeating to myself: “I can do this. I can do this.” I worked SO HARD!

Tiredness got the best of me, and the only thing I wanted to do was lay on the floor. It took me ages to finally give in to it, and I dropped in a fetal position right there next to my vomit. I was freezing, and so uncomfortable, but I just couldn’t deal with myself anymore.

People kept coming up to me to see if I was OK. They would whisper different things in my ear, guiding me and helping me with my process. They explained what I was going through and what would help me. At one point, someone covered me with a blanket.

The shaman came several times to check on me. I would do my best to grasp his words, but I would rapidly dive into the abyss again. At that point, I couldn’t talk, either. Moaning was my only form of communication. The only thing I mustered the strength to say was…

“This is an odyssey… This is only for the brave… I’m so brave”.

The shaman said to me that this was life itself. That I have been strong enough to fight life alone, and that now I was doing something similar. Afterward, he would explain to me that me laying on the floor as a fetus was part of what is called an “Ayahuasca death”. I was dying and being reborn.

After what felt like an eternity on the ground, I managed to stand up and look at the sky. I had never seen anything so spectacular. The moon, the stars, the edges of the crater, the fireflies lighting the forest up like a Christmas tree, the teepee with the fire inside, the music coming from two guitars, the singing… and everyone having their own journey, contemplating nature and contemplating themselves. I was seeing this through beautiful rainbow-colored sacred geometry, which was covering everyone and everything. The shaman coming up to me was quite a sight in itself. I could see him as the old master that he is, with his cane and his poncho.

Such a breathtaking scene and moment in time.

The songs they were singing were key for me. They spoke directly to what I was experiencing and helped me become centered and understand what I was going through.

Finally, I went back into the teepee to rest.

One second was all that I got before having to rush out to throw up again. I tried controlling my mind and staying on my feet. My body was trembling so hard that I could barely stay still and balanced. I felt like a drunk person, zigzagging around.

As I was standing there, the shaman came up to me and asked me if I wanted help to come down. “Yes please!” He went in and came back out with a bottle of a different type of medicine. “Close your eyes”, he said. Two seconds later he spat that medicine on my face. He then did the same in different parts of my head, my shoulders, and my back. It completely shook me up. But it didn’t work. I was desperate. “I just want this to end.”

“Nicolas, why would I want to do this again?! And how will I ever have the strength to do this for two more nights??”

“Francesca, don’t worry about that right now.”

There were two chairs outside, and I sat on one of them. I looked up into the sky and my dad came to my mind. “Dad, where are you?! I miss you.” Tears started running down my face. I was able to release all the pain, sadness, and grief I had been keeping inside for such a long time. What a beautiful gift that was.

The shaman then came up to me and said: “Let’s go for a walk, it’ll be good for you”. He offered his arm as support, and I managed to get up, not without difficulty. We walked away from the teepee for a bit and then came back. He calmed me down and helped me understand everything I had gone through. As we were walking back, I felt the urgent need to go to the bathroom. I went, and THAT was what finally helped me come back down.

I went back to the teepee and lay down on my spot. I was beyond exhausted. I couldn’t deal with myself anymore. Everyone was already inside. Some were laughing, some were contemplating the fire, others were meditating or writing in their journals. I was ready to sleep.

To end the night, we had a closing ceremony. We all got to speak and share a little about our experiences. So much love and such peace in that group.

To finish, we had to snort tobacco once again.

My first night’s journey/odyssey started at 8 pm and ended at 4 am.

The entire second day was spent resting, enjoying nature and sharing our experiences.

Our diet was light and vegan. This was to make our journey more powerful and not have too much in our stomachs when the purging started that night.

Little did I know that that night I would finally understand what the word “exorcism” really meant…

Ceremony Night Two

Before commencing the ceremony, the shaman warned us that the second night could be more difficult because we would probably have to release something from within that wasn’t serving us anymore. Something related to what we had seen the night before.

Fear and resistance invaded me. My experience the first night had been so hard that I couldn’t imagine going through something worse. My body began shutting down, and I started feeling extremely tired and sleepy.

I voiced it to him and he asked me to trust and surrender. I understood that I was protected and that he wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me. He was there to hold our space and to guide us in the best way possible. He had my full trust from the very first time we met.

The morning after, he would explain to me that, once again, that was my ego trying to protect itself. It was trying to convince me not to drink the medicine that night. I had actually considered it, but I forced myself to do it because… “Francesca, what did you come here for?”

The ceremony started and he came around pouring tobacco on our hands for us to snort, and then proceeded to call us one by one offering each of us Ayahuasca.

I watched like a hawk when he was pouring my portion. The fear living within me was considerable.

He poured a very small amount, and I could finally breathe with peace.

“Good, it will probably be a lot less strong than yesterday. Maybe I will barely notice it. I’m happy with that.”

I got up, raised the cup towards the fire, repeated my mantra: “I trust and surrender”, drank the horrid-tasting brew, sipped on some water, and then went back to my spot and laid down. I was so tired that I was convinced I would be able to fall asleep. After all, my friend who was next to me had been able to sleep all throughout her first Ayahuasca night. She barely even noticed it. So, why wouldn’t I be able to go through something similar that night, right?

Oh, how wrong I was…

My Fear Exorcism

In less than 5 minutes after drinking it, I closed my eyes and started seeing shapeshifting sacred geometry again. “Reality” abruptly became distorted and I began feeling unbelievably uncomfortable. My body… I couldn’t deal with it. The level of discomfort was such that I couldn’t stay still. It was horrible!! I started moving uncontrollably, trying to ease my pain.

Desperate to find a “way out” of this horrendous state, I ran out of the tent. I walked madly and aimlessly failing to stop it. Again, I was being bombarded with colorful mandalas. I was in a trance, but unable to separate myself from the pain my body was in. I suddenly started losing balance, zigzagging frantically. Finally, I dropped on my knees and threw up… again and again, and again. It kept coming through as if I had a bottomless pit inside. It was excruciating.

I started giving up. I lay down right there, as a fetus on the ground. The level of suffering I was going through was off the charts. The body trembling wouldn’t stop, either.

The shaman’s face appeared over me.

“Francesca, don’t give up, don’t let it beat you. Control your mind. You have to get up. You can do this.”

With energy I didn’t think I had in me, I sat up. My eyes kept turning inwards, so my vision was pretty much gone. The dizziness I was experiencing was so strong that I struggled to even stay seated. I was hunched, sitting in a crooked position, but it didn’t matter. It was so much harder for me to move, that I was going to stay in whichever way I had managed to sit up.

Esperanza (“Hope” in Spanish – there are no coincidences), came up to me. She was there working with the shaman, supporting us in our journeys. Nicolas later told me that he had asked her to come help me until I came through the other side.

“Francesca, try to stand up”. She offered her hand as support, but I shook my head and succeeded in standing up on my own. I was determined to win this battle.

As I stood up, my body started going into powerful convulsions. “I can’t stop shaking”, I said in pain. “Good, you’re feeling your energy, isn’t it wonderful?”, she said.

I didn’t know if to cry or to laugh at her observation.

I had never experienced anything like it. I needed it to stop!

She stayed by my side, guiding me and explaining what I was going through.

“Feel your body, breathe in and out through your mouth, and center yourself. Let your body shake if it needs to.”

I was desperate, I couldn’t deal with it anymore. “Why is this so hard?”, I moaned constantly.

Finally, I glanced at the same chair I had sat on the night before and decided to take a seat, hoping that that would help put an end to my agony.

She followed me, leaned in, and said:

“It’s time for you to release what doesn’t serve you anymore. That’s what you’re fighting against. Tell it that you don’t need it anymore. Tell it to leave. Say it with compassion. Thank it and let it go.”

I looked up into the night sky and started repeating out loud “I came here to heal. I came here to heal.” The trance had a very strong grip on me still and whatever I could see I saw through kaleidoscopic lenses. Pain, fear, confusion, and desperation were my reality.

At last, I said:

“I love you, but go away! I don’t need you anymore.”

At that moment, I felt how this dense body of energy was being pushed from within. I realized I was pushing it out. There were two parts of me that were becoming separate, just how you experience the beginning of an out of body experience, but this time my consciousness was staying with my physical body.

The dense and heavy body of energy would almost completely become separate, but it would then push back and snap immediately back into me. I could feel the two forces within me battling hard. I finally had some clarity as to what was happening with me.

“I love you, but GET OUT!!”

I chanted over and over again.

The same battle would continue for some time, with my body splitting into two and then snapping back into one. At the same time, I kept coming in and out of the trance, fighting to stay present and to have the strength I needed to win the battle.

I tried helping myself by remembering my purpose for being there, but Esperanza stopped me and asked me to not put words into the experience. To just feel into what was happening.

“This is physical. You have the strength to push it out, to release it.”

I cried saying “I want to be free. I just want to be free.”

Suddenly, I closed my eyes and, through the breathtaking sacred geometry, I saw an angel coming down over me. It’s hard to describe what s/he looked like. I witnessed how s/he connected with my aura and covered me with an overwhelming bright light. Incredible nurturing and powerful energy was being given to me. I couldn’t believe what was happening!

I then opened my eyes and, in a split second, my chest popped upward forcefully expelling that dense body of energy from within. I could see it expanding and disappearing into the universe, as my body fell back onto the chair.

I was FREE!!!!

In that second, my body stopped shaking, my eyes became centered, and I could see my surroundings very clearly. It’s as if I had woken up. I felt such peace. I was a new person. A massive smile appeared on my face. “I did it!!!” I had won the battle!

Everything I had gone through was so clear then.


I said out loud and started laughing. I couldn’t believe what I had just experienced.

I felt such pride.

“I’m a warrior. I’m brave. I just fought an incredible battle and I won. What a freaking battle!!!”

I was smiling and laughing, sitting under a beautiful night sky, calmly watching the others go through their own processes. It felt so cozy and rewarding.

Esperanza hugged me, kissed me on the forehead and went back into the teepee. Nicolas came out to see how I was doing. “I’m doing amazing!” He smiled and proceeded to check on the others.

The following morning he explained to me that what I had expelled was FEAR. Not mine, but my family’s. Fear that I was carrying, that wasn’t mine, but that was still affecting me and weighing me down. He saw it with his own eyes. He said that I released this fear so my family could heal, and by doing so, I would be able to reach the next stage of my spiritual/personal growth.

I didn’t move from that chair for a few hours, gazing into the crater’s silhouette and the thickness of the forest around us, contemplating what I had just gone through. This had gone beyond my wildest dreams.

My exorcism lasted for 3 to 4 hours… I think. Although it felt like an eternity.

I was so excited, so elated, that I even played with some neon juggling balls for a bit. Then I went into the teepee to lay down and sleep.

Day Three Kindness

The 3rd day was extremely rough due to a cleansing ceremony we did in the morning, with guayusa water. We had to drink until we could throw up everything we had inside. I drank so much and then couldn’t purge. It was painful and had me in tears the whole day. Although, I know the crying was also attached to everything I had experienced and all that I was still releasing.

I wrote in my journal:

“Grandma Ayahuasca, please be kind to me today. I’ve fought enough. I need to rest now.”

Sitting at our 3rd Ayahuasca ceremony that night, I told the shaman that I was very scared and extremely weak. Tears filled up my eyes at the idea of going through another battle like the ones I led on the previous nights. I wanted to honor and trust the process and so I was still willing to drink the medicine, but I also felt defeated.

Because of what I had said to him, he decided to give me very little brew once again. I knew that didn’t mean anything, as the night before he had given me a small amount and yet I still went in very deeply.

I drank it and waited calmly for it to take me in once again. It never did. Grandma Aya granted me my wish and let me rest for that whole night. I didn’t even throw up, which I was happy about since keeping the medicine inside your body also helps you heal.

I had the opportunity to witness everyone else’s journey, and that was an experience in itself.

The following morning we all gathered around the fire and shared the good and the bad, and our gratitude towards the whole experience and the people who supported us in our journeys.

Then, the shaman did a closing ceremony.


Integration is as important as the experience itself

I didn’t realize how powerful my experience had been until a few days later.

I had been hoping to get clarity about my own life, and instead, I got the opportunity to heal deeply rooted wounds that my whole family has been carrying from generation to generation. I was able to see different people’s lives, and I was able to become them, which helped me fill in so many blanks that have empowered me in a way I never would have imagined. And I know that I’m barely scratching the surface of understanding the shifts and blessings I’ve been given.

I met with Nicolas, the shaman, a few days later where he helped me integrate all that I experienced and understand how to work with it moving forward. That was so important for the whole process to be complete.

Final Reflections

I understand now why not as many people go through something like this. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It tore me down. But I fought, I came through the other side, and I know this experience will continue changing my life as I move forward.

Personal and spiritual growth comes in so many different forms. The path towards self-realization is so unique to each one of us. You have to find the one that’s right for you, and trust in your inner voice. It will guide you towards what you need to experience. The more you learn to listen to your heart, the easier it will be for you to soar.

Whatever you decide to do, please do it consciously. Find whoever and whatever aligns with you, and be responsible in how you experience it. Ask yourself: “Am I ready for something like this?”. If the answer is “No”, have patience and learn to wait for when you are ready. You will know when.

With regards to plant medicine, it’s definitely not something to take lightly. If I hadn’t been very centered and emotionally stable, it could’ve broken me. If I hadn’t done it with the right shaman, with the right group of people, in the right setting, it could’ve negatively affected me in more ways than I can imagine.

So, please be responsible with yourself and your life.

I hope you enjoyed reading my story.

Much love, Francesca
Instagram: @_francescaperotti_


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