Our Peyote Ceremony in the Mexican Desert: A Spiritual Experience
It all started with a Swiss guy in a hostel in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. Tattoed all over, messy dreadlocks, eyes full of light. A beautiful traveler soul, one of many I have met. I did not know yet this brief encounter would be the beginning of what is now one of my deepest friendships.
Also little did I know that, a week later, we would sit in the Mexican desert together, holding a peyote ceremony under the stars.
What is Peyote?
Before I went to San Luis Potosí, I had already heard about Peyote, the little psychedelic cactus that contains the hallucinogen mescaline. It grows in the Northern Mexican desert as well as in some parts of the Southern USA. It has a long spiritual tradition among the Wixárikas, an indigenous tribe that uses Peyote in religious ceremonies.
Still, I was unsure if it was an experience I wanted to seek out. I knew little about it. My newfound friend, however, was determined to go find the sacred plant – and after having some open conversations and learning more about its effects, my curiosity was stronger than my fear. I decided to join Micah on his trip to the lands of Wirikuta, the sacred land of the Wixárikas.
Peyote is not for those who only seek a high. It is a spiritual, introspective experience, held in high respect. The Mexicans call it ‘medicina’, strongly believing in its healing powers. Medicine for the soul.
The journey into the magic land of Peyote
We started hitchhiking our way towards the North, picking up another friend on the way. We call her Mama Montaña, Mother Mountain. She is a young Mexican woman, overflowing with kindness and radiating the wisdom of the ancestors.
Reaching the desert is a journey in itself. It takes us an entire day of hitchhiking, riding on pick-up trucks, and jumping on local busses, to get to the small town that we’ve been told to seek out.
It is in the middle of nowhere. One asphalted road leads through the town, surrounded by dusty backroads leading to the few houses that make up the settlement. Some goats are looking at us through the fences and some lonely motorbikes leaning against colorful houses, barely anything else. Micah and I are the only foreigners.
Finding Peyote alone is hard – we need some local help.
We start asking for the contact we’ve been given – but he’s been unheard of. But the locals know what we are looking for, and as we head deeper into the village to look for someone who can lead us to the Peyote, a Mexican man comes our way. He’s already expecting us.
We follow him to his house and he explains the procedure, tells us what to expect. He says he can still bring us there today, before the sun sets. All of a sudden, I feel nervosity rising inside of me – this is really happening. Now. It’s too late for second thoughts, as my friends, more experienced with plant medicine than me and eager to go, are already agreeing with his proposal.
Quickly, we head to a tiny store and get enough supplies to sustain us for two nights and days in the desert. Making sure we have enough water, we head back, where our guide is already waiting by his pick-up truck.
We go into the Mexican desert, to the hidden spots where Peyote grows.
On bumpy roads, he takes us away from the village. Deeper and deeper into the desert. At some point, we reach a lonely tree surrounded by wide, barren views. Here is where he will leave us. We agreed that he would not come back to search for us – after our Peyote ceremony, we wanted to take on the long way out of the desert on foot, by our own strength, as a thank-offering to nature.
Things to remember before taking Peyote
Our guide bends down to the ground – underneath the dry desert growth, we spot the first few Peyote cacti. Respectfully, he cuts one plant to demonstrate to us how to consume it. It is important to remove the fluffy, button-like tufts of the beautiful sacred plant before eating it.
Peyote, also called Hikuri, is a precious plant. It grows very slow – that’s why the local population is very serious about protecting it. Because of increasing illegal trading, it has become endangered. We are reminded that we are welcome to come to the desert and consume it, but not to take away any plants with us. Already on our way to the desert, we have been stopped by the local police who suspiciously questioned and unnecessarily tried to search us for plants we might intend to take away from where they belong.
All alone, we inspect the area we have been brought to. The lone tree shows signs of the ones that have come before us. It is full of little offerings to mother nature, showing gratitude for what they’ve been given.
It is an unwritten rule when going on a journey with plant medicine: Do not take without giving back.
The moment has come: Our first Peyote experience
The dark is approaching, so we set up our two little tents and use the last light of the day to collect the Peyote plants we intend to consume that night. Mexicans call Peyote ‘Abuelo’, grandfather, for the masculine energy and grandfatherly wisdom the trip brings.
As the moon rises, we light a fire. The nocturnal cold starts coming over the desert and a soft breeze runs through the vast, empty land.
We set our intentions, reflecting on what we hope this Peyote experience will bring us. Mama Montaña speaks beautiful words in Spanish, a prayer coming from the heart, thanking nature for allowing us to be here.
In silence, we start eating the first bites of Peyote. It tastes disgusting. Never in my life have I tasted anything this bitter.
Peyote tastes like it is meant to be medicine. Not easy. Healing.
Struggling with the taste, we try to eat as much as we can. Even though they are so small, it is hard to eat an entire cactus. And to get the full experience, we know we need to ingest several.
Nibbling on our Peyote plants by the fire, we wait for the first effects to show up. It is hard on the stomach. My two friends are struggling with strong feelings of nausea.
In the background, a calming, healing melody plays from Micah’s phone.
Todos somos medicina
Somos distintas medicinas
Nos sanamos unos al otro
Compartimos en harmonía
We are all medicine, healing each other.
Very subtly, I start feeling something. As if the world expands. I feel very light, tingly.
My mind feels sharp, very aware. Peyote does not cloud your mind – it brings you closer to consciousness.
I perceive everything around me very intensely. I am one with my surroundings.
The stars above us, the desert winds, the distant howling of the coyotes.
Even the cold is more intense than it normally would be. I curl up in my sleeping bag. I am alive with all my senses.
Wide awake in silent awe, an undefined amount of time passes. I am filled with gentle wonder for the world.
Feeling the effects of Peyote… or not?
The next morning, the effects have faded. We share what we have experienced, nourish our bodies with the food we brought, getting ready for a second night of ceremony.
This time, even though I consume more of the bitter-tasting medicine than the night before, I don’t really feel anything, except for a sensation of being wide awake.
We have been told that this can happen – sometimes, the medicine has nothing to say to you. I go to bed early, trying to rest despite my inner alertness. A Peyote trip takes a lot of energy. But then the rain comes and I stay awake, listening to the raindrops fall onto the tent. My friends are still out there by the fire, connecting intensely. By the time they crawl into the tent, they are soaking wet and so is everything we brought with us.
Leaving the Mexican desert, with more experiences to come.
Only in the morning hours, the desert rain slowly stops. We have breakfast, pack up our drenched stuff and start making our way out of the desert. I feel weak, drained by the past two nights, but we have no other choice but to take on the 3-hour walk. I know that we are strong enough.
GPS is not working that far out, so we need to rely on our memory to get back to civilization. As we walk, we keep reflecting. Even though none of us had had a very strong Peyote experience, we all felt the subtle effects of the plant medicine. Something has changed.
A bond has been formed. We walked into the desert as friends. We left as family.
When we finally reach civilization, we notice how hungry and drained we are. We decide to stay a night with the man who had shown us the sacred plants in the desert. We fall asleep in the afternoon and wake up the next day, full 15 hours later.
When I finally understood the meaning of my Peyote experience
It would not be our last Peyote ceremony. About a week later, with fresh energy, we would hitchhike to another remote location and receive more lessons from El Abuelo.
That time, a way stronger Peyote experience than the ones before, was when I truly understood what the medicine was trying to tell me.
Underneath a sky full of stars that felt so close as if we could touch them, I felt my inner light as I never had before.
I started to comprehend that there was no darkness within me that I needed to fear. What I discovered underneath the worries of my mind was a soul full of joy.
And it was that pure joy and light that streamed from my chest into every last corner of my body that night.
The message had come home. I am light and I am here to share it with the world.
gracias a los abuelos
gracias a la Pachamamita
gracias a la gente mexicana
gracias al universo