Anatomy of Depression and Addiction



San Pedro 101

cactus on pot.jpg

Set: Utmost respect. Mescaline containing cactus is a very powerful medicine from South America. High  doses take one outside of personal boundaries to God and beyond.

Setting: Safety is paramount. If an experienced and trustworthy guide is unavailable, private space – dry, tidy, warm, with a bucket for bodily expulsions if such occur. Clean clothes, clean body, clean mind. Appropriate wholesome music, recorded spiritual teachings (e.g. Eckhart Tolle) and an audio system to play those. Incenses to bless the space. In my experience natural tobacco has been useful to foster the individuation process while in the midst of depersonalisation.

Medicine: Amount for one strong personal journey is a piece of a mature cactus lengthwise equal to your arm from elbow to palm (fingers). Obviously the amount of mescaline will differ depending on the age of the cactus, the species, the environmental condition it grew in and the length of your arm 😊 It is ok. If in doubt drink half of the prepared medicine and in 2-3 hours drink more if desired.

To prepare it:

You require: plenty of water, heating element, pot, metal mesh strainer, a vessel or two to keep the strained off liquid from the boil ups. A knife and a spoon.

  • cut off the 3-4 cm tip off for replanting. It needs to be dried out till the scab forms on the exposed flesh, planted in soil and NOT watered till it roots.
  • on the piece you are working with cut out the spines if present (longitudinal cuts to the right and the left of the spines angling the knife towards the spines to create the wedge works well).
  • take the external plasticky skin off, using fingernails and/or knife. Discard.
  • peel the green layer off using the knife. That’s where mescaline is and that’s what you’ll be working with. Respectfully discard the rest or experiment if you wish, as there is anecdotal evidence of mescaline present throughout the cactus tissue.
  • put your green pieces in a pot and cover with water, bring to boil. Watch it closely as it will foam profusely, agitate the foam with a spoon, and lower the heat to a slow simmer. Cook for 5-7 hours adding water as necessary. Strain the liquid and put aside.
  • cover the boiled cactus with more fresh water and cook for 5-7 more hours, adding water as necessary. It won’t foam again. Strain the liquid and set aside.
  • repeat the boiling process once again with fresh water for additional 5-7 hours. Strain.
  • combine the liquids from your three boil ups and reduce to a drinkable amount. 30-40 ml is plenty. You can use strong heat, but watch it closely when the amount is nearing the desired to prevent burning.
  • cool and proceed with the ceremony when ready.

I have experimented with putting the plant material through the blender on the third boil and reducing the time of cooking, but the strainer  I use lets through too much of the pureed cactus and the consistency of the medicine was a bit too much on a revolting side. You probably can use a pressure cooker and save on gas or electricity, just don’t forget that it will form foam initially, so don’t seal it till the foam settles.

What to expect from the journey: The effect starts to appear in 1-3 hours, be patient. Meditate, play a musical instrument, listen to music or Eckhart. Draw. Play with play dough. Try to avoid internet, computer games, chats and conversations while waiting – those might interfere with a smooth onset, agitate your mind and distract from a proper Set.

Nausea might appear at 30 min in, 1hour in, and any other intervals of initial take off. Sudden movements might trigger it, so try to glide like a panther if you need to move. Obviously if you vomit too soon, not much mescaline will have been absorbed, so the strength of your journey will be affected. If you are nauseated, sit close to your bucket and breathe, smell something nice, you can try chewing a piece of ginger (pickled, candied or fresh). On the other hand, don’t fight the nausea too much, if it wants out – let it out, you might need this purification and it might kick start the process of the journey. Be respectful to your Setting and clean the bucket as soon as you can.

As with many other psychedelics, it is not uncommon to feel cold and shiver, when your journey starts to take off, a nice blanket and perhaps a hot water bottle can be handy. For me mescaline often brings intense shaking and a certain feeling of agitation. Ride it off, it will pass.

The peak is at 3-5 hours after ingestion, and if the dose was high enough, prepare for unexpected  – dissolution of the reality as you know it, divine presence and a loss of divine presence, loss of sense of self, and an unfamiliar sense of self with a touch of mania grandeur. It is best to keep the experienced states to yourself or share with trusted others only, as it can be easily labeled as psychotic states and unfriendly and non-understanding medical professionals might be employed to interfere.  Endure, ride it out, it will pass. Although you must be aware of a condition called HPPD – Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder. If you’ve never heard about it – google it, and understand that it is a known risk while taking any psychedelics. Remember that you, and only you make the final decision to journey and assume the final responsibility for the process and the outcome.

There are different schools of thought about the best time of the day for the journey. Mescaline produces quite pleasant visual changes and everything you look at gets a divine glow, especially the inherently beautiful things like nature and animals. It can be wonderful to observe, and day light gives you more opportunities for that. On the other hand, as with all psychedelics, it is the insight and inner work that you should be after, so scheduling your journey for the night time might bring less distraction and quieter setting to accommodate for internal process. Do what works better logistically and intuitively.

Mescaline is a long acting medicine and 12 hours in, you will probably still feel certain effects, e.g. be more contemplative, philosophically inclined, present, empathetic etc. Use that time to connect with significant others if you want or go for a walk if a beautiful and safe setting is near by. Don’t operate machinery or do much else of the ordinary state of consciousness things. Journaling is good. Some water/tea/fruits if you want. Be prepared for a prolonged inner “buzz” and inability to sleep. You can catch up on rest the following day, don’t worry, but plan accordingly.

Personal experience: I tried San Pedro for the first time 2 years ago, in a group ceremony setting in Ecuador.  I was not involved in the medicine preparation process and the journey was guided by a professional shaman (it is a registered profession in Ecuador). The effect was not overwhelmingly strong, but strong enough for me to feel strengthened by the process, develop respect and a wish to learn more. This year I participated in a group ceremony of a less commercial kind involving San Pedro and Temazcal – ceremonial sweat lodge. I helped with the preparation of the medicine. The effect was not very strong but strong enough to feel the magic and again strengthening of my core. For the last 2 and a bit months, I have been working with the medicine by myself, conducting solo ceremonies 2-3 times a week in the privacy of my room with an occasional venture outdoors and interactions with pigeons and a sympathetic neighbour or two. My dosage is moderate to high, and even with the expected development of tolerance (said to reset at 1 week abstinence), sufficient enough to reach the state of “ego loss”. Interestingly enough, if anything the effects have grown stronger, possibly because the first month of my journeys included considerable physical and psychological unease. My long standing chronic and recurrent cystitis and urethritis (bladder and urethra inflammation) would appear every time a few hours into the ceremony, probably triggered by dehydration, as I conduct the journey in a tradition of abstinence from food and water. The memory  of it is already fading, but suffer I did. It felt very archetypal and diabolic in a sense – that inescapable discomfort and inability to settle and find peace. I knew that drinking herbal tea (e.g. nettle) would bring it to end almost instantly but I also felt that a relief was not what I needed. I was after healing, and I hoped that enduring the suffering might help me go through the process and out of the suffering. It did. Bit by bit, ceremony after the ceremony the pain and discomfort diminished, and opened way for another experience. Without the restlessness of the sickness, I was able to give myself more fully to the medicine, and that’s when the higher realms of divinity and ego loss started to show up in my journeys. A few weeks ago, tobacco reappeared in my life, and I understood why it has been considered a sacred plant in South America. When the reality had fallen apart and I struggled to regain the awareness of where, why and who I was, the act of rolling the tobacco (physically challenging in that state, mind you), lighting it and smoking with the outspoken prayer brought the reality back. Pure magic.

I am living in Ecuador for the moment, and access to San Pedro is very easy. It is sold at the market. I pay about 3-5 dollars for the piece sufficient enough for a strong journey. The cost of living here is low. The weather is good. I hope to continue working with San Pedro and learning from it. I also hope to connect with people of high integrity that walk the same path of the ancestral medicine and work together some day. I am happy to share what I’ve learnt with anyone wishing to work with the medicine, who is new on the path. We are all connected, and I believe that healing of one person sends ripples of magic and health across the whole of humanity.

I pray for our planet.

I pray for health.

I pray for love.

My regards,