I was ready for the next step in my journey down the rabbit hole. For some reason, the Universe was calling me again, though this time in the most unexpected way.
I had never heard of Iboga until a friend shared his experience with the African root bark with me. I was intrigued, especially since my planned trip to Peru was canceled due to Covid. Iboga is considered legal in Canada for personal use but not legal for sale. (to learn more about its legalities click here.) I was ready to discover another spiritual adventure.
Iboga is a rainforest shrub native to West Africa and has been known to the Pygmies of the Congo Basin for thousands of years. “In the past few centuries, it has played a central role in a spiritual path called Bwiti. Bwiti is not a religion and it is not a tribe. It is a remarkably truthful way of understanding life. Iboga is at its core, and is used for Initiation, Rites of Passage and self-exploration.” Iboga Journey
Iboga is also considered the stern Father figure and has been known to help cure those with addictions such as cigarette smoking and even heroin. Iboga takes you inward into your psyche and asks you to face things you may have suppressed for years. Ayahuasca the wise Mother archetype takes you into another world for her lessons. Iboga spreads its healing through you in a very direct way and isn’t a journey for the faint of heart. Iboga asks you to face your shadow self with glaring intensity. It hides nothing from you. It can be a dark and frightening journey for some, which makes it that much more powerful. We tend to not want to look within at our own darkness and with Iboga, there is no escape.
“This miraculous healer has spread its energy—like its root system—all over our planet, and the people dedicated to the pursuit of truth are able to do so with this master plant teacher.” Iboga Journey
My friend naturally had told me nothing about the dark side of his journey and had merely explained that it’s a powerful tool for healing. I was definitely ready, or so I thought and went into it with a childlike naivety in my anticipation of experiencing the Divine. What I got, was the absolute opposite. I forgot the age-old rule that Medicine won’t give you what you want, but rather what you need.
My Journey. I was entering the dark cave of my shadow self, not realizing that this was the only way through to the other side.
Entering the dark room of the ceremonial ‘lodge’ felt a bit like entering a cave. There were six of us taking part in the ceremony. We each chose our spot in the room where mats had been put out for us. We covered them with sheets and began to get settled in. We were about to spend the next 24 hours in total darkness, traveling deep within our psyche.
As dusk gave away to night, the ceremony began. We opened with a sharing circle, passing around the ‘talking stick’ while citing our intentions for our journey into ‘death and rebirth’. We were then given our first taste of Iboga root bark in its raw unaltered form. There is no other way to describe the first taste, except that it felt like chewing dirt. It was horrid! I was relieved that the rest of the medicine would be administered by capsules, which were offered every hour for eight hours. It was a rite of passage.
Laying down on my mat after my first dose of Iboga, I closed my eyes and felt uneasy. I was surprised at how nervous I was. Nothing was happening and my impatience grew. The room was dark and silent. There was nothing to look at, nothing to say, nothing to do, just utter blackness. After what seemed like an eternity, I heard the loud rumble of a waterfall. Only it wasn’t a waterfall, it was my neighbour throwing up in the puke bucket that was allocated to each of us. God, I don’t’ want to throw up, was my thought at the appalling sound. It was so intense, loud and lingering that I thought my neighbour was going to die. That’s when I felt my next sensation, a very loud buzzing in my ears which was terribly uncomfortable. I tried to get up and move, only to discover I was jello. I reminded myself that this is what I was here for – a journey into the core of my being. That’s when I became mortally afraid I was going to die. This was a very literal gut-wrenching feeling and I could hear a loud voice in my head that was mine but not mine. It was telling me I was unworthy and that I needed to go to the hospital, immediately. This was dire! I was foolish to go on this path and my partner was right, I was going to lose my mind.
Hours went by and I laid in a sort of delirium on my mat, not knowing whether it was night or day. I was covered in sweat and seemed to go in and out of dreamless sleep. At this point, I had taken every single dose of Iboga that had been given to me, and to my surprise hadn’t thrown up. I was relieved but worried. Wasn’t I supposed to be purging? The moment the thought entered my mind I was suddenly thrown into an intense visual experience. I was inside myself and about to be swallowed by an enormous snake. I went through the creature about halfway and became so frightened that my fear pulled me back out and stopped me from being swallowed whole. This happened several times and each time fear won the battle. After several attempts, I must have lost consciousness again because the next thing I knew I was in hell. Literally.
If you’ve ever watched ‘What Dreams May Come’ then you’d be aware of the scene when Robin William’s character, Chris Nielsen sails through purgatory to find his wife who committed suicide. He’s sailing through a sea of damned souls. That sea was where I was. I had died and found myself in hell. It was a strange sort of fear. I was there and yet part of me was merely observing the entire experience. I felt darkness and a despair I had never felt before. I thought I was doomed and I had really done myself in. I soon realized that all I could do was surrender to my fate. It was at that moment that my dog suddenly came running up to me out of nowhere and ‘told me’ to follow him back home. My dog had become my angel showing me the way out of hell.
In a daze, I spent the entire 24 hours coming in and out of journeys. It wasn’t at all the heavenly experience I was hoping for. I had died and gone to hell and back.
How I came through those last hours of my trip, I’m not sure. What I do know, is that having symbolically died and been reborn, I felt a kind of inner power I didn’t know I had. Nothing frightened me and my personal hell was a place in my mind and ego trying to stop me from connecting back to Source. Our ego clings with all its might so as not to face death’s door. I vowed next time, that I’d just let go, allow myself to be swallowed by the snake so that I could shed all my darkness and transform.
I am eternally grateful to the practitioner at IbogaJourney who watched over us and cared for our bodies and souls so that no harm would come to us. Iboga is not for the faint of heart and you must be prepared to face your deepest fears. By doing so, there is incredible healing that occurs. Each individual’s experience is unique and only you know when you are ready. If you’d like to take this journey visit: www.ibogajourney.ca
The use of Iboga and other ceremonial substances should be taken under the supervision of those who are experienced travelers and who have only your good intentions at heart. The ceremony should be taken with the utmost reverence and gratitude.
I do not condone the use of any substances and this post is for educational purposes only. Be sure to check with an experienced practitioner about the potential dangers of Ibogaine.