A New Beginning

Entry by: safemouse

6th July 2017
Jason sat crossed legged on his cushion in khaki shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt with a Hawaiian kite boarding theme. Lithe yet musucular, young yet chiseled, with tanned feline face and pale yellow eyes, he spoke slowly and methodically in a Southern Virginia accent. One could almost fall asleep to whatever he had to say or fancy he were hypnotising you.

“These days more and more people are pressing the reset button on their lives. Changing jobs, ending unhealthy relationships, maybe even going back to college. But some of us are willing to go to even greater extremes to turn the page in our lives and start over. I guess that’s why we’re all sitting here.”

“I’m sorry, actually I have to move,” said an Austrian called Manfred, who got up and walked to the other side of the room. “I don’t like such a big kind of spider.”

Once Manfred settled down away from the unofficial guest that had found its way in Jason resumed.

“So the Petuba tribe were contacted two years ago and it’s been discovered that at the heart of their shamanic tradition is a brew made from seven Amazonian plants called Yabay. And most, if not all of you, have come thousands of miles to drink it. Can anybody tell me what their expectations of this brew might be..?”

Jacob, an ex-heroin addict from New York state, raised his hand. “I don’t know, I sort of guess I’ve heard it fucks you up.”

A gentle smile illuminated Jason’s face. Helen, who worked in media, raised her hand.“It’s like, the most amazing thing. I’ve heard it can be 20 years of therapy in one night.”

“Anybody else?”

I chipped in. “I’ve heard that it turns hardened criminals into reformed and honest people.”

Jason took a final hand.

“It puts you in touch with the cosmos.”

“Yes,” Jason agreed quietly. “It is all those things, and perhaps none. One thing I can promise, you have already done most of its work simply by coming here...”

Jason surveyed the circle momentarily. There were twenty of us on thick red cushions in a large jungle hut called a maloca. Most were sat up straight, like Jason, but one or two were taking it easier, lounging or laying flat. Then Jason tapped the floor with two fingers.

“So Yabay is described as a paternal spirit and can be a very strict and authoritarian one, at that. He’s here to kick your ass and put your life very much back on track. Now there are reports of this brew having been tried at New York parties and really, we don’t recommend this brew is taken out of context. More specifically, we recommend you take it here in the Amazon with the Petuba maestros. The Petuba have been working with these plants thousands of years and they’ve built up a lot of experience in the process.”

As Jason spoke the sounds of the jungle could be heard. A bee-like insect louder than any bee from Europe. A bird who’s watery warble sounded like a mobile phone welcome tone.

“And part of that process is that you need to follow a dieta for six days before and after the ceremony. There is only one ceremony. Other, kinder brews, such as iboga and ayahuasca can be used perhaps indefinitely but one dose of Yabay is enough for most people outside the Petuba tribe. So firstly, six nights before the ceremony you can’t eat anything and you have in fact just had your last meal for six days. It’s also important that during this period you don’t have sex or masturbate, either. The plants work with sexual energy and any dissipation of it is contra-indicated with the process.”

A murmur rippled round the room.

“That being said, very shortly you will all be asked to remove your clothes. Yabay is a hard taskmaster and will be very angry if you try to hide anything from him. But really, it hardly matters, because the next six days will not be spent with others and the ceremony itself will almost be in pitch dark. Just before the ceremony, you will be taken from the hole in the ground you have just spent the past six days in to here in the maloca, where the ceremony will be held. For your own safety you'll be tied down and a small cup of Yabay will be administered to you. Whilst the medicine takes effect maestros from the Petuba tribe will come round and thrash you with stems taken from all the plants that Yabay is comprised of. The medicine can make you extremely sensitive to pain, so gags will be made available to bite on, and it’s fine if you want to use them. But we recommend you just go with it. Crying and screaming can be extremely carthartic,” Jason nodded, with earnest emphasis.

“But before you take the medicine it’s very important to have a list of what the Petuba call 'yatay-queros' in mind. There’s no exact word that translates the meaning but in the Western tradition it roughly translates to ‘confessions.’ You simply tell the plants about areas you need to work on as a person. And these can be complex, or they can in fact be very simple. You can say, 'Father Yatuba I have dishonoured my parents. Or, Father Yatuba I am a fuck-womble.’ Please just be aware that if you use strong language the maestros may thrash you harder.”Jason let this last advisory sink in, before asking, “So does anybody have any questions?”

“How did somebody think to make a brew out of seven plants?”

“That’s a good question. The Yatuba have a creation story about Yabay. Apparently, one day a father’s only son came back home with a deer he’d hunted in the jungle and his father reprimanded him and said he should have brought back two. And so his son left his father in disgust. But then he fell asleep and had a dream in which he was told to gather the plants and literally make a rod for his own back. He then asked his father to beat him with it and drank a brew made from the plants to remember his experience.”

Another hand was chosen.“What are those animals in the trees that look like squirrel-type monkeys?”

“Er...I think they’re called Squnkys,” Jason replied. The class laughed. “No, those are Petuba monkeys,they’re actually who the tribe have named themselves after. A kind of mascot, if you will.”

After that, we were taken to our holes, which were indeed totally dark. Damp too. If you’ve never been in a hole full of insects and nothing but half a rotten papaya cup of water a day for six days you probably don’t know what six days of hell is.

Certainly by the time I was done I’d lost all sense of who, where or what I was and not one drop of Yabay had passed my lips. Had three days passed or three years? Was I alive or a ghost haunting his own grave? Was I even human any more? Somewhere in the hole I was a jaguar chasing its own prey, I was the prey being chased by a jaguar. I saw places and people I’d long since forgotten. I felt my head start to break open. And I heard the voices of others, though our holes were far apart. Oddly, we were all in this together and all alone at the same time.

Finally, they pulled me out. I was covered in bites, including a few of my own, but it would have been worse had I not rubbed mud over myself, an act of self-preservation I don’t recollect. I’d lost two stone and could barely stand but I went straight to the ceremony. The three kerosene lamps lighting the maloca seemed incredibly bright. The room itself seemed like a solar system. Others were on the floor crying, shaking, moaning or void of all movement. We were a sorry lot indeed.

Jason sat in the centre of the circle with two maestros. All three were smoking mapachos and the tension was palpable. The room was still, yet through the netted windows the incessant sound of the jungle crowded in on us. I saw a cockroach scuttle across the floor, the shadow of Jason’s body was projected by a lamp onto the ceiling of the maloca and he looked gigantic. Then Jason suddenly dimmed the lamps and all was dark.

The only thing I remember next was the thrashing. Father Yabay is perhaps the hardest disciplinarian of them all. The stems of Yabay seemed to break each one of my bones. I screamed for forgiveness. Every skeleton I had in my closet was offered up as a sacrifice. In my life before there were always ifs, buts and maybes but now things were so clear their sharpness made me bleed. I was wrong. It was all my fault. And I was very very sorry.

After the thrashing ended, and it actually can’t have been long, I lay on the floor for hours unable to make myself comfortable, my body excruciatingly tender. Finally, the sacred words came. ‘The ceremony is now over.’

I woke up the next day in a bed so soft it seemed to be made of squnky fur. Two beautiful Amazonians carried me to a bath and bathed and dressed my wounds with salves of the forest. All things considered, I hadn’t come off too badly. A broken finger, a chipped tooth and cracked rib. Bruises that made me look like a bad piece of fruit.

Then they brought us breakfast. Just a broth with no solids in it, to break us in gently, but never has food tasted so good and never will it again. Jason asked for our attention for a moment.“Okay guys, I want you to promise me you’ll never mis-behave again. Promise?”
To a man and woman we all promised, like little children.

“Okay, now the dieta is by no means over but from here on it changes a little. Check the board to see what’s in store for you over the coming days.”

We looked up at the whiteboard, which had the schedule for days 7-12. That morning we were having healing massage, in the afternoon cranial therapy and pottery. The only dictates that remained the same were the clothing prohibition and sexual abstinence but hugs were fine and in fact on day eight we had a class called ‘Embrace the embrace.’ By day twelve we were pretty loved up. We all wore pyjamas and snuggled up in one big bed together watching a Disney movie. The morning before we departed we group shared. Jason gave us a heart-shaped stone and we each in turn held it as we recounted our Yabay ceremony.

One person said, “I didn’t know who or what I was.”

Another, “Not much happened but I saw a beautiful blue light.”

Then somebody said, “I was in agony but I didn’t drink anything. Nobody gave me a cup.”

I didn’t remember drinking one, either. Other voices assented. Then Jason spoke. “Er, just so you know things went a little awry the other day. A gang of banditos dressed in balaclavas broke into the compound, came into the maloca with baseball bats and roughed a few of you guys up. I think it was to do with some money I owe them for cocaine, so I’m sorry about that... That said, the effect of being beaten with baseball bats is very similar to a Yabay ceremony. And some even say it’s not strictly necessary to drink the Yabay, anyway.They report greater benefits from the dieta generally.”

The secrets of the Petuba tribe and their strange concotion, Yabay, would have to wait another time. But that was fine, because we all returned home feeling different. Like we’d left our old selves behind; closed a difficult chapter. Like it was a new beginning.
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