A Shamanic Death Song

taken from Psychedelic Monographs and Essays No. 6


Social Inventions No. 26, page 37, told of a Shamanic three-dimensional language revealed through the use of DMT. Here is an account with some similarities, based on the use of ayahuasca or yage, from Thomas Pinkson, a psychologist and business consultant, adapted from Psychedelic Monographs and Essays No. 6 - an article entitled 'Amazonian Shamanism'. See also The Book of Visions (Virgin Books, 1992, page 316) re. musical midwifery for the dying.

'Plants of the jungle did appear before me and speak. The problem was that I did not understand their language'

In my first experience with ayahuasca in the Amazon jungle, plants of the jungle did appear before me and speak, just as the shamans report happens with them. The problem was that I did not understand their language! I knew they were giving me information but I wasn't conversant in their language and so didn't get it. It takes a period of time to learn the language of the plants. Most shamans were introduced to the plants through their own illness or wounding. They were injured in some way when they were young and were introduced to ayahuasca through a healing ceremony. It was not a teacher for them until a number of sessions took place over time. Then the spirit of the plant opened up to them and began to relate to them as a teacher. Part of this process was learning the language. Another part is enduring the repeated vomiting. It is not easy.

I am especially interested in the 'intelligence' of the power plants like ayahuasca. It is prelinguistic intelligence connected with transcendent realms of knowing that do not fit easily into western thought categories.

'All levels of existence have vibration, or sound underneath their surface manifestation'

One ayahuasca vision showed me how all levels of existence, including material and non-material levels as thoughts or feelings, have vibration, or sound underneath their surface manifestation. If one can reproduce the sound, vibration, or 'song' of that which you are working with, you can enter into it and change it around! The shaman does just this using themselves as an instrument to effect Ihe joining.

This information came in handy in a recent experience working with life threatening illness. Through this work I see that real healing always takes place through joining. When we are able to dissolve separation to experience our oneness, healing is the result. My ayahuasca experience showed me one way, a most ancient way to gain entry and create joining. Once you are 'in', the question becomes what do you want to do; what is your intentionality, your purpose in being there to begin with. I have explored this experience of joining through chanting, drumming, prayer, ceremony meditation, and most recently through song. I want to share one of my recent explorations on this realm with an AIDS patient.

He was a 40-year-old artist, very bright and animated. When I first met him, he was terribly frightened of being alone, of death and that he was going to be put in a black box forever. He was paralysed by his fear and in tremendous pain, taking enough morphine to kill three or four people but it was still not working for him. He was full of anger and felt abandoned by friends and family. He'd also alienated the medical staff in one hospital to the extent that they would not let him in without a guard for the nurses. Underneath all this he was a wonderfully sensitive person with deep integrity who wanted to find inner peace, so he could die with dignity and without fear. I worked with him for six months, visiting him at home or in the hospital up until the day before his death.



'I visualised myself as a section of pipe hooked up to the Great Generator, just a channel for a healing love force'

On what was to be our last visit I watched him laboring to breathe with an oxygen mask on his face, exhausted from the ravages of disease and disoriented by pain medication and sedation. I focused all my attention on opening my heart and extending love. I visualised myself as a section of pipe hooked up to the 'Great Generator', just playing my part in the link-up process. The pipe gets blocked when we think we are doing it all. But when we get ego mind out of the way we really can be a channel for a healing !ove force.

'Then to my total surprise, he took off his oxygen mask and began to sing along with me'

While silently holding his hand and sending him love, I began to enter a trance state. Up from the depths of my mind came the words of a song that I'd learned in Mexico years before while on a pilgrimage with the Huichole Indians. I adopted it as my 'death song' and had used it once before as a dear friend was dying. Now it felt like the song wanted to be sung again. My first response was not to do it. 'How will he receive it?' I worried. Then I remembered the ayahuasca teaching from the Amazon about joining through sound. The guidance grew stronger. 'Just sing it, just share the song', It said. 'Just send it to him, without any pressure or attachment. Sing it to him with love and let it go,' said the inner instructions. So softly I began to hum. Slowly the humming shifted into singing, soft at first, then louder. As I sang louder, I could hear him trying to hum along. Then to my total surprise, he took off his oxygen mask and began to sing along with me. He had barely enough strength to breathe, but somehow found strength to join me in singing. Singing together our voices became one as we both sang louder. Then a phase shift occurred and there was no separation between us; we were one! His eyes came to life, his face now radiant. For he first time since I knew him he was joyful. He was experiencing what he had been so desperately seeking so that he could die in peace - release from fear and union with spirit. It was a transcendent experience for us both. Our hearts and souls joined together in a timeless moment of absolute bliss. This was the culmination of our work together. We stayed in silence for several minutes enjoying the awe of what had just touched us both so powerfully.

Shortly thereafter, it was time for me to leave. Previously he would become very anxious whenever I would leave after one of our sessions. 'Make sure you come back. You are coming back, aren't you?' he'd ask worriedly. This time he released effortlessly. We gave each other a long hug and said goodbye. He smiled as I left the room and died the next day. The teachings from the 'Elders' had served us well.