Retreat in Tepoztlán with Ibogaine – by Marco V Morelli

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“Eshu wandered through a peanut farm. A tuft of his hair was just visible. If it had not been for his enormous size, would you have noticed him at all?”—Yoruba saying

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I really enjoyed your “Retreat in Tepoztlán with Ibogaine.” Even before hearing you actually read the poem, I could hear it’s circling energies humming and buzzing and chirping and inserting themselves, by some act of correspondence, into the layers of my awareness. You set up a strong, hypnotic rhythm that is at the same time flexible, with a tone that allows you to slip with mercurial ease between the intimate and the cosmic.

Read one way, the piece is almost like a diary entry. Read another way, it is a surging incantation. I like the prayer-like way you move from borderline hallucinatory images to simple statements and yearnings and requests–"May our hands be cleansed for our work/ May ours hearts be opened, to know what our work is.” In the King James Bible, there’s a passage in one of the psalms that reads, “Establish thou the work of our hands. Yea, the work of our hands, establish thou it.” Your lines, like these, imply much more than they state.

You write, “My stomach is as empty as the space between galaxies, yet my soul’s marrow is filling up with the universe’s energies/ Go easy on this blindfolded buttercup at the crossroads, for I’ve lost track of my limbs and can’t compute my own fingers or toes!” And later, “I am not afraid of my path; my feet sprout roots”—a very tactile way of expressing a dissolution that is also a joyous deepening of connections. Given the swirling vortices of energies your describing and invoking, it’s important, I think, to reference the sensations of the body in this way.

You write,

“And I have a few questions for you, Mr. Iboga—mystery man—
man of many faces and forms and truth-telling hats

“Shape-shifter of dream bodies, trickster deity extraordinaire, root guru
Eshu of Old Earth, grandfather, old friend…”

It’s interesting that you mention Eshu. I’m wearing my Eshu eleke—or necklace—at the moment. As you describe it, the somehow tactile but ungraspable trickster-like aspect of Iboga does seem to bear more than a casual relationship to the Yoruba/Lucumi god (Orisha) Eshu. In Yoruba tradition, it is sometimes said that there are 201 powers to the right, the Orishas and the Irunmole, whose role is to protect and to help us (assuming, of course, that we do not forget to feed them). There are also 201 powers to the left, the Ajogun, whose role is to test and to challenge us. Eshu is unique in that he is one of the eldest of the Orishas and also serves as the leader of the Ajogun. On both sides, Eshu is the “one” in the 201. He is the only power who belongs to both sides, and to neither.

Similarly, as the mediator between humans and Orishas, between the subtle and the physical, between personal destiny and cosmic order, Eshu is both in time and entirely beyond it. It is said that he is the only orisha who does not need to resort to divination. Since he exists at the perpetual moment of creation, he views the opposition between creation and destruction as part of a larger dialogue.

You write,

“You are the harbinger of true selves: you instruct me
to abolish Hell!

“You show me visions of who I really am, and how all my dreams
must unravel—show me the transmogrifying faces of the living

“And the dying, demons and loved ones, ancestors and the still-unborn
aging to dust and fading away…”

In “Why Eshu Lives Outside,” my retelling of a Yoruba parable, I also explore this space of simultaneous emergence and disintegration. Here is one paragraph:

“In those days, each act of intercourse was incomparably exciting. Whole civilizational cycles were being replayed every second. You could say that the world was young, but this is only a way of speaking of something that is far more convoluted. The cries of those who had been sucked back to the depths could weaken the knees of even the worst demons. An Orisha might trade places with an anthill. Whale songs were the soul-destroying agents of seduction. In those days, Eshu would hover, a black cigar, above the electromagnetic chaos of the poles. Mad with Ashe, he made a fetish of himself. Between the powerlines of the grid that wrapped Earth like a net, you could see his phallus speeding like a shuttle. Its heart pounding, still wet behind the ears, the planet itself slipped in and out of the realm of the existent. There was a great amount of copulation that still remained to be done.”

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Brian, thanks as always, for your generous reading of my poem. You are right to point out that it has both the qualities of an incantation or prayer, as well as those of a diary entry or journalistic account. I literally wrote the poem as my integration “homework.” Pretty much everything I wrote is exactly as it happened, or was drawn from my perception of the group experience, or was something someone said that felt relevant.

For example, the invocation of the cardinal directions toward the end were spoken by Arturo, the primary elder of the Werika center, prior to our temazcal (sweat lodge) ceremonies—part of the cleansing ritual for entering the lodge. I translated and elaborated a little on his words, made subtle adjustments in emphasis, and switched the pronouns (e.g., from “que tus manos sean limpios” [may your hands be clean] to “may our hands be cleansed”) but tried to stay true to the intention and the feeling behind them.

The very last line of the poem came from something one the guides and therapists (Kristie) told me about her brother, who she said was a university administrator longing to start writing a series of novels, and that as soon as he retires he wants to begin “writing like a motherfucker.” As mentioned in my spoken introduction, the “helicoptric flyovers” were quite literal perceptions, yet hallucinatory at the same time. The “propulsive farts” were more on the hallucinatory (and playful) side, but seem to resonate, interestingly, with your own writing about Eshu: “you could see his phallus speeding like a shuttle.”

My primary guide, Paulina, had previously associated Eshu with the spirit of Iboga, which also relates to the experience of being at a crossroads and making choices that impact upon and may alter one’s entire life path. What was strange and perhaps unusual about my particular experience is that, whereas Iboga is often regarded as “stern” father-figure type teacher (relating both to protection and setting boundaries), I was also contacted by the playful/trickster side of his nature (relating to dreamlike perceptions and sometimes utter absurdity)—the “dual powers” one might say.

My only regret is that my performance of the poem, physically and energetically, came more from my chest and heart center than from my belly. It was my first time performing live in the months following the retreat, and I was a little nervous. I was not breathing as deeply as I could have been. Ideally, my voice would be coming from a deeper place in my body, which is where my consciousness had been rooted (in that relaxed, deep, belly-breathing space) in the wake of the experience.

Thank you great work

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