I Took Peyote in the Mexican Desert
People say peyote is one of the heaviest hallucinogenic drugs in the world, while others call it medicine. Peyote is a small, spineless cactus, native to the deserts in Central Mexico near San Luis Potosi, among other places. Mescaline is the psychoactive in peyote that gives the hallucinogenic effects. The truth of peyote and even my experience with it is totally incommunicable. It’s definitely something that should be approached with caution though. The Huichol are the Indigenous people in that region of Mexico and they use peyote spiritually, as medicine and with the support of a shaman. I however, went out into the desert with some friends and took it recreationally.
With the fire burning, the time had come to consume the peyote and feel her effects. Two rats roamed the sewers of my brain. One lobbied for something special, hopefully something spiritual, maybe even enlightenment. The other took the “buy the ticket, take the ride” approach, an uncomplicated, carefree high. Both agreed that I shouldn’t think too much, especially about thinking. So I grabbed a good-sized head of female peyote and shoved the whole thing in my mouth. My cheeks swelled; mouth at capacity. I struggled to chew and swallow the acute bitterness. Part of it was dirt but that was only discernible by the texture. The peyote dominated every other taste-bud. I said something like, “If it doesn’t make you spew, eat it,” but felt my gag reflex attempt to undermine me after a few more chomps. I kept it down and gobbled another half for good measure. Then I stared into the fire while the others prepared tea.
My guts began to churn and my eyes became confused. I neither contributed nor listened to the conversation enveloping me. “I think I’m going to spew and shit myself at the same time,” I abruptly announced. Nobody seemed to mind.
I grabbed some toilet paper and wandered into dark oblivion. I stumbled over large, loose rocks until the campfire was no longer visible and the voices around it faint. I dry-retched a few times before chundering up the apple and carrot I had chowed down a few minutes earlier. I guess I vomited three or four times and then squatted down and took a shit. My gaze was vacant for a few minutes, then my eyes and imagination conspired together to destroy perspective, clarity and colour, leaving only dark hazes and general form.
I stared dumbly towards the sky and wondered if my body had been cleansed of its toxins. I held my gaze upwards until my neck hurt, then I lay my body down on the cold rocks and continued to stare at the stars and the hazy sky that encapsulated them. My vision started to go in and out; sometimes I saw complete darkness or unfocused shapes in the sky, other times I saw vivid illumination. Then I lost vision completely: everything went black.
After a time I could vaguely comprehend a giant entity of energy above me. At that point I realised that this wasn’t going to be anything like the light, recreational drug-taking I’d experienced before. Profound – possibly; intense — definitely; but easy – not at all.
I stayed alone on my back on the cold rocks for a long time, my eyes unable to process what my mind perceived. The stars were dancing in all directions and I could clearly see their depth, that is, how far they were from the earth and each other. I was bewildered and enjoyed it for a moment until I noticed that they had purposefully formed a huge figure in the sky. It was a new constellation, a man made from stars and my mind and the peyote. Two stars shone brighter than the rest: one was his heart, the other the tip of his forward foot. He appeared to be lunging. I had some disconcerting thoughts about my girlfriend and a conflict we’d had going into the trip. It felt like a weight pulling me down to the ground. I lay on my back: cold, disoriented, alone, paranoid.
My eyes were fixated on this man-shaped constellation, him being a symbol that the strength of the heart and the act of taking the first step are of crucial importance. This epiphany was so intense, mentally and physically, that I felt like I was drowning. I felt like I was sinking like an anchor into an indefinite fate of madness or introspection. There seemed to be a correlation between the two.
I jumped quickly to my feet and looked suspiciously to the left and right and then back at they sky. It was as if I was trying to locate the peyote so that I could run away from it. I suddenly recognised that this was impossible and decided to try to level with it. I had my profound epiphany but that was enough for now so can I please just have my ordinary vision and thoughts back?
But I knew that that kind of rationality would not be permitted anymore.
I remembered my rule of acid: never ever question the end. I took my own advice and stumbled back towards the campfire and my cigarettes, resolving that these hallucinations were completely beyond my control and that I had better accept them. I was now totally deluded and confused, completely at the mercy of the cactus. There was total clarity in the knowledge that the peyote had chosen to separate me, that the others were on a separate journey: together, light-hearted and at peace with themselves and their situation. For me it was the opposite: I felt alone, frightened of the heavy omens and paranoid in my trip. The peyote was communicating to me that she would show me amazing, powerful truths of nature but not for free; the condition was that it was going to be frightening and I would be alienated from the others. The peyote was talking to me directly through an inner voice now – she told me that I had no choice but to obey her instructions.
I don’t want represent peyote negatively. There was a lot of paranoia, but this was just a snippet of long and strange experience. The feelings associated with it were complex and hard to explain. There were a lot of positive thoughts too. I was able to communicate directly with plants and rocks but when people talk like that they sound like pseudo-spiritual-drug-advocates. And I’m not one of those.
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Nat Kassel is a freelance writer and assistant editor at Global Hobo. He likes eating out of bins and taking photos of people taking photos.