Snakes have played an important role in my inner psycho-spiritual life, from the frequent snake-based nightmares that plagued my sleep as a child to far more interesting visions later on, especially during my explorations of the altered states induced by the ingestion of psychedelic plants and drugs.
I first took peyote, mescaline, psilocybin mushrooms, and LSD when I was fifteen and sixteen years old (far too young), and almost immediately serpent-related visions factored in to those experiences. In the early disorienting stages of those journeys, as I lay down and closed my eyes, one of the first effects was, as is very common, rapid-fire visual imagery of ever-shifting geometric patterns. Very often this kaleidoscopic onslaught would become an all-encompassing, sinuous wave pattern akin to a portion of a moving serpent’s undulating skin, and I suddenly felt as though I, and the whole world, were riding a giant snake. This usually terrified me and I would try to focus my mind elsewhere until this impression passed. It’s obviously not an uncommon experience, as exemplified by Jim Morrison’s song Ride the Serpent.
Serpent imagery would return again and again during at least some portions of my (fairly numerous: it was, after all, the 60s and early 70s…) trips, but I always experienced those visions as unsettling or frightening, and it never occurred to me to try to somehow work with or integrate that imagery during those years of excessive youthful experimentation with drugs of all types. I just viewed those episodes as bad portions of my journeys that I had to endure to get to the more ecstatic states. As is so often the case, I left that druggy phase of my life behind by my mid 20s and instead became obsessively focused on physical and psycho-spiritual development, seeking to live a highly disciplined life, which included forsaking all drug-taking, but psychoactive substances re-entered my life some 20 years later in a very different context. Continue reading “So You Want to Converse with the Serpent? A Journey to Mayantuyacu”