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  • Nathalie Weister

grandmother's medicine

I prepared for months. Daily meditations and weekly practice of tools for emotional resilience, nervous system regulation, and ancestral wisdom set the stage to travel to Costa Rica’s jungles to sit again with the great plant medicine mother, Ayahuasca. It was abundantly clear in advance that in this lineage of medicine carriers from the Amazon in Colombia, women on their moon (as the menstrual cycle is tenderly called) are not permitted to participate in ceremonies. Yet, the probability of that impacting me was low. Since discontinuing my 18-year reliance on hormonal birth control, my cycles have been irregular and sparse. For me, this is just one unfortunate side effect of a larger, longstanding repression and denigration of my feminine body and energy, which I’ve dimmed with shame, judgment, and an impossible quest for perfection.

Imagine my disappointment when, the night before the first ceremony with my retreat group, my moon arrived. Normally, I’d rejoice as I’ve shifted my relationship with this biological reality, no longer viewing it as an unnecessary nuisance but rather as a vital sign and guardian of my dream for a future child. But this time, it triggered the old story of “inconvenience” and “weakness.” Yet, after speaking with some of the female facilitators and processing my disillusionment, I started to shift my perspective. Anyone on this medicine path will share the same message: the plant’s spirit works in mysterious and mystical ways. In fact, one doesn’t even have to drink her potent brew for the effects to manifest. We set intentions and attempt to release expectations, trusting that we don’t necessarily get what we want, but we do get exactly what we need.

Not coincidentally, my intention for this trip was to ask Mother Ayahuasca to show me my authentic self and reconnect me to the divine feminine that I’d locked away so that I could succeed in a man’s world, especially as I ascended in my corporate career in particularly masculine cultures. In the opening circle with my retreat group, I lay in meditation with my eyes closed, holding my intention in my heart. I felt warm, delicate hands resting on my womb, but when I opened my eyes, I realized there was no one with me. Looking back, it seems like a premonition. While the rest of my group spent their first night in ceremony drinking Ayahuasca, I communed with two medicine women, learning about their spiritual reverence for the moon cycle and how indigenous cultures across the world have honored it as a medicine ceremony in and of itself. It’s a time to gather, rest, cleanse, and give thanks. Since the womb is a portal for life, it must be cherished in the most sacred way. Thus, the combination with Ayahuasca is too strong, as they are both powerful purifiers of energy, and we can only safely process so much healing at one time. In fact, the elders say that long ago, women didn’t drink at all because it had no effect – it was the disconnection from our bodies that required the medicine to bring us home to ourselves.

Many traditions refer to the lunar moon as Grandmother. She is honored for watching over the waters of the Earth, regulating the tides, and nurturing the feminine because she also governs our cleansing cycle. Water always comes before new life, and I felt the spirits of my mother and grandmother united through Mother Ayahuasca and Grandmother Moon in support of my rebirth. Instead of the brutal purgatory that I anticipated and somewhere deep down felt I deserved, they gifted me an intimate, three-part ceremony surrounded by four female angels. We spent one evening gathered around an altar, as I was offered a ritualistic healing fortified by different sacred plants including nettle and tobacco. The next day, my soul traveled the celestial realm as we shared mushrooms, music, and pure magic. I grieved for time past, for loved ones lost, and I danced and played as the inner child within me was liberated from her cage. Indeed, my communion with the plant spirits offered me exactly what I needed. On my journey to radically loving myself in her totality, I am giving myself the medicine I was seeking outside – at last, coming home to myself.

Dedicated to Sathya, Dali, Mishy, and Sylvie at The Nature Within

Read about my previous Ayahuasca ceremonies in The Silence Between the Words, January 2023, and My Undoing, June 2021

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