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LL: Hello visionary change makers, this is Lorna Liana of EntheoNation and we are here today with Javier Prato, who is an independent film maker from Argentina and he is on the quest to uncover the curative properties of visionary plant medicines. His personal inquiry sparked the creation of his recent documentary film, Spirit Medicine, which covers Ayahuasca, Peyote, Psilocybin mushrooms and Iboga.
LL: So welcome to an episode of EntheoNation. I’m really glad to have you on this show Javier.
JP: Thank you so much.
LL: So I would love to hear more about what inspired you to create this documentary film. It sounds very exciting and full of adventurous travel opportunities, so tell us how it all began?
JP: Well it started in 2013, it was a series of events. A friend of mine sadly passed away of pancreatic cancer and at the same time, a father of a friend of mine had cancer too, stomach cancer and he actually survived. He took, for six months, this plant mixture. I don’t know exactly what but he was able to have a full reversal of the tumor and now he’s fine.
Then also, I saw an interview to Sting by Daniel Pinchbeck. Sting was talking about Ayahuasca that was the first time I heard about that word Ayahuasca and he was saying how revealing his experience was. So that kind of put in perspective of me wanting to learn more but also to, at the same time that I learn more, document it and then thinking, “Okay well someday maybe I can turn this into a documentary,” and that’s how I started.
LL: So your friend that was able to heal himself with cancer and then your other friend that passed away suddenly, could you share with us some of the differences in the way that they approached their cancer treatment and what your take away was on why it worked for your friend with stomach cancer and why your friend with pancreatic cancer passed away?
JP: Yeah, well my friend with pancreatic cancer he basically did almost like the regular treatment. The thing is he caught it too late. That’s the thing about cancer, if it’s too late there’s not too much they can do so he was late basically to find a cure or even do chemo. The father of a friend of mine, I guess he got lucky. His kids said, “We want to try something different,” and he went for it and that’s what happened, that’s how it went.
LL: Do you know what kind of treatment? Was it through Chinese herbal medicine or was it Ayurvedic? Do you have any idea?
JP: Yeah, it is not catalogued either Chinese or different type of medicine. It is actually a center in Argentina that they offered this alternative medicine to fight cancer and he went and he got better. But again, I don’t have the full details of what — they don’t tell you either what is in it. They tell you like, it’s like detoxify, alkalizes your body, but I think that a lot of these cures are not physical and what you’re taking but also how much you believe in it.
It’s like 50-50, it’s spiritual and body, that’s what I learned through my experience here. It’s not like a conventional medicine, you take a pill and if you’re lucky you get better but having your mentality and positive aspect of getting better, I think that plays a big role.
LL: So why the step from herbal medicines into visionary medicines?
JP: Well, you call it visionary but it’s not visionary for everybody. Everybody’s different.
JP: No, it’s true. There are a lot of people like me, I didn’t get a lot of visions like a lot of people I interview. They see colors and jaguars and serpents and all of that. I guess maybe because I am too visual already but I got downloads, a lot of information about myself. I felt how the earth was suffering and so a big connection to the earth and people and myself, but it’s definitely way more powerful than any regular herbal medicines.
It’s something that needs to be known and actually the people don’t have the perception of medicinal use with psychedelics. That’s also why I want to get the word out just for itself based on evidence and people’s experiences because it is hard to convince people, “Yeah, I have taken psychedelics and I got cured or I am not an addict anymore or no PTSD,” or all of that. So it’s really remarkable. We westerners are just getting into learning about this when this indigenous cultures have been doing this for thousands of years. So they maybe into something, I think.
LL: So it’s interesting we’re only now seeing science starting to explore the use of psychedelics in the actual treatments of different disorders especially mental disorders. But I feel like sometimes it can be a bit of an uphill battle because many of these psychedelic medicines or drugs have been stigmatized as highly dangerous.
So it’s kind of interesting, people get stuck in this framework or this belief system. I recall actually not too long ago there was this very insistent individual who wasn’t even in my Facebook friend network but many of my posts are public and so he has been I guess following a lot of my updates and he was very adamant about saying how LSD was very dangerous and more people died using LSD than tobacco or alcohol.
I’m like, “Where were you getting that?” Because there’s a lot of evidence in fact that the psychedelics are, in terms of their level of harmfulness and how many deaths were actually related to the use of psychedelics it’s actually very, very small. So I am curious to know in your research around these medicines, what do you think the promise or potential that psychedelics have for actual healing?
JP: A lot. It treats a lot of psychological issues. A lot of physical problems that we have starts with the brain, with the psychological imbalances and all of that. What a psychedelic does is it shows you where the problem is. It’s not just masking the problems just so you feel better. It goes to the root of the problem and it tells you, “Okay, this is what’s wrong. So you either change or you can die.”
Some people — there’s entities too. Again, me personally almost no visions but there’s a lot of connections with the spirit world and also a lot of connection between the people that are doing the ceremony too, like a psychic connection. There’s a lot of “Oh, I thought about this image.” “Oh, I thought about that too.” So after the ceremony, a lot of people when we talk about it, we’d come out with the similar visions that they had, so that’s very interesting.
LL: It’s so funny, I had this very fascinating five day boat journey with some indigenous tribal leaders and an anthropologist and this anthropologist was telling me, “Yeah, sometimes you’ll have a group of people going into a ceremony and they’ll know the same things together,” and he gave me this example.
He was like, “Yeah, there’s this one time when it was a group of 10 leaders going to drink Ayahuasca together and one of the men was having an affair with the other men’s wife and so nobody knew about this before they went into the Ayahuasca ceremony but after the night was over, not only did the man whose wife he was cheating on know that they were having an affair, everybody else knew in the group knew as well but nothing had been said.”
JP: Yeah and this is commonly use in indigenous cultures that when they’re trying for Ayahuasca, they have premonitions or visions like that, that you are not present physically but during the ceremony, you can actually see and like an astral projection of seeing things that are happening.
You might think that this is actually you’re making it up but then you find out what happened there is that this really happened. So it’s very interesting and again, this is very hard like how do you turn this into a film? That’s also my challenge, how do you turn all these experiences so people who never tried it can get an idea?
Also, I am really planning to recreate the documentary and visionary experience with a plan, not just with video but also another addition that I want to add is a 360 degree ceremony like with a 360 camera when you are able to see and be there like, “Okay, this is how what it is like”.
LL: That and a lot of CGI.
JP: Yes, that’s right.
LL: That would be interesting. I could imagine, I had a friend that was in a Ayahuasca ceremony and he was just like, “I looked at my arms and I saw snakes, snakes!” And so I could imagine if you were to recreate that in a film to have a person that have these snakes that all of a sudden are appearing and winding their way up his body.
JP: Yeah, you have to go with a very open mind. A lot of people make the mistake of they go to the ceremonies with a preconception or an idea of what they want. You have to have an intention but if you go and you’re like, “Oh I want to have visions, I want to have visions.” Or, “I want to see the snake,” or whatever, it doesn’t work. Usually, the plant just tells you what you need it’s not what you want.
LL: It’s very true. So before you got involved with visionary plant medicines, did you have any belief in the spirit world at all or believe that they were non-embodied entities that exist all around us?
JP: Oh yeah. I am very open minded to that. I’m a spiritual person. I believe that there’s definitely more that we don’t see, our perceptions are so limited. So when we try these plants in a way I think we’re enhancing our perceptions and consciousness and we literally tap into, call it a parallel dimension or something that is maybe right next to us because we’re just limited. We just don’t see it and we don’t know.
LL: So have you noticed any difference between the different plants that you covered?
JP: Yes, definitely. Ayahuasca is a very feminine force in the way. It is like the Ayahuasca vine, it is a vine. It goes like this and then it shows you things and it’s a very maternal force. Whatever it is, the entity of the Ayahuasca soul or whatever. Mescaline is like 10 Red Bulls. It is super concentrated and they use it a lot for, back in the day, for hunting and they still do. For even work on the land and they give it to the people, to the tribe to have more energy.
LL: The mescaline or?
JP: Yeah, the Peyote. It’s the Peyote cactus that has the mescaline is the psychoactive compound of Peyote. Then psilocybin mushrooms is very colorful, it’s also you see things sharp, something is moving. I will say for my experience again, for everybody it’s different. Mushrooms are more visual than Ayahuasca of course but again, this is just me.
A lot of people also had less visions with different — everybody is wired differently and then Iboga. I haven’t tried it. I am looking forward to it, but based on all the interviews that I have done, it looks like it is the most powerful of all of the others ones, even more than Ayahuasca.
LL: Yeah, I know a couple of individuals that have worked with Iboga and they have both told me that the experience of working with Iboga is so strong that it is even hard to move your body because if you are lying down and you turn your head, turning your head is like going into a wind tunnel.
Now, I have never experienced Iboga yet. I am looking for the right container to experience that in, but that sounds almost frightening to me. So I am not sure if I am quite ready for that but I am very curious.
JP: Yeah especially going to Africa and experiencing that, that is a big step. It’s not just like, “Okay, I am going to Mexico,” even though you can go to Mexico and try Iboga but that is a different — going to Africa, you learn about the culture and do the whole ceremony and again, it’s a much needed part of the documentary and I am looking forward to the experience.
Then also, this documentary is not like I’m just behind the camera man, I am behind the camera and I just ask questions. I do that but then also, I go and try these plants and I am able to have a first person experience with the viewers. So I think that that is also great but it is definitely a big step on any regular medicine that is out there.
LL: So of the medicines that you have tried already. So you mentioned you have tried Ayahuasca, Peyote, and Psilocybin mushrooms. Have you noticed any difference in the spirit of the plant and if so, how would you describe them?
JP: Yeah, well I mentioned a little bit about the Ayahuasca, it’s a very feminine force spirit. Mescaline, I will say is a little more masculine — Peyote is a more masculine force. Psilocybin mushrooms, I don’t know? it was a mixture, I don’t know. What I felt about mushrooms is interesting. I had it in Mexico in San José del Pacifico, a beautiful place. That is like the best place to try mushrooms, outside with the trees and all of that.
LL: What state in Mexico was that?
LL: Oaxaca, okay. Were you with some of the indigenous people that have been working with the Psilocybin mushrooms for a long time?
JP: Well, I was with a Shaman who’s been working for many year with the mushrooms and he offers this — it’s not a traditional Mazatec ceremony but you go to this place and it’s called the Quatro Elementos, the four elements. It’s not just like, “Okay, here’s a mushroom and then you go to room.” No, no.
First you take, it’s called a temazcal. It’s like a sweat lodge and then you go in and then he puts this volcanic, super-hot volcanic rocks inside and then you sweat like crazy and then they put different plants and water, so it’s kind of like you do a cleansing there first and then you go out after 15 or 20 minutes and you take a shower with a tea.
It’s actually a tea and you shower with that, and then through this whole process in the end, you have the mushroom on a cup of tea and then you drink the tea with the mushroom. It clears your pores so that’s why they call it the four elements. It enhances the experience with the mushroom a lot and then when I tried it, I really felt that the mushroom was enjoying my consciousness.
I felt that I was the mushroom and I had legs and I could walk and I felt like I was a kid again. I was enjoying and walking around the forest and looking at everything. It was beautiful but I really felt that and I think that’s true. In a way I think that because the mushroom is not dead. You are not drinking a dead mushroom. It’s there, even if it’s dry, there’s still there.
There’s got to be a soul hanging there because it’s not dead. So when you drink that or when you eat that, I think that entity or whatever, that energy, it experiences being inside someone else and I think that’s true, that’s what I felt.
LL: So you were eating fresh mushrooms rather than dried mushrooms?
LL: Do you think there’s any difference between eating fresh mushrooms versus dried mushrooms?
JP: Of course there is, the fresh one is more powerful.
JP: So maybe you need maybe less quantity.
LL: Oh, I didn’t know that, wow. But there are different kinds of mushrooms too. Was there a particular species of a visionary mushroom that your shaman was working with or had a relationship with?
JP: Yeah I don’t recall exactly what type of mushroom but it Psilocybin contained mushroom. There’s a lot of different mushrooms that contain that Psilocybin.
LL: So what was the experience of the mushroom as you Javier? Did the mushroom liked being you?
JP: Yeah, oh yeah. Totally.
LL: I can imagine, it’s fun because we think, “Oh my God, I’m going to eat some magic mushrooms, how fun,” and the mushroom are like, “Hey, how fun. I get to be Javier.” Wow, okay so tell me more about Peyote. Where did you go to experience that medicine and what was that experience like for you?
JP: Yeah. I went to the north of Mexico. I met a shaman that he actually travels around the world doing Peyote ceremonies and I went there and actually, I think he was coming from Italy from another ceremony when I picked him up from the airport and I drove him back to his town which is like a 12 to 13 hour drive to his town.
He invited me to spend there a couple of weeks and it was another amazing experience. A contrast between the south of Mexico, which is like a lot of plants and a lot of rain, this is dry as hell, it doesn’t rain for months and when I got there, it didn’t rained for six months and so I went there and they live a pretty simple life.
There’s no power, there’s no water, they just use the river close by. Their main food is corn. They live out of tortillas, a very great tortillas. And then they have a very big community. These people they don’t have three kids, they have like 10 or 15 you know?
LL: It’s a rural work force you know?
JP: I guess so, yeah and then they have — the Peyote, what surprised me is it’s not just like you actually eat the cactuses. They have it in powder form. You actually put it in water and you drink it. So the way they do that is — why? Because it just lasts longer. They can last for a year or more without losing the effect and so they dry it and they put it on powder form and then you drink it like any drink.
The experience is, like I said, it’s very energetic. I felt like I wanted to go run in the middle of the desert. So it was very energetic, the Peyote, and when they do the ceremonies there, they are awake for, I don’t know? It was almost two days of people celebrating like non stop. So that’s the experience and then we all know we have the medicinal side of this, which is that each plant has its own beneficial side. One is like the experience of, “Okay, what do I get?” But then you have the medicinal benefit that you get. From Peyote, there’s not a lot of research. Very, very little research.
LL: Yeah, I haven’t really encountered a lot in my research because yeah, it seems to be that a lot of the science that I see coming out are focused on the potential therapeutic benefits of Psilocybin mushrooms for healing depression and PTSD and end of life anxiety and then of course, there’s Ayahuasca and addiction and potential curing Crohn’s disease and other types of illnesses but I have heard nothing about Peyote.
Although in the communities that I am a part of that are largely Native American church communities, I have certainly heard that it’s very effective in helping people with addiction issues. Addiction to heroin and cocaine and alcohol to be able to kick the habit. So what else have you discovered about the medicinal properties of Peyote?
JP: Well, also alcoholism which is kind of like addiction but all the plants treat similar symptoms. It’s just like, “Okay Ayahuasca is for this, Peyote is for that.” No, no, no, it’s similar. One plant may be more effective but they all kind of treat the same symptoms.
LL: Interesting, yeah it seems like there is certainly an overlap. It seems like the medicines that you’ve been researching for your documentary are all very effective in the treatment of addictions. So I would say that that’s one big overlap they share. I’m curious to know, I didn’t get to ask you a little bit earlier, the people that you spent time with in Mexico, were they the Huicholes?
JP: Right, the Huicholes.
LL: Okay, so you were in the traditional Huicholes community where people were wearing the traditional clothing with the beautiful embroidery.
JP: Yeah, again very simple. Very simple life, of course there’s no cellphone. So it was interesting to see how they are happy and one of the kids from the shaman I met, he’s like an amazing artist. He was drawing, a lot of beautiful drawings but mostly the female Huicholes they are constantly doing stuff like necklaces or shirts, hats. That’s constant and that’s part of their culture to share.
They also have, they make this great alcoholic drink made out of corn. They dry corn for days and then it becomes alcohol and then you drink it and then it’s just a simple life. That’s what I got from it. One experience that I don’t want to take too much time with it but before the ceremony, they go hunting to have food.
We went to the desert and I followed with my camera, there were eight of them. It is a desert with a lot of mountains of very dry pine trees and I got lost in the desert and I thought, “Okay, well maybe if I go on top of the mountain I’ll be able to see where they are.” Nothing and I was like, “What the hell?” And I only had a little bottle of water.
It didn’t rained for six months and I have no idea what direction to go so I was able to actually get my directions. I figured, okay I took pictures of — before I took picture of the mountain so I used that as a guide and I see, “Okay, when I took that picture on my right, oh that’s the mountain that I passed by. Maybe I should go on that direction,” and then I decided, “Okay, do that.”
It was around five to six hours and again, I ran out of water. For a moment I thought I was going slow but then I said, “Fuck it, I better do it before it gets sundown.” I started running, I didn’t care about getting scratches or anything and then something happened, which is again like this is weird but it started raining after six months of no rain, that day.
On the day before, the Huichol people do a lot of, it’s called offering, offrendas, to the gods. So they pray for the rain and they prayed for prosperity and all that and earlier that day, that’s what we did. We did an offering for the rain and that happened and it started raining, I was over there. I was drinking water from the rocks and that was amazing and I was not even worried I think. I don’t know, maybe I should have but I didn’t and finally, I found my way back. So yeah, that’s my lost in the desert experience.
LL: Wow but were you on Peyote or was it on a different day?
JP: No, that was the day before.
LL: Wow that would be interesting to be also out in the wilderness on Peyote as well. When you were working with this medicine, were you mostly in an environment inside or outside?
LL: So you were outside? Oh wonderful. Okay, yeah.
JP: Once again, when you’re there it’s dry. You only see dirt and dryness, it not a whole lot of — you just see the sky and the ground.
LL: And are they in ceremony during the day time or in the night time?
JP: No, it lasts for day and night.
LL: Oh okay, yeah all right.
JP: They have two things. One is the celebration of the Peyote, they call it La Fiesta de Peyote, the party of the Peyote, that’s one thing and then they have the Lerimineche, they go to get the Peyote. So every March they go there and they hunt the Peyote and they’ve been doing this for thousands of years and to grab the Peyote and then bring it home.
Also there’s a big struggle that’s happening, now it’s a little better but a couple of years ago, it’s hard because the mine companies they are doing damage the earth. To get the mining corporations, they are basically using the Huichol land to prosper the land but at the same time they are contaminating the land and it’s interfering with their Huichol traditions.
But again, it’s a community. They have been living for forever, for thousands of years and they maintain the way of living. It is the last pre-Columbian culture in the world literally.
LL: Wow, that’s really fascinating. So we’re about at the end of this segment but I’d love to leave you with my last favorite question, which is in your experience with working with visionary plant medicines, what was the most far out visionary experience that you’ve had and can you describe that story for us please?
JP: Yeah, well there was one time — I tired I Ayahuasca around 10 times. The first one was not great because I had very bad cold and I guess the medicine worked on my body to feel better. I felt great the next day. The experience was in a way that I was actually able to see myself from a different perspective.
I was able to see different versions of me like I was someone that’s very successful and very sick and then I saw that premonition of, “Okay, if I do this today I’m going to end like this and if I do this today, I’m going to end up like that.” I was able to a clear image of where I will be going and not just once but many.
But also I was able to see them in my past, from childhood memories to recent memories and again, it was really I was watching a movie from a different perspective and that is something that is shared a lot with the people, not everybody, but some of the people they share the same.
LL: And how did that help you?
JP: Oh well, it helped me to understand me better. I was very shy when I was a kid and I was able to process that like why I’m so afraid of people or shy. So I was able to find the why and then it’s no quick. It’s not like you take the medicine and then the next day you’re a new person. It takes time. The medicine keeps working on you for days or even months.
Maybe one day, it’s like any regular day and then you realized, “Oh that’s why this happened.” Again, because you are actually able to see it from a different perspective and that’s a huge, huge medicinal value for anybody. You know?
LL: Great, well thank you so much for coming and joining us today on EntheoNation and I want to ask you, how can the audience best stay in touch with you and is there anything that you would like to share with them in terms of the work that you’re working on or a resource that you think might be helpful?
JP: Yeah, well we’re launching a crowd funding campaign next week. So anybody who would like to be a part of the making of this film, just go to Spiritmedicinemovie.com and that will link to the crowd funding campaign. People can leave their information and then we’ll keep them updated. So that’s the way to get in touch with me on the documentary.
LL: Awesome, well thank you so much and I look forward to hearing more about your travels. So you mentioned a bit earlier that you hadn’t yet gone to Africa to work with Iboga.
JP: No net yet.
LL: When were you hoping to do that?
JP: I’m hoping to do that in July, at the end of July.
LL: Excellent, so we’ll be sure to keep an eye out for any news from the field as well.
LL: All right, thank you so much and you have a beautiful rest of your day.
JP: Bye, thank you.