We really didn’t know anything about sapito before we arrived at Karolina’s on the Saturday following the summer solstice. I’d never heard of it before and though I did a little research, I wanted to be careful about doing too much research because there’s a lot of bullshit and fear-mongering online. Americans are taught to believe that all entheogens and psychedelics are bad and there’s a lot of misinformation out there about them. I didn’t want to make myself more fearful.
Karolina told us that Sapito was similar to Ayahuasca but more powerful and of shorter duration. The effects from Ayahuasca can last for 6 to 8 hours. Sapito was supposed to last only about 15-20 minutes. In the Amazon basin, shamans will burn the skin and then put the sapo medicine on the blisters (along with some saliva). But at the Sapito ceremonía de medicina in Guanajuato, we’d smoke it. Apparently, from what I’ve read, Kambo sticks produce a different effect than Sapito that’s smoked. Kambo (I think) is less intense, but I’ve never tried it, so I don’t know this from personal experience. What I do know is that Sapito was the most intense psychedelic experience I’ve ever had.
Neither John nor Lydian had prior experience with psychedelics. I had some LSD experiences from my college days and I clung to the memory of those to reassure myself. I had limited experience with losing touch with time and identity though. With LSD I lost a lot of inhibitions and time would speed up and slow down randomly, but in retrospect, after doing Sapito, I never lost a sense of time with LSD. Time was just modified. Once, on a bad LSD trip, I kept forgetting how to breathe. After struggling through a few horrible minutes, I finally dismissed everyone in my apartment except my tripping partner. I was sensitive to their energies. After everyone left, I felt better. I could breathe and the bad trip went much better. I was still in control with LSD. With Sapito, I couldn’t feel my body or hear any of the sounds I was making.
Would we puke on Sapito? This was Lydian’s main concern. She didn’t want to barf all over herself. I’d seen videos online of Kambo (which is sapito applied to the skin, as described above) and most of what I watched was people retching. I didn’t tell Lydian about this because I’d also read that people don’t puke when they smoke Sapito. When we arrived at Karolina’s though, there were buckets stacked over to the side. Later, we found out that these were there mostly to attend to the people who would be doing Ayahuasca following the Sapito.
I hadn’t realized that there Ayahuasca was available in Guanajuato too.
But I didn’t care at the time either. We were all nervous about the Sapito. The shaman talked about how we’d feel like we were dying, but we’d have to trust him. When we felt that fear of death, he’d have us smoke a little more to “get us to the other side”.
“Trust me.” He said. “I’ll tell you what to do.”
A girl wearing a red jacket went first. She sat down on a soft black mat placed on the ground. Daniel, the shaman, lit up the pipe and the girl pulled the air into her lungs. Her body went limp and the ceremonial leaders caught her and laid her back. She was quiet for about 30 seconds. A minute? And then, suddenly, she cried out for her brother, her father. She tore at her shirt. Her eyes were wild and vacant. Her trip lasted about 7 minutes. At the end, she cried and she kept say, “I must cry.” Daniel and Yann asked her why and she said, “I don’t know, but I just have to cry.” She didn’t remember the outburst, at least not just then.
A young woman, a single mother, went next. She told us that the last time she did Sapito she felt happy with her son for a whole week. Her session was quiet. She sat up for the first part of it, her legs crossed on the black mat, her head wagging. Eventually though, her body fell backwards and Yann and Daniel lowered her back onto the pillow. And then, a few minutes later it was over. She sat up and smiled.
John’s turn was next. He was terrified. His biggest fear was that he’d “lose control of himself”. Later, he told me that he was glad to have seen a spectrum of responses from the two girls who went before him. The shaman lit up the pipe and the yellow smoke whirled around inside the glass bowl. John pulled it in. He pulled it in again. His body slumped. He fell backwards and then he was quiet.
From where I was sitting at his feet, I could see his eyes blinking. He looked around. Lydian sat to the side of his head in a plastic lawn chair. When his eyes locked with hers, her whole body softened. Tears ran down her face. He stared at her, they stared at each other, like this for a long while. It was a powerful moment. A hush fell over the group.
At the end of his session, John reached for me. I hesitated at first, not wanting to interrupt his experience. But then, when I realized this was his experience, I reached for his hand. He said, “I love you both so much,” over and over again. We all wept.
Lydian went next. She too, was terrified. She looked really calm, but her heart was pounding as Daniel readied the pipe. She was afraid of puking or of “not doing it right”. The shaman lit up the pipe. The smoke swirled. She sucked it into her lungs once. Twice. And then she slumped forward. After that, she doesn’t remember anything, but her body was in constant movement. She screamed. She thrashed. She smiled. She laughed. She curled up her nose and kicked and kicked and kicked. It was like a release of emotions she’d had bottled up since she was 5 years old. Emotions she hadn’t been allowed to express. When she woke up, she said, “thank you so much for this…”
I went next. As I sat down on the black mat, I wanted to be calm. I wanted to be chill, but I wasn’t. I was beside myself. My heart pounded. I interrupted the shaman as he lit up the pipe and said, “I need some water.” That taken care of, he resumed. And I too sucked the smoke into my lungs. Once. Twice. I had to “swallow it” to keep from releasing it from my lungs. And then, the world turned green and began pulsating. There was a sound, a whirring that was slow at first, but that sped up as I looked over at the stack of rocks next to my head. I saw through them and as they dissolved, I fell and I fell and I fell. I dissolved. Upon dissolution, there was no “I”. There was nothing except mind. Pure consciousness. The mind-energy reached for something to hold onto but there was nothing. There was only everything. And it went on and on and on. Waves of it.
And then, like I was emerging from deep in the ocean, I started to come back to myself.
On the way back, my spirit passed through my past lifetimes and my body convulsed like I was vomiting. I woke up twice only to fall back into Nothingness. Three times this happened. And each time I opened my eyes, I saw the clouds passing by overhead and a voice spoke to me. It said so many things. It told me to connect to the people around me. To look at them. To hold their hands. To be grateful. My tongue hurt and then went numb. I told John that my whole life was about self-expression. “My tongue starts to go numb and I think ‘oh my GOD!” I told him and laughed. He laid down beside me and smiled.
I rolled over to look at Lydian and said, “This was NOTHING like LSD,” and laughed.
Karolina wrapped me in a blanket, “Como un taquito.” She said.
Context like this is everything. The ritual is important in my opinion. It helps ensure that even a bad trip can end well. Having people who care standing over you is a powerful thing after an experience like this. For John, the experience was pleasant. He felt nothing but love. Lydian had no memory of the experience. I felt death and nothingness, which was terrifying and awful. But the experience of the Sapito itself is not all there is as far as this frog medicine is concerned. What the sapo frog medicine does is so much more complex than just offering a “trip”. The effects can last up to a month. As I write this, it’s been 5 days since the Sapito experience and last night I woke up and had a mini-trip that lasted a few seconds. This has been happening to both John and Lydian too over the past few days.
John, Lydian, and I arrived home at 2:00 AM that night. We sat down on the floor and wept with each other. We told each other our stories, adding details and facets. The experience was 3-dimensional; like visiting another planet. Like my spirit left my body and while it was gone, my brain reconfigured itself.
For more information about Sapito in Guanajuato or the surrounding areas, contact us at [email protected]