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First Kambo Ceremony

This whole blog is about awakening authenticity, vitality and purpose. And this post is the first one in the category of vitality - all about cultivating and re-capturing the energies of life.

Last month, I went to my first ‘Kambo’ ceremony in which a Shaman applied frog venom to fresh burns on my leg made with a glowing stick.

So I wanted to share and reflect on the my intentions for doing this, my experience of the ceremony and the meanings that I am choosing to make in service of my journey.

Kambo is Amazonian, but this was an urban setting, with an integrative Shaman who incorporated Chinese medicine principles, and with my own unique mix of motivations.

My primary intention was to strip back my learned layers to access unconditional self-love. I wanted to unlearn that love is conditional upon me being clever, correct or good in some way.

The ceremony was beautiful and intricate. The Shaman conducted the space as a momentary microcosm of deep community. I felt so happy and deeply welcome and at home there.

Three medicines were provided. Sananga eye drops burned intensely and made me race within to find inner resources. Temporarily blinded, I lay there and danced my hands atop the pain.

Next the Shaman blew ‘Hape’ snuff into my nostrils. I felt a familiar and pleasant nicotine rush, but so many worlds from my distant years as a teen smoker.

The experience of Kambo frog venom itself was intense, the kind of intense that is all consuming. It steadily overpowered me. I could not ride it, only succumb to it.

I had been fasting for twelve or so hours as instructed, and then received three pints of water before it was my turn. The venom was applied to six little burns along Chinese meridian lines on my left calf and knee.

First warm flushing in my head and neck. Then racing pulse. Intensity. Sitting. Rocking. Going inside. Mounting nausea. Finally several rounds of dramatic and cathartic purging of bright frothy yellow bile.

It was amazing how rapidly those effects just vanished once the venom was wiped from my leg. Within minutes, we were smiling and sharing delicious home cooked soup.

Shamanism for me is really all about taking responsibility for reality through our intention, attentiveness and creativity. And so here begins what I chose to notice and thereby create.

That evening, I was already different. Not high or low, just very balanced and in harmony with my reality without needing to run from it or at it. My responses felt new and appropriate.

The next day, I went for a long euphoric run, cooked the most amazing sweet potato soup, computer worked with supreme focus, declined alcohol and went to bed early.

Doing some searching, I find that the Kambo panacea (cure all) is now being used for depression and addiction. My working hypothesis becomes that Kambo purges trauma through the body.

In the scientific literature, I find that Giant Tree Frog venom (Phyllomedusa bicolor) activates ‘hormesis’ - a mechanism through which intensity and challenge can restore and reset us.

So Kambo for me now falls into the same category as fasting, ice baths, sweat lodges, endurance challenges. Intense experiences which necessitate, call upon and activate inner resources.

Realising the role that intention and ritual played in the Kambo ceremony, I feel I have learned something that translates across to my running and cold water practices.

So now I understand why my runner’s high is accompanied by spontaneous daydream scenes of my authentic self, living my highest purpose in community with others. Inner resources.

I am learning now to read when and how I need to activate and call upon my inner restorative and revitalising resources by intentionally practicing intensity as part of radical self-care.

How impoverished modern culture feels when we step towards our wild and vital potentials which it so readily seeks to sanitise, medicalise, demoralise, demonise and ultimately cast out.