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My first ceremony with rapé: Set and Setting
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In this blog item Frog medicine from the Amazon rainforestSet and Setting and the psychedelic experienceRapé and the importance of your intentionSacred Tobacco Sirius sells rapé for respectful useDo you want to learn to work with rapé?
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My first ceremony with rapé: Set and Setting

The first time I was offered rapé, I had no idea what to expect. Rapé (pronounced 'hapeh' or 'rapay') is a fine powder, consisting of a mixture of Nicotiana rustica (also called holy tobacco) and various herbs, flowers, seeds, bark and spices. Rapé is blown into the nostrils using a special pipe and has a long history of use within indigenous peoples of South America. 

I sat together with a group of about ten people in the spacious living room of a Flemish Kambo practitioner. She, let's call her Ine, has been giving Kambo ceremonies for quite some time, and through a friend I had come into contact with her. As I looked around waiting for my pillow, gusts of fear and excitement passed through me. I was about to embark on an exciting and probably quite distasteful adventure. With a sneaky look I peaked at the empty buckets and kitchen rolls that everyone was provided with. 

Frog medicine from the Amazon rainforest

What is Kambo, you might wonder? Kambo is a frog medicine, derived from the secretion of a beautiful poisonous green frog, the so-called Phyllomedusa bicolor, a tree frog from the Amazon rainforest. The excretion has been used for centuries by indigenous peoples of the Amazon to strengthen physically and mentally, to gain courage and to ward off disease and negativity. Researcher and twice nominated Vittorio Erspamer was the first to analyze the substances in Kambo in the laboratory. He is also responsible for the discovery of the well-known neurotransmitter serotonin. Erspamer reported that Kambo is a 'fantastic chemical cocktail with great medicinal potential'. This is thanks to the various bioactive peptides. These substances can do healing work on a deep physical level, including supporting the cells and balancing our hormones.

My friend had done Kambo before and was very pleased with it: ‘Even though the experience itself is unpleasant and you regret having started it in that moment, afterwards you feel physically strengthened and your mind has had a refreshing shower.’  I was ready for that. At that time I felt a great need to 'clean up' myself physically and mentally. My smoke addiction (literally) took my breath away more and more and I knew I had to get my ass kicked on several levels. For instance, daring to face certain fixed patterns. Maybe that's why the universe gave me the invitation to come into contact with these medicines. The will to work on myself was stronger than ever and hup! There I was, in a ceremony, learning and experiencing the power of Kambo. But before I was given the frog medicine, it was time for rapé. Later I learned that rapé is often combined with other (plant) medicines, such as Ayahuasca

Set and Setting and the psychedelic experience

As a true psychonaut, you've probably heard of Set and Setting before. It was the infamous Timothy Leary who brought these terms to life in entheogenic jargon. It emphasizes the importance of a 'right' (mind)set and environment (setting), before you start a trip. And this is not only true for entheogenic plant medications such as Ayahuasca or San Pedro, but just as well for the more 'common' recreational drugs such as MDMA and LSD. The first lesson a wise (psychedelic) user should learn is: think before you start! Think of questions like: (mind)set:

  • How do I feel right now?
  • Has something (intervening) happened lately that has a major influence on my state of mind?
  • What is my intention (for this trip)?

Rapé is an excellent tool to come to an ideal Set and therefore likes to be used in ceremonies to get the energy of the group pure and clear. 

I experienced this myself during my first Kambo ceremony. When I stepped into the room I took a certain 'fear of the unknown' with me and had some doubts whether I was right to start this adventure. The frog medicine would do its job on a deep level and make me throw up (hence the empty buckets). When I heard the explanation from Ine, who led the ceremony, I got a slight panicky feeling. Did I really want to experience this? To be very honest, even her praising words about Kambo's great medicinal power couldn't reassure me.

Rapé and the importance of your intention

Ine invited us to open the circle with a round of rapé. At that moment I was slightly nervous and only thought about the Kambo that would come after that. I wanted it to be over quickly. We started with a meditation, sinking deeply into our breathing and I became aware of my tense muscles. I let them go more and felt how the worries about the future gave way to a stronger feeling of Here and Now. Ine and her assistant took turns going after a participant and using a special blowpipe, the so-called tepi, blew a dose of rapé into each nostril. 

When it was my turn, I opened my eyes and saw how Ine put an amount of crushed powder from a glass bottle on her palm and scooped it up with the blowpipe. Then she held the pipe in the middle of my chest, a sensitive spot. With my eyes closed I put down my intention and felt how the peace I experienced increased more, but at the same time a certain tension crept up. When Ine asked if I was ready for it, I nodded. As agreed I breathed in and held on to it, taking care not to let any air through my nose. With a short, firm blow, the rapé propelled through my left nostril and I felt the force shoot through my whole cranium. I got tears in my eyes from the sharp feeling that pierced my nose. The second dose was blown into my right nostril. The first pain I felt soon gave way to a deep serenity. It felt as if the rapé had wiped out all my thoughts like a gust of wind. My inner world had sunk deeper into the earth. Grounding is a term that indicates what rapé can manifest. My intention, the reason why I took part in this ceremony, was clear and I felt a deep gratitude rising. 

Also interesting: "Manual for using rapé"

Sacred Tobacco 

Rapé is a product of Nicotiana rustica, also called mapacho, a tobacco plant that originated in South America and is considered sacred there. For the indigenous people it is a medicine, unlike the many cigarettes I smoked a day. By the way, the tobacco we know comes from Nicotiana tabacum, in fact a less potent variety with a lower nicotine content. 

Still, as an ex-smoker, I can say that rapé had a completely different effect on me than smoking a cigarette. Although rapé has the addictive properties because of the nicotine present, when used respectfully and correctly there is a much smaller chance of addiction. Moreover, you don't smoke, so you don't damage your lungs. The powdered tobacco is mixed with several other ingredients including the powdered form of cinnamon, clover, mint, banana peel and tonka beans. Often shamans keep the mix of their rapé a secret. 

Sirius sells rapé for respectful use

As I described earlier, the use of rapé is used in a respectful way, for example to ground and sink deep into yourself and the earth, before surrendering to a medicine such as Kambo or Ayahuasca. Sirius now also sells rapé with the aim of giving users the opportunity to work with this sacred plant at home. Pay attention to the Set and Setting. Preferably use rapé for the first time with someone who has experience, so that he or she can breathe in the rapé with you. According to the indigenous people of the Amazon, a very large part of the power of rapé lies in the breathing of the person who blows it. With the right intention, rapé can work as a medicine and help you ground. 

Do you want to learn to work with rapé?

Just as with the use of other (plant) medicines and entheogenic substances such as Magic Mushrooms, it is good to first deepen yourself sufficiently and feel ready and open to learn to work with it. My first experience with rapé was together with an experienced guide, who taught me first of all to become quiet and to clarify my intention. Making conscious contact with 'the spirit of rapé', as Ine put it, gave me a respectful way of approaching it. 

There are special pipes available which make it possible to inject rapé into yourself. These V-shaped pipes, called kuripe, have the advantage that you can work with rapé in a personal way. Now that I've worked more with rapé myself I know that a kuripe is a very fine tool to feel the power of rapé. In a next blog I will go deeper into the ways you can use rapé and what I have learned from it.  

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