Kambo – My Journey with the Frog (part 1)

My first encounter with Kambo was some months ago. I was having dark days. It was a time of big changes and I felt the call to cleanse my body and soul with more than lemon water and meditation. The relationship I had with the father of my kids ended after nine years. Connections I had with other men disappeared one by one – the cleansing apparently started there already. My focus shifted from a focus on social interactions to finding a new balance as a single mother and upgrading my business. And processing all the things that happened.

What does a shaman look like? I was expecting an older, tanned man with black hair. Speaking some kind of Spanish dialect that I would hardly understand. When the shaman walked in, whistling enchanted, I froze for a second.

 

A dear friend mentioned some weeks earlier that a shaman would be staying in his house to help an ill relative with Kambo, an entheogen medicine coming from tree frogs from the Amazon. Although I didn’t know much about this ritual, I felt called. When it comes to these things I believe in feeling called. You will know it when it’s the right time. I had that experience up to a point of annoyance with Ayahuasca before I finally went to a ceremony. With Kambo the invitation felt softer and more inviting, but it was there.

Twenty minutes of dying

I felt tired, emotional, depressed and lonely for no clear reason. Although it was a Monday morning and I facilitated two sold out cuddle workshops on the weekend. I hadn’t eaten since the night before as Kambo requires you to fast – and having no food in your system increases feeling. So maybe there were enough reasons after all. My friend walked towards me to greet me with a hug as I arrived at his house. Tears just flowed and the sadness came up. He held me for a while and smiled at me. “It’s good that you are here. Come in.” The house was hidden behind some other houses in a village in the north of the country, surrounded by vast, green polders. Inside it was warm and welcoming, with a well-kept garden around the house. There were flowers, even though autumn had been here for a while.

“Just take a seat and make yourself comfortable.” I sat cross legged on the couch, waiting for my friend to return. He held two jars of water and placed them in front of me. “Now you have to drink a lot of water. At least 1,5 liters, but preferably more. Go ahead, then I will explain you what will happen.” I realized I had no idea, except for the warning he gave me earlier: Kambo feels like dying for about twenty minutes.

The water was lukewarm, apparently to prevent your stomach from hurting when drinking so much. After the first glass I felt resistance to more. I tried to distract myself by listening to my friend.

“Kambo comes from the poison of the Amazonian tree frog, the Phyllomedusa bicolor. The Kambo used for rituals is carefully scraped of the skin of frogs that are enticed by shamans who make the exact sound of the frog. After getting some of their poison, the frogs are released again. A Kambo ceremony is a powerful cleansing ritual. Your body will discard toxins. Bacteria and viruses are being attacked. Doing a series of Kambo rituals is like a natural vaccine and antibiotic treatment. There are also many stories of serious diseases like tumors and cancer being improved or healed with this medicine. Scientific research is limited, but showing very positive results.”

He looked at the jar of water, now half empty. “You’re doing well. Just keep drinking. In the meantime I will see if the shaman is ready.” I felt a bit nauseous because of all the water, and nervous about meeting this shaman. I heard someone talking joyfully in German to a little girl, but I wasn’t sure whether this was my friend or one of his relatives. Or the shaman.

What does a shaman look like? I was expecting an older, tanned man with black hair. Speaking some kind of Spanish dialect that I would hardly understand. When the shaman walked in, whistling enchanted, I froze for a second.

In walked a white man just a little bit my senior, covered in tattoos and a beard. With a beaming smile on his face and his arms spread wide open, he walked straight up to me. I jumped up and reciprocally opened my arms to receive his hug. The nervous feelings I had as the ceremony was coming closer disappeared quickly in this embrace, that was one of the best hugs I ever got – and as a cuddle workshop facilitator I have hugged many. This man felt so safe, loving and present.

The tears came back. The sadness that I covered up so well surfaced again. There’s just no hiding anything when being seen like this. We let go and our eyes met. His were blue and sparkling with joy. Now I saw the three hearts tattooed under his left eye. What would they mean?

Kambo frog

Three liters of water

“Come, let’s sit down. Did you drink your water?  You need to drink more.” He pushed the second jar towards me as we sat down. His English revealed his German origin, but was easy to follow, even though he searched for words sometimes. “Your energy…” He looked at me, scanning me. “Your energy is something special. It feels pure and open, much more than I usually encounter. That’s amazing.” He made a face indicating that he felt a bit blown away. I understood it was a massive compliment, but I found it hard to receive it fully. “But you also carry a lot of stress with you. Kambo is good for you. Maybe one session, but maybe you need more. I feel we will work more together in the future. But hey, let’s not go there now and stay in this moment.” I looked at him and wanted to respond, but it felt like he already knew me, and words were just distracting. “You have a big heart and you have a lot of energy. But you should love yourself more. First love yourself. And don’t just give away. Learn to really receive.”

There I was, half naked in my friend’s house with this beautiful shaman, about to do a ritual that would make me puke. It’s all a matter of perspective.

 

I felt a little insecure. How much did he know? Was he seeing right through me? I felt a connection between us, like kindred souls recognizing each other. I calmly looked at him while he prepared his things for the ritual. His loose sweater covered most of his arms, but the parts of skin it revealed suggested that his right arm was fully covered in ink. Dark blue and green colors, but I couldn’t recognize the shapes very well. His short hair was nearly black. He had a beard that was tied together under his chin. His eyes a shade of blue and sparkling. I focused on the water again. Almost two liters down. He saw where I looked. “Yes, you need to drink more.” I told him I started to feel sick. That was a good thing, it told him I was almost ready. “Do you know what I will do during the ceremony? I will take a thin stick of burning wood. With that I burn your skin, usually two spots on the upper arm for first timers. Maybe three times, but I will ask you if you want that when I feel you need it. Then I will apply the Kambo on the spots. Within a few seconds you will feel it. Your head might swell, you might have trouble breathing, or your heart might beat very fast. Don’t worry too much, but try to surrender. Now drink more water and please sit down on the floor.”

I sat cross legged on the rug and downed another few glasses and almost started to gag. He saw it. “Yes, you will throw up during the ceremony. That’s a release of toxins and other things you don’t need anymore. There’s a bucket near you. Now I think you are ready. Shall we start?” I nodded. He sat near me and felt my arm, mumbling something I couldn’t understand. Then he started to touch my neck and back, as if he was searching for something. “Mmm. I feel it would be better to give you the spots on your neck. But that’s more intense than on your arm. What do you want?” I was prepared for an intense experience, and as I had nothing to compare it with anyway. Intense or a little more intense wouldn’t make that much of a difference. “I trust you. If you want to put them in my neck, that’s okay.” He touched my back. “Your back would even be better as I feel you need it there most.” He was touching the sides of my spine just below my shoulder blades. Spot on, I knew there’s a lot I carry there, whether it’s physical or emotional. Probably the latter. “But you are wearing clothes, and you cannot cover the spots during the ceremony.” I told him I was okay with taking off my shirt. “It would be the best for you.” I took off my shirt. There I was, half naked in my friend’s house with this beautiful shaman, about to do a ritual that would make me puke. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Fire and poison

The shaman held a thin stick in the flame of a candle until it was glowing. “Ready?” I nodded. He sat behind me on a couch. “Here we go.” I felt a quick, burning sting on my back, and then another one. He started to whistle a joyful melody, calming and heart opening. With a knife he scraped something on a little plate, and sat behind me again. I closed my eyes and started to tune inwards. I felt his presence around me, creating a safe bubble. While whistling he blew the Kambo on the two spots on my back. It stung, and immediately I could feel a heat spreading from the spots throughout my body. My womb started t glow, as well as my head. I felt my heart beating, and the same rhythm like a beat in my lips and ears. I breathed calmly. I’ve been through three childbirths without pain control. I did Ayahuasca. I can do this. Let me just feel and observe what is happening. I heard a frog, and realized it was the shaman, doing an impressive imitation of the Kambo frog.

He softly touched my back, squeezed my skin. Then sat on my side and pushed hard into my stomach, on exact same spots as other healers intuitively touched me before. I felt insecurity about where the feelings would go, whether I would throw up now or later, whether I would think I would die. But I managed to observe it without getting lost in the feelings. Suddenly there was the sound of a singing bowl, and drops of warm water with an intense scent falling like a tropical rain on me. The uncomfortable feelings subsided and I felt alright. I smiled, my eyes still closed. I was enjoying his presence and touch, and felt comfortable in my inner world, observing myself without a need to go anywhere or do anything. My body started to move as I felt life energy crawling up my spine. He was sitting behind me and I was vaguely aware he had a wonderful view on my naked back, moving in all directions. “I want to give you a third dot, okay?” I nodded, with my eyes closed inside my own bubble. I heard him preparing, still whistling the same tune. He warned me and pricked again, quacking and blowing the Kambo in the spot, this time in my neck. Again, a hot rush to my head, a feeling that my face, lips and tongue were swelling. I felt uncomfortable and slightly irritated for some reason. This time I felt more nauseous. Would I throw up now? I had a vague feeling he would want to apply another spot soon, although he said he would use maximally three. But within seconds he did suggest a fourth spot, and I nodded again. This time the hot rush was less intense, but my stomach started to turn. He stroked my back and I felt I needed to throw up. A lot of the water found its way out of me again. The water is a tool, he explained before we started. Yes, I felt that now. For about a minute the water kept coming out. I guess I never threw up such a volume ever before. But I never drank three liters of water in such a short timeframe before either.

Giggles

When my stomach and feelings calmed down I felt the shaman sitting in front of me, still whistling his tune. He splashed some water on my forehead, then sat to my left side. I felt great, still calmly sitting on the floor with my eyes closed. I wasn’t sure what would happen now, so I didn’t move, enjoying the silence in my head and body. He giggled as he carefully touched my forehead and put some hairs that were falling over my face back behind my ear. “We’re done”, he whispered in my ear. I opened my eyes and looked at him, smiling. He smiled back. “Thank you,” I whispered.

He took a little bottle containing a dark liquid. “This is what iodine originally is made from. I will put some on the spots so they won’t get infected and heal quickly.” He applied the tincture as we chatted about what it’s like to have daughters until the tincture dried and covered the spots like little crusts – and I could put my shirt back on. Slowly we both got up. “Can I give you a hug?” I asked him. “Of course you can.” We held each other for a very long time. When we finally let go, he giggled again and pointed at my cheek. “You have a mark of my earring on your skin,” he said with a grin.

“Before you flush: say goodbye to what you threw up and thank it for how it served you.”

 

My friend came back in. The shaman updated him about the ceremony. “Four dots! I never gave four dots in a first session.” “Did she have so much resistance?” My friend asked what I was thinking. “No, that was not it. It wasn’t resistance. It was just a very beautiful session that took exactly the time it needed. This really was a very special and beautiful session.”

I looked at the bucket, feeling a bit uncomfortable. “Shall I throw that away now?” I asked my friend. “Yes, it’s best if you do that yourself. You can put it in the toilet, but before you flush it, have a little ritual for yourself. This is your past, what you let go. Say goodbye to it and thank it for how it served you.”

I did as he told. It felt a bit funny, saying goodbye to my puke after a shamanic ritual in a modern bathroom. But it felt good. And I felt good. It was like the dark clouds disappeared and the sun was back, shining brightly and exciting to be alive.

Aftermath

In the first three days after the ceremony I felt incredibly clear, especially on how to take care of myself. I went to bed early, got a lot of sleep and felt exactly what I wanted to eat – and what not. No refined sugar, wheat, animal products or coffee, but mainly vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts. When I walked through the forest I realized I saw and heard more clearly. Especially trees made me stop and watch them for a long time. Their trunks were almost luminescent. Was it the spirit of the tree frog?

After three days this clarity decreased a bit, but the longing to eat healthy and take good care of myself remained. Weeks later I could still feel the deep imprints and reminders about how important self-love and self-care is, and find more peace with myself and taking time to myself.

You can read about my Second Journey with the Frog in this article…

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