Cacti - T. pachanoi
Citation: Antun. "The Domain of This Plant Is Space: An Experience with Cacti - T. pachanoi (exp109945)". Erowid.org. Mar 15, 2017. erowid.org/exp/109945
Pachanoi During Scandinavia Trek
I am a male in my mid-twenties. Last year, I went on an extended solo trek through Scandinavia, during which I ingested a San Pedro cactus. It was my first encounter with a 'major' psychedelic. This report describes the experience. Lines with a time code are notes I took during the trip.
I had been planning the trek for months. The plan was to disappear and restart, to spend some time on what they call ground state calibration. It would be almost two weeks before I found the right set and setting for the cactus.
On the eve of my departure I wrapped the cactus in a cloth and gently rolled it into my mat. The cactus was about 2 feet high. I had bought it online from a botanical vendor. It had four ribs and few tiny spines, and measured approximately 3.5 inches in diameter at the base. The color was dark green, but as it grew, the fresh top part turned very light. Supposedly it came straight from the Andes, but who knows. I figured that would make it especially strong and healthy. I subsequently read that in order to increase the mescaline content, people instead deprive the cacti of water and sometimes even light, so this actually may have not been ideal. In any case, I had been nurturing it for close to a year, which is very gratifying in and of itself. It grows fast – several inches a year even with sparse light. The fresh top shoots upward, turning into a darker green as time passes. It's a beautiful thing to watch.
After a few days spent in trains and buses I was on the trail, in a region of thousands of lakes and streams. If you choose the right path and area, you can go for days without encountering another person. Which is what I did. I lived out of my backpack, camping at lakes or streams, and generally trying to clear my head. Soon I got in sync with the sun, rising with it and going to sleep shortly after sunset.
Two weeks passed, mostly because I did not feel in the mood for any major experiments. And the surroundings kept me occupied. As you walk through the woods, there is an intense smell of pine and resin. You catch glimpses of lakes through the trees. I kept a nice steady walking rhythm, sometimes falling into a kind of trance. Eventually I came to a large, inviting lake. It was perfect – surrounded by forest and framed by flat stretches of warm, dry rock which gently lowered into the water at the shore. I found a solitary camping spot on a flat peninsula that reached into the lake and set up my tent for the night. I decided that this was it.
The next day was beautiful. It was warm. The far end of my peninsula attracted birds. There was almost no wind, and apart from a bird call here and there the only sound you could hear was the water softly rolling onto the shore. Because I had read countless stories of horrible nausea I decided to skip breakfast. Instead I went for a swim. I had brought a small booklet with the Six Nations' Thanksgiving Address, which is a collection of thank-yous to the natural world. While I do not consider myself to be religious or 'spiritual', back then I saw it as a tool to bring about something like 'proper attention': A due diligence, if not reverence, towards one's surroundings. The longer I spent in nature, the more this idea of attention became important to me. So I used it.
After this little morning ritual, I retrieved the cactus from my tent. It had survived the journey surprisingly well, probably because I had wrapped it with the roots intact and a good chunk of soil around the base. Only the thin top end was slightly shrivelled. The rest looked green and healthy. The usual method of boiling and straining the cactus down to one-two cups would have taken ages, and I figured that keeping a constant temperature would be difficult over a campfire. Instead, I decided to eat the cactus raw. How bad could it be? I washed it in the lake to remove any potential pesticides. Despining wasn't really necessary, as the spines were tiny and I could just scrape them off with the dull end of my knife. I decided against skinning, because I had read conflicting accounts of where the greatest concentration of the relevant alkaloids actually is. I cut off about a foot from the top and began to eat it.
T+0:00 – Begin ingestion
T+0:15 – Not as bitter as people say – is this really a Pachanoi?
The first bite was surprisingly fresh and pleasant. I decided that the most manageable approach would be to cut it into star-shaped pieces and eat one after the other. I sliced the cutting into inch-thick chunks. Soon after it started to turn difficult. The texture became very squishy, unpleasantly so. Each chunk became a small challenge.
he texture became very squishy, unpleasantly so. Each chunk became a small challenge.
It was disgusting, but not the downright soul-crushing experience of nausea and bitterness some people report.
T+0:30 – Still not as bitter, but had to retch a couple of times. Two thirds of the cactus to go. The thicker the stem gets, the more disgusting. Some Native American tribes supposedly recommend 'plunging right into the center of the bitterness.' But it's the texture that makes it so unpleasant!
T+1:30 – The nausea creeps up slowly but surely; almost in a friendly way. The best way to handle it is to suck out and swallow the liquid immediately while chewing, so I'm left with almost pleasant, fresh vegetable matter in my mouth – rather than icky goo.
T+2:00 – Finish ingestion.
In the notes I wrote friendly, and I think that captures it well – it was unobtrusive, but noticeable. After a while it began to feel like a gentle of tug-of-war between myself and the nausea. That said, the last few pieces were pretty hard to handle. After almost vomiting into a nearby bush I settled back down, leaned against a pine tree, and began to wait, just absent-mindedly staring at the waves.
For an hour, nothing happened. After a while I began to doubt anything would. I went back to my campsite, started a fire and made a cup of oatmeal and a pot of tea. I felt nice and calm, still a bit woozy in the stomach, but ok. I sat down and started drinking the tea and had some sweetened condensed milk from a can. It helped with the stomach and was a great breakfast. After the ordeal of eating the cactus, I felt I deserved it. I put the pot down on a warm stone near the fireplace. I sat in the sun and felt completely at ease. If the cactus wouldn't hit, so be it.
T+4:00 - I do feel a bit droopy-eyed now, like high.
T+4:30 – Went to fetch some firewood, feel quite stoned now, but the high is very manageable, directable! [Here I drew a big smiley on my notepad – just to make it stick.] The interesting thing about the high is that I can always go into an 'objective' observer mode.
I hadn't felt it coming on, but something was definitely beginning to happen. At the same time, I almost immediately became acutely aware of everything happening to me. The 'observer' mode of consciousness came very naturally. And what I observed most of all was the sun. Its light covered everything in a silky texture, and the whole peninsula felt wide and golden and brown. At the same time everything had a very well defined sharpness to it. No romantic softening of the edges at all. As I walked from the shore to my fireplace, I noticed that my tactile senses had become exquisitely sensitive. The simple act of walking barefoot felt great. I almost felt a compulsion to press my feet on the small sticks and patches of rock in the ground.
My nausea had subsided. It was midday now and the fire seemed redundant by that point. For now I put it out. I decided to explore my surroundings. I did not feel like venturing back into the forest. I wanted to stay in the warm light. I wanted to keep walking on warm ground and pine needles. Just opposite the peninsula where I had pitched my tent, across the lagoon, there was a small island, separated by a 30ft stretch of water. The water separating it from my spot was so clear you could see the bottom of the lake. It looked inviting.
I slowly lowered myself into the water. My bare foot touched the rocky ground and it was the most interesting feeling in the world. It felt intense but distinct, like an intensification at a certain point in a beautifully composed field. All the other parts of my body and my consciousness of them were fully present. There was a clarity to everything, and yet it felt unlike anything I had experienced before. I started to wade towards the island. Soon the water rose to my chest and I slowed down. For a second I held my breath, and just stood there, submerged in the cool liquid, sun shining from above, solid rock beneath my feet. The parts of my body felt separate and connected at the same time, like a net.
As I reached the other shore and climbed up, I felt the entire surface of my skin. I was sensitive to every drop of water on me. By this point what I was experiencing in my vision was beginning to flare up, in particular the colors. The island was small, about 90ft in diameter, sowed with with sparse pine trees. The ground consisted of warm rock alternating with patches of soil and dry moss. It was a beautiful pattern of brown, deep yellow and ochre.
This is where I felt the flare up more intensely. I was feeling very high, all rolled up into feeling and watching. It all became very vivid, meaningfully so. I could not tell if I was moving slowly or quickly. I felt time suspended or out of joint, but only for moments, which sounds paradoxical. Even then I couldn't put my finger on it. I kept following the folds in the ground. I felt almost ecstatic walking through a small patch of reeds. I jumped over small water lagoons. I passed some birds and remember thinking that they must feel the same, just in this mute world of being, and feeling. I felt like a sail for the rays of the sun.
After a while I sat down on a fallen tree. I could feel the detailed patterns of the bark between my fingers, and it was as if my fingers were just sensors, feeling it independently. I felt every inch of air on my skin. The grass in the shade was brilliantly green. The sunlight alternated between between velvety warm, inviting, and a distant kind of gold. Waves splashed against the shore. I watched the surface of the water rolling towards and along the rim. The rips in the waves were bathed in this strange light gliding over its surface. I could not keep my eyes off it. It looked to me like liquid metal.
The thing that struck me was that it did not feel like inebriation, apart from the dopey physical feeling in the eyes which by that point I did not even notice anymore. Experiencing the world this way felt like a deeper understanding. Not in a revelatory sense, not with any deep flashes of insight – more like a quiet 'of course!' It felt profoundly open, spacious, without being ethereal. The kind of freedom inherent to the world itself (if that makes sense).
Then I felt a gust of warm wind press against my chest. A light drizzle was coming up. I started walking back to my fireplace and tent. On my way back in the light rain I started to run, and felt a great body euphoria come over me. Swimming back was even better than before.
T+5:30 – Back from island. Sensuous. I can only compare to THC, but similar. It has a 'broader' feel, as in: the field of attention is not as focused – but it can be if I want. Still a bit hesitant to throw myself into a feeling (it seems to be a conscious decision).
I hid my notebook and pen. As I was in just shorts, I simply stood in the middle of the beginning rain and felt joyful. Then I rekindled the fire. After a short while the rain passed.
T+6:00 – Small fire, sitting in the sun, feeling the world. Light tenseness in the jaw. It has a slight 'up-ness' to it, a kind of energy – libido?
There was never any serious grinding of teeth, just a feeling that my mouth was closing harder than normal. After sitting for a while I noticed an energy linger in my body. At first I thought it was libidinous, but then I decided that it was life itself. I felt no need to act it out in any way. It came and went. I just kept going 'aahh' from time to time as I felt it rush down my spine.
One redwood tree in particular grabbed my attention. I couldn't stop looking at its bark. Its curves had taken on an extreme expressiveness, although I can't exactly say how – it felt like a face without a face. There is a line that goes 'A thingless word, a wordless thing'. And then wave of something came over me... The only way I can describe it is that I felt the 'power' of the psychedelic – a gentle but authoritative reminder that I was not playing around. I thought of the warning in the Psychedelic Experience FAQ about psychedelics not being toys. What I was into was not trivial. It had immensity underneath it. And the bottom of my headspace was about to drop out. Yet it didn't freak me out – there was a baseline of reassurance at the core of the experience. Instead of the all-to-familiar feeling of standing at the edge of a cliff of paranoia, I felt I could trust that I was alright, I was at home. I stood up and touched the tree. It felt massive, and deep. My anxiety turned into awe, and that seemed to be the proper response. Everything subsided.
During the next hour or so I kept entering and exiting a high state. At times I felt I sat in a vast valley of intensely colored, interlocking panels, which was what the plants, the lake, the brown trees and soil and the fire looked like to me. At other times I would feel completely sober, just sitting around. When I was observing my mental state, I felt like I was able to collect myself at any time. Not knowing whether to keep observing or let go and immerse myself, I continued trying to balance my consciousness on this edge, caught between vivid world and calm mind. After a while, I wasn't sure anymore if I was on top of it or it was on top of me. It became hard to discern from the ground state or baseline of the mind.
Every time I looked at the trees, I kept noticing that their branches were twisting statically. It is hard to describe. They were twisting without moving. Not as motion, but as pure expression. Process and stasis were the same. It didn't shock me like the redwood bark, instead I was absolutely fascinated. As I watched them, I thought that this was what nature was all about – itself. And there I was, in the middle of it. I didn't feel alienated. Neither did I feel welcome. I already was a part. Being that was effortless and pleasant. But it implied something massive as well. How could I describe it?
Early evening set in. I walked into the woods to fetch more firewood and made a good pile for later. Laying the wood on top of each other was very satisfying, the dryness and solidity of the larger pieces felt just right. Then I sat down on the rock at the shore. The rock had saved the warmth of the day. I put my palms on it and felt its immensity stretch down and away. The waves had calmed to gentle licks. The sun was beginning to set, and the light it radiated was turning a surreal pastel.
I watched the island across the lagoon and realized that its trees were really standing on unfertile ground. Their roots lay on flat granite, stretching outward under a thin layer of dry soil, sometimes exposed, for hundreds of feet. This is how they lived, and yet they were healthy and green and nurtured by the sun.
I remember thinking that I wouldn't want to live in a stunningly beautiful place such as this. Somehow it felt that living through day after day surrounded by such natural, expressive beauty would make one dumb. In both senses of the word. Any impulse to extract oneself from it, to think abstractly, to operate with words and concepts would steadily diminish, until one would become part of this self-expressing, colossal constellation of being. Chopping wood, carrying water.
I had once read a line that recommended becoming a geological formation from time to time. This metaphor (if it is one!) slowly became very real to me. I felt the world composed of strata upon strata – trees, animals, soil, water... It became easy to empathise with all of them, and I shifted in and out of them.
The birds had left now, and the peninsula was empty.
I felt the blue bowl of the lake – just resting. It was mute. And below that was the rock, that would always be there – long after people, long after every living creature would have gone.
For a second I had a spike of fear of not being able to become myself again, of becoming mute like the lake, eternal like the rock. I kept breathing. Breathing was like an anchor to human life, a thread connecting me back. And yet I felt embedded in a vast everything. It is hard to put in words; every thing became its own expression – it just was, including myself. All I could do was breathe and partake. There is a beautiful line in the Old Testament: Moses asks God: Who should I say sent me? And God answers: Tell them I AM sent you. That's how it felt.
The last minutes of the day I spent back at the campfire, just hanging out with it, completely at peace. Soon everything was dark. The strands of the flames were extending upwards. The steam from my cup rose up in an unstable white column against the black of the woods.
After a while I extinguished the campfire, collected the dishes and crawled into my tent.
Even though the experience still stays with me and had put me in a very different place, I would give it no more than a plus-two on the Shulgin scale. Apart from the 'panel effect' I didn't experience Native American-like visuals or overtly geometric patterns, nor did I feel like an emotional catharsis was about to happen. I suppose it was the low dose. The mescaline content of the San Pedro cactus is notoriously unpredictable. I have read estimates ranging from 25mg to 120mg per 100 grams of fresh cactus.
I was obsessed with observing the effect, perhaps to a fault. Especially considering how the experience told me precisely the inverse – that everything just was, and that abstraction and mind-chatter were more like ripples on a surface.
(There is an interesting parallel here – as a thought experiment it could be framed in Jungian terms. After the experience I came across Jung's four psychological functions – Intuition, Thought, Feeling and Sensation – correlating to the 'archetypes' fire, air, water and earth, which he imagined as a pre-analytical description of human consciousness. As I sat by the fire, intuition – the immense *something* expressed in the bark's folds –; as I sat by the water, empathetic response to the vastness of geology emotion – and the physical feeling and sensation came over me as I swam through the water and walked on the earth.)
It didn't have the romanticism of cannabis. With the latter, I feel things become wonderfully solid and centered in my attention. I tend to become mesmerized by a feeling, lose myself in it. Music, a color, a koan, a face, an idea... On the cactus, everything was light and spacious, free, without being ethereal. It was like entering a wider, mysterious, but very real world that had been there all along.
It was like entering a wider, mysterious, but very real world that had been there all along.
It was fascinating and I am very grateful to have experienced it.
This is an ally for introspection, too, but in a very different way from cannabis. The latter tends to lead me into analytical mazes, often inward on a single associative thread. My experience with the cactus was less analytically introspective. It grounded me, showed my a deeper layer, by embedding me outward, by creating both a connection to my surroundings and a deep empathy with them.
It could have been set and setting. Perhaps this was because I hadn't fed my head with anything intellectually stimulating before. After all, I had been walking for two weeks, often in a trance-like state. I felt more at peace with myself than usual, I was surrounded by beautiful nature, I was completely self-reliant and, having been in this environment before, familiar with the surroundings. Or maybe this is just the nature of the cactus. All in all it was a more holistic experience, both in thought, emotion and sense perception.
The domain of this plant is space. I wouldn't want trip on Pachanoi in any enclosed space at all.
I can still enter some of that headspace. I am planning to try this again with a higher dose – some time in the future.
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