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In the western Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico, there still exists an ancient people, an ethnic minority called the Huicholes, whose spirituality involves the gathering and consumption of Peyote, a cactus with powerful hallucinogenic effects. They strongly believe that using this medicinal plant helps them communicate with the gods, learn about their ancestors' history, and foresee the future through prophetic dreams. For this reason, having read numerous books on the subject beforehand had served us well, ensuring that we weren't completely unprepared, although no matter how much you can prepare, you'll never be 100% ready for what awaits you. After spending a couple of days in San Luis Potosí, we took a bus towards the desert, where we planned to spend a couple of days. Days that turned into weeks, as always unplanned, but one step at a time. We had heard about the desert from a dear friend who had the opportunity to attend a ceremony with the Huichol ethnicity and had "prepared" us a bit on what to do. Various recommendations on where to stay, in short, all the possible tips to experience it more serenely, considering that we had never tried such a sacred medicine before. Being captivated by the tales of Don Juan by Castaneda has always had a huge impact on our choices. It intrigued us, led us to research to understand more, and that's how we discovered a few things. Their Trinity consists of Corn, Deer, and Peyote merging into a single deity: the Blue Deer. The first two represent vital sustenance while peyote helps you encounter the highest divinity - the blue deer - and by observing and visiting you, it recognizes how to heal psychic and physical wounds. Peyote, therefore, is not seen as a recreational drug but as a medicine aimed at delving deep into the human psyche. It's a transitional state where once the use is over, it's up to you how to work with it. According to the Huichol conception, there are two types of illnesses: the first is brought by the Spaniards, which needs to be treated with scientific medicine, and the other illness, originating from the Sierra, must be treated with traditional shamanic medicine. These are linked to three causes: lack of responsibility towards the gods, witchcraft, and the loss of the soul. Each has a different solution; the first involves offerings to the deities through the shaman, the second type requires purification performed by the shaman using the feathers of a shamanic bird and blowing tobacco smoke on the body to be healed. The third cause of illness is linked to the kupuri, that part of the soul that is found in the upper part of the head, and if lost, it's up to the shaman to find it and put it back in place. However, a premise must be made: Peyote works differently for each individual, and each body and mind react differently. The set-setting is everything: being in a certain mood and in a specific context will greatly influence the effects that the medicine will have on you. Throughout the days, to acclimate ourselves for a moment, we had the pleasure of meeting many people, and this made us think. Every person who comes here has a unique and extremely personal reason for taking peyote. To solve a situation that has plagued you for years? Absolutely. To receive answers to questions that haunt you? Of course. To heal from an illness, whether physical or mental? Even more so. However, nothing must have to do with recreational effects. You must have a very strong intention, fixed in your mind and lived in your heart, something that the plant can work on. As the Native Americans say: "It's the peyote that finds you, not the other way around." Loaded with water, a hat, a stick, and long garments to protect us from the heat and cactus spines (in the desert they are everywhere, especially when you start to venture inwards among gobernadora grass and creosote bushes), we begin our journey along the dusty paths surrounding the entire village. Setting off at first light helps prevent heat waves and gives you more clarity in finding peyote, even though over the years, according to many natives, it's becoming increasingly scarce. We were told that in the past, the sacred desert of Wirikuta was granted to a Canadian precious metals extraction company that drastically consumed the precious water, causing a subsequent environmental disaster. Waste residues containing cyanide further contaminated the area, reducing Peyote growth to almost total disappearance. Since 1988, the desert of Wirikuta has been declared a 'natural and cultural ecological reserve' by the Mexican government. For this reason, the Huichol ethnicity is more than ever committed to drawing attention so that they are not left to fight against mining companies on their own. For this reason, you should not go into the desert with the intention of plundering it for peyote but only collect what is necessary, thanks to the attention and suggestions of the Huicholes themselves. We are explained that the psychedelic effects of peyote, as the top part contains mescaline, are multiple and different from person to person but require a lot of attention. Taking them with fear and apprehension would only serve to trigger the opposite and trigger adverse effects such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The search continues following a precise pattern: the first peyote found will not be touched. The second peyote found will indicate the direction to proceed. The third peyote found will be the right one to take. By asking permission from Mother Earth, we close our eyes and express our intention mentally in clear terms. For a moment, time stands still, and the only thing we feel is a bit of wind refreshing our faces, almost reminding us to proceed conscientiously. And then the moment of incision occurs: with the knife, I cut the top part of the peyote, my hand trembling a bit with emotion, after all, it's something never done before, and I realize it cuts like butter. I carefully cover the end with soil, pour a little water for it to regrow, thank Mother Earth, and slowly start cleaning the top, removing all the fuzz, small dots, and the middle part before eating it. After thorough cleaning and rinsing it with water, I look at Matteo with the awareness that it won't be like eating a piece of chocolate. I chew a piece. And another. And in the end, I eat it all. I try to keep the bite on one side so it doesn't end up on my tongue, but it's too late: the taste spreads throughout my mouth, and the bitterness begins to make its way, reminding me of the 'taste' of 10 paracetamol tablets eaten at the same time. I swallow. The hardest part is over. I'm not worried at all; in fact, I'm calm and aware that nothing serious will happen to me. The medicine will take its course. It's Matteo's turn, I look at him, but I'm sure it will be fine; after all, he couldn't wait for this moment. He carefully follows all the steps, and piece by piece, he also swallows his peyote, wrinkling his nose a bit because of the terrible taste. We look around, and it's just us, there, a bit like vagabonds but aware of being in the right place at the right time. We close our eyes and take a deep breath. After barely an hour, aided by the fact of being on an empty stomach, the colors start to become more vivid, the sounds seem to penetrate our skin, and the sensation of floating on the earth becomes more and more pronounced. We are not scared; in fact, we knew very well that the sensation could be strong but always different, depending on the person experiencing it. In fact, I feel good: no perception has changed or expanded over time. The only thing I feel is a deep sense of well-being and inner awareness. I feel certain of our path, and involved in the moment, I start to cry tears of joy, moved by every corner of the desert town. I look at Matteo, and he returns my smile, completely at peace with himself. He laughs a bit but also gets emotional seeing me so involved, and hugging me tight, he thanks me for sharing such an experience together. Perhaps now I begin to understand why the Huicholes firmly believe in this medicine and have been using it for hundreds of thousands of years to cure people's ailments: it has the ability to heal the heart and mind (obviously if done with care, with awareness but above all guided and helped by a local person). This journey, physical and introspective at the same time, begins to slowly descend. After about 8-10 hours, we realize that we have returned to "ourselves," a smooth return like oil, which confirms that we made the right choice: taking them in the morning gives you the opportunity to experience the peyote well throughout the day. Surely it's an experience we would recommend to any kind of person. Why? Because why not? The ability it gives you to connect with the external but above all with our selves goes beyond all expectations, but especially when you express an intention, when you ask a question for which you search so much for an answer, you understand that the answer is right there, and the peyote is allowing you to welcome it. Sometimes we need to encounter something that hurts us to learn how to deal with it and consequently, derive the right lesson from it. It has been extremely enlightening. Everything was so overwhelming that crying was one of the most normal and human reactions we could have. Everything these plants show us, as the natives had pre-announced, is already inside us. We already know everything but don't always see things for what they are, and that's where the plants come into play: they are there to help you, to expand the mind, and intensify emotions. That said, taking Peyote in the Mexican desert was an incredible experience, one of the most intense we've ever had and one we will never forget. Feeling at peace, without paranoia, completely connected to nature was magnificent. By connecting with our intentions and 'intuitions,' we decide to let go of our emotional blocks and those mental conjectures resulting from too rigid and ordinary teachings. Being aware that people have been healed from illnesses after taking this plant allows us to think about why, in the Western world, we are so dependent on 'pills for everything,' when instead Mother Nature gives us everything we need. It's sad to recognize how we have lost this 'connection,' and it's surprising, at the same time, to notice how Native Americans are maintaining their knowledge and connection with nature, despite progress advancing faster and faster. And if we were to abandon more of this fierce struggle towards economic success and reclaim a bit more of our humanity and connection with others and with nature? Perhaps we would finally manage to calm some of our restlessness.

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