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Connecting Two Worlds With Eric van den HOVE

Updated: Apr 29

Note: Guests of The Psychedelic Blog do not endorse, support, or otherwise advocate on behalf of any particular treatment approach for mental illnesses unless stated otherwise. The views expressed during this interview do not necessarily reflect the opinions or endorsement of The Psychedelic Blog. Readers should always consult with qualified healthcare professionals and conduct their own research before considering any treatment options. The blog and its authors are not responsible for any decisions made based on the information provided by the guests.

Eric van den HOVE

“What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal.”

- Friedrich Nietzsche

Robert Benz: It can be frustrating to think of oneself as always evolving and not evolved; a single drop in the ocean dissolving, yet undissolved. This perpetual state of becoming requires so much energy. Like everyone else, I’m impatient. I want to see the destination and arrive, even though I have no idea what may be there for me. But that's not what Nietzsche and our guest suggest is ideal.

Amidst the commotion surrounding groundbreaking psychedelic treatments, you may have already come across awe-inspiring stories of transformative moments facilitated by "medicine." Although, it's natural to yearn for one grand revelation that can answer all our questions rather than countless smaller ones, perhaps our desire for a single solution is misplaced. Allow me to introduce my next guest, Eric van den HOVE, who will shed light on the complexities of psychedelic experiences and the significance of embracing a measured approach to bliss.

(As with all interviews, our guest´s phrasing is reproduced as faithfully as possible to give the reader a sense of being there for the conversation.)

Eric, you are, in a very real sense, an embodiment of the intersection between two worlds: that of western knowledge—its systems, philosophies and social structures—and ancestral or indigenous knowledge. This intersection immediately becomes clear upon reviewing your website at I was interested to find references to both western and indigenous traditions where, for instance, you refer to your establishment as a church but one of balance and harmony, your Ayahuasca ceremonies are part of the liturgies, and you have a government committee whose members are pictured in what appear to be traditional indigenous ceremonial settings and clothing. In this conversation, I would like to explore how you managed to create a personal balance and harmony between these two worlds and how my readers might learn from your experiences. I would also like to get some insights into the life of a Taita.

I know that you are originally from Belgium, you were educated as an attorney, you were, for many years, an honorary Consul from Belgium to Colombia, and you studied shamanism, becoming what we will call in this blog a Taita.



"Taita" is a title used to refer to a respected and knowledgeable traditional healer or spiritual leader within the indigenous communities of the Amazon rainforest, particularly in Colombia and Ecuador. The term "Taita" comes from the language of the Kamentsá indigenous people in Colombia and is also used by other indigenous groups in the region.

Taitas play a central role in leading Yagé ceremonies, which involve the consumption of Ayahuasca, a psychoactive brew made from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and other plants with psychoactive properties. These ceremonies have been an integral part of indigenous spiritual and healing practices for centuries.

Taitas are highly revered for their wisdom, spiritual guidance, and healing abilities. They have a deep understanding of plant medicine and are believed to have a special connection with the spiritual world. During Yagé ceremonies, Taitas chant traditional songs called "icaros," which are believed to invoke the spirits of the plants and facilitate healing and transformative experiences for the participants.


Robert : Let's start with some biographical information about you, Eric. When and why did you first come to Colombia?

Eric: In the 1970s, my parents decided to quit Europe and go to Colombia. My father researched many countries and decided on Colombia with one of the reasons being that my uncle was living there since 1963. He was manager of production in the biggest palm oil company in Colombia called, Indupalma. The focus of my father was to come to Colombia and start a palm oil company with his brother.

Before going to Colombia, my parents decide to buy a motorhome in New Jersey in the United States and we did a nine month trip together to several states and throughout all of Central America. In December of 1976, we arrive in Colombia to meet my uncle and went to live for a few months on the palm oil plantation, which at that time was 18,000 hectares of palm trees (over 44,000 acres). It was massive.

All this was done by my uncle, but he died three months later. My uncle was younger than my father and he was looking perfect, but he had a really strong disease in the liver and there was an extremely complicated surgery that he had to face. After two surgeries he died, he was not able to resist.

That changed the plans of my father, but my parents decided to stay in Colombia. In early 1978, we bought a farm to raise cows in the town of Aguachica (in the northern part of Colombia in the Cesar Department). My father made a large investment in the farm for raising beef. That was the first business my parents started in Colombia.

I began to study at a Catholic high school in 1977 in Bucaramanga. This was the fifth largest city in Colombia. My father decided Bucaramanga because it was where the head plantation office for Indupalma was, where my uncle used to be.

Robert : Did you go to college in Colombia as well?

Eric: Yes, in Bucaramanga. It was a catholic college.

Robert : Was your family Catholic? Were they very religious?

Eric: Not at all (laughing). They were completely atheist.

Robert: Ok. And, after college?

Eric: After college my parents decide to move to a tiny island in the Caribbean Sea called, Old Providence Island (population @ 5,000). Some may know the book, Treasure Island. At the end of the book, you have a map. That´s Old Providence Island. Such an island was truly where Morgan pirates used to live. It’s strange because it’s in front of Nicaragua, but it’s part of Colombia. We built a hotel there and stayed for six years and still have a nice piece of land there.

After we sold the hotel, in 1983, we establish ourselves in Cali. That’s when I started working export and import and doing timeshare on Aruba. Then I came back to Colombia to work in real estate, then mobile phones, then, in 1996, my brother and a friend, we decide to build a company from the scratch, from nothing. It was an ISP (internet service provider) and it was one of the first in Colombia. Such company became the largest private internet service provider in Colombia. In 1997, we were the first company to use 100% web-enabled software to run all our process. It was very successful.

In 1998, we keep a share of this company and with my brother, decide to build another company with all the knowledge we had about software for telecommunications. This company was quite successful too. We sold our software to the largest telecommunications company in Colombia and Ecuador.

In 2002, I decided to start to study law. I was grown up already. I was 39 years old when I started at the university. That was good and I had the possibility to go to the Congress to present a law that would enable Colombia to have electronic system for voting. Such law was approved in 2004. I was also called to participate in a peace program with the paramilitary issue where I presented a program that pleased everybody: the paramilitary, the victims, the academy, the judges.

"This is science, but it’s a completely

different approach."

- Eric van den HOVE

In 2009, the indigenous community came to me and they start to share with me the knowledge through Yagé (Ayahuasca) ceremonies. That was extremely strange situation for me because, at that moment, I had never smoked cigarettes, I never take any medicine even for heartburn, I never take marijuana or any drugs ever, I never get drunk even by alcohol. I was approached to do Yagé ceremonies because some in the indigenous community needed a place to do a ceremony. I offered the garage of my house and they found that this place was extremely accurate to do ceremonies. They start to do like almost three ceremony per week and I was always invited.

After a while, they start to figure that I had some skill, some appropriate skill and they started to train me on this kind of science. This is science, but it’s a completely different approach. You cannot apply the scientific method to understand it. It’s another method completely different and at the beginning is really strange because you don't understand how they run this method. And, slowly, you start to figure it out.

Eric with a Waira (right hand) and Hyoto (left hand - made from parrot feathers)

Robert: So just to go back for a moment, you were an attorney at this time?

Eric: Yes, I start to study in 2002 and I finished in 2006. I never work as a lawyer. I was not interested to work as a lawyer. I figure justice and law were not accurate to harmony. It's really messy. It was a complicated way to provide justice to people. You really had to be extremely rich to have your rights recognized by justice. So, I was quite disappointed about this kind of approach.

For my thesis, I studied why direct democracy, or democracy itself, was not working in the world; especially in Colombia. I guess I found the reason and I exposed the problem. I also exposed what we should do to have true democracy in Colombia or anywhere in the world. That was my thesis to become a lawyer. It was approved in 2009.

I had an issue with the university when I first present my thesis in 2006. They didn't accept it. So, I sued the university. After almost 2 and one half years of process, the director of the university had two options: to present me my title as a lawyer or he would go to the jail. So, I was granted to become a lawyer.

Robert: So, you sued after they would not accept your thesis and eventually you won that suit?

Eric: Yes, it was a crazy process and I even had to appeal and sue a judge because he didn't do the right things. But I did win and received my title as lawyer.

Robert: Ok, you went to school in Colombia as a young Belgian, you had success in business, you attended law school and, through difficult trials, you received your title as lawyer. When does the Belgium Consul come in?

The Ambassador of Belgium decide to visit some successful Belgian companies in Cali. When the Ambassador observed the size of our client (the largest telecommunications company in Colombia) he was quite pleased. He thought, because we had a successful company, we also had good connections with powerful people in Cali.

At that moment, the Consul of Belgium in Cali was living in Bogota and the Ambassador was not pleased about that situation. So, he asked if I would agree to become a kind of honorary Consul for Belgium in Cali. Then he dismissed the other Consul. Soon the foreign minister of Belgium, with the King of Belgium, granted me as a Consul of Belgium for Cali. This was in 2006.

Robert: So, it was 2009 that you began work with the indigenous community in Cali?

Eric: Yes, I received my law degree at the end of 2009, but I began doing Yagé ceremonies at the beginning of 2009.

3 people
Eric with Cil (medicine woman) and Zita ïe (spiritual godson))

Robert: But, at that time, you were not actively participating in Yagé, you were just allowing them to use your garage, is that right?

Eric: No, I was host and I always participate in the ceremony. Then, the Master start to ask me to help to heal people because he saw some skill in me. After only 9 months of training, they granted me to do ceremonies. That is not usual. Usually, to be granted to do ceremonies, you need to train 10 or 15 years sometime even 20 years in the jungle. I almost never went to the jungle really. I went to the jungle after I was granted but not before. And, such Master decided I have the skill to start to do a ceremony.

At that time, I was the CEO of a corporate business, so I didn't want to do a ceremony. I thought it was nice to be granted this, but when friends wanted to do the Yagé ceremony, I always called a Taita to do it because I didn’t feel the call to do the ceremony.

Robert: Even though you didn’t want to do ceremonies, were you officially a Taita at this point?

Eric: To become a Taita is something tricky. It’s not because you are granted to do ceremony that you become a Taita. It doesn't work like that. You become a Taita when the community recognizes you as a Taita. So, I cannot say I became a Taita such day or such month. Right now, the people call me a Taita, even the Masters call me Taita. But it's not something you may say at that moment, “I became a Taita.” When the Community starts to recognize you as a Healer, you become a Healer or a Master – they have different titles. It's a slow process. It is not one moment, it's a long period of time.

Robert: So, by 2010, you were still balancing your role in your company, you were doing work with the Consul of Belgium and you were also performing Yagé ceremonies?

Eric: Not in 2010. In fact, in early in 2010, the shareholders made an amazing trick and stole my company from me. I lost a fortune and for me it was a very dramatic moment. A friend from Belgium, who owned a business in Cali, found out what had happened and he asked me to go to work for him. I started to work for his company consulting (process management review, jurisdiction aspects, sales, board of directors).

In 2012, after I had been doing some rare Yagé ceremony in Cali, a guy asked me to come to Belgium to do a ceremony. I didn't want to do that, but, well, things happen and this person was really motivated for me to come. I thought I would go there first time for two weekends. The ceremony was extremely successful and the people ask me to come back.

So, I was still working for the Belgium company at that time and it was not so easy to get away from Cali. I only have all the holidays. Six months later, before I went back to Belgium, some people saw some pictures I post on the social network and they asked if this was a picture of the Yagé ceremony in Europe. I said, “Yes, it was”. They asked me to come to Barcelona when I come next to Belgium.

After that, more people from Belgium and from Barcelona ask me to come back and, before I went back for the third time, some people from Malta Island asked me to go there. Shortly after that, I had a ceremony with a powerful Taita and me, just the two of us. During such ceremony, the message I got from the medicine, from the plant, during the Yagé ceremony, was extremely clear: all my business will stop and I will have to dedicate my life to ceremony!

For me it was a shock, a big change. I will have to save money to phase from that situation. And, four days later all the business I had stopped. Then the people start to come really often to do ceremony here at my place in Cali. Then, when I went back to Europe, some people from Azores Islands, Berlin, and Ireland asked me to come. Then I was called again three months later to go to Norway then France, the UK, Italy, Croatia, and Latvia. People want to do a ceremony every weekend. I started going to Europe two times a year and remain there for three months traveling around. Then, when I’m home in Colombia, I collect more knowledge and prepare more medicine.

Robert: As you’re traveling to all these place with medicine in your possession, did you ever have any problems with the law?

Eric: Yes, I did. I was in jail in Spain but for only one day. I was carrying 20 liters of a very heavy honey mixture which tested positive at the airport for meta-amphetamine. It was not true but the police said you must go to jail and the next day you will see the judge. I spoke with the judge and he released me. I hired an attorney and after 3 months the case was dismissed, but they never gave me back the medicine.

Robert: In 2012, your business obligations ended, but did you still have obligations as Consul from Belgium.

Eric: Even though most people thought I was a diplomat, my position as Consul was only honorary. I did not have a diplomatic passport. By the time of my arrest in 2019, I was not Consul anymore.

[Ceremony] For me, now it is everything

"I have seen so many visions and reasons why we have to build sustainable communities and that comes 100% from the medicine."

- Eric van den HOVE

Robert: Eric, are you a political person? Have you ever been someone who thought much about politics and world affairs? 

Eric: Yes, I am extremely political concern but not about proselytizing or about any political party. I am very active about point-of-view, about legal approach, about laws, but I don’t believe in the representative system. I believe in direct democracy but not representative democracy.

Robert: Has Ayahuasca influenced your perception of politics, of diplomacy, and of world affairs and, if so, how?  

Eric: No, because I had this idea of politics (direct democracy), when I began working on my thesis. It was before I ever tried the medicine. But now I see how we need to build community, sustainable community. This is a kind of political approach which is completely improved by the medicine. I have seen so many visions and reasons why we have to build sustainable communities and that comes 100% from the medicine.

Robert: People say that one of the key aspects of the Ayahuasca experience is the sense of interconnectedness one feels. Is that what shapes your perception about sustainable communities?

Eric: Yes, it is. Completely.

Robert: Many of the interviews that I do with people for this blog will be about psychedelic-assisted therapies. Do you see a role for Yagé-assisted therapies and experiences for promoting healing and reconciliation in places like Colombia that have experienced so many years of armed conflict? 

Eric: Yes, not only in Colombia but in any part of the world. I have seen positive improvement in people who have suffered conflict and war but also mental illness. It's extremely powerful and extremely fast too.

Robert: And, what is the key feature of that experience that can bring about peace or community?

Eric: These plants that we use in Ayahuasca have amazing knowledge to provide you guidance. The plants speak to you and help you solve issues so easily. The plants give you testimony about people and behavior; they may change your philosophical approach of life dramatically sometime even after one ceremony.

"It comes from somewhere else

and that is the plant."

- Eric van den HOVE

Robert: Someone who has not experienced Ayahuasca or Yagé may ask, how can a plant provide knowledge? Is the plant tapping into knowledge within ourselves or perhaps a kind of universal knowledge? Where is that knowledge coming from?

Eric: I don't know. It’s a mystery. My approach with this ceremony is that I don't understand how it works. I just observe. I cannot explain to you. You just do the ceremony and see how it affects the people.

The way to improve is different for every person so there is no baseline to say, “Take the medicine and you have this result and that will heal you.” No, it doesn’t work like that. Every person has a different way to receive the message. It’s really strange. For me it’s a mystery and even for the largest Masters they say, we don’t know, we just use it with so much respect. It’s so much knowledge. I receive knowledge about a philosophical approach, political approach, economical approach, social approach and I say to myself, I can be wise but not that wise. It comes from somewhere else and can be from the plant. So, I don’t know if it’s a collective knowledge or a universal knowledge. I don’t know.

Robert: You talk a lot about ceremony. You said your parents were atheists even though you went to a Catholic school. I think people in the western world experience ceremony as related to their religion. 

Eric: Even when I went to Catholic school, I was not pleased about the philosophical approach of the Catholic. For me, I read the Bible in school, but I see the people say something, but they don’t live what they say. They speak about forgiveness but do not forgive. So, I start to figure they live a lie. But I was just playing the game to receive my degree of high school.

Robert What role does ceremony play for you now?

Eric: For me, now it is everything. It’s all I do. For example, today I was preparing medicine. I take the two plants we need (for Yagé) and prepare the brew. If I’m not preparing medicine, I do something that we call mambeo. Mambeo is when I put some coca leaves in my mouth on one side. On the other side, I put some tobacco paste. I prepare this myself too. I have an object, a tool, poporo, from the Muisca community from near Bogotá. The philosophical approach of the Muisca really seduced me. I start to be trained by some of the Masters in the Muisca community. Now, I start to be recognized as MAJOR, they don’t use the name Taita, they use Elder or Major or Grandpa. The Shaman world doesn’t exist in Colombia. That is a name from Russia Elder.

Poporo, photo and text courtesy of

The POPORO or DŪMBURRU INDIGENA is naturally built with a dried calabazo, endemic fruit of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, inside which is stored the powder of sea shells (caracuchas) that is mixed with the AYU (coca leaf roasted in a clay pot – buku).

The men store the AYU in a small backpack, from which they take a quantity and introduce it in their mouth to gradually draw out its juices, this saliva is stuck to the stick of the poporo that they introduce in the center of it, mixing it with the powder of sea shells forming a uniform texture that is considered the thought of the indigenous person embodied.



The word shaman was first introduced to academic circles by travelers and explorers, who engaged themselves in different kinds of expeditions in Siberia in the second half of the seventeenth century. Numerous travelers, explorers, and ethnologists from Russia and Europe visited Siberia. They found that the shamanic faith and its local Tungus religious specialists, or shamans, were completely different from the religions and clergy in the Christian establishments. Because it was impossible for them to express the religious ideas and practices found in Siberia by similar Western religious terms, those traveling scholars had to follow their conventional wisdom by naming Siberian religious specialists shamans and the faith they represented shamanism. In the three centuries that followed, travelers, explorers, ethnologists, and religious specialists successively discovered similar religious phenomena and experiences resembling Tungus shamanism in North America, South America, Northern Europe, the Arctic Region, Southeast Asia, Australia, and Oceania. Such similar religious phenomena were collectively and conveniently called shamanism. The word shaman was thereby upgraded from Tungus folk vocabulary to an academic term. For several centuries, the dual meanings of shaman ran parallel. It could mean the folk religion specialists among the Manchu-Tungus peoples, (1) or it could be used in general as an academic term referring to indigenous religious phenomena and experiences different from European Christianity.


Robert: Then every step that you take in your life now is ceremonial?

Eric: Completely. For me everything is holy. Everything. I am holy, the people are holy, the plants are holy, the air is holy, the light is holy, the salt is holy.

Robert: When you say holy, is this related to a god or a divine being?

Eric: No, it’s not God. It’s sacred. You need to approach everything with respect.

Robert: What strengths do you see in traditional systems that may not exist in modern western approaches?

Eric: In the western approach, nothing is holy anymore. The family is not holy, the money is not holy, the world is not holy. A commitment I take is not holy. Nothing is holy in the western world. But, when you start to do ceremonies, everything is holy. You cannot do this because it’s holy, you cannot do that because it’s holy. You must respect the fire because it’s holy. It is the Grandpa. You must respect the medicine because it’s holy. You are holy.

After drinking the brew (Ayahuasca), several people start to be more respectful because they understand that everything is alive. Not just the people and the animals and the plants but even the stone, the air, the sun. Their approach starts to change because they see that everything is alive.

Robert: When someone does begin to have this realization, how does this knowledge contribute to addressing challenges that we face in modern society like the environment, social justice, the well-being of the community?

Eric: It’s a slow process. It’s a slow motion message. You don't receive all the messages at once. If it was all at once, I will become crazy. I have to improve my life slowly. For example, right now I try, even when I buy food, I try to buy such a way I won't produce any garbage. Because it's not respectful. It's not respectful to produce garbage. So, we should buy stuff and think of not producing garbage. I’m not a fanatic. It's not a big deal. I will buy something in the plastic bag and I will try to use that bag as many times as I can, but that is the approach that I have to life now.

At home, I open the door to the house and everyone is welcome. Almost every day someone comes to speak with us. Sometime is one, sometime it's ten people. I never invite the people, they are welcome. The people show up just to chat and to smoke some cigar or to receive some coca leaves or to receive some rapé. I prepare rapé, something you put in the nose, dust of tobacco. And, we speak of everything.

I don't see TV news. I don't read newspaper news. People share news on the phone and they ask me what I think, I answer. I also say that I don’t own the truth. I will share with you possibilities. I start to say Jesus is a historic guy who was the son of God. It's a possibility. The other possibility is that Jesus never exists and they just use the name of one guy to represent other heroes of the past and they put all these actions on one guy and call him Jesus. But Jesus never exists. It's another possibility. Allah is the great god and the prophet is Mohammed. It’s a possibility. Allah doesn’t exist and Mohammed doesn’t either. It’s another possibility. Some possibilities you decide, if you say, I believe in this possibility, it becomes true for you, but it's not the truth. We cannot reach the truth. We can reach possibilities and we will pick the possibility and start to build our thoughts with this possibility.

Robert: One reason I think you're interesting, and why other people might think the same, is because you embraced your own possibilities in becoming who you wanted to become. Many people might have fear about ever trying to become something other than what they are. Can you give advice to someone who reads this and asks, “How can I become more of my possible self?”

Eric: In your life, you will always be yourself, but you can choose different points-of-view. You may have a point-of-view about a certain situation and then you decide to change your point-of-view because you received additional information. But you will never change yourself. I never changed myself. I understand the way European people think because I used to think such way. So, when I have to translate some activity that we do in Colombia, for me maybe it’s easier to find the appropriate word to describe it. I sometimes will understand the words or the interpretations of the words you use because I have more faculties to understand this. It may be a skill I have.

I remember once I had a meeting with one of the chief commanders of the military service in Colombia. He had some really strong issues with the indigenous community. At that time, I was Consul of Belgium and he ask if I could help with a really complicated situation he had with such community.

I went to the community and explained to them that the military would like to solve a conflict that you face together. They did not want to talk to them because they were afraid because of past issues. So, I find a neutral place that was a restaurant, it was completely empty. The military arrived and the chief and team of the community arrived. When the military commander began to speak, I knew his words would be misunderstood by the indigenous. When they finished, I say, “Wait a second, I will translate”. It was Spanish-to-Spanish but I used different words to say the same thing. When the indigenous answered, I translated from Spanish-to-Spanish but used different words to suit the military. After, they realize there was no conflict. This way they made a kind of peace agreement. I receive a decoration for this, but it was only about the interpretation of the words.

I started to understand that sometimes the way indigenous and the military use some words that the other one won't understand. The way the indigenous speaks is completely different and if you don’t understand their words, you won’t understand their thoughts.

"Don't be scared, take your decision for you."

- Eric van den HOVE

Robert: When you are leading an Ayahuasca ceremony, and the participants want to discuss their visions afterwards, will you translate or interpret those visions for them?

Eric: No, I am not the guru. I will only give them comfort. For example, I will tell them that probably you will have to vomit. There is nothing wrong about the medicine, there is nothing wrong about you. It is part of the process. Sometimes you have to go to the bathroom with a kind of diarrhea. There is nothing wrong about the medicine, there is nothing wrong about you. It's part of the process. And, sometimes you will have a vision. It's part of the process. I share this in English, in French or in Spanish. But I will never tell to the people what to do or what to understand, I am not a guru.

I used to say to the people, if you start to ask me something like, “you know, I have a girlfriend and I would like to know if this girlfriend is great or not for my life.” I will not answer. Even if I know, I won't answer. I say, make your choice, it is something you need to do. When you first see a situation, you have three options: 1) You decide to do such way and such way was accurate, you enjoy, 2) You decide to do such a way and you were wrong, you learn or, 3) You don't decide nothing, you don't learn and don’t enjoy. That’s the three options, it’s up to you and I cannot tell what decision to take. You cannot lose by taking a decision, you learn or you enjoy. Don't be scared, take your decision for you.

Robert: When you lead a ceremony, are you teaching participants to learn from the medicine?

Eric: No, I cannot teach that either. The people have to face how to learn about it. It's like if you do meditation, I cannot teach you to do meditation. The less questions you ask, the faster you will learn. It’s the same with the medicine. It's quite complicated to explain. When you do meditation and you have a master, the less you ask, the better you improve.

I remember a story about some guy starting to do meditation. He was asking his Master, “What I should do to improve my meditation?” The Master says, “Well, do meditation one hour every day for 10 years.” He asked, “And, what happens if I do 3 hours a day?” “Then you will need 20 years.”

Robert: Asking too many questions will block my progress?

Eric: I cannot tell anyone that one way is right and one way is wrong. I don't know. The baseline, I may say, be respectful, be humble, be tolerant, but don't be fanatic about nothing. Just do it. Easy going and do it with joy. Find a joy in everything. That's maybe the baseline. I can share but after that, people will have to figure out how to deal with their own life. I won't provide them with a method to be successful or to be happy.

Every morning it's enough to be happy. I don't need anything else. Even I may see two reasons to be happy today: I see and I breath and I may even listen to be happy. Because we think that we need everything to be perfect to be happy. No. I need one thing to be happy. So that's my decision. Of course, I have concerns, I have issues, but it doesn’t take away my happiness.

Robert: Where are you right now?

Eric: I am at home in front of my table where I do mambeo. I have coca leaves in my mouth also a kind of honey of tobacco called AMBIRA. It helps me think better.

Men using rape
Rapé. Courtesy of Eric van den HOVE

Robert: Earlier you mentioned rapé? What it is and how it’s used?

Eric: Yes, rapé. In the Muisca tradition this is called, hosca. Rapé is a tobacco dust. In the market you find similar kind as rapé, it will be a brown or gray dust of tobacco mixed with some different plants. Sometimes they add black pepper, mint, chili. To use the rapé dust, you put that in your nose. In the Muisca tradition we use green leaves of fresh tobacco, we dry them on the fire, then we ground them and we have a green dust. In my case, I only use tobacco. We blow that deep in the nose, extremely deep in the nose and it start to activate the brain especially the pineal glands. That helps the people to become more creative, to have better dreams and, also, to have better vision. So, we use rapé to help the people to think better.

Every community have their own recipes for the mix of tobacco and other things. It’s like curry in India that can contain thousands of different mix. Every Master has his own recipe of rapé. He may improve on it, over time, if he receives a message by vision or by feelings.

Robert: But the rapé is not meant to give visions, is it? 

Eric: Yes, you may. If you give a really large dose, but it is tough to handle. When you receive the tobacco inside your nose, you have a feeling that it is burning. If I give you a really huge amount, in a really strong way, you may even fall down. You will probably have vision, but it’s not pleasant.

The way I was trained in the Yagé ceremony was by a Grandma. And the Grandma was always extremely gentle saying, “Give them just a little bit.” That is one approach. With other Masters, they give a really large amount and maybe you will roll on the floor and you will learn a lot but it’s a tough way to learn. Both ways are accurate. I will not say one way is right and one way is wrong. No. The perspective I have is that you have time: if you don’t have a vision tonight, you will be back and have a vision the next night. In fact, the amount of the medicine you give doesn't matter.

I have a story of a Master who came to our place. The first night, he gave everyone one cup and with one cup everybody had vision, all the night long. The next night, with the same Master, the same place, with the same medicine, we take four cups and we didn't have almost any vision. Why? Nobody knows!

For the European, the most important thing is to have a vision. For the indigenous, it is not. It is to be healed. And, we try to explain that to the people. The vision is not the major aspect. It is to improve your life. Sometimes, I have really nice testimony of people who drink several times for three nights in a row and have no vision. The people feel that they lose the time and the money. A few months later, the people write me a letter and say, “I'm so sorry, all the commitment I gave, my life has improved so much. I am so thankful what the medicine did for me.” That happens but sometimes a long time after. It’s complicated to explain to people. Always something happens.

Eric preparing coca leaves. Whistling is a big part of ceremony.

Robert: Ayahuasca is growing in popularity all over Europe and in the US. Does that make you happy or do you worry about it?

Eric: Well, it’s something challenging. On some occasions, the people who run the ceremonies are not prepared by ancestral tradition. The people who participate believe they are ready to do it. Maybe they have a nice house and they have a nice way to do it, or they are really gentle. But, with the ceremony, it is not just about being kind or to be humble. Usually, you need to receive some training, appropriate training.

I used to say to the people, it's like if you go for surgery and you say, “this guy has a nice knife at home so I will do surgery with him.” Is he a doctor? “No, but he has a nice knife.” Surgery is not about a knife. You have to have some knowledge and it is the same with the medicine. Some people even without knowledge, most of the time they do a ceremony, it will be successful until someone has some complication or some special need. If you didn't receive the appropriate training, you won't have anyone to call the backup. The backup is the spiritual entities you will call to heal or receive guidance on this situation.

But it is important, I say to the people, if you want to receive a proper training (in taking Ayahuasca), I suggest to the people, choose one Master and continue with him. Then, when you feel this Master has shared everything he can, you may change the Master. But do not go from one Master to another because it is like trying to become a lawyer and changing the university every 3 months.

Robert: Eric, I have to say, these lessons have been masterful and enlightening. If I may summarize briefly, throughout this journey, we´ve discovered that becoming a Taita is a gradual and profound process. That, the plant, speaking directly to you, led you to dedicate your life to this path. That understanding the Yagé ceremony is not the goal; rather it’s about embracing the holiness of everything. You say you are not a guru, and that true happiness cannot simply be handed to anyone through this process. That this journey is our own and we must not be afraid to make our own decisions.

I've learned a lot. Thank you, Eric. I suspect our paths will cross again soon.

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