When I first met Shiwawaku in ceremony, I committed a faux pas and it then had to teach me a little something about forest etiquette.
As the shamans had often told us, the Medicinal Trees really enjoy the smoke of Mapacho, a tobacco that grows wild in the jungle. Mapacho is itself a sacred teacher plant, and the trees much appreciate that when you visit them, you also blow some smoke on their trunks.
One day I came across Shiwawaku in the forest and it occurred to me that I had never truly met this tree before. We’d shared the space in previous ceremonies, but we’d never really talked. So I placed an unsmoked mapacho cigarette next to Shiwawaku’s trunk, as a token of good intent and with the hope that we’d meet in ceremony that same night.
And so we did. There came a time that night when I felt a strong and fiercely relentless energy entering my head. It didn’t feel evil, but strangely.. pissed off. I wondered who or what was approaching me with such force, and then I knew: “Oh.. You’re Shiwawaku!” And in response I heard a deep, vast, and jarring voice slowly rumble: “Yes… I am Shiwawaku!”. My consciousness became engulfed in purple medicine as Shiwawaku asked me, why did I refuse to honor it by blowing smoke on its trunk? Why did I just leave Mapacho by its side, unsmoked? The tree was angry, but thankfully we worked it out, and it accepted my apology, that this was simply a case of cross-cultural miscommunication.
On the next morning I hurried into the forest and covered Shiwawaku in Mapacho smoke.