In an affluent corner of encinitas, just north of San Diego, a young medicine man named Lobo Siete Truenos sits cross-legged on the polished wood floors of a backyard temple. Here in this suburban sanctuary, behind the gates of a faux-Spanish villa, just past the manicured lawn and an artificial lagoon, he’s carefully unpacking a collection of stones, feathers and oils that he’ll use for an all-night spiritual odyssey that will kick off after sunset.
If all goes as planned, Truenos’ nine participants–all seeking his psychedelic “doctoring”–will sip a murky, foul-tasting potion and then wait, eyes closed in the dark, for it to take effect. Wooziness may be followed by nausea, then probably vomiting. For many, a kaleidoscopic array of geometric patterns could emerge. Others may be greeted by friendly plant-like creatures, gnomes, elves or even a giant anaconda–known by indigenous tribes as Mother Ayahuasca, omniscient ruler of the plant kingdom–who communicates telepathically. And the really lucky ones may be treated to a cinematic review of their lives, each scene illustrating a moral failing.