40 • FEATURE
Researching ayahuasca in the Amazon By Christina Callicott
AN MARTIN, Peruvian Amazon, August 2016—As the familiar urges began, I fumbled for my headlamp and stepped quietly out of the room, leaving the garbled chants of the shaman behind. Outside, a full moon cast shadows about of plantain leaves and palms, painting the star-speckled landscape as an idyll of its daytime self. Searching for the outhouse, I found a collared peccary—a wire-haired, brutish, pig-like beast—curled around the base of the toilet, asleep. He’d come in from the forest some years ago, probably orphaned, and made himself at home among the sundry denizens of the farm. “Es abusivo,” they’d warned me; “he’s mean.” The glands on his back had left brown smudges around the rim of the commode where he’d used the seat for a backscratcher. I nudged him out of the way with my toe and proceeded to do what I’d come there for.