The first time I tried to hold a rapé ceremony I copied somebody. I was fascinated by a ritual I once attended, and I wanted to mimic it, to recreate that vibe. But I was a different person, in a different environment, from a different time.
Obviously, I failed.
That happened a long time ago. Since then I have been involved in a growing amount of rituals, and I now facilitate most of them. “How to set up a sacred rapé ceremony?” is one of the most common questions I am asked. So here I am to tell you what I know about it.
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What is a ceremony, by the way?
I learned with time that every action could be a ceremony, but also that every ceremony can be just an act. You can open a bottle of kombucha distractedly, or you can instead be aware of the movement and give it meaning through a number of actions, which are the ceremony. In other words: a ritual will never be a ceremony without an intention and an authentic belief.
Because you are who you are, no one can tell you how to hold a ritual. A ritual that makes sense for an old shaman from the Amazon will not necessarily work with you. Digging into the shamanic traditions is important, but only as a tool to come up with your own way.
Therefore, holding a ceremony is about learning about the traditional rituals and merging them into your own reality, to come up with a process that allows you to avoid mimicking someone else.
This is true for the sacred snuff as well. Learn from the others and merge what you learned with the way you connect with this medicine, and you will come up with a meaningful, sacred rapé ceremony.
What is a sacred rapé ceremony?
I assume you already know what rapé (aka hapeh, hape, rapeh) is: a snuff powder that has been used by shamans in South America for centuries. Check this post if you want to know more about rapé.
In the present time, rapé ceremonies are becoming more and more popular all over the world, and are now an integral part of the spiritual shamanic culture. I will focus here on a stand-alone rapé ceremony, even if it can be a part of other rituals, like ayahuasca, kambo, and sananga ceremonies.
Holding a sacred rapé ceremony means creating the space and the time to deliver rapé to yourself or others in a meaningful way. By setting the ritual and the intention, you will allow the participants not only to take the rapé but to experience the real effects of rapé, with all the grounding, clarity, and connection with the self.
You can hold a sacred ceremony anywhere: in the jungle or in your apartment, in a yoga retreat or by a river, by yourself, or with a group of people. What you need is a clear intention, the right spiritual space, a set of tools, and a ritual.
Preparation: setting the intention
Setting the intention is a crucial part of the preparation for a rapé ceremony. Without it, you might not even notice the effect of the snuff.
Why are you going to do rapé? What are you willing to achieve? Ask these questions to yourself and extend them to the other participants. Give them the time to focus on their expectations. Listen to them, if they feel like talking, and share your intention with them. This process is a key element of the ritual because it helps to temporarily detach you and the other participants from the outer reality and create the spiritual space needed for the rapé to be effective.
Remember: you need awareness to catch the meaning of an action.
Tools: what do you need during the rapé ceremony
I hold my ceremonies in the jungle, but you can be these tools somewhere else as well. That being said, here are the tools you might want to use during your rapé ceremony:
Rapé. There are many blends of rapé. Some of them can only be found where they are produced, others can be purchased online too. I use Shiva Power rapé in my ceremonies, a shamanic snuff I produce myself here in Goa which is meant as a tool to increase the energy of the body, and sharpen the focus of the mind. It is ideal for cleansing, releasing negative energy, and grounding. As an alternative, I use Full Moon rapé, a more meditative snuff meant as a tool to delve into meditation. Thanks to its feminine nature it’s ideal for channeling practices and connecting to a higher level of consciousness.
Applicators. The rapé applicator to self-deliver rapé is the kuripe: a small v-shaped pipe that is by far the most popular rapé pipe. But the ceremonial rapé pipe by definition is the tepi, a long applicator that allows delivering the snuff to another person. As the shaman of your ceremony, you need a tepi. The ideal length between 8 to 15 inches: the ideal distance between the shaman and the receiver.
Carpet. The carpet is the space between the shaman and the receiver. To understand it, imagine an altar with two sides. The carpet is important because it is where you will keep the rapé, the applicator, and the other objects you want to be part of the rapè ceremony. A popular choice is the shipibo, a cloth traditionally made by the Shipibo-Conibo population of the Amazon forest. I live in India, so instead of a shipibo I use traditional Indian cloth because it is my belief that an authentic ceremony must arise from the combination of tradition and personal experience.
Pillows. Since I hold my ceremonies in the jungle, I keep a pillow available for every participant.
Ornaments. A rapé ceremony implies a three-way connection between the shaman, the receiver, and the energy that surrounds them. To bring this third element into the ritual I place on the carpet objects that help me to connect to the source. I use animal bones that I found in nature, feathers, and some flowers (according to the season). Incense is burning most of the time. I don’t use palo santo, because I care about sustainability and I know how scarce this sacred wood is becoming.
Music. Music can be an important element of a rapé ceremony. I don’t always use it, especially when the ceremony is happening by a river, because the sound of nature itself is enough. When I do, I usually invite a musician to offer a quiet performance with an handpan, a didgeridoo, or even a solo singer. If you want to use pre-recorded music, go for noninvasive tracks, like Darshan Atmosphere by Tikki Masala.
Tissue paper. It is important for every participant to blow their nose right after the ceremony, so for eliminating most of the powder from the nostrils. Therefore, tissue paper is not to be forgotten.
The ritual: how to conduct your rapé ceremony
The rapé ritual is how you will conduct your ceremony. As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t one best way to do it. So, what I will do here is tell you the ritual I have developed during my practice. You can get inspiration from it, or ignore it all and come up with your own.
I gather the participants, usually between 4 and 10, in the jungle, by a river. I hold the rapé ceremony before sunset because the birds will help me with their chanting.
The participants sit in a circle and I offer them tea made from flowers I collect during the day. The musician, if there, starts to play.
I place the carpet and a few ornaments in front of me and I set my intention. Then, I ask the participants to do the same and share it with the others. Some do, some don’t, and it’s ok anyway.
I keep my rapé in containers I make myself. But for the ceremony, I pour it into a cacao nut. I do it slowly, and let the participants watch the procedure: it helps them to connect to the sacred snuff.
At this point, I move the carpet in front of the first receiver and I let the ceremony begin.
I load the rapé in the tepi applicator by soaking it in the cacao nut (around 0.02 grams for each nostril is a good amount for a beginner). The pipe is in front of his/her forehead for a few seconds, then I move it down to the chest, and then down again to the groin. I do this because I believe that we humans connect through 3 energies: the mind, the soul, and sexuality. Other shamans refer to the chakras. Receivers usually close their eyes while I do it.
When they are ready I blow the rapé into their nostril. You can do this in two ways. You can use a single tepi and deliver the rapé in 2 blows, or you can use a double tepi and do it in one go. The traditional way is with 2 blows. Some shamans from the past identify the 2 blows with the concept of death and rebirth. However, many prefer the double tepi because it delivers a stronger hit.
After delivering the rapé I snap my fingers around the head of the receiver to increase awareness and I give reiki with my hands on his/her forehead to amplify the feeling.
As you can imagine, the duration of the rapé ceremony depends on the number of participants. It can last long, but this is a good thing because it gives each one of them time to experience the medicine and process.
This is how I hold a rapé ceremony. Rituals are about tradition and personal experience. I would love to hear about your own experience if you like, and I’ll try to answer any questions you might have. Love, Paolo.