Open Letter Concerning Abuses by Octavio Rettig and Gerry Sandoval
Join us in standing against psychedelic and entheogenic malpractice.
For many years there has been concern in psychedelic and entheogenic circles about what appears to be reckless, unethical, and potentially criminal behavior by Dr. Octavio Rettig and Dr. Gerry Sandoval in their capacity as facilitators of ‘Bufo’, the 5-MeO-DMT containing secretion of the Bufo alvarius toad.
Despite difficulties in gaining a clear picture of the overall situation, there is now overwhelming evidence that these concerns are well founded. For that reason we, coming from the psychedelic, entheogenic, and broader consciousness communities, have decided it is necessary to make this public statement.
A brief list of reported malpractices by Octavio include: dangerous sessions leading to hospitalizations and deaths; psychological and physical violence; non-consensual interventions and abuses of power; and neglect of people who have been damaged.
A brief list of reported malpractices by Gerry include rape; clandestine drugging; planting drugs on people with intent to endanger them; intentional overdosing; grossly unsafe serving practices; psychological manipulation; and financial fraud.
The collective consequences, apart from death, include physical injuries, psychological trauma, ongoing mental health issues, and shell-shocked and divided entheogenic communities.
For these reasons we, who come from the psychedelic, entheogenic, or simply the broader consciousness community, think it is time to take a stand. Now that these long running problems have come clearly to light, choosing to push them back into the shadows is no longer an option. Silence in the face of this knowledge risks making us complicit in any future abuses. It also risks completely distorting the role of this entheogen as it makes its way into the world.
We invite you to sign and take a stand with us.
OCTAVIO RETTIG – DEATHS AND VIOLENCE
In the case of Dr. Octavio Rettig, we are certain of at least four deaths (there are rumors of more). The latest that we know of was Araceli Ramírez Hidalgo, a Mexican woman in her early forties from the town of Leon, Guanajuato. Married and a mother of two children, Araceli was by all reports happy and healthy. In the previous two years she had experienced 5-MeO-DMT toad medicine several times with another practitioner, as had her husband Jorge Villalpando. Both reported great results, and both were enthusiasts for the medicine. Neither had ever met Octavio before.
On the morning of Friday October 5th, 2018, we understand that Araceli joined approximately eighty (80!) other people who were to be served by Octavio that day (altogether from the Friday to Sunday some two hundred people were reportedly intended to be served by him with help from three or four assistants). At noon Octavio gave Araceli the toad medicine and then moved on to serve another person. Some minutes later, while she was emerging from the peak experience, Octavio returned and administered rapé to her, before leaving again to attend to others. We believe she may also have had water poured into her lungs. At some point Octavio was alerted to the fact that Araceli was in trouble and returned to try to save her.
A criminal case of involuntary homicide (homicidio culposo) is currently being prepared in Leon against Octavio. We are not in a position to make any judgement, but we understand that the prosecution will allege a conspiracy to protect Octavio and his collaborators which may have compromised efforts to save Araceli’s life. This includes failure to promptly call a public ambulance (a public ambulance would potentially involve the declaration of an official crime scene); delays associated with calling a private ambulance (some two hours elapsed between Araceli smoking the toad medicine and departing for the hospital); intent to have it be known that Araceli died off the property when she had almost certainly already died in the two hours before the ambulance arrived (following a fifteen minute journey to hospital Araceli was declared dead on arrival); forging Araceli’s signature on a waiver document so as to produce a false veneer of legal protection for Octavio and the other organizers of the session.
Two postmortem investigations have been carried out on Araceli’s body. We do not have access to those but understand that she is believed to have suffered an anaphylactic shock due to the rapé under conditions of stress brought on by the toad medicine and, possibly, water on the lungs. She was not taking any medications, and toxicology showed no traces of cocaine, alcohol or other common drugs.
It should be noted that Octavio has not offered a single word of support (indeed words of any kind) to Jorge, Araceli’s husband, neither in the hours and days after, nor in the months since.1
It should also be noted that a few weeks prior, in Central Europe, a man in one of Octavio’s toad sessions was hospitalized and put into a coma for several days after being repeatedly dosed with rapé and large quantities of water.2
Of the other known deaths, both were apparently men. One of them was a quiet, reserved man in his early fifties who had previously taken Bufo with Octavio. The site for the session was Ibiza, Spain, and it is possible the man may have been on some kind of antidepressants. The entheogenic medicine community in Ibiza was appalled by Octavio’s behavior and have made it clear he is not welcome back. We know less about the other man, but some suggestions are that he may have been an elder of the Seri people of Sonora. When publicly questioned about these deaths, Octavio has typically given curt answers, and while admitting to them, has disowned any responsibility.3
The final death we know about is of a different order, and is mentioned here because it provides important context. From newspaper reports and testimonies, we know her name was Ana Patricia Arredondo Tueme. She was 26 years old, originally of the town of Torreón, in the State of Coahuila, Mexico.
Patricia drowned in a sinkhole (cenote) near Xpu-Ha, in the Yucatan Peninsula, on December 20th, 2012. While apparently outside of a ritual as such, Patricia died shortly after smoking Bufo with Octavio and in the presence of Octavio and one other person. Her body was recovered by professional divers six days later from an underground cave.4
We have no reason to believe that this death was anything but accidental. However, it is astonishing to us that this death, occurring back in 2012, appears not to in any way have persuaded Octavio to take a precautionary principle when considering the safety of those he serves.5
We are not aware of any other contemporary facilitator, of either 5-MeO-DMT/Bufo alvarius or of any other psychoactive, with such a dismal safety record.
What is to be said of a practice which is so patently dangerous and which, despite repeated public and private interventions from a wide array of experienced 5-MeO-DMT practitioners and other concerned people, Octavio refuses to significantly change?
Multiple reports confirm that Octavio does no screening of people prior to administration of the substance, leaving that task to his hosts in various countries. Aftercare is also left almost exclusively to others. Nor does he measure his doses with a scale. Doses are often very large, to the point of leading to blackouts and respiratory failure. He also frequently leaves people alone once they have been dosed, relying on others to watch over them (or not, as the case may be). Sometimes people, essentially helpless under the effect of the substance, are treated aggressively.6 This high-volume, high-dose, haphazard, dose-them-and-then-leave approach, repeated in numerous countries around the world, has lead to many complaints from others in the community who have found themselves in the role of therapeutic support staff for people suffering severe after effects from Octavio’s sessions.
In Australia in 2015, for example, one man in his early thirties was dosed twice and left alone, unable to breath, stomach down on the grass, in a state of bodily paralysis yet conscious of dying from asphyxiation. On this occasion Octavio returned just in time to get him to start breathing, but the psychic damage involved, along with sometimes attentive and sometimes abusive email ‘aftercare’ from Octavio, severely disrupted this man’s life for years afterwards.7
Octavio is likewise notorious for manhandling people while they are in the medicine, and for occasionally kicking them and applying electric shock devices to their bodies.8 On a subsequent visit to Australia Octavio broke a man’s wrist while forcing him to his feet. For months Octavio disowned all responsibility, and it took a great deal of mediation to redress the situation.
Despite the dangers, as we have seen, Octavio also regularly blows rapé up people’s nostrils when they are insensible on the toad secretion. On many occasions he has done this against people’s will, ripping people’s hands away from their faces to administer very large quantities of this powder with its undisclosed ingredients.9 He or his assistants also make a habit of pouring water into open mouths to induce a gag response. This kind of practice has to be seen to be believed.10
GERRY SANDOVAL – SEXUAL ABUSE, FINANCIAL CRIMES
Stories have long circulated around Dr. Gerry Sandoval concerning not accidental, but intentional harm to others. The worst are reports of rapes. We have one direct testimony, from Gerry’s partner at the time, a woman from Slovenia. According to her, in Slovenia in 2016, Gerry drugged her with an unknown substance and then raped her.11
As is well known, charges of rape are often difficult to substantiate. However, we have heard several second-hand rumors of rapes, and have direct verbal testimony of two cases of sexual abuse.
The first is alleged to have happened in ceremony. In this case an American couple with prior experience of Bufo attended a circle run by Gerry in a house in the USA. The sessions were conducted individually in a separate room. The amount of Bufo Gerry served to the woman was enough to effectively knock her out, and when she came back to waking consciousness she reports that Gerry’s naked penis was by her face, and her own hand was on his stomach. There was also a camera there, and she was left wondering whether Gerry had surreptitiously filmed her, and whether he had not also added some other drug to the pipe. The psychological fallout from this abuse has been considerable.12
In the second case, Gerry is alleged to have terrorized his partner, a woman from Arizona, coercing her into sex, telling her he would kill her if she had an abortion, telling her he’d given her AIDS, giving her Bufo surreptitiously laced with N,N-DMT, and locking her up alone, sick, and with no food in a compound in Ciudad Juarez while he took her passport overseas for two weeks. The woman, an American who spoke no Spanish, and who, over the course of her involvement with Gerry had lost her rental home in the USA, considers herself lucky not to have been killed by Gerry. Three years later she still suffers from suicidal depression.13
We also have three separate first-person reports of Gerry planting drugs on people before they went through border security. On one of those occasions, in Mexico in December 2016, Gerry is alleged to have secretly hidden drugs in his companion’s backpack, and to have pretended that he was unassociated with the person as they went through customs.14
On another occasion, again in Mexico, Gerry is alleged to have planted hash in the wallet of a friend he had recently fallen out with. The young man was detained at the US border and spent ten days in immigration detention for drug possession.15
On yet another occasion, Gerry is alleged to have planted a container of marijuana in the luggage of the female business partner he had just been having an affair with. After dumping her with no money a few blocks from the Juarez/El Paso border, she took a Greyhound bus back to Arizona. On the bus she opened her luggage and discovered the hidden marijuana. These reports are from separate and unrelated individuals.16
We have also learned of at least two cases where Gerry is alleged to have used the lure of a ‘toad sanctuary’ to rope in other organizers, and thereby to solicit very substantial donations. These iterations of ‘The Bufo Alvarius Foundation’ have all fallen through, and Gerry allegedly misappropriated the funds. Needless to say, the toads are none the better for this ‘help’.17
There are also reports of Gerry slipping huge doses of LSD and other drugs into confectionary and causing people to unintentionally trip,18 of giving people massive doses of Bufo, of secretly adding N,N DMT, and perhaps meth and other drugs, to pipes assumed by others to be pure Bufo,19 and of giving Bufo sessions in unsafe locations (like among rocks in a wet river bed, as per the infamous Vice documentary with Hamilton Morris).20
The allegations against Octavio Rettig and Gerry Sandoval are of a different nature in each case, but each case has led to very serious consequences. As mentioned, Gerry’s abuse seems to be intentional. Octavio’s abuse seems rather to take place mainly during ceremonies, and to result in needlessly risky, and yet still accidental, harm.
We readily admit that many more people may have benefited from Gerry and Octavio’s provision of the toad medicine than have been directly hurt by it. However, the material we have managed to assemble is only a fraction of what appears to be a larger pool of reports of physical injury and psychological damage from some of their sessions.
Gerry, it must be said plainly, has developed a reputation as a habitual thief, liar, and conman, saying all the right things, but betraying the trust and funds of many who know him well. At the same time, he is not shy as a self-promoter, and doubtless many people do go away feeling grateful from his sessions.
For his part, Octavio has developed a highly interventionist practice. In the guise of ‘shaman’, and if he is not off elsewhere while people are journeying, he inserts himself into people’s experiences of the transcendent. This might be viewed as simply his trademark ‘house style,’ however, it contributes to the glorification of his persona.
One consequence of all this is that the charm of ‘the God molecule’ tends to settle over these facilitators. It is not surprising then that some people are prone to defend Octavio or Gerry from any criticism, even when news reaches them of fatalities and other grave allegations.
Others feel bound, by duties of friendship, or out of loyalty to the good reputation of the sacrament, not to speak out. Yet others feel that each person’s life path is their own, and no warnings need be issued, and no responsibility need be due to those in the future who may unwittingly put themselves in harm’s way. Still others seem spellbound by the contradiction between rumors of deaths, sexual abuse and other malpractices on the one hand, and the benevolent image of these two facilitators conveyed in the media, on the other.
In addition, it is obvious that Octavio and Gerry have so far been protected from adequate reaction by the illegality of 5-MeO-DMT in most of the world, and in particular by public lack of trust in the judicial system in Mexico. If these conditions were different, both these medical doctors would almost certainly have been struck off for malpractice, or have simply been imprisoned.
A defense is sometimes heard, namely that, after all, Octavio and Gerry are providing toad medicine to thousands of people, so a few casualties are to be expected, if only as a matter of statistical probability. This observation forgets to ask why these two are ‘processing’ so many people without careful screening, without always keeping people away from sources of physical danger, without attending personally to those they have physically and psychologically damaged; it also forgets to ask why they misrepresent their results and fail to take any responsibility for damaged people (while taking credit for successes), and why they persist in conducting unnecessary practices that obviously increase the likelihood of harm.
In some sense it may be true that both Octavio and Gerry are “wounded healers.” As many have observed, they themselves need healing. The problem, meanwhile, is that they are wounding many other people in the guise of healing them. Given all these considerations, we believe that it is up to the broader consciousness community to clearly disassociate itself from the practices of Octavio Rettig and Gerry Sandoval.
Specifically, we make the following suggestions to the community at large:
That this Open Letter be widely distributed and hosted on different sites. Its basic task of helping to warn people about these facilitators will be accomplished when it can be easily found by anyone doing an online search.
That anyone hitherto involved in hosting or otherwise promoting Octavio Rettig or Gerry Sandoval anywhere in the world cease doing so. As mentioned, we know that some people are bound to one or other of these facilitators by friendship, or by other ties of a financial or other kind. To stop promoting or organizing their sessions may involve a difficult struggle over loyalties. However, even friends have a duty not to cooperate with obviously dangerous and unethical behavior. It should be noted that hosts from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the USA, Australia and Spain, have already decided to no longer work with one or both of these facilitators. The list may well be longer.
That anyone contemplating making further documentaries featuring either Octavio or Gerry, seriously consider the damage to others involved in sweeping the evidence that is now known of malpractice under the carpet. The same goes for future podcasts, interviews, conferences, and other media and public platforms. To be clear, we are not suggesting that Octavio or Gerry be prevented from expressing their sides of the story.
That any person who comes forward with credible evidence of having been abused, should be given moral and other kinds of support if they decide to press charges. This is obviously a contentious area, and it is not an invitation to treat the internet as a court. Nor is it an invitation to treat all allegations as true. It is an invitation to extend support to anyone wanting to take legal action where there is clear and credible evidence that they, or someone close to them, has been damaged in a 5-MeO-DMT session due to gross malpractice. This of course goes for any other facilitators as well.
Additionally, we invite anyone else with relevant testimonies to submit them to the ‘Beware of the Bufo Gangsters’ page on Facebook.21
We believe that the abuses listed above have very little to do with the inherent risks associated with 5-MeO-DMT, and everything to do with entirely avoidable, not to mention unconscionable, behavior on the part of these two facilitators.
We are aware that Octavio and Gerry are unlikely to be the only 5-MeO-DMT/Bufo facilitators who have abused people’s trust. However, they are certainly the most celebrated Bufo facilitators; they have modeled Bufo facilitation to the world; and their abuses are by far the most grievous we know.
We are respectful of the range of ways of facilitating psychedelics and entheogens, and we know there is no one right way to administer 5-MeO-DMT. People’s expectations around safety, trust, and personal versus facilitator responsibility are varied. However, manslaughter and rape fall outside of anyone’s definition of good practice.
In this regard, one good thing to come out of concern about abuse of trust by some facilitators of 5-MeO-DMT has been the formulation, by The Conclave, of recommendations to facilitators about best practice.22 This is just one view, but a lot of thought and experience has evidently gone into this document. Meanwhile, anyone wanting to get safely introduced to the 5-MeO-DMT experience, but unsure of where to start, might begin by joining the 5 Hive,23 or the Facebook page Toad & 5-MeO Forum & Support,24 where all (legal) things connected to 5-MeO-DMT can be discussed.
Finally, we are aware that some people will wonder at the need for this Open Letter. Why not simply speak directly with Octavio and Gerry? The answer is that over the years many, many people, including some of the authors of this letter, have already spoken with them directly, both privately and in the semi-public space of Facebook. There have also been ‘interventions,’ and public admonitions.
Gerry was officially uninvited from the World Bufo Alvarius Congress in Mexico City in July 2018 when new information about his criminal behaviour came through to the organizers.25 Octavio was openly questioned, criticized and pleaded with at the same Congress in regards to his practices. As he well knows, many other facilitators and members of the community have long held deep concerns over his methods. Recently, the Congress issued a statement disassociating itself from Octavio’s methods.26 In his Facebook responses, Octavio falls far short of taking responsibility for his actions, or accepting the need for thoroughgoing changes to his methods.
For these reasons we, who come from the psychedelic, entheogenic, or simply the broader consciousness community, think it is time to take a stand. Now that these long running problems have come clearly to light, choosing to push them back into the shadows is no longer an option. Silence in the face of this knowledge risks making us complicit in any future abuses. It also risks completely distorting the role of this entheogen as it makes its way into the world.
We invite you to sign and take a stand with us.
Note, due to the nature of these matters, almost all testimonials are anonymous. However, they have all been collected diligently, with care for accuracy, and with express permission for use here. The videos have been in the public domain for several years, and their use here is asserted in the public interest.
Phone interview with José Jorge Villalpando Medel, husband of Araceli, Feb 8, 2019, and other sources. Used with permission.Back
I want to share a report about Octavio Rettig almost leading a client to the death by his practices and then failing to give first aid to him when he stopped breathing, after he received few times toad and few times rapé from Octavio and litres of water had been poured on him. It happened last year . I do not want to share the details about the location, victim and other witnesses, although I agree that would make it more trustworthy. There is still the same issue of protecting the other people around the medicine. This report is based on a few first-hand reports of the people who were present at the site.
There was present a person with the some kind of medical education and practice which most probably saved the life of the unconscious guy. After many interventions (toad, rapé, water, as well as kicking the guy lying on the ground), the guy finally stopped to breathe. Octavio was shaking the guy and started to panic, he checked the pulse and haven’t felt any. He started to repeat: “He is gone, he is gone” and panicked more. He didn’t do any of the steps which are required in the first aid procedure (CPR). The other person saw that Rettig is not helping the guy. He has been trained in giving first aid and CPR, and started to give the unconscious guy a heart massage. Another person has already called the ambulance. Rettig then gave a few mouth-to-nose breathes. It can be a speculation, but by doing this he possibly pushed all the rapé and maybe also vomit further into the breathing tubes and lungs. The other person continued with the heart massage, and interestingly, Rettig was obstructing him eg. by trying to sit the guy up and shake him. There was a person talking with the ambulance and repeating what they kept telling him on phone from the hospital: to keep heart massage, no breathing, just massage. The person giving a heart massage kept telling him the same.
Once the ambulance came, they called the police as well. After Rettig received that message, he went to manage his toad medicine, so someone could hide it or get it out from the place, probably to protect himself from the police.
The guy stayed a few days in artificial coma in hospital. There was a message from the hospital, that they had to keep him in coma for the next few days because they had to clean his lungs, which were full of “mud”, probably a combination of rapé and vomit. Most of the people around started to doubt Octavio’s medical education, as by his actions he almost made a young guy die and failed to provide basic first aid when it was needed.
He kept giving toad and using rapé the same way the days following that event.Back
The following is from the document titled ‘Octavio Q & A’, by Dean Jefferys, 2018.
Q. 7 A letter from someone that you forwarded here expresses that a person has died either during or after doing a ceremony with you. Can you provide clarity on this allegation and were you ever charged with anything in response?
Octavio: Pulmonary thrombosis and embolism product of the diet sedentarism and lack of care during whole life and maybe genetic factors.”
Complete document with further questions and answers available at: https://www.facebook.com/notes/toad-5-meo-forum-support/octavio- qa/1684068345002567/
Octavio refers to a second death in a confidential interview. Back
Translation from the Spanish from DIARIO RESPUESTA, Friday December 28th, 2012, p. 62.
The body of a woman who drowned has been rescued from a cenote
A woman who had disappeared six days ago, was finally found dead at the bottom of a cenote, close to which she had been camping with her friends, all residents of Torreón, Coahuila.
The prosecutor’s office, in coordination with professional divers and members of the Mexican Red Cross, managed to rescue the body in a cenote of Ana Patricia Arredondo Tueme, 26 years old, originally from Torreón; the young woman had been missing for six days.
The event occurred when members of the Attorney General’s office were informed of a missing person, on the 20th of December, thus travelling to the cenote located approximately two kilometers from the federal highway, on a dirt road 50 kilometers from the Xpu-ha gas station, at kilometer 265 of the road from Playa del Carmen to Tulum.
When they arrived, they met with a group of friends, led by Octavio Hinojosa (who presumably maintained a closer relationship with the deceased), who had arrived at this camp a few days prior. However, Ana Patricia disappeared. Initially they thought she had left, but as time went by and she didn’t return, the friends became concerned and requested the help of local authorities.
The officers, imagining the worst, requested the support of professional divers and rescuers from the Red Cross to rule out the possibility of her being at the bottom of the cenote; however, reality differed.
At one-thirty in the morning, unfortunately, the body of Ana Patricia was rescued, in a state of decomposition. The expert report indicated she had been dead for about six days due to asphyxia by submersion.
During the rescue procedures, lead had to be placed on the deceased to free her body from stalactites, then dragged by the divers for 15 meters to exit the underwater cave; finally, members of the Red Cross carried out a vertical rescue.
The body has not yet been claimed, however, official sources reported that her relatives have been informed and are on their way from Torreón. Back
I saw Octavio almost kill a small, 60-something year old woman in San Miguel de Allende Mexico, in 2013. After she stopped breathing, she was blue and not breathing for many long minutes, maybe 5-7 mins. He stripped her down naked, water boarded her with a hose, and shook her upside down from her feet… All this was in front of a small group of people. Apparently, she had been on medication (anti depressants) for many, many years and he told her to “just stop taking them” after he served her medicine.Back
There was a retreat in Spain for few days. One young guy probably didn’t breathe enough of the smoke for his experience. He tried to do it again. He was starting to be anxious and Octavio started to yell at him, that he is not doing it properly. Client was asking for help and Octavio kept screaming at him that he is not going to spend more time with him until he decides to follow the instructions properly. The guy seemed to be very confused, as he had taken some medicine but probably stayed partly conscious. One assistant went to help him, to provide him some care, and Octavio started to yell at her as well. Saying something like that he has said he has to stay alone and screaming at her to leave him alone. Octavio’s reaction was very aggressive. The guy seemed to stay confused and pretty traumatized after the experience.
In Cozumel Mexico, I witnessed Octavio verbally and physically abuse people outwardly. He called a woman a fat pig and a cow and a slew of many many other horrendous names. He shamed and humiliated her in front of two other people.Back
…I arrived on the last day in Melbourne and in the afternoon, I was one of the last people to partake and I believe the event was stretched out to accommodate my wife and I. The gentleman before us had had a long passage with his experience and by the time it was our turn there was a sense of there being a rush. We had our baby with us, who at the time was 5-6 months of age and we sat with our friends under the trees. We watched the end of someone else’s process and paid the fee. Said hello to Andreas who said hi but was totally preoccupied with his mobile phone. There was no ritual, smudging or even greeting from Octavio for that matter. I organized to stay with our son and would go second so that one of us would be with him the whole time. My wife went with Octavio and I watched as she had the medicine. She appeared to be having a marvelous time but before she had even finished her journey Octavio approached me and told me that to come and that our friends could mind our son. There was no attempt at connection, in fact I don’t think he made eye contact, just told me where to stand, how to hold my arms and to smoke. My experience of the first dose was mostly a black out, my vision fractured into a stain glass fractal, I was aware of my arms being lifted and then I was out, as I filtered back in I felt strong spirit incorporation. I noticed I was alone and I gathered myself quickly and focused on centering. Octavio was working with someone else. It was a strong experience and I was aware that I would be unpacking it for a while but I felt it a priority to return to my child and make sure he was ok. After spending a couple of minutes with him and my friend who was looking after him Octavio indicated for me to follow him and I wasn’t expecting to go again as my first experience was a literal knockout. Now this is my experience, mine, this is how I experienced the event, I am sure Octavio has his as well and I assume responsibility for my perception.
Octavio wouldn’t look at me, I didn’t know if I was meant to follow him due to the lack of connection he had to me, I said something like “should I follow you?” and he nodded. He took me slightly further away from the group this time and I had a sense of trepidation. I faced the Sun and asked God to take from me that which was self- sabotaging. I was a little scared as I didn’t feel I had had the opportunity to process my first journey. I found Octavio’s tone forceful and abrupt. I exhaled completely and I took
the smoke in a slow long breath. The visual effect occurred again, I felt my arms being lifted and blackout…
The word “Blasphemer” being yelled stirred my consciousness, when I became semi- conscious I was on the ground, face down I think, and in terrible discomfort. As I became more aware I felt I was in a loop of recurring sensation, it was my body trying to breathe. This woke me more internally, but I had no control over my body and it heaved as if the end of a dry reach but there was no purge, no breath. At this point I understood something was wrong, and as the sensation of suffocation increased I was conscious inside my body, but unable to breathe for it. There was nothing psychedelic about what was happening, completely lucid, this was all physical. My thoughts started to spiral into the realization that I was at risk of physically dying, I was suffocating and then the shame and guilt that I felt was beyond words, to die in front of my child, I can’t begin to express the horror and the word “blasphemer” that had woken me inspired terrifying fear. As the experience worsened I suffered such intense physical pain that was without relief, unable to breathe and spiralling, that I thought perhaps I was in Hell, and this was what it was and that was all there would ever be. Then thoughts of my son, witnessing my body failing, realizing I hadn’t died yet and then finally the suffering became so intense that it surpassed my shame and I knew I was about to face God.
I silenced and felt my body grunt as it once again failed to take air, I handed myself over. The suffering kept intensifying, infinitely upon itself, in a timeless contraction. I just wanted death now, I handed myself over but I couldn’t release. I asked God to take me. The torment persisted a little more and as I felt the moment of death upon me I came into the realization of the Almighty, that there is only God and that is all, this was the passage of my death, to die back into the truth of what this is and always has been. My body heaved once more, there was a great noise and then something happened. If you could imagine your localized witness consciousness as a magnetic field between two magnets, well it was like the magnets were separated and my consciousness dispersed into the entirety of that which is.
At this point I was lifted, physically, to my feet. The action of being lifted brought some air into my lungs and I quickly started sucking in air. Octavio was singing. I was clenching and releasing my fists, drawing life back into the body. My ego had not at that point yet activated and I had a moment overlooking the mountain range where there was just pure uninterrupted God. Andreas came and looked at me quite intensely and told me to keep breathing. He was still holding his mobile phone, but now looked terrified. There was water poured over me. And then lovely carer and friend of mine was in front of me being an angel, which was lovely. She reassured me that I had done well and comforted me. Octavio said something to her and then walked off. The tone was serious and I started getting concerned that someone had died, I felt like everyone was being serious and that I was being distracted because of how serious what was happening behind me, I broke away from my friend to make sure my wife was ok, and my son. Once I was aware everyone was alive I relaxed and sat down. My breathing was not good, I had to consciously breathe, I felt like I had water on my lungs. I was grateful to be alive and meditated on the unified experience that was still with me.
Later I told Octavio that my experience was traumatic to which he said “yes” and when I asked him if he had anything to say about it he said I need to lose 8 kgs… I was too frazzled to pursue it further and there was a great sense of urgency to leave the property, apparently we had overstayed our welcome. Hug, photos…. I was in so much shock, I had no idea how badly this had hit me.
I drove to a friend’s house which was about an hour, as I drove my mood darkened and I went over my experience and gave words to it, by the time I reached my destination I was rattled to the core. I shared with my friends my experience and we all went to bed. I woke suddenly a few times due to my breathing stopping. There was the buzzing sounds and feelings of the medicine re-activating. I was in and out of sleep. The following days were hard, my natural breathing still had not returned. I had a feeling of dread and the horrible sense that I had been assassinated.
I have had a strong time with this, when Octavio is bought up in conversation or when I’m asked about my experience I seem to trigger into post-traumatic stress and get very fight flight. I do, I get angry that my body and spirit has been so poorly treated. I feel abused and I feel like something is very wrong with how this is all playing out. The experience I had with the medicine I can own, I’ll deal with it. The absence of any real after care (and sorry but a Facebook group just doesn’t cut it), reports of others suffering, people being called a “chicken”, “coward” or “pussy” by Octavio for not wanting to take more medicine after having a traumatic time. Multiple people being administered at once and therefore not being monitored properly, this is why I’m pissy.
I cannot rate Octavio as a medical professional because he has not behaved like one. He was not measuring doses, was not giving 100% attention to the person he was working on, even after pouring water into the nostrils. It is not what Octavio has done that has inspired this energy in me, the feeling of my body preparing to fight to stay alive, it is what he hasn’t done, he hasn’t looked after me, he hasn’t apologized for leaving me in my experience to attend another, he hasn’t written back after I communicated I was still struggling. This is not shamanism, this is not healing and the way I was administered the medicine, by my standards, is an insult to the spirit of the Bufo Alvarius.Back
In the summer of 2018 I observed Octavio Rettig serve medicine to 25+ people, one after another, every 3-5 mins or so, moving onto the next person and the next person while the last person was in the depth of their experience, in his/her journey, as the other people who were present care-took for whoever was still processing. There were several occasions where some women DID NOT want rapé and were clearly stating their boundaries and wishes to NOT have rapé and for Octavio to NOT put it in their face or nose. They were swatting his hands away and he forcefully blew a humongous dose of rapé in their noses, and they were in deep pain and annihilation. He just left them lying there for hours. And people would just leave when they felt like it… No checking in, no what’s your name, no how are you feeling, no safety structure, no follow up, no rhyme or reason for the coming and going of people, no opening, closing… I heard that several women afterward were suffering from PTSD with no directions from Octavio on who to see to heal what ensued, or any words at all… Back
2016 Summer, Slovenia. I hosted and assisted several days of Bufo ceremony at my home ranch. There were people there who were disrespectful, smoking lots of pot with Gerry, leaving me to maintain the integrity of the medicine space. On the 3rd evening when I was cleaning, Gerry gave me a handmade chocolate. After about fifteen minutes, I felt a strong feeling up my spine and my body began to ache. I went to Gerry saying something is going on with me, and asked if he could help me find out what it could be. He turned his back and waited until I was shaking on a bed asking to be covered and for water. I don’t know what it was but I felt heavily drugged, paralyzed in my will, helpless. With almost no power to move and so thirsty. He aggressively took off my clothes and began to rape me. I fought back, shouting, but he covered my mouth with his hand and then used a pillow to cover my face.
Feelings of pain in my nerves and brain were so strong that at some point I feel like he knew it was too much for me. As if I may never come back. Inside of me I was screaming; I don’t know if I did out loud, too. At some point later, when it was dark, my young friend Billy entered the room, totally frightened, asking me if all is ok with me. He said “I’m so afraid for you”, speaking in Slovenian so Gerry couldn’t understand. Gerry took the control over the conversation. I think I was afraid and still so drugged and exhausted to say what has happened. Throughout the night I begged for water, but Gerry ignored me and went to sleep. Several times I crawled to the bathroom to get a drink and then crawled back to bed. The next day, before I was fully recovered, Gerry drugged me again. This time it was a very strong acid trip.Back
12: Victim’s anonymous testimony paraphrased with permission.Back
13: Phone interview testimony from former business and subsequent sexual partner of Gerry Sandoval, used with permission.Back
Vancouver, Washington, 2016, Winter. Someone saw Gerry attacking me in a supermarket car park (he was trying to take my phone so I couldn’t communicate with my family), and called the police. They came to our house and put us on the floor. They asked me if I was afraid to talk, but I said no because I still hoped we could all go to Mexico and Peru for the medicine intervention Gerry had agreed to… Then, when we arrived at the airport in Mexico, Gerry went quickly ahead. I called out to him, trying to catch up, but he walked ahead, pretending not to know me. Then, after we were both through customs, he was all like “My woman! Welcome to Mexico!” Later, when I was unpacking, I found a syringe in my pack. It was full of the pure THC our friend K. had been making. I knew Gerry had put it there, but I didn’t say anything. I just threw out the syringe and pretended I knew nothing about it.Back
My first interaction with Gerry was in 2014 and these are all things I witnessed or heard through him. He dosed me with very large dose of toad and when asked about it, was told I could handle it because of my previous work. I heard him speak non-stop about wanting money from people for his nonexistent ranch. He told me about sleeping with overweight women to boost their confidence and get more out of them. Anytime I was with him in the USA or Mexico, he was a glutton for everything around him and was constantly trying to acquire more drugs, even when we were trying to keep a low profile in northern Mexico, he would be trying to score more drugs and tell people he was a shaman. He lied to me everyday when I was with him in Mexico.
We stayed in Santa Maria where the people were now friends with Gerry again (after the whole town had burned down his shack and kicked him out). He walked me and a few other people into the mountains and gave us mushrooms and then got us lost, after taking us in the wrong direction twice, I took over and walked the others out and found our way back. Gerry lied to me about airfares and money he had coming which never came, told me about selling toad online to people, which I hated, and he stopped telling me about that and said that he wouldn’t, which he still did. Everyday I found out more shit about him or saw his shitty nature. He has two ex wives and 3 kids he never sees or gives money to. After a week in the Sonoran desert with Gerry, everyday filled with lies, I confronted him, I told him everything shitty I witnessed him do, all the things he had said and the terrible person that he was. I had travelled for years and had never been around such a person and that I didn’t want to travel with him.
I told him we were splitting the medicine then and there, and with tears in his eyes he went inside to get our collection jar. I didn’t see him again, in that time he had stolen hash from another guy and put some of that hash in my wallet (I had been into him for the last two weeks about never carrying drugs in your wallet). Two weeks later when I left Mexico for the US I was stopped at customs and in my wallet they found a piece of hash wrapped in a pink bus ticket, which was the bus ticket Gerry and I had caught on the way to Sonora. So I know Gerry planted that hash on me. I spent two weeks as a missing person in jail in Houston, Texas and then a week in an immigration detention centre while waiting to be deported. All my luggage was seized and deported back to Australia with passport and phone, no wallet or shoes.
I spent just over two weeks with Gerry and have never met someone so deranged and dangerous.Back
16: Phone interview testimony from former business and subsequent sexual partner of Gerry Sandoval, used with permission.Back
To whom it may concern. About three years ago  I met Dr. G, and long story short, gave him $4000 for a toad sanctuary with the clear verbal agreement with him that he had a tax exempt organization, and would provide me the document showing this within a week or so. I trusted him, which was a mistake, because he was not able to provide any such document. I asked him to return the money to me since he did not have a tax exempt organization and told him that I would give the money back as soon as he provided the proper document. He never returned the money and cut off communication with me. What he did was very dishonest and in effect he stole $4000 from me. […] I want to have nothing further to do with such a dishonest individual.
… My wife and I began organizing events for Gerry. As our association became known, we received messages from random people who had previous interaction with Gerry. None were positive. The messages were very clear accusations, and the charge from every message, was that this man was not who he claimed to be. All warnings from people we did not have any connection with other than social media. As I would raise the question to Gerry, from each person, he would immediately direct me to block communication with these people and warn me of their deception.
After his next living arrangement and romantic involvement exploded and spilled over into our home, we allowed Gerry to move into our home and live with us. He would be a resident in our home for the next 8 months. We allowed him into our home, and once again ignored the testimony of the woman who claimed his abuses. Her story is deeply personal and I will not divulge any more than the fact that my own ego was so blinded by the prospect of working by Dr. Gerry’s side, that I allowed this accused abuser into my home. He would now be with my wife, and my children for the many hours of the day that I would be at work. As I look back now, I see how sightless I was. How recklessly I placed the most precious people on this Earth, in direct harm’s way. It is with deep shame, and regret that we have apologized to our Sister, for not being there for her when he harmed her. We would soon pay the price and know the pain of Gerry first hand.
Soon after Gerry moved into our home we began to discuss the future of his now defunct Bufo Alvarius Foundation. We went to work fast, and legally established the Foundation in Washington State under my Social Security Number. It was OFFICIAL!!! Amanda was the acting Secretary, I would be the Vice President, and Gerry The President. Our associates answered the call for help building an official website as well. We were working at a fast pace because Gerry had a wealthy benefactor that was ready to contribute a very large donation to the Foundation, with only 2 stipulations. He needed an official website, and an EIN number issued by a government agency, to prove the existence of the Foundation. Gerry had everything he needed, and the donation was sent. The donation however did not go into the Foundations Bank Account. It went directly into Gerry’s personal account. Being mindful of my own financial information being attached to the Foundation, I questioned this. He gave an explanation that I did not agree with, but nonetheless, in that moment I had to agree with.
His intentions were revealed of what he would do with the money. This would be the first glimpse of the real Dr. Gerry that had been seen by my wife and me. Gerry said that he had arranged a meeting with someone in California to purchase a large amount of toad venom. He claimed that the money he earned from this would guarantee him enough money to secure the land for the fabled “Bufo Ranch” as well as afford him enough medicine to spread the love around the world for the next 2 years. We objected, and recommended purchasing the ranch, and then having his own area to collect the toad medicine himself. From his own secure place. The Sanctuary that the Foundation was created to fund. He would not budge on his position, and he followed through with the deal. We now knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this man was not protecting the toads, he was participating in a drug trade that uses them for profit. As the weeks went on we watched him spend lavishly. Sometimes as many as 5 packages a day arriving at our home. Even when he was on the road to his next ceremony or lecture. He was in Switzerland for several weeks, sharing pictures of skiing in the Alps, and other activities. All funded by someone who thought they were donating to a foundation that pledges protection to the toad. We also noticed that none of the donations being made by ceremony participants were being logged in the Foundations account either. Every penny was going directly into Gerry’s bank account. His release form and other documentation about Toad Ceremonies clearly states that 30% of every donation goes directly to the Foundation, which is raising money to save and protect his “beloved toads.” We learned this to be emphatically false. The entire duration that the Foundation existed, I am regretfully thankful to admit, that no donations were ever made to his Foundation. All proceeds went directly into Gerry’s account, and funded his extravagant lifestyle.
The benefactor who had unwittingly funded Gerry’s plan, secured a slot for Gerry to attend 2016 MAPS [Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies] conference that was to be held in Los Angeles California. We learned at this time that the request for the website and official foundation were requirements dictated by MAPS. So, we were proud to have been part of making this happen for Gerry. We celebrated, and congratulated him for what he was awarded, and sent him on his way with our blessing. The day of his departure would be the first real fracture in our relationship. The morning that Gerry left for LA., he removed the administration privileges for us over the website, and social media pages. He refused contact with us for the next 48 hours. When he finally responded to our requests for some sort of explanation of what was going on. He provided one sentence and nothing else. “The Foundation is closed. Everything is going to be privately handled by me, and I don’t need any assistance with my work. That’s the end of the story on that.”
We were obviously shaken, and feelings of distrust, and betrayal were surfacing. He would be gone from our home for nearly a month during this time. So, we had plenty of time away from the “Messiah” to contemplate what we would do. Our first order of business was to cancel an event with a Church that we are closely connected with. Out of respect for the members of that organization and its integrity, we could not allow him to violate their space, or profit from them. We notified him via message of our intentions and demanded that he refund the money to the would-be participants. His response was a threat. He intended to blackmail us. We would allow the ceremony, or he would deduct airfare, and tickets to the Oregon Eclipse Festival, that we did not request for him to buy. The amount of cash he was hanging over our heads, owed directly to our congregation members, was over 2,200 dollars. I had to threaten Gerry with legal action and remind him of the consequences for entering a country that knows what he is carrying in his medicine bag.
[… after mutual forgiveness and reconciliation:]
The next 2 months would be a very happy time in our home. We now had Gerry, and his new romantic interest from Switzerland living with our family. As we proceeded construction and land clearing at our new property, where our plant medicine retreats would be held, we also included Gerry. He had adopted another new plan. He wanted to stop traveling the world and doing ceremony, and just use our land as his home base, ceremonial space. Of course!! We were on board. We organized 50+ ceremony attendees for him to work with while we made improvements at the new property. All of which took place in our home. We never mentioned that he didn’t contribute a penny to the cost of the baby sitter for the day, or rent for that matter, He randomly bought things for himself to take to the land, and called that his rent money for the month. Who were we to complain. We had a GERRY!! Our egos told us his presence alone was validation of what we do. We saw the potential of co-working with him, and were excited with the mere prospect of how many people would come to us through him.
Then came the weekend of our first retreat. He provided toad to several guests, at a reduced rate. He pledged 30% of the money to the land, and said this is how we would proceed with all future events. We spent the weekend working with our clients, holding space, having conversations with everyone, and facilitating ceremony for the attendees. We also hung out around the fire at night, laughed, and loved like the TRIBE we could see, we had finally become. It was beautiful. It was confirmation from God, that this is what we are supposed to be doing. The ceremonies went very well. Breakthroughs happened, lives were changed. Including our own.
Gerry and his girlfriend awoke early Sunday morning. They packed up and left without even saying goodbye to me. I was jokingly hurt. My bromance partner didn’t even say goodbye. But I didn’t know this was not a joke and I would soon realize that it was goodbye. He mentioned the night before that he was picking up an old friend at the Portland airport early in the morning. He even made sure that he had our permission to bring his friend back to our home, and spend some time with us. He wanted his brother to meet his brother and sister. He was excited. I wasn’t alarmed when he left abruptly in the morning. Little did I know, this would be the last time I spoke to, or saw Gerry.
He did not go to the airport that morning. We were not aware of this until 11:00pm that night. We had reached out to him several times during the day to check on him as we usually did. But he did not respond. When it was time for us to go to bed that night, my wife entered his room to turn off the lights and close a bedroom window. When she opened the door, she saw an empty room. He had removed his belongings, and left, without a note, a message or explanation of any kind. The only thing in the room was a bed, and some beautiful cards that our daughter had made for her Uncle Gerry. Downstairs, remained the dog that he had abandoned. After 2 years of friendship, multiple forgive and forget situations, and a lot of unreciprocated love, we had a dog now, and a bed, and of course, none of the money he has pledged to our work, for allowing him access to our retreat. That’s it. The Bufo gangster struck again, and we were left standing here holding our hearts, and our children’s.Back
2016, December, Vancouver, Washington and Mexico. When I was packing to leave for Mexico I discovered a glass jar of psychedelic mushrooms in my rucksack. I threw them back at Gerry and asked him if he was mad.
Our friend the Finnish organizer, J., arrived to do the journey to Mexico and Peru with us. The day before the flight, while we were around the fire, Gerry gave me and J. some Mexican chilli sweets. J. disliked its bitterness. Gerry pushed my one in my mouth. I told him angrily that I can eat it myself. Then when I saw that J. didn’t want his, I ate his sweet too. Soon I understood that it was a huge dose of LSD. I quickly arranged for J. and K. (who Gerry had also tried to drug) to hold space for me. I felt like I was not coming back into my body and that dark forces were coming into me. Gerry left us to play the atrocity video games he is addicted to and then he left for Mexico. J. was in total shock. He had to hold me for three days while I went through it… In about a week Gerry came back asking for forgiveness but soon returned to his usual behavior.Back
Phone interview with former business and subsequent sexual partner from Arizona, used with permission.Back
Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia – Bufo The Psychedelic Toad, go to 31:30 min.
Statement on the removal of Dr. Gerry Sandoval
Over time the voices of opposition to our offering of time to Dr. Gerry Sandoval as a speaker and panelist at the World Bufo Alvarius Congress (WBAC) has been undeniable. The primary focus of WBAC is that of a Congress, a place for notable members of the Bufo community to gather, speak and learn, without preferential treatment.
Our initial intention was to allow Gerry, and the community, an opportunity to express opinions and grievances in a way that would hopefully bring about a change in what is seen by many as extremely irresponsible facilitation practices. The loud opposition did not fall on deaf ears. While we had hoped to give rise to a dialogue on good and bad practices–with all facilitators–recent information has been presented to us by concerned parties regarding the behavior of Gerry Sandoval that if true, goes beyond bad practices with the medicine and amounts to grievous criminal acts.
Our intention to hold space for an exchange of valuable information is further undermined by the real possibility that victims of such acts may be further traumatized when exposed to such a confrontational setting. Therefore, we have revoked his invitation to attend, speak or participate in any way at WBAC. This decision was not taken lightly, as this is a medicine of unity, and we had hoped to be agents of change in a meaningful way. In general, we have instituted a “No Naming, No Shaming” policy when discussing facilitators and their practices as the best way to approach issues that are coming up in the community. However, in this instance it is now clear, more than ever, that Gerry Sandoval’s inclusion is inappropriate and being misunderstood as unilateral support, which it was not. The Congress is not a vehicle for the approval of Gerry Sandoval’s actions.
We will now be taking some time in the WBAC programming schedule to offer a space for those who feel harmed by any facilitator, to express themselves in a moderated
dialogue so that we as the community can be honest and transparent about our traumas, to unify and to heal.
It is not the intention of WBAC to promote, condone, or reprehend individual Bufo facilitators, but rather to assemble the global Bufo community to bring about a safe space for dialogue on issues such as best practices, duty of care, ethics, sustainability and the like, in a way that can hopefully transcend politics and online aggression.
PRESS RELEASE 01/25/19
Toad medicine ceremonies with Dr Octavio Rettig
At WBAC 2018 a panel discussion talked about Bufo Alvarius Facilitators’ Ethics and Code of Conduct and discussed these crucial issues, including some of the controversial practices utilized by Dr. Rettig in his ceremonies. Most commentators disagreed with Dr. Rettig on the following aspects of his practice, as outlined on his website: https://octaviorettig.com/toad-medicine/
Toad medicine ceremony with Dr Octavio Rettig
All participants should be aware of and agree with the following conditions. Please be informed that during the Toad Medicine ceremony, Dr Octavio Rettig:
Might pour water on a participants face or in a participants mouth to stimulate a breathing or swallowing response.
Can administer very small electrical shocks with a toy to keep a participant from lying down during the peak of the ceremony.
Will blow rapé up a participants nose right after the peak of the experience.
The webpage says also: “All these actions have been carefully tested and have proven their unique value as a part of the neo shamanistic rituals that Dr Rettig developed while working with the toad medicine. They have significantly increased the results and improved the wellbeing of participants during and after the ceremonies.”
To our knowledge, there is no evidence about reported benefits of use of those practices.
Nevertheless, experience of those techniques in the ceremony held by Dr Rettig have shown to have some risks, in some cases resulting in life-threatening events, serious injuries, even in death (especially use of rapé and water as recent reports indicate). Participants have also reported it unnecessarily disturbed or cut off their experience with toad and reduced the potential beneficial effect they could get from it. Those techniques might also be forced and used non-consensually. Moreover, there have been reports and videos of other practices by Dr. Rettig:
Rapé administered during the toad experience itself when people are not consciously controlling their body
Participants being left on their own during or after the experience
Informed consent rarely provided before the experience
Water poured in the participants nose
Physical and psychological violence
It is the belief of WBAC that these aforementioned practices are unethical, dangerous and should not be used in this way in ceremony. There is the danger of physical harm, death, emotional and psychological trauma and other mental health issues, and issues around lack of consent by people under the influence of the medicine when these techniques are used. Those practices are also widely recognized as unacceptable in the ethical guidelines of any kind of therapy or healing (ranging from shamanic practice to modern health care).
We also want to make clear, that some of those practices might be beneficial when used responsibly, which is not always the case of ceremonies done by Dr Rettig who is using them in the excessive amounts (rapé , water).
Conversations around Dr. Rettig’s controversial practices have been ongoing for some time online, and recent reports of the death of a Mexican woman from Leon, Guanajuato, in her 40s who aspirated due to the application of rapé and water, and reports another near death in Europe from the same techniques in ceremony, have led us to believe that a line needs to be drawn in the sand for the safety of the community at large.
We ask the global toad community and all future participants to choose their practitioners well, to be fully informed of the risks of the medicine and ceremony, and to support ethical practices that nurture, not harm, those partaking of the sacred toad medicine and more widely all psychedelics. For more information on best practices and integration, see: http://awareproject.org/blog/2018/5/5-meo-dmt-health-and-safety