Shows Bwiti Ngangas making torches that are used for ceremony

Aspects of a Traditional Missoko Bwiti Ceremony

What do we mean when we say traditional Missoko Bwiti Ceremony? A traditional Bwiti Iboga Ceremony has many elements that promote more potency to the whole experience. Having been the shepherds of Iboga for a long time before sharing it with the rest of the world the Bwiti have the most intimate relationship with Iboga in the world. Our retreats follow the model taught to us by Moughenda and our Bwiti brothers and sisters. Below are some of the most important aspects of our Bwiti Ceremonies. 

The Torch


A big part of the ceremonies is actually the torch. The torch is made up of many different ingredients from the jungle and must be made following a specific ritual which can take hours. Once the ingredients are all there, we ask the spirits if the torch is good to go and if we do not get a yes, they must start over. (see video below). Once complete, the torch can be used.

Torches are used to open and close every ceremony. They are also a way to bring in the spirits and ancestors and also play an important role in other rituals like Soul Retrieval. The torch is also a great way to cleanse a space, much like a giant smudge of sage. If an space has a negative energy, the torch can be a great tool to help. 

The Music


Bwiti Music is a spiritual technology that works synchronistically with Iboga. The music actually comes from Iboga as everything in the Bwiti tradition does. These songs have been developed in and played traditionally in Bwiti ceremonies for a very long time and also help to bring the Bwiti forth and connect you to the Bwiti spirits and ancestors. 

Some people complain about the music during the ceremony because they say it is irritating them. This is actually proof that the Bwiti Music is actually helping the Iboga do its work with your mind. Any discomfort you are feeling is actually stuff that is being brought out by the music which is an opportunity for you to heal it and let it go once and for all. 

In my time in Gabon, I observed 3 distinct forms of Bwiti Music: Songs played with the Harp (see video below), songs that are primarily sung, and songs with the Mugongo (Mouthbow). During a traditional Missoko Bwiti ceremony, you will hear all three of these forms of music, each serving a purpose at different stages. For example, we use the Mugongo (Mouthbow)  songs leading up to and during the Psychospiritual Journey. 

The Team 

In a Missoko Bwiti Iboga Ceremony, it is important to have someone who knows the traditions. This will ensure that the spirits and ancestors actually show up to help and promote the safety of the guests. Many “Iboga Providers” out there have not actually been trained. The Bwiti initiation and Rite of Passage are not training to be an Iboga Provider, however, several initiates have gone on to offer retreats. This is not only dangerous, but it goes against the Iboga’s spirit itself. The spirit of Iboga has given the Bwiti all the rituals they use in ceremony and is the best, safest, and most respectful way to work with the medicine.

Our team is made up of several trained and empowered Iboga Providers, and of course Moughenda the 10th Generation Bwiti Shaman who acts as an advisor and often comes to hold a retreat with us.

Ryan Rich, Moughenda and Boussengui pose in Jungle

The Participants

Choosing to take Iboga and heal yourself is a courageous act. The most important thing you can do is to heal and develop yourself. You cannot truly love others until you love yourself and you cannot help those you love without first healing yourself. For this reason, we are incredibly grateful for those that are called to Iboga and answer it.

The other side of this is that your work with Iboga should not be rushed, and should only happen when you are ready. When someone is ready to look at their truth, the medicine is a powerful healing tool. However, when someone is not ready, the benefits will not be as strong. Additionally, Iboga retreats cost money and we want to make sure that every person gets as true value out of their experience. 

Some additional advice is to do some proper preparation before the retreat, to be as open to the spiritual aspects of the retreat experience, and to trust the Iboga, the Bwiti traditions, and the Iboga Providers. 

Iboga retreat participants lay down.

The Iboga


Saving the most important for last, Iboga is obviously the most important aspect of the traditional Missoko Bwiti ceremony. It was actually Iboga itself who created all the rituals, music, and other aspects of the Bwiti Iboga ceremony. Iboga showed the Bwiti these rituals as a way to best promote its spirit, the help of the other spirits, and to invite the ancestors. 

It is important to work with Iboga that is over a certain age, has been traditionally harvested and ceremonially prepared. All of the Iboga we work with is from Iboga that is at least 25+ years old, harvested traditionally, and is ceremonially prepared. We are so strict with this, that we will only collect the Iboga from Gabon personally so that we can ensure that it is handled correctly all the way up to ingestion. All of our Iboga comes directly from our Bwiti brothers and sisters and our Iboga TA is prepared by Moughenda himself to ensure the spirit of the Iboga remains.

Below are some videos of the preparation process that I filmed while training in Gabon.

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