If you haven’t yet heard of ayahuasca (sounds like ‘iowaska’) from your usual sources, give it a minute; I was super-surprised to see a fairly factual article about this psychotropic brew posted by Fox News so word has clearly gone mainstream.
Ayahuasca is a plant medicine, a tea used by Amazonian tribes during shamanic rituals for at least the last 1000 years, possibly much longer. The drink is made by boiling crushed pieces of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine with the leaves of one of a handful of DMT-containing plants, usually Psychotria viridis. Over many hours, a big pot of vines and leaves are boiled down into a dark, thick, noxious-tasting potion (or so I’ve heard, I’ve not yet had the pleasure). Fortunately, just a few ounces is usually enough. In addition to the noxious taste, ayahuasca typically produces bouts of vomiting – called ‘the purge’ or la purga – as the ‘Goddess of the Vine’ cleans out the physical and psychic body of the traveler.
And judging by the numerous stories being shared on the net these days, you will be doing some traveling after drinking ayahuasca. Many a book, blog and documentary have popped up recently with accounts of this consciousness-altering experience; it’s interesting that so many people encounter this same ‘Mother Ayahuasca’ or ‘Goddess of the Vine’ entity during their voyage; I’m reminded of comments from Terence McKenna and other widely-traveled psychonauts that each psychotropic plant or substance opens a door to a specific kind of psychedelic space, a unique perspective into the One Mind and the archetypes within just that space.
Another after-effect of the ayahuasca experience seems to be a call to creativity. Explosions of colorful and imaginative ideas and visions, both during and after the ritual, have prompted many to produce stunning works of art when, taken as a group, clearly share a common theme; it’s become known as ‘ayahuasca art’ and I’ll share some gorgeous examples in the next post.
The ayahuasca encounter isn’t the solo adventure that exploring with cannabis or psilocybin mushrooms permits; this is a group experience facilitated by a shaman, in the dark, with chanting and chakras and the whole shebang. Since the experience is associated with this different ‘set and setting’, I’m also including some videos in this ‘basics’ post to provide a more complete sense of this critical part of the ayahuasca experience.
Ayahuasca.com – run by a ‘multi-disciplinary’ group devoted to educating the public about ayahuasca and its Amazonian home, this site has some good practical advice and instructive content for those wanting to prepare for their own journey to the Amazon; here’s a link to their ‘introduction‘ page with a very straightforward article from an experienced traveler.
Chacruna.net– a website devoted to educating the public on psychedelic plant medicines. They’ve got a lot of PhDs and MDs on their list of over 60 contributors and the posts include comments from the fields of anthropology, integrative medicine, ethnobotany, theology … I’m looking forward to spending a few hours reading on their site. They also host a nice little collection of ‘ayahuasca animations‘.
Erowid.org / Ayahuasca – Erowid is a member-supported organization that offers a straight-forward database of information about many psychoactive plants; their ayahuasca page includes resources on shamanism, ceremony recordings, research articles, preparation instructions, and links to the accounts of numerous travelers.
Eye of the Needle– after watching many a film about the ayahuasca experience, the thing I loved about this 13-minute vimeo is how it uses the visual details usually overlooked in other stories to effectively convey something that seems elemental to the ayahuasca experience. (And there’s a good message at the end … I think … he’s got quite the brogue.)
Aya: Awakenings– author Rak Razam has turned his book Aya: a Shamanic Odyssey into this documentary. He uses footage from his travels to the Amazon and subsequent ayahuasca and DMT experiences to share a very frank, informative and amusing recounting of these events. Unlike the video above, this is very detailed telling of the physical sensations, inner perceptions, and hallucinations – psychedelic and otherwise – involved with these incidents. His DMT encounter is an interesting one in that it is caught both on film and on an EEG; it’s interesting stuff.
Shipibo Plant Spirit Knowledge – Song of the Amazon – and finally, here is the ayahuasca experience as explained by Amazonian shamans who conduct similar plant medicine rituals. In this short video, the shaman’s words (and subtitles) play against a backdrop of ritual chanting and images of vivid artwork inspired by this plant medicine.