Several thousand years ago, South American shamans began to gather divine drugs from far and wide, importing the yage plant, from tropical parts of northern regions of the continent, hundreds of miles away, just to have harmine. Along with this, they were also able to get valuable chacruna from the Amazonian lowlands in order to have DMT. This is important because harmine-containing yage is a primary ingredient in modern-day ayahuasca, and is often combined with DMT-containing chacruna. Together, these herbs interact to produce powerful psychedelic and entheogenic experiences, which is to say mind-manifesting and spirit-generating events. This is the biochemical basis for a sacred tea ceremony like no other.
Ayahuasca is a life-changing visionary medicine that produces long-lasting effects. This isn’t ordinary medicine like aspirin, this is something much more beneficial than that. To make the healing happen, the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin have various different regional recipes, one of which includes the use of Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis to make ayahuasca brew. The traditional making of ayahuasca follows a ritual process that requires the user to pick chacruna leaves at sunrise and then say a prayer. Along with this, the “vine of the soul” must be meticulously cleaned with wooden spoons and pounded into fibers with wooden mallets.
Still, in spite of their thoroughness, each batch is rather unique. Natural variations in plant alkaloid content and profiles, in conjunction with the process of cooking, can and often do affect the final concentrations in a given batch of ayahuasca brew. As part of this, dietary taboos are highly recommended with the use of ayahuasca. This includes abstaining from heavily seasoned foods, excess fat, salt, caffeine, and acidic foods days before, during, and after a ceremony. However, I assure you that giving up coffee and chocolate for a month is well worth it.
Regardless, the point is that etymologically speaking, “ayahuasca” is the Hispanicized spelling of a word in the Quechua languages, which are spoken in the Andean states. The word refers both to a specific vine and the brew prepared from it. In the Quechua languages, “aya” means “spirit” and “waska” means “liana”. Thus, ayahuasca is literally the “spirit liana”. The vine in mention contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) while the accompanying shrub contains dimethyltryptamine (DMT).
The shamans intuitively know that MAOIs are required for DMT to be orally active. Although they have no knowledge of pharmacology, they diligently followed the instructions that were given to them by the spirits of the herbs. As such, the concoction that the ancient mystics made worked perfectly. Out of thousands of different species to choose from, they made use of the two particular plants that could make the miraculous mixture they sought. This is why they have kept the recipe safe for centuries.
The occult knowledge of ayahuasca has been passed down and preserved for dozens if not hundreds of generations in Columbia, Peru, and Brazil, to this very day. Master medicine men like the Peruvian shaman Don Alberto Torres Davila continue to perform traditional ayahuasca ceremonies, and they plan to do so long into the future. Like many others, he is technically a Vegelatisto Sanangero Palero Ayahuascero, as well as a Mapachero and a Maestro. The thing to note is that he is most notably named after the kinds of plants that he specializes in, based on his specific otherworldly relationship to the rainforest.
This is because, shamans primarily derive their power from a telepathic relationship they have with flora, as well as their songs, which are just as vital to the process of healing as the visionary medicine itself. The sacred “icaros” are poetic invocations that summon forth good spirits. The shamans and songs are all part of the sacred medicine that is provided by Mother Ayahuasca, “Goddess of the Vine of the Souls”. The whole thing is about receiving proper guidance. That’s what ayahuasca is really for.
Although DMT is what Rick Strassman dubbed “the spirit molecule”, this is about much more than just chemicals. Spirits like Mother Ayahuasca are actual sentient entities that need to be approached with caution and care. The fact is that our souls open up to the spirits when our bodies become infused with ayahuasca. This is one of the ways in which medicine men are able to cure mental and physical illness, as well as allow communication with the spirit world, but this can be very risky.
The supernatural world forms a layer over the natural world and ayahuasca pulls back the veil between the two. The leaf rattling, chanting shamans guide groups of desperate and daring psychonauts on long strange trips inside and outside of ordinary reality. The group sessions are facilitated by apprenticed experts in herbology and psychology, so no one is in any real danger, but still. The ceremonies are highly charged, filled with laughing, crying, sweating, shaking, screaming, burping, farting, praying, and so much more.
Ayahuasca brew is a foul-smelling, horrid-tasting emetic elixir with magical properties. It has the ability to exorcise and banish evil forces and psychic trauma, so during rituals, people often writhe around and heave in gut-wrenching agony as they vomit forth corporeal and spiritual toxins that are purged from their bodies and souls. The goal of the ceremony is to release everything that brings people down and to realign everyone with their destiny. It’s the equivalent of years of therapy in just one night, often serving as an effective remedy for, addiction, depression, and countless other ailments and afflictions. This brings about the deconstruction and reconstruction of self, over and over and over, again and again, and again.
Ayahuasca is the ultimate antidote for ignorance, which is the worst kind of evil there is. It forces you to confront every aspect of yourself. As part of this, during traditional ayahuasca rituals, many people tend to experience the extrasensory perception of Platonic forms and Jungian archetypes, among other psychic phenomena. Moreover, they are having visions, not hallucinations. This cannot be emphasized enough. The renowned intensity of this time-honored three-hour tour of hyperspace has led to widespread interest in the altered state of consciousness brought on by the stinky, bitter sacrament that is ayahuasca brew.
Along with this, the animistic spirituality underpinning the belief system is becoming syncretized with monotheism more and more as time goes on. This is the same thing that happened with the peyote shamans of North America. In line with this, a number of modern religious movements based on the use of ayahuasca have emerged, the most famous of which is Santo Daime, as well as the Uniao do Vegetal. Both of these institutions have been integrated with Christianity, and they have members and churches throughout the world. This is all a reaction to the fact that humanity is really sick, and it’s time for us to take our medicine. The bottom line is that no one should ever be denied the treatment they need, especially if it comes from an Ayahuascero, so in the end, their sacred traditions must be preserved at all costs.