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Descriptions of the Ayahuasca Experience
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This page is divided into the following sections...


The differences in smoking freebase DMT and taking ayahuasca


Ayahuasca Dreams © Robert VenosaDue to the simple fact that there are significant phenomenological differences between the short and very direct experience of smoking DMT and the more prolonged experience of taking ayahuasca where MAO inhibitors (which may have psychedelic qualities of their own) allow not only the oral uptake of DMT but of other potent alkoloids which may be present as well, an examination of the ‘ayahuasca experience’ clearly requires a section all of its own.


The main differences between the experiences of smoking freebase DMT and taking ayahuasca can be (approximately) summarized as this:


1. Duration. Smoking DMT creates an almost immediate experience that can last 20 or 30 minutes at the most, with most experiences being considerably shorter. An ayahuasca journey takes many hours, and after an often slow start, can evolve into a series of peaks and lows that can last up to 10 or 12 hours.


2. Intensity. Smoking DMT can lead to a virtual explosion of imagery that is too complex, too rapidly changing, and just too much too handle. Ayahuasca offers an often more linear experience that is seemingly easier to comprehend and remember – though in the accounts of the ayahuasca experience at its most titanic, the user is once again often overwhelmed by the frequency and intensity of the visions at their peak.


3. Set-and-Setting.  While many DMT smokers like to use an element of ritual in their personal set-and-setting, since the experience is brief in duration with an almost 100% return to physical ‘baseline’ (if not psychological!), DMT can be smoked almost anywhere, and judging by it’s now common appearance amongst the crowds at West Coast festivals, and the first police reports of the drugs appearance from New Jersey to Mississippi, it obviously increasingly is. (A recent trip-report described a sky-diver taking a hit of DMT before he jumped out of a plane!). The consumption of ayahuasca on the other hand virtually demands a ritualized setting; the length of the experience coupled with the physical distress of a brew that often incites vomiting necessitates the need for a suitable environment and experienced guides.


Further complications in accurately describing the ayahuasca experience arise when one tries to classify exactly what ayahuasca is. A close examination of the subject reveals that there are 4 separate categories of what we now commonly call ayahuasca; this section offers experiences collated from each of the following four:


  • The traditional Indian ayahuasca from the Western slopes of the Amazon.
  • The Brazilian hoasca used by its synchretic-Christian religions, Uniáo do Vegetal, and Santo Daime.,
         which uses Psychotropia viridis  leaves and the Banisteriopsis caapi vine.
  • The various ayahuasca analogues [i.e. Mimosa Hostilis and Syrian Rue] inspired by Jonathan Ott’s work.
  • And finally the pharmahuasca  [DMT + MAOI] of today’s Internet savvy psychonauts.


Ayahuasca trip in the movie, "Blueberry"We must also address the question of how often 5-MeO-DMT is also present in ayahuasca. According to ‘Keeper of the Trout”;


“I might comment that while 5-MeO-DMT is not commonly or generally thought of as a traditional ayahuasca component, it is the preferred tryptamine component in ayahuasca analogs among many modern day shamanic practitioners in technologically based societies. It is also frequently the MAJOR active component in many South American snuffs derived from Virola and in a minority of the snuffs derived from Anadenanthera.”


Thus, in some forms of ayahuasca, (and DMT-extracts taken from Acacia maidenii, or Acacia obtusifolia), some 5-MeO-DMT may be present. Since 5-MeO-DMT is considerably more potent that DMT, only trace amounts of this compound would be necessary to provide an entheogenic effect of its own.


Tempo © Alexandre Segrégio


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Definition of a 'Shaman'


Russian postcard based on a photo taken in 1908 by S. I. Borisov, showing a woman shaman likely of the Turkic Khakas ethnicity. (from Wikipedia) You will find the words ‘Shaman’ and ‘shamanism’ used repeatedly throughout the following section, so at this point it will be useful to examine and define exactly what a ‘Shaman’ is. According to Wikipedia;


Shamanism is an anthropological term referencing a range of beliefs and practices regarding communication with the spiritual world. A practitioner of shamanism is known as a shaman (pronounced /ˈʃɑːmən/ or /ˈʃeɪmən/.)


Shamanism encompasses the belief that shamans are intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds. Shamans are said to treat ailments/illness by mending the soul. Alleviating traumas affecting the soul/spirit restores the physical body of the individual to balance and wholeness. The shaman also enters supernatural realms or dimensions to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community. Shamans may visit other worlds/dimensions to bring guidance to misguided souls and to ameliorate illnesses of the human soul caused by foreign elements. The shaman operates primarily within the spiritual world, which in turn affects the human world. The restoration of balance results in the elimination of the ailment.


Taken from a Turkic-Siberian word, the term ‘shaman’ was popularized by the great Phenomenologist and Father of Comparative Religion Mircea Eliade who wrote "A first definition of this complex phenomenon, and perhaps the least hazardous, will be: shamanism = technique of ecstasy.”  However Eliade, and most of the anthropologists of this time, were uncomfortable with the idea that primitive societies used entheogenic pants to gain spiritual insights, focusing instead on methods like drumming, chanting, and dancing, whilst characterizing the use of entheogenic plants as being a decadent innovation rather than an integral part of the ecstatic experience. Eliade would quote the Russian anthropologist Åke Ohlmarks’ assertion that


“In the Arctic the shamanic ecstasy is a spontaneous and organic phenomenon: and it is only in this zone (Siberia) that one can properly speak of a ‘great shamanizing’ that is, of the ceremony that ends with a real cataleptic trance, during which the soul is supposed to have left the body and to be journeying in the sky or the underworld. But in the sub-Arctic the shaman, no longer the victim of cosmic oppression, does not spontaneously obtain a real trance and is obliged to induce a semi-trance with the help of narcotics or to mime the journey of the soul in dramatic form.”


The following generations of anthroplogists have come to realize the error in this thinking, with the use of plant-entheogens would be recognized in primitive societies around the globe as often the essential ingredient to ‘shamanism’. Consequently the view of the shaman as a ‘schizophrenic’ would change with the realization that shamans were in fact often equal-parts botanist, healer, and psychologist, as well as the spiritual custodian of the mythical traditions of their particular tribe.


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1. 'Traditional' Amazonian Indian ayahuasca


‘Sky Ayahuasca and the Mother of the Forest’ © Elvis Luna


The Tatuyo and Barasana liken yagé (ayahuasca)to a river, a journey that takes one above the land and below the water, to the most remote reaches of the earth, where the animal masters live and lightning is waiting to be born. To drink yagé, anthropologist Geraldo Reichel-Dolmatoff wrote, is to return to the cosmic uterus and be reborn. It is to tear through the placenta of ordinary perception and enter realms where death can be known and life traced through sensation to the primordial source of all existence. When the shamans speak of facing down the jaguar, it is because they really do.


~ Wade Davis, The Lost Amazon: The Photographic Journey of Richard Evan Schultes. (2004)


Banisteriopsis caapi vine Despite whatever confusion that there may now be over the term ayahuasca, there is no debate over the origin of either the word or the preparation. The word ayahuasca [whichapplies to both the brew-extract, and the Banisteriopsis caapi vine that is its major ingredient]is a phonetic approximation of a word from the Quichua Indians of Peru – to whom it can mean ‘The Vine of the Soul’ and ‘Vine of the Dead’.



The origins of ayahuasca are very old; it has a tradition of use which predates written records. It is part of both the ancient religions and the healing customs of the native people who live throughout the Amazon area, from Brazil to the upper areas of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Many studies have been reported on its use in shamanism, and especially in healing rituals… An important point that should be made, is that it is necessary to distinguish the healing processes that are described in the shamanistic world from the religious use described below (hoasca). In the original cultural format, it is the shaman who takes the ayahuasca for both the diagnosis and the treatment of the patient. Some of this is still seen in present religious use (group healing) but in recent years the patient has himself more frequently participated in the healing by taking the brew.


~ Alexander and Ann Shulgin, TiHKAL: The Continuation. (1997)


The most commonly used ingredients for the preparation of ayahuasca in the Western Amazon is the slow-brewed combination of chacruna leaves [Psychotria viridis] and the ayahuasca vine [Baniseriopsis caapi]. According to The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances (1999);


Photograph of Traditional Colombian Healer Salvador Chindoy. By Richard Evans Shultes. (From Wade Davis, The Lost Amazon: The Photographic Journey of Richard Evans Schultes.) "Almost invariably other plants are mixed together with the jungle vine Banisteriopsis; about a hundred different species are known to have been added to the potion at different times and places. Ayahuasca has been used in a number of countries in South and Central America, including Panama, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, and by at least seventy different indigenous peoples of the Americas. In addition to ayahuasca, other native names include yajé, caapi, natema, pindé, kahi, mihi, dápa and bejuco de oro, the last meaning 'vine of gold'. Ayahuasca itself means 'vine of the soul'. Ayahuasca is made in the form of a drink or potion. The bark of the Banisteriopsis vine is either mashed to a pulp and then mixed with cold water or, in other regional methods of making the potion, it is boiled for a number of hours and then the resulting liquid is consumed."


The following accounts are arranged chronologically; it is interesting to witness our own culture’s changing attitude towards both ayahuasca and the psychotropic experience itself, beginning with Richard Spruce’s rather puritan account of taking ayahuasca in the mid-1800’s (when there would have been zero context for the psychedelic experience), to Wade Davis’s soaring psychedelic prose from his 1990 classic (about the life of Richard Evans Schultes) One River. It is also interesting to note that many of the early accounts to not register a psychedelic component; more often the ‘visionary state’ is achieved once the Westerners involved (Burroughs, McKenna) have taken to investigating the ayahuasca preparation without the aid of the local shamans, and by taking larger quantities of the brew than the shaman would have given them.


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Richard Spruce (1817-1893)


Richard SpruceA British botanist from Yorkshire, Spruce traveled throughout the Amazon and its tributaries from 1849 to 1864. He made extensive collections of South American flora and was the first modern investigator to identify ayahuasca in 1851 (naming in Banisteriopsis caapi), although his materials were published posthumously. Actually, the geographer Villavicencio wrote of the vine in his Geography of Ecuador, which appeared in 1858. Spruce observed the used of the liana among the Tukanoan tribes of the Uaupes River in the Brazilian Amazon. He wrote of the caapi-drinking ceremony as follows:


I had gone with the full intention of experimenting the caapi myself, but I had scarcely dispatched one cup of the nauseous beverage, which is but half the dose, when the ruler of the feast . . . came up with a woman bearing a large calabash of caxiri (mandioca beer), of which I must need take a copious draught, and as I know the mode of its preparation, it was gulped down with secret loathing. Scarcely had I accomplished this feat, when a large cigar 2 feet long and as thick as the wrist was put lighted into my hand, and etiquette demanded that I should take a few whiffs of it--I who had never in my life smoked a cigar or a pipe of tobacco. Above all this, I must drink a large cup of palm wine, and it will readily be understood that the effect of such a complex dose was a strong inclination to vomit, which was only overcome by lying down in a hammock and drinking a cup of coffee. (Cited in Schultes 1970, p. 26).


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Richard Evans Schultes (1915-2001)


Richard Evans Schultes Richard Evans Schultes Universally recognized as the greatest botanist and plant –explorer of modern times, Richard Evans Schultes is regarded the Father of Ethnobotany and Ethnopharmacology, and was often amongst the first Westerners of his generation to try many of the indigenous plant-hallucinogens, including ayahuasca, yopo and ebené. He was also notoriously hard-headed, stating that none of the various preparations he had tried had ever produced ‘visions’ of any kind. William S. Burroughs first makes mention of this peculiarity in his account of his own ayahuasca experiences The Yagé Letters. Burroughs met Schultes (who he calls Doc Schindler in the book) in Colombia, and then traveled into the jungle with him after his own search for yagé (ayahuasca) – surely one of the most interesting travelling-duo’s in history.


The man had a thin refined face, steel-rimmed glasses, tweed coat and dark flannel trousers. Boston and Harvard unmistakebly. He introduced himself as Doctor Schindler. He was connected with a U.S. Agricultural Commission. I asked about Yage. 'Oh yes,' he said, 'We have specimens here. Come along and I'll show you,' he said taking one last look for his cocoa. He showed me a dried specimen of the Yage vine which looked like a very undistinguished sort of plant. Yes he had taken it. 'I got colors but no visions: -


He told me exactly what I would need for the trip, where to go and who to contact. I asked him about the telepathy angle. That's all imagination of course,' he said. He suggested the Putomayo as being the most readily accessible area where I could find Yage.

~ William S. Burroughs (and Allen Ginsberg) The Yage Letters, 1963.


In One River, Wade Davis’s excellent book on Richard Evans Schultes, Davis recounts reading Burrough’s description of his first encounter with yagé, and Burroughs subsequent attempt to discuss it with Schultes (who is Wade Davis’s professor at that time).


“In the morning (after Burrough’s first traumatic experience on yagé)he attempted to compare notes with Schultes, who by this time in his career had taken yagé on more than twenty occasions. "I never get sick," Schultes told him. Burroughs mentioned that at one point he felt himself change into a black woman, then a black man, then a man and a woman at the same time, with everything writhing as in a Van Gogh painting. He had achieved pure bisexuality, becoming a man or a woman at will, awash with wild convulsions of lust. "I only get colors, no visions," Schultes replied.”

~ Wade Davis, One River (1996)


‘The Lost Amazon: The Photographic Journey of Richard Evans Schultes’ by Wade DavisDespite (or perhaps, because of) Schultes own tolerance to the psychoactive plant-admixtures that he would be responsible for introducing to the world outside of the Amazon basin, Schultes was a careful observer and neutral reporter of the various indigenous ceremonies that he either observed or participated in. Making his first trip to the upper Amazon in 1941, Schultes explorations took place at the end of the narrow window of time when the anthropological and scientific study of indigenous Amazonian cultures had yet to be threatened by the rapidly encroaching modern society outside of the jungle. Because of this fact, his discoveries and observations remain the most important body of work ever attempted on the ethnobotany of the Amazonian Indians, and may be the last record of the life of those (then) unaffected cultures. His erudition and enthusiasm as an educator at Harvard would then encourage a whole new generation of ethnobotanists (including Tim Plowman, Wade Davis, Mark Plotkin, Andrew Weil and others) to explore the botany of the Amazon Basin and its indigenous people before that opportunity disappears forever. According to Richard Rudgley, and The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances (1998);


Richard Schultes, during his many years of botanical research in the Amazon region, encountered a number of indigenous peoples who use ayahuasca. His overview of its effects and uses is highly illuminating:

‘Ingestion of Ayahuasca usually induces nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and leads to either an euphoric or an aggressive state. Frequently the Indian sees overpowering attacks of huge snakes or jaguars. These animals often humiliate him because he is a mere man. The repetitiveness with which snakes and jaguars occur in Ayahuasca visions has intrigues psychologists. It is understandable that these animals play such a role, since they are the only beings respected and feared by the Indians of the tropical forest; because of their power and stealth, they have assumed a place of primacy in aboriginal religious beliefs. In many tribes, the shaman becomes a feline during the intoxication, exercising his powers as a cat. Yekwana medicine men mimic the roars of jaguars. Tukano Ayahuasca-takers may experience nightmares of jaguar jaws swallowing them or huge snakes approaching and coiling around their bodies … shamans of the Conibo-Shipibo tribe acquire great snakes as personal possessions to defend themselves in supernatural battles against other powerful shamans. The drug may be the shaman's tool to diagnose illness or to ward off impending disaster, to guess the wiles of an enemy, to prophesy the future. But it is more than the shaman's tool. It enters into almost all aspects of the life of the people who use it, to an extent equalled by hardly any other hallucinogen. Partakers, shamans or not, see all the gods, the first human beings, and animals, and come to understand the establishment of their social order.’

Schultes' understanding of the cultural significance of ayahuasca is in stark contrast to the derisory accounts of early travellers. The earliest Europeans to mention ayahuasca were Jesuits travelling in the Amazon. One of the earliest such reports of this 'diabolical potion' from 1737 describes it as: 'an intoxicating potion ingested for divinatory and other purposes and called ayahuasca, which deprives one of his senses and, at times, of his life.'


~ The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances (1998);


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William S. Burroughs


William S. Burroughs traveled to Colombia (and later Peru )in 1953 in search of yagé (as ayahuasca was then commonly known) hoping that the even-then legendary brew might cure his opiate addiction. Unable to find the potion by his own endeavor, Burroughs was fortunate to travel into the Colombian jungle with fellow Harvard alumni Richard Evan Schultes who was able to introduce Burroughs to local brujos (shamans) who knew how to prepare yagé. Having little idea what to expect, Burroughs terror and paranoia once the yagé took hold is easy to understand


William S. BurroughsI sat there waiting for results and almost immediately had the Impulse to say, 'That wasn't enough. I need more: I have noticed this inexplicable impulse on the two occasions when I got an overdose of junk. Both times before the shot took effect. I said, ‘This wasn’t enough.'…

… in two minutes a wave of dizziness swept over me and the hut began spinning. It was like going under ether, or when you are very drunk and lie down and the bed spins. Blue flashes passed in front of my eyes. The hut took on an archaic Pacific look with Easter Island heads carved in the support posts. The assistant was outside lurking there with the obvious intent to kill me. I was hit by violent, sudden nausea and rushed for the door hitting my shoulder against the doorpost. I felt the shock but no pain. I could hardly walk. No coordination. My feet were like blocks of wood. I vomited violently leaning against a tree and fell down on the ground in helpless misery. I felt numb as if I was covered with layers of cotton. I kept trying to break out of this numb dizziness. I was saying over and over, ‘All I want is out of here.’ An uncontrollable mechanical silliness took possession of me. Hebebrenk meaningless repetitions. Larval beings passed before my eyes in a blue haze, each one giving an obscene, mocking squawk (I later identified this squawking as the croaking of frogs) - I must have vomited six times. I was on all fours convulsed with spasms of nausea. I could hear retching and groaning as if I was some one else. I was lying by a rock. Hours must have passed. The medicine man was standing over me. I looked at him for a long time before I believed he was really there saying, 'Do you want to come into the house?' I said, 'No,' and he shrugged and went back inside.


~ William S. Burroughs


According to Alexander Shulgin, the yagé of Colombia is made with only the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, and has no DMT in the brew. Perhaps sensing that this was still not the ‘full-experience’, Burroughs moved onto Peru in search of other sources. Burroughs typically early non-scientific interest in the psychotropic properties of such compounds makes him one of the earliest ayahuasca ‘tourists’, while his descriptions of the ayahuasca experience after he returns from the jungle in Peru with “a crate of yage” and a rough knowledge of its preparation are some of the finest psychedelic writings of all time. Burroughs identification of the yagé experience with aliens, symbolic language, and the Mayan cosmology would be revisited by Terence McKenna some thirty years later and have set many of the parameters for discussion on DMT to this day, while in his letters to Ginsberg the seeds of numerous themes and ideasthat would later flower in Burroughs most famous work, the hallucinatory Naked Lunch, can be seen to be emerging at this time.


July 10, 1953


Dear Allen,

Last night I took last of Yage mixture that I brought back from Pucallpa. No use transporting to U.S. It doesn't keep more then a few days. This morning, still high. This is what occurred to me. Yage is space time travel. The room seems to shake and vibrate with motion. The blood and substance of many races, Negro, Polynesian, Mountain Mongol, Desert Nomad, Polygot Near East, Indian - new races as yet unconceived and unborn, combinations not yet realized passes through your body. Migrations. Incredible journeys through deserts and jungles and mountains (stasis and death in closed mountain valleys where plants sprout out of the Rock and vast crustaceans hatch inside and break the shell of the body), across the Pacific in an outrigger canoe to Easter Island. The Composite City where all human potentials are spread out in a vast silent market.

Minarets, palms, mountains, jungle. A sluggish river jumping with vicious fish, vast weed-grown parks where boys lie in the grass or play cryptic games. Not a locked door in the City. Anyone comes in your room any time. The Chief of Police is Chinese who picks his teeth and listens to denunciations presented by a lunatic. Every now and then the Chinese takes the toothpick out of his mouth and looks at the end of it. Hipsters with smooth copper-colored faces lounge in doorways twisting shrunk heads on gold chains, their faces blank with an insect's unseeing calm….

…Followers of obselete unthinkable trades doodling in etruscan, addicts of drugs not yet synthesized, pushers of souped up Harmine, junk reduced to pure habit offering precarious vegetable serenity, liquids to induce Latah, cut antibiotics, Tithonian longevity serum; black marketeers of World War III, pitchmen seeing remedies for radiation sickness, investors of infractions denounced by bland paranoid chess players, servers of fragmentary warrants charging unspeakable mutilations of the spirit taken down in hebephrenic shorthand, Bureaucrats of spectral departments, officials of unconstituted police states; a lesbian dwarf who has perfected operation Begagut, the lung erection that strangles a sleeping enemy; sellers of orgone tanks and relaxing machines, brokers of exquisite dreams and memories tested on the sensitized cells of junk sickness and bartered for the raw materials of the will; doctors skilled in treatment of diseases dormant in the black dust of ruined cities, gathering virulence in the white blood of eyeless worms feeling slowly to the surface and the human hosts, maladies of the ocean floor and the stratosphere, maladies of the laboratory and atomic war, excisors of telepathic sensitivity, osteopaths of the spirit.
A place where the unknown past and the emergent future meet in a vibrating soundless hum. Larval entities waiting for a live one.


~William Lee.



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Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)


Allen Ginsberg‘Beat Poet’ Allen Ginsberg was the original recipient of William S. Burroughs letters from Colombia about his yagé experiences; Ginsberg himself would travel to South America some 7 years later (1960) and take yagé in Peru, writing back to Burroughs about his experience – these collective letters between the two writers would be published in 1962 by City Lights Bookstore as The Yage Letters. The publication of The Yage Letters in 1962 (along with the earlier publication of Aldous Huxley’s, Doors of Perception in 1954) is considered one of the key early influences in the subsequent 60’s ‘psychedelic revolution’. What is most interesting about Ginsberg’s account is that he was probably the first person to try ayahuasca after having already experienced LSD — Ginsberg was a test-subject at Gregory Bateson’s LSD trials at the Stanford Mental Research Institute in 1959 — and thus was the first person to comment on the ayahuasca experience from an established ‘psychedelic’ perspective.


Ginsberg's first experiences with yagé are mild and he leaves Lima for Pucallpa in search of an experience more similar to the ones that Burroughs had described. In Pucallpa he meets an acquaintance who introduces him to his own Curandero, who then prepares ayahuasca for Ginsberg. On June 10, 1960, Ginsberg writes:


Drank a cup … lay back and after an hour … began seeing or feeling what I thought was the Great Being, or some sense of It, approaching my mind like a big wet vagina — lay back in that for awhile — only image I can come up with is of a big black hole of God-Nose thru which I peered into a mystery — and the black hole surrounded by all creation — particularly colored snakes — all real.


Sensing that he is one the right path (and now trusting the Curandero), Ginsberg returns for another session. The following condensation of Ginsberg experience comes from 'the experience vaults' at www.EROWID.com and includes 'excerpt and paraphrase hunks' of "Dharma Lion" by Michael Schumacher, and well as direct quotations from 'The Yage Letters'.

Machaco Runa © Pablo Amaringo"Maestro served the yage ceremoniously, blowing smoke over the enamel cup and humming a melancholy song before he handed it to Allen. As he felt himself getting high, Allen lay down on the ground waited, expecting the same kind of pleasant visions as he had experienced the night before. Instead, as he reported to Burroughs, `the whole fucking Cosmos broke loose around me, I think the strongest and worse I've ever had it nearly — (I still reserve the Harlem experiences, being Natural in abeyance. The LSD was Perfection but didn't get me so deep in)'. `I felt faced by Death, my skull in my beard on pallet on porch rolling back and forth and settling finally as if in reproduction of the last physical move I make before settling into real death - got nauseous, rushed out and began vomiting, all covered with snakes, like the Snake Seraph, colored serpents in aureole all around my body. I felt like a snake vomiting out the universe - or a Jivaro in head-dress with fangs vomiting up in realization of the Murder of the Universe - my death to come - everyone's death to come - all unready - I unready...'" "Even as he was experimenting with drugs, he knew they were not the answer. He wanted something pure, a higher consciousness attained without the use of artificial means. Still, as long as he had reached the level of consciousness he had under the influence of yage, he would not abandon the drug. Since his childhood days and his Shrouded Stranger fantasies, he had been terrified of facing death, God, or whatever supreme consciousness was out there. Although, as he told Burroughs, he was not certain of the price he would pay for staring into the void, he would continue his quest until he had answers for some of his questions." "Night after night, he returned to Maestro for more yage, and each day following, he would write about the experience in his journals...." Later, wanting to try ayahuasca from other parts of Peru, he went to Iquitos, a port on the western end of the Amazon. "As he suspected, the yage brewed in the Amazonian region of Peru differed from that which he had taken in Pucallpa. The mescla used as a catalyst in the mixture was different. Allen was eager to try it, as well as bring home a sample for later consumption. After a week in Iquitos, he located a man living at the outskirts of the city who was willing to give him a dose. On June 24, he took three swallows of ayahuasca from a small gourd cup, and, while the brujo sat nearby, tapping his foot and whistling a tune, Allen was delivered to a multidimensional universe watched over by a serpent so huge that the middle of its body and tail disappeared into the void. The whistling sound became part of the vision - the sound the serpent made to signal `its Eternal presence at all times and place.' The serpent, for all its gigantic and powerful presence, was not entirely frightening. It promised a resolution to death, the entrance into its spirit and the understanding of this consciousness. The vision seemed to imply that death, although unavoidable, was not as terrifying as Allen had imagined it. Death, he reasoned, was the breakdown of a familiar dimension."


As the toll of his experiences mounted, Ginsberg began to fear for his own sanity, and in this passage (writing to Burroughs) he expresses the same fears of returning to 'normality' that many of today's psychonauts express after any extended experiences with the ayahuasca realm, writing;


"I hardly have the nerve to go back, afraid of some real madness, a Changed Universe permanently changed … I don't know if I'm going mad or not, and it's difficult to face more – tho' I suppose I will be able to protect myself by treating that consciousness as a temporary illusion and return to temporary normal consciousness when the effects wear off — (I began to glimpse the Call of Haitian Voodoo) — but this almost schizophrenic alteration of consciousness is fearful — and also the sense of not knowing who, personally, around me to open up to. I had arrangements to bring some back to NY but am almost afraid to – I'm no Curandero, I'm lost myself, and afraid of giving a nightmare I can't stop to others like Peter.'


Burroughs, in return, sends this rather cryptic reply from London, England. (Where Burroughs own self-experimentation with IM injections of pure DMT must have been ongoing - though he would have been unaware that DMT is the principal entheogen in ayahuasca at that time.)


June 21, 1960.
Present Time. Pre-Sent Time.


Dear Allen:
There is nothing to fear. Vaya adelante. Look. Listen, hear. Your AYUASKA consciousness is more valid than ‘Normal Consciousness’. Whose ‘Normal Consciousness’? Why return to? You are following in my steps. I know thee way. And yes know the area better than you I think. Tried more than once to communicate what I know. You did not or could not listen. ‘You cannot show to anyone what he has not seen.’…. And always remember. ‘Nothing is True. Everything is permitted.’ Last words of Hassan Sabbah, The Old Man Of The Mountain.




Ginsberg himself offered one final postscript on his ayahuasca experiences in 1963 when he returned (declaring himself spiritually enlightened) from India


San Francisco
August 28, 1963.


To whom it may concern;
Self deciphers this correspondence thus: the vision of ministering angels my fellow man and woman first wholly glimpsed while the Curandero gently crooned human in Ayahuasca trance state 1960 was prophetic of transfiguration of self consciousness from homeless mind sensation of eternal fright to incarnate body feeling present bliss now actualized 1963


Old Love, as ever
Allen Ginsberg


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MIchael Harner


Michael HarnerAs the rapid global expansion of the industrial society post- World War II saw the last of the great wildernesses on the planet become increasingly threatened and depleted, a handful of western anthropologists and plant-explorers (ethnobotanists) actively sought contact with the few remaining indigenous societies that still lived in the rainforests in hope of learning as much from them as they could before their way of life was irrevocably destroyed.


The Way Of The ShamanThis same era (1950’s-70’s) also saw the birth of the psychedelic culture, often on the same campuses that these anthropologists and botanists earned their degrees. (Richard Evan Schultes and Timothy Leary were both tenured Harvard Professors at the same time). As interest in psychedelics grew in the First-World, it was inevitable that these same anthropologists and botanists would look upon the Amazonian entheogens such as ayahuasca and the various snuffs with different eye – and for the first time we begin to find sympathetic accounts of the ayahuasca experience. As our cultural attitudes towards the experience changed, so too did our openly negative view of the ‘brujo’ (male witch) to the more respectful term of ‘curandero’ (a healer, or ‘herb-doctor’) and then finally to unabashedly envious current terminology of ‘shaman’ (a ‘psychedelic’ healer with true powers). The descriptions of the ayahuasca experiences that this first-generation of ‘open-minded’ anthropologists had are, in my opinion, both the most interesting and the most valid, since they date from a time before our (psychedelic) society had created any of it’s own mythology about either shamans, or ayahuasca.


Michael Harner’s firs tprolonged fieldwork as an anthropologist took place in 1956 and 1957 on the eastern slopes of the Ecuadorean Amazon with the Jívaro Indians, and while he gathered a great deal of information on that trip, he says he ‘remained an outside observer to the world of the shaman at that time.’ This situation would changed when he returned to the Amazon jungle, this time in Peru with the Coniba Indians of the Ucayali River region. It was here, after living with the Indians for the better part of a year, he drank ayahuasca for the first time. This description of his experience (from the introduction of his 1980 classic The Way of the Shaman) remains one of the true classics in ayahuasca literature.


 As I stared upward into the darkness, faint lines of light appeared. They grew sharper, more intricate, and burst into brilliant colors. Sounds came from far away, a sound like a waterfall, which grew stronger and stronger until it filled my ears. Just a few minutes earlier I had been disappointed, sure that the ayahuasca was not going to have any effect on me. Now the sound of rushing water flooded my brain. My jaw began to feel numb, and the numbness was moving up to my temples.

Overhead the faint lines became brighter, and gradually interlaced to form a canopy resembling a geometric mosaic of stained glass. The bright violet hues formed an ever-expanding roof above me. Within this celestial cavern, I heard the sound of water grow louder and I could see dim figures engaged in shadowy movements. As my eyes seemed to adjust to the gloom, the moving scene resolved itself into something resembling a huge fun house, a supernatural carnival of demons. In the center, presiding over the activities, and looking directly at me, was a gigantic, grinning crocodilian head, from whose cavernous jaws gushed a torrential flood of water. Slowly the waters rose, and so did the canopy above them, until the scene metamorphosed into a simple duality of blue sky above and sea below. All creatures had vanished.

Then, from my position near the surface of the water, I began to see two strange boats wafting back and forth, floating through the air towards me, coming closer and closer. They slowly combined to form a single vessel with a huge dragon-headed prow, not unlike that of a Viking ship. Set amidships was a square sail. Gradually, as the boat gently floated back and forth above me, I heard a rhythmic swishing sound and saw that it was a giant galley with several hundred oars moving back and forth in cadence with the sound.

I became conscious too, of the most beautiful singing I have ever heard in my life, high pitched and ethereal, emanating from myriad voices on board the galley. As I looked more closely at the deck, I could make out large numbers of people with the heads of blue jays and the bodies of humans, not unlike the bird-headed gods of ancient Egyptian tomb paintings. At the same time, some energy-essence began to float from my chest up into the boat. Although I believed myself to be an atheist, I was completely certain that I was dying and that the bird headed people had come to take my soul away on the boat. While the soul-flow continued from my chest, I was aware that the extremities of my body were growing numb…


… Now I was virtually certain I was about to die. As 1 tried to accept my fate, an even lower portion of my brain began to transmit more visions and information. I was "told" that this new material was being resented to me because I was dying and therefore “safe" to receive these revelations. These were the secrets reserved for the dying and the dead, I was informed. I could only very dimly perceive the givers of these thoughts: giant reptilian creatures reposing sluggishly at the lowermost depths of the back of my brain, where it met the top of the spinal column. I could only vaguely see them in what seemed to be gloomy, dark depths.

 Then they projected a visual scene in front of me. First they showed the planet Earth as it was eons ago, before there was any life on it. I saw an ocean, barren land, and a bright blue sky. Then black specks dropped from the sky by the hundreds and landed in front of me on the barren landscape. I could see that the "specks" were actually large, shiny, black creatures with stubby pterodactyl-like wings and huge whale-like bodies. Their heads were not visible to me. They flopped down, utterly exhausted from their trip, resting for eons. They explained to me in a kind of thought language that they were fleeing from something out in space. They had come to the planet Earth to escape their enemy.


These creatures then showed me how they had created life on the planet in order to hide within the multitudinous forms and thus disguise their presence. Before me, the magnificence of plant and animal relation and speciation-hundreds of millions of years of activity-took place on a scale and with a vividness impossible to describe. I learned that the dragon-like creatures were thus inside of all forms of life, including man. (In retrospect one could say they were almost like DNA, although at that time, 1961, I knew nothing about DNA). They were the true masters of humanity and the entire planet, they told me. We humans were but the receptacles and servants
of these creatures. For this reason they could speak to me from within myself.

These revelations, welling up from the depths of my mind, alternated with visions of the floating galley, which had almost finished taking my soul on board. The boat with its blue-jay headed deck crew was gradually drawing away, pulling my life force along as it headed toward a large fjord flanked by barren, worn hills. I knew l had only a moment more to live. Strangely, I had no fear of the bird-headed people; they were welcome to have my soul if they could keep it. But I was afraid that somehow my soul might not remain on the horizontal plane of the fjord but might, through processes unknown but felt and dreaded, be acquired or re-acquired by the dragon-like denizens of the depths. I suddenly felt my distinctive humanness, the contrast between my species and the ancient reptilian ancestors. I began to struggle against turning to the ancient ones, who were beginning to feel increasingly alien and possibly evil. Each heart-beat was a major undertaking. I turned to human help.

With an unimaginable last effort, I barely managed to utter one word to the Indians: “Medicine!” I saw them rushing around to make an antidote, and I knew they could not prepare it in time. I needed a guardian who could defeat dragons, and I frantically tried to conjure up a powerful being to protect me against the alien reptilian creatures. One appeared before me; and at that moment the Indians forced my mouth open and poured the antidote into me. Gradually the dragons appeared back into the lower depths; the soul boat and the fjord were no more. I relaxed with relief.

The antidote radically eased my condition, but it did not prevent me from having many additional visions of a more superficial nature. These were manageable and enjoyable. I made fabulous journeys at will through distant regions, even out into the Galaxy; created incredible architecture; and employed sardonically grinning demons to realize my fantasies. Often I found myself laughing aloud at the incongruities of my adventures.

Finally, I slept. '

~ Michael Harner, The Way of the Shaman (1980).


This experience would be the beginning of a life time study of shamanism for Michael Harner that still continues today. Along with Terence McKenna, Michael Harner is most responsible for both popularizing that terminology, and generating interest in the methods and techniques of shamanism in the West, both due to his popular books  (The Way of the Shaman) and as the founder of the Foundation of Shamanic Studies.



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Wade Davis


Wade Davis: Cultures at the far edge of the worldOne of the best-known students of the great Harvard Professor and plant-explorer Richard Evan Scultes, Wade Davis is a Canadian born anthropologist, ethnobotanist, author, and photographer, is considered one of the top authorities on worldwide indigenous cultures, especially in North and South America, and particularly involving the traditional uses and beliefs associated with psychoactive plants. He is also the current National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, and in charge of the Vanishing Languages program. Davis came to prominence with his 1985 best-selling book The Serpent and the Rainbow about the zombies of Haiti (that was subsequently made into a movie), but it is his 1997 classic One River, about Richard Evan Schultes Amazonian explorations (and a South American road trip by Davis and fellow Schulte’s student Tim Plowman) that is essential reading for anyone interested in the Amazon region, or ayahuasca. An unabashed child of the sixties, Davis writes about his experiences with plant entheogens with the rare skill of an enthusiast.


Wade Davis, One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Forest. (1997). Wade Davis, One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Forest. (1997). We all took more yagé, several more cycles. An hour or more passed. I looked up and saw the edges of the world soften and felt a resonance coming from beyond the sky, like the intimation of a hovering wind pulsating with energy. At first it was pleasant, a wondrous sense of life and warmth enveloping all things. But then the sensations intensified, became charged with a strange current, and the air itself took on a metallic density. Soon the world as I knew it no longer existed. Reality was not distorted, it was dissolved as the terror of another dimension swept over the senses. The beauty of colors, the endless patterns of orblike brilliance were as rain falling away from my skin. I caught myself and looked up, saw Rufino and Pacho gently swaying and moaning. There were rainbows trapped inside their feathers. In their hair were weeping flowers and trees attempting to soar into the clouds. Leaves fell from the branches with great howling sounds. The sky opened. There was a livid scar across the heavens, stars throbbing, a great wind scattering everything in its path. Then the ground opened. Snakes encircled the posts of the maloca and slipped away into the earth. One could not escape. The rivers unfolded like the mouths of blossoms. Movement became penetration. Then the terror grew stronger. Death hovered all around. Ravenous children and animals of every shape and form lay sick and dying of thirst, their nostrils plunged into the dry earth. Their flanks lay bare and exposed, and all around rose a canopy of immense sorrows.


I tried to shake away the forms from the luminous sensations. Instead, my thoughts themselves turned into visions, not of things or places but of an entire dimension that in the moment not only seemed real, but absolute. This was the actual world, and what I had known until then was a crude and opaque facsimile. I looked up and saw my companions. Rufino and Pacho sat quietly, heads down, hunched around a fire that had not been there before. Rufino's father stood apart, arms outspread as he sang. His face was upturned, and his feathered corona shone like the sun. His eyes were brilliant, radiant, feverish, as if focused into the very nature of things.


~ Wade Davis, One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Forest. (1997).



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Jeremy Narby


The first time an Ashininca man told me that he had learned the medicinal properties of plants by drinking a hallucinogenic brew, I thought he was joking. We were in the forest squatting next to a bush whose leaves, he claimed, could cure the bite of a deadly snake. “One learns these things by drinking ayahuasca,” he said. But he was not smiling.


~ Jeremy Narby, The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge.


Jeremy NarbyThe Swiss-Canadian anthropologist Jeremy Narby has written one of the most interesting and entertaining books about ayahuasca titled The Cosmic Serpent. Narby was at then end of his two-year stay as a field-anthropologist at an Ashaninca Indian community in the Peruvian Amazon’s Pichis Valleyin 1985, when he finally accepted a local shaman’s offer to try ayahuasca, so he too could see how the shamans learned about the properties of the astonishing array of medicinal plants they used from the jungle. Since Narby was 25 years old and still working on his Doctorate in Anthropology at Stanford, he was freshly indoctrinated as a professional scientific-rationalist (and part Swiss to boot) and didn’t what the local Indians were telling him – ‘for me, in 1985, the ayahuasqueros’ world represented a grey area that was taboo for the research I was conducting’ Narby writes – but his attitude would change radically after he drinks ayahuasca himself. Narby’s subsequent prolonged investigation into the properties of ayahuasca and DMT itself would result in some of the most startling theories about psychedelics since Timothy Leary – most radically that the snakes that ayahuasca shamans (and many other DMT users) commonly experience, is actually the snake-like shapes of our DNA communicating with us through the emission of bio-photonic light. Since 1989, Narby has been working for the indigenous Amazonian peoples rights as the Amazonian projects director for the Swiss NGO, Nouvelle Planète, while he continues to lecture write and lecture about entheogens in his spare time. His latest book is titled Psychotropic Mind: The World according to Ayahuasca, Iboga, and Shamanism. (2010).


Jeremy Narby, The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge.I began seeing kaleidoscopic images behind my closed eyes, but I was not feeling well. Despite Ruperto’s melody, I stood up to go outside and vomit. Having disposed of the deer meat and fried manioc remnants, I returned feeling relieved. Ruperto told me that I had probably eliminated the ayahuasca also and that, if I wanted, I could have some more. He checked my pulse and declared me strong enough for a “regular” dose which I swallowed.

Ruperto started whistling again as I sat down in the darkness of the platform. Images started pouring into my head. In my notes I describe them as “unusual or scary: an agouti (forest rodent) with barred teeth and a bloody mouth; a policeman giving me problems; my father looking worried …”

Deep hallucinations submerged me. I suddenly found myself surrounded by two giant boa constrictors that seemed fifty feet long. I was terrified. “These enormous snakes are there, my eyes are closed and I see a spectacular world of brilliant lights, and in the middle of these hazy thought, the snakes start talking to me without words. They explain that I am just a human being. I feel my mind crack, and in the fissures, I see the bottomless arrogance of my presuppositions. It is profoundly ture that I am just a human being and, most of the time, I have the impression of understanding everything, whereas here I find myself in a more powerful reality that I do not understand at all and that, in my arrogance, I did not even suspect existed. I feel like crying in view of the enormity of these revelations. The it dawns on me that self-pity is part of my arrogance. I feel so ashamed that I no longer dare feel ashamed. Nevertheless, I have to throw up again.

I stood up feeling totally lost, stepped over the fluorescent snakes like a drunken tight-rope walker, and, begging their forgiveness, headed toward a tree next to the house.

I relate this experience with words on paper. But at the time, language itself seemed inadequate. I tried to name what I was seeing, but mostly the words would not stick with the images. This was distressing, as if my last link to “reality” had been severed. Reality itself seemed to be no more than a distant and one-dimensional memory. I managed nonetheless to understand my feelings, such as “poor little human being who has lost his language and feels sorry for himself.”

I have never felt so completely humble as I did at that moment. In Ashaninca, the word for ayahuasca is kamarampi, from the verb kamarank, “to vomit”. I closed my eyes, and all I could see was red. I could see the insides of my body, red. “I regurgitate not a liquid, but colors, electric red, like blood. My throat hurts. I open my eyes and feel presences next tome, a dark one to my left, and a light one to my right, also a yard away. As I am turned to the left, I am not bothered by the dark presence, because I am aware of it. But I jump when I become aware of the light presence to my right, and I turn to look at it. I can’t really see it with my eyes; I feel so bad, and control my reason so little, that I do not really want to see it. I remain lucid enough to understand that I am not truly vomiting blood. After awhile I stop wondering what to do. I have so little control that I abandon myself to the instructions that seem to be coming from outside me: now it is time to stop vomiting, now it is time to spit, to blow nose, to rinse mouth with water, not to drink water. I am thirsty, but my body stops me from drinking”

I looked up and saw as Ashaninca woman dressed in a traditional long cotton robe. She was standing about seven yards away from me, and she seemed to be levitating above the ground. I could see her in the darkness, which had become clear. The qualities of the light reminded me of those night scenes in movies which are filmed at day by a dark filter; somehow, not really dark, because glowing. As I looked at this woman, who was staring at me in silent clear darkness, I was once again staggered by this peoples familiarity with a reality that turned me upside down and of which I was totally ignorant.

“Still confused, I reckon I have done everything, including rinse my face, and I feel amazed that I have been able to do all this by myself. I leave the tree, the two presences and the levitating woman, and I return to the group. Ruperto asks, ‘Did they tell you not to drink water? I answer, ‘Yes.’ ‘Are you drunk (mareado)?’’Yes.’ I sit down and he resumes his song. I have never heard more beautiful music, these slender staccatos are so high-pitched they verge on humming. I follow his song, and take flight. I fly in the air, thousands of feet above the earth, and looking down, I see an all-white planet. Suddenly, the song stops, and I find myself on the ground, thinking: ‘He can’t stop now.’ All I can see are confused images, some of which have an erotic content, like a woman with twenty breasts, He starts singing again, and I see a green leaf, with its veins, and so on relentlessly. It is impossible to remember everything.”

Gradually, the images faded. I was exhausted. I fell asleep shortly after midnight.


~ Jeremy Narby, Psychotropic Mind: The World according to Ayahuasca, Iboga, and Shamanism. (2010).



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2. Hoasca: the ceremonial tea of Santo Daime and the UGV


The Santo Daime ReligionSanto Daime is a syncretic spiritual practice, founded in the Brazilian Amazonian state of Acre in the 1930s, that became a worldwide movement in the 1990s. Santo Daime rituals involve collective singing of hymns, sometimes while engaged in a formalised dance step, other times simply seated in chairs, combined with the consumption of Daime, the name founder Raimundo Irineu Serra, or Mestre Irineu gave to the drink known generically as Ayahuasca. Dai-me means "give me" in Portuguese, as in "daime força, daime amor" (give me strength, give me love), phrases found in several of the doctrine's hymns.


the ceremonial tea of Santo Daime and the UGVSanto Daime is syncretic in that it incorporates elements of several religious or spiritual traditions including Folk Catholicism, Kardecist Spiritism, and African animism and South American Shamanism. The religion, called simply the Doctrine of Mestre Irineu by its most senior practitioners, has little basis in written texts. Instead, its teachings are learned experientially, through singing of inspired hymns, which explore perennial values of love, harmony and strength through through poetic and metaphorical imagery. Ceremonies, which are called "trabalhos" meaning "works", are typically several hours long and consist of drinking Daime and either sitting or dancing while singing hymns and playing maracas, or sitting in silent "concentration".


The drinking of Daime induces a strong emetic effect which is embraced as a purging of both emotional and physical impurities. Overall the Santo Daime promotes a wholesome lifestyle in conformity with Mestre Irineu's motto of "harmony, love, truth and justice", as well as other key doctrinal values such as strength, humility, fraternity and purity of heart.




All who drink this holy beverage must not only try to see beautiful things while correcting their faults, but give shape to perfection of their own personality to take their place in this battalion and follow this line. If they would act this way, they could say, I am a brother


~ Mestre Irineu


Devotional in context, the songs praise divine principles. The Cross of Caravacca, with its double horizontal beam, stands on the altar. Each session begins and ends with Christian prayers. Santo Daime practice features several kinds of ritual: two kinds are "concentrações" ("concentrations") and "bailados" ("dances"), also known as "hinários" ("hymnals"). Other rituals focus on the saying of the rosary, or healing. Participants drink Daime in all types of ritual; but the format and focus can differ; concentrations are silent, seated meditations, while hymnals involve dancing and singing hymns while playing maracas.

The Christian core is combined with other elements, such as an emphasis on personal gnosis and responsibility, an animist appreciation of nature, such as the Sun, Moon and Stars, as well as the totemic symbol of the 'beija-flor', the hummingbird. Spiritual beings from indigenous Amazonian shamanism and deities from the African pantheon such as Ogum and Iemanja are also incorporated into the doctrine. The nature of the work is sometimes personified and addressed as 'Juramidam', a name disclosed to Irineu in his visionary experience, which means literally, "God (jura) and his soldiers (midam)".


Participants in the ritual come to submit themselves to a process through which they may learn things. This may include various wonders - Ayahuasca is famous for the visions it generates, and the sense of communion with nature and spiritual reality - as well as more mundane, less pleasant lessons about oneself. The Daime is thought to reveal both positive and various negative or unresolved aspects of the individual, resulting in difficult 'passages' involving the integration of this dissociated psychological content.


It is not for nothing that ceremonies are referred to as 'works' since they can last up to 12 hours. The effects of Daime combined with dancing, singing and concentration require and develop stamina.



Santo Daime's entheogenic sacrament, ayahuasca, has been used for millennia in South American indigenous cultures. It is one of the traditional tools of the shaman in South America, and in many regions is to this day a common medicine used for finding and treating various ailments as well as for its vision-inducing effects, which are said to be profound and life-changing.


The tea has had many names including Santo Daime (or simply Daime), Hoasca, Ayahuasca, Yage, and Caapi. It is made from two or more plants, one a woody vine (Ayahuasca vine or Jagube; generally "Banisteriopsis caapi"), and the others known as admixtures. While various plants are used throughout South America, most of which have high concentrations of dimethyltryptamine, the preferred admixture in the case of Santo Daime is "Psychotria viridis", known to church members as the "Queen of the Forest," after the figure who is said to have appeared to the church's founder in a vision, prompting him to start the religion. DMT occurs naturally in the human brain and is released in great quantities at the time of death, but it is normally digested in the stomach if consumed and an MAOI, (monoamine oxidase inhibitor), in this case harmine and harmaline, is needed to allow it to reach the brain in this way, thus the use of the vine.


The Santo Daime Church uses only the Jagube vine and the Viridis leaf, not adding any other plants to the mixture. The tea is prepared ceremoniously over a week by members of the church in a festival called a 'fetio'. Hymns are sung, and Daime is drank while the men hammer the vine into powder and the women clean and sort the leaves. Because of the very specific manner in which they prepare their sacrament, and the very specific way in which they use it, the beverage is not called 'Ayahuasca', but 'Santo Daime'. In some communitites there are very clear distinctions and it has been said "I have drank Santo Daime for twenty years, but I have never taken Mother Ayahuasca."


From http://en.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/992611


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Dennis J. McKenna


‘An Unusual Experience with “Hoasca; A lesson from the Teacher’.

The following excerpt comes from a personal account of ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna’s unique Hoasca experience at a UDV conference in Brazil. While brother Terence may be more famous for his pose, this is personally one of my favorite pieces of entheogenic writing of all time, remarkable in both its erudition and in its style and flow, much like Dennis McKenna himself.


My own experience was not developing as I’d hoped. My stomach was queasy but not enough to send me to the bathroom and I felt restless and uncomfortable. I felt very little effect, except for some brief flashes of hypnagogia behind my closed eyes. I was disappointed; I had been hoping for more than a subthreshold experience, and I didn’t want to disappoint my hosts, who were concerned that their visitors should have a good experience and “get” it. When the Mestre signaled that he was ready to give a second glass to any one who wanted it, I was among the group of about a dozen Gringos that queued up in front of the table; apparently I was not the only one who was having a difficult time connecting with the spirit of the tea.


Dennis J. McKennaI took my second draught and settled back into my chair. It tasted, if possible, even worse than the first one had. Within a few minutes it became clear that this time, it was going to work. I began to feel the force of the hoasca course through my body, a feeling of energy passing from the base of my spine to the top of my head. It was like being borne upwards in a high-speed elevator. I was familiar with this state of sympathetic activation from previous mushroom experiences, and I welcomed the sensation as confirmation that the train was pulling out of the station.


The energized feeling and the sensation or rapid acceleration continued. It was much like mushrooms but seemed to be much stronger; I had the sense that this was one elevator it would be hard to exit from before reaching the top floor, wherever that might be. Random snippets of topics we had been discussing at the seminars in the previous days began to float into my consciousness. I remembered one seminar that had addressed the UDV’s concept that the power of hoasca tea is a combination of “force” and “light”; the “force” was supplied by the MAO-inhibiting Banisteriopsis vine, known as mariri in the local vernacular, while the light -- the visionary, hypnagogic component -- was derived from chacruna, the DMT-containing Psychotria admixture plant. I thought to myself what an apt characterization this was; hoasca was definitely a combination of “force” and “light” and at that moment I was well within the grip of the “force” and hoped that I was about to break out into “the light”.


At the instant I had that thought, I heard a voice, seeming to come from behind my left shoulder. It said something like, “you wanna see force?? I’ll show you force!” The question was clearly rhetorical, and I understood that I was about to experience something whether I wanted to or not. The next instant, I found myself changed into a disembodied point of view, suspended in space, thousands of miles over the Amazon basin. I could see the curvature of the earth, the stars beyond shown steadily against an inky backdrop, and far below I could see swirls and eddies of clouds over the basin, and the nerve-like tracery of vast river systems. From the center of the basin arose the World Tree, in the form of an enormous Banisteriopsis vine. It was twisted into a helical form and its flowering tops were just below my disembodied viewpoint, its base was anchored to the earth far below, lost to vision in the depths of mist and clouds and distance that stretched beneath me. As I gazed, awestruck, at this vision, the voice explained that the Amazon was the Omphalos of the planet, and that the twisted, rope-like Yggdrasil/Mariri World Tree was the lynchpin that tied the three realms -- the underworld, the earth and the sky -- together. Somehow I understood -- though no words were involved -- that, the Banisteriopsis vine was the embodiment of the plant intelligence that embraced and covered the earth, that together the community of the plant species that existed on the earth provided the nurturing energy that made life on earth possible. I “understood” that photosynthesis -- that neat trick, known only to green plants, of making complex organic compounds from sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water, was the “force” the UDV was talking about, and indeed was the force on which all life depends; I was reminded of a line from Dylan Thomas, that photosynthesis is “the force that thru the green fuse drives the flower.


In the next moment, I found myself instantly transported from my bodiless perch in space to the lightless depths beneath the surface of the earth. I had somehow become a sentient water molecule, percolating randomly through the soil, lost amid the tangle of the enormous root fibers of the Banisteriopsis World Tree. I could feel the coolness, the dank dampness of the soil surrounding me, I felt suspended in an enormous underground cistern, a single drop among billions of drops. This sensation lasted only a moment, then I felt a definite sense of movement, as if squeezed by the implacable force of irresistable osmotic pressures, I was rapidly translocated into the roots of the Banisteriopsis tree; the sense of the rising, speeding elevator returned except this time I was being lifted rapidly through the vast pipes and tubes of the plant’s vascular system. I was a single molecule of water tumbling through the myriad branches and forks of the vertical maze, which grew progressively narrower the higher I went.


Finally, the sense of accelerating, vertical movement eased off; I was now floating freely, in a horizontal direction; no longer feeling pushed, I was suspended in the middle of a stream flowing through an enormous, vaulted tunnel , More than that, there was light at the end of the tunnel, a green light. With a start I realized that I had just passed through the petiole of a sun-drenched leaf, and was being shunted into progressively narrowing arteries as I was carried through the articulating veins toward some unknown destination. It helped that the voice -- or my own narrative self, I’m not sure which – was providing occasional commentary on the stages of the journey as it unfolded.


The World Tree © Alex GreyDesperately I tried to remember my old lessons in plant physiology and anatomy; by this time I had been given the wordless understanding that I was about to witness, indeed, participate in, the central mystery of life on earth; a water molecule’s eye view of the process of photosynthesis. Suddenly I was no longer suspended in the arterial stream of the leaf vein; I had somehow been transported into an enormous enclosed space, suffused with greenish light. Above me I could see the domed, vaulted roof of the structure I was inside of, and I understood that I was inside a chloroplast; the roof was translucent and beams of sunlight streamed through it like a bedroom window on a bright morning. In front of me were flat, layered structures looking like folded sheets stacked closely together, covered with antenna-shaped structures, all facing in the same direction and all opened eagerly to receive the incoming light. I realized that these had to be the thylakoid membranes, the organelles within the chloroplast where the so-called “light reaction” takes place. The antenna-like structures covering them literally glowed and hummed with photonic energy, and I could see that somehow, this energy was being translocated through the membranes of the thylakoids they were mounted on. I recognized, or “understood” that these antenna-like arrays were molecules of cholorophyll, and the “anchors” that tied them to their membrane substrates were long tails of phytic acid that functioned as energy transducers, funneling the light energy collected by the flower-shaped receptors through the membrane and into the layers beneath it.


Next thing I knew I was beneath that membrane; I was being carried along as though borne on a conveyor belt; I could see the phytic acid chains dangling above and beyond them, through the semitransparent “roof” of the membrane, the flower-like porphyrin groups that formed the cholorophyll’s light gathering apparatus loomed like the dishes of a radio telescope array. In the center of the space was what looked like a mottled flat surface, periodically being smited by enormous bolts of energy which emanated, lightening-like, from the phytic acid tails suspended above it; and on that altar, water molecules were being smashed to smithereens by the energy bolts. Consciousness exploded and died in a spasm of electron ecstasy as I was smited by the bolt of energy emitted by the phytic acid transducers and my poor water-molecule soul was split asunder. As the light energy was used to ionize the water, the oxygen liberated in the process rose with a shriek to escape from the chamber of horrors, while the electrons, liberated from their matrix, were shunted into the electron-transport rollercoaster, sliding down the chain of cytochromes like a dancer being passed from partner to partner, into the waiting arms of Photosystem I, only to be blasted again by yet another photonic charge, bounced into the close but fleeting embrace of ferredoxin, the primary electron acceptor, ultimately captured by NADP+ , to be used as bait to capture two elusive protons, as a flame draws a moth. Suddenly I was outside the flattened thylakoid structures, which from my perspective looked like high-rise, circular apartment buildings. I recognized that I was suspended in the stroma, the region outside the thylakoid membranes, where the mysterious Dark Reaction takes place, the alchemical wedding that joins carbon dioxide to ribulose diphosphate, a shot-gun marriage presided over by ribulose diphosphate carboxylase, the first enzyme in the so-called pentose phosphate shunt. All was quiet and for a moment, I was floating free in darkness; then mircaulously, (miracles were by this time mundane) I realized that my disembodied point of view had been reincarnated again, and was now embedded in the matrix of the newly reduced ribulose disphosphate/carbon dioxide complex; this unstable intermediate was rapidly falling apart into two molecules of phosphoglycerate which were grabbed and loaded on the merry-go-round by the first enzymes of the Calvin cycle. Dimly I struggled to remember my early botany lessons and put names to what I was seeing.


I recognized that I had entered the first phases of the pentose phosphate shunt, the biochemical pathway that builds the initial products of photosynthesis into complex sugars and sends them spinning from thence into the myriad pathways of biosynthesis that ultimately generate the molecular stuff of life.

“Shelter for Opening” by Autumn Skye MorrisonI felt humbled, shaken, exhausted and exalted all at the same time; suddenly I was ripped out of my molecular roller coaster ride, my disembodied eye was again suspended high over the Amazon basin. This time, therewas no world tree arising from its center, it looked much like it must looked from a space shuttle or a satellite in high orbit. The day was sunny, the vista stretching to the curved horizon was blue and green and bluish green, the vegetation below, threaded with shining rivers, looked like green mold covering an overgrown petri plate. Suddenly I was wracked with a sense of overwhelming sadness, sadness mixed with fear for the delicate balance of life on this planet, the fragile processes that drive and sustain life, sadness for the fate of our planet and its precious cargo. “What will happen if we destroy the Amazon,” I thought to myself, “what will become of us, what will become of life itself, if we allow this destruction to continue? We cannot let this happen. It must be stopped, at any cost.” I was weeping. I felt miserable, I felt anger and rage toward my own rapacious, destructive species, scarcely aware of its own devastating power, a species that cares little about the swath of destruction it leaves in its wake as it thoughtlessly decimates ecosystems and burns thousands of acres of rainforest. I was filled with loathing and shame.


Suddenly again from behind my left shoulder, came a quiet voice. “You monkeys only think you’re running things,” it said. “You don’t think we would really allow this to happen, do you?” and somehow, I knew that the “we” in that statement was the entire community of species that constitute the planetary biosphere. I knew that I had been given an inestimable gift, a piece of gnosis and wisdom straight from the heart/mind of planetary intelligence, conveyed in visions and thought by an infinitely wise, incredibly ancient, and enormously compassionate “ambassador” to the human community. A sense of relief, tempered with hope, washed over me. The vision faded, and I opened my eyes, to see my new found friends and hosts all eagerly gathered around me. The ceremony had officially ended a few minutes previously, I had been utterly oblivious to whatever was going on in the world beyond my closed eyelids. “How was it,” they wanted to know, “did you feel the buhachara (strange force)?” I smiled to myself, feeling overjoyed at the prospect of sharing the experience and knowing that I had indeed been allowed to experience the ultimate “force”, the vastly alien, incredibly complex molecular machine that is the “green fuse that drives the flower.



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3. An ayahuasca analogue account


While rarely mentioned in contemporary psychedelic literature, on the internet one can find numerous entertaining and enlightening reports of intrepid psychonauts experimenting with an astonishing array of ayahuasca analogues, which can include both DMT and 5-MeO-DMT.  It may be that the non-traditional use of these ayahuasca-analogues and pharmahuasca’srepresents the future direction of modern entheogenic exploration, since the proliferation of these accounts obviously indicates a sincere desire of a (small) proportion of today’s population to explore these radical tryptamine realms.


‘Unbearable Moments of Inner Peace’ by Dennis Konstantin I thought I would post a little info here on what I did and what happened. I consumed two full eye droppers of the 5x Harmaline Tincture (as I understood when I purchased it 1 full dropper was = to 250mg) I put one dropper full in a cup of green tea and sipped it slowly over 15 minutes. Next I prepared an identical cup of tea w/1 dropper of the 5x Harmaline Tincture. With the first sip of this cup I swallowed down 3 full gel caps of the Mimosa Xtract. I was feeling the effects of the Harmaline about half way through my second cup of tea , so, about 30 minutes after the first sip from the first cup. I should note here that I had fasted for about 12 hours prior to this adventure, with the exception of a bowl full of white rice I ate about 45 minutes before I began drinking the tea.

One Hour after the first sip both cups of tea were gone. At that point I had a very nice feeling of euphoria. It was a giddy feeling almost as you felt as a kid on Christmas day or the way you felt when you knew you were gonna get your first piece of ass. That feeling started to become more of a drunk feeling and I was experiencing visual distortion. Light trails and fog. I remember about one hour after finishing the second cup questioning myself as to whether I was feeling anything other than the MAOI. I was not and had not felt any nausea at all. I decided I needed a drink of water I grabbed the water bottle uncapped it and put it to my lips the next thing I realized I was traveling upward through the water bottle, I was floating in this viscous liquid space. There were light waves all around me, colorful light waves. The medium I was floating in had so many individual points of entry within the area I was in, as I was floating there were illuminated colorful geometric patterns that would zap into the world around me, and they would congratulate me.... No they would honor me. They were telling me how perfect I looked and felt. Every new point of colorful light that came into my surrounding acknowledged me. I believe there were millions a second flashing around me. I couldn't understand how U was keeping up. By the way the visuals did not change, eyes open or eyes closed. I kinda just got lost in it.

I am having a very difficult time getting this out.

I started drinking the tea at about 9PM. My best guess is the DMT started to kik in around 10:30PM. I did stand up and look at my watch at 1:44AM it was dark out but it wasn't. I could see a million stars out. All fo them were illuminating the ground below me, some of the stars illuminated a double helix ray of light that made sound. Other stars shone down and projected a geometrical pattern on the ground that seemed to vibrate or dance to its own beat. I wanted to walk and I tried. I was concerned about stepping on any of the light patterns on the ground.
It all was so beautiful and yet overwhelming. I was never afraid. I laid back down and drifted and drifted. one colorful scene melted into the next. I awoke to my wrist watch alarm at 6AM I was on Terra Firma again. At this moment I feel great. Refreshed.

Lessons learned?

I got very lucky. My SWAG method of selecting the correct dosage and spacing between doses worked perfect. I wouldn't of wanted to be any more gone than I was. The duration was just right

I believe the white rice may have helped me from getting nausea.
I had a totally awesome journey. Better than all the Shroom or LSD trips I have ever done combined.

I want to do it again very soon, I will.

I gotta crash for a while....


Extract from a forum posting on Shroomery.org


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4. Pharmahuasca


Strictly speaking, pharmahuasca utilizes as pure as possible DMT (usually in a crystal form) and an equally pure MAOI inhibitor in an attempt to create ‘ayahusca-in-a-pill’. This following extract from an intrepid young (23) psychonaut falls somewhere in between a true ayahuasca-analogue and pharmahuasca, when he experiments with a Syrian Rue tea and eating dmt crystals mashed up in bananas!


It took 40 minutes to start, which made me apprehensive thinking I had done something wrong, that the rue wasn’t enough, or that the banana had somehow messed it up. I said to myself (or to the dmt) ´come on, Im not afraid, come on´. And boy, did it come.

The first tripping moments had to do with my vision. I could force my eyes to turn the typical closed eyes phosphene imagery into seeing scenes and scenarios, like landscapes, roads, forests and so on. First this was very light but then started increasing and the scenes got more and more realistic. This came together with a very heightened perception of the icaros. (On iPod.) They were incredible! I could feel the power of the shaman again, reminding exactly how it was when he was singing next to me in the ritual months ago. I felt the wise science behind the sounds, how perfect they were and how they really match the DMT experience, the repetitions, the patterns.

Until this moment, I had felt no nausea, but then it did come. It wasn’t so bad, it was more like a feeling of having a ´thick´ stomach (hard to describe), having something ´stuck´. It is sort of like the feeling when one wants to burp but its stuck and doesn’t come out. At this point the air was feeling very thick too, like when one opens the eyes during a smoked DMT trip and the air is ´filled´, and not empty.

It was late, and I had woken up sort of early, so I was tired. When I layed down, sleep began taking hold of me, so I had to sit up in bed to fight it off. When I stood up, this ´thick nausea´ began again, so I kept alternating between the two, stuck, sort of like the ´short-blanket syndrome´ (pull at the top the feet get cold, pull at the feet and the top gets cold). Now mind you, this seems like a negative thing, but I felt, like I had learned in the ayahuasca rituals I had done, that this was a part of the whole point of DMT: To take you out of the comfort zone, to make you face weakness and difficulty, so you can ´stand´ it and get stronger.

The trip started getting very very strong, overriding my tiredness. This meant I could lay down without a problem. Listening to the Icaros was amaaaaaaaaazing, but I decided that I should go another step and be in silent for awhile. This proved to be a good experiment. I started having the most incredible auditory ´hallucinations´. They were sounds of the ´other side´, so to say. Imagine playing the keys of the piano from the lowest tone to the highest tone in order, and back. Now this would be a ´linear´ order, sort of ´horizontal´, like the piano is. So imagine the same, but instead of a ´linear horizontal´ scale change, a spiral sound. This was what I heard. I heard the sounds of spirals, fractals, futuristic sounds, bleeps and blops, bubbles and moving balloons. It was as if one could decode all the imagery of a smoked DMT trip into sounds.

This brings me to another point. I was having a trip of the same level of a smoked 50mg DMT trip, except instead of 300km/h, it just as intense, but at 50km/h. This meant I could carefully examine the visuals and the sounds.

Then a very very weird feeling started to arise in me. I started feeling the whole mystery of the DMT, connecting it somehow to the ´dead´ world. It wasn´t ´evil´ in any way, but it was quite humbling. It was just so beyond our level of consciousness, and I couldn’t help but get the feeling it had something to do with death (maybe Mckenna was onto something when he called it an ´ecology of souls´, as if its really the primordial world from before birth and after death). The sounds and visuals showed me this somehow, as if the whole existence was made of spirals, vibrations interacting with each other. It´s like those images in movies when a camera stands still in a city and it goes fast forward, and one can see the ´after images´ of all the people passing by. So it was as if the trip was showing me this, but instead of a city, all life, the ´afterimages´ of all souls, and instead of fast forward, both forward and backwards (like the piano thing I said, going up and down the scales, evolution and involution).

This all lead me to start thinking about death more, visualizing it. Suddenly I was imagining people, but in special my wife (im only 23 but im married), and I thought of her death, and it hurt me so much. I cried, thinking of how hard it was to ´let go´ of the attachment of living. This continued for a while, visualizing loads of people that I know, but specially my family and my wife, and I cried about the transitory nature of life and existence. I thought of my death too, and this was hard, imagining the last breath, letting go, releasing attachments, being engulfed by the ´other side´.

We are like birds in a cage, that even when set free, still hesitates going out. The same for us, no matter how ´enlightened´ and ´unafraid´ one says he is about death, there is always a hesitation, a difficulty, but what I came to learn is that we tend to ´pile up´ on this initial worry with loads of unnecessary fears, and that the key is to just do what one has to during life, be productive, give back to the world, have no ´debts´ with existence, and then there is nothing to fear. I don’t think I worked out completely my fear of death, as this is a process that goes on until the day it actually happens, but I am slowly dealing with it each time better, and in the very least it´s a reminder to make my life worth living. I also thought of being even closer with my wife, valuing her more, helping her also make her life worth living. This all lasted quite a while, and it was one of the strongest parts of the experience.”



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