Kahpi: Ayahuasca Information Hub

While ayahuasca has become something of a celebrity around the world recently, there are many misleading understandings about ayahuasca circulating the web.

From unreasonable fears about the dangers of the brew to sensationalist ideas about its benefits, the need for a mature discussion about ayahuasca has never been more important. We bring together ayahuasca experts from science and medicine, anthropology and ethnobotany, and shamanism and alternative healing networks.

Union of Indigenous Yagé Medics of the Colombian Amazon

Our organization was created in 1999 and includes five indigenous groups from the Colombian Amazon rainforest.
We work to preserve the Amazon rainforest and to revitalize and protect our cultures and our ancestral medicine.
We are spiritual authorities, medicine men and women of knowledge, and our role is to ensure the health of the territories and the physical and spiritual wellbeing of our communities and territories.

Drug Tourism Or Spiritual Healing? Ayahuasca Seekers in Amazonia

This research addresses the question of whether Westerners who seek traditional spiritual medicine known as ayahuasca can be best characterized as “drug tourists” or as people pursuing spiritual and therapeutic opportunities. Participants in an ayahuasca retreat in Amazonia were interviewed regarding their motivations for participation and the benefits they felt that they received. These findings from the interviews were organized to reveal common motivations and benefits. Contrary to the characterization as “drug tourists”, the principal motivations can be characterized as: seeking spiritual relations and personal spiritual development; emotional healing; and the development of personal self-awareness, including contact with a sacred nature, God, spirits and plant and natural energies produced by the ayahuasca. The motivation and perceived benefits both point to transpersonal concerns, with the principal perceived benefits involving increased self awareness, insights and access to deeper levels of the self that enhanced personal development and the higher self, providing personal direction in life.

Racism and the Discrimination Against Traditional Ayahuasqueros by Anthropology Users in Academia

“Foreigners, and even Brazilians, often feel confused by the fierce accusations leveled by the members of different Brazilian ayahuasca religions against each other”, so anthropologist Edward MacRae has stepped in to clarify things with his recent article Racism and the Discrimination Against Cannabis by Ayahuasca Users in Brazil, published by Chacruna, an online magazine.[2] MacRae has a superb track record, having made key contributions to the CONAD study that paved the way for the legal protection of Daime in Brazil, and writing a fine history of this religious movement, which is one of the largest ayahuasca groups in the world. He didn’t choose the headline, and perhaps we can forgive Chacruna for its sensationalism given that they are competing with BuzzFeed for clicks. He’s right in pointing out that prejudice has wide-ranging effects on the cultural landscape of Brazil; but what about his claim that traditionalists who reject the adoption of cannabis and other variant practices by the ICEFLU branch of Daime are motivated by racism?

From the Rubber Boom to Ayawaskha Tourism: Shamanic Initiation Narratives and the Commodification of Amazonia

In this article, I examine shamanic initiation narratives, the stories told by urban mestizo shamans in northwest Amazonia to explain their knowledge of Amerindian plant medicine, to illuminate the sociohistorical context in which they emerge. Using a geocritical approach to literary analysis, I interrogate the initiation narrative of renowed Iquitos shaman, Manuel Córdova Ríos, using the work of Peruvian poet César Calvo, the American forester Frank Bruce Lamb, and two local Iquitos publications. I argue that Córdova’s narrative served to erase the urban shaman’s involvement in the exploitative practices of rubber extraction. In so doing, he reinvented Iquitos and its surroundings as a place of purification, setting the scene for the commodification of shamanic healing in a new extractive cycle of magical plant experiences. The analysis offers a surprising example of the way that narrative shapes the way places are perceived, conceived, and lived.

The Globalization of Ayahuasca: Harm Reduction Or Benefit Maximization?

Ayahuasca is a tea made from two plants native to the Amazon, Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis, which, respectively, contain the psychoactive chemicals harmala alkaloids and dimethyltryptamine. The tea has been used by indigenous peoples in countries such as Brazil, Ecuador and Peru for medicinal, spiritual and cultural purposes since pre-Columbian times. In the 20th century, ayahuasca spread beyond its native habitat and has been incorporated into syncretistic practices that are being adopted by non-indigenous peoples in modern Western contexts. Ayahuasca’s globalization in the past few decades has led to a number of legal cases which pit religious freedom against national drug control laws. This paper explores some of the philosophical and policy implications of contemporary ayahuasca use. It addresses the issue of the social construction of ayahuasca as a medicine, a sacrament and a “plant teacher.” Issues of harm reduction with respect to ayahuasca use are explored, but so too is the corollary notion of “benefit maximization.”

Traditional Healing Practices Involving Psychoactive Plants and the Global Mental Health Agenda: Opportunities, Pitfalls, and Challenges in the “Right to Science” Framework

The global mental health (GMH) movement aims to establish a world in which every human can access mental health services based on two fundamental principles: respect for human rights and evidence-based treatments. Despite being criticized, especially for its neocolonial tendency to impose psychiatric systems that defy local epistemologies, this movement is garnering increasing attention.

Drug Tourism in the Amazon: Why Westerners Are Desperate To Find the Vanishing Primitive

Tourists from the US and Europe are travelling to cities in the Amazon River Region to participate in religious ceremonies and ingest medicinal potions. Many of these tourists are seeking self-actualization and are sometimes exploited by fake healers.

A number of upscale, well-to-do, prominent Americans and Europeans are touring Amazonian cities. Interested neither in parrots nor piranhas, they revel in special all-night religious ceremonies, presided over by a powerful shaman, drinking a foul-smelling brew – a woody vine called ayahuasca. Unlike the jungle denizens who for the last several thousand years have drunk the potion to see the vine’s mother spirit – a boa constrictor – in order to protect themselves from enemies, to divine the future, or heal their emotional and physical disorders, the urban tourist is on a never-ending search for self-actualization and growth. In this postmodern period, where people no longer produce their own food, where the family has broken down, where there is a significant absence of community tradition and shared meanings, individuals are racked with feelings of low self-esteem and confusion about values. They are compelled to fill the emptiness with the experience of receiving something from the world. Why not a mystical experience with divinity? From travels, they bring home outrageous stories of their journeys, of the fabulous witch doctor encountered, of the vomiting and diarrhea, of the fast-moving kaleidoscopic visions, of the sounds and the smells of the jungle – Wow! What a trip.Unscrupulous practitioners who exploit the tourists abound, and they are conscious of the farce they perpetrate. In Amazonian cities, middle-class men become instant traditional healers without undergoing an apprenticeship period, without any teachers, and without any control. They give tourists mixtures of 12 or more different psychedelic plants to help them mystically become embedded in the universe. Many are witchcraft plants that affect neurotransmitters, decrease certain brain chemicals, and even make it impossible toread or write for an entire year. These so-called shamans fight among themselves, and all have their champions abroad who functionas travel agents and tour guides. A few make money, seduce women, and obtain personal power and control over others. Agents abroad often earn as much as $8,000 to $10,000 from a three-week trip. Drug tourism is like international mass tourism, where millions of temporary travelers from industrialized nations seek in the margins of the Third World a figment of their imagination, a fantasy of Western consciousness – the exotic, erotic primitive or happy savage. The drug dilettantism has a special rhetoric, and travel literature includes terms like “advanced shamanic training.” Expensive brochures, in color-separated glory costing thousands of dollars, tout spiritual-transformation techniques of jungle shamans. The Amazon is the last remaining sanctuary on Earth, and by paying the cost of the trip, one becomes an impeccable warrior. The phenomenon has become so flagrant since the mid 1980s that native peoples are in danger of extinction as New Age magazines invite readers to take guided tours to remote villages or sacred places of power. This is a deadly, contemporary weapon to hasten the demise of native cultures, as international drug enforcement treats this type of tourism as one more illegal activity and persecutes native peoples involved with tourists. These tourists see exotic people of color, untouched by civilization, close to nature. They will not see the civilizing influences in these areas of Catholic and Protestant missionary activity. Little do they know that the Amazonian city dweller gets better TV reception than I do in Southern California because of the major telecommunications satellites on the outskirts of their cities. There is little hope for dialogue between the drug tourists and the Amazonians whose traditions of ayahuasca use are linked in a matrix dealing with the moral order, with good and evil, with animals and humans, and with health and illness. This has little to do withthe experiences and needs of people in industrial societies. There is an evil, exploitive aspect of this ecotouristic enterprise. These “native healers” are common drug dealers, dressed for deception. They provide the exotic setting and prep the tourist to have an “authentic personal experience.” The drug tourism often leaves psychotic depression and confusion in its wake.

Modernization and cultural change over the last century have destroyed the material base of many Amazonian traditional cultures. Must we now allow this final spiritual denudation? Must the fifteenth-century Conquest still continue? Only the boa knows….