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The Ritual and Religious Use of Ayahuasca in Contemporary Brazil (1999)

The Ritual and Religious Use of Ayahuasca in Contemporary Brazil (1999)

  1. Jatelka
    This paper was originally presented at the 10th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug-Related Harm, Geneva, Switzerland, March 23, 1999.

    Edward MacRae

    Ayahuasca, a psychoactive brew made from the A B Bannisteriosis caapi vine and the Psychotria viridis leaf, has been used for many purposes by the native inhabitants of the Western Amazon since time immemorial. Conceived of as a means of opening the human perception to the spiritual world, this brew has been mainly used by shamans for a series of pur- poses such as: the diagnosis and treatment of a large variety of ailments, divination, hunting, warfare, and even as an aphrodisiac. Although it's use probably origi- nated among the inhabitants of the rain forest, ayahuasca was taken to the Andean highlands and can now be found in many of the Brazilian large urban centers, as well as in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, United States, a few European countries, and even in Japan.
    The use of ayahuasca by Amazonian tribal societ- ies and by mestizo healers on the outskirts of Amazo- nian cities like Puccalpa, Tarapoto and Iquitos has been well-documented by a large number of scholars such as Reichel-Dolmatof, Josep Maria Ferigcla, Luis Eduardo Luna, Marlene Dobkin de Rios, and Jacques Mabbit. The focus of this discussion is the religious use of the brew by Brazilian urban dwellers, often of middle class origin. For in that country there are, at the moment, over eight religious groups using ayahuasca as a sacrament during their rituals. Although their belief systems and ceremonies may be quite var- ied, they have much in common. Therefore, the focus on the Santo Daime group maybe taken for the others
    as well.