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Life Arts    H4'ed 4/20/10

Plant Politics: Notes on Ayahuasca, New Christianity and the Brazil Law

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.... fresh, newly cooked Ayahuasca also known as Daime....

By now everyone more or less knows about Ayahuasca: the Vine of the Soul. And for those that don't know that much, hereby I offer the briefest summary.

Ayahuasca is a 'magic' shamanic jungle drink that has been around tribal societies in the Amazon for at least some 10.000 years or so. It has been used for healing, devination, social integration, artistic and religeous inspiration, and other shamanic useages. Through 'scouts' this drink has found its way to other cultures such as the Meztizo's in South America, and other religions, most recently different syncretic Christian traditions, and increasingly, even Buddhists are using this sacrament in their meditation practices. If you are living in the US or Germany, Netherlands etc. chances are that within the last few years, you were invited to participate in a 'very special' ceremony involving the drinking of the 'tea'. (good for you).

For Ayahuasca to be called Ayahuasca it needs to have 2 basic ingredients from two different plants, Yage, the vine, and Chacruna, the leaf. There is really no good reaon to ad admixture plants, unless there are special circumstances such as an illness or deliberate investigations of other plant 'spirits'.

Though it is now fashionable to try to pin hole the substances that these two plants bring into scientific lingo, (......Yage provides the MAO inhibitor .....that allows the DMT of the Chacruna ....to be able to pass through the treshhold of the stomach....enzymes.....bla bla bla.....) I don't want to add to that.

It is better to understand Ayahuasca from what these plants bring to the experience.
Yage provides the Force: it is like an underground stream with the muddy color of the vine juice itself.... or like a multi-tailed snake flowing through you... providing vitality throughout. The first taste of Ayahuasca is that of the Yage: immediately humbling the taker by its foul bitter, but then again sweet, like burned molasses taste, its deep rust colored juice and its immediate sense of 'presence'. One's face can't help to transform into a temporary grimace: at once you realize Yage has the power to overwhelm both body and mind, and it will. If you want to have a good experience, be prepared to humble down your ego. That is the Force of Yage.

Now onto the leaves of the Chacruna plant. Chacruna is what provides the Light of the experience. Chacruna is part of the coffee family, it is a bush, and eating it.....uhhh.... it is like 'coffee plus': bitter beyond description. Aside from physical stimulation the leaf stimulates all kinds of light receptors throughout the body. Seeing with the many eyes of Avalokiteshvara: seeing one's own body as one vast space inhabited by all the joy and suffering in this world.

cooking.....like a mystery play.....

The vine is considered male, cut and cleaned by the men, and then pounded into fibers, while the leaves are the female part, each leaf polished by women, sitting in circles, softly chanting together. Then, in a complex choreography,like a mystery play, the men cook the thus purified ingredients in large cooking vessels.

It is easy to understand that this marriage between 'Light and Force', Ayahuasca or Daime, lends itself in a unique way to having a religious experience...... And so it was that a son of slaves Raimundo Irineu had gone into the forest to become a rubbertapper almost a hundred years ago. With his 6 foot 6 body and black face he stood out from the natives who generally reached not much over 5 feet or less. He started partaking in their shamanic Ayahuasca nightly ceremonies.... and he learned from the plants, how to work, how to have community, how to survive in the forest without destroying it, how to grow food, how to built a house.... and the plants talked to him about all these matters.

Then one day drinking Ayahuasca, he had a vision of Maria, the virgin earth Guadelupe, and she told him that she will dictate the songs of Maria to him.

As I understand it, he wrote down some 90 inspired songs, that were then put to music and form the lithurgy of a new Christianity: The Daime religion which combines the songs with harmonized dancing and the ingestion of Ayahuasca, or Daime (=give me) as they call it. It has led to a series of Daime (and also the UDV (Uniao do Vegetal)) communities all over Brazil, who aspire to nothing more than a simple devotional and ceremonial life of communion with others and nature. Not just do they take the Ayahuasca in ceremonial context, they also often use it in the context of communal work and start drinking it early in the morning with a cup of a low concentrate Ayahusca. They have integrated it as a way of life.....Daime is becoming a culture....

...communal work...check out the children....

Brazilian law has made a 180 in the past on regulating Ayahuasca. In the Vaults of Erowid we read that after years of prohibition of the plants and drink, In June of 1992 a definitive decision was made by the CONFEN, (the federal drug council of Brazil) putting the matter to rest once and for all, stating that the use of the Daime is perfectly legal. This legal decision has opened the doors to the further expansion of these churches, who have since held ceremonies in the European cities of Madrid, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Munich, Frankfurt, and Berlin. An international scientific research team, the 'Hoasca Project', has recently been studying the long term effects, both psychological and physiological, of chronic ayahuasca use by these church members. In a little bit broken English (but you get the drift) they concluded that:" The religious rituals conducted with the sacramental drink Santo Daime/Ahyauasca didn't bring injuries to the social life.....though contributed to its better integration, being remarkable the benefits testified by the usuary religious groups members".

As I understand it from my trip through Brazil, the government there is now even going a step further: They have apparently declared Daime or Ayahuasca a national treasure that need to be treated as such: That means that all aspects of Ayahuasca are legal, even for children, and so are any ceremonies involving group ingestion of Daime. There is one new caveat: It is illegal to sell Ayahuasca or Daime in any shape or form. In other words, from now on, the Brazillian law is protecting the sacramental drink by preventing Ayahuasca from becoming just 'another commodity' --like what is happening with the marihuana plant here in the USA.

I think there is a lot of wisdom in that. It means that there is a large state in this world, Brazil, which is open to a radical different view of culture and daily living daily living.
(....was that Gertrud Stein who said that or who ? the full quote was something like:" there is nothing to daily living but daily, daily living" --now that is a mantra if you ask me).

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Willem Malten studied sociology and anthropology in Amsterdam. Afterwards Willem participated in the Tassajara Zen Monastery. In the last 25 years Since 1984 Willem has run the Cloud Cliff, a medium size bakery and restaurant in Santa Fe, and (more...)
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