Artist unknown. Shipibo Textile. Courtesy of St. Lawrence University, in Ayahuasca Reader
Ayahuasca is More than a Headline
As it becomes more widespread, more people are sharing their experiences with ayahuasca. This traditional indigenous plant medicine has been making its way beyond the its home in the rainforests of the Amazon to major urban centers around the world. An increasing number of people, including spiritual seekers, travelers and even celebrities have been coming out and sharing their experiences. As more people are trying it, more people have been sharing their stories. More major news outlets including BBC, The Guardian, New York Times, and so many more mainstream news sources are sharing stories describing the effects of ayahuasca.
Respecting Indigenous Ayahuasca Traditions
But beyond any news articles are the stories of the people who have known ayahuasca for generations. The wisdom shared by people trained in shamanic lineages is more difficult to access; most of them don’t have blogs. To hear these stories requires multiple translations and perilous journeys to remote villages deep in the rainforest.
Ayahuasca Reader includes mythic narratives and testimonies from members of the indigenous groups who use the drink, themselves: the Siona, Cashinahua, Huaorani, Desana, Witoto, Yagua, Inga and Secoya. Some of these materials have been published previously, often in difficult to find journals and books in a variety of languages. In other cases, the authors have produced their contributions expressly for this anthology.
Ayahuasca Reader has a collection of these stories with notes and insights from the editors to provide deeper understanding of the original contexts of ayahuasca use and an examination of how changing cultural circumstances are shifting its ritual practice.
The Story of a Young Shaman
The following narrative from Ayahuasca Reader is by Yagua shaman Alberto Prohaño as told to French anthropologist Jean-Pierre Chaumeil places an emphasis on ritual itself and the actual songs used to invoke the different plant-spirits. The individual performance of the shaman facilitates a social function in connection with themythic presences invoked through the act of singing. This text also exemplifies theole of ayahuasca as a milestone in the path of knowledge, following other sacred plants such as piripiri (Cyperaceous sp.) and tobacco…
Paye Candido by Jeison Castillo, in Ayahuasca Reader
Excerpt from “Initiation Experience”
On the third moon, múwa wánditu, I again drank ayahuasca mixed with tobacco juice and piripiri. At each stage, a new plant is added, with the goal of knowing them all, little by little. My deceased father and I sang the song to call the mother of ayahuasca:
yeee yeee yeee yeeeeeeee
yeee yeee yeee yeeeeeeee
ramanujúhamwo rándia tuwatiaténdehi
ramanujúhamwo rándia tuwatié ndaria
yátí yátí yátí yátí yátí
yátí yátí yátí yátí yátí
mother of ayahuasca, I’m going to call you
(call) yeeee yeee yeeeeeeeee
mother of ayahuasca, I don’t know you (I want to know you)
I still don’t know you
teach me how to heal
I want to extract virotes
come, come, come, come, . . .
The ayahuasca takes me, drags me along. Images appear. My father questions me. I answer that I don’t see anything. He gives me another dose that I swallow. The colors dance, the lit candle appears . . . on a second plane, animals torn to pieces parade past . . . my bones come out of their joints; the creatures devour my flesh . . . But a sweet voice echoes in my head: “Look! Study! Learn about this plant. Smoke, but do not spit. Swallow all the smoke. Don’t let even a mouthful escape.”
I suck on the cigar pë pë pë pë . . . a strange smell invades me, sweet and perfumed, followed by the image of a thick ayahuasca trunk. Whispering comes from below the vine, as if someone were speaking or, perhaps, singing:
eeeee eeeee eeeee
I’m the mother of ayahuasca
come closer and light this cigar
I take several puffs on the enormous cigar that they give me and I swallow all
A perfume penetrates my cold body. The images go up in smoke, little by little. I’m normal again. My bones are welded together. Then they appear again . . . I’m scared . . . they calm once more only to return again. Terrifying images parade before my eyes. My bones explode . . . there are toothless monsters that fly, jump, fall, hang in the air, bite and devour each other . . . I want to leave, but a voice intervenes:
“Drink a little bit more. You’ll see everything.”
This account, based on field work done in 1976 by French anthropologist Jean-Pierre Chaumeil, is by Yagua shaman Alberto Prohaño, current leader of the community Edén de la Frontera on the Marichín River. In this text, which is fragmentary out of necessity, Alberto goes over some of the most intense moments of his own initiation. At that time, he still had not reached the age of twenty (in 1976, he was thirty-five). He was initiated by his father, Xenon, who received his shamanic knowledge from his father. In the following years, Alberto practiced with his maternal uncle José Murayari, who worked to perfect the knowledge of his future son-in-law by means of the periodic ingestion of new plant decoctions.
Carrying the Wisdom of Ancient Practices
In Ayahuasca Reader: Encounters with the Amazon’s Sacred Vine you’ll find myths and stories passed down over generations of Amazonian healers, personal testimonies of experiences with Amazonian cultures, a selection of hymns and texts from the religions using ayahuasca as a sacrament, writings from well-known figures in the literary world on the lasting influence of their experience, and a section of transcendental visionary color art to illuminate our understanding of ayahuasca.
Read more about these practices and dive into the deep traditions of Amazonian plant medicine wisdom. Support our Indiegogo campaign and you’ll receive your copy of Ayahuasca Reader, and you can check out the other incentives we have to take your further in your exploration of consciousness and planetary culture.
Honoring Diversity at the World Ayahuasca Conference
You can join the largest gathering of the world ayahuasca community, meeting. Come together with more than 100 speakers who will share knowledge and expertise through presentations and cross-cultural roundtables, and take this opportunity to learn more about the diverse indigenous communities participating in the conference, and to take in film, music, art… and much more.
Join the Launch of Ayahuasca Reader!
Join us in supporting the launch of our newest book, Ayahuasca Reader, and a educational outreach initiative designed to spread awareness and understanding on this important plant medicine and visionary vine. Ayahuasca Reader is the most comprehensive and authoritative source of information about ayahuasca, a healing plant used for millenia by shamans in the Amazon basin that has in recent years been gaining popularity for its positive benefits to physical health and spiritual growth.
Untitled by Pablo Amaringo, in Ayahuasca Reader
Inside the pages of this magical text you’ll travel with dozens of adventurers, anthropologists, artists, shamans, scientists and poets on a journey to remote regions of the Amazon and to the far reaches of the human psyche.
“A wonderful book of vivid reports, illuminating every aspect of Ayahuasca‘s own world, covering all that matters about these plant spirits and their worldwide impact. This book’s poetry and scope led me to honor, as never before, the gifts we are offered from the proper use of these plants.”
–James Fadiman, PhD, psychologist, researcher and author, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide
New Edition: Ancient Stories, Breakthrough Research
The new edition of the Ayahuasca Reader features many distinct voices of the global ayahuasca movement: the researchers conducting clinical studies on its healing effects, the painters depicting the ineffable experience with visionary images, the indigenous people carrying the wisdom of ancestral traditions, and the stories of how ayahuasca has opened these individuals to their connection with the natural world and their true selves.
“Ayahuasca has a very insistent message. It’s one of those universals that almost everyone who drinks the brew sooner or later reports. It’s about the sacred, magical, enchanted, interconnected, infinitely precious nature of life on earth, and the interdependence of material and spiritual realms.” –Graham Hancock from the Reader
The Ayahuasca Reader is a five-part anthology which shares myths passed down over generations of Amazonian healers, personal testimonies of encounters with Amazonian cultures, a selection of hymns and texts from the religions using ayahuasca as a sacrament, writings from well-known figures in the literary world on the lasting influence of their experience, and a section of transcendental visionary color art to further illuminate our understanding of ayahuasca. This comprehensive collection of writings has been expanded with a new section of ayahuasca inspired art and other resources to draw readers even deeper into the mythic mysteries of the Amazonian brew that has been gaining attention around the world.
Leading Voices from Traditional and Contemporary Culture
Paye Candido by Jeison Castillo, in Ayahuasca Reader
The texts chosen for this book include translations from nearly a dozen languages, representing the voices of many different Amazonian peoples and the diversity of their cultural approaches to working with ayahuasca. Contributors include legendary scholars of Amazonian plant medicine such as Wade Davis, Dennis McKenna, and Richard Spruce; cultural icons like Allen Ginsberg and recognized shamans and spiritual leaders such as Raimundo Irineu Serra, Fernando Payaguaje, and Alberto Prohaño. This new edition also includes essays from prominent visionary figures including Graham Hancock, Alex Grey, Jeremy Narby, Susana Bustos, Michael Winkelman, and others.
The Ayahuasca Reader provides a well-rounded introduction to plant medicines, Amazonian indigenous cultures, and psychedelic/entheogenic journeys, while also offering extensive information on the effects and experience of ayahuasca, the cultural context from which its preparation and use has emerged, and its blossoming impact worldwide.
“Given the plethora of publications on ayahuasca, it is sometimes difficult to know which are the worthiest. That being said, the Ayahuasca Reader is a classic.”
–Mark Plotkin, PhD, ethnobotanist, Founder & Director Amazon Conservation Team
Sharing the Wisdom of this Rainforest Medicine
Synergetic Press is mounting a global publishing an educational outreach campaign about ayahuasca, because at this critical juncture in time as we are seeing a remarkable increase of interest in this mysterious and undeniably powerful rainforest medicine. More people are beginning to discover the many benefits of this traditional brew, including the treatment of conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to PTSD and depression.
But at the same time that Western doctors and researchers are taking note of its potential for humanity, the very cultures and rainforest environment where it came from continue to be threatened and we are at risk of losing irreplaceable knowledge as well as the healing plants themselves.
Thanks in Advance for Your Support!
We can’t do it alone. We’re counting on you to share this vision with us and support the movement for greater consciousness and connection with the Earth.
Get your own copy of the Ayahuasca Reader, explore our other incentives, and find the level of support that works for you! And please share this with any friends or colleagues who you feel will also appreciate this initiative. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ayahuasca-reader-encounters-with-the-healing-vine
This article is reposted with permission from the American Botanical Council. You can see the original post here.
By Mark Plotkin, PhD
Richard Evans Schultes
Richard Evans Schultes, PhD, was the greatest Amazonian explorer of the 20th century. Boston-born and Harvard-educated, he set off for the Amazon in 1941 for a six-month expedition. He was so entranced by the plants and the peoples of this great rainforest that he essentially extended this expedition for more than a decade. Now, interested readers can follow his journeys in an interactive, informational story map.
Schultes (1915-2001) first learned of the concept of “ethnobotany” in an undergraduate course at Harvard University taught by the prominent orchidologist Oakes Ames. After Schultes wrote his term paper on the traditionally revered peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii, Cactaceae), Ames sent Schultes to Oklahoma to experience the sacred cactus firsthand in a traditional Kiowa tribal ceremony. Later, Schultes returned to Harvard, and decided to pursue a PhD under Ames, focusing on the “magic mushrooms” of Oaxaca, Mexico. As a newly-minted PhD, he headed south to the northwest Amazon to study arrow poisons from the curare vines (e.g., Chondrodendron tomentosum, Menispermaceae), which, at the time, were being used as pre-surgical muscle relaxants in abdominal surgeries.
Young Richard Schultes taking tobacco snuff, May 1952 (photo: R.E. Schultes) via Harvard Square Library
Cartographer Brian Hettler of the Amazon Conservation Team decided to recount Schultes’s travels and research in a compelling new story map.1 With commentary and explanations supplied by this author, Hettler traces Schultes’s phenomenal journeys through the rainforest in search of healing plants. Using the capabilities of the story map format, Hettler has organized this information in a way that allows readers to click on a location and see photos of the location and/or the people that lived there. Perhaps even more impressive, readers can click on a list of plants collected by Schultes and see the actual herbarium specimen he collected in high resolution.
Hettler’s story map allows readers to follow the late ethnobotanist into some of the world’s most remote locales in search of exceedingly rare plants. It is hoped that this intriguing initiative will not only teach about the history and importance of the science of ethnobotany, but also will inspire others to use the story-map format to teach about botany in general, and medicinal herbs in particular, in new and compelling ways.
Mark J. Plotkin, PhD, is an ethnobotanist whose field research focuses on the plants and peoples of northern Amazonia. He currently serves as president of the Amazon Conservation Team, a nonprofit organization that conducts environmental and cultural sustainability activities in the Amazon basin (www.amazonteam.org). He is the author of several books and is a member of the American Botanical Council Advisory Board.
- Amazon Conservation Team. The Amazonian Travels of Richard Evans Schultes. Amazon Conservation Team website. Available at: http://amazonteam.org/maps/schultes/. Accessed May 4, 2016.
- Cox PA. Medicinal Plants and the Legacy of Richard E. Schultes. HerbalGram. 2013;98:73-75. Available at: http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbalgram/issue98/hg98bkrvw-schultes.html. Accessed May 4, 2016.
- Davis W. The Lost Amazon: The Photographic Journey of Richard Evans Schultes. HerbalGram. 2005;66:50-59. Available at: http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbalgram/issue66/article2831.html. Accessed May 4, 2016.
- Blumenthal M. The Lost Amazon: The Photographic Journey of Richard Evans Schultes. HerbalGram. 2005;65:73-74. Available at: http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbalgram/issue65/article2788.html. Accessed May 4, 2016.
- Davis W. One River: Excerpts from the new book about the life of ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes. HerbalGram. 1996;38:32. Available at:http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbalgram/issue38/article1219.html. Accessed May 4, 2016.
To travel further into the explorations of Amazonian peoples and sacred plant medicines with Richard Evans Schultes, explore Vine of the Soul: Medicine Men, Their Plants and Rituals in the Colombian Amazonia and Where the Gods Reign: Plants and Peoples of the Colombian Amazon written by Richard Evans Schultes himself.
Embrace of the Serpent (El Abrazo de la Serpiente) is a newly released film based in part on the experiences of ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes (author of Synergetic Press’ Vine of the Soul) in Colombian Amazonia. The film, directed by 34-year-old Ciro Guerra, was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in the 88th Academy Awards and is the first film from Colombia to ever be nominated. Guerra poured through the early diaries of the first foreign scientists to live and work with the native people of the Amazon, was drawn in by the writings of Richard Evans Schultes and Theodor Koch-Grünberg, and based the film on their accounts.
Dr. Richard Evans Schultes
Embrace of the Serpent tells the story of an Amazonian shaman named Karamakate who is the last surviving member of his tribe. Karamakate travels with ethnologist Theodor Koch-Grünberg in search of a sacred plant at the beginning of the twentieth century and then again goes on the same search decades later with ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes. Schultes, who is known as the father of modern ethnobotany, came to the Amazon to research the plants used by the indigenous population. The comprehensive writings, notes, and photographs left by Schultes provide an intimate look into the Amazonian world.
The way Schultes documented his experiences with plant medicines was encyclopedic. Early interest in the rainforest and plant medicines influenced his academic career from the beginning. While studying at Harvard, Schultes wrote his senior undergraduate thesis on ritual use of the peyote cactus among the Kiowa. His research led him to uncover the identity of mystical mushroom species in Mexico for his doctoral thesis. He was the first person to study ayahuasca academically, and his work in the rainforest brought global attention to the destruction taking place in the Amazon.
In Schultes’ classic book Vine of the Soul: Medicine Men, Their Plants and Rituals in the Colombian Amazonia, he details the world of Amazonian sacred, healing plants. This mystical photographic essay is accompanied by detailed descriptions of the Amazon Indians’ use of medicinal and other sacred plant substances, and their active chemical ingredients.
An image of Schultes in the Amazon captured in Vine of the Soul
“Although exploitation of medicinal plants has become a political issue in much of the world during the last decade at a time when there are many serious questions regarding the exploitation of native peoples, it is refreshing to find the essays written with such an obvious respect for the payés, their belief systems, and their extensive knowledge of plants. Schultes conducted his field research in an open and straightforward fashion, taking a direct approach to the communities he worked with, and demonstrating his respect for their customs and beliefs.”
–Indigenous Nations Journal, Vol 6, No. 1, Spring 2008
“Quite simply a masterpiece… Vine of the Soul deserves to be read by everyone interested in rainforests, indigenous peoples, shamanism, hallucinogens, ethnomedicine and conservation.”
—Mark Plotkin, President, Amazon Conservation Team
As the Academy Award nomination of Embrace of the Serpent shows, interest in the healing plants of the Amazon is at an all-time high throughout the world. The information originally obtained and organized by Schultes himself remains one of the most valuable resources we can access. Through books such as Vine of the Soul we’re able to explore and uncover the rainforest world where healing with plants is the norm, and ritual and magic play essential roles in everyday life.
An image from Embrace of the Serpent with Schultes’ character in the background
To dive deeper into the world of Amazonian sacred plant medicines, explore a copy of Vine of the Soul: Medicine Men, Their Plants and Rituals in the Colombian Amazonia by Richard Evans Schultes.
What is the ‘nature’ of technology?
While some people think that nature and technology are in fundamental opposition, and others rest in the assumption that all that is must be natural simply for having come into being, Synergetic Press author Christian Schwägerl explores the implications of “bioadaptation” as a symbiotic interweaving of technology and biospsheric systems:
Seen from the perspective of a future bio-technosphere, today’s wasteful machines appear to be rudimentary organisms with outdated cycles in urgent need of improvement. Fuel-guzzling Porsches or SUVs, coal-fired power plants and persistent plastic seem to be old-fashioned leftovers from the Holocene, about as impressive as horse carriages and typewriters. Cars of the future would either decompose into material that boosts the environment or give way to other, networked kinds of transport. The guiding principle in this process might be called bioadaptation: using nature as a source to “breed” machines.
In this chapter excerpt from Schwägerl’s “The Anthropocene: The Human Era and How it Shapes Our Planet,” the author takes us on a visionary journey into inspiring and possible future grounded in a real-world dialectical synthesis of technology and nature. Read the Chapter excerpt ‘Technature’ on Realitysandwich.com here.