In recent years, there has been a growing level of interest in an ancient ceremony performed by the peoples of the Amazon. This ceremony and the plant that shares its name is Ayahuasca. The ceremony involves drinking a brew made from this sacred plant in a guided setting and experiencing the spiritual effects which it invokes.
As with so many ancient treatments and ceremonies that have entered the modern mainstream consciousness, there have recently been many misconceptions about Ayahuasca, its purposes and how it should be performed. In this article, we hope to clear up some of these misconceptions and explain what Ayahuasca is, as well as what happens at an Ayahuasca ceremony. It is important that anyone who plans on attending a ceremony and imbibing the sacred brew understands what Ayahuasca is really about and be prepared for what could be an enlightening experience– or a frightening one.
Also like many ancient systems that have recently become “trends” to modern people, there are those who misuse Ayahuasca to their own selfish purposes, and it is important that anyone new to the concept is aware of what to avoid. If performed correctly, with the guidance of a proper shaman, and with an open mind, this can lead to an awakening of your mind unlike anything else. If done improperly or for the wrong reasons, it can be a horrible and possibly even dangerous experience. That is why the most important thing anyone can do before attending his or her first Ayahuasca ceremony is research Ayahuasca itself and the specific ceremony which they hope to attend. With the proper understanding, this can be one of the most meaningful experiences of a person’s life.
What is Ayahuasca?
For anyone who is completely unfamiliar with Ayahuasca, the term can be use to refer to three things: a vine that grows in the Amazon, a medicinal brew or tea that is made from the vine, or the ceremonies in which the brew is used. The vine also goes by the scientific name of Banisteriopsis caapi, or just caapi, for short. It is known to grow only in the Amazon Rainforest and is most commonly found in Peru, although the ceremonies are also common in Brazil.
The brew that is made from the caapi vine and used in these ceremonies is the real center of Ayahuasca. It is a thick, brown tea-like substance that consists mainly of caapi vine but will also contain additional herbal ingredients, usually chacruna or chagropanga. These plants all contain large levels of dimethyltryptamine or DMT, a substance that will induce hallucinogenic effects when ingested. The ceremonial drinking of the tea under the guidance of a qualified shaman can allow individuals to have an intense spiritual experience and come into contact with the infinite, the divine and the inner self.
What happens at an Ayahuasca ceremony?
Drinking the tea of the caapi vine will cause a person to have an experience that is extremely personal, so it is impossible to say exactly what will happen at an Ayahuasca ceremony. However, there are some things that are to be expected (and some to be avoided) if the ceremony is to be done correctly.
Perhaps the most important aspect of an Ayahuasca ceremony– even more crucial than the brew itself– is the shaman who will perform the ceremony. When a person drinks the brew, he or she will experience things that are impossible to put into words. The person’s mind will be completely opened (or deconstructed) so that it can better understand the infinite mysteries with which it will come into contact.
At the very least, a person will become more intune with his own mind and the energies around him, and this temporarily puts the person in a very vulnerable state. The shaman is the person who maintains a constant flow of positive energy and keeps the entire ceremony on the right track. To do this, the shaman sings icaros, the songs through which people’s minds are opened and through which the entire experience is allowed to flow positively.
Another important aspect of the process is the dieta, or diet, before the ceremony. Through this dieta, you will attempt to expel any harmful elements such as alcohol, caffeine, salt and sugar before you drink the tea and enter the ceremony. Once the tea has been consumed and the ceremony is in progress, your body may rid itself of these toxins through a process called purging, which is exactly what it sounds like. People will often vomit and/or have diarrhea after consuming the tea, but this is to be expected, as your body rids itself of harmful chemicals and negative energies.
Again, the experience that occurs is completely personal and will change each time you attend a ceremony. It is impossible to describe exactly what can happen to a person, but it will be exactly what that person needs to experience at that particular moment in time. If the Ayahuasca ceremony is performed correctly, with the help of a bonafide shaman, it can be the most meaningful experience of a person’s life and enlighten him or her beyond the point of traditional understanding.