Some would consider it dangerous to trip out on an all-night hallucinogen primarily found deep in the Amazonian jungle that makes LSD and mushrooms look like a sip of alcohol. It goes beyond visions of jagged geometric color portraits to reach states of brain-swilling delirium deep in both the darkest and lightest corners of your soul. The “spirit vine” they call it – in all its misery and glory. May be dangerous. But what about the danger of living life in trepidation, wrapped in a cocoon of safety and familiarity and monotony?
At its most basic, ayahuasca is any psychoactive infusion prepared from the Banisteriopsis spp. vine, mixed with the leaves of dimethyltryptamine, a DMT-containing species of shrubs. The mixing of the two is required as neither vine nor leaf on its own can produce the experience for which ayahuasca is known.
In a cultural sense, ayahuasca now is what LSD was in the 60s: the latest, most intriguing trend in the litany of mind-altering substances. Originally (and still) used as a spiritual medicine by native Amazonian tribes for transcending parallel universes, encountering past and present demons and purging them to reach a state of nirvana, ayahuasca is not your rave or dorm-room psychedelic. As such, partaking in the “vine of the soul” occurs in rituals deep in the jungle. They last several days and are headed by master shamans who’ve apprenticed under elder shamans for years, wandering alternate dimensions, studying the spiritual and healing properties of plants and examining the subtleties of presiding over groups of those partaking.
In a candle-lit jungle lodge, the ayahuasca is brewed specific to the unique recipe of the shaman, and then dispersed. While many describe it as the worst experience of their lives – complete darkness, misery and unyielding terror – ayahuasca is highly sought for the eradication of said misery, where sometimes even life-long depression is released from the participant for good at the culmination of the journey.
Iquitos, Peru is the beaten tourist trail that will lead you to an ayahuasca ceremony, if you’re on the lookout. Tours sail you down the Amazon to reach ayahuasca retreats further into the jungle. There is also, however, a growing trend of those imbibing the medicine here in the states. For those who seek spiritual rejuvenation without lengthy travel, the flight down to South America is no longer necessary if you know where to look. The legality of ayahuasca, however, is “questionable” to say the least, and it’s currently only in secretive groups of inner circles where the “spirit vine” can be found. Wherever you retreat, go with a reputable shaman who can guide you to your own personal hell and back without unnecessary tribulations.
By Bryan Schatz