Thursday, 8 September 2016

Songs Of Ayahuasca - A preview

It is with much trepidation (and a long delay, my apologies) that I present a preview of the Songs of Ayahuasca CD that I've been preparing as a reward for our Kickstarter backers.

As you will see the it is a lot more ambitious than a collection of songs, it is designed as a journey through ayahuasca musical traditions, starting with the most ancient, in Ecuador and moving through Colombia, Perú, Brazil and finally the rest of the world.

The CD will be accompanied by ample notes in 2 languages as well as transcriptions and translations of the song lyrics.

What follows is a partial preview of the liner notes of about half of the tracks that will appear the 2 CD compilation.


About Songs of Ayahuasca

When we started with our ayahuasca documentary project in 2002, we had a simple objective:  To make a film that documented all the different manifestations of ayahuasca culture(s).  It took us a few years to realize how naïve we’d been.  It was impossible, traditional ayahuasca cultures were just too too varied to fit into one film.. or even in 10 films.

I am glad we tried, though, in the attempt we got to witness the incredible richness and diversity of ayahuasca cultures which include:

-More than 70 Amazonian indigenous groups that use it (and quickly expanding to indigenous groups that didn’t have a history of previous use)

-Mestizo Vegetalismo and urban curanderismo

-The three main lines of syncretic churches in Brazil (Santo Daime, Barquinha and UDV plus numerous offshoots) some which have now expanded across the world

-Neoshamanic, psychedelic therapists and other alternative groups of every imaginable persuasion.

In the 10 years that we spent going from place to place, naively trying to fit all of the above in one film, it occurred to me that despite the enormous differences from group to group (in everything from the way the brew was prepared to philosophy and ceremony and dietary restrictions) there were a number of common threads throughout:

The first one was that everyone everywhere agreed that drinking ayahuasca was a Good Thing (this might seem obvious, but it’s more important than you think.)

The second common thread was that everywhere we went everyone sang to ayahuasca.  These Songs of Ayahuasca, often inspired by Ayahuasca, to be sung for and during Ayahuasca, represent the musical embodiment of the Ayahuasca experience, they direct the experience, modulate it, sustain it, hold it and drive it.

Where there is Ayahuasca, there is song.

The Selection

This collection represents a selection of some of my most cherished personal recordings after 10 years investigating traditional ayahuasca cultures in Brazil, Perú, Colombia and Ecuador.  I organized the tracks it as journey, starting with the manifestations that are most ancient in origin and slowly moving towards the most modern, but always staying within the range of “tradition.”

In the past few years, with ayahuasca’s expansion there’s been an explosion of new Ayahuasca music being generated, some of which uses studio recording and modern instruments and amplification. I enjoy these new styles myself (and I have included some links at the end notes for those interested in finding more) but for this collection I have chosen to stick to tradition, by this I mean raw recordings, most time recorded live during real ayahuasca sessions and without any sort of instruments or amplification (the last 2 songs being the exception).

I’ve also done my best to transcribe and translate the lyrics so you can read the words as you listen and understand better what is being said.

The end notes include additional information, research and links in case you want to investigate further.

I hope you enjoy listening to these Songs if Ayahuasca as much as I‘ve enjoyed putting them together.

Jeronimo M.M. – Ibiza August 2016

1 – Fidel Andi Grefa - healing

Fidel Andi is a Kichwa healer from Tena by Napo River in Ecuador. He comes from a long family tradition of curanderismo and has a very interesting life as a indigenous rights & traditional medicine activist. This healing song was recorded live during an ayahuasca session (you will notice the throwing up in the background)

This is where the journey begins, for it is theorized by some researchers that the origin of ayahuasca use lies in this very geographical area, the Napo river, in Ecuador.

Here’s a quick summary of these theories: In the Pleistocene Age (2 million BC to 10000 BC) there were a series of glaciations that put most of the American continent under a sheet of ice.  During these glaciations there were certain areas called Pleistocene refuges where the ice didn’t reach. In the entire American continent there were only 9 such refuges.  It was vegetation from these areas, veritable centers of biological diversity that re-populated the continent when the ice ages passed. The Amazonian Piedmont of Ecuador and Colombia is recognized as one of the areas with the highest biodiversity in the world.  All of it originated in the Napo Pleistocene Refuge, which includes the Napo River and spans the area between the Aguarico River and the Caquetá River in Colombia.

Most of the plant species in today’s Amazon come from that refuge, including -it is theorized- the ayahuasca vine. Thus the indigenous groups of that area are thought by some academics (G. Zuluaga, G. Highpine) to maintain the oldest, longest, traditions of ayahuasca use, starting with the Napo Runa (which would include Fidel) and then further down to the Siona, Kofan, Kamsá, Koreguage, Ingano and others.  It is in these tribes where ancestral ayahuasca use can be proven.  It is also among these groups that wild vine use is has prevalence over cultivated vines. Some academics (P.Gow, Brabec de Mori) believe that in other tribes ayahuasca use can be as young as a few hundred years old.

Fidel’s style of working is slightly different from what I have seen further downriver in that right after the effects are felt he will begin the individual healings which are fairly long in duration. So on any give night he won’t treat more than 8 people or so, after he's done he will talk in the patient's ear for a while, telling them you what he’s seen and giving advice.


When Fidel did his healing on me after singing the song that you hear here, he said the following on my ear:

“I looked at you and saw you are alright. It’s just that recently you were born again and that’s why you are still a bit weak, like a baby."

"In order to get strong you need to drink tobacco”

“Drink tobacco, how?” I asked

“You take a large tobacco roll and cut a slice, leave it in a glass of water overnight.  In the morning you filter out the tobacco leaves out and drink the water on an empty stomach.”

“But if you leave tobacco in water over night the water gets really really dark” I said

“Precisely” he answered

“But I’ve drunk such tobacco juice before and it made really really sick”

He clicked his tongue

“That’s because you had NO FAITH in it."

"You have to drink tobacco.”

And with that he sent me back to my place.

It took me a few years to realize how right he’d been, but that’s another story for another time.  I’ll just say that nowadays I drink tobacco as he prescribed, and it no longer makes me sick.  I learned to have faith in tobacco.

2 - Humberto Piaguaje - Healing Song

This is a live recording of a healing performed by Siona Taita Humberto Piaguaje.  Humberto is one of the sons of Francisco (Pacho) Piaguaje, one of the best-known shamans of the Putumayo River and founding member of the UMIYAC. The Piaguajes come form a long family of Siona shamans, as well as a long history of interaction with researchers.  The number of people who have passed by the Piaguaje house since the 50s reads like a veritable who is who of Ayahuasca research: Richard E. Schultes, William Burroughs, Andrew Weill, Jean Langdon, Jimmy Weiskopf among others have spent time and written about the Piaguaje family.

In the previous song we spoke about the theory of some academics that the origin of ayahuasca use lies with the Napo Runa, and in general in the Amazonian Piedmont of Ecuador and Colombia. We are now a bit further downriver, in the border between Ecuador and Colombia. As you can hear there are similarities in the song.

Nowadays one can observe in these piedmont ayahuasca cultures mostly a therapeutic use of ayahuasca, usually in collective rituals, led by a healer, that include individual healings, usually at the end of the night. These rituals might actually be late adaptations to colonial forces that pushed shamanism into the corner, only allowing for its therapeutic expression, while repressing the more communal, mythical, and political side.  We don’t know.

This aspect, the healings at the end of the night, are common to the Ecuadorean, Colombian, and Peruvian traditions I’ve seen, what’s different in Humberto’s Siona tradition is that the bulk of the Yage session is run not through song, but through silence.   It is only at the end of the night, after drinking the second cup, that the taita begins to call the participants one by one, to sit in front of him and be healed, with the song that you can hear here.

4 - Emilio - Icaro 

On the first song we spoke about the Pleistocene/Napo theory of ayahuasca dissemination.  There is a second theory, championed by Cambridge anthropologist (and all-around beautiful person) Francoise Barbira-Freedman, who spent a number of years of researching Lamista shamanism and speaks Quechua fluently.  According to Freedman the vector of expansion of ayahuasca throughout the Amazon are a series of migratory waves from Quechua Lamista populations who descended further and further into the lowlands and trading medicinal plants (including cursare and ayahuasca).  Napo o Lamista? The jury is still out, I’ve seen academics argue quite passionately for either option. It is also possible that both things are true at the same time, since we are speaking of two separate river systems and each group could have taken ayahuasca down their own rivers.

In any case, we have arrived to the Lamista area of Perú, in the Alto Río Huallaga area, the area where I’ve done most of my fieldwork. This is high jungle (800m over sea level) the distinctly hilly area, where the Andes meet the Amazon. Because of its height and different soil composition this area of jungle is somewhat cooler but most importantly more bio-diverse than the flat, sandy soils of the low jungle.  This bio-diversity manifests itself in a type of shamanism that have a much richer repertoire of plants than those of the low lands.  Indeed Lamista Vegetalistas such as Emilio, consider ayahuasca just one more plant in a very large plant toolkit, that includes dozens of other purgas, and an equally large number of palos and dieta plants.


Emilio was born in the Alto Huallaga, in a hamlet a couple of hours away from Chazuta (where in the 40s Manuel Cordova Rios went to gather curare for NYC pharmaceutical companies)

Emilio's story is similar to that of many vegetalistas. After number of terrible working accidents he found himself chaining one therapeutic dieta after another, on the seventh dieta, one night the spirit “el genio” of the plants appeared to him in his dreams, and told him:

“It is high time you begin to cure, to soplar (blow tobacco) and pulsar (read people’s pulse)”

“But I don’t know how to do those things” Emilio answered

 “We are about to teach you” Replied the spirit and they sang to him the icaro (song) that I have included here.

“Nothing is as marvelous” Emilio says in the interview “as when one hears a song in dreams and then wakes up in wonder.”

This icaro includes a number of structural features that are common to this cultural area. The icaro lists a number of plants, animals, spirits, and places and one by one calls them to come to the help of the curandero so that he might bring back the soul of the sick person.  We’ll see this structure re-appear in the Peruvian icaros that follow as well.

In the following video he tells the whole story, sings the icaro and explains it line by line

Ikaro transcription & translation by Jaume Sanz Biset

I call (the spirit of the sick person), we (the ones present) call (this lost soul)

Who do I call? I call the muyu wayra (spirit that causes “susto” and has trapped the sick person’s soul)

Muyu wayra, bring back the soul (of the sick person)

We defend (the sick person) (with our) icaro (and the) icarero(s) (genios)

(We call) the icarero (genios) (and) the supay runa (devil-man, another genio)

We call the guacamayos (the spirits of the parrots)

(We are calling the spirits of) the guacamayos (parrots) and the ikarero (genios)

Pinsha (Toucan, its genio) catch (the muyu wayra)

On top of the hill, there they are (Toucan, muyu waira y and the soul of the sick person)

(Now) you play in the aguaje (thorny palm) we call the (lost) soul

Ikaro and ikarero (genios) bring (the muyu wayra), (thus I) call (you with) this song

Who (am I calling)? (I am calling) the muyu waira (the genio who caused this “susto”)

Bring the soul (of the sick person) (with the) icaro (that) we (are) singing

We defend (the sick person) (with the) icarero(s) (genios)

I call (the muyu waira). There you are (muyu waira) playing (with the soul.)

(On) the top of the hill (the muyu waira) plays, there it crashes (with the rock walls)

Who am I (calling)? I call you (muyu waira), (you that) plays in the branches of the Came (Came Renaco tree, used to heal bones)

There I ask (of the sick man’s soul)(that with the muyu waira they move the branches of the Came tree, making a sound like the) trapiche

(Now)(you muyu wayra) play in the Shimbillo (fruit tree)
I call you yacu waira (genio of the Shimbillo) (so that you bring muyu wayra)

(With the) icaro we call (the genios) (with the) icaro

I call the genio of the Yacu Coca.  You Yacu Runa (genio of the yacu coca) black black (I call you)

Yacu supay (genio de la yacu coca) bring back the soul (of the sick person)

I (with my icaro) call you (yacu supay) (so that) you defend (the soul of the sick person)

(with) the icaro of the Bobensana (medicinal plant) I call you yacu warmi (genio of the Bobensana) (so that you bring the muyu wayra)

(with) the ícaro of the Bobensana I call you yacu warmi (genio of the Bobensana) (so that you bring muyu wayra)

(I call you) sirena (genio of the Bobensana). (I call you) yacu warmi

We call with the icaro, we call

We call the muyu wayra (that now) plays (with the soul of the sick person) in a large river beach

There (is also) that bancoruna (genio) (I call him so that he brings the soul of the sick person)

(with the) bancoruna (genio that brings the muyu wayra), I call you (muyu wayra)

I call the bancoruna and the crocodile (its spirit).
I call the yacu supay (water devil)
(I call you) (so that you bing the lost soul)

To the genio of the Tibiwaman (bird) we call, we call

On top of the road (is) the supay runa, we call him (to bring the lost soul)

We call these ones, we call the genios

I call you supay warmi (genio) on top of the path, I call your power

We call to the genio of the Tibiwaman (bird)

We call the genio of the Tibiwaman (bird) so that you bring (the lost soul)

I call the genio of the anguiia (eel fish)

(we) call the anguilla, (and the) yacusupay (genio of the anguilla)

(in) a large lagoon (the muyu wayra) plays, there he plays

We call (to the) muyu wayra genio

We call to them (muyu wayra with the lost soul) we call

(we call their) ícaro, (their) genio

We call the genio of the lobo marino (giant otter), we call it (to bring the muyu wayra)

We call the genio of the giant otter
(so that it brings the muyu wayra and returns the lost soul to the body of the sick person

5 - Jacques Mabit - Icaro de las Tribus (by Maestro Solon Tello)

Jacques Mabit was born in France where he studied medicine, and moved to Tarapoto, a few hours form Chazuta, in the late 80s to work with Doctors Without Borders.  His encounter with traditional doctors and ayahuasca was to change his life forever. In 1992 he founded the Takiwasi center that pioneered the integration of western and Amazonian medicine for the treatment of drug addicts.  He was one of the main characters in The Jungle Prescription.

In the 20+ years that the center has been running a veritable who’s who of ayahuasca shamans have spent periods there, these periods produced rich interchanges of knowledge and song. More 20 years later Mabit’s icaro repertoire contains dozens of songs, from many sources.  The following song is one such example.  This icaro is originally from Maestro Solon Tello (1918-2000) who was one of Iquito’s most respected vegetalistas.  He lived to be 92, and ran ayahuasca sessions on the back of the kitchen of his Iquitos apartment.

6 - Jacques Mabit - Madrecita Ayahuasca (by maestro José Campos)

The story of this song goes like this: in 2007 while doing research for the film in Perú I met a man who was convinced he was possessed by the devil. I won't go into the details, he looked normal enough. I'll just say that when I met him he had been drinking ayahuasca for a few months with no major effects. The first 2 times I drank with him it was uneventful. The third time, however, something happened. During the session what he called his devil "came out" in the open for the first time. It just so happened that I was recording audio that night.

I will save you from that recording, suffice it to say it is some of the most hair-raising shrieking I have ever heard. The entire rom was terrified. When I revisited the recording I could barely listen for more than a few seconds. That night it took the curanderos all their power and more than an hour to get the situation to the point where the shrieks became a whimper.

When there was finally silence, the entire room breathed out a collective sight of relief.

When the room was finally at peace Jacques Mabit sang this ícaro: madrecita ayahuasca.

Mabit told me that the author of the ícaro is maestro José Campos.  This ayahuasca song is almost a battle chant, meant to cast off evil, and claim the space back. Mabit calls to his side the spirits of the most powerful plants, and of everything he holds most sacred. It's almost a declaration of principles, a manifesto, stating where the curandero stands, and under which forces his sessions are run. As you will see it is also full of poetic turns, and inspiring calls.

I will say no more. I think the song speaks for itself.

The video has english subtitles, click on the gear icon to activate

6 - Jacques Mabit - Les Trefons (J. Mabit)

This is one of Mabit’s own icaros and the only icaro in the French Language I have ever heard.  It is absolutely beautiful.  Jacques told me the song, together with its melody came to him in a dream.  Most icaros in Takiwasi have a very specific function, almost like tools.  I’ve heard Jacques say that Les Tréfonds is an icaro for childhood issues & hurts.

8 - Jacques Mabit - Madre Ayahuasca (by Rosa Giove)

Jacques Mabit’s wife Dr. Rosa Giove is co-founder of Takiwasi and has been working side to side with him for more than 2 decades. She is also the author of a number of extraordinary icaros -although she would certainly disagree with the author title, arguing that she never composed the songs, she merely received them, in this aspect she's in agreement with vegetalistas and daimistas, who claim the exact same origin to their songs

Madre Ayahuasca is perhaps the best known of all of Rosa's icaros.  It has transcended Takiwasi and taken a life of its own, I’ve heard it sang many times in many different places, often by people who didn’t know its origin.


Rosa wrote the first time she heard this song being sung to her was during an ayahuasca session.  She says she saw a vision of a young girl flowing out of a bottle.  It was ayahuasca, who started to dance around her, always playfully. The young dancer then became an old woman who kept dancing without losing her grace, then with a twinkle in her eye, she went back to being a young girl.

The girl then took Rosa by the hand and walked her across a great forest, all the way to the sea, then she took Rosa inside the water, in spite of Rosa´s resistance.  To her surprise Rosa found there was nothing to be afraid of, the sea floor was full of fish, coral, and light, on the bottom of the sea was a chest, and inside Rosa knew was a part of her that she had locked up.  Then and there she understood the mischievous look that ayahuasca had given her.

Rosa was then taken out of the water and through a trail lined with flowers, the path lead to a stone tower. Rosa understood that there was a treasure inside the tower, and that one could only access it if they had the key.  Ayahuasca reappeared, dancing around Rosa, and Rosa realized that she'd had that key all along. However, the young girl explained, it is not enough to have the key, one must also find the door and the lock, and even then, one must know how to open it.

Rosa had the key and she realized could see the lock, but there was a strong feeling she shouldn't open that door, someone else must do it.

She realized that “Everyone must find their own role along the path of life, but also their own complement, the other that will make them whole.”

At that moment a song came to her, it started to play in her head. She tried to ignore it, but the icaro wouldn’t let her be, it kept returning, in dreams, in other ayahuasca sessions, until -against her own resistances- she had to sing it.

That’s how Madre Ayahuasca came to be


Madre Ayahuasca, madre …
Mother ayahuasca, mother

Llévame hasta el sol..
Take me up to the sun

De la savia de la tierra hazme beber
Make me drink of the sage of the earth

llévame contigo hacia el sol
take me with you towards sun

del sol interior hacia arriba,
from the inner sun, going up

hacia arriba subiré.
I will go up

Úsame, háblame, enséñame
Use me, talk to me, teach me

enséñame a ver, a ver más allá.
teach me to see, to see beyond

Madre . . .

Enséñame a ver,
teach me how to see

a ver al Hombre dentro del hombre
how to see the Man inside the man

a ver el Sol dentro y fuera del hombre
how to see the sun,
(that shines) inside and outside of man

enséñame a ver …
teach me how to see

Usa mi cuerpo, hazme brillar
Use my body, make me shine

con brillo de estrellas,
with the glow of the stars

con calor de sol,
with the heat of the sun

con luz de luna y fuerza de tierra,
with the light of the moon
and the strength of the earth

con luz de luna y calor de sol
with the light of the moon
and the heat of the sun

hazme brillar
make me shine

Madre Ayahuasca … madre …
Mother ayahuasca… mother

10 - Rosa Giove - Icaro de la "S"

This is one of my favorite icaros from my favorite curandera, Dra. Rosa Giove.  I'll let her explain it in her own words

"During a 2 year period I received a total of 6 icaros. They came to me in different places and times, without any premeditation on my part in terms of content or order.  The songs always came to me unexpectedly and involuntarily, through visions, dreams, or the semi-dream state produced by dietas and ritual work with plant teachers.

This icaro corresponds to the base chakra, related to sexuality and the letter "S" It's represented by a small red snake, a fire snake, that starts its ascension (the awakening of Kundalini?) by crawling slowly towards the abdomen. It's related to the life energy, the body's healing power, and the ascending force of life that moves upward, towards the sun.

I listened to the small plant-woman sing this icaro to me with a soft voice, dragging all the SSSSS, as if emphasizing the snake's crawl. I looked at the other people in the ayahuasca session and saw a red glow in their base.  Suddenly there was a voice is coming out me that I didn't recognize it as mine. It was singing this icaro"

Introdúceme en tu cuerpo
Introduce me in your body

desde allí yo te hablaré.
i’ll talk to you from there

Introdúceme en tu mente,
Introduce me in your mind

desde allí te alumbraré.
i’ll light your way form there

Introdúceme en tu corazón,
Introduce me in your heart

desde allí te daré calor.
i’ll warm you up from there

Oirás mi voz de serpiente
You will hear my snake voice

deslizarse en tu oído.
slide into your ear

Verás mi luz sin verla
you will see my light without seeing it

a través de Los sentidos...
through the senses

y mi calor te seguirá
and my warmth will stay with you

más allá del frío frío
beyond the cold cold

Y seré parte de ti,
And I will be a part of you

tierra lanzada al infinito...
earth flung into the infinite

Mi voz te susurrará
My voice will whisper

cosas que crees no saber.
things you think you don’t know

Dentro de ti vas a encontrar
Inside of you, you will find

la respuesta a tu ser
the answer to your being

Ocho (8), doble círculo fecundo
eight, fertile double circle 

dos serpientes enroscadas,
two coiled snakes

que te hablan sin decir...
that talk to you without speaking

que te dicen sin hablar...
that speak without saying


Soy la energía en ti dormida,
I am the energy asleep within you

despiértame ya.
wake me up already

Quiero ascender, reptar de una vez,
I want to rise, crawl up

Cruzar el cero (O) ya,
cross that zero now

cerrar el círculo aquel,
and close that circle

donde la flor duerme en la cruz...
where the flower sleeps on the cross

Cuando el azul llegue a tu cara
When the blue reaches your face

y la luna a tu cabeza,
and the moon reaches your head

a su encuentro yo iré,
I will come to meet you

serpiente roja, desde la base,
red snake, rising from the base

a fundirme con el sol...
to meet with the sun

Y mi voz te guiará a través del agua
And my voice will guide you across the water

con el color del amor... 
with the color of love

11 - Rosa Giove - Icaro de la "M"

I heard once Jacques Mabit say that rituals are a collection of gestures that are only operative when they are "the outward manifestation of an internal process."  In other words, the same ritual could be a meaningless charade or a transformative experience, full of significance and power.  It all depends on the intention (internal state) of the person performing the ritual.

New patients in Takiwasi, for example, before they join the other patients undergo an entry ritual where among other things, they make a fire, burn something of their past, walk around the fire backwards and then forwards, while inside a circle formed by his future companions, the other patients.

There are many such rituals in Takiwasi, patients plant a tree, make a mask of their negative face and then burn it, or, in this case, literally dig their own grave, and then lay on it, to be buried and reborn.

The common thread among all these rituals, is that they address -or make visible- what in my opinion is an important aspect of the recovery process in addictions:  The reckoning of the patient with his past.  Ayahuasca often brings in the former drug addicts vivid recollections of how much they have hurt themselves and other people, followed by a lot of guilt and shame over things they have done in the past.  All of these rituals, the walking backwards, the planting the tree, address the issue in different ways, as they embody ways to the deal with negative aspects of a person's self and past.

The earth ritual is by far the most powerful.  I think the images speaks for themselves, a symbolic death and rebirth of patient is being enacted. It's tough to watch, one can only imagine what it feels like.  The patients take certain things from themselves and leave them on the earth.  This is symbolized by the 3 coca leaves they throw in the river, and lay under their body to leave behind in their grave.   They are given a tube to breathe and they are covered with soil.  Halfway through their burial a sound is made by hitting a stone, so that the patient knows he's halfway through and he'll soon be coming out.

I've seen 5 patients got through this ritual, with very different reactions, some could barely stand being covered by the earth, others found being underground "extremely peaceful."

About the icaro

This song by Rosa Giove, is part of a series that she has been receiving for some time.  The most popular icaro of the series is "Madre Ayahuasca" which has become something of an anthem.

This icaro of the "M" is part of the same series, but it is not a song to spirits, but to matter, to physical reality, to the body, and to the earth. This is the chakra that follows the sexual one, activated by the icaro of the "S" (see above.)

Here's what Rosa said about this icaro

"The second infra-umbilical chakra corresponds to the letter "M" which I visualize as solid, resting on the earth, concrete, material.  It's a sound that comes from the belly, which is the cradle of our instincts, the origin of fear, life and death"

I have included 3 versions of the song.  The first is sang by Rosa Giove herself, then Jacques Mabit, sings, then Jaime Torres, so you can heard it sang by all three main curanderos in Takiwasi. I also added English subtitles although as usual I fear some of the poetry is lost in the translation.

To activate the English subtitles click on the gear icon next to the timer.

14 - Santo Daime - A Meu Pai Peço Firmeza

This song was recorded in the state of Acre, in the Brazilian Amazon. It is one of the opening hymns of a Santo Daime ritual, from the Padrino Sebastiao Hymnbook. For those unfamiliar with the Santo Daime it is a syncretic church that mixes European Catholicism, African spirituality, and the indigenous use of ayahuasca. It was founded by Raimundo Irienu Serra, a descendant of African slaves, who at the beginning of the last century was part of the first wave of immigrants to the jungle -the seringueiros or rubber tappers- who came in contact with the indigenous populations, and with ayahuasca. The result is a most wonderful combination of traditions. Daime rituals, or “works”, revolve around the singing of hymns. These songs of ayahuasca, often "received" under its effects hold and contain within them the "doctrina" the teachings, of the Santo Daime. Part spiritual revelation, part entheogenic inspiration, part Nordestino folk music. They are some of my favorite ayahuasca musics.


This congregation you see in the video is headed by Luiz Mendez, who lived with and met Irineu Serra while he was alive. This recording took place in Fortaleza, their ranch, where approximately five families of Daimistas live together and try to survive off the land.

Their ritual works take place in a wall-less building by the jungle’s edge. They were some of the most intimate, beautiful, and emotional Daime works I have ever attended. To this day they remain one of my fondest memories of Brazil. About 25 people, 10 of them children, sat around a table lighted by candles and sang for hours with almost no instruments, just the voices weaving in and out. It was simply one of the most beautiful collective songs of praise I have ever witnessed.

At the end of the night everyone stood up, held hands in a circle, and sang one last song. Holding my left hand was a child of about 10, holding my right hand was a very old man.

We sang like that, holding hands, feeling the circle of song and life pass through us and it must have been the Daime I drank, but I could barely hold back the tears.

A Meu Pai Peço Firmeza
Padrinho Sebastião

To my Father I ask for firmness

And to stay mindful

I give teachings to the ignorant

And advice to the innocent

I pray to you, My Father

to stay by my side

To gimme strength, and gimme love

So that I do this work

I pray to you, My Father

I'm at your feet

Praying for the people

to be worthy

Oh! My Virgin Mother

Oh! Virgin Protectress

You are Queen of the Sea

You are My Teacher

Oh! My blessed Father

Oh! My people of Juramidam

Call them one by one

to receive your forgiveness

If everyone knew

the power that my Father has

They would leave behind

their inconvenient illusions

The world is in balance

And all will swing

But at the feet of my Father

all must bow

16 - A Barquinha - Culto Santo & 17 - A Barquinha  - Sao Sebastiao

These songs were recorded in one of the 3 Barquinha churches in Rio Branco. These churches were founded by Daniel Pereira Matos, one of Irineu Serras disciples. A Barquinha shares with the Daime many of its hymns and culture, but integrates more rituals of African/Umbanda origin. Daniel had a vision that his congregation was sailing towards God on a boat, so he called his church A Barquinha (the little boat) To this day its members, many of whom have never seen the sea, dress in homemade sailor uniforms to drink ayahuasca, pray, sing and dance.


The dance you can see in this video was the conclusion of many hours of singing in the temple. I'm not much of the dancing type, but to my surprise after a while I found myself joining the dance.  While I was lost I the middle of the reverie I came to two no less surprising insights:

The first insight was that far from being a superstitious error, the act of devotion to the divine was somehow intrinsic to human beings. I let go of my postmodern skepticism, and had to admit that what I was witnessing: the praying, the singing, the dancing, seemed not deluded, or superstitious, but actually very natural: The expression of something that was very much not only integral dimension of the human experience, but also an important part of being alive.

The second insight -and this was quite a surprise- was that I realized in a flash that one day I would have children.

Both realizations were completely in contradiction with what I had been thinking and believing about religion, and about parenthood, up to that point. I was very surprised to find myself thinking these thoughts.

They marked a first step of what has been a long road for me. More than a decade I am the father of two girls, and I have a very different attitude towards spirituality... But at the time I didn’t know any of this would happen, I did feel I should give thanks, and dance, and that is what I did (as you can see in the video .-)

Recorded at Antonio Geraldo da Silva Filho´s church. Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil.

Begins with Salmo de Abertura e Fechamento do Trabalho, o 'Culto Santo. Followed by a hino-ponto de Abertura dos trabalhos do Parque (bailado) e, last a hino-ponto para São Sebastião.

18 - Raffaele Mackay & Fabian - Morning Improv

These two last songs are the only ones that stand outside of any indigenous/mestizo/syncretic traditions, but they are *so* beautiful I had to include them. We recorded them on the twilight of an ayahuasca session in Nabi Nuhue, Colombia, as the sun was coming up the Pasto mountains at the very entrance of the legendary Sibundoy Valley.

Rafaelle Mckay is an old friend, extraordinary vocalist, composer and voice coach from Montreal, she was accompanied by Fabian, Kahuyali Tsamani's apprentice, on the harmonica

19 - Raffaele Mackay & Nicolas Jolliet - Morning Improv 2

Here's another morning improv from the same day

Rafaelle Mackay on voice accompanied by musician, filmmaker, drone hacker, VR guru and all around cool guy Nicolas Jolliet

Next up: WE'll begin to post selections from The Ayahuasca Conversations Book!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Joining the ICEERS Foundation and coming out in public

ENGLISH TEXT - (texto en español abajo)

It is with great joy that I announce that I have been asked to join ICEERS's board of directors as secretary. I am honored to be part of such an incredible group of people.

ICEERS is a charitable non-profit organization founded in 2009 by Benjamin De Loenen in the Netherlands and is dedicated to:

  • The integration of ayahuasca, iboga and other traditional plants as therapeutic tools in modern society
  • The preservation of the indigenous cultures that have been using these plant species since antiquity on, their habitat and botanical resources.
  • ICEERS is dedicated to marshall the forces of the ethnobotanical knowledge of the indigenous peoples and modern therapeutic practice, responding to the urgent need for efficient tools for personal and social development.

...as you can see I am feeling right at home! ;-)

ICEERS has promoted a number of important projects, from organizing conferences and training programs on Iboga, to keeping a close eye on the latest movements of the international drug authorities to ban ethnobotanicals.

It was on ICEERS’ request that the International Narcotics Control Board confirmed by letter that DMT containing plants such as the ones used in ayahuasca are not themselves under international control. In other words, until individual countries take steps to make ayahuasca containing plants illegal (like France did) they are not technically illegal, anywhere. That letter in itself has helped to keep a number of people out of jail in a number of countries like Spain and Chile.  (We must add that in some countries, like the US, taking those legal plants and cooking them together to make aya is in itself ilegal)

ICEERS is also currently running a program to test the purity of iboga extracts, so people know what they are using and more insight is gained into the quality, purity and possible contaminants of the available materials on the market.

They also helped fund the publication of Jose Carlos Bouso´s seminal study on long-term ayahuasca
use for the scientific journal PLOS, a respected online journal, making these important findings available for the scientific community as well as the general public. This is the largest study to date on the effects of long term ayahuasca use.

And there is a lot more coming... We all know how much misinformation and misunderstandings about ayahuasca and iboga is out there. The idea behind ICEERS has always been to make the best objective science-based information about these plants and their legitimate uses widely available. We have prepared a number of guides for first time consumers of ayahuasca and iboga, as well as guides for those interested in travelling to the Amazon and Gabon. But we are also working on a more ambitious project, an online help center where people with questions and concerns can consult one-on-one with experts on these matters. Going beyond the users, we are preparing a body of documents and guides for ayahuasca providers, from best practices to a set of minimum safety standards. The purpose is generate a series of guidelines to minimize risks and maximize benefits, to help draft a set of safety and ethics standards (like the plantaforma´s) that can help ayahuasca and iboga providers self regulate, in order to avoid situations like the one that took place in Chimbre.

So, like I said, I couldn't be happier to join an organization whose aims are so closely aligned with my own. On a personal note, I have always felt an affinity with Benjamin, who started as a documentary filmmaker, and ended up has an activist and advocate for the very plants he was filming. Benjamin made a documentary about Iboga (trailer here) in 2004, which became an international reference on this matter. What started as a personal interest as a filmmaker became much more, and began to demand from him a different type of commitment. It is a story that has many parallels with my own.

I think at this point I should confess that when I began began making a documentary about ethnobotanicals with Mark Ellam, my main motivation wasn't so much making a film, as it was getting closer to a topic that greatly interested me. The film gave me an excuse to travel, to contact perfect strangers whose work I admired and to ask them questions, what a great idea! More than 13 years later, and on my 4th documentary the results have been tremendously rewarding. But I have been feeling for some time that making films is not enough. It is as if the plants are demanding a bigger commitment, they have been so instrumental in my development that it is time to give back to them in a more meaningful way. It is time to move from generating information into more direct forms of action.

This has been manifested in my work the Asociación Eleusis, the Plantaforma, The Platform for the defense of Ayahuasca and now the ICEERS Foundation. It has been a gradual process of coming out in public. For many years I kept all my work with ethnobotanicals hidden under a slight pseudonym. For all documentary and ayahuasca publications I was Jeronimo M.M. For the rest of my other work, I went by my real name. It was a clean split. I had 2 email addresses, 2 facebook accounts, 2 lives.

I think it is a good time to put an end to that, and come out of the closet.

For the past 8 years my avatar, as Jeronimo M.M. has turned its back to the public gaze 

I think it is time to face the world

See you arround! .-)

PD if you want to know more about ICEERS´ activities please join our mailing list


Me da mucha alegría anunciar que he sido invitado a formar parte de la junta directiva de ICEERS como secretario.  Es un honor para mi unirme a un grupo de gente tan estupenda.

ICEERS es una organización sin ánimo de lucro fundada por Benjamin De Loenen en el 2009 dedicada a:
  • La integración de la ayahuasca, la iboga y otras plantas tradicionales como herramientas terapéuticas en la sociedad occidental
  • La preservación de las culturas indígenas que han utilizado estas especies botánicas desde la antigüedad, su hábitat y recursos botánicos.
  • Integrar el conocimiento etnobotánico de los pueblos indígenas en la terapia occidental actual, en respuesta a la necesidad urgente de herramientas eficientes para el desarrollo personal y social.

...como podéis ver me encuentro como en casa! ;-)

Desde su fundación ICEERS ha promovido toda una serie de importantes proyectos, desde la organización de conferencias y programas de capacitación, hasta el seguimiento de las actividades de las distintas autoridades internacionales de control de drogas con respecto a las plantas tradicionales.

Fue bajo petición de ICEERS que el International Narcotics Control Board confirmó por carta que las plantas que contienen DMT, como las que se usan en la ayahuasca, no están por si mismas bajo fiscalización internacional.  En otras palabras, hasta que los países tomen de forma individual las medidas oportunas para fiscalizar estas plantas (como ya ha hecho Francia) estas plantas no son tecnicamente ilegales, en ningún lugar.  Esa carta por si sola ha sido suficiente para evitar el encarcelamiento de varias personas en España y Chile.  (Una nota de caución: En algunos países, como EEUU, aunque las plantas son legales, cocinarlas para obtener ayahuasca es ilegal)

ICEERS también está llevando a cabo un programa para analizar la pureza de los extractos de iboga, para los facilitadores que trabajan con ella, y se gane un mayor conocimiento de la calidad, pureza y posibles contaminates de los materiales disponibles en el mercado.

ICEERS también contribuyó a financiar la publicación del importante estudio de José Carlos Bouso sobre los efectos del uso prolongado de ayahuasca, en PLOS online, una muy respetada revista cientifica.  Dando a conocer estos importantes hallazgos a la comunidad cientifica y el público en general del mayor estudio jamás realizado sobre los efectos del uso prolongado de la ayahuasca.

Y hay mucho más en camino... todos sabemos cuántos  malentendidos y desinformación hay alrededor de la ayahuasca y el iboga.  La idea detrás de ICEERS siempre ha sido hacer pública la mejor selección de información objetiva y científica de calidad que hay sobre estas plantas y sus usos legítimos.  ICEERS ha preparado una serie de guías para aquellos que vayan por primera vez a tomar ayahuasca e iboga, así como guías para aquellos interesados en viajar al Amazonas, o a Gabón, en busca de estas plantas. Pero también estamos trabajando en un proyecto mucho más ambicioso.  Un centro de ayuda online donde personas podrán llevar sus preguntas y dudas y consultarlas individualmente con expertos en estos asuntos.  Más allá de los consumidores estamos preparando un grupo de documentos y guias para proveedores de ayahuasca, incluyendo un documento de mejores practicas y uno de standards de seguridad mínimos.  El objetivo es generar una serie de consejos para maximizar beneficios y minimizar los riesgos de la ayahuasca, así como para contribuir a la redacción de códigos éticos y de seguridad (como el de la Plantaforma) que pueden ayudar a la auto-regulación de los proveedores de ayahuasca, para evitar situaciones como la de Chimbre.

En fin, que estoy feliz de formar parte de una organización cuyos objetivos son tan cercanos a los míos propios.  Personalmente hablando, siempre he sentido cierta afinidad con Benjamin, el fundador de ICEERS, que empezó como realizador de documentales para acabar en el activismo y abogacía de aquellas plantas que había estado filmado.  En el 2004 Benjamin hizo un documental sobre la Iboga (aquí el trailer) que se convirtió en una referencia internacional sobre el tema.  Lo que había empezado como un interés personal como cineasta pronto se convirtió en algo más grande, que pedía de él otro tipo de compromiso.  Es una historia que tiene muchos paralelos con la mía.

Creo que es hora de confesar que cuando empecé a grabar junto a Mark Ellam un documental sobre los enteógenos mi principal motivación no era hacer una película, sino acercarme a un tema que me interesaba mucho.  El documental me dio excusa para viajar por el mundo, y contactar a gente cuyo trabajo admiraba para hacerles preguntas, fue una idea estupenda.  Más de trece años después, y trabajando en mi 4 documental, puedo decir que los resultados han sido de lo más gratificantes.  Pero desde hace algún tiempo vengo sintiendo que no basta con hacer películas.  Es como si se me estuviera pidiendo un compromiso mayor, estas plantas y prácticas han sido tan claves en mi vida que es la hora de devolver de una forma más activa.  Es la hora de pasar de generar información hasta otras formas de acción más directas.

Creo que este impulso de ha ido manifestando en el trabajo que he venido haciendo como parte de la Asociación Eleusis, de la Plantaforma (La Plataforma para la Defensa de la Ayahuasca) y ahora en ICEERS.  Ha sido un proceso gradual de salida del armario en público.  Durante todos estos años he mantenido todo el trabajo relacionado con enteogenos oculto bajo un pequeño pseudonimo.  Para todo mi trabajo con el documental y articulos sobre ayahuasca era Jeronimo M.M. (o Jerónimo M. Muñoz).  Para el resto de mi trabajo usaba mi verdadero nombre.  Era una división total, tenía dos direcciones de correo, dos cuentas de facebook, dos blogs, dos vidas.

Creo que hoy es un buen día para acabar con ello y salir a la luz.

Durante los últimos 8 años mi avatar como Jerónimo M.M. le daba la espalda al público 

Creo que ya es hora de dar la cara.

Nos vemos por el mundo! .-)

PD Si queréis saber más de las actividades de ICEERS podéis suscribiros a nuestra lista de correos

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Ayahuasca Track and Workshop MAPS 2013 Psychedelic Science Conference Oakland

Via Bia Labate, here is the official schedule for the Ayahuasca Track during MAPS 2013 conference.  It is incredible to watch how much the field of active ayahuasca research has grown in the last couple of years.

MAPS is preparing its Psychedelic Science in the 21st Century conference April 18-22, 2013, in cooperation with the Heffter Research Institute, the U.K.-based Beckley Foundation, and the Council on Spiritual Practices. The conference will be held at the Marriott Hotel in Oakland, California. The conference is wide ranging, with a focus on the scientific research into the medical use of psychedelics. Research topics include MDMA-assisted therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Ibogaine for opiate addiction, LSD and psilocybin for end-of life anxiety. At the conference top researchers will present the latest research from Harbor-UCLA, Johns Hopkins University, New York University, and private clinics in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Brazil, Spain, Israel, United Kingdom, Mexico, Canada and the United States. The conference will feature three tracks: (1) clinical research: (2) a “qualitative/psychotherapeutic track” (combination of topics including psychedelic psychot
non-clinical research, medical marijuana, arts and culture); (3) ayahuasca.

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive substance that is increasingly popular in the public eye. It holds great potentials in the treatment of for substance use problems, and is an international test case for religious freedom. This academic conference will encourage open rigorous debate on the benefits and ricks of psychedelics, and will help make the argument for drug laws that are based on research, not fear and misunderstanding. It will provide a venue for experts to share their knowledge with medical professionals, researchers, and educate general public.

Bia Labate will facilitate the ayahuasca track and a day-long ayahuasca workshop.

See below information on both of them.

Ayahuasca Track: 19-21 April 2013

1. Linking Ayahuasca, Mental Imagery, and Internal Attention with Functional Neuroimaging

Dráulio Barros de Araujo, Ph.D.

The hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca, a rich source of serotonergic agonists and reuptake inhibitors, has been used for ages by Amazonian populations during religious ceremonies. Among all perceptual changes induced by ayahuasca, the ones regarding the visual system and internal attention are remarkable. This presentation will aim at presenting results from studies conducted by our group, which used functional magnetic resonance imaging to better understand some neurophysiological aspects of these two perceptual changes induced by ayahuasca.

Dráulio Barros de Araujo received his Ph.D. in Physics Applied to Medicine and Biology from the University of São Paulo in Ribeirão Preto in 2002, where he engaged in post-doctoral studies on Functional Neuroimaging, became Assistant Professor, and then received the title of     "livre-docente" (Associate). In 2009, he joined the Brain Institute at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), where he is currently Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Neuroscience, and Full Professor of Neuroimaging. His research deals with several aspects of neuroscience, using the methods of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), magnetoencephalography (MEG), and electroencephalography (EEG). In the last few years, Dr. Araujo has focused on the investigation of the cognitive and neural substrates of the Ayahuasca experience.

2. Psychedelics in Unlocking the Unconscious: From Cancer to Addiction

Gabor Mate, M.D.

Complex unconscious psychological stresses underlie and contribute to all chronic medical conditions, from cancer to addiction, from depression to multiple sclerosis. Therapy that is assisted by psychedelics, in the right context and with the right support, can bring these dynamics to the surface and thus help a person liberate themselves from their influence. Special focus will be given to the speaker's experience in treating addictions and other stress-related conditions, both with aboriginal people and in non-indigenous contemporary healing circles. This work has been done under the guidance of indigenous Peruvian shamans and their Western apprentices.

Gabor Maté, M.D. is a Canadian physician, speaker and the author of four bestselling books published in nearly twenty languages on five continents. His interests include the mind/body unity as manifested in health and illness, the effects of early childhood experiences in shaping brain and personality, the traumatic basis of addictions, and the attachment requirements for healthy child development. He has worked in family practice and palliative care, and for twelve years he worked in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, notorious as North America's most concentrated area of drug use. Currently, he teaches and leads seminars internationally. For more information, see: www.drgabormate.com

3. How Similar to Dreaming is the Ayahuasca Experience?

Sidarta Ribeiro, Ph.D.

Dreaming is one of the most common metaphors for the ayahuasca experience; but to what extent does this metaphor represent a true biological resemblance? In my presentation, I will review the neurobiological features shared by subjects who have experienced dreams and those who have consumed ayahuasca. Vivid dreaming occurs almost exclusively during rapid-eye movement sleep (REM), a physiological state of intense cortical activity. During REM, a selected set of forebrain areas gets activated, including portions of the hypothalamus, amygdala, septum, and ventral striatum, as well as the anterior cingulate, orbitofrontal, entorhinal, and insular cortices. Furthermore, it has been shown that dreaming ceases upon lesion of mesolimbic pathways connecting reward centers with the thalamus, striatum, and cortex. This suggests that dreams promote the integration of sensory and motor processes with mechanisms for reward seeking, leading to the notion that dreams evolved as adaptive simulations of possible future behaviors. Observation of brain activity during the ayahuasca experience revealed increased activity in various regions, including the precuneous, cuneus, lingual gyrus, fusiform gyrus, middle occipital gyrus, parahippocampal gyrus, posterior cingulate gyrus, superior temporal gyrus, superior and middle frontal gyrus, and inferior frontal gyrus. The visual association regions modulated by ayahuasca (upper cuneus, lower lingual gyrus, and the fusiform gyrus) are also activated during dreaming (within REM). During lucid dreaming, a special kind of dream in which dreamers are aware within the dream that they are dreaming, extra activation occurs in the occipital and frontal regions. The existing data suggest that the ayahuasca experience is akin to dreaming in the sense that both conjure visual memories in tune with the emotions of the subject. Further investigation is needed to determine how close the ayahuasca experience is to either lucid or non-lucid dreaming. The use of neuroscience tools to compare dream states and psychedelic states holds great potential for the understanding of consciousness.

Sidarta Ribeiro, Ph.D., holds a Bachelors degree in Biological Sciences from the Universidade de Brasília (1993), a Masters in Biophysics from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (1994), and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Animal Behavior from the Rockefeller University in New York (2000). He performed post-doctoral studies in Neurophysiology at Duke University from 2000 to 2005. Currently, he is a Full Professor of Neuroscience at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), and Director of the Brain Institute of UFRN. He has experience in the areas of neuroethology, molecular neurobiology, and multi-electrode neurophysiology, and works mainly in the following areas: sleep, dreaming and memory; immediate genes and neuronal plasticity; vocal communication in birds and primates; and symbolic understanding in non-human animals. He is greatly interested in the study of the neural bases of consciousness and its alteration. He has been involved in the public debate on the medicinal uses and the legalization of cannabis in Brazil.

4. Ayahuasca Admixture Plants: An Uninvestigated Folk Pharmacopoeia. An Updated Review

Dennis J. McKenna, Ph.D. and Eduardo Luna, Ph.D.

Ayahuasca is a psychedelic beverage utilized in the ethnomedical and shamanic practices of numerous indigenous peoples of the Amazon Basin.  It has also been adopted as a sacrament in several syncretic churches originating in Brazil.  The hallucinogenic properties of ayahuasca derive from the presence of DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine), in one or more species of admixture plants, that is rendered orally active by ß-carbolines alkaloids, potent monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) found in the other key ingredient, the liana Banisteriopsis caapi  (Malpighiaceae).  Although these ingredients are necessary and sufficient for its visionary properties, in many ethnomedical traditions ayahuasca preparations often include other biodynamically active admixtures.  Some are added to alter or modulate the acute effects of ayahuasca, while others may be utilized in combination with, or separately from, the ayahuasca brew as components of the “dietas.” These plants are regarded as “teacher plants” and are consumed within dietas in the context of shamanic apprenticeship.  Ayahuasca is, in fact, at the center of a vast and largely unstudied folk pharmacopoeia of associated medicinal plants.  Although the biologically active constituents and medicinal properties of some of these admixtures have been cursorily investigated, many have not, and this uninvestigated pharmacopoeia is a promising area for ethnopharmacological and phytochemical studies that may point to the discovery of novel compounds or plants with novel medicinal properties.  This presentation will discuss the botany, chemistry, pharmacological properties, and potential uses of some of these lesser known species that are utilized by indigenous ayahuasca traditions. The presentation will include an updated overview of some of the admixture species discussed in our 1986 paper on this topic, as well as new species that have come to light since that paper was published.

Dennis McKenna’s professional and personal interests are focused on the interdisciplinary study of ethnopharmacology and plant hallucinogens. He received his doctorate in 1984 from the University of British Columbia, where his doctoral research focused on ethnopharmacological investigations of the botany, chemistry, and pharmacology of ayahuasca and oo-koo-hé, two orally-active tryptamine-based hallucinogens used by indigenous peoples in the Northwest Amazon. Dr. McKenna received post-doctoral research fellowships in the Laboratory of Clinical Pharmacology, National Institute of Mental Health, and in the Department of Neurology, Stanford University School of Medicine.  He joined Shaman Pharmaceuticals as Director of Ethnopharmacology in 1990, and relocated to Minnesota in 1993 to join the Aveda Corporation as Senior Research Pharmacognosist.  He joined the faculty of the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota in 2001. He is a founding board member of the Heffter Research Institute and serves on the advisory board of non-profit organizations in the fields of ethnobotany and botanical medicines. He was a key organizer and participant in the Hoasca Project, an international biomedical study of ayahuasca used by indigenous people and syncretic religious groups in Brazil. He recently completed a project funded by the Stanley Medical Research Institute to investigate Amazonian ethnomedicines for the treatment of schizophrenia and cognitive deficits. At the Heffter Research Institute, he continues his focus on the therapeutic uses of psychoactive medicines derived from nature and used in indigenous ethnomedical practices.

Luis Eduardo Luna received a Ph.D. from the Department of Comparative Religion Stockholm University (1989) and the title Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, from St. Lawrence, Canton, New York (2002).  He is the author of Vegetalismo: Shamanism among the Mestizo Population of the Peruvian Amazon (1986), a co-author with Pablo Amaringo of Ayahuasca Visions: The Religious Iconography of a Peruvian Shaman (1991) and co-editor with Steven White of Ayahuasca Reader: Encounters with the Amazon¹s Sacred Vine (2000). He is a retired senior lecturer of the Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, and  the Director of the Research Center for the Study of Psychointegrator Plants, Visionary Art and Consciousness, Florianópolis, Brazil. For more information, see: http://www.wasiwaska.org/

5. Ayahuasca Characterization, Metabolism in Humans, and Relevance to Endogenous N,N-Dimethyltryptamines

Ethan McIlhenny, Ph.D.

The metabolism and excretion of DMT and beta-carbolines following ayahuasca consumption has not been studied systematically in humans. We developed a liquid chromatography–electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry procedure for the simultaneous quantification of the major alkaloid components of ayahuasca, including several known and potential metabolites. The assay was applied to a variety of ayahuasca samples and modified to be applicable to human blood and urine samples before and after consumption of ayahuasca. Less than 1% of the administered DMT dose was detected in urine or blood plasma, despite the inhibition of monoamine oxidase afforded by the presence of the harmala alkaloids in ayahuasca. The major metabolite of DMT was the corresponding N-oxide, DMT-N-oxide, which was found in both blood plasma and urine, although it was not detectable in ayahuasca samples. The methods developed would be suitable for the study of ayahuasca in human and ethnobotanical research, as well as in forensic examinations of ayahuasca preparations. The characteristics of the methods suggest that their sensitivity, selectivity, and reproducibility are adequate for use in further toxicological and clinical research on ayahuasca as well as functioning as an assay to screen biological samples for endogenous hallucinogens. Based on the results of these studies, we present a critical review of 69 published studies reporting the detection in human body fluids of three indole alkaloids that possess differing degrees of psychedelic activity. Suggestions for the future directions of ayahuasca and endogenous psychedelics research are offered.

Ethan McIlhenny attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs New York and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Neuroscience in 2006. Ethan entered a Neuroscience Ph.D. program with a teaching assistanceship at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana and completed his Masters of Science degree in 2008. Ethan completed his Ph.D. at Louisiana State University in the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine in 2012 under the mentorship of Dr. Steven Barker, where he received a 4-year board of regents grant fellowship. Ethan continues research pursuits with the Cottonwood Research Foundation.

6. Ayahuasca and Profound Healing

Chris Kilham

This presentation, based in fieldwork carried in Peru, will explore ayahuasca’s therapeutic potentials. True healing puts into order the body, mind and spirit with the past, present and future. Ayahuasca, also known as La Medicina (The Medicine), works in a manner that radically expands the definition of healing, working not only on a variety of common and idiopathic disorders, but also on root existential conditions of ignorance and separateness.

Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter, author, and educator. The founder of Medicine Hunter Inc., Chris has conducted medicinal research in over 30 countries. He is the FOX News “Medicine Hunter” and appears on FOX News Health online and in 100 international television markets. He also writes a weekly column for FOX News Health and is on the Medical Advisory Board of  “The Dr. Oz Show.” Since 1994, Chris has worked, traveled and studied with shamans in Brazil, Peru, and North America. He has participated in many dozens of ceremonies, both with and without the ingestion of ceremonial psychoactive drugs. He is experienced with ayahuasca, San Pedro cactus, peyote, coca, and tobacco. Chris is recognized as a chief in Vanuatu, South Pacific, is known as “Maxipe” which means “black vulture” by the Macuxi indians of Brazil, and has lived with and visited dozens of native tribes in Amazonia and in other cultures. Shamans in both Brazil and Peru recognize Chris as one of their kind and a bridger of worlds, and have engaged in numerous ceremonies to bolster his energy and support his work with medicinal plants and native cultures.

7. Ayahuasca, the Scientific Paradigm and Shamanic Healing

Stephan V. Beyer, Ph.D., J.D.

Current scientific research focuses on what the sacred plants can do for us: heal our wounds, cure our addictions, and expand our minds. This paradigm sees the sacred plants as useful prepackaged collocations of active molecules. But in indigenous cultures, shamans heal because they are in a personal and mutual relationship with the healing spirits. In such cultures, when the sacred plants are used, encounters with the world of the spirits are not visits to the therapist; they create a relationship that entails obligations as well. In this view, the sacred plants are autonomous others who are not means to our ends, but rather ends in themselves. This presentation explores whether our understanding of the sacred plants is enhanced by viewing their uses—like vision fasts or dreams or talking circles—not as conventionally therapeutic, but rather as a sacred shamanic ceremony that has its own often unforeseen purposes, which may not be to heal us, or to heal us in ways we do not expect.

Stephan V. Beyer, Ph.D., J.D., has doctoral degrees in both religious studies and psychology, and has taught as an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, the University of California - Berkeley, and Graduate Theological Union. Expert in both jungle survival and plant hallucinogens, he lived for a year and a half in a Tibetan monastery in the Himalayas, and has undertaken and helped to lead numerous four-day and four-night solo vision fasts in the desert wildernesses of New Mexico. He has studied the use of sacred and medicinal plants with traditional North America herbalists, in ceremonies of the Native American Church, in Peruvian mesa rituals, and with mestizo shamans in the Upper Amazon, where he received coronación by banco ayahuasquero don Roberto Acho Jurama. Steve’s current interests center on the indigenous ceremonial use of the sacred plants. He has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Shamanic Practice, and currently serves on the advisory board of the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research, and Service. He is the author, among other books, of Singing to the Plants: A Guide to Mestizo Shamanism in the Upper Amazon. The Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions at the Smithsonian Institution has praised his “unparalleled knowledge of sacred plants.”

8. Integrating the Modern Practice of Traditional Ayahuasca Shamanism

Joe Tafur, M.D.

In an effort to bridge the world of academic medicine with traditional healing knowledge, Dr. Tafur will review his experience treating individuals at the traditional Amazonian healing center Nihue Rao Centro Espiritual in Iquitos, Peru.  Successful treatment of several western diagnoses will be reviewed, including treatment of
psychological illness (PTSD, Depression), psychosomatic illness, and autoimmune disease (multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis). Traditional treatment techniques will be reviewed with a central focus on treatment through ayahuasca ceremony and traditional Shipibo shamanism.  We will review traditional Shipibo shamanism and explore the relationship between this work and exciting and relevant topics in modern medicine, including: integrative psychology, psychoneuroimmunology, functional medicine, epigenetics, and the use of psychedelic medicine in modern psychiatry.

Dr. Joe Tafur, M.D., is a Colombian-American integrative family physician
who has been involved in traditional Amazonian plant medicine since 2007. In addition to his involvement in South America, he has published several scientific papers and has worked on academic projects with the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine, the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, and the UCSD Center for Integrative Medicine.  From 2007-2009, Dr. Tafur also worked as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the UCSD Department of Psychiatry, investigating low-intensity light therapy and psychoneuroimmunology.  He now spends over half of the year working at the traditional Amazonian healing center Nihue Rao Centro Espiritual (www.nihuerao.com), along with his partners, Master Shipibo Healer Ricardo Amaringo and Cvita Mamic. Nihue Rao specializes in traditional Shipibo plant medicine, integrative healing, and in particular, traditional ayahuasca ceremony.

9. The Therapeutic Potential of Ritual Ayahuasca Use for the Treatment of Substance Dependencies

Anya Loizaga-Velder, Ph.D. cand.

This presentation is based on the author’s doctoral dissertation, which consisted of a qualitative study that included interviews with 14 therapists who used ayahuasca professionally in the treatment of addictions, as well as with 15 substance-dependent individuals who participated in ayahuasca-assisted treatment in varying contexts. The presentation addresses the value of ayahuasca for substance dependency treatment from a psychotherapeutic perspective, and the variables that may influence treatment outcome. Special attention is placed on the role of ritual and integration.

Anya Loizaga-Velder is a German-Mexican clinical psychologist who has been investigating the therapeutic potential of the ritual use of psychedelic plants for over 15 years. She is founding member and collaborating researcher of the Nierika, Multidisciplinary Association for the Preservation of the Indigenous Traditions of Sacred Plants in Mexico. She holds an M.A. degree in psychology from the University of Koblenz/Landau in Germany and currently is a doctoral candidate in Medical Psychology at Heidelberg University. This study is part of the special research group Ritual Dynamics and Salutogenesis (RISA, www.risa.uni-hd.de).

10. Ayahuasca-assisted Therapy in the Treatment of Addiction

Philippe Lucas M.A. and N. Rielle Capler, M.H.A.

This presentation is a comprehensive overview of an unpublished observational study of ayahuasca-assisted therapy for addiction and patterns of dependence conducted in British Columbia, Canada, in 2011. The study took place in the longhouse of a coastal First Nations band in cooperation with the Band Council and health office. The research tracked the progress of 12 indigenous participants of the “Working with Addiction and Stress” retreats organized by Dr. Gabor Mate (author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts; Close Encounters with Addiction), which combines 4-5 days of psycho-spiritual counseling with 2 ayahuasca ceremonies in the Peruvian Shipibo indigenous tradition. This presentation will begin with an examination of “observational” research design to evaluate the therapeutic potential of illicit substances like ayahuasca, and will then discuss researcher observations of the retreat itself.  Ayahuasca-assisted addiction therapy was shown to have a significant and lasting positive impact on the lives of many of the retreat participants. This talk will close by sharing the final study results, and a discussion of the challenges and opportunities of using ayahuasca-assisted therapy to reduce drug-related harms and address stress, trauma, and problematic substance use in aboriginal and non-aboriginal populations.

Philippe Lucas, M.A. is a Research Affiliate with the Center for Addictions Research of British Columbia and a founding Board member of the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies Canada and the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition.  His research interests, projects, and publications include the use of cannabis, ibogaine, and ayahuasca in the treatment of addiction. Currently, he is a Primary or Co-Investigator on a number of studies examining “cannabis substitution theory,” and is Coordinator and Co-Investigator of an observational study of ayahuasca-assisted treatment for addiction and stress.

N. Rielle Capler, M.H.A., has worked as researcher and policy advisor in the medical cannabis field for 13 years. She helped pioneer Canada’s first compassion club, where she worked as the policy analyst and research coordinator from 1999 to 2007.  Rielle is co-investigator on several community-based research projects, including the Health Effects of Medical Marijuana Project (HEMMP) with UBC’s School of Nursing, and the Medical Cannabis Standards, Engagement, Evaluation, and Dissemination (SEED) Project. Rielle is a co-founder of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (CAMCD) and Canadians for Safe Access, a national organization promoting safe access to cannabis for medical use and research. She sits on the advisory board of the Drug Policy Committee of the BC Civil Liberties Association. Rielle is also a co-investigator on an observational study of ayahuasca-assisted therapy in the treatment of addiction that took place in British Columbia, Canada, in 2011-2012. She is currently a doctoral student in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of British Columbia.

11. Four Hypotheses Regarding Ayahuasca’s Mechanisms of Action in the Treatment of Addictions

Mitch Liester, M.D. and James Prickett, D.O.

Ayahuasca is a medicinal plant mixture utilized by indigenous peoples throughout the Amazon River basin for healing purposes.  This medicine contains a combination of monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI’s) and N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT).  When ingested together, these medicines produce profound alterations in consciousness.  Ayahuasca is increasingly being explored as a treatment for addictions.  However, the possible mechanisms of action by which ayahuasca treats addictions remain unknown.  We propose four hypotheses regarding ayahuasca’s biochemical, physiological, psychological, and transcendent effects that may help explain ayahuasca’s anti-addiction effects.

Mitch Liester, M.D., is a psychiatrist in private practice in Monument, Colorado. After graduating from medical school at the University of Colorado, Dr. Liester completed his psychiatric residency at the University of California, Irvine under the tutelage of Dr. Charles Grob.  He has published in the areas of transpersonal psychiatry, near-death studies, and psychedelic medicines.

James Prickett, D.O., is a resident physician and burgeoning researcher at the University of Arizona Department of Psychiatry.  He received his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from Des Moines University.  Dr. Prickett’s primary interests lie within psychopharmacology, traditional medicine, and the relationship between belief, spirituality, and mental health. He has been a guest speaker on topics including autism, psychedelic drugs, adolescent substance abuse, and addiction. He has traveled to Ecuador on several occasions to study traditional medicine in both the Andes and Amazon Basin.  His research regarding the possible mechanisms by which ayahuasca treats addictions has been published in The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

12. Twenty years at Takiwasi: Reflections on the Spiritual Dimension as theInterface between Drug Addiction and Traditional Amazonian Medicine

Jaques Mabit, M.D.

Based on 20 years of experience at the Takiwasi Center, Peru, it is proposed that the pathology of drug addiction inevitably implies more than simple physical intoxication or psycho-affective problems; it also implicates a semantically existential dimension, which is of a metaphysical, or what we refer to as a spiritual nature. Within the context of healing rituals with psychoactive plants, Traditional Amazonian Medicine addresses the physical, psychological, and spiritual dimensions simultaneously. For this reason, this traditional Amazonian treatment has the potential to offer a solution to the problem of addiction. The Western approach, however, often denies the sacred or the spiritual, resulting in a tendency to confuse extreme psychedelic experiences with spiritual experiences. In this paradigm, psychoactive plants are more often used to facilitate psychotherapeutic processes rather than to open a door to a genuine relationship with the spiritual world.  In our intervention, we propose criteria for discerning between the psychological and spiritual dimensions, and for transitioning from one dimension into the next.

Jacques Mabit first came to Peru in 1980 with the Medecins Sans Frontieres Organization as an M.D., specialist in tropical disease and natural medicines. He was honored as an honorary professor for the Southern Scientific University of Lima, honorary member of the Peruvian Association of Psychologists, and as a fellow for the Ashoka Foundation. From 1986 onwards, he has been developing participative and auto-experimental research on traditional medicines and especially Amazonian medicines. These investigations led him to define an original therapeutic protocol for drug addiction treatment. In 1992, he founded the Takiwasi Center in upper Peruvian Amazonia to initialize the first pilot experiment of this treatment. The Takiwasi Center welcomes drug-addicted residents from Peru, Latin America and Europe. This model has also been implemented in other countries and has been applied to other pathologies. Jacques Mabit has made numerous public statements on the subject through publications, conferences, and other media.

13. Ayahuasca: Dope or medicine?

Josep María Fábregas, MD

This presentation will show the results of an investigation of long-term users of ayahuasca to assess the addictive capacity of the substance in comparison to its capacity to be used for the treatment of drug abusers. In this study, a large group of ayahuasca users were administered the ASI (Addiction Severity Index) to assess the extent that ayahuasca use provokes problems in their lives. In the second part, I will discuss the methods and outcomes of research at the Institute of Applied Amazonian Ethnopsychology (IDEAA), an establishment created by a Spanish group in the Amazon with the goal of studying and applying the use of ayahuasca to the treatment of drug addiction and in aiding processes of personal growth.

Josep María Fábregas graduated from the Central University of Barcelona with a degree in Medicine, specializing in Psychiatry. He completed his studies at New York Staten Island Psychiatric Hospital. He was a resident physician at the Marmottan Hospital under Claude Olivenstain. He is the Director of CITA (Addiction Research and Treatment Center) since 1981, and in 2000, he founded IDEAA (Amazonian Ethnopsychology Applied Institute). He has lectured extensively about drug addiction and altered states of consciousness.

14. Ayahuasca and the treatment of drug addiction: A review of the evidences and proposals for the future

José Carlos Bouso, Ph.D.

Although ayahuasca has become popular among the psychedelic community as a kind of medicine to treat drug abuse and addiction (there are nearly 150,000 entries in Google for ‘ayahuasca drug addiction’) evidence is weak, fragmented and disperse. Its fame as a potential anti-addiction treatment is supported mainly by claims from former drug users who recovered after joining an ayahuasca religion and also by reports from clinics treating drug addicts in South America. In this presentation we will review all the fragmentary evidence regarding the effectiveness of ayahuasca in the treatment of drug addiction. Although there is some promise in the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca based on the evidence examined, the lack of systematic
studies precludes reaching definite conclusions. A clinical protocol for assessing outcome will be presented.

José Carlos Bouso received his PhD from the University of x in 2012. His studies addressed preliminary data on the safety and efficacy of different doses of MDMA administered in a psychotherapeutic setting to women with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of a sexual assault. He also has been conducting neuropsychological research into the long term effects of different drugs such as cocaine or cannabis. He has also done transcultural research studying extensively the long term effects of ayahuasca use in different cultures and ecosystems, both in Spanish and in Brazilian communities. José Carlos Bouso is co-author of several scientific papers and book chapters. He currently combines his activity as a clinical researcher at the IMIM - Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques - with his work as Scientific Projects Manager at ICEERS (International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service –www.iceers.org).

15. Evaluating the Therapeutic Potential of Ayahuasca for Substance Use Problems: What Can We Learn from Treatment Research Projects and Paradigms?

Brian Rush, Ph.D.

This presentation will provide a broad framework for the different types of research necessary to investigate and understand the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca. It will briefly summarize what we know about the effectiveness and active ingredients of treatment of substance use problems; the definitions and methods used to define treatment “success”; and the implications for ayahuasca treatment research. An important distinction will be drawn between studies of basic mechanisms of therapeutic effects; clinical research on small samples under tightly controlled conditions; and substance use services research that investigates treatment settings, samples and outcomes in naturalistic settings. Across this spectrum of research strategies, I will offer an overview of the emergent literature on treating problematic substance use with ayahuasca, both in the biomedical and social sciences field. I will argue that a broad systems lens is necessary to fully investigate the various ways ayahuasca is used therapeutically. Effective scientific research should describe the people and sub-types who seek out this healing strategy and the theoretical and practical orientations of the people and programs that offer help. It is also critical to understand culture-bound interpretations of concepts such as “help-seeking,” “treatment,” and “positive outcome.”  The presentation will close with an outline of an interdisciplinary research project to investigate the therapeutic offerings of a group of centers in Latin American countries incorporating ayahuasca as a key component of the treatment of substance use problems.

Brian Rush, Ph.D., is an Epidemiologist and Health Services researcher working as a Senior Scientist and Head of the Health Systems and Health Equity Research Group with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. He is also Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, Canada. His areas of interest and expertise include the evaluation of substance abuse and mental health treatment systems and services including the use of epidemiological data to plan integrated treatment systems; assessment of the costs, processes and outcomes of treatment and individual and community-level impact; and the study of the understanding, acceptance and implementation of evidence-based practice in community treatment and support settings. Currently, he is in the initial stages of formulating an interdisciplinary research project to evaluate ayahuasca’s potential in treating drug abuse in the Latin American context as well as research in Canada on the prevalence and pattern of ayahuasca use in the general population and self-reported reasons and benefits of use.

16. A Psychological and Neuropsychological Evaluation of Hoasca Users within União Do Vegetal in The USA

Paulo Barbosa, Ph.D.

Ayahuasca, or Hoasca, is a hallucinogenic brew originally used for magico-religious purposes by Amerindian populations of the western Amazon Basin. Throughout the last two decades, Brazilian syncretic churches, such as Santo Daime and União do Vegetal (UDV), have helped spread the ritual use of ayahuasca abroad. This trend has raised concerns that regular use of this N,N-dimethyltryptamine-containing tea may lead to mental and physical health problems associated with drug abuse. Lawsuits involving tensions between drug control laws and principles of religious freedom were filed in Europe and in the USA. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the UDV, allowing it to import, store, and use hoasca. In 2009, the District Court of the State of Oregon ruled a similar decision in favor of a local branch of the Santo Daime Church. These decisions point to the definitive establishment of this practice in American religious diversity. The few rigorous studies that have been completed on the psychological and medical effects of ayahuasca suggest mostly positive effects of religious ayahuasca use, but concerns about the potential for harmful effects remain. To further elucidate the effects of religious use of hoasca, we propose a case-control study in which 35 North American users of hoasca within the UDV are compared to 35 matched Christian control subjects with no history of hoasca use. The assessment will include instruments on quality of life, personality, spirituality and religiosity, mood, neuropsychological function and altered states of consciousness.

Paulo Cesar Ribeiro Barbosa obtained his Ph.D. in Medical Sciences at Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP) in 2008 working on a follow-up evaluation of religious ayahuasca users. He obtained his B.A. in Social Sciences at Universidade de São Paulo (USP) in 1992. Since 2001, he has worked on a variety of projects involving psychiatric, psychological, neurocognitive, social and cultural assessments of ayahuasca users within Brazilian urban contexts. Dr. Barbosa was appointed Professor of Scientific Methods in 2002 in the Departamento de Filosofia e Ciências Humanas at Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Brazil, and is currently doing post-doctoral studies at the Psychiatry Department of the University of New Mexico. Dr. Barbosa’s main research interests and activities concern the relationships among psychiatric, psychological, and anthropological methods of evaluating the effects of ayahuasca in Brazilian urban settings.

17. A Survey of Quality of Life and Antidepressant Use in Brazilian Members of the UDV

Luís Fernando Tófoli, M.D., Ph.D.

This presentation introduces the unpublished results of a recent survey with almost 2,000 UDV members from different parts of Brazil, and focuses on two points: quality of life and use of serotonergic antidepressants. Quality of life of ayahuasca drinkers from the Brazilian ayahuasca religions has not been previously assessed in a considerable number of subjects. The putative risk of serious adverse effects from the concomitant use of ayahuasca preparations and the highly prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) is a yet undetermined subject that could be better understood with information from regular ayahuasca drinkers. In this study—conducted by a multidisciplinary Brazilian-North-American research team—literate subjects volunteered to fill in a self-report instrument that included 1) a socio-demographic questionnaire; 2) a World Health Organization scale about quality of life (WHOQOLBref); 3) a questionnaire about past and present substance use; and 4) a questionnaire about the use of antidepressants and their reported effects on the ayahuasca experience. This presentation will include the results regarding general quality of life, the effects of SSRIs on the ayahuasca experience, and the relationship of these results with socio-demographic variables.

Luís Fernando Tófoli is a medical doctor with a residency and a Ph.D. degree in Psychiatry at the University of São Paulo (USP). He is a professor of Psychiatry at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) and his production as a scholar is focused on community mental health policies, mental health in primary care, and ayahuasca and mental health. He has studied the onset of mental disorders in UDV members and is currently working on three projects concerning ayahuasca: a survey about quality of life and history of drug use in UDV members, the validation of the Brazilian Portuguese version of the Hallucinogen Rating Scale, and a preliminary study on the influence of drug, set, and setting in ayahuasca experiences.

18. Long term effects of the ritual use of ayahuasca on mental health

José Carlos Bouso, Ph.D.

Over the last decades, ayahuasca use has expanded throughout the world. An uncountable number of people are being exposed to this potent hallucinogenic beverage. At the same time, little is known regarding the long term effects of ayahuasca use. The few studies published until now conclude that ayahuasca seems not to be deleterious at the long term. In this presentation data will be presented from a longitudinal study where different areas of mental health have been assessed in a large sample of regular ayahuasca users (n = 127) and controls (n = 115). The assessment included potential drug abuse-related problems, personality, psychopathology, life attitudes and neuropsychological performance. Results are in line with previous studies. Potential biases that share all the published studies will be also discussed.

José Carlos Bouso’s studies addressed preliminary data on the safety and efficacy of different doses of MDMA administered in a psychotherapeutic setting to women with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of a sexual assault. He also has been conducting neuropsychological research into the long term effects of different drugs such as cocaine or cannabis. He has also done transcultural research studying extensively the long term effects of ayahuasca use in different cultures and ecosystems, both in Spanish and in Brazilian communities. José Carlos Bouso is co-author of several scientific papers and book chapters. He currently combines his activity as a clinical researcher at the IMIM - Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques - with his work as Scientific Projects Manager at ICEERS (International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service –www.iceers.org).

19. Ayahuasca for PTSD: Integrating Psychedelic Therapeutic Strategies for Neurotrauma into a Bioinformatics Framework

Jessica L. Nielson, Ph.D.

This presentation is part of our work developed at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), which uses a bioinformatics framework and multivariate statistics to fully characterize the syndrome of spinal cord injury (SCI). The bioinformatics approach we have developed can be applied to other forms of neurotrauma, including traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Studies about MDMA-assisted psychotherapy have demonstrated safety and remarkable, long lasting beneficial effects in treatment for treatment-resistant PTSD. Our perspective hypothesizes that by incorporating the data from these clinical trials into our bioinformatics framework, along with additional studies from previous and future PTSD trials, we will be able to identify syndromic risk factors for treatment-resistant PTSD and their appropriate treatments. We will present here a pilot study currently being developed in collaboration with two healing centers in Peru; Shimbre Shamanic Center and the Paititi Institute. Our project is to collect data from individuals suffering from ailments including PTSD who have voluntarily traveled to these centers to participate in shamanic ayahuasca ceremonies in order to heal themselves. Our study will use similar outcome measures that are currently being used for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD (e.g. CAPS) to assess the effects of ayahuasca on PTSD, including pre-treatment and post-treatment follow up interviews. If preliminary results demonstrate a consistent beneficial effect of ayahuasca on PTSD symptoms, additional outcomes will be collected for psychological evaluations, physiological measures (qEEG, vital signs), and blood and urine analysis to detect ayahuasca levels during treatment. The goal of this project is to identify the potential risk factors for treatment resistant PTSD, and to determine whether substances such as MDMA and ayahuasca will prove to be additional therapeutic options for veterans suffering
from PTSD.

Jessica Nielson, PhD, received her B.S. in biology from Cal Poly Pomona in 2003, and her Ph.D. in anatomy and neurobiology from the University of California, Irvine, in 2010. During her doctoral work she resolved a century-old controversy regarding the fate of the corticospinal tract following spinal cord injury, demonstrating definitively that this important motor pathway survives injury and is available in chronic cases for therapeutic interventions to promote regeneration and functional recovery. She joined the Brain and Spinal Injury Center at University of California San Francisco in 2011 as a postdoctoral scholar, where she has been developing a novel bioinformatics approach to characterize syndromic features of spinal cord injury, with future plans to apply this approach to traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

20. Classifying Ayahuasca: The Role of Subjective Experience in Psychiatric Research with Psychedelics

Brian Anderson, M.Sc., M.D. cand.

Recently, neuropsychiatric studies with the psychedelic brew ayahuasca have been initiated by a small group of researchers in Brazil. Their research alternatively portrays the modified state of consciousness induced by ayahuasca as psychopathological, psychotherapeutic or spiritual by, respectively, using ayahuasca to model psychosis, to treat depression, and to induce religious visions. Through interviews with the scientists doing this research—complemented by my previous ethnographic study of the ayahuasca religions—I develop a case study of how these researchers’ subjective experiences with ayahuasca, as well as the experiences of religious ayahuasca users, shape the researchers’ classifications and representations of the ayahuasca experience. The inclusion of such subjective experiences in considerations about the nature of the ayahuasca experience lends itself to establishing a complex understanding of the brew’s effects that is often at odds with conventional psychiatric understandings of psychedelic drugs, particularly the categorical delimitations between what is considered psychopathological, psychotherapeutic and spiritual.

Brian Anderson is currently an M.D. candidate at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He also holds a MSc from the BIOS Centre at the London School of Economics and a BA in Biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania. Since 2006 he has been a researcher with the Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP, www.neip.info). His anthropological fieldwork experience includes work with the undocumented Mexican immigrant population in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and with the União do Vegetal, an ayahuasca religion, in Bahia, Brazil.

21. The Effects of Participation in Ayahuasca Rituals on Gay’s and Lesbian’s Self Perception

Clancy Cavnar, Psy.D.

The practice of drinking the psychoactive drink ayahuasca has been shown in several studies to have positive long-term effects on mental states, and several studies have suggested it has a particularly strong positive effect on perceptions of identity. This research sought to discover if and in what way, these previous findings would be seen in gay people, who are often taught by their culture and religion that their lifestyles, values and sexual orientation are unacceptable. This qualitative study examined the interview responses of 17 gay and lesbian- identified participants who had used ayahuasca in a group in the past three years regarding their self-perceptions. The results indicated that all participants reported positive effects on their lives from ayahuasca rituals, including affirmation of their sexual orientation, and no participants reported negative effects on perception of identity. Findings will be reported and the implications of psychedelic research with gay and lesbian people will be discussed.

Clancy Cavnar attended the New College of the University of South Florida and completed an undergraduate degree in liberal arts in 1982. She attended the San Francisco Art Institute and graduated with a Master of Fine Art in painting in 1985. In 1993 she received a certificate in substance abuse counseling from the extension program of the University of California at Berkeley. In 1997, she graduated with a Master's in Counseling from San Francisco State University. In that same year she got in touch with the Santo Daime in the USA and has traveled several times to Brazil since then. In 2011, she received a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) from John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, California, with a dissertation on gay and lesbian people's experiences with ayahuasca. She is co-editor with Beatriz C. Labate of the book  “The Expansion and Reinvention of Ayahuasca Shamanism” (Oxford University Press, in press). She is also a researcher with the Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP, www.neip.info).

22. Santo Daime in Europe: ritual transfer and cultural translations

Jan Weinhold, Ph.D.

Santo Daime rituals have been conducted in several European countries for the last 20 years, involving an extended cross-cultural exchange of ritual practices between European and Brazilian churches. Despite the similarity between ritual structures in Brazil and Europe, there are several contextual differences: the illegal status of Daime/DMT in some European countries and language differences being the most obvious. In this paper, issues around this “ritual transfer” are discussed: How do ritual participants in Europe adapt the ritual practices and belief-systems of Santo Daime to their own cultural contexts? How do the legal status, language differences, and other cultural contexts influence rituals and meanings of ayahuasca-induced altered states of consciousness? How can empirical research tackle such problems on a conceptual level?

Jan Weinhold studied psychology at the Humboldt-University Berlin. Since 2002, he has been working as a research psychologist within the Collaborative Research Centre "Dynamics of Ritual" (SFB 619 "Ritualdynamik") at Heidelberg University, where he completed his Ph.D. in 2011. His research interests cover the use of psychoactive substances in relation to ritual studies, drug-abuse prevention, cross-cultural psychology, altered states of consciousness, and systemic psychotherapy. He has published articles in the field of ritual studies and drug use and has co-edited the volumes Rituals on the Move [Rituale in Bewegung], LIT-Verlag, 2006; Therapy With Psychoactive Substances: Approaches to and Critique of Psychotherapy with LSD, Psilocybin and MDMA [Therapie mit psychoaktiven Substanzen: Praxis und Kritik der Psychotherapie mit LSD, Psilocybin und MDMA], Huber, 2008; The Problem of Ritual Efficacy, Oxford University Press, 2010; and The Varieties of Ritual Experience, Harrassow

23. Transnationalism, Legal Pluralism and the Expansion of Ayahuasca Traditions

Kevin Feeney, J.D. and Beatriz Caiuby Labate, Ph.D.

This chapter will explore globalization, diversity, and issues of social justice by examining the global expansion of ayahuasca religions through the lens of transnationalism, and against a backdrop of global legal pluralism. Politics have often equated cultural groups with particular national boundaries, and, proceeding from this premise, have made legal and cultural exceptions for groups that were seen as specifically situated geographically. A perfect illustration of this is in a provision of the article 32 of the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which permits signatories to make reservations for “plants growing wild which contain psychotropic substances…which are traditionally used by certain small, clearly determined groups in magical or religious rites.” The provision reflects a view that exemptions for psychoactive drug use are acceptable if they are confined to a specific locality, and to a specific culture group. The ayahuasca religions pose a particular challenge to this line of thinking. The originally Brazilian-based religions of Santo Daime and the União do Vegetal have established a global presence with international adherents, followers who are not constrained by national boundaries, and not identifiable as members of any particular ethnic categories. As these religions expand outside of their traditional regional and cultural contexts, they come to be viewed through the Western framework of the “war on drugs,” and become classified as criminal enterprises. The expansion of the ayahuasca traditions will be used as a foundation for examining issues of international human rights law and protections for religious freedom within the current global milieu of cultural transnationalism.

Kevin Feeney, J.D., received his law degree from the University of Oregon in 2005, and is currently a student of Anthropology at Washington State University (USA), where he is studying the religious use of peyote in American Indian traditions. Other research interests include examining legal and regulatory issues surrounding the religious and cultural use of psychoactive substances, with an emphasis on ayahuasca and peyote, and exploring modern and traditional uses of Amanita muscaria, with a specific focus on variations in harvest and preparation practices. He is co-author, with Richard Glen Boire, of Medical Marijuana Law (2007).

Beatriz Caiuby Labate has a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from the State University of Campinas (Universidade Estadual de Campinas, UNICAMP), Brazil. Her main areas of interest are the study of psychoactive substances, drug policies, shamanism, ritual, and religion. She is Visiting Professor at the Drug Policy Program of the Center for Economic Research and Education (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, CIDE) in Aguascalientes, Mexico. She is also Research Associate at the Institute of Medical Psychology, Heidelberg University, co-founder of the Nucleus for Interdisciplinary Studies of Psychoactives (NEIP), and editor of its site (http://www.neip.info). She is author, co-author, and co-editor of eight books, two with English translations, one journal special edition, and several peer-reviewed articles. For more information, see: http://bialabate.net/

24. The Economics of Ayahuasca

Kenneth Tupper, Ph.D.

This presentation considers the emerging status of ayahuasca as a commodity in international trade networks and the global economic system of the early 21st century. It explores how the brew and its constituent plants are variously represented as a medicine, sacrament, or plant teacher by people who drink it, and how drinkers (and suppliers) negotiate these representations with the competing status of ayahuasca as a consumer item in the global marketplace. Is ayahuasca drinking becoming a bourgeois luxury for the affluent of the global North? Does the commodification of the brew somehow profane it? How does ayahuasca consumerism fit within the politics of international drug control? Is ayahuasca, as the International Narcotics Control Board suggested in its 2010 Annual Report, simply an example of the “increased trade, use and abuse of . . . plant material” containing psychoactive substances? These and other questions lead to reflections on what the economics of ayahuasca might reveal about the nature of money, value, and ecology at a critical moment in world history.

Kenneth W. Tupper, Ph.D., is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. His 2011 Ph.D. dissertation focused on ayahuasca, entheogenic education, and public policy. His other research interests include the cross-cultural and historical uses of psychoactive substances; public, professional and school-based drug education; and the creation of effective public policies to maximize benefits and minimize harms from currently illegal drugs. For more information, see: www.kentupper.com

25. A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Ayahuasca: Insight, Transitional Space and Potential Side Effects

Eduardo Gastelumendi, M.D.

This presentation will explore differences and continuities between psychoanalysis and the ayahuasca experience regarding both their nature and scope. These might be considered two of the few “royal roads” that lead to inner exploration, transformation, and growth. They rely mainly, but not only, on insights; whether in the form of meaningful and new true understandings that emerge in an intimate interpersonal relationship (as may happen in psychoanalysis) or under the form of emotionally intense and vivid visions and the grasping of truth (as in the ayahuasca experience). It will be noted that ayahuasca may produce negative side effects, such as the “inflation of the Ego” or taking as real visions that should have a metaphoric or “as-if” quality. The Winnicottian psychoanalytic concept of "transitional space," essential to developing the capacity to play, create and love, may help to clarify and better understand occasional problematic effects of ayahuasca.

Eduardo Gastelumendi is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst working mainly as a clinician in private practice in Lima. He is Member and current Vice-president of the Peruvian Psychoanalytic Society, Member and former President of the Peruvian Psychiatric Association (1999 – 2000) and Member of the International Neuropsychiatric Association. He lectures at the Institute of the Peru Psychoanalytic Society. He is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Revista de Neuro-Psiquiatria (founded in 1938 in Lima). He has participated in the Freud – Jung dialogues between the IPA (International Psychoanalytic Association) and the IAAP (International Association for Analytic Psychology) since 2006. His main theoretical interest is to explore the interface between different disciplines (Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis; Psychoanalysis and Neurosciences) and between psychodynamic approaches and traditional medicine, especially related with ayahuasca, substance he has known for more than two decades.

Ayahuasca Workshop: Ethnobotany, Safety & Expansion: April 22nd, 2013.

9:00h – 9:30h - Opening and Introduction by Bia Labate

9:30h –11:00h – Ayahuasca’s Evolving Worldview and Practices: From Indigenous-Mestizo Ceremony in 1976 to a Global Phenomenon in 2013, by Kathleen Harrison

As recently as the 1970s, the ayahuasca culture of the Peruvian Amazon exhibited a worldview that was a blend of indigenous and mestizo elements and practices. The living tradition exhibited an astonishing depth of knowledge on the varieties of botanical form and their parallel spiritual content. Based on original fieldwork carried out in Peru in the seventies, the speaker will begin by describing that worldview and its traditional means of transmission via the oral tradition, shamanic performance, and direct experience. We are now midway through a fascinating evolution of worldviews that has developed over the past forty years. The spread of ayahuasca culture has pollinated external worldviews with nature-based knowledge, ideas of animism, concepts of causality (fate, health, luck), the dynamics of personal and collective ceremonial experience, and complex interactions with apparent shamanic power. The newcomers have gained much, yet have overlooked, changed and, to some extent, homogenized or depleted the diversity that those sources held. By regarding the “bio-cultural diversity” of the ayahuasca complex such as plant species, varieties and attendant perceptions, we still have much to learn and to investigate. As the metamorphosis continues, what is a possible model for the future of ayahuasca use?

11:00h – 11:15h – Break

11:15h - 12:00h – Discussion with Kat and Bia

12:00h -13:00h – Lunch

13:00h - 14:45h – Ayahuasca, safety and biomedical research, by Luis Fernando Tófoli

This section will offer a general overview of the biomedical research on ayahuasca with a special focus on the discourse about its safety. Some claim that the interpretation of biomedical data generally points to a considerable safety in the use of this decoction with psychedelic properties, provided that certain precautions are taken. On the other hand, the corpus of biomedical findings on ayahuasca is interpreted skeptically by those who stress that there is no absolute absence of risk to health in its consumption. Although there is no unconditional impartiality in the life sciences and the interpretation of scientific research is subject to diverse worldviews, some issues in ayahuasca research require more biomedical evidence. Based on the analysis of the scientific literature and the author's experience with ayahuasca, some dilemmas in the biomedical universe of ayahuasca will be discussed. These are: its general toxicity; the use by pregnant women, children and adolescents; drug interactions; and effects on mental disorders and substance misuse, among others. This section will also explore new paths for the potential development of biomedical research in the field of ayahuasca, and its contextualization within the broader disputes concerning psychoactive substances.

14:45 - 15:00h - Break

15:00 -17:00h Ayahuasca For All the Senses, by Chris Kilham

The ayahuasca ceremony is both a journey into a spirit landscape, and a remarkable display of multi-sensory activity, from the singing of healing songs, called icaros, to the burning of Amazon tobacco (mapacho) and Palo Santo, wood of the saints. Visions, body sensations, purging, and even synesthesia, a joining together of various senses, occur in the ayahuasca journey. In this workshop, we will explore the ethnobotany of ayahuasca. Further, we will dive into the deep end of the sensory pool, with trance, smoke, song, lavish images and more, all derived from traditional Amazonian ayahuasca shamanism.

Beatriz Caiuby Labate has a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from the State University of Campinas (Universidade Estadual de Campinas, UNICAMP), Brazil. Her main areas of interest are the study of psychoactive substances, drug policies, shamanism, ritual, and religion. She is Visiting Professor at the Drug Policy Program of Center for Economic Research and Education (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, CIDE), in Aguascalientes, Mexico. She is also researcher with the Nucleus for Interdisciplinary Studies of Psychoactives (NEIP), and editor of its site (http://www.neip.info). She is author, co-author, and co-editor of eight books, two with English translations, one journal special edition, and several peer-reviewed articles. For more information, see: http://bialabate.net/

Kathleen Harrison, M.A., is an independent scholar and teacher of ethnobotany. She has initiated and participated in recurrent fieldwork, mostly among indigenous people in Latin America, since the 1970s. She is the president and co-founder of Botanical Dimensions, a non-profit organization that has worked for 28 years to collect medicinal and shamanic species and the lore that helps us understand how to regard them. Kat teaches at various universities (currently University of Minnesota, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Albany College of Pharmacy, and Goddard College), specializing in tropical ethnobotanical field courses in Peru and Hawaii and integrative healing traditions in California. She helps her students understand the nature-based worldviews of traditional cultures, along with the role of plants in healing and story. She is based in rural Northern California and Hawaii. For more information, see: www.botanicaldimensions.org

Luís Fernando Tófoli is a medical doctor with a residency and a Ph.D. degree in Psychiatry at the University of São Paulo (USP). He is a professor of Psychiatry at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) and his production as a scholar is focused on community mental health policies, mental health in primary care, and ayahuasca and mental health. He has studied the onset of mental disorders in UDV members and is currently working on three projects concerning ayahuasca: a survey about quality of life and history of drug use in UDV members, the validation of the Brazilian Portuguese version of the Hallucinogen Rating Scale, and a preliminary study on the influence of drug, set, and setting in ayahuasca experiences.

Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter, author and educator. The founder of Medicine Hunter Inc., Chris has conducted medicinal research in over 30 countries. Chris is the FOX News Medicine Hunter and appears on FOX News Health online and in 100 international television markets. He also writes a weekly column for FOX News Health and is on the Medical Advisory Board of The Dr. Oz Show. Since 1994 Chris has worked, traveled and studied with shamans in Brazil, Peru and North America. He has participated in many dozens of ceremonies, both with and without the ingestion of ceremonial psychoactive drugs. He is experienced with ayahuasca, San Pedro cactus, peyote, coca, and tobacco. Chris is recognized as a chief in Vanuatu, South Pacific, is known as “Maxipe” which means “black vulture” by the Macuxi indians of Brazil, and has lived with and visited dozens of native tribes in Amazonia and in other cultures. Shamans in both Brazil and Peru recognize Chris as one of their kind and a bridger of worlds, and have engaged in numerous ceremonies to bolster his energy and support his work with medicinal plants and native cultures.

Documentary Screening and Discussion: “AYA: Awakenings”

Directed by Rak Razam and Tim Parish

90 minutes

(forthcoming 2013)

Discussion with Rak Razam

AYA: Awakenings is a narrative documentary into the world and visions of ayahuasca shamanism, adapted from the cult book 'Aya: a Shamanic Odyssey' by Rak Razam. As Razam sets out to document the booming business of Amazonian shamanism in the 21st century, he quickly finds himself caught up in a culture clash between the old world and the new. Braving a gringo trail of the soul, he uncovers a movement of ‘spiritual tourists’ coming from the West for a direct experience of the multi-dimensional reality shamanism connects one to. Central to this is ayahuasca – the “vine of souls” – a legal South American hallucinogenic plant that has been used by Amazonian people for millennia to heal physical ailments and to cleanse and purify the spirit, connecting it to the web of life. In researching the mystery of ayahuasca, Razam undergoes his own shamanic initiation, undergoing numerous tests and trials in the jungle and the psychic landscapes the vine reveals. On the way he encounters a motley crew of characters, from rogue scientists that conduct DMT-brain scans on jungle psychonauts to indigenous and Western shamans that slowly unravel his cultured mind and reveal the magical landscape of the spirit world. And the more he drinks this potent jungle medicine the deeper it leads him: from the wet jungle where the ayahuasca vine grows and on into the raging heart of consciousness itself. By blending narration directly from the book with video footage, interviews with practicing curanderos, samples of traditional icaros or magic songs, photographs and cutting edge special effects, Aya: Awakenings reproduces the inner landscape of the visionary state in unprecedented detail, invoking a spiritual awakening in the viewer. Featuring the artwork of Pablo Amaringo, Andy Debrenardi and more; video editing by Verb Studios, soundscapes by DJ Buttons Touching and music by Tipper; Darpan, Lula Cruz, Sphongle and curanderos Guillermo Aravelo, Percy Garcia Lozano, Ron Wheelock and Kevin Furnas. For more information, see: http://vimeo.com/20458066

Rak Razam is an author, prolific media maker and networker. He wrote the book Aya: A Shamanic Odyssey and the companion volume of interviews, The Ayahuasca Sessions (http://www.ayathebook.com). He is a frequent lecturer on ayahuasca and the shamanic revival sweeping the West, and is the co-director with Tim Parish for the forthcoming Aya: Awakenings documentary. He was also interviewed and appears in the CBS (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s) 2007 audio documentary In Search of the Divine Vegetal (www.podcastdirectory.com/podshows/2266458) talking about his ayahuaca experiences. His video interviews for website Reality Sandwich, New MAPS of Hyperspace, (http://vimeo.com/album/1688275) feature Sasha Shulgin, Alex Grey, Stan Grof, Rick Doblin, Ralph Metzner, Mountain Girl, and more luminaries. His popular podcast show In a Perfect World (http://in-a-perfect-world.podomatic.com) has featured Dennis McKenna, Mitch Schultz (DMT: The Spirit Molecule), Stephan Beyer (Singing to the Plants), Darpan, James Oroc (Tryptamine Palace) and dozens more. For more information, see:www.rakrazam.com

Register here: http://www.maps.org/conference/3-day-conference/

See press release here: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/9/prweb9916480.htm