The word Ayahuasca is derived from two Quechua words: aya meaning “spirit,” “soul,” or “ancestor,” and huasca meaning “vine” or “rope.” Thus, Ayahuasca is revered as “the vine of the soul.”
**Before participating in an Ayahuasca ceremony, it’s important that you read the information below fully.**
What is Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca is an Amazonian plant mixture with an ancient history of use as a medicine and shamanic means of communication, dating back at least 2,500 years. It has long been a central part of the spiritual and cultural traditions of South America and the Amazon. A powerful teacher, Ayahuasca is a medicine capable of bringing about great physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual healing. She is reverently referred to as “Mother Ayahuasca” by those whose lives she has touched. As such, Ayahuasca is not intended for recreational use. She should be treated seriously, and consumed in a ceremonial environment under the guidance of an experienced drinker.
What makes up the Ayahuasca brew?
The Ayahuasca tea is primarily made from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, which is combined with either chacruna (Psychotria viridis) or chagropanga (Diplopterys cabrerana), other medicinal plants that contain a high amount of the psychedelic substance N-Dimethyltryptamine, known as DMT. DMT is a tryptamine found in nearly every living thing on earth, and is released in our bodies during birth and death, though scientists do not fully understand its purpose. Many believe that, because of DMT’s release at the start and end of our lives, it puts us closer in touch with the unexplained forces of life that create and embody our universe. Because of the profound feelings of connectedness and personal transcendence that DMT can produce, it has been called “the spirit molecule.”
How is the Ayahuasca brew made?
To make the Ayahuasca tea brew, the Banisteriopsis caapi vine is cut into 8- to 12-inch pieces, then pounded with a hard wooden mallet to separate the fibers. The pounded mixture of vine and leaves is then added to a pot, covered with water, and boiled and reduced for several hours. Other plants or tree barks may also be added to the brew to modify its healing and visionary effects, such as mapacho for cleansing, bobinsana for opening the heart, toe for clearer visions, or ajo-sacha for clearing negative energies. When the liquid in the pot has boiled down to just a few inches, it is drained off and transferred to another vessel where it is further reduced to the desired concentration. The final product is usually a very dark brown color, with a slightly sticky consistency similar to molasses. Preparing Ayahuasca is much more than just chemistry, and the intention and state of mind of the person making the tea has a significant impact on the experience of those who drink it. This is why it is very important that an experienced shaman prepare the Ayahuasca brew, so that they are able to channel their inner energy and intentions into the tea by keeping healing, positive intentions in mind and pushing away all negativity. The shaman also sings icaros (songs sung during healing ceremonies) while making the Ayahuasca tea, asking the spirits for good healings and visions in the ceremonies for which it will be used.
How does the Ayahuasca medicine work?
Ayahuasca should not be viewed or treated as a drug. It is a medicine capable of inducing altered states of consciousness that usually last between four to eight hours after ingestion. Results vary among individuals, and can range from mildly stimulating to extremely visionary. For some, it can offer profound realizations and physical and psychological healing; for others, it can open up one’s heart to the beauty of the world and that which connects all living and non-living things on earth. And then for others, the experience may be in part entirely unique. Ayahuasca heals in a variety of ways. One primary way is by collecting energies that do not belong and then purging them from the individual, which may include vomiting, diarrhea, shaking, yawning, crying, and/or sweating. However, it is important to understand that this is the medicine doing its work, and surrendering to it will result in the best healing. Thus, this work should not be entered into lightly and without firm, true intention and respect for what Mother Ayahuasca provides. One should feel a strong calling to the medicine, not be looking for amusement or fulfilling mere curiosity. Even more, the healing process requires courage, commitment, and trust in the medicine and in what Ayahuasca intends for you. You must be willing to surrender to faith that the medicine is doing what you need, for it to work best, even if there are parts that are unpleasant.
Will Ayahuasca cure me of my worries or illness?
While a very large number of issues have been successfully addressed with Ayahuasca and other medicinal plants, ranging from physical ailments like diabetes to psychological issues such as addiction, Ayahuasca does not promise to be a cure-all for every individual. It is a medicine, and as with all treatments, individuals will respond differently with varying results.
What can I expect during a ceremony?
Ayahuasca medicine has the capacity to connect a person with the vast energies around us in the universe, the web of spirit and form that underlies the experience of life. Human energy, earth energy, animal energy, spirit energy, heart and mind energy, cosmic energy—Ayahuasca can open one’s eyes to all of these forces that surround and encompass us. Many people come to Ayahuasca not believing or sensing the world of spirits all around us that influence our lives, often without our awareness. But not many who experience Ayahuasca leave with those same beliefs. These spirits, or energies, can also take up residence in our bodies, where they can act as parasites that feed off of and can manipulate our thoughts and emotions. While not all people have these spirits and energies that do not belong and may be negatively affecting their lives, it is common. Ayahuasca and the Ayahuasquero shaman work to clear these spirits and energies from our bodies and minds. This frequently results in people feeling much more tranquil and peaceful, less irritable or angry, and with a calmer, more serene mental process. It is very important to understand that Ayahuasca can be challenging, particularly in that it works to purge one of any negative and self-destructive energies within that may have built up through life—and this can be difficult. Ayahuasca tends to magnify the feelings,experiences, and burdens inside a person. For example, if one has trouble with anger, they may experience rage. Likewise, sadness may manifest as despair, and happiness may result in feelings of bliss. We tend to experience what is being healed, so it is also not uncommon to revisit past traumas or to feel the pain of loved ones.
How do I prepare for a ceremony?
You can prepare for the ceremony by working to cleanse your body and mind. Before using Ayahuasca, it is recommended that you implement a dieta (“diet”) that is designed to best facilitate the medicine. This includes dietary and behavioral regimens that allow you to move most safely and effectively into working relationships with medicinal healing plants like Ayahuasca. The dietas are a plant-based practice that help strengthen one’s attunement to the currents of spirit that underlie the material world. Today, the list of acceptable foods for the Ayahuasca dieta includes rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and chicken. Foods like sugar, salt, chilies, certain meats (especially pork), acidic fruits, fermented foods, alcohol, and stimulants should be avoided, as well as excessive exposure to sun, rain, fire, and unpleasant smells. The recommended dieta also suggests that one avoid social interactions with ill or negatively-focused individuals, as well as sexual activity, in an effort to cleanse the mind and body as much as possible before the ceremony. Besides being a practice of self-discipline,this also helps to loosen the hold of the human world from our minds, thereby opening us to guidance and power from the natural and spirit worlds.
*This only provides a general overview of Ayahuasca ceremonies. Read our Ceremony Guidelines to learn more.