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In 2010 I journeyed around South America for six months. I started my trip in Chile making my way counterclockwise through Argentina, up into Brazil, on to Colombia and eventually to Peru, before heading down through Bolivia and returning to Chile to fly back to Canada.
Half way through my trip, while in Brazil, I met a fellow traveler who mentioned his experience of going to see a shaman and having an Ayahuasca ceremony in the Amazon.
Ayahuasca ceremony, what’s that? Shamans? I thought they were just crazy hermits that superstitious people went to for snake oil? I have to admit I was a tad skeptical, especially after this fellow traveler told me it was a life-changing event. So I went online and started to research this thing called “Ayahuasca”.
What is Ayahuasca? Ayahuasca is an Amazonian plant concoction that can induce altered states of consciousness, usually lasting around 4 to 8 hours. Experiences can range from mildly stimulating to extreme visualizations. Ayahuasca is used primarily as a medicine, believed to cleanse the body, mind and soul. Shamans use the brew not only to heal people, but as a means of communication to gain wisdom and insight.
What is it made from? The main ingredient of this jungle tea is a vine, Banisteriopsis caapi, which like the tea itself is also called Ayahuasca (which is translated to be ‘vine of the soul’). The secondary ingredient is either chacruna (Psychotria viridis) or chagropanga (Diplopterys cabrerana), which are plants that contain a relatively high amount of the psychedelic substance DMT.
How long has it been around? Nobody knows for sure but scholars believe it has been used for at least 2000 years.
Needless to say, facts aside I began to read and watch video accounts of people’s experiences with this mystical jungle medicine. Account after account almost all shared the same thing, “This was a life changing experience” and “I have never felt so connected to the world”.
I was a tad skeptical at these claims, ‘life changing’ is a pretty bold statement afterall, but decided I wanted to go ahead and have a ceremony. Upon arriving in Cusco, Peru, I sought out a Shaman by speaking with locals and finding out who was the real deal and arranged to have my first Ayahuasca ceremony.
Click Here for Part 2: The Details of My First Ayahuasca Ceremony, as I recount with as much detail, both physical and mental, my experience with this jungle medicine.