Ayahuasca Use Throughout Time: A Literature Review

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Richardson, Gabriella
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University of Guelph

Ayahuasca is the most common term which refers to a plant based hallucinogenic beverage made with the jungle lianas Banisteriopsis Caapi (Schultes 1972:35; De Rios 1984:8). Through a review of this literature, my project evaluates how the changing geographic boundaries, cultural context and worldview of ayahuasca users alter the intention and meaning of ayahuasca usage. This paper provides a contextual overview of hallucinogenic plants in Central and South America, key themes in shamanism and Amazonian shamanism. Local Amazonian ayahuasca use in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, Brazilian ayahuasca religions, neo-shamanism and ayahuasca drug tourism literature is presented and analyzed drawing upon Van Gennep’s (1960) “Rites de Passage”, Victor Turner’s (1970) “Liminality”, Shaw and Stewart’s (2003) problematization of syncretism and Grimes’ (1992) characteristics of the reinvention of ritual. Literature regarding therapeutic/medicinal ayahuasca use and ayahuasca legality is also presented. I argue recent and contemporary ayahuasca use may utilize traditional elements of Amazonian shamanism, though depart from Indigenous cosmology as ideologies governing it’s use become syncretic, institutionalized and influenced by Western individualism.

Ayahuasca, Amazonia, Brazilian Ayahuasca Religions, Neo-shamanism, Syncretism, Liminality, Hallucinogenic plants, Western Individualism, Rites de passage, Ayahuasca Drug Tourism, Ayahuasca Canada, Ayahuasca United States, Ayahuasca Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Yage, Yajé, natema, Daime, Amazon