University of Tartu

Ayahuasca: substance, medicine, sacrament and a sacred being

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive medicinal and sacred brew made from Amazonian vine Banisteriopsis caapi, often with plants containing psychedelic N,N-dimethyltryptamine. Indigenous people of Amazonian rainforests drink ayahuasca in ceremonies for healing and divination. Brazilian religions Santo Daime and Uniao do Vegetal prepare special ayahuasca (Daime and Hoasca) for sacramental use. Ayahuasca rituals and retreats have become a worldwide practice of new spirituality. Chemical analyses of ayahuasca samples, questionnaires and interviews with ayahuasca users, fieldwork and participant observations were used to collect data during years 2014-2019. I will present findings about chemical composition of ayahuasca and its substitutes, subjective experiences of ayahuasca users, long-term effects of the practice on their health and spirituality, and their ways of relating to ayahuasca as a psychoactive substance, a self-development tool, medicine, sacrament and a sacred being.

Helle Kaasik