Ayahuasca Tourists Redirect Their Faith From Spirits To Molecules

    The approach to Ayahuasca by locals and foreigners is very different

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    Fixation on the tradition has to do with the fact that “the traditional” is associated with “the legitimate”. However, the word “tradition” is a trap. The “Ayahuasquero curanderismo” that is practiced in the Ucayali, in the Marañón, in Iquitos, and the Upper Amazon is a heterodox system, very creative and in perpetual evolution».

    It is precisely because of this heterodoxy that leads to speaking of “local treatments” instead of “traditional treatments”, the latter being those offered by retreat centers aimed at foreigners. The difference between one and the other is substantial, «In the local system, Ayahuasca is the healer’s tool to connect with the world of spirits, receive information, and receive songs to promote healing. That is to say, in these ceremonies the patients rarely take Ayahuasca, especially if they are ill».

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    Faith in molecules

    In the “traditional” model, understood as the “new model” that prevails in Ayahuasca centers, “taking Ayahuasca by the patient is fundamental and essential,” “Nobody travels to Iquitos and pays a thousand dollars for a week to sit down and be sung to. Faith is redirected from the world of spirits to the molecules of Ayahuasca, a faith such that, by the way, it leads to drinking it six times in ten days, an unusual frequency in the local context».

    The approach to Ayahuasca by locals and foreigners is very different. The former takes the plant “to throw out the stomach or cleanse bad energies… it is no coincidence that Ayahuasca is known as “the purge”. In the case of visitors, the intention is very different: “Visitors, especially first-time visitors, come with an obsession for vision.”

    “Visitors, especially first-timers, arrive with an obsession with vision.” But the vision does not always come. “Many of the visitors expect to see colorful visions like those of Pablo Amaringo and, instead, spend a dark and nauseating night.”

    Obsession with DMT

    This dissonance between expectations and results has its roots in the obsession with DMT: «If you look in the scientific literature you will see that the MAOIs in Ayahuasca only serve to activate the DMT in Chacruna. This contradicts local practice, where Ayahuasca [the vine] is the key. Not surprisingly, in Colombia and Peru, Yagé and Ayahuasca are used interchangeably to name the vine and the remedy, with or without Chacruna.

    Environmental sustainability

    Research on the environmental impact of Ayahuasca tourism has led to the conclusion that Ayahuasca has been eradicated from large areas of the Amazon jungle. The price of the Liana has multiplied by four or five in this period and there has been an evident decrease in the quality of the raw material.

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