Hallucinogenic healing

Brewing ayahuasca, Credit: Ayahuasca Pix, Creative Commons Licensed on Flickr
Brewing ayahuasca,
Credit: Ayahuasca Pix, Creative Commons Licensed on Flickr

Ayahuasca, a beverage brewed from the roots of an Amazonian plant and consumed under the guidance of a shaman, reportedly provides mind-opening experiences and relief from symptoms of stress, depression and other afflictions. Ayahuasca has long been used in healing rituals in the Amazon region of Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and Brazil.

Recently the Guardian carried an article about the use of ayahuasca by members of several Indie groups such as the Klaxons. Then the Washington Post described a healing tour company that connects Westerners to ayahuasca sessions.

To learn more: Marlene Dobkin de Rios is the main cultural anthro expert on ayahuasca. In the 1970s, she published several scholarly articles and an ethnography about its ritual healing use, Visionary Vine: Hallucinogenic Healing in the Peruvian Amazon. More recently, with Roger Rumrill, she published A Hallucinogenic Tea, Laced with Controversy: Ayahuasca in the Amazon and the United States which provides important updates.

Here are other anthropological sources on ayahuasca, healing, and ritual (with apologies, as they are not open access):

Arévalo Valera, Guillermo. 1986. Ayahuasca y El Curandero Shipibo-Conibo Del Ucayali (Perú). América Indígena 46(1):p.147-161.

Baer, G., and W. W. Snell. 1974. An Ayahuasca Ceremony among the Matsigenka (Eastern Peru). Zeitschrift Fur Ethnologie V 99(1/2):63-80.

Balzer, Carsten. 2005. Ayahuasca Rituals in Germany: The First Steps of the Brazilian Santo Daime Religion in Europe. Curare 28(1):53-66, 119.

Benjamin, Craig. 2000. Trademark on Traditional Knowledge: Slim Ayahuasca Win. Native Americas 17(1):30-33.

Callaway, J. C. 1995. Pharmahuasca and Contemporary Ethnopharmacology. Curare 18(2):395-398.

Desmarchelier, C., A. Gurni, G. Ciccia, and A. M. Giuletti. 1996. Ritual and Medicinal Plants of the Ese’Ejas of the Amazonian Rainforest (Madre De Dios, Perú). Journal of Ethnopharmacology 52(1):45-51.

Dobkin de Rios, Marlene. A Note on the use of Ayahuasca among Urban Mestizo Populations in the Peruvian Amazon. American Anthropologist 72(6):1419-1422.

Gebhart-Sayer, Angelika. 1986. Aesthetic Therapy: The ‘Ayahuasca’ Visionary Designs of the Shipibo-Conibo. América Indígena 46:189-218.

Henman, Anthony Richard. 1986. ‘Ayahuasca’ use in an Authoritarian
Context: The Case of the ‘União do Vegetal’ in Brazil. América Indígena 46:2.

Holman, Christine. 2010. Surfing for a Shaman. Annals of Tourism Research in press.

Katz, F., and MDobkin de Rios. 1971. Hallucinogenic Music: An Analysis of the Role of Whistling in Peruvian Ayahuasca Healing Sessions. Journal of American Folklore 84(333):320-327.

Lewis, S. E. 2008. Ayahuasca and Spiritual Crisis: Liminality as a Space for Personal Growth. Anthropology of Consciousness 19(2):109-133.

Luna, Luis Eduardo. 2003. Ayahuasca: Shamanism Shared Across Cultures. Cultural Survival Quarterly 27(2):20-23.

Perruchon, Marie. 1995. Seeing the Unseen: Personal Reflections on Ayahuasca use among the Shuar Indians. Acta Americana 3(2):152-160.

Pomilio, Alicia B., Arturo A. Vitale, Jorge Ciprian-Ollivier, Marcelo Cetkovich-Bakmas, Raquel Gómez, and G. Vázquez. 1999. Ayahoasca: An Experimental Psychosis that Mirrors the Transmethylation Hypothesis of Schizophrenia. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 65(1):29-51.

Rodríguez Doldán, Sinforiano. 1995. Ayahuasca: Expresión De Animismo Vegetal En La Medicina Tradicional Amazónica. Suplemento Antropológico 30(1-2):163-188.

Shanon, Benny. 2003. The Content of Ayahuasca Visions. Mana 9(2):109-152.

Valera, Guillermo Arvalo. 1986. ‘Ayahuasca’ and the Shipibo-Conibo Medicine Man in Ucayali, Peru. América Indígena 46:147-161.

Virtanen, Pirjo Kristiina. 2006. The Urban Manchinery Youth and Social Capital in Western Amazonian Contemporary Rituals. Anthropos 101(1):159-167.

White, Steven F. 2001. Shamanic Ayahuasca Narratives and the Production of Neo-Indigenista Literature. Latin American Indian Literatures Journal 17(2):111-123.

4 thoughts on “Hallucinogenic healing

  1. Barbara Miller

    Dear Steve,

    Thanks for this information, and congratulations on your new book… it looks fanstastic.

    Please write a guest post for anthropology works!



  2. Matthew Meyer

    Barbara, you have also overlooked the Brazilian literature on this topic. Authors such as Beatriz Caiuby Labate, Edward MacRae, Sandra Goulart, and others have much more extensive field experience with ayahuasca-using groups than do authors such as Dobkin de Rios. Much of this writing (such as the important book O uso ritual da ayahuasca) has been available only in Portuguese, but recently we have helped translate some of it to English. There is now Opening the Portals of Heaven, Ayahuasca, ritual, and religion in Brazil, and Ayahuasca Religions: A Comprehensive Bibliography and Critical Essays.


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