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Ayahuasca and the concept of reality. Ethnographic, theoretical, and experiential considerations. (cont.)
By Luis Eduardo Luna, Ph.D., F.L.S.

Mind and matter

Among some indigenous groups of the Amazon there is the idea that people take ayahuasca not “to see the future”, but “to create the future”. Brown (1985:60), who worked among the Aguaruna of Peru writes: “The future exists as a set of possibilities that are given shape by the effort to bring them into consciousness within the visionary experience.” Rafael Karsten, who worked among the Shuar of Ecuador, writes that in the victory feast, celebrating the acquisition by a warrior of a new arutam spirit by slaying an enemy, both men and women, even half-grown children, take part: all “who want to dream” being allowed to drink natéma (ayahuasca). The drinking has a ceremonial character throughout. During the victory feast celebration, half a litre of natéma was drunk by each person three times followed by vomiting. The participants did not eat or drink before the ceremony nor after they had slept and dreamed. After the ceremony the dreamers left the house and remained in shelters in the forest where they slept until the afternoon. After they woke up they took a bath in the river and returned to the house where they told the older Indians what kind of dreams and visions they’d had. The object of the drinking of natéma at the victory feast was to dream of the house of the slayer and his closest relatives: “surrounded by large and flourishing plantations of manioc and bananas, they see his domestic animals, his swine and his hens, numerous and fat, etc. At the same time the persons who have drunk the sacred drink will be benefited themselves, being purified from impure and disease-bringing matter, and gain strength and ability in their respective work and occupations.” (Karsten 1935:345).

Don Emilio with his chakapa. Photo by Luis Eduardo Luna

Fericgla (2000), who worked much later among the Shuar reports that when they take ayahuasca and have visions referring to their lives, this is because what they see is either happening to them, or is about to happen. If they see something negative to happen in the future, they take the brew again and try to correct it. If they are not able to do so, and they again see the same thing, they look for a shaman stronger than them in order to be able to change what would happen. In other words, they have the belief that the visions influence reality.

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