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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.

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A Shipibo girl wearing clothing display the visual representation of a medicine song. Photo by Luis Eduardo Luna

There is no doubt that experiences with ayahuasca and other psychointegrator (a term coined by Michael Winkelman) plants and substances bring forth not only ecstatic but sometimes terrorific emotions. Information may also come from long forgotten or repressed memories. New information may come from such channels as de-familiarization, when everything is seen as new, most eloquently expressed by Huxley (1954) in his experiments with mescaline: “I was seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation –the miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence”. This is something I have often experienced, “discovering” new qualities in what was familiar, objects, plants, or human beings. When anthropologists go to the field, their first notes are extremely valuable, they see what is new in the societies and in the environment more clearly. As time goes by, what was strange becomes familiar, and therefore nearly invisible. To have the chance of seeing all once more like “in the beginning” (in mythical times) is a precious gift.

When asked about the origin of their body painting, their art, or other products of their culture, indigenous Amazonian groups often refer to sacred plants. “We see this in the visions.” “These are songs we learn from the plant spirits”. “Ayahuasca taught us the right way of living”. Michael E. Brown reports that among the Aguaruna of the Alto Río Mayo, in Peru, “men continue to recognize the important role that the visions obtained in their youth had in promoting their moral education and physical well-being, and in helping them make the transition to the responsibilities of adult life (Brown 1985:59). According to Lagrou (2000:31) “The cosmic snake Yube has mastered all possible appearances of form, color and design that can be perceived by human eyes. All the phenomena of this world are said to be inscribed in the designs of its skin and can be visualized through the (metaphoric) ingestion of his blood (nawa himi) or his urine (dunuc isun), which are the names of ayahuasca in ritual songs.” Among members of the Brazilian religious organizations, the songs sang during the rituals called hymns, by those organizations that call the sacrament Santo Daime, or chamadas by members of the UDV (União do Vegetal) and dissident groups, are said to have been “receive” from the astral plane, not composed by the founders or their disciples.

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