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Santo Daime
The Service
The Experience
The Effect
The Religion

ayahuasca painting


Ayahuasca Visions

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Plant of the Gods

Hannah Bouma
Amsterdam Drug Magazine
December 1996

For centuries a strongly hallucinating potion made from leaves and lianes has been used in the South American jungle. This potion is called "yage" or "ayahuasca" and it is mainly used in religious settings. Meanwhile in The Netherlands small groups have become interested in the use of it. Some information about ayahuasca and a personal report.


All over the world entheogeneous plants (the plants of the Gods) have been used for religious purposes for ages. Ayahuasca is used for various purposes, for instance as a medical drug, as a means to bring about clearvoyance or as an aid in celebrations or religious services. Ayahuasca is prepared in a special way; the final product is a bitter drink. The major ingredients, the Jagube (liane) and the Rainha (the leaf) grow deep in the South American jungle. Ayahuasca is also called La Purga, which refers its cleansing, purifying effect.

Santo Daime, an Afro-Christian religion

More than half a century ago a catholic spiritual movement arose in Brazil, in which ayahuasca played an important role. The founder and spiritual leader of this movement, Raimundo Irineu Serra, had several visions, in which hymns were transmitted to him that formed the principles of this doctrine. He was also told in a vision to call ayahuasca Daime from then on and to propagate the doctrine. Daime means "give me", or "give me love, give me light, give me strength".

Many people felt attracted to the religion. The group of disciples grew and they acquired a piece of land. There they founded a small community where they worked and lived together. There were religious meetings, during which people danced and sang and drank the holy Daime. Daime is described as "a sacrament, a vehicle for the Divine Power that is present in the whole creation".

The group extended. Many urban intellectuals visited the jungle to be introduced to this special experience.For some time the government considered banning ayahuasca, but serious investigation proved that the drink is not addictive or unhealthy. Ayahuasca even turned out very positive: it was supposed to have curative qualities and to give inspiration. In Brazil ayahuasca is legal. In the meantime the Santo Daime doctrine has been introduced in Holland and religious meetrings are held here, too.

The service

Eventually my curiosity is stronger than my fear and I registered for a service. I was told not to eat for at least 4 hours in advance. Besides I must wear white clothes. The meeting is held in a building in an isolated industrial area in Amsterdam. People are trickling in one by one as from 19.00 o'clock and I am surprised to see what they are like. I think I had expected some kind of outdated hippies. The majority of the women, however, are middle-aged and some seem to have come straight from a convent. In general the men are middle-aged, too, with a few exceptions. We enter a large hall. The men sit down at one side, the women at the other. Before entering I have been informed of the procedures by a woman.

I am directed to a chair where I remain seated during practically the whole service. All the time a number of people are watching and walking around and I can address them if I need anything , like water, a tissue or a bucket. They are a kind of "supervisors", so to speak. The room is softly lit and many candles and incense are burnt. On small tables there are pictures of Saint Mary and of Serra. The meeting is opened with a prayer, to ask for strength and protection for this evening. Then the Daime is poured out and everybody has a glass. The drinking reminds me of the "Holy Supper", as it is celebrated in our protestant churches. The Daime has a sour and bitter taste and reminds me of Dolo, a homemade West-African barley beer. Then we sit down and hymns are sung. The accompanying instruments are a guitar, maracas, a little organ and an African drum. The hymns are in Portugese, the tune is simple but moving and beautiful. The lyrics are about God, Mary and Jesus. The rituals that form the centre this evening are about recovery, the Cura.

The experience

The potion has a quick effect and I curse myself for taking part voluntarily. I wonder what crazy sect I have ended up in and how I can escape. Quite soon I calm down a little. I feel that the Daime is very strong and that it has a strong effect. Fortunately I am acquainted with narcotics and trips, so I am not completely taken by surprise by the power of the drink. I cannot suppress yawning, tears run down my face and my nose starts running, too. What happens then is difficult to describe. I see beautiful colours, mainly red and green, and everything around me seems to be moving . All kind of thoughts are spinning in my head. Sometimes it is as if I consist of a number of people who are all talking to eachother. Once I am launched into space like a rocket and it seems as if I have no body. The hymns soon take me back to earth. The singing is very soothing and it helps me not to lose touch with reality completely. Around me people start throwing up terribly. The vomit buckets are handed out helpfully by the "supervisors". Now and then I have to laugh irresistibly; everything seems light and funny. When I look at the women who are singing with great dedication, it is as if I am watching a baptist church choir, which makes me laugh again. Yet it is important not to pay too much attention to others, but to go back to yourself everytime. The lady who had instructed me before the service had said, "Think of yourself, think of your heart". The very moment I am thinking of it I can feel no heart at all and I wonder if I am still alive. The singing gets me back. Since I do not know the words, I hum along. Daime is drunk once more and then for a third time. In between Sante Maria, pure cannabis joints, are smoked. There seems seems to be no end to the ritual with the joints. Soon the room is blue with the weed fumes. I get short of breath and have to cough terribly. We also perform a simple dance. Although I have the feeling that I cannot stand on my legs, the rhythm of the dance and the singing are very calming. At 2.30 a.m. the ceremony is over. We talk a little and have something to eat. Fortunately I get a ride home. I am completely exhausted and I feel as if I have meditated for 6 hours.

I look back at the ceremony with mixed feelings. By using ayahuasca in a religious setting a safe atmosphere is created, in which people can learn to handle this potent drug. I liked that very much. As with other psychedelic drugs you are confronted with your own frustrations and fears. A meeting like this actually works like a therapeutic session. It only works much faster and more intensively, which makes the experience more drastic, too. Yet the ceremony has been very valuable for me and I intend to go again. Soon.

The effect

"Ayahuasca produces an experience that lasts for 3 to 4 hours. The first effect can be seen within 5 minutes.... Vomitting, dizziness and diarrhoea are among the first physical phenomenons that can occur. Some users may hear a humming in their ears, may perspire excessively or start trembling. After the first few effects the experience becomes mainly visual; people may see dreamlike visions, geometric figures, manifestatins of ghost-assistants, gods, demons and animals. People have also experienced effects effects like visions of their own death, flying through space, euphoria or, on the contrary, aggressive feelings or witnessing events that happen at a long distance. With a better control of the effects of this "plant of the Gods" visions and experiences can become more intense and more complex".

(Hans Bogers in De Psychedelische Revolutie)

Santo Daime

"Santo Daime is a key to everything; a key that opens doors to much knowledge, that can give you information about who you are and what your role on earth is. Santo Daime shows you who are and not who you would like to be. Just like in other spiritual movements part of the teaching consists of purification and cleansing of your past, so that body and spirit may become a good vehicle for the spiritual energy".

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