Updated: Apr 24
On this episode, we explore the ideas of ritual drug consumption while travelling to different areas of the world. Today we focused on Latin America with Carla Ottone experience in the Sacred Valley in Peru.
After the last time we talked in the podcast, in which I interviewed Carla on her journey through Peru emerging in spiritual festivities and practices, such as a Vipasanna and the Señor de Qolluriti festivities, we concluded with the importance of talking about cultural appropriation, especially in the use of ritual drugs by foreigners.
Traditional medicine is the alternative to the allopathic medicine that many think as too invasive. However, drug rituals are just as invasive as allopathic medicine, with the difference that there isn't enough research that can suggest a proper use or if it shouldn't be consumed. All over the world, communities have different kinds of medicines that work for them as it is embedded in their traditional ceremonies and cosmologies. But why the boom of interest in drug rituals like Ayahuasca, mushrooms, or Peyote?
Some people swear by them suggesting organic healing of the soul and the body, plus, in this world where people want to experience the very authentic, ritual drugs seem to gather all the favorite elements of a true once-in-a-lifetime experience. Nevertheless, as more westerners seek these legendary medicines, the commodification of local cultures has open de door to commercialization as profit-oriented impostors pop up performing ceremonies to attract these authenticity-seekers.
More centres for ceremonial drug taking are emerging, and so does many 'shamans' who perform them. However, in the last decade, there have been several tourists that have been killed in incidents linked to traditional medicine. Shamanic tourism, as Ana Echazu-Boschemeier -Brazilian anthropologist suggests- is exploiting nature and people in places where there is little protection over them, such as the Amazon basin.
Echazu-Boschemeier explains: "Ayahuasca in the Quechua language means the vine of the soul – or death, depending on the translation – and it has been used for hundreds of years by indigenous communities throughout the Amazon basin, mostly in religious rituals". Let me say that again: "it has been used for hundreds of years by indigenous communities throughout the Amazon basin, mostly in religious rituals". Traditional medicine has been performed in ceremonies over hundreds of years in communities where the indigenous knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation. Shamans are not made as a result of offer and demand, shamans gain their healing powers from their ancestors in forms of dreams and epiphanies. But because their cosmologies are so imbued by their local landscape, their knowledge is based on their link to their natural environment. No matter where the shaman is from, performing a ceremony that comes from a different indigenous group and/or natural setting is a foremost crime against indigenous traditional knowledge systems.
In 2008, the ayahuasca ritual was declared part of Peru’s national heritage, and the use of drug rituals, as many all over the world, are protected by the Convention of Psychotropic Substances of 1971 signed in Viena, that states that only indigenous populations bound to the cosmologies of the ritual drug use are legally accepted. However, because the brew is performed by different groups all over the Amazon basin, there is no strict way to perform these ceremonies.
Travellers seek personal healing, not an intense high, or not? While indigenous tribes have longed used the brew to ward off evil spells and even to hurt their enemies, in the West, ayahuasca is known as a form of mental and physical healing.
So, is it ok or not to partake in a ceremony of Ayahuasca? Should you do it or not? In this episode we discuss the effects on Ayahuasca in the mind and body, and where, when and how should ceremonies be performed.
Briceno, F. (2018) "Psychedelic tourism thrives in Peru despite recent killing". Chicago Tribune. Available online: https://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/ct-psychedelic-tourism-peru-20180608-story.html
United Nations (1971) "Convention on Psychotropic Substances". Available online: https://www.unodc.org/pdf/convention_1971_en.pdf
About our Guest
Carla Ottone is ceaseless seeker of knowledge. Hermit of the XXI century. Lawyerwith an LLM in environmental law and natural resources. Women’s rights activist lawyer, environment and human rights. A true believer in collective consciousness and the need of creating community.