Indigenous ayahuasca ceremonies in the European context: structures, purposes, concepts

Abstract

Psychedelics are currently being studied intensively for the treatment of various psychiatric disorders. Ayahuasca, a plant-based extract originating from the Amazonian area, is traditionally consumed in ritualistic group events. The related indigenous traditions date back hundreds of years and have amassed vast amounts of knowledge on the therapeutic use of psychedelic and non-psychedelic plant-based substances. These traditions require a prospective ceremony facilitator to undergo years of intensive training to acquire knowledge, mental power or self-confidence, stability, sensitivity, intuitive treatment outcome prediction skills, musical skills, and sufficient physical strength. These qualities of a facilitator, in the presence of integrity and love, largely determine treatment outcomes. In Europe, predominantly in the first decade of the 2000s and in the early 2010s, some individuals began building connections with diverse indigenous groups and syncretic churches of the Amazonia in an attempt to find cures for their treatment-resistant psychiatric conditions. Small circles of other patients in need of similar treatment formed around them. This led to the formation of decentralized, diverse local ceremony cultures that either followed the principles of the traditional lineages of their origin or synthesized various influences. These unofficial ceremony contexts appeared to complement official healthcare systems, offering efficient methods unavailable in the medical context and correcting the consequences of medical malpractice and neglect. These ceremony contexts appeared highly communal, were largely based on volunteering, and contained mechanisms for self-correcting possible emerging issues. They seemed to function as systems for collecting, preserving, storing, and distributing knowledge of psychedelic therapy methods; in other words, systems for knowledge base building and innovation. doi: 10.13140/RG.2.2.27385.85602

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