Ritual transfer, ayahuasca and the pursuit of altered consciousness in the West
(University of Melbourne)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the drinking of the traditional Amazonian psychotropic tea, ayahuasca, as a healing and spiritual tool for the Western individual transformation.
Paper long abstract:
Ayahuasca is a traditional Amazonian tea made from the Banisteriopsis caapi (ayahuasca) vine and the leaves of Psychotria viridis, which has the capacity to produce powerful changes in awareness and consciousness. Among indigenous cultures in the Amazon Basin, ceremonies involving the drinking of ayahuasca have had a central place in traditional healing for centuries. In these cultures, illness is considered to have varied factors, relating not only to one's body but also to mind and spirit. The past decade has seen a rapid increase in the drinking of ayahuasca outside its Amazonian origin, including other parts of South America, North America, Europe, and Australia. This typically takes place in ceremonies involving music and prayer with participants who report seeking physical or emotional healing, personal development, or spiritual growth. This paper will explore the process of "ritual-transfer" associated with ayahuasca drinking outside South America, the translation of traditional healing narratives, and challenges associated with understanding altered states of consciousness as a healing and spiritual tool in a Western context.
Moral highground? Magic, witchcraft and spiritual encounters