Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ayahuasca: Medicine or Recreation?

My friend Mike from Iquitos posted a short piece on Ayahuasca on The Captain's Blog, a blog run by another friend out of Iquitos Peru (there's a link on the side of the page somewhere to that.) In it, Mike was asking whether ayahuasca was a real medicine or was it becoming more a recreation or holiday drug due to the number of visitors Iquitos gets who come primarily for the ayahuasca experience.
Well, I answered. Not exactly on point, but still answered. Here it is.

Hello, Mike. To me it's a no brainer. What with the puking and pooping involved, recreation ain't going on with ayahuasca. Not that that implies that everyone utilizes it for the same reasons, but I think most quickly come to understand that this is serious medicine.
And medicine it is. It's what the people on the rivers still depend on to cure a host of ailment, from the physical, to the spiritual and the emotional. The curandero I worked with for so many years, Julio Jerena, was simply the country doctor on the river on which he lived. And for several nearby rivers as well. Every day people would come to him to seek his remedies. And many of those remedies he acquired via his relationship with ayahuasca.
Now what's changed with the influx of outsiders is the way in which ayahuasca is done. Traditionally, or at least in non-indiginous ayahuasca traditions, the guests don't drink ayahuasca. Generally that is left to the curandero. You bring him the problem, he drinks, searches other levels of reality for the problem's source and the remedy, then returns and gives you the information you need to solve, or start solving your problem. My mother-in-law and my father-in-law, both grew up on the rivers outside of Iquitos and they attended ayahuasca sessions in Iquitos every week. But they rarely drank. In fact, I only saw my mother-in-law drink once over a several year period. But she still attended ceremonies weekly, along with going to Catholic church on the plaza on Sundays. And I think that's standard among a huge segment of the populace of elder folks in Iquitos. A lot of them are only 3 generations removed from genuine tribal life and still have a very intimate relationship with the plant world and the forest even if they now life in Iquitos. I'd dare to say there are hundreds of curanderos in Iquitos who tend to people like my in-laws regularly but who have never had a gringo at their ceremonies.
Now we westerners arrive and suddenly we're wanting to drink the medicine. And it's been good for an awful lot of people. But it is definitely a new modality and one that surprises a lot of traditional curanderos who are asked to come to Iquitos to serve the medicine. At least until they get used to the concept.

1 comment:

Johan said...

the link for those who want to follow the discussion, although I think it died down a bit