“Vine of the Souls”

Sounds poetic doesn’t it?

As an anthropological archaeologist I am interested in shamanism both in ancient and modern cultures.  Over the course of my readings, research, and travels I have noticed that almost all of the cultures I have studied have something that is used to cross between worlds or planes. It can be a fermented or distilled beverage, a hallucinogen, or even a botanical that is smoked.  Examples include the Yanomamo using ebene, the Pohnpeians using kava, ancient Egyptians & Mesoamericans  drinking beer, ancient Romans drinking wine.  In Peru, both in ancient and modern times, it is Ayahuasca.

Mostly it is the shamans or priests that will use a mind or mood altering substance to do so, but it is not unheard of for the general population to commune with the spirits as well.


In Quechua Ayahuasca  means spirit vine or vine of the souls.  Ayahuasca is prepared by boiling the Caapi vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) along with the Chacuruna bush (Psychotria vidiris) to create a hallucinogenic liquid.1  Ayahuasca is used for religious purposes either by shamans or others under the supervision of a shaman.  The psychedelic effects of ayahuasca include visual and auditory stimulation, the mixing of sensory modalities, and psychological introspection that may lead to great elation, fear, or illumination.   Its purgative properties, known as la purga or “the purge” intense vomiting and occasional diarrhea.  Indigenous people say that during their trance, which lasts approximately four hours, they enter the world of the spirits and communicate with them.

Our guide at Tambopata, Guido, explained his experiences while taking Ayahuasca.  He talked about the intensive vomiting and the trance that follows.  He believes he communed with Pachamama during his trances.  At the lodge, one can request that the local shaman come perform the ayahuasca ritual with you for a nominal fee of $200.

1  The Ayahuasca.  Sowewankeri Ayahuasca Healing Circle, Peru. http://ayahuascacircle.com/?page_id=6


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ann
    Aug 07, 2012 @ 12:39:39

    This is really interesting — as all your random musings are!


  2. Zack Hunter
    Aug 07, 2012 @ 19:46:41

    As Ayahuasca tourism expands, you have to be very careful who you drink with down in the Amazon. No offense to you at all Dr. Cynthia Bellacero, as I applaud your post, but I would personally be wary of paying that much money for a single session. Colleagues report being unable to find tribes untainted by western religions on their travels. The times are changing rapidly, but one thing remains: Ayahuasca is one of the most important medicines on the planet. Those who are interested, I urge you to get a cutting of the banisteriopsis caapi plant and grow it. I have a vine thriving right now in California. You do not need to fly to the Amazon and drink with a “shaman” to experience the healing effects of this medicine. You don’t even have to add the psychotria, or the d. cabrarena, (chaliponga) which contains DMT, a possible trace-amine neurotransmitter that occurs endogenously in all mammalian central nervous systems structurally related to serotonin. Even just the vine alone, which contains harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmine is enough to cleanse one of parasites and give vast amounts of insight into ones life. High doses produce other-worldly experiences, even without the DMT leaves added, but when you do add these, you best be ready to let go of everything you ever thought you knew. Consciousness has a whole different layer of reality that awaits anyone commits themselves to this vital flow. I was a skeptic all of my life, and an atheist. Now, after having experienced this as deep as one can go countless times, I honestly don’t know what to believe anymore…


    • Dr. Cynthia Bellacero
      Aug 07, 2012 @ 20:48:29

      Thanks for the information Zach. I also would not recommend taking it through a tourist experience. I found it strange that so many people would. While we were in the reserve an entire group came specifically for that purpose. What I found disturbing about it was they were led by someone who was a psuedoarchaeologist. Out guide talked about his personal experience with the plant as part of his spiritual journey, without trying to sell us on it. Now that was an interesting conversation. He was a true believer, I could tell by the way he was explaining it to us.


  3. Jay
    Aug 08, 2012 @ 01:41:01

    what a magnificent twisting transient vine (in picture), a plant of many stories. A vine to spend time with.


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Chair of Social Science, Humanities,
& Foreign Languages

Liberal Arts & University Transfer
Craven Community College

800 College Court
New Bern, NC 28562
Email: bellaceroc@cravencc.edu
Phone: 252.638.7328
Fax: 252.638.3231

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