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