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Drinking the Spirit

Drinking The Spirit

by Terrence Moon / Illustration by Sasan / 04.12.2013

Figures in white robes line up at the altar, waiting for the medicine to be administered. The nauseating stuff burns one’s throat like rancid miso soup – dark, viscous, vile and bitter. Nearby, in the city, lemmings stand in similar queues, waiting outside nightclubs for their weekly brain-cell cull. But we’re out in the South African countryside and our ritual is of a slightly different nature.

Ayahuasca is a plant-based brew that contains one of the most potent hallucinogens known to man: Dimethyltriptamine (DMT). For centuries the indigenous inhabitants of South America have used this for healing and divination. The ritual usually takes place deep in the jungle, under the guidance of a Shaman and a sky full of stars.

It’s easy to see why the idea of this mystical medicine has become so popular amongst cultural voyeurs, psychonauts and new-age health freaks. The religion of our time – buying shit – is unable to give us what our predecessors once gained from organised religion. Capitalism and consumerism have drained the spiritual integrity from our lives, leaving us depleted and empty, desperately searching for meaning in the most unexpected of places.

Tonight, a small crowd has congregated just outside Cape Town for the Santo Daime ceremony, which is a syncretic blend of Catholicism, Shamanism and new-age paganism. Whilst the ceremony is more Christianised than it is Shamanic, the medicine that’s ingested – the Daime – is the same Ayahuasca brew administered in the Amazon. Instead of the jungle, however, the Santo Daime ceremony happens in a church; and hymns, rather than ancestral songs, are chanted throughout in order to guide and contain the process.

The rest of the attendees know each other well. They’re a new-age crowd that meet every other weekend, living from sweat lodge to vision quest, perfecting the art of vegan cooking and cultivating wisdom as regards the best places to buy wholesale incense. A brunette’s wrinkled face bears the markings of hardship and trauma – she’s here to confront some of the memories that have haunted her since childhood. An elderly man and his wife are alternative medical practitioners. They’ve brought their eloquent 19 year-old son, who has participated in the ritual as a family tradition since the age of 11. A coloured teen has joined us from a nearby informal settlement and has brought his elderly mother in the hopes that the Daime will help to cure her terrible cough. Another youth – a recovering addict who dropped acid once too often – is here because the ceremony itself (sans Ayahuasca) brings him peace and spiritual communion.

After choking down the Daime we begin to recite the hymns – enchanting melodies accompanied by beautiful Portuguese verse. Eventually we’re instructed to dance, by shuffling as a group to the right and then to the left. Gradually, the dance becomes more exuberant as a fervour-like state entrances us. The hymns create an eerie ambience of religious zeal and brainwashed cheerfulness, which, at times, makes it difficult to discern the hallucinogenic properties of the Ayahuasca from what might just be the initial stages of insanity, triggered by consecutive hours of repetitive song. Yet there’s something alluringly primal about the syncopated beat of our feat against the ground and the unified sway of bodies that shift the group from side to side.

Six hours later the dancing is called to a halt and I can feel the blood pulsating through my legs. But rather than abating the way that they would after a long walk, these vibrations escalate in intensity and diffuse upward until my entire body is at their mercy. A wise comedian once said that “all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration”. The juddering tremors grow more powerful as my body slips out of sync with my external reality. I’m effectively vibrated into another plane of existence – a world that pulsates at a less familiar frequency. It resembles a desert and before me stands a majestic cactus with an unblinking eye in its centre; the holy being communicates without speaking and I sense that this divine presence is not of our world.

The spirit of the Daime represents all that is and everything that is not: a hallucinatory manifestation of rational thought’s inability to grapple with our own existential condition. I offer my ego in sacrifice and experience the essence of my humanity being opened-up for contemplation, like a deck of cards. From this new perspective all of my psychological nuances and neuroses become clear. The reasons for my existential angst and lack of purpose become momentarily uncomplicated, as if years of therapy have been squeezed into a single moment of metaphysical insight.

Psychoanalysis is an abstract word-game that can take years to have any real effect. By contrast, Ayahuasca renders the subconscious more tangible. One is able, quite literally, to schedule a meeting with one’s personal demons and gods. Those who are able to identify the symbolic meaning within their own hallucinatory landscape are thus faced with the exciting possibility of actually engaging with and transforming this world. This holds untold potential for survivors of trauma, whose recovery process often requires that they revisit and come to terms with the disturbing memories that haunt them.

But is Ayahuasca really the panacea for the maladies of modernity? Since the 1970s, the indigenous rights movement has finally started to gain some of the recognition that it deserves. It seems likely that the rising popularity of Ayahuasca is just a part of our broader obsession with all that is ancient and indigenous. Is Ayahuasca just another insignificant fad, like sliced bread, Chinese tamagotchis or ‘The Secret’?

For indigenous South Americans, Ayahuasca is more than just a vogue: it’s an important cultural and religious ceremony that has been practiced for centuries. Perhaps the brew’s mystical properties are genuine; perhaps it does truly connect us with the wisdom of our ancestors. On the other hand, this might just be a custom that we have idealised in a desperate attempt to access more meaning than what can be purchased at the mall.

Is an ancient tradition more meaningful than a modern one? Is something less authentic if its significance has simply been imagined? The hallucinatory insights enabled by the vine make such questions naive, effectively blurring the line between what’s real and authentic on the one hand, and what’s contemporary and illusory on the other. No matter how one interprets the practice itself, experiencing Ayahuasca makes it hard to believe that we’re not a part of something bigger than ourselves. Sometimes, this in itself provides the lifeline that one needs in order to survive the emptiness of our consumerist culture.

* Illustration © Sasan

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RESPONSES (48)
  1. Anonymous says:

    I feel the same way after 10 pints of Guinness and a scorching hot curry!

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  2. Brad says:

    Hi

    In beautiful surroundings I experience changa for the first time. Myself and my girlfriend experienced the most fabulous experience … kinda psychedelic but there was something more, a feeling of being a part, almost religious … hard to put into words. Flying , bright, geometric shapes and vibrating colours. After the experience we were very happy and closer together having shared such a beautiful experience together yet individually ………

    I stay in EL and are not connected to any like minded travelers …

    Peace, Brad.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Interested.

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  4. Kgosima ncube says:

    Hi many thanks for your article im so happy to know I can have ayahuasca in South Africa are there any up coming ceremonies within the next couple of months?

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  5. michael chetty says:

    i have heard about this process few years ago .I would like to attend the next ceremonies, I WANT TO know more.PEACE

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  6. Bean says:

    Hi there
    I live in Johannesburg and am very interested in experiencing ayahausca.

    I have been on an epic spiritual path for about 3 years and my path has lead me to ayahuasca and opening up my subconscious mind to the realities of life.

    Your guidance in progressing in my spiritual path to finding ayahuasca will be highly appreciated.

    Love and Light
    Bean

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  7. nthato mashigo says:

    Hi there I live in Soweto I’m interested in experiencing ayahuaska but I don’t know any places holding ceremonies, please show me. thanx

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  8. Mlungisi says:

    Good day , i live in kimberley i made alot of research about DMT MOLECULE A.K,A AYAHUASKA just needed to find were can i purchase this sacred plant or drink. please i so need to experience this. please please please. thank you

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  9. miriam says:

    Will be in SA for the month of August and would like to attend one of your ceremonies.
    I have read about the tea and is healing. And visited some retreats websites in Peru Ecuador and so happy we have the healer growing right here.
    Thank you for sharing this gift with us. It’s time to go back home to our original foundation. We have to wake up from this dream.

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  10. James says:

    Hi there,I’ve smoked changa quite a few times now and have used ayahusca tea once,I feel I’m breaking through finally but now my supplier has recently moved and left no details as to how to find him,can anyone help me find a supplier of changa and ayahuasca in S.A! Many kind thanks!

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  11. Sherry Dart says:

    Hi!

    I’ve heard that ayahuasca is dangerous if taken on your own. That one needs a watcher/helper. That you can get lost and not find your physical self again. Is this true? I would love to have a journey.

    Looking for a supply. I’m in Gordons Bay, Western Cape. Concerned that there are charletons out there interested in the money only. How do you know who to trust? Who could I speak to?And where could I source a supply from?

    Sherry

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  12. JazzedMontage says:

    Hi guys!!
    Great post, Does anyone know of a supplier in Johannesburg?

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  13. Bartholomew says:

    sonebody, anybody… where can i find this sacred drug? any suppliers or ceremonies in suppliers in Jo’burg?

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  14. iggy changoma says:

    although i do believe this site or blog is monitored by daime people and …… So i doubt my post will surface…..hmm… Oh well….what will be will be Namaste

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  15. Robin says:

    Hi Guys, we in cpt and would love to attend the next ceremony:)
    :):):)

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  16. DD says:

    I have become side tract by so many things in life and need to find myself. My true self that’s been hiding in the shadow for the greatest part of my life. I truly believe that this ceremony would only benefit me. Please let me know when the next ceremony will happen. I live in Durbanville.

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  17. Les says:

    I live in EL and would love to find out when the next Ahyausca ceremony is being held in the Cape area of South Africa ?

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  18. earthchild says:

    Also looking for a ceremony in the Eastern Cape!

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  19. sipho smoky radebe says:

    I am a spiritual dude and I have had of aiwaska and I and aslo an artist, so please safe me from this upside down reality of rhe system please I need it, I got to have it please please please, I will be waiting fot ur response

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  20. Justine says:

    I live in KZN, I would really like to know where or how I can also experience this.

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  21. Dushan says:

    Hi,

    I want to try this…please contact me with details…thanks,

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  22. c5psyca says:

    i need dis drug DMT, im currently in johannesburg doornfontein, i wana purchase it… contact me

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  23. Mary says:

    Hi there

    I have used before and would like to experience again. Could you e-mail me with a contact. I have various interested parties.

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  24. Mary says:

    Pretoria area

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  25. Zoanne says:

    Hi. After asking many many questions ive come to learn about ayahausca. Can anyone please direct me to a ceromony being held in Cape Town please? Thank you.

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  26. Denzel says:

    Where can I purchase it. Please let me know. 0731773912

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  27. Anonymous says:

    Hi there
    I have used Changa before & really enjoyed it .. i feel i need to know more or it needs to reveal more as it has answered alot in its brief experience =) I feel i am not yet ready for ayahuasca as it may be too long but am also interested in DMT ..

    Could you send me details of how i could get myself some

    Thanks chad

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  28. Anonymous says:

    I’ve have taken the medicine a number of times this year…and i have to say my life has never been the same again. It’s unbelievable how we walk around in spiritual darkness….muchas gracias madre ayahuasca. Please can i have more information on upcoming ceremonies

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  29. Sanele says:

    I have experienced a glimse of the spiritual world via meditation; I am interested in DMT/Ayahuasca to compare the experiences; I am certain that DMT is the juice of life itself. nice article by the way Thank You

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  30. Teven says:

    I have taken various psychedelic drugs and found them mentally stimulating, I enjoy taking “acid” outdoors, would sure love to try DMT , where to get some in pmb kzn

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  31. Marco says:

    I want to confirm what I think I know and learn what I don’t. This wont be the final step, but it is a step.

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  32. candi says:

    I would love to try this out, where in Jozi can this be obtained or done as a retreat? What are the side effects?

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  33. Sands says:

    Hi. Can we arrange a pvt ceremony at my place? Pls advise

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  34. Prodigal $0n says:

    The website where I can order it…?

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  35. Prodigal $0n says:

    Sands, a private ceremony at your house? Do you have Aya?

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  36. Anonymous says:

    Where can I go for a session?

    I am Brazilian and my grandfather was from a Amazon Tribe…

    My soul mate passed 6 months ago – we could not say good bye…Life is not the same anymore and I really need spiritual healing and find answers on why my life every ten years has a “dramatic” change…

    I would really like to have the Ayahuasca experience.

    If you can help me I really do appreciate it. I am in Heldeberg area.

    Please let me know…

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  37. Anonymous says:

    I dont know if I am opening a can of whipass here but here goes. My cousin in Canada who is a shaman wants to bring his shaman from Peru to hold a retreat here in S. A. I need to connect with someone who has already organized a retreat or such or someone who would like to and also with people interested in a retreat . Please note that because of the sensitivity and highly spiritual order of such a retreat , confidentiality and authenticity is of the utmost importance. If they feel that they are being compromised in any way they will not proceed .

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  38. Keyvan says:

    I’d like to participate in an Ayahuasca ceremony in or near Cape Town anytime from late Jan 2016 onward as I will return to South Africa only then. Namaste

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  39. Mandy says:

    Keyvan leave your email addy for me

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  40. Latoya says:

    I have done 5meoDMT and had a very profound experience. I would like to do a ceremony. Please could you send me details of a ceremony anywhere in SA. Thanking you.
    Love and light Xx

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  41. Cynical Seizur says:

    I am shocked at how you have perverted this ancient right of passage into the spirit world with new age propaganda. The point of the ceremony is not a weekend buzz. Look at the responses to this article and you will see how it has misguided youth to mess with something that has very real consequences. Mixing this with Catholicism and other religious views be it pagan or new age again is a perversion of something that is free from religious beliefs or views. The ancient ceremony relies on specific rituals, these are in place to protect you.. If you are going to do the ceremony, make sure its with proper Shamans, not New Age wannabe hippies who can cook up shit in their kitchens.. i beg of you all, for the sake of your souls

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  42. D says:

    I would like to know where to get some Aya tea…Would like to get in touch with spiritual essence and face my past demons…To the guy who posted the last post, you have no idea what the essence of life is about…Please take ur post and shove it!…thanks

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  43. D-man says:

    I’ve had profoundly spiritual experiences with strong strains on psilocybin and would be interested in a deeper spiritual experience with Ayahuasca. Are there are meet ups or communities in the JHB area?

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  44. inSANeGO says:

    There’s nowhere I will not go..lol…. Please tell me how to get dmt, aya tea or even good shrooms. I live in Soweto.

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  45. Steama says:

    I had DMT for the first time last year(2015) and since then I see Creation as this Grand Adventure once one gets past the Duality of tingz… I found a guy in Centurion PTA who is able to source DMT. Can’t wait. Highly recommended! Wholeness and Balance vibrations to All!

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  46. Keyvan says:

    Hi Mandy,

    Sorry, saw your reply only now. My return was delayed but here in CPT now : )

    Can you please whatsapp or sms me on 0780470155 if you cannot access my email here. I will send my email to you on receipt of your sms/whatsapp.

    Kind regards

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  47. Abby says:

    Hi, when is the next ceremonies happening in Cape Town? Or where can I purchase the Ayahuasca brew?
    I am seriously interested in taking this spiritual journey.
    Much love
    Abby

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  48. Damian says:

    Hi, I am just as eager to take part in the ceremony or otherwise purchase the brew as well.
    Damian

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