My second field of interest this year was Ayahuasca. My interest was piqued after reading an interview with ethnobotanist Wade Davis (famous for his studies of Haitian zombies and the resulting book, The Serpent and the Rainbow) and his research into native medicinal and healing plants. Ayahuasca is the generic name for a group of vines that grows wild in the Amazon and when ingested in a specially made tea concoction, induces hours long psychedelic/psychotropic visions. The drink is traditionally taken in a communal ceremony led by Amazonian shaman who oversee and guide the users with special rituals including chants, music and verbal guidance. I had a friend who tried it in South America and her experiences seemed really fascinating. Apparently, it’s like going through three years of psycho-therapy in one long overnight session. I read three or four titles on the subject but I most enjoyed the Ayahuasca Reader : Encounters with the Amazon’s Sacred Vine by Luis Eduardo Luna (Editor), Steven F. White (Editor), Steven F. White (Author), Luis Eduardo Luna (Author). It’s a collection of first hand experiences, essays and studies on the plant. The best bits are the descriptions of the Ayahuasca trips, they sound amazing – lots of brilliant colors and shapes, terrifying animals, sparkles and sometimes the vine itself speaks to them!
The image on the cover of the book is a visual interpretation of an Ayahuasca “journey.” I can’t remember but it might’ve even been drawn while under the influence of the vine. It’s very similar to Huichol art which is inspired by the ritual use of peyote.