Ayahuasca in the Mainstream Media

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One thing that never fails to take me by surprise is when Ayahuasca receives some positive coverage  in the mainstream media.

I understand how controlled the mainstream media is, and I also understand how the global elite (who own the media) don’t want a highly conscious, spiritual aware population (or it’s game over for them!). Therefore, it’s not to their advantage to feature news stories that promote the positive healing and consciousness altering effects of Ayahuasca.

But thankfully, for one reason or another, a few somewhat positive news stories keep slipping through the net, and end up being published.

Here are a few mostly positive articles that have cropped up in recent years. Some take a slightly cynical view, but none try to demonize the subject as the mainstream media usually does when it covers anything that sounds like a drug.

Washington Post

Peruvian hallucinogen ayahuasca draws tourists seeking transforming experience

IQUITOS, PERU — Kevin Simmons, a 28-year-old Chicago native, said he “was stuck” — depressed, locked away in his home and taking more than a year to even open his e-mail. The road to recovery, he said, came deep in the Peruvian jungle, in the form of a sludgelike concoction the Indians call “the sacred vine of the soul.”

The potion is ayahuasca, and increasingly, it is becoming an elixir for foreigners grappling with everything from depression to childhood trauma. Coming from the United States and as far away as Australia, they arrive in a jungle city of faded glory to participate in ayahuasca rituals offered by a range of healing centers.

New York Times

Amazon Awakening

“You will start to feel a reaction in about half an hour,” the shaman, Tsumpa, said, as my guide translated. “When the effects come, you must concentrate on what the medicine is trying to communicate.”

The open air of the hut, animated with night sounds, grew still with expectation. Tsumpa grimaced as he drank the brew. After pouring a bowl for me, he cupped the gourd in his hands and for several minutes whistled a sweet melody into it — the high key of a tin whistle or courting bird, seducing the plant spirits to aid me.

FOX News (website)

Ayahuasca: A Plant for Healing the Soul

There are many thousands of cases in which people have been healed of physical, mental and emotional disorders, and many curious cases of recovery from grave and even fatal disorders. There is much to investigate about the healing properties of ayahuasca. A large number of people have been cured of addictions through ayahuasca ceremonies, and the cases of post-ayahuasca cancer remission are too numerous to ignore. Researchers from all over the world are interested in ayahuasca, attempting to understand its healing properties.

Time Magazine

Down the Amazon in Search of Ayahuasca

Word of ayahuasca’s healing properties has brought a growing number of New Age tourists from the U.S. and Europe, some of whom pay thousands of dollars to stay at jungle lodges where Indian medicine men guide them through all-night ayahuasca rituals. Sting and Tori Amos have admitted sampling it in Latin America, where it is legal, as has Paul Simon, who chronicled the experience in his song “Spirit Voices.” “It heals the body and the spirit,” says Eustacio Payaguaje, 51, a Cofán Indian shaman who regularly treks to Bogotá to lead weekend ayahuasca ceremonies in the city. “It is medicine for the soul.”

The Times (UK)

Jungle Fever

Deep immersion in a faraway jungle is the latest fix for those stuck in the cultural, spiritual or personal malaise that besets many in the 21st century. Having an extreme psychological experience such as ayahuasca at the same time makes it all the more desirable. The Brighton-based writer and therapist Ross Heaven, author of Plant Spirit Shamanism, has been leading trips into the Amazon for 10 years. “In the 1990s, only real new-age devotees had heard of ayahuasca, but the sort of person going on retreats has changed dramatically,” she says. “I’m taking a trip in October that will include account managers, business professionals, a media figure, a conventional doctor and a nurse. People are getting turned on to the fact that in the Amazon we can learn something about the wisdom of native culture and the psychological healing aspects of the plants there, while also gaining from personal exploration and creativity.”

The Guardian (UK)

Ayahuasca: indie’s new drug of choice

Paul Butler of the Bees told the NME of his experiences last month, but was a little disappointed to find they wrote it up as a crazed drug story. “Ayahuasca is most definitely not a drug, it’s plant medicine,” he says. “Taking it without an experienced shaman is dangerous.”

Butler was introduced to the experience after producing What Will We Be by Devandra Banhart, himself an ayahuasca convert. He embarked on a “10-day dieta” in Peru, in which ayahuasca brews were concocted from, among other things, chacruna leaves, following the traditional methods of the Shipibo tribe.

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2011 Ayahuasca Shamanism Conference in Iquitos

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We’re only a few months away from the 7th International Amazonian Shamanism Conference here in Iquitos which is being held between July 16th and July 22nd 2011. This annual event organised by Alan Shoemaker is definitely one of the highlights of the year for people who are passionate about learning more about Ayahuasca and shamanism. And at $700 a ticket it’s definitely only for people who are extremely dedicated to expanding their knowledge on the subject.

This years conference is called “We Shall Weave Our Dreams” and has a great line-up of experts, authors, shamans and other speakers who will be sharing their research, perspectives and experiences of working with the medicine.

Some of this years guest speakers include:

Graham Hancock – Best selling author Graham Hancock is definitely this year’s biggest draw. Graham made a big name for himself writing best-selling books about ancient monuments and their connections to previous advance civilisations such as Atlantis. Then a few years ago his research went down a rather different avenue and he published his book “Supernatural” which featured a lot of information about Ayahuasca and how he believes psychedelics have played an important role in the evolution of man. Read more

Klaus Donna – Another researcher into ancient mysteries and the secret history of the planet, Klaus has discovered many ancient artefacts that defy explanation and provide strong evidence that orthodox history is way off the mark and that alien contact throughout history is a reality.  I’m not quite sure what his connection to Ayahuasca is (if any) but I’m sure he will give a very interesting presentation. Read more

Steve Beyer – Steve is the author of the acclaimed book “Singing to the Plants“. He has a law degree, doctorates in psychology and religious studies, he’s studied in Tibetan monasteries and spent time living with indigenous Amazonian tribes learning about ayahuasca shamanism. I doubt life can possibly get much more interesting than that! I haven’t read Steve’s book yet, but it’s on my list and I would certainly love to hear him speak. Read more

Richard Grossman – I don’t think I’ve heard of Richard before but his bio sounds fascinating. His dedicated a lot of his life to learning about healing and it seems that his current area of expertise is in sound healing which I’m sure is very relevant to the subject of shamanism and icaros. Read more

Ananda Bosman – Another person I don’t think I’ve heard of but his bio sounds absolutely fascinating and no doubt he will be interesting to watch. He has “pioneered research work on inducing “Endohuasca”, or endogenous Ayahuasca, through very precise “dark room” research techniques, protocol’s, and research endeavors, with hundreds of pilots, with general highly successful and exciting results.” Read more

Peter Gorman – Peter is certainly one of the more colorful characters of the Iquitos Ayahuasca scene (when he’s in town). He’s also the man who created ‘ayahuasca tourism’ as he was the first person to bring organised groups of westerns to Peru to drink Ayahuasca. Last year he released a book called “Ayahuasca in my Blood” which charts many of his experiences of working with the medicine over many years and it’s a fantastic read. I’ve little doubt he will give one of the more interesting talks of the conference. Read more

There are many other people speaking at this event. For the full list go here

Not only do delegates get to listen to the speakers for several days, they also get to experience Ayahuasca for themselves because 3 of the nights during the conference week are reserved for ceremonies. Delegates have a number of different shaman they can choose to do ceremonies with, including Kucho, Carlos Chevez Ron Wheelock, Percy Garcia and Diego Palmer.

I don’t know yet whether I will be attending myself. I would definitely like to be there but $700 is a bit of stretch for me at the present moment and I have no idea how fast the tickets will sell out. It’s limited to 300 delegates and I think the last few years have been a sellout. If I do attend I will certainly provide coverage on this blog.

For more information about the conference and how to book a ticket visit: http://www.soga-del-alma.org

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Ayahuasca Journeying Depicted on Stage in “DaddyO Dies Well”

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DaddyO dies wellIf you live within easy travelling distance of LA then you might want to check out a new stage production about a man who drinks Ayahuasca at the behest of his step father in order to heal from his depression and other problems in life.

Not being anywhere near LA, I can’t review this myself, but there’s a review in Variety here

If you’re following this blog and manage to see it, please leave your own review in the comments below.

It’s showing at the Electric Lodge Theatre in Venice, CA.

Here are the details from the Electric Lodge website

DaddyO Dies Well

April 2nd through May 22nd

Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 2:00pm

General Admission: $25

Legendary Los Angeles-based playwright Murray Mednick directs the world premier of the fifth installment of his “Gary Plays” cycle, a darkly lyrical comedy in which Gary, Mednick’s hardluck protagonist, takes a psychedelic Ayahuasca trip at the behest of DaddyO, his hipster stepfather.  The entire octet of Gary Plays is schedule to be published in March, 2011 by Sideshow Books and distributed by TCG (theatre Communications Group).

 

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“Metamorphosis” Ayahuasca Documentary Review

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Metamorphosis Ayahuasca DocumentaryMetamorphosis – A Journey of Transformation” is a fairly recent Ayahuasca documentary that is more specifically about the well known Blue Morpho Ayahuasca retreat center run by Hamilton Souther; and in my opinion it is one of the best Ayahuasca documentaries currently out there.

The first thing you notice about Metamorphosis is how good it looks. It was made by Keith Aronowitz who has a lot of experience working in television and it clearly shows on the screen. The production values are really high, and whether you’re watching scenes of the jungle or just people talking to camera, you’ll notice that everything is beautifully shot and very well edited together.

But what about the actual content? Well that’s pretty interesting too, although if you’re already something of an ‘Ayahuasca expert’, it’s unlikely you’ll learn anything new here. The simple narative centers on about half a dozen westerners as they come to Blue Morpho for a 9 day Ayahuasca retreat to experience Ayahuasca for the first time. They are interviewed before and after ceremonies (and even filmed during ceremonies) about their coming to terms with the rather intense process they are clearly going through.

The documentary also features quite a lot of interview footage of Hamilton and his shaman talking about Ayahuasca and working with the medicine, which should prove to be very educational if you don’t already know a lot about the subject. I’ve never met Hamilton but he comes across as a very genuine and likable person, and I can see why a lot of people speak highly of him.

If I have only one main criticism it’s that I don’t think the footage of the ceremonies is a very acccurate reflection of what the majority of people will experience. All the ceremony footage is of people having really intense experiences, and showing them shouting, crying, writhing around, having their demons exorcised, and generally going through hell (or so it seems). Of course these types of experiences can certainly happen to people – and they are always incredibly beneficial and healing. However, from my experience of doing over 70 ceremonies, seeing or hearing people have incredibly intense experiences like this is quite a rare phenomenon. I’m sure these scenes were included for dramatic effect to add tension and make the documentary more interesting, and it certainly succeeds on that level. But I wonder if after watching this documentary that a lot of people will be too scared to drink ayahuasca because of worrying they will lose control or have a really terrifying experience. So, I question whether those scenes do anything positive to promote the profound benefits of drinking Ayahuasca.

Overall though, I think this documentary gives a pretty accurate depiction of what it’s like to come to Peru and take part in an Ayahuasca retreat. But if you decide to watch this before having tried Ayahuasca, just keep in mind that the footage shown during ceremonies is more the exception than the rule. And even if you do have a particularly intense experience, it will absolutely be to your benefit. So don’t be scared of it.

This is not a free documentary, you have to buy the DVD, but I would say that if you have more than a passing interest in Ayahuasca then it’s definitely worth your money.


I was hoping to link to a page where you can buy the DVD, but Amazon appears to be out of stock and it doesn’t seem to be available through the Metamorphosis website at the moment. Also check out the Amazon page where it currently has ten 5-star reviews!!

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Ayahuasca documentaries you can watch online

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Did you know there have been several documentaries made about the subject of Ayahuasca, and many of them you can watch online for free. Here’s a round up of some of the best documentaries I’ve come across to date.

Shamanism – Other Worlds – Ayahuasca Documentary

Other Worlds is definitely the best Ayahuasca documentary that you can currently watch online for free. It was made by French filmmaker Jan Kounen who was also the director of the film Blueberry (aka Renegade) so the production values are pretty high.

Filmed mostly in the Peruvian Amazon around Iquitos,  this is a very informative documentary and features several well known experts and shamans being interviewed about the nature of the Ayahuasca experience. This includes Jeremy Narby author of Cosmic Serpent, the artists Pablo Amaringo and Alex Grey, Stanislav Grob and also Rick Strassman author of DMT: The Spirit Molecule. It also contains some pretty cool CGI sequences that try to show what ayahuasca visions can be like, although they certainly don’t resemble my own visions to date.

Highly recommended!

Watch “Other Worlds” here

To the Ends of the Earth – Jungle Trip

This is a Channel 4 documentary that aired on British television a few years ago. I’m not quite sure what to make of it really and I can’t say that I enjoyed it all that much, but it’s perhaps worth a watch. It follows the adventures of Piers Gibson, an actor and ‘keen amateur ethnobotanist’ to the Peruvian Amazon where he wants to learn more about ayahuasca and shamanism.

Piers comes across as a little bit dull to be honest, and even a bit thick at times, and I also found the voice of the narrator to be rather annoying. After arriving in Iquitos Piers meets and takes part in an Ayahuasca ceremony with Alan Shoemaker a well known character within the ayahuasca scene and organiser of the annual Ayahuasca conference here in Iquitos. Following the ceremony is a bizarre scene the next morning where the participants all get naked and get beaten with stinging nettle leaves!! I’ve never ever heard of, or come across anything like that before, and if you’re worried we might do that on Ayahuasca Odyssey retreats then don’t be! You have my absolute assurance you will never be asked to get naked in front of the group or be stung by nettles! 🙂

I think what bothered me most about this documentary is that it didn’t really give a great impression of coming to Iquitos to drink ayahuasca and also you don’t really learn much about ayahuasca or shamanism either. It’s not terrible but I would expect from a Channel 4 documentary who usually make far more interesting programs than this.

Watch “Jungle Trip” here

The Man Who Drank The Universe

This short documentary follows British tv presenter and long-time Buddhist Alistair Appleton as he travels to Brazil to experience Ayahuasca for the first time. Alistair admits in his opening monologue that he is completely teetotal and doesn’t even drink normal tea let alone take any kind of drugs. But he’s done plenty of research on Ayahuasca and the spiritual side of it intrigues him enough to want to experience it for himself.

So off he goes to Brazil to meet Silvia Polivoy who will introduce him to Ayahuasca on one of her Brazilian retreats. This is quite interesting to me because I’ve actually met Silvia a couple of times and taken part in two retreats that she’s facilitated in the past. I like Silvia quite a lot although I was disappointed to see that she barely makes an appearance. In fact this is not a very informative documentary at all because no experts get interviewed here. In fact pretty much the whole documentary features people talking about ayahuasca who hardly know anything about ayahuasca except for having taken part in a few ceremonies.

This is not something to watch if you really want to learn about Ayahuasca, however if you’re intrigued by other peoples experiences then it’s certainly interesting enough to watch. Alistair is always watchable and fairly eloquent about describing some of his experiences.

Watch here

There are a few more Ayahuasca documentaries that have been released in the last few years that are currently only available to buy on DVD. I will be reviewing these separately in the near future.

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