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A Hallucinogenic Tea, Laced with Controversy

Ayahuasca in the Amazon and the United States

by Marlene Dobkin de Rios and Roger Rumrrill

 

Explains how ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic tea, is considered a sacrament in South America but an illicit drug in the United States, and how the opposing views have heated legal battles here, including at the Supreme Court and the United Nations.

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Cover image for A Hallucinogenic Tea, Laced with Controversy

July 2008

Praeger

Pages 168
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Psychology/General
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One country's sacrament is another's illicit drug, as officials in South America and the United States are well aware. For centuries, a hallucinogenic tea made from a giant vine native to the Amazonian rainforest has been taken as a religious sacrament across several cultures in South America. Many spiritual leaders, shamans, and their followers consider the tea and its main component - ayahuasca - to be both enlightening and healing. In fact, ayahuasca (pronounced a-ja-was-ka) loosely translated means spirit vine. In this book, de Rios and Rumrrill take us inside the history and realm of, as well as the raging arguments about, the substance that seems a sacrament to some and a scourge to others. Their book includes text from the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances and interviews with shamans in the Amazon.

One country's sacrament is another's illicit drug, as officials in South America and the United States are well aware. For centuries, a hallucinogenic tea made from a giant vine native to the Amazonian rainforest has been taken as a religious sacrament across several cultures in South America. Many spiritual leaders, shamans, and their followers consider the tea and its main component - ayahuasca - to be both enlightening and healing. In fact, ayahuasca (pronounced a-ja-was-ka) loosely translated means spirit vine. Ayahuasca has moved into the United States, causing legal battles in the Supreme Court and rulings from the United Nations. Some U.S. church groups are using the hallucinogen in their ceremonies and have fought for government approval to do so. The sacrament has also drawn American drug tourists to South America to partake, say authors de Rios and Rumrrill. But they warn that these tourists are being put at risk by charlatans who are not true shamans or religious figures, just profiteers.

In this book, de Rios and Rumrrill take us inside the history and realm of, as well as the raging arguments about, the substance that seems a sacrament to some and a scourge to others. Opponents fight its use even as U.S. scientists and psychologists continue investigations of whether ayahuasca has healing properties that might be put to conventional use for physical and mental health. This book includes text from the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances and interviews with shamans in the Amazon.

Table of Contents

Ch 1: IntroductionCh 2: Native Use of AyahuascaCh 3: Drug TourismCh 4: Shamanic Power and HallucinogensCh 5: The New ShamansCh 6: The UDV and the U.S. Supreme CourtCh 7: Globalization and the Future of AyahuascaEndnotesGlossaryReferences

Reviews/Endorsements

Reviews

"Overall, I recommend this book to anyone interested in Cultural Anthropology, Shamanism, Amazonin Influences, Religions."www.encouraginghealth.com

"This book does far more than live up to its strange title. Anthropologist Rios (Univ. of California, Irvine) joins Peruvian
journalist Rumrrill in revealing a peculiar, engrossing saga of recent changes and controversies centered around tea
derived from the hallucinogenic vine ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi). [...] Summing Up: Highly recommended."Choice

"This book represents an important addition to the current discussion about ways to use ayahuasca (and other drugs) to maximize the potential for benefit and minimize the possibility of harm. It is not a book for people who know little about ayahuasca, but one that should be read by those who wish to gain a fuller understanding of the perils and promise of contemporary ayahuasca use. While aficionados may take issue with some of the points raised by the authors, this does not diminish their importance. Anthropological research has shown that almost any psychoactive substance can be used for culturally constructive and integrative purposes if such use occurs in a socially sanctioned and culturally accepted context. In the past, such contexts have typically been provided by religions. While postmodern individuals might be justifiable skeptical of these religions, they would do well to understand the deeper nature of rituals and the ways they help to constructively contextualize both their participants' experiences and the things they learn from these experiences. Herein lies what is perhaps the most important message of this timely book."Anthropology of Consciousness

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