Neuroscientist David Linden, who has guest-blogged here before, has an interesting post on his blog about how a young, half-Amerindian man named Emilio Gomez became a shaman and learned how to make ayahuasca—the traditional psychedelic brew of the Amazonian forest.
It's a fascinating look inside another culture and an interesting comparison of the different ways human beings approach drug use.
In 1932, at the age of fourteen, [Gomez] was given the herbal hallucinogenic drink called ayahuasca by local shamans in order to recover his strength following a period of illness. He saw visions that the shamans explained were revelations that he was chosen by the plants in the ayahuasca brew to receive knowledge from them. He was to learn traditional medicine and become a shaman himself. This was an elaborate and extended process that required him to live in near isolation in the jungle for a period of three years. During this time he was provided a strict traditional diet, consisting mostly of plantains and fish. He could eat some jungle fowl, but only the left breast—no other portion of the meat was allowed. Alcohol and sexual contact were strictly prohibited. His food was prepared and delivered to him by either a young girl or a postmenopausal woman, and whatever portion remained uneaten was carefully collected and destroyed so that no other man or animal might consume it.
Compass of Pleasure: The Journey of an Amazonian Shaman
Image: Yaga while Brewing, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from journeywithspirit's photostream
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