Story of a shaman

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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  1. “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.”

    Now I know where that clause in Michael Jackson’s tour rider came from!

  2. “He could eat some jungle fowl, but only the left breast—no other portion of the meat was allowed.” This is a fuckin’ joke, right?

    1. Actually, it’s a well know fact among shaman cognoscenti that the left tit is the greatest reception area for the receipt and transmission of other worldly messages; therefore, a steady diet is thought to enhance reception.  After years of consumption and sucking only on the left breast, mine often tingles when I’m in deep meditation.  It’s like a cell phone tune you can’t turn off.

  3. Ah Carlos took me on a wild ride way back then. I saw shadows as separate entities containing secrets of other worlds and realized the dance of the Three Stooges was humor straight from god.

    Good times. Good times.

  4. ” he was provided a strict traditional diet, consisting mostly of plantains and fish.”
    This must mean the more modern ‘traditional diet’ as opposed to pre-European contact traditional diet, since plantains & bananas came originally from New Guinea (at least the cultivated varieties) or South East Asia.

  5. He could eat some jungle fowl, but only the left breast

    Is that left breast while you’re looking at the chicken, or left while you ARE the chicken?

  6. Hmm, couldn’t get any of those contextly redirects posted at the end to work for me, darn.

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