Steve Boggan writes about the Church of Santo Daime's spread into the UK. The church uses a powerful hallucinogen called ayahuasca as a sacrament.
The Church of Santo Daime ("holy give me" in Portuguese) was born in the 1930s out of the experiences of a Brazilian rubber-tapper named Raimundo Irineu Serra, or Mestre (Master) Irineu, as followers call him. He was born in 1892 to African parents in Maranhão in the northeast of Brazil and travelled to Acre in the northwest in 1912 to find work during a boom time for the rubber industry. In 1930 he was given his first taste of ayahuasca by indigenous shamans – medicine men – and spent eight solitary days and nights in the rainforest, experiencing a series of visions and receiving instructions from the Virgin Mary, whom he called the Forest Queen, that formed the basis of a new religion.
It was predominantly Christian with an emphasis on nature – on the spirits of the rainforest – and it espoused spiritual growth through the drinking of ayahuasca during carefully defined rituals. In subsequent years Mestre Irineu shared his teachings, experiences and ayahuasca with growing numbers of fellow rubber extractors before building his own church, Alto Santo, on the outskirts of Rio Branco in Acre.
Previously on Boing Boing:
• Rise of ayahuasca ceremonies in USA