Fruit of the vine

Ayahuasca Reader

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - (Psy­cho­tria viridis), (Banis­te­ri­op­sis caapi), Ayahuasca Reader

Abrown brew that tastes like muddy earth, ayahuasca is a hal­lu­cino­genic tea, born of the union of two rain­for­est plants and the deep botan­i­cal wis­dom of indige­nous tribes of the Ama­zon. Though there are dozens of ways to cre­ate ayahuasca, the most widely known method be­gins with the leaves of a rain­for­est shrub which sup­plies co­pi­ous amounts of DMT, a psy­che­delic com­pound known for its in­tense, if short-lived, trips. When the leaves are steeped in liq­uid with a jun­gle vine the psy­choac­tive chem­i­cal in them gets bathed in a pro­tec­tive coat of harmine al­ka­loids. This ren­ders the DMT im­per­vi­ous to hu­man di­ges­tive en­zymes and free to float across the blood-brain bar­rier. The re­sult is an of­ten day­long en­counter with the sub­lime and the abyss — eu­phoric en­gage­ments with an­i­mal and plant spir­its, along with pitched bat­tles with one’s most closely guarded delu­sions and fears.

“Sacred plants are ubiq­ui­tous in the Amer­i­cas. With­out un­der­stand­ing the use of these plants, we sim­ply can­not un­der­stand pre-Colom­bian his­tory,” said Steven F. White, a co-edi­tor of the re­cently up­dated and reis­sued Ayahuasca Reader: En­coun­ters With the Ama­zon’s Sacred Vine (Syn­er­getic Press). “All of this has been com­pletely for­got­ten, it’s not in the text­book. That’s in part be­cause Western peo­ple have his­tor­i­cally viewed Amerindi­ans as a rather prim­i­tive peo­ple with no great civ­i­liza­tions.”

Weigh­ing in at 496 pages, the lives up to its en­cy­clo­pe­dic name. Fea­tur­ing more than 60 writ­ers, shamans, sci­en­tists, pain­ters, po­ets, eth­nob­otanists, and an­thro­pol­o­gists, as well as spir­i­tual lead­ers from the ayahuasca-based syn­cretic re­li­gious move­ments, the book’s list of con­trib­u­tors is split evenly among indige­nous, mes­tizo, and Euro­pean/North Amer­i­cans.

This new edi­tion of the book will be the fo­cal point of a dis­cus­sion on Thurs­day, Sept. 15, at Col­lected Works Book­store. The event fea­tures a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Jim Gollin, pres­i­dent of the board of di­rec­tors for the Rain­for­est Ac­tion Net­work; and Deb­o­rah Parrish Sny­der, pub­lisher of Santa Fe’s Syn­er­getic Press, which has re­leased ti­tles on the en­vi­ron­ment and eth­nob­otany for 30 years.

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