The Church of Ayahuasca
28 May, 2015 | Valeria Wilde
ILLUSTRATION: MARCO TOXICO
For Andean and Amazonian indigenous cultures in Bolivia, hallucinogenic plants are synonymous to medicine, spirituality and even religion. Ever since ancestral times, ayahuasca (which grows in the Amazon) and San Pedro (which grows in the altiplano between 2000 and 3000 meters above sea level) have been used as medicinal plants that heal the soul. To this day, people partake in different ceremonies in the country to expand their consciousness. One of the most famous destinations in Bolivia for these rituals is the Valle de las Animas, where the Sacha Runa organisation welcomes people from all over the world to take part in medicinal plant ceremonies that can cost up to $100. The clientele varies from young alteños, to upper-class Bolivian housewives, to foreigners who come to Bolivia exclusively for this experience.
The city of Cobija is another well-known destination for medicinal plant rituals in Bolivia. In that part of the country, some people practice the doctrine of Santo Daime, founded in Brazil by Master Irineo, who allegedly received the sacred plant of ayahuasca from the Virgin Mary herself. Worshiping Catholic icons and singing hymns unique to their doctrine, these people pray to God, to life and to the forces of nature. The name ‘Daime’ comes from the portuguese word Dai-me, which means give me. Practitioners of this doctrine implore the plant to: give them strength, give them light, give them love. Among Bolivia’s many attractive features, the country is also becoming a destination where you can experience these “journeys” that in some way or another are a fundamental part of its ancestral cultures.