Shamanic mastery: Ayahuasqueros in the Amazon
The use of psychoactive drugs to induce shamanic states of consciousness has been widespread in human history. Some of the best documented material comes from the shamanic use of a drug mixture variously called ayahuasca, jagé, or daime in the Upper Amazon basin, involving parts of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil. We will call it “ayahuasca.” Evidence for its use in shamanism is very ancient, and it is used today by more people and by more classes of people than ever before. Originally, it was used by very simple huntergatherer societies, so that its use may closely parallel the shamanism of our Ice Age ancestors. Today, it seems that only the highest social classes in the Andes remain ignorant of ayahuasca. The main advantage for our purposes of investigating ayahuasca rests upon its thorough documentation, especially by participantobserver scientists. This provides us with a wealth of information to help us closely consider how South American shamans attain mastery over their altered states of consciousness. What we learn from them tells us a good deal about how traditional practitioners have manipulated the warps in their consciousness.