(Banisteriopsis caapi - Psychotria viridis)
Vine of death is the translation for Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi), which is a word from the Runasimi language or Quechua language, the Inca language. This vine is the main ingredient for the preparation of a beverage used since long time ago by different peoples of the Amazon; as for example: Shipibo people, Ashaninkas, Shuars, Amahuacas, Lamas, Huachipaires, among many others peoples. The stories of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, for example the mythical stories of Ashaninkas, which are transmitted orally generation after generation, tell how the rituals and the sacred and medicinal use of the Ayahuasca was taught by the wise Inca warriors. It is known that the Incas occupied different regions that are currently occupied by different peoples who still use the Ayahuasca. The Incas made cultural exchanges with different peoples of the jungle. The presence of the culture and the cosmovision of the Inca culture inside the jungle is undeniable. Federico Kauffman Doig, quoted by Soria (1995), reports that during the Spanish conquest, Inca warriors flee into the jungle, some settle in the vicinity of the Huallaga River and stablished as Chazuta culture, and others continued going on through the Huallaga and the Ucayali to the border with Brazil. Therefore, some peoples such as Shipibo and Ashaninka believe that the Inca is their father, and their myths speak of the father and god sun, and the return of the Incas. It is also known that the cultural exchanges between the Andean civilization and the peoples of the Amazon have been made for centuries before the peak of the Inca culture.
Nobody knows exactly since how long ago the Ayahuasca has been used, but it seems to be a tradition that is thousands of years old, from the time when ceramics have been used in the Amazon rainforest. The history of the Andean and Amazonian peoples is essentially a mythical history. The truth is that the use of the Ayahuasca brew was expanded by almost all the peoples of the Amazon, and is still the most important religious magic beverage to the present time.
Currently, the knowledge and traditional uses of ayahuasca, practiced by Amazonian native communities, are considered as cultural heritage of the Peruvian nation, and in the present, psychologists and doctors in Peru are working on achieving an integration between ancestral knowledge of the Andean and Amazonian culture and contemporary psychotherapy. However, the majority of research and studies on Ayahuasca are carried out by researchers from other countries. The research on Ayahuasca is very extensive, and is carried out from anthropology, ethnobotany, neurology, psychology, among other disciplines.
Today, Ayahuasca is known throughout the world, and is no longer only used by the peoples of the Amazon. For almost a century it has been part of syncretic religions in Brazil, and for two decades the mystical tourism of the Ayahuasca has expanded rapidly, which makes it very easy to come across many shamans who are not shamans. These chamans travel around the world offering their services. Therefore, those who seek an authentic experience with the Ayahuasca must be very careful in their search and encounter with this ancestral brew. There is an irresponsible and commercial use of Ayahuasca, in addition to deceit and immorality on the part of many false shamans.
It is very probable that the name of vine of death or Ayahuasca has arisen due to the states of consciousness to which the one who ingests this sacred potion is taken. This sacred beverage gives access to states of mind that allow us to experience a parallel dimension of reality, a non-material but totally existing world, a dimension that we can call the spiritual world of ayahuasca. In deep psychology this world is known as the world of psychic reality or the archetypal world. Many people who participate in Ayahuasca sessions report the feeling of dying, and some even say they have experienced death in themselves. There are those who experience this state of death with fear and terror, but there are those who describe this state as an experience of absolute peace and total surrender. Apparently, in some cases, the experience of death is the preamble of an experience of rebirth or spiritual renewal, and also the contact with the world of beings and spiritual realities. On this journey that takes you through death and into the world of the spirits, it is advisable to be accompanied by a guide in order to be able to return from this journey cleaner, healthier, with more clarity, more strength and more wisdom. The guide is commonly known by the word Shaman.
For thousands of years, here and throughout the world, the role played by the shaman has been and is, the intermediary between the world of spiritual beings and the ordinary world of the physical and material senses. Ayahuasca is a key element in the life of the spiritual warrior or the shaman, since it allows him to penetrate the other world and bring knowledge and wisdom from this other world, in order to help his people and those who need it. The archetype of the warrior, priest and magician that was represented by the Inca nobles, has almost become extinct, although it is still dormant in the collective unconsciousness. The inheritance of the Incas that was left in the jungle, has almost disappeared, but has not died. In ancient times, the Inca warrior, besides being trained in the domain of the world of the senses, also had a deep training in the domain of the spiritual world. Today there are no original schools or traditions to be trained on this secrets or spiritual training. In a way, the shamanism of the Amazonian rainforest conserves part of this knowledge. The shamans say that the spirits of ayahuasca keep knowledges and secrets in another plane or dimension of reality, and that the guardian spirits of ayahuasca can teach these secrets.
The legacy of the ancestors was not extinguished, and the wisdom and nobility of the past survived, perhaps in the genes, or perhaps in the collective unconscious. The knowledge lasted, and the arts in the use of medicinal plants, diets, fasts and the use of healing songs are still valid. The peoples of the Amazon have kept an important part of the legacy alive, and new times have arrived for a new collective process of exchange of culture, knowledge and wisdom. It is the time of the new amautas, and of possibilities of development of our society in the field of knowledge, ethics and it is coming material, economic, political and spiritual development. Perhaps Ayahuasca plays an important role in this process of exchange, development, and cultural and spiritual awakening; since this sacred plant, inheritance of the ancestors, is a tool or spiritual technology that allows the expansion of the conscience and the healing of body, mind and spirit, when it is used with honesty, respect and wisdom.
The Ayahuasca is called grandmother, mother, siren, princess and teacher; and it is considered by the mestizo shamans of the jungle as a power plant and a powerful purge. In the jungle of Peru the brew is used by healers and sorcerers in their rituals of magic and enchantment, in spells and in spiritual combats between shamans. There are shamans who use the brew and offer their services in large cities such as Iquitos, Pucallpa and Lima. And the majority of Peruvian settlers see only this picturesque aspect of the Ayahuasca, they see it as a drug of shamans and sorcerers, dangerous and alien to their lifestyles. Although due to the interest that Ayahuasca has aroused worldwide, regarding its religious, medicinal, therapeutic and spiritual qualities, there are now people in Peru with a great interest in knowing in depth this ancestral brew and its medicinal and spiritual virtues. In the Amazon rainforest, in Lima, in Cusco and in other places in Peru, there are Retreat Centers that use Ayahuasca, although not all do it exactly under the same approach, there is interest, on the part of some retreat centers, to integrate the practices of the original peoples of the Amazon, traditions of wisdom and therapeutic methods. In some retreat centers the work with ayahuasca is done with commitment, seriousness and vocation, and also, with a certain methodological rigor; but there are also many places that use Ayahuasca from a New Age perspective that is not consistent and it is incongruent.
Ayahuasca is entering the life of contemporary civilization, as a medicine capable of healing the sufferings of the human soul, a medicine capable of offering a transformative and life changing experience, and that can help overcome traumas, complexes and existential crises. In the life of cities, many people suffer from the evils of modern, consumerist and materialist civilization. Many people suffer from emotional and psychological disorders, or mental illnesses, depressions and obsessions, anxiety and anguish, neurosis and psychosis. And there are those who desperately seek relief and healing from their ills, which are evils of the human soul, evils of the spirit.
But how can ayahuasca help to heal these evils? Much effort is being made trying to learn in this regard during the last two decades. There is great interest in an integration between traditional indigenous medicine and the medicine of contemporary civilization, although integration is often difficult due to ethnocentrism and cultural resistance. However, a type of Ayahuasca Therapy is emerging that, on the one hand, addresses the therapeutic aspects, and on the other hand, takes into consideration the spiritual aspect, although from a transpersonal and transcultural perspective or approach, and for that, it is much help as a frame of reference, humanistic psychology and psychospiritual therapies.
Thus, Ayahuasca constitutes the main element in Ayahuasca retreats or in Ayahuasca Therapy, but the effectiveness of Ayahuasca therapy will also depend on the integrity, knowledge, capacity and authenticity of the therapeutic process and the therapist. The research shows that the long-term positive effects in the use of Ayahuasca for therapy depend on an adequate process of interpretation, assimilation and integration of the experiences in Ayahuasca sessions.