Inside Santa Fe’s Ayahuasca-Based Church

ayahuascaIs this what the biblical Moses was dabbling in when he encountered the “burning bush”? NPR describes attending a plant-based Christian spiritist service:

A small church in Santa Fe, N.M., has grown up around a unique sacrament. Twice a month, the congregation meets in a ritualized setting to drink Brazilian huasca tea, which has psychoactive properties said to produce a trance-like state.

UDV stands for Uniao do Vegetal — literally translated “the union of the plants.” The Santa Fe church is the largest of the six UDV congregations in the country, numbering only 300 members in all. There are 17,000 practitioners in Brazil, where the church started.

The Supreme Court confirmed the UDV church’s right to exist in 2006. The church doesn’t seek new members and prefers to keep a low profile.

Barbara, an electrologist, says the tea cured her Lyme disease; Satara, a substitute teacher, claims huasca amplifies perception of herself and the world — like turning up the volume on a radio. Joaquin, a tattooed massage therapist, says the tea is much more spiritual than tripping on acid.

One of things that strikes you about this church is how structured it is. The lengthy bylaws are read during every ceremony. Members wear uniforms. They sit in identical folding green chairs arranged in concentric rings facing an altar — above hangs a picture of the young religion’s founder, José Gabriel da Costa. Mestre Gabriel, to his followers, was a Brazilian rubber tapper who tried huasca and created a religion around it in 1961.

Jeffrey Bronfman, national UDV vice president, says people use it to connect with their spirituality: “The tea is really an instrument to help us get in touch with our own spiritual nature. It’s not something that takes people into a state of disorientation.”

On cue, the UDV faithful raise their glasses and chant in Portuguese, “May God guide us on the path of light forever and ever. Amen, Jesus.” The church calls itself a Christian spiritist religion. Then it’s bottoms up.

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  • Thad McKraken

    Twice a month? Good lord. I do psychedelics like acid and mushrooms once or twice a year these days ritualistically. Also, the bias of the reporting should really be noted. It is freaking NPR for Christ’s sake. First off, they’re talking about women being raped in Ayahuasca tourism, which is referencing an incredibly biased Men’s Journal article from earlier in the year:

    http://www.mensjournal.com/magazine/the-dark-side-of-ayahuasca-20130215

    Now, I’m not saying this doesn’t happen, and that Ayahuasca tourism hasn’t gotten a bit shady in Peru as the demand has increased. You should probably really research the place you’re deciding on going to before you do that sort of thing. Here’s the issue I have with it. For every woman sexually abused in an Ayahuasca ceremony, there are several million drunken incidents of sex abuse every fucking weekend.

    ” then the four-hour ceremony of the Church of the Union of Plants commences with all the excitement of watching a roomful of people fall asleep in front of a TV.”

    Seriously. Someone got paid to write that? Maybe try it yourself and see how boring it is.

    • BuzzCoastin

      anything from NPR is CIA spew
      aimed at the college edumacated Outer Party House Slaves
      as usual
      they are cautioning the OPHS to stand in line, no talking

  • Greg Weinstein

    Dump the christian garbage, make the yage stronger, and maybe I’ll go.

  • Juan

    Not interested in either Santo Daime or UDV. From what I’ve read about them, they are actually doing good work and the people who attend regularly report good results.
    That said, I am so put off by the whole xtian thing that I could not possibly attend.
    As for going to the source, it should be obvious that if your are going to venture into this territory, it is wise to do you due diligence and make sure you get a trust worthy recommendation. You wanna make damn sure you are working with good people. There are no shortage of poseur charlatans passing themselves off as “shamans” who will gladly take your money.
    I have to say that I have been very fortunate and received some incredible healing on multiple levels from Madre Ayhausaca. It has been, for me, a truly transformative experience.
    I would also suggest that a good way to get the most out of the experience is to commit to a dieta. They run different lengths, but usually it’s a ten to twelve day retreat in which you take the medicine every other day. This involves a strict diet in which you cannot have salt, sugar, booze, fat, fruit, prok or sex. You “diet” a plant. That means that besides the ayahuasca, you take another plant that is not psychoactive, but does have strong healing properties. The plant you diet depends on what kind of healing you’re after. Usually beginners start out dieting chiricsanagno. It is supposed to be good for enhanced dreaming, and as a tonic for the central nervous system.

  • BuzzCoastin

    > At a hearing before the Santa Fe Board of County Commissioners in 2011, neuroscientist Dr. Robert Eaton worried about psychedelic pollutants in groundwater.

    They’re fracking while they take the ayahuasca?
    really
    the air is poisoned
    the food is poisoned
    the water is already poisoned
    and this guy is worried that 60 people are gonna spill some ayahuasca
    which might could some day trip him out
    is that dude trippin’ or what?

  • thisbliss

    Yeah imo these are potent forms of rituals as has been performed for millennia by man, for the purpose namely of showing us our reality is a language created construct and to lose or lessen the ego and glimpse behind the veil so to speak.
    The huasca seems to be a catalyst or bonus if you will for the ritual. As it is, the singing of hymns, dressing the same etc all combine to harmonise the group and dissolve the sense of self. Yes its natural from the ego point of view to recoil in horror at the thought of dressing up cult-style and participating in Christian doctrine but by pushing through this we see it is then in these physical and mental spaces which are explored where the actual journeying, spiritual work, healing etc is facilitated.

  • Greg Weinstein

    they need the full experience, they look like leaders of a Baptist youth group, instead of psychonauts :)