Is 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.