Author Topic: Using Sacred Medicines like Ayahuasca: When is it appropriate?  (Read 36953 times)

Offline Thyme4Mind

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Hey there everybody!

I stumbled across this forum a little while ago and I’m very impressed with the work done here. There are few things that frustrate me more than phoney new-agers who appropriate the culture of others. The focus of the work here is very relevant to my interests, and so after some deliberation I thought it would be beneficial for me to create an account and ask some questions.

So to briefly introduce myself and what I'm all about:

I am a young black male and a few years ago I stumbled across the world of entheogens, or better known as psychedelics. My first experience with psilocybin was absolutely life-changing. I had never considered myself a spiritual person, but after just one experience I was trying to learn as much as I could about these states of altered consciousness and the effect that they have had on religion, spirituality, and culture throughout human history. Soon enough, and I would say inevitably, I became aware of the popularized entheogenic brew known as Yage, or more commonly as Ayahuasca.

After lots of research, I learned much about the cultural significance of Yage in regions of Latin America and the increasing problem of Western appropriation of this medicine. Not only do local communities suffer as a result of the mass influx of tourists traveling to experience Yage under the (paid) supervision of so-called shamans; but due to the online accessibility of the raw materials needed to brew Yage, there is now a widespread trend of ordering "ayahuasca kits" off of the internet and the demand is rapidly exceeding the supply. This has led to deforestation, offset economies, dislocated communities, unsustainable harvesting techniques, and the commodification of a medicine that has been considered sacred by indigenous Latino culture for hundreds and possibly thousands of years.

Needless to say, I avoided partaking in any sort of Yage ceremony for several years before finding myself invited to attend one in the state of Oregon this past summer. The ceremony was not free, and though it was organized by a group of Taitas from Columbia, they were not present for this particular ceremony. I was the only person of color present for the entirety of the experience. I was perturbed, but to be fair the experience surpassed my expectations in a lot of ways.

Entheogens, or psychedelics, have become an incredibly important aspect of my life and life-goals. I have only worked with Ayahuasca that one time I just mentioned, however I am increasingly drawn to it and I would like to continue pursuing a relationship with it in a way that is respectful of the cultures from which it originates.

So this brings me to my main questions for y’all:

I have seen a small handful of conversations on here about Ayahuasca but they all seem to be about the notion of traveling to a Latin American country to drink the brew with a shaman. I am interested in ethnobotany in addition to the subjective experience provided by these plants; meaning that I'm not just interested in taking them, but I am fascinated by the plants themselves and how they grow. There are a number of online vendors who advocate private cultivation of these plants so as to preserve them in their native habitats. I'm wondering what this forum's position is on the use of Ayahuasca and other sacred medicines (eg peyote, san pedro, etc...) for personal growth/self development given that I cultivate them personally. If I were to grow the plants myself, would this be seen as harmful or insensitive? I truly believe in the universal nature of the psychedelic experience for all humans from every wake of life, but I am also deeply aware of the socio-political realities in which we live that make this a complicated issue.

As a side note; there are local plants and fauna which contain the same alkaloids as the plants used in traditional Latino yage brews. Using non-traditional plants to achieve similar results is often called anahuasca (analog of ayahuasca). I can pursue this route, and I would have no ethical qualms about doing so; but unfortunately the species of plants used for traditional ayahuasca brews are hands down the best plants for the job and require much less preparation and work to achieve the desired mixture. So this said, yes I can always use other local plants if need be, but if possible I would like to work with the plants traditionally used by indigenous Latino peoples.

Furthermore, is anyone here aware of any way in which someone like me could connect with legitimate practitioners who are sharing this medicine in an honorable and sustainable way without imposing my own desire to participate? Is there an ethical way to go about this at all? I have been considering the idea of traveling to Latin America to assist with community organizing and environmental/social work, and on the side perhaps I might connect with like-minded individuals who could point me in the right direction. Is this problematic?

Before I end, I want to make a few brief disclaimers. Yes, I am interested in psychedelics as tools to be used as catalysts for profound interpersonal transformation; but I am by no means a New-Ager. Shortly after becoming introduced to psychedelic culture, I was greatly disillusioned by the fact that nearly everyone in the "scene" was white and upper class. The profound insight offered by these medicines seems to have been lost in the West in neon-lit nightclubs and self-serving, over-indulgent, outdoor parties or so called "transformational" festivals. Please know that I have NO part in that.  As a person of color I've struggled with this, and I've made it part of my goals to work towards integrating psychedelic medicine into a paradigm where it's utilized by front-line communities that would actually benefit from it; eg communities who have suffered traumas as a result of systemic oppression, who do not have access to, or would not benefit from, traditional Western models of healing. I want to ensure that the cultures who first shared these tools with the world are fairly represented wherever they are being used, and that their customs and beliefs are not taken out of context and packed into a neat little new-age box. Because of their nature to decondition individuals from larger cultural paradigms, I am also interested in using these medicines as tools for decolonization, and Ive been developing and furthering my analysis of neo-colonialism within the context of ayahuasca tourism. (Slightly off topic, here is an interesting article about neo-colonialism and the serious problem of ayahuasca tourism for anyone interested: https://culturaladmixtures.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/amazonian-ayahuasca-tourism-and-millenarian-imperialism-the-story-of-the-ethnobotanical-stewardship-council/ )

I am involved with radical community organizing and anti-racist work as well as environmental work. As a fellow activist and anti-racist please know that I stand with you and the purpose of this forum. Please know that my quest for knowledge is genuine and I ask these questions out of sincerity, not some convoluted desire to convince anyone here that I have a right to these medicines. As an additional disclaimer let me say that I'm not really interested in defending my use of psychedelics either. I understand not everyone here will share the same opinion about them. To many of you, they are just drugs. I understand that perspective, and it’s not my wish to debate the nature of psychedelic drugs and whether or not they can be used in a positive context. I believe that they can, and in light of this I am specifically asking about Yage. As someone who is not from the traditional cultures who birthed Ayahuasca, is it inherently wrong for me to attempt to partake in it in any way at all? If not, what would you see as a viable and respectful way to engage with Ayahuasca and similar medicines?

While I am here I also have one more brief set of questions. While I was researching this forum, I found a large number of websites (mostly operated by white new age healers) which had a lot of negative things to say about NAFPS. Most of it I found to be reactionary and defensive, and nothing short of what I would expect from someone defending their white privilege. This said, I did find repeated claims on several websites that I found a bit concerning and I just wanted to run them by you folks here. Supposedly, according to a variety of people on random websites, former NAFPS websites have shared IP's with well-known racist websites. Is this true? If so, why?

I mean no offense by the above question. I am very aware that groups such as this one, that target white-supremacy in it's lesser known yet more prevalent forms (eg white neo-shamanism), are often targeted and made out to be hate groups. The Black Panthers are a great example. I grew up thinking they were a racist hate group and they were no such thing. The Black Panthers defended black people from racist assault from white-america, and they were non apologetic in their work. Labeling them as a violent hate group was both strategic and reactionary, but nonetheless it worked to dismantle their work. But to be fair, there are a LOT of claims that NAFPS has been shut down many times and is classified by many many people as a hate group in disguise. So, simply for transparency, I’d like to know what this communities response is to these claims--but please don't take it personally.

Thanks so much and my apologies for the long read!

In Solidarity,
« Last Edit: March 26, 2015, 02:28:14 am by Praxis »

Offline Ingeborg

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Re: Using Sacred Medicines: When is it appropriate?
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2015, 05:45:04 pm »
Since I am one of the Euro/Euro-American members of the board, I will only address part of your post, as I don't feel qualified to discuss the objections ndn persons and nations hold against the recreational use of plants by outsiders. At least not in a project where the majority of activists is ndn.

Quote
This said, I did find repeated claims on several websites that I found a bit concerning and I just wanted to run them by you folks here. Supposedly, according to a variety of people on random websites, former NAFPS websites have shared IP's with well-known racist websites. Is this true? If so, why?

I think one answer to this is what you wrote before this question at the beginning of the paragraph:

Quote
While I was researching this forum, I found a large number of websites (mostly operated by white new age healers) which had a lot of negative things to say about NAFPS. Most of it I found to be reactionary and defensive, and nothing short of what I would expect from someone defending their white privilege.

Emphasis mine

As far as I know, there are no former NAFPS websites; it was and is http://www.newagefraud.org

The claim we shared the IP with racist websites insinuates these sites were either run by NAFPS or hosted by us. This is – pardon my French – nothing but a load of BS spread by people eager to defend their privilege and wallowing in their feeling of entitledness. Whenever I came across such allegations at Nuage websites, I noticed they prefer to be rather vague by just mentioning „well-known racist websites“, without giving any more details like whom we might have associated with. And of course they can't, because such associations do not exist, did not exist, and never will exist.

Quote
I mean no offense by the above question. I am very aware that groups such as this one, that target white-supremacy in it's lesser known yet more prevalent forms (eg white neo-shamanism), are often targeted and made out to be hate groups. The Black Panthers are a great example. I grew up thinking they were a racist hate group and they were no such thing. The Black Panthers defended black people from racist assault from white-america, and they were non apologetic in their work. Labeling them as a violent hate group was both strategic and reactionary, but nonetheless it worked to dismantle their work.

I happen to be old enough to have seen those times, so I'd like to add the BPP was not only a project of self-defence, but also started and maintained lots of social projects in their communities, like food projects, school projects, free medical clinics etc.

Quote
But to be fair, there are a LOT of claims that NAFPS has been shut down many times and is classified by many many people as a hate group in disguise.

NAFPS has been shut down far less than the exploiters of ndn peoples and ceremonies will wish for, and those cases far and few between never managed to shut us down for more than a few days at most. These cases were caused by disgruntled Nuagers either seeing themselves considerably hit in the wallet by our research, or by a Nuager being outraged that we dare expose their favoured guru. One example for this is John Lekay who ran a Nuage online mag and came here to have his then latest discoveries in the way of plastic shame-ons sort of conveniently rubberstamped by NAFPS. When this did not quite materialise :cough: and we instead exposed the plastics for what they were, Lekay threw a series of fits using multiple accounts and sock puppets, got blocked from posting, and then turned to our provider claiming without evidence NAFPS had hired a hit team who were beleaguering his house.

We're quite familiar with the allegation we were a hate group, or hate group in disguise. Anyone who's heard of the concept of an alleged 'reverse racism' will know what to think of that. Yup, just imagine, those timber […] and plains […] are getting uppity.... - the world is coming to rack and ruin : sarcasm off :.
Quite incidentially, we happen to be the ones to have received all kinds of threats, including death threats, by interested persons.

There are two threads in this forum which may shed a further light on whom we cooperate with and who uses us as a source of information, and on the other hand who's going out of their way to smear us any way they can:

http://www.newagefraud.org/smf/index.php?topic=1235.0

http://www.newagefraud.org/smf/index.php?topic=1234.0


Offline wolfhawaii

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Re: Using Sacred Medicines: When is it appropriate?
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2015, 12:05:16 am »
I don't think you will find anyone on here who will ease your conscience regarding what substances you use or why you use them. Personally i think that is your business and no one else's, however i do think it is wise to consider the impact of your actions on others.

Offline earthw7

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Re: Using Sacred Medicines: When is it appropriate?
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2015, 11:20:07 am »
As a native  :-\ i wonder why the outside culture is so out of balance that they want to take from other cultures?
i find it offensive you used the word shaman for our people. I have been with NAFPS for a long time and have heard every kind of
claim against us. As i tell people you don't pay to pray, and if you are using this for prayer i could understand but it sound like
you want it for personal reason
In Spirit

Offline Thyme4Mind

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Re: Using Sacred Medicines: When is it appropriate?
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2015, 02:35:09 pm »
Thanks for responses so far

Quote
NAFPS has been shut down far less than the exploiters of ndn peoples and ceremonies will wish for, and those cases far and few between never managed to shut us down for more than a few days at most. These cases were caused by disgruntled Nuagers either seeing themselves considerably hit in the wallet by our research, or by a Nuager being outraged that we dare expose their favoured guru. One example for this is John Lekay who ran a Nuage online mag and came here to have his then latest discoveries in the way of plastic shame-ons sort of conveniently rubberstamped by NAFPS. When this did not quite materialise :cough: and we instead exposed the plastics for what they were, Lekay threw a series of fits using multiple accounts and sock puppets, got blocked from posting, and then turned to our provider claiming without evidence NAFPS had hired a hit team who were beleaguering his house.

We're quite familiar with the allegation we were a hate group, or hate group in disguise. Anyone who's heard of the concept of an alleged 'reverse racism' will know what to think of that. Yup, just imagine, those timber […] and plains […] are getting uppity.... - the world is coming to rack and ruin : sarcasm off :.
Quite incidentially, we happen to be the ones to have received all kinds of threats, including death threats, by interested persons.

Thanks for that. I had assumed just as much, and I apologize for having to ask in the first place.

Quote
I happen to be old enough to have seen those times, so I'd like to add the BPP was not only a project of self-defence, but also started and maintained lots of social projects in their communities, like food projects, school projects, free medical clinics etc.

Yes, I'm very familiar with the Black Panthers. When I said "defended black people from racist assault" I meant not so much exclusively defense from physical assault as much as I meant the total cultural and political assault. I am very much inspired by their community oriented work.

Thanks for your input :)

Quote
I don't think you will find anyone on here who will ease your conscience regarding what substances you use or why you use them. Personally i think that is your business and no one else's, however i do think it is wise to consider the impact of your actions on others.

Fair enough, and very true. I'm very much conflicted over the impact of my actions, and this is why I am here. While I understand the impact of cultural appropriation and the harm it causes, I'm struggling with this. I have not had and do not have any intentions to appropriate sacred symbols or cultural interpretations of these medicines; I consider them tools in as objective a sense of the word, and I do not associate with myself indigenous spirituality. This said, I also understand how I often feel when white people come into black spaces and ask questions such as, "Is it offensive if I do (insert offensive act here)?". Often it can be deeply insulting. In light of this, I deeply apologize if I sort of waltzed in here and offended anyone. I am genuinely seeking clarity, and perhaps my passion has made me more audacious than I should be.

Quote
As a native  :-\ i wonder why the outside culture is so out of balance that they want to take from other cultures?
i find it offensive you used the word shaman for our people. I have been with NAFPS for a long time and have heard every kind of
claim against us. As i tell people you don't pay to pray, and if you are using this for prayer i could understand but it sound like
you want it for personal reason

I sincerely apologize that I've offended you. I tried very hard not to use the word shaman myself, and (as far as I know) I only used the word in reference to the fact that many new-agers will seek out "shamans" to experience ayahuasca and other ceremonies. Again, my deepest apologies.

If I can respond though, this is exactly why I have come to this community asking about this. I understand that these medicines have strong cultural ties and I have no wish to disrespect that. To re-iterate, I feel that these medicines are tools for self-exploration. They produce an experience that transcends human constructs and cultural paradigms, and I have been earnest in my attempts not to appropriate cultural symbols or interpretations and apply them to my own experiences. I am interested in Yage as a powerful tool. Perhaps it is wrong to try and separate the tool from the culture, and if this is the case then I can understand and I hope I caused no harm by being inquisitive.

Also, like I said in my first post, I have no intention of "paying to pray". I will never again pay for a ceremony, and I am disillusioned with myself for having done so even just once. I am interested in cultivating these medicines myself in a sustainable way. This entails the entire process from seed. My use of entheogens is not for recreation. I use them for prayer, for spiritual growth, and self-improvement.
-------

Thanks again everyone. I feel that so far it is pretty clear how the community feels about this issue and I want you to know that I take your wishes very seriously. Though in this post I have tried to clarify my position slightly, I am NOT trying to come across as defensive nor am I trying to justify my actions. I just want to be as transparent as possible in regards to my intentions in addition to what it is I'm actually asking.

So far I still feel conflicted. I'm getting the general feeling that the use of plant medicines by outsiders is discouraged altogether and if this is the case I completely respect it, and will discontinue my use/pursuit of any entheogen which has cultural ties to native cultures. I'm still unsure, however, as it seems like some of you are saying slightly different things.

I have to run, so I will add more this post later tonight and edit much of what I've written. I just wanted to get my basic thoughts up here to see if it might be helpful at all in understanding where I'm coming from.

Thanks so much for the responses, and I hope I haven't shown any disrespect because of my actions.

Offline Ingeborg

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Re: Using Sacred Medicines: When is it appropriate?
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2015, 04:06:05 pm »
I understand that these medicines have strong cultural ties and I have no wish to disrespect that. To re-iterate, I feel that these medicines are tools for self-exploration. They produce an experience that transcends human constructs and cultural paradigms, and I have been earnest in my attempts not to appropriate cultural symbols or interpretations and apply them to my own experiences. I am interested in Yage as a powerful tool. Perhaps it is wrong to try and separate the tool from the culture, and if this is the case then I can understand and I hope I caused no harm by being inquisitive.

Also, like I said in my first post, I have no intention of "paying to pray". I will never again pay for a ceremony, and I am disillusioned with myself for having done so even just once. I am interested in cultivating these medicines myself in a sustainable way. This entails the entire process from seed. My use of entheogens is not for recreation. I use them for prayer, for spiritual growth, and self-improvement.

As far as I know, Ayahuasca/Yage in its traditional environment is no tool for self-exploration at all. In a traditional indigenous context, Ayahuasca is used rather as a diagnostic tool to explore which disease the patient suffers from. It is therefore not consumed by patients, but only by medicine persons. So any use of the brew which makes patients or rather clients consume it, differs considerably from indigenous use.

Apart from this, introducing the concept of self-optimising (as in 'spiritual growth' and 'self-improvement') into the equation is a rather 'white' thing. It is not just 'exploring', but exploring with a personal gain, and just another variant of 'gimme, gimme, gimme'. You also mention you are using indigenous medicinal plants for prayer. There is a huge 'but': these religion do not belong to you, and indigenous religions – as one of the few things which can be said on a general basis – do not mission. Period.

In South American countries, there are persons of predominant indigenous descent who have lost ties to the ethnicities their ancestors belonged to, and in many cases they don't even know what ethnicities these were. This is due to Euro colonialism e.g. enslaving indgenous persons to make them work far from their regions of origin etc. So there is a social layer of persons estranged from indigenous customs where the use of indigenous medicinal plants is practiced, albeit often in ways contradicting indigenous use. One example of this is in fact Ayahuasca. In this non-traditional context, Ayahuasca is not seen as a diagnostic tool, but is said to be a remedy against various diseases. Usually, this clientele is supplied by peddlers selling the bottled preparation in local markets.

White Ayahuasca tourism is predominantly based on non-traditional use. There is a large number of so-called retreats in the market looking only for affluent Euro/Euro-American customers (and prices consequently vary considerably between a domestic non-traditional use and fees charged from Euro tourists). Usually, these retreats are right in the middle of nowhere, so that tourists depend on transport offered by the retreat to get back to some small town in the jungle from where they can take a bus to the nearest railway station, from where they can continue to a town with an international airport. This not only indicates what local laws think of providing Euros with drugs, but it will also slightly disencourage customers from protesting too much if they find practices at the retreat somewhat objectionable...

Although such retreats will usually have a person native to the respective country to deal with the tourists and keep them supplied during their stay, many of the retreats are in fact owned by Europeans or Euro-Americans skimming the profits and lining their own pockets.

In retreats frequented by Euro tourists, clients will usually receive the brew every other day which also is not in accordance with traditional indigenous use. Often, retreats advertise the brew will be able to cure even severe diseases like cancer, Parkinson's, AIDS etc. It is not difficult to see that such promises may attract persons in fatal conditions prepared to clinging to straws.

Another aspect is that some plants in medicinal use in indigenous tradition have become endangered by their exploitation by and for a Euro market, and/or are not available for the indigenous population.

Our friends over at Psiram have an article on Ayahuasca in their English wiki where you can read all this in more detail:  https://www.psiram.com/en/index.php/Ayahuasca  .


Offline Thyme4Mind

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Re: Using Sacred Medicines: When is it appropriate?
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2015, 03:59:27 am »
I've completely re-edited this post.

I just want to thank you all for providing me some insight and perspective, and I want to apologize for taking up space here and for coming to this community in a way that I think was very problematic. I'd like to hold myself accountable and just say that I know how frustrating it is having to explain to someone how they are oppressing you...it's not cool, and so for that I sincerely apologize.

In as few words as possible, you have assured me in what I feel that I already knew and simply failed to fully acknowledge. Without the express consent of indigenous peoples, it makes no sense to appropriate your medicines, strip them of their cultural context, and use them for my own purposes regardless of my intent, spiritual or otherwise. I will not be engaging with Yage or other native medicines (peyote, san pedro, salvia divinorum, etc...) and will instead focus my attention on other entheogens which are both local and are not considered closely guarded sacred practices by colonized and otherwise oppressed communities.

Again, I apologize for any harm I have caused by my insensitive approach.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2015, 08:40:10 am by Praxis »

Offline Ingeborg

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Re: Using Sacred Medicines: When is it appropriate?
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2015, 02:00:27 am »
Thanks for apologising, although I think it's not quite necessary: your questions were asked in a respectful way and you were prepared to listen to what indigenous people think of the use of medicinal plants outside of the cultures traditionally using them. And then you did some thinking. Thanks for that.

In fact, educating the public about practices of plastics, about how they might endanger themselves by relying on plastics, about what harm they may do to ndn nations is one of our fields of activity. It's good to see it's not all Nuagers out there who get miffed at us as they feel we want to make them give up their favourite toy, but also people prepared to listen.

Offline RunsWithScissorz

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Re: Using Sacred Medicines: When is it appropriate?
« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2015, 08:11:39 am »
In reading over Praxis' posts and the responses he received, I'm left feeling that there needs to be some clarification -- well, for me if not for Praxis! 

As I understood him, Praxis was saying that he'd experienced something personally useful to him spiritually upon taking Yage/Ayahuasca, and he wanted to know whether he would be disrespectful to any NDNs (and/or specifically those tribal groups that use Yage/Ayahuasca traditionally in their cultures) by personally cultivating and using Yage/Ayahuasca for himself.

I don't understand what would be a problem with that?  A plant grows, people of any culture may encounter it and find it useful individually or in a group.  Maize was domesticated by NDN peoples, as well as the potato -- but people worldwide now grow and consume both and so far as I know, this is not considered to be culturally offensive to the NDN tribes who originally cultivated them.  As well, quite a few medications in the US Pharmacoepia have been derived from plants that were originally used by NDN people, often for the same purposes as the derivatives are used today -- is this all culturally insensitive?

If Praxis is not attempting to replicate a specific NDN ceremony with his usage of Yage/Ayahuasca but instead finds it helpful to his personal spiritual development, where is the insensitivity? 

Maybe there should be a thread about this general topic ....

Offline Ingeborg

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Re: Using Sacred Medicines: When is it appropriate?
« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2015, 12:11:36 pm »
I think it's probably appropriate you receive an answer from another Euro. As Praxis pointed out it is something of a pain having to explain to someone that they are discriminating and why....

Well, you do see the difference between plants grown for food and those harvested for use as medicines or during ceremony?

For one, plants domesticated (although in the case of maize e.g., it was far more than simply 'domesticating') will be available in larger amounts. Plants harvested for medicinal use and use during ceremony will only be available in small(er) amounts; some of them also need a particular climate, so they don't grow throughout the Americas or in Europe, but just in more or less restricted areas.

Food plants have been brought back to Europe and have been adapted to climates here, or in the Middle East, Asia etc., and have been grown here since centuries. Therefore, they are available in amounts large enough to allow widespread consumption, even though Euros were stupid enough to ignore the multitude of variants (e.g. maize, potatoes) and imported just a few.

Using derivatives to produce substances for medical use of course is not culturally insensitive. It does not claim much or most of a particular harvest for Euro use. On the other hand, derivatives have been worked at in order to provide a substance which is easier to administer, since the effective agents in plants may differ substantially, e.g. depending on the soil they were grown on etc.

In the case at hands, Ayahuasca traditionally has never been used to further a 'personal spiritual development'. Such use I would see as disrespectful and insensitive. No matter whether this use does or does not imitate indigenous ceremonies. It is also perhaps a good idea to pay attention in which way particular plants actually were and are used by indigenous nations instead of just seeing a possibility to get an exotic high and then gild this with an alleged 'personal growth' one is seeking. Apart from this, such an argument may be the initial half a mile down the road to catastrophe, or up sh*t's creek... If and when people want to get high, then why don't they just go ahead and why can't they admit this freely? Why does it have to be masked as an alleged 'personal growth'? Using drugs with this fake argument is at least part of what keeps pushers in business.

Which leads to another aspect of why this is culturally insensitive: Euros are depleting plants which effects their use by and availability to indigenous nations. That this, as in the case of Ayahuasca, is done to provide some Euros with an illegal high and allow Euro pushers to make enormous profits, adds insult to injury.


Offline Defend the Sacred

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Re: Using Sacred Medicines: When is it appropriate?
« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2015, 04:57:13 pm »
We already have threads on here about why spiritual tourism and personal use of Ayahuasca, outside of a traditional setting, is extremely upsetting to the people whose medicines and ceremonies are being misappropriated. Changing details of the ceremonies, or not knowing the ceremonies and just experimenting, none of these things make it better.

Please read the main page of our website. Sacred medicines -  the plants as well as the spirits and ways that accompany them - are not intended for individual use outside of that specific cultural, family and community setting. The medicines are part of a complete, cultural matrix, which includes checks and balances to keep people from getting lost in ego and illusion. To disrespect the wishes of the Elders who want to keep these medicines for their community, who want to keep the usage safe so it's not made illegal, is profoundly offensive.  How can you expect good spiritual results from such disrespect?

Every culture has its frauds and scammers, willing to sell out for the right price. But traditional people from the tribes have been very clear how they feel about this. It's just that they usually don't get heard by mainstream people, and are drowned out by all the exploiters. 

Elders in our communities have had people from the Ayahuasca-using tribes sob and beg them, and us, for help in stopping this misappropriation. The appropriation is damaging their culture, offending the spirits and risking their basic cultural survival. All of you who defend tripping on Ayahuasca outside of traditional context, and against the wishes of the people who have been entrusted with these ways, are being selfish. You might as well drop acid in the park. You are harming the people whose ways you steal, and angering  the very spirits you would seek help from. It's not going to end well.

Offline Thyme4Mind

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Re: Using Sacred Medicines: When is it appropriate?
« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2015, 03:34:27 am »
I don't think my input is really necessary but I just want to echo what others said. In the end my intention doesn't really matter if I am creating harm in the process. The fact of the matter is that it's offensive to use these tools out of context and by doing so I contribute to the continued marginalization of several different cultures. Think of the last time somebody hurt you and they just couldn't see what the big fuss was all about. Think of how frustrating and dis-empowering that felt, that your own feelings meant nothing because someone else simply didn't think you should be "complaining". It doesn't matter what I, as a non NDN person think is right or wrong, it's about being accountable to people who you have privilege over whether that privilege is legitimate or not.

I also think it's important to distinguish between cultural appropriation and cultural diffusion. There's a huge difference there and one implies consent while the other invisibilizes and oppresses entire groups of people.

This might be inappropriate of me...and please let me know if I've stepped over the line here, but I just want to address this:

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In the case at hands, Ayahuasca traditionally has never been used to further a 'personal spiritual development'. Such use I would see as disrespectful and insensitive. No matter whether this use does or does not imitate indigenous ceremonies. It is also perhaps a good idea to pay attention in which way particular plants actually were and are used by indigenous nations instead of just seeing a possibility to get an exotic high and then gild this with an alleged 'personal growth' one is seeking. Apart from this, such an argument may be the initial half a mile down the road to catastrophe, or up sh*t's creek... If and when people want to get high, then why don't they just go ahead and why can't they admit this freely? Why does it have to be masked as an alleged 'personal growth'? Using drugs with this fake argument is at least part of what keeps pushers in business.

I understand 100% where you are coming from, and I agree that it is disrespectful and insensitive to use Yage or any such medicine out of it's cultural context. But I don't believe that simply because someone is using these medicines outside of their intended context, however disrespectful and wrong that may be, their intentions can be boiled down to the desire to get high. I am not speaking for everyone, because the sad truth is that yes there are indeed many people who fit this label and they have no regard for culture or healing and are simply looking for new and "exotic" highs. In circles that I associate with we call these people burnouts, and these types of people are almost always shown the error of their ways and their offenses when they abuse these medicines. But the fact of the matter is that I know why I was attracted to ayahuasca. I was drawn to it because I truly believed that it could help me to become a better person. And even though my actions were disrespectful and I'm doing everything I can now to be accountable, that doesn't change the fact that I believe my experience with ayahuasca did help to make me a better person. My experience offered me profound insight into my life and I'm incredibly grateful for it. Does this justify the damage I caused? No. But if I can be honest I think by making broad generalizations like, "non-ndn ayahuasca seekers are just trying to get high and they're just using personal development as an excuse", you make people defensive and reactionary who might otherwise be more inclined to listen to what you have to say. I have seen ayahuasca cure drug and alcohol addictions that have lasted years in just a single session. That was several years ago and the people I speak of are still entirely sober. I've seen Ayahuasca and San Pedro turn people's lives around entirely for the better. These people had no right to these medicines and I'm NOT arguing that, but just because people are using it outside of it's intended cultural context doesn't make their intentions any different. The expression goes, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" so please understand I'm not defending their actions, but most people who I know personally who are attracted to ayahuasca are people with good intentions who are only trying to improve their lives and find meaning in a world that seems stripped of meaning. Should they be looking to ndn cultures for meaning? Hell no! I've also seen people who should ABSOLUTELY NOT be taking these drugs AT ALL, and more often than not they pay a heavy price for their meddling in things they should not be meddling with.

But I know the "psychedelic" line of thought and Ive seen how privilege can infiltrate that. As soon as you suggest that their intentions are "impure" they will regard your entire perspective as moot because in their eyes you don't even know why they are taking ayahuasca in the first place. Many of them might have sought out ayahuasca specifically to overcome an addiction, so for you to suggest that they're simply pursuing an exotic high, they perceive you as reactionary and illogical. I'm not saying their line of thought makes sense but privilege doesnt make sense. And though I get where you're coming from I don't think it's helpful to make broad generalizations like that. I can admit I was in the wrong to co-opt ayahuasca, but that doesn't make me a "druggie". If you start with a reactionary generalization, you'll get one in return. How will someone understand how their actions are offensive when their understanding of the issue is based entirely on emotional generalizations?

I know I'm in your space, I know I wasn't invited. I'm sorry if anything I've said above seemed like an attack or an overly defensive post, I definitely didn't mean for it to be. I want to be the best ally that I can be, and as a person of color I want you to know that while our situations might be different I am right there with you. Just please be aware that we all have different ways of engaging with the world and we all see things differently. I personally believe that using something outside of it's intended context without consent is wrong and there is no excuse for it. But I equally believe that someone who steals a stethoscope from a doctor and uses it on themselves, while misguided in their efforts for self care, they still intend to listen to their heart. The motive is still self care, even if the stethoscope was designed to be used by a doctor. The person stealing it is clearly in the wrong and they risk mis-diagnosing themselves and getting into all sorts of trouble, but that doesn't change what their intention is. It doesn't mean that the only reason they stole the stethoscope was for the thrill of stealing. Sure, I bet there are lots of people out there who steal medical tools for the thrill of it( ::)), but their mis-use catches up with them. Do you see the point I'm trying to illustrate? It's not that I disagree with where you're coming from or I that I'm trying to justify or make light of cultural appropriation, I'm just saying that just because somebody is on the wrong side of the fence that doesn't mean their intentions are corrupt or evil. Lots of people are looking to ayahuasca for reasons it was not intended for, but nonetheless it is changing their lives and more often than not in a positive way. As soon as you tell these people that they're only looking for exotic highs you lose them, and I guess that's all I was trying to say with so many words.

Ive taken up plenty of space, I'm sorry to jump on you like that Ingeborg and I'm sorry for such a long post about something rather semantic and personal. I just felt it was an important distinction and I wanted to point it out.

Thanks again.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2021, 06:26:45 pm by NAFPS Housekeeping »

Offline RunsWithScissorz

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Re: Using Sacred Medicines: When is it appropriate?
« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2015, 07:43:35 am »
Praxis, I think your point is well taken as to assumptions about intent -- had you not returned and made it, I was about to on your behalf  :)

I'd also like to direct some thought to Praxis' plan to cultivate ayahuasca personally, which then would not deplete the plant from its natural habitat and interfere with traditional NDN use in those places.  Would the same objection in terms of effect on the local traditional culture apply?

And I feel that it's important to point out as well that ayahuasca is just one of a number of plants used in important ceremonial ways by NDN cultures on this continent.  Cacao is another, and yet it has been widely marketed for quite a long time.  Both maize and tobacco have been used ceremonially, and still are in some NDN cultures, and yet they are disseminated worldwide.  Cedar can also be cited for its ceremonial use, and yet cedar is used in non-ceremonial ways by many people (furniture being one). 

Further, reference was made to the spirits that accompany the plants ... my understanding when growing up was that all plants are a living spirit (as differentiated from having a spirit that "accompanied" it) and an individual should be mindful of that, regardless of the reason for the taking of the plant.  Same as for animals.  Has anyone thought to ask ayahuasca spirit whether it is amenable to use outside the ceremonial context of the cultures it grows in proximity to?  It seems to me that this should be the first order of business out of respect. 

Lastly, suppose ayahuasca was discovered to have within its properties the cure for cancer.  Irrespective of the fact that the world-at-large *would take it*, permission or not, what would be the indigenous view on sharing it?



Offline Thyme4Mind

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Re: Using Sacred Medicines: When is it appropriate?
« Reply #13 on: April 02, 2015, 04:17:45 pm »
Hey 4bears,

I think some other folks here might be more qualified to answer your questions, but I'll do my best to share my perspective.

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I'd also like to direct some thought to Praxis' plan to cultivate ayahuasca personally, which then would not deplete the plant from its natural habitat and interfere with traditional NDN use in those places.  Would the same objection in terms of effect on the local traditional culture apply?

I would never be able to grow these plants myself in the first place if it were not for globalization and the commodification of NDN culture. Even though I can access these plants for free (seed sharing), somewhere down the line somebody made a profit off of these plants by selling cuttings/seeds and they did so against the will of Yage-using people. Even if I never spend a dime on these plants and grow them myself I am continuing that legacy of taking without asking. There are important sacred and cultural meaning attached to the plants themselves, not just the ceremonies, and when I take the plants and use them for my own purposes (especially without asking) I'm essentially saying that I don't care what indigenous people think and I don't respect their beliefs, and that my desire for the plants is more important than their culture and how they feel about it. I don't want to be that person. As soon as my actions create harm, specifically with these plants, any potentially positive motive that I had is no longer relevant. My personal healing should not come at the expense of others.

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And I feel that it's important to point out as well that ayahuasca is just one of a number of plants used in important ceremonial ways by NDN cultures on this continent.  Cacao is another, and yet it has been widely marketed for quite a long time.  Both maize and tobacco have been used ceremonially, and still are in some NDN cultures, and yet they are disseminated worldwide.  Cedar can also be cited for its ceremonial use, and yet cedar is used in non-ceremonial ways by many people (furniture being one).

I've wondered this myself on many occasions. Firstly, I think this is a slippery slope and an easy way to justify continued appropriation. Simply because we have successfully appropriated in the past doesn't mean that it wasn't hurtful and that we should continue doing so. Maize, tobacco, cedar, and cacao might be widely used out of context but they are not as "fresh" as ayahuasca. Meaning that the appropriation of Ayahuasca is a relatively new phenomena and it has direct impacts on people RIGHT NOW. It might not be any better or worse, but I have more of an opportunity to halter the appropriation of ayahuasca than I do with say tobacco which has been globalized to a massive extent. The wrongs of the past don't justify the wrongs of the present. Also, who's to say that some ndn folk aren't still upset about the appropriation of cedar or cacao? Just because it happened a long(ish) time ago doesn't make it any less relevant. That's just my take on this, perhaps someone else here with more knowledge could shed some more light.

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Further, reference was made to the spirits that accompany the plants ... my understanding when growing up was that all plants are a living spirit (as differentiated from having a spirit that "accompanied" it) and an individual should be mindful of that, regardless of the reason for the taking of the plant.  Same as for animals.  Has anyone thought to ask ayahuasca spirit whether it is amenable to use outside the ceremonial context of the cultures it grows in proximity to?  It seems to me that this should be the first order of business out of respect. 

I like this thought, and once again I'll defer to someone else here to respond to this directly. I will just say that certain well known new-agers and academics who promote the use of ayahuasca by westerners often justify appropriation by saying that the spirit of ayahuasca has a will of it's own and its appearance in the west is an attempt at a sort of wake-up call for such a backwards culture. I think this kind of logic is over-simplistic. If we follow this line of logic then who is to distinguish between what is to be shared freely and what is to be kept sacred to a particular culture? This kind of thinking allows for westerners and others to take freely without question, and justify it by saying that its' the will of the plant-spirit. It erases any sense of responsibility or accountability that we might otherwise have. I see this as a problem because then everything becomes up for grabs, and non NDN people have just one more excuse to use to justify their sense of entitlement. Should they desire a plant or medicine that isn't theres they can take it without asking, and when confronted about it "Well it came to me! The plant has a spirit and it wants to be shared to be used for healing the world. etc....." It erases the fact that we took in the first place, without asking either the culture from which we are stealing or the spirits of which we use to justify our claim. Now if Psychotria Viridis and B. Caapi started growing spontaneously in my backyard, then things might be a bit different. Then perhaps I could claim that the Ayahuasca spirit is attempting to spread and share itself for the benefit of mankind. But right now the only way for me to obtain these plants is to physically take them; they have to be imported or sent by someone who at one point had them imported.

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Lastly, suppose ayahuasca was discovered to have within its properties the cure for cancer.  Irrespective of the fact that the world-at-large *would take it*, permission or not, what would be the indigenous view on sharing it?

Ayahuasca very likely does not cure cancer. It is a remarkable healer in a number of other ways, but I don't believe there is substantial evidence to show that it is a cure-all for many life-threatening physiological illnesses. My opinion is that any effect that can be obtained through drinking ayahuasca can be obtained through the ingestion of any ayahuasca analog. Find local plants with the same active alkaloids, and I promise they are everywhere, and use them if you are drawn to ayahuasca for it's healing properties. Just be conscious and grateful of where this knowledge comes from, and that as non-ndn people we are still using plants and harvesting techniques that don't belong to us. As long as we are on colonized land we need to be very very careful how we explore these things. But that would be the alternative I would suggest, unless folks here find that even the idea of analogs is problematic.

Just my .02 cents! Thanks for your input, 4Bears  :) I've been thinking a lot about those very questions, and these are some of the conclusions I've come to personally. I dunno if they're right or not but this is how I've come to understand these finer points. I'm sure other folks have their own thoughts on the matter.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2015, 04:43:42 pm by Praxis »

Offline Ingeborg

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Re: Using Sacred Medicines like Ayahuasca: When is it appropriate?
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2015, 01:03:46 am »
4Bears, it's obvious you're exploiting Praxis and the questions s/he asked for your own agenda. This is as dishonest as it is 'mighty white'. You also seem to believe this way you will prompt Praxis into leading this discussion for you to save you some effort and conveniently take you out of the line of fire while putting Praxis into it. This also happens to be a traditional white strategy, BTW.

There have been enough posts stating that some things simply are not ours to take, or rather rip off. Period. So let's not act like the typical, run-of-the-mill honkie who starts whining „gimme, gimme, gimme“ and then throw multiple fits in turn with some unsubstantiated claims thrown in for good measure.

There is no – in ciphers: none, zero, eff-all – evidence justifying to the assumption Ayahuasca may be helpful in any way curing cancer. Nor AIDS, Parkinson's, kidney or liver diseases, diabetes, leukemia, and if you mean to overcome impotence, I'd also rather recommend different medications. These claims are simply sales pitches thought up by wily plastics, snake-oil vendors, and pushers seeking to fleece desperate persons suffering from severe illness and grasping for straws. As is often the case with altmed 'remedies', they aren't a cure-all to be employed to cure all diseases, but rather cure all the financial problems of the vendor. Promoting such false and dangerous claims is nothing but wrong and doing the job of unscrupulous altmed snake-oil vendors and plastics who are not interested in curing people but screwing them.

And please also refrain from trying and making any points on behalf of Praxis who is very well capable of discussing their issues without any white assistance or self-appointed white spokesperson. This is not the place to act out one's 'great white father' fantasies.