Ayahuasca & Shamanism


It is theorised by many academics and scientists that the use of psychedelic plants such as Ayahuasca may have allowed for the development of spiritual awakening in humans.

Ayahuasca grew thanks to our father. He took out a hair from his head and planted it in the rainforests of Putumayo. The Ayahuasca grew and God prepared it, he drank it and suffered. After he went to heaven and left Ayahuasca for us, the Cofan.

It advised us how to live well by recognising our mistakes, not treating others badly and living in happiness and harmony. From Ayahuasca comes our thought, it helps us to think with our heads and with our hearts. We also learnt our language through Ayahuasca which we use to give names to our reality. God left us Ayahuasca to save humanity.                                                  - Cofan myth of Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca (also known as Yage in Colombia) is made by combining the ayahuasca vine with chacruna leaves. Both plants are needed to create the brew as the vine contains MAOI inhibitors which allow the hallucinogen DMT to be absorbed.

Ayahuasca literally translates as 'vine of the soul' and is administered as a spiritual medicine by the Shaman during ceremonies to patients seeking physical, spiritual and emotional healing. What is fascinating is how the Shamans came to understand that out of all of the millions of plants in the jungle that brewing both of these plants together could have such a profound effect on humans.

The hallucinogen DMT is found in nearly every living organism which led scientist Rick Strassman to label it 'the spirit molecule'. In humans DMT is produced in the pineal gland, also known as the third eye and the 'seat of the soul'. It plays a key role in all kinds of extraordinary states of awareness and mystical experiences such as experiencing spiritual realms, alternate dimensions, meeting higher intelligences, dream states and near death experiences.

At times Ayahuasca can work as a miracle cure causing profound life changing experiences. However, some people have unrealistically high expectations for their first ceremonies and it is important to understand that we are focused on healing and not tripping. It is a healing process that continues to work for months after your last ceremony and Ayahuasca will show you what you need to see, not what you want to see.

Ayahuasca works differently with each individual so no outcome can ever be guaranteed, however, ayahuasca heals.

It causes individuals to go deep within themselves to where pain, trauma and disease exist and subsequently enables them to be released. At times you can actually feel the ayahuasca fixing your body by re-ordering your cellular structure and DNA which is a phenomenal feeling! It works by healing energetic blockages in our mental and emotional bodies which are then reflected as physical healing.

In recent years Ayahuasca has gained global popularity as it has come to light that it is very successful for providing long-lasting relief from emotional issues such as anxiety, depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the West we tend to be much more detached from the source of the universe so emotional problems are very common. However, to be emotionally unwell is not our natural state. Our natural state is of peace and happiness and Ayahuasca helps us to reconnect with this.

The visions that we experience on Ayahuasca don't solely take the form of 'seeing' but we also experience auditory visions, profound 'feeling' or 'knowing' visions and synaesthesia where you can literally see the movement of sound and thought energy.

Many have spiritual revelations about the nature of love, life and the universe, or receive messages about their life's purpose. Other times you may travel into the past, future or different dimensions making contact with spiritual, deceased or other worldly beings who act as guides or healers.

It gives rise to profound realisations because the plant enables you to process things that you have difficulty fully understanding in your everyday life. It dissolves the ego bit by bit allowing us to feel a greater sense of oneness and connectivity with others. You receive beautiful realisations about the true nature of reality and the sacredness of the universe.

At other times it transforms deep buried subconscious issues which are so profoundly hidden that you are not aware of what you are purging or what healing is taking place. All you know is that you are left feeling more peaceful, lighter and happier.

This leads us to the purge.

The effects usually take place 30 minutes after drinking, however, they can take place almost instantly or in other cases there is a delayed reaction. You will start to feel the plant moving down through your body through your intestines and down to you bowels. Once you start to feel the effects it is common to physically purge through vomiting, going to the toilet, crying, yawning or hot and cold flushes. This is a normal part of the experience and not to be dreaded, you will have enough warning to make it to the toilet if need be. The purging is the release of negative energy and emotions which have built up over the course of a lifetime.

During the ceremony the participants will purge many low vibrational energies into the ceremonial space. These will be in the form of old trauma and the Shaman directs these energies away so they don't re-enter into anyone else's energetic body. The shaman is the dominant energetic force and has complete control over all of the positive and negative energies, spirits and guides. It is important that participants stay silent during the ceremonies so as not to disrupt Taita working with the energies. It is also vitally important that you stay in the ceremonial space and don't wander off. Many strong spirits will be hanging around outside and you must stay in the protected space.

Before the ceremony starts after 10pm the Taita (Master Shaman) sets the ceremonial space. He cleanses and purifies the space with the smoke of green tobacco and other protector plants such as, sweet grass, sage, cedar and palo santo. In addition to being protector spirits these plants also open the gateway for the spirits and energies to do their work. The Taita will prepare the Ayahuasca to be drunk by calling on the guardian spirits to protect the Ayahuasca.

It is important to set an intention before drinking Ayahuasca.

This may be to receive guidance on a certain issue or problem, to become a more loving and better person, to see the universe or simply to ask the plant to show you what you need to see.

Everyone will line up to receive the Ayahuasca from the Shaman. He will give each persons medicine a blessing and call on the spirits to protect them before handing it to each individual. When taking the Ayahuasca state your intention to the medicine silently to yourself before drinking it. Ayahuasca tastes earthy and bitter so you can take a small sip of water to get rid of the taste. I recommend drinking a lot of water on the day of the ceremony to prevent headaches and dehydration but stopping a few hours before so as not to dilute the effects and so you won't disrupt your journey by continually having to pee.

Once everyone has drunk the Ayahuasca and are comfortably in their place there will be a period of silence. This is so everyone can concentrate on their intentions before the Taita starts to sing the icaros to call on the spirits and energies to help you transcend ordinary reality. The icaros are medicine songs and chants which have been taught to the Shamans by the plant spirits. He uses the icaros, leaf rattle and instruments to call in the spirits, to direct healing and to send away dark spirits. The healing takes place through sound frequency and vibration which is common in many ancient cultures.

The spirits that the Shaman works with are protecting spirits, guiding spirits and Doctor spirits. The Shaman directs the Doctor spirits to interact with, and heal patients in a number of ways - typically via a trance state. Over the years the doctor spirits have taught the Shaman how to use their medicinal properties to heal. Through 'dieting' different plants the Shaman learns their healing properties and is then equipped with all of the plant energies to utilise during ceremonies to heal the patients. They use their plant spirit medicinal kit much like a medical doctor uses their physical medical kit.

In addition to directing the trance between spirits and participants, healing may also take the form of cleansings, 'soplas' which is the blowing of positive spiritual energies into the body of a patient; and 'chupadas' where the Shaman sucks out dark or harmful energies from the participants.

The healing takes place through the Shamans ability to shift energy.  Everything in the universe is connected through the energetic web.


Shamanism is the oldest spiritual practice on the planet.

Archaeologists have found evidence of Ayahuasca ceremonies dating back 2500 years, however, its use is estimated to go as far back as tens of thousands of years.

Western doctors are starting to acknowledge what Shamans have known for thousands of years- that traumatic events are stored in our bodies cellular memory which leads to physical and emotional health problems.

'Shaman' translates as 'the one who knows the spirits'. Contrary to most Western doctors Shamans operate on the basis that the world is divided into two realms- the physical (ordinary reality) and the non-physical (non-ordinary reality). Both realms exist side by and the Shaman can journey between ordinary reality and the non-ordinary world of spirits and energy.

The non-physical realm is made up the upper, middle and lower worlds where the spirit world; power animals; the deceased; spirit guides; archetypes and higher beings exist.

From a Shamanic perspective everything contains a spirit, from things that we can sense with our five senses such as rocks, water, food and the human body to everything non-physical such as thoughts, feelings, souls and the like. The entire universe has a spirit as does the smallest particle of energy and the Shaman serves as a link between the patient and the spirit world to bring about healing.

Shamans are initiated into this work through some kind of calling which can take a variety of forms. They may be called through dreams or signs, or have been marked out as different from a young age.

It is also common for Shamans to called through some sort of physical or psychological crisis. The psychological crisis may be a near death experience, psychotic episode or breakdown. The wounded healer is an archetype for the shamanic journey as it is through overcoming their own suffering they are then able to cure others. This break down of the ego must happen to give rise to the expansive true self, and through their Shamanic training they continue to have 'ego deaths' which further unearth their true nature.

In the resources section I have included links to articles about the Shamanic view on mental illness as it's a very detailed and fascinating topic which I won't further get into it here.

The Shaman has learned to communicate with, guide and act on behalf of the spirits who give him or her their knowledge of how to heal. They spend many years of intensive spiritual, emotional and mental training to learn how to work with their specific spirit helpers and how to wield their powers to heal others. Their training is so demanding that many do not qualify as facing such dark energies and spirits is such a gruelling adventure.

Find out more by checking out my recommended resources.