16 July 2009

Santo Daime

The events of about 36 hours ago were the culmination of a chain of events that occurred over a remarkably short period of time in retrospect. I can summarize that chain this way.

The other Steve here at the Tennis Courts is one of my new acquaintances and is about my age. He is a composer who has written some movie scores and other things that have made him a little money. He is also a remarkably accomplished jazz guitarist who plays professionally here in restaurants locally. We fell into an extended conversation about four days ago and discovered some affinity.

Hard upon that conversation his daughter, Allison, and her husband, Frank, arrived from Montana. Frank is in construction. They will be staying permanently and are a delightful, young couple. Frank is going to build stuff here. His tools are being shipped.

Through Steve and Allyson I then made the acquaintance of a native American shaman and healer named Maria, a gentle and fascinating woman. Not to put too fine a point on it, we all kinda hit it off.


Now, I know this is all starting to sound weird because I have not been known in the past to hang out a lot with native American shamans. I cannot help it. It is the way things happened. I am not making this up. But I have found that shamans are not too awfully different from the rest of us except that they do not seem to be as interested in sports.

As the conversation developed I was invited to accompany all of them to a Santo Daime religious ceremony. I accepted the invitation. This was the little camping trip to Tequísquiapan that I alluded to earlier.

This religious ceremony took place at a private residence there commencing on Wednesday evening and ending Thursday morning. In the United States some women host Tupperware™ parties in their homes. In Tequísquiapan some women host Santo Daime ceremonies in their homes. It did not seem appropriate to photograph people there, but with permission I took some photos of the grounds around the house where we camped.

The back yard.

The roof.

The back yard from the roof with my little tent prominently in focus.

The parking area at the rear of the walled compound.

The Santo Daime religion is of Brazilian origin. Another Mexican shaman named Mauricio and his Brazilian wife, Anna, assisted in leading the ceremony with Mauricio responsible for the men and Anna responsible for the women. There are a multitude of sources concerning this religion on the internet. You may read as much or as little about it as you wish. There are well-done documentary videos about the religion on www.youtube.com.

Basically, the ceremony consists of lengthy periods of meditation punctuated with the singing of Brazilian hymns in Portuguese and dancing to the Brazilian hymns, the women on one side and the men on the other facing each other. We did this in a circle. It also quite famously involves the drinking of medicine, known as Ayahuasca, which happens to be--I don't know any other way to say this--a fairly potent psychedelic. The ceremony started at about 9:30 p.m. and concluded at about 3:30 a.m.

So I participated in this. I found it to be as fascinating an experience as I have had in recent memory.

To answer some questions that may come up immediately. . . . .

I was mildly frightened at times but that was something easily brought under control. Actually, I was most uneasy on the drive to Tequísquiapan. Driving to Tequísquiapan is like driving to the moon. Welcome to the real México, Steve.

God, this guy's tee shirt is a disgrace, but his presentation is immensely informative. Here is Part II of his lecture:

Yes, I drank all three offerings of Ayahuasca in full over the course of the evening and early morning. Some do one and a half. Some do two. Some do three.

No, I did not vomit, although that is a common experience viewed favorably as a jettisoning of impurities. One might logically suggest, as I did, that the only thing being jettisoned is that nasty tasting Ayahuasca. The answer as I understand it. . . . Well, I guess I never did quite understand the answer.

Two or three of the younger ladies apparently did vomit, although I did not pay too much attention to them. They were stunningly beautiful, and I did not wish to be distracted from my religious experience. By the way there were eight ladies and four men in attendance.

It was a little difficult dancing next to Frank at first. I am not contending that I am the best dancer in the world, but Frank is pathetic.

Exactly as with Alex Grey above, an interesting artist who has collaborated with the band Tool, after the first two offerings, I was sure that this was a bad, ineffective batch of Ayahuasca. It certainly tasted bad. Or there was also the looming possibility that it was not going to have any effect upon me in particular whatsoever. Therefore, I fairly blithely took the third offering. The whole deal then became very intense for me very quickly. As the gentleman with the asinine tee shirt explains above, it is not an entirely pleasant experience until you are done--pleasant then in a healing sense at the risk of sounding a little touchie-feelie here.

Yes, I did experience visions, which would be difficult to describe. I am not really going to attempt a description. You know how when we are in a hurry to accomplish something, we say, "I was meeting myself coming and going!" Well, in these visions I met myself coming and going, but I was not in any hurry to accomplish anything.

I will undoubtedly have more to say about this after I myself have had a bit more time to digest the experience. In the meantime here is a link to Lou Gold's blog, American in Brazil, which has a lot of interesting material, including links to accounts of the recent Oregon Supreme Court case regarding Santo Daime.

The most even-handed account of the religion that I have found, in spite of the very unfortunate headline, is this one from the TimesOnline.

What did Ayahuasca taste like?

Imagine taking a sample of every living thing, plant and animal, and every dead and decaying thing in the jungle and putting them into a big blender. Throw the switch for a minute, and pour it off into a glass.

Afterward, I also had the opportunity to purchase some nice lotion and a bottle of an interesting topical--not tropical--topical oil from Anna. She is trying to raise some extra money for a trip back to Brazil.


Candy Minx said...

NOW...I am truly jealous of your time in Mexico. NOW you are speaking my language.


Did I ever tell you you HAVE to read "One River" by Wade Davis?

Okay, I'm going to watch the videos now.

Candy Minx said...

You might find these bios interesting...





Señor Steve said...


Of course I was very generally familiar with Dr.Osmond and Dr. Hoffer, but if I was ever aware of their work with alcoholics, I had completely forgotten it. Dr. Hoffer's close friendship and work with Bill W., the co-founder of A.A., is a fascinating little piece of trivia, isn't it?

Related to that I did have an interesting discussion with Maria Teresa concerning alcoholism. She informed me that in Latin America treatment of alcoholism with Ayahuasca is very common, and more and more work is being done to study that. I have noticed that referenced here and there on the internet, but I am too lazy to go find those references again right now.

I had no idea that Dr. Hoffer had just died this past May. The end of another era.

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