Ayahuasca, diet and traditions: some cursory reflections on diversity

During the Eleventh International Congress of Ethnobiology: Local Livelihoods and Collective Biocultural Heritage (2008/Cusco, Peru) we put together an ayahuasca ceremony with a group of Kichwa shamans from Napo and a group of shamans from Colombia. It was a ceremony for academics and practitioners attending the conference – for them to get an insight into what ayahuasca is and how shamans work.

One of those present during an initial Q&A said: “I’ve just eaten, can I partake?”, to which a Colombian shaman answered: “Yes, no problem; you drink a cup, you vomit, then your stomach is empty and you’re ready for the dosis”.

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Real food, wild food, from the forest

The food at the gathering will be real – no chemicals, no corporations – coming from forest gardens; and it will be wild – collected by locals wandering the woods – straight out of the Amazon: comes in the mornings on certain street corners, small amounts, hand collected and irregularly. To get the good stuff you have to be there early and build relationships over time to know when and what is likely to come in the next few days. It’s no supermarket, but it sure is superfood.

In preparation little salt will be used and it will be from a natural source in the Andes adding precious minerals. No refined sugars, but some nutritious panela (rapadura / dehydrated sugar cane juice) will be used for taste, energy and also to add minerals.

What the season will bring, we shall see. Here are some relatively random examples from the last month: