The Yagé Complex by Neil Logan


Dedicated to Miguel Payaguaje and his extended family (including his father Delfín and his grandfather Fernando), as well as all the vine gardeners responsible for stewarding these sacred plants through time.

Note: This article was originally published  on Microcosms, A Home to Sacred Plants of the Americas. It has been republished here with permission from the author. 

Miguel Piaguaje making cuttings of Wai Yagé to plant in a garden with pineapples, Sucumbíos Province, Ecuador, 2017. (Photos T. Baldwin)
Miguel Payaguaje making cuttings of Wai Yagé to plant in a garden with pineapples, Sucumbíos Province, Ecuador, 2017. (Photos T. Baldwin)


This essay will present the origins, evolution, and human co-history of the Malpighiaceae family of ethnomedically significant vines in order to shed light on the confusion and controversy surrounding these important taxa. The intention is to draw attention to the importance of preservation and support of the indigenous cultures that continue to have deep connections with these sacred plants before this knowledge is gone. Images created with the confocal microscope of these species are featured in the website Microcosms: A Homage to Sacred Plants of the Americas.

Origin of the Malpighiaceae Family

South America separated from Africa around 100 mya. The Malpighiaceae family of plants originated in South America approximately 70 mya. The family has roughly 77 genera containing approximately 1300 species, ranging in form from vine, tree, or shrub. 88% of the genera are from the new world with 22% escaping to the old world. Quite a feat considering South America and Africa had been split apart for ~30 million years before this family was born. (See Davis et al and Davis and Anderson)

Ecology and Fruit

Many of the vines in this family function ecologically as pioneer and accumulation species that help promote soil fertility by rapidly colonizing open sunny areas and degraded sites. They climb to the tops of tall trees in search of sunlight. Eventually, they can become so heavy that the host tree collapses under the weight, thereby creating gaps in the forest canopy. When a vine reaches the treetop, it is perfectly located for reproduction. Once the flowers are pollinated, the resulting fruits, when dry, are shaken by wind and released, sending them helicoptering down to the forest floor below, where some of them will find new fertile ground to germinate. The fruits of Banisteriopsis and Tetrapterys species are samaras, which resemble maple seeds with a wing-like appendage that cause them to whirl as they fall so winds can distance them from the mother vine. Fruits with wings have evolved and have been lost over time several times in this family. Other genera like Diplopterys and Callaeum have some species whose fruits are not samaras, but rather reduced winglets with air pockets that help them float with currents downriver. Herbarium collections from the upper Amazon basin demonstrate a pattern of locations for these genera: they flow laterally following the river courses from west to east. The more Banisterioid species with winged-fruit (for example Diplopterys longialata syn. B. rusbyana) have a vertical distribution running north-south along the eastern Andes. This distribution could be explained partially by the prevailing wind patterns pushing the wind-dispersed species up against the mountains and then riding the escalator of Andean uplift. Interestingly, only family members with winged, wind-dispersed fruits such as the genus Tetrapterys are found in both the new and old worlds. How might this have happened?

Sprouting somaran seed of Diplopterys longialata var huambisa, photo by Julio Vicencio at Jambi Mayu, Ecuador.
Tetrapterys mucronata (Photographs by N. Logan with permission from the NYBG.), 1a&b – Bahia, Brazil (Amorim, Forzza, and Sant’Ana 3047), 2 – Rio Negro, Venezuela (Davidse 27817)

New World to Old World Migrations

During the Tertiary period, Tetrapterys and a few other related genera of the Malpighiaceae migrated north into North America and then moved east across a northern tropical corridor until reaching Europe. As temperatures cooled, the migrating Malpighiaceae moved south to central Africa where they can be found today. Other disjunct populations may have migrated later as long-distance dispersal events, but it is currently unknown how or when these most unlikely events would have occurred. While in the New World, oil-gathering bees have had a long-standing relationship with the Malpighiaceae. The disjunct populations of organisms in the Old World quickly morphed to adjust to the locally available types of bees. This demonstrates the genetic variation and morphological fluidity of this family and its ability to rapidly adapt to new circumstances. An example of this can be seen in the glands on the flowers of these species shifting from solely producing oil, to a mixed function strategy by which some glands produce oil, while others produce sugar. This has allowed the attraction of multiple potential pollinators to help ensure successful reproduction.

Early Encounters with Plant Synergies

Evidence shows early human inhabitants of South America combined tryptamine-rich seeds of the tree (Anadenanthera peregrina) with the beta-carboline-containing vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) to achieve synergistic effects analogous to the modern concept of ayahuasca (see Torres 2018). This could have happened very early in the migration process, because humans entering northern South America through the Orinoco river valley would have traversed large savannahs full of Anadenanthera peregrina, while B. caapi vines could be found growing at the edge of the zone where the savannah overlaps with the forest. It is reasonable to assume that in the search for food, both plants would have been an attractive source of nutrition for humans:  water (vine) and calories (legume endosperm). Presently, some people of the Orinoco are known to chew raw caapi stems. In fact, the Piaroa, an Orinoco-based culture, still insist upon the use of Anadenanthera combined with B. caapi for the strongest effects (Rodd 2002). Cultural and ecological context would shape the recipe and method of consumption (Rodd 2008). Over time, methods have evolved, leading to the development of preparations that produce various states of consciousness associated with each respective context. 

Ultimately, the use of B. caapi combined with more than one hundred potential admixture plants, became common across the eastern Andes from Bolivia, north to Colombia, and Venezuela, following the Amazon and its tributaries eastward across much of north and central Brazil. “Caapi” or “Cabi” are two of the more common names for referring to related vines across most of northern South America.  B. caapi is considered by many groups of these regions to be a kind of driver of ecological ingenuity. It is the fundamental master medicinal plant teacher around which all other plants revolve.

Considering that the bulk of the vine speciation likely has occurred as a result of Andean mountain-building giving rise to novel microclimates, gravity and the physical barrier created by tall mountains would impose directionality to the spread of these species. Consequently, most migrate downstream from west to east. In Brazil, there are no verifiable occurrences of endemic Banisteriopsis relatives associated with traditional human use. For these reasons, the epicenter of the human-yagé-complex relationship is likely to be found in the upper Amazon basin at the source of the watershed.

The West Meets Caapi

For 15 years (1849 – 1864) English botanist Richard Spruce traveled upriver from the mouth of the Amazon beginning in Para, Brazil. He arrived at the upper Amazon basin (year ~1852) and traveled up the Río Negro as far north as the Orinoco (where he witnessed the chewing of caapi stems) and penetrated deep into the Río Vaupés observing and documenting the indigenous cultures (Guahibo, Tukano, and others) he encountered. From a garden plot, he collected and described Banisteria caapi (the genus later re-named Banisteriopsis) in addition to the cultural uses, rituals, etc. surrounding it. He collected a distinct variation of B. caapi with elongated swollen nodes. Spruce’s description of ayahuasca’s effects is different from modern descriptions in terms of onset and duration. The brew he encountered consisted (as far as we know) of caapi mixed with the slender lateral roots of a plant he believed was from the Apocynaceae (Iboga family), called caapi-pinima (painted caapi), a reference to the red-colored veins running through its leaves. Spruce first identified this admixture plant as a species of the genus Haemadictyon, later reclassified as Prestonia amazonica. While Spruce insisted the plant was of Aponcynaceous origin, the leaves he describes (sans red pigment) have an uncanny resemblance to Diplopterys cabrerana leaves, whose slender lateral roots combined with B. caapi stems are consumed as a decoction by the Witoto people. Not long after Spruce’s departure from South America, the rubber boom would begin, ushering in a new era of ecological degradation, cultural exploitation, and more western explorers looking for new natural resources to feed industry.

Schultes’ Enigma

Approximately 80 years after Spruce, economic botanist Richard E. Schultes was sent to the Río Vaupés to study arrow-poisons and collect new sources of rubber for industries supporting the war effort. He documented many important plants and ultimately inspired many people to become interested in ethno(sic)botany and help with the Amazonian cause. He documented and collected 2 different yellow-flowered, Malpighiaceous vines belonging to the caapi complex. Both B. martiniana (Isotype of Banisteriopsis martiniana (A.Juss.) Cuatrec. var. subenervia Cuatrec.) and the type collection of B. cabrerana (syn. D. cabrerana) were procured from tributaries of the Río Vaupés. Schultes made an effort to identify the painted caapi (Prestonia amazonica). Ultimately, he eliminated Prestonia amazonica (or any Apocynaceae) from the list of possible candidates of important admixtures to the caapi brew. However, he was unable to definitively ID Spruce’s painted caapi, ascribing this moniker to a species of Tetrapterys instead. He referenced at least 30 kinds of (known) named varieties of caapi in the NW Amazon. However, Schultes was baffled by the local indigenous people’s ability to identify different varieties of B. caapi consistently, even at a great distance without touching, smelling, or tasting the vine, whereas he was unable to distinguish them. This has been dubbed “Schultes’ Enigma”. 

“This aspect of ethnobotanical studies certainly requires much more intensive and interdisciplinary field research. Are these kinds, different age forms; are they due to hardly perceptible soil or other ecological factors; are they the result of growing in semi-open or secondary situations, as opposed to the dense forest; are the specimens taken from various parts of the liana, are the cultivated specimens specially selected clones with varying chemical composition and, consequently, varying physiological effects; or are they chemovars?” (See Schultes, 1986)

Regional Origins of Plant-based Tryptamine + Beta-carboline Synergies and Migration Patterns for 3 Key Species of the Yagé Complex
Regional Origins of Plant-based Tryptamine + Beta-carboline Synergies and Migration Patterns for 3 Key Species of the Yagé Complex

Origins of the Modern Brew 

Some of the writings by Schultes and other researchers, as well as herbarium collections from eastern Ecuador reference the Payaguaje family lineage (and related branches, see Payaguaje 1990 and 2007). They are amongst many notable aboriginal families of the region. When researching the roots of the ayahuasca tradition, all indications seem to converge upon the area between the Río Aguarico and the Río Putumayo as a major region of diversity. The Tukanoan cultural areas on the upper Río Negro in Colombia would be another epicenter of diversity. Additionally, researcher Gale Highpine, places the origin of ayahuasca (in the popular form known today) in the Northwest Amazon where the Río Napo meets the Amazon River.

Ayahuasca = Banisteriopsis caapi (Photos and Illustrations: N. Logan), 1 – Banisteriopsis caapi var. ourinho from Brazil, 2 – Banisteriopsis caapi var. cielo flowers, 3 – Banisteriopsis caapi immature fruit, 4 – Banisteriopsis caapi var. DaVine fresh flowers, 5 – Banisteriopsis caapi trunk bark, 6 – Banisteriopsis caapi var. tukunacá from Hawaii, 7 – Banisteriopsis caapi var. DaVine close-up of flower

Due to a host of factors that are political, ecological, and cultural, for the last several decades it has been relatively easy for western explorers to access Ecuador. Since the vines cared for by these Ecuadorian indigenous families (who have a long-standing, well-established relationship with these plants and have handed them down person to person over many generations), they can be seen as a kind of reference standard against which other vines can be compared. Consider the northwest Amazon basin nestled up against the eastern Andes as the epicenter with spokes radiating mostly to the east and south of that point. The logic here is that the discovery and refinement of the technology we know today as modern yagé or ayahuasca, was born in this epicenter and then slowly spread downriver and traversed the eastern slopes of the Andes. The implication is that most vines found further away from this region are derivations of the legacy vines and their hybrids originating at the epicenter. By cataloguing the attributes of legacy vines and their ethno-categories, a reference can be built for determining the pedigree of any vine of The Yagé Complex, a term that can be used to refer to the numerous named cultivated varieties of Banisteriopsis caapi and related Malpighiaceous vines incorporated in yagé/ayahuasca preparations with analogous effects. B. caapi members of The Yagé Complex can be categorized according to four fundamental morphological features of these related plants: they have either smooth or swollen nodes; they grow as either low bushes or high climbing vines. There are many hybrids that intergrade within these four features, sharing characteristics that result in new cultivars. 

Tara = Banisteriopsis caapi var. tara (Photos: N. Logan), 1 - abaxial leaf glands flanking petiole at base of lamina, 2a - trunk bark, 2b – branch, 3a - fresh flower, 3b - mauve (#E0B0FF) flowers that fade to white, 4 - leaves with complex venation (twice divided)
Tara = Banisteriopsis caapi var. tara (Photos: N. Logan), 1 – abaxial leaf glands flanking petiole at base of lamina, 2a – trunk bark, 2b – branch, 3a – fresh flower, 3b – mauve (#E0B0FF) flowers that fade to white, 4 – leaves with complex venation (twice divided)

The Payaguaje Collection of Legacy Vines

Flower color and structure are important macroscopic features for identifying cultivars of B. caapi. Ayahuasca typically has flowers with pink petals that fade to white or creamy yellow when old, yet great variation exists. From the Río Aguarico of Ecuador has come a very special collection of vines that serve as a reference for The Yagé Complex. E. Jean Langdon’s work describes the people from this region who identify as Siekopai and speak the Paicoca language. Linguistic evidence links three of these legacy vines (tara, tzinca and wai yagé) to this region of Ecuador in Sucumbíos Province. The tara vine (which means bone in Paicoca) has long straight stem growth, smooth nodes and a flower with mauve petals that fade to white. The name may be a reference to the long slender portion of a human bone (diaphysis). According to Jonathon Miller Weisberger (in an accompanying Microcosms article), when tara yagé is prepared, the stems are pounded until the outer bark is completely removed and what remains resembles the inner part of the bone. According to Weisberger, tara yagé is so powerful that it is both cultivated and prepared far away from the community following strict protocols. The tzinca vine has large swollen nodes and white flower petals with a pink splotch running through the middle. It is also known for producing strong physical effects in those who drink it such as shaking and purging. Tzinca in the Paicoca language refers to the bulbous ends of a human long bone (epiphysis) alluding to the large swollen nodes of this vine. Wai yagé grows as a mounded shrub with flowers,  similar to “Tzinca”. Weisberger relates that the word “Wai” refers to meat, fish or game in general. This vine is prepared and ingested close to home, sometimes uncooked without additional admixtures (elaborated in a way similar to how kavakava is prepared in the Pacific islands). Wai yagé is consumed for the purpose of tracking the activities of animals. Branches and leaves of “yagé oco” are often added to one or more of the previously mentioned vines to produce “yagé”. The Payaguaje legacy vines, along with many related medicinal plants were collected with permission and encouraged to be spread and consumed. Various parts of the collection have made their way to the US mainland and Hawaii and are now grown across the southern US. The clearest message disseminated with this collection (across time and cultures) is, “keep drinking”. None of the plants in this collection are for sale, and each plant has been shared lovingly from the hands of one gardener to another the way it has been for millennia. It is in this spirit that confocal images of these plants from The Yagé Complex appear in this ecodigital repository that constitutes Microcosms: A Homage to Sacred Plants of the Americas.

Wai Yagé - Banisteriopsis caapi var. wai yagé (Photos: T. Baldwin and N. Logan), 1 - Leaf with abaxial glands around the margin, 2 - vine in habit, 3 – Flowers, 4 - stem cross section, 5 - swollen stems with short distance between nodes
Wai Yagé – Banisteriopsis caapi var. wai yagé (Photos: T. Baldwin and N. Logan), 1 – Leaf with abaxial glands around the margin, 2 – vine in habit, 3 – Flowers, 4 – stem cross section, 5 – swollen stems with short distance between nodes
Wai Yagé – Banisteriopsis caapi var. wai yagé, rare to see in flower, here pictured growing on the big Island of Hawaii, photo Neil Logan

Caapi by Any Other Name…

Most westerners understand ayahuasca as simply orally-activated dmt, with the vine merely serving to supply this function. Westerners tend to look for and expect certain effects from encounters with “psychedelics” (of which yagé is considered a member). For this reason, there is a focus on the dmt-containing plants. However, it’s important for western enthusiasts of ayahuasca to remember that, regardless which of the more than a hundred potential admixture plants are added to the brew, it’s still referred to by the name of the vine called ayahuasca or yagé. The name of the brew thus reflects its primary ingredient. Spruce’s notes demonstrate there were different recipes for the brew for different purposes and by different people. Documentation of those early encounters by westerners consistently report B. caapi as the principal ingredient. 

Resolving the Enigma

The original materials that best exemplify a species concept are referred to as the type and lectotype. Brazilian botanists working on Banisteriopsis caapi and its ethnotaxonomic varieties have only recently resolved these fundamental elements of species taxonomy (See de Oliveira et al and de Souza et al). Furthermore, vines from many genera of the neotropical Malpighiaceae are known to be used by people for traditional medicine and/or known to contain bioactive compounds. Examples of these genera include: Alicia, Bronwenia, Hirae, Tetrapterys, Banisteriopsis, Diplopterys, Callaeum, Mezia, Heteropterys, Glicophyllum,  Stygmaphyllon, and others. The neotropical Malpighiaceae have been in taxonomic revision since the 1980’s and are expected to continue being researched and assessed for some time to come. 

Tzinca = Banisteriopsis caapi var. tzinca (Photos: T. Baldwin and N. Logan), 1 – leaf, 2 - vine in habit displaying closely spaced swollen nodes 3 – flowers, 4 - leaf gland, 5 - leaf gland on base of lamina
Tzinca = Banisteriopsis caapi var. tzinca (Photos: T. Baldwin and N. Logan), 1 – leaf, 2 – vine in habit displaying closely spaced swollen nodes 3 – flowers, 4 – leaf gland, 5 – leaf gland on base of lamina

The difficulty of segregating these vines was, precisely, the enigma faced by Schultes. He was a botanist who collected and correctly identified thousands of plants in hyper-diverse tropical rainforests and yet these particular vines still confounded him. Botanists (Anderson and Gates) only recognize B. caapi as a single taxon with no botanically-valid varieties. Indigenous cultures and academics and preparers affiliated with the Santo Daime church in Brazil (see Monteles) have named varieties that number in the dozens. To segregate the two main varieties tucunacá (smooth nodes) and caupuri (swollen nodes) from one another, scientists have resorted to using light microscopes to peer into palisade parenchyma cells and vascular bundles. These botanists are only surveying morphological features such as flowers, leaves, bark, growth habit, microscopic cellular structure, etc., whereas the other groups (indigenous cultures and entheogenic churches in Brazil) have more experiential ways of knowing and categorizing that, in addition to morphology, can include sap color, number of lobes in the cross section of a stem, flavor, scent of leaves, physical and psycho-spiritual effects, amongst other characteristics. According to Schultes, their identity “depends on the conjunction of botanical features, chemical effects of the mode of preparation and cultural suggestions in the visions experienced.”  Each cultivar is known to have their own unique effects and context for use, which are often intertwined with their respective rituals.

“Each plant has a spiritual guardian and a shaman owner, and shamans often trade kinds. Furthermore, if a shaman finds a wild liana in the forest, he will prepare a drink to ascertain its worth for inclusion in his own repertoire, especially in regard to what visions it can induce; if he takes a cutting, he will then and there name and classify it [….] Further exploration between this conjunction of botany-chemistry-culture warrants further investigation [….] It is still an enigma.” (Schultes 1986)

Yagé oco = Diplopterys longialata var. huambisa (Photos: T. Baldwin and N. Logan) 1 – cross section of petiole, 2 – large nectaries at the base of the lamina, 3 – vine in habit, 4 – multiple meristematic shoots per node, 5 – flowers, 6 – stem cross section, 7 – trunk with deep vertical inclusions, 8 – mature leaf and fruit

All-in-One Vine

It has long been hypothesized there may have been an original proto-vine that contained beta-carboline and tryptamine alkaloids all in a single, easy-to-consume-plant (something akin to Psilocybe mushrooms). During his search for caapi-pinima, Schultes consumed a cold water extraction of bark scrapings from Tetrapterys methystica and collected samples of the plant source. Much of his collection was lost but some was salvaged. The fragments that are left seem to indicate another epithet: Glicophyllum stylopterum (A.Juss.) R.F.Almeida. Little is known about this species from modern research. However, in Brazil, a closely- related species that is considered another kind of cabiT. mucronata, recently has been investigated because Brazilian churches there are currently using it. The chemistry is such that it could be used as the sole ingredient in an ayahuasca-like preparation. The presences of 5Meo-DMT, 5Meo-n-methyl-typtamine, bufotenine, and 2-methyl-6-methoxy-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-β-carboline have been detected in this species. It is considered to be something only for specialists because it is potentially very dangerous due to possible cardio-activity (Queiroz 2013). 

Diplopterys cabrerana vs. D. longialata (Photographs by N. Logan with permission from the NYBG.)1a - D. cabrerana fruit, 1b - D. cabrerana type collection: Schultes and Cabrera 17459 Rio Pira Paraná , Colombia, Sept. 10th 1952, 2a - D. longialata var. Huambisa fruit, 2b - D. longialata collected by Limbach, M.D., C.F., No. 148, Morona Santiago, Ecuador, March 1, 1990.
Diplopterys cabrerana vs. D. longialata (Photographs by N. Logan with permission from the NYBG.) 1a – D. cabrerana fruit, 1b – D. cabrerana type collection: Schultes and Cabrera 17459 Rio Pira Paraná , Colombia, Sept. 10th 1952, 2a – D. longialata var. Huambisa fruit, 2b – D. longialata collected by Limbach, M.D., C.F., No. 148, Morona Santiago, Ecuador, March 1, 1990.

Diplopterys cabrerana Confusion

Another candidate for the all-in-one brew would seem to come from B. rusbyana (syn. D. longialata). This vine has long been conflated with Diplopterys cabrerana and appears to be the more commonly-employed admixture of the two in modern brews. There are herbarium collections of this species indicating that the trunk can be used to prepare a beverage (See Velarde-Núñez). Phytochemical analysis of this species found dmt in the leaves and bark as well as 2-methyl-tetrahydro-beta-carboline in the branches and trunk bark. Experience with this brew (where all parts of this vine are used) indicate the flavor is putrid and undrinkable, leading to the hypothesis that someone, somewhere along the way, figured out that the leaves of this vine (D. longialata) could be mixed with the bark that is relatively sweet-tasting (at least in comparison to that of B. rusbyana bark) of B. caapi, to produce a palatable tea. Might this explain how the modern yagé brew was born? This major technological advancement could have catalyzed the recent usage of caapi since a wide range of people could accept the flavor of this brew. Additionally, the National Cancer Institute (USA) funded a project in Ecuador led by C. F. Limbach in which two of their collections (“natem” B. caapi and “yaji” D. longialata) brewed together and reduced to a concentrated liquid extract is consumed to treat “various severe illness, incl. TB, malaria, yellow fever, and symptoms resembling female genitourinary carcinomas and basal cell carcinomas” (See Limbach, herbarium specimen, NYBG).

The strong morphological similarities between D. longialata and D. cabrerana and their ethnomedicinal uses have made proper collection and identification of the two very difficult. Their frequent usage keeps them in a near perpetual state of vegetative growth. For this reason, the vines rarely flower or reproduce, making their identification next to impossible.

Other vines to know part 1 (Photos: N. Logan), 1a&b - purgahuasca = Alicia anisopetala flowers and leaves, 2 - mii = Banisteriopsis muricata leaves, 3a,b,&c - Neidenzuella stannea - easily confused with desirable admixtures - flowers, trunk, leaves, 4 - huilca bejuco = Diplopterys lutea leaves
Other vines to know part 1 (Photos: N. Logan), 1a&b – purgahuasca = Alicia anisopetala flowers and leaves, 2 – mii = Banisteriopsis muricata leaves, 3a,b,&c – Neidenzuella stannea – easily confused with desirable admixtures – flowers, trunk, leaves, 4 – huilca bejuco = Diplopterys lutea leaves

Other Vines to Know

The pressure due to overharvesting of traditional B. caapi is now so great that alternative (back up) sources are being sought. D. pubipetala has become popular in recent times as an analogue of B. caapi. Its bark is considered a functional source of harmine and the plant produces compounds in the leaves that are being studied for their ability to treat cancer. Alicia anisopetala known as purgahuasca is used (like “snake head soup” made from B. caapi leaves) as a pre-ceremony cleanse. There is also a powerful vine with blue flowers (species unknown) and the “white ayahuasca” aka “Yawarpanga” which appears to be from the genus Aristolochia – in a completely different family (Aristolochiaceae) from yagé. This vine is used as a ritual emetic before ceremonies that are focused on healing drug addiction. Then there is the look-alike vine Neidenzuella stannea with leaves that could be confused with Diplopterys cabrerana and D. longialata or with Banisteriopsis muricata with shiny two-toned (discolor) leaves. This vine contains MFA (mono floro-acetate), a non-volatile compound that doesn’t boil off during the brewing process and acts as a respiratory suppressant known to kill cows! To add to the mix, R.E. Schultes wrote, “The plant Hawkesiophyton ochraceum (Cuatrec.) A.Orejuela & C.I.Orozco (syn. Juanulloa ochracea) (Solanaceae), which contains the alkaloid parquina is called Ayahuasca in the Colombian Putumayo, and is added to Banisteriopsis drinks.” Finally, Mansoa alliaceae., (Bignoniaceae), known locally as ajosacha (wild garlic), is another vine commonly added to caapi brews. Its leaves smell like garlic and are sometimes mistaken for Diplopterys cabrerana leaves. The roots are used to cleanse the body of parasites and color the brew yellow.

Other vines to know Part 2 (Photos: N. Logan), 1 – ajo sacha = Mansoa alliacea leaves, 2 – white ayahuasca aka Yawarpanga = Aristolochia sp. leaves, 3 – caabi = Callaeum antifebrile, 4 – Diplopterys pubipetala leaves, 5 – ayahuasca = Hawkesiophyton ochraceum flowers

Supporting South American Indigenous Cultures

What is the meaning of these legacy vines outside of their cultural and ecological contexts? The situation in the Amazon is much more dire than is reflected in the media. Friends in the front-line trenches of reforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado regions of Peru and Brazil report there is only ~30% of the Amazon left intact, and only 20% of the Cerrado! Some organizations in Ecuador claim there could be complete deforestation there by 2025. The best line of defense against deforestation is to support the forest-based cultures whose identity and livelihoods are intimately intertwined with the ecosystem within which it is embedded. To his credit, rather than continuing to exact more pressure upon wild collected resources, L. Miller did plan to cultivate the vine to supply industry, which was potentially a good thing. However, patenting a culturally significant species (as his own) is certainly not appropriate. Moving forward will require shifting the current unsustainable approach to one that is more equitable and that duly honors the worldview of indigenous peoples. What’s at stake is more than any single species. With the loss of biological and cultural diversity, we collectively lose resiliency in the face of an ever-changing world. Indigenous experience points to these vines as cross-kingdom, communication technologies, instrumental to understanding and integrating with ecosystems. Tools of this kind will help us navigate the ecological catastrophe that humanity (collectively) has been creating over the past several hundred years.

Growing caapi (Photos: N. Logan), 1, 2 & 3 caapi var. ourinho growing on a rebar dome with chacruna beneath *note the leaf litter deposit, 4. Teepee of wooden poles for trellising caapi vines = safe and responsible (Illustration by N. Logan), 5. Sweet caapi growing on a native tree in Hawaii = dangerous irresponsible – will accelerate tree fall *if using trees for trellis, plant vines on the upwind side

Yagé is not only a miraculous plant teacher. The cultivation of B. caapi can also help regenerate forest ecosystems. Rather than allowing vines to grow haphazardly, wreaking havoc on the new ecosystems into which they are introduced, instead they can be trellised on domes with chacruna (Psychotria viridis) growing underneath. Planting vines in a system that is well managed has the potential to regenerate soil and bring back the forest. Using longstanding traditions of agroforestry, together, we can develop regenerative agroecosystems that produce raw materials to feed our supply chains. This will slow the need to further deplete intact forest ecosystems and empower indigenous people to manage their natural resource base in a manner that honors their heritage.

Tara = Banisteriopsis caapi var. tara (Photos: N. Logan), 1 - abaxial leaf glands flanking petiole at base of lamina, 2a - trunk bark, 2b – branch, 3a - fresh flower, 3b - mauve (#E0B0FF) flowers that fade to white, 4 - leaves with complex venation (twice divided)
Tara = Banisteriopsis caapi var. tara (Photos: N. Logan), 1 – abaxial leaf glands flanking petiole at base of lamina, 2a – trunk bark, 2b – branch, 3a – fresh flower, 3b – mauve (#E0B0FF) flowers that fade to white, 4 – leaves with complex venation (twice divided)


Vines of The Yagé Complex play an important ecological and cultural role in the lives of people from the Amazon basin of South America. Shaped by the forces of continental drift, subsequent mountain building and human selection, these vines contain great diversity of form and function – a caapi for every occasion. As these lianas spread out across the continent from their point of origin, many new hybrids have been created that complicate identifying the pedigree and therefore application of unidentified vines. The morphological similarities between related taxa have perplexed even expert botanists. In recent decades, that confusion has been exploited, resulting in a patent awarded to a non-indigenous person with no acknowledgement given to the people responsible for introducing the west to these organisms in the first place. Over-exploitation of wild natural resources and deforestation have become undeniably serious threats to ecosystems and cultures who have coexisted and thrived together in the Amazon for millennia. Western culture must rectify its relationship with indigenous cultures on the basis of equality and respect in order to then integrate the wisdom of yagé to avoid global ecological catastrophe. 


Diplopterys cabrerana “Yagé ocó” photo by Jonathon S. Miller Weisberger
Diplopterys cabrerana “Yagé ocó” young leaves, by Jonathon S. Miller Weisberger
Diplopterys longialata var Huambisa “Yagí” by Jonathon S. Miller Weisberger
Diplopterys longialata var Huambisa “Yagí” young leaves and extra floral nectaries, photo by Neil Logan


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de Oliveira, R.C., Sonsin-Oliveira, J., dos Santos, T.A.C., Simas e Silva, M., Fagg, C.W. and Sebastiani, R. (2021), “Lectotypification of Banisteriopsis caapi and B. quitensis (Malpighiaceae), names associated with an important ingredient of Ayahuasca,” Taxon, 70: 185-188.

de Oliveira, R.C., Behrens, C.S.B., Nagamine-Pinheiro, N. et al. “Ethnobotany and Wood Anatomy of Banisteriopsis caapi Ethnotaxa and Diplopterys cf. pubipetala, Components of Ayahuasca in Brazilian Rituals.” Economic Botany 77 (2023): 18–47.

de Souza, Raniely Miranda et al. “Lectotypification and neotypification of names related to Banisteriopsis caapi (Malpighiaceae): a contribution to understanding of Ayahuasca,” Phytotaxa 585.1 (2023).  

Díaz León, Germán Leonardo. “NUESTRO YAJÉ… ¿TU DA VINE?: Elementos económicos, culturales y legales del debate alrededor de la propiedad intelectual sobre los Saberes Tradicionales”. Trabajo de Grado para Optar al Título de Sociólogo. Departamento de Sociología, Facultad de Ciencias Humanas, Universidad Nacional de Colombia. 20 de enero de 2006.

Gates, Bronwen. “Banisteriopsis, Diplopterys (Malpighiaceae)”. Flora Neotropica 30 (Feb. 18, 1982): 1-237. (Published by New York Botanical Garden Press on behalf of Organization for Flora Neotropica). Stable URL:

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Limbach, M.D., C.F., Diplopterys longialata, Province of Morona Santiago, Medicinal Plants of the Shuar, No. 148 and CFL139, March 1, 1990. (Herbarium specimen at the NYBG)

Luz, Thalita Zanquetta, Antonio Saulo Cunha-Machado and Jacqueline da Silva Batista. “First DNA barcode efficiency assessment for an important ingredient in the Amazonian ayahuasca tea: mariri/jagube, Banisteriopsis (Malpighiaceae)” 

Genet Resour Crop Evol (20 December 2022): https://doi. org/10.1007/s10722-022-01522-3

Miller Weisberger, Jonathon. “Rainforest Medicine, Preserving Indigenous Science and Biodiversity in the Upper Amazon” Berkeley California, North Atlantic Books, 2013

Monteles, Ricardo. “Eu venho da floresta”: A sustentabilidade das plantas sagradas amazônicas do Santo Daime. Universidade Federal do Amazonas (Manaus) (fevereiro 2020). Tese (Doutorado em Ciências do Ambiente e Sustentabilidade na Amazônia).

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Payaguaje, Fernando. El bebedor de yagé. Shushufindi—Río Aguarico, Ecuador: Vicariato Apostólico de Aguarico, 1990.

_____. The Yagé Drinker. Quito: Cicame, 2007.

Press, Sara V. “Ayahuasca on Trial: Biocolonialism, Biopiracy, and the Commodification of the Sacred.” History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals 63.2 (January 2022):  328-353.

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Queiroz, M. M. F. et al. “Chemical Composition of the Bark of Tetrapterys mucronata and Identification of Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitory Constituents,” Journal of Natural Products 77.3 (2014): 650-656.

Queiroz, M. M. F. et al. “LC-MS/MS Quantitative Determination of Tetrapterys mucronata Alkaloids, A Plant Occasionally Used in Ayahuasca Preparation,” Phytochemical Analysis 26.3 (2015): 183-188. DOI: 10.1002/pca.2548

Schultes, Richard Evans. “Recognition of Variability in Wild Plants by Indians of the Northwest Amazon: An Enigma,” Journal of Ethnobiology 6.2 (Winter 1986): 229-238. 

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Torres, Constantino Manuel. “From Beer to Tobacco: A Probable Prehistory of Ayahuasca and Yagé,” in Dennis J. McKenna, ed. Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs: II. Santa Fe, New Mexico: Synergetic Press, 2018: 36-54.

Velarde Núñez, O. Banisteriopsis rusbyana Peru: Department of San Martin, Tarapoto Province, Tarapoto, alt. 600m. Fickle climber. Cultivated. Its trunk is used to prepare a hallucinogenic and purgative drink.  N.v. “ayahuasca amarilla” 8/2/1958 O. Velarde Núñez 6589 (Herb. Morris Arb.)

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Vickers, William T. and Timothy Plowman. “Useful Plants of the Siona and Secoya Indians of Eastern Ecuador.” Fieldiana Botany (N.S.) 15 (1984):1–63. 

Virdi, Jasmine. “The Scientific Study of Ayahuasca Ethno-Varieties with Regina Célia de Oliveira,” Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines. (April 23, 2021):

Werneck, Beatriz et al. “Biodiversity of β-Carboline Profile of Banisteriopsis caapi and Ayahuasca, a Plant and a Brew with Neuropharmacological Potential,” MDPI (Plants) 9. 870 (9 July 2020): doi:10.3390/plants9070870

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About the Author

Neil Logan is the Innovations Officer for AgroforestryX and co-creator of the AgroforestryX design tool. AgroforestryX assists farmers, land managers, and conservation project planners to assess, design and manage dynamic multistory agroforestry systems. He is personally passionate about agro-successional restoration systems that produce medicinal, timber, and food crops to offset the costs of regenerating ecosystems. In addition to his work on Malpighiaceae, he has done extensive research on Prosopis, a summary of which can be read in the Microcosms Plant Index.

The Delicate Nature of Ayahuasca and Yagé

What happens when your soul begins to awaken in this world, to our deep need to love, and serve the friend? ~ Hafiz

I do hope my beloved readers will enjoy this post about the delicate nature of ayahuasca and yagé. My intention here are, through words, bring light to the following topics.

The Simourge, from Attar of Nishapur symbolic story ~ The Conference of the Birds
  • A personal experience of Tao and Universe
  • Original intentions for using entheogens
  •  Ayahuasca’s migration to the West
  • Yagé & ayahuasca, as gifts from heaven and earth
  • The precarious nature of ayahuasca
  • Map of the energetic realms
  • The hourly energetic clock
  • Gods Multicolored People and the Tradition of Yagé
  • Insights into the Tradition of Ayahuasca
  • The subtle energy path of the yagé
  • Factors that bring on ayahuasca precarious nature
  • Qualities of the good facilitators
  • A word on integration

All this, after the following overview.

I keep hearing just one too many stories about ayahuasca ceremonies going haywire and about people afterwards feeling scattered, startled and disintegrated. Essentially worse than before the experience, and in some cases this scattered or splintered feeling can last for months. Recently at the International Herbal Symposium, I shared a talk about the precarious nature of ayahuasca plant medicine. I asked people to raise their hands if they had heard about or witnessed an ayahuasca ceremony going haywire. Not to my surprised, the majority of the participants rose their hands. I will never go so far as to say I actually know anything about this topic, non the less after three decades of experiences working with Indigenous peoples communities in the Upper Amazon I feel obliged to share the little I know in hopes this information will assist a deeper understanding that will allow for a more auspicious use of sacred plant medicines to be ushered forth.

Sunlight through a vine of yagé

And it was this type of spirit that I was able to perceive among the indigenous peoples of the Upper Amazon. My kind hearted elders, when they saw I had the willingness to hold it up over the years, and to try to learn, they were generous and kind to me and allowed me to perceive the essence of this wonderful, yet wayward, spiritual tradition. Being though, that their way of life is set within an intimate bioregional association and the transmission of their teachings is through an oral type of literature, through song and storylines, through symbolic face and pottery painting, with no written references.

There are vastly diverse traditions and plant preparations relating to the use of ayahuasca and yagé, for which in this article I will refer to these as “entheogenic plant brews,” and or “Grandmother medicine.”  All things powerful, such as entheogenic plant brews,  are like a double edged sword. They can be used to cleanse a person of what maybe holding them back, re-orienting them in a healthy life direction. And they can also throw people off track, leaving them fragmented and feeling scattered, unable to find their center and feeling lost. Given the “delicate” nature of sacred plant medicine, especially when strongly prepared, coupled with the lack of knowledge of the traditional guidelines set in place to ensure its auspicious use. With a lack of this adherence and dearth of a certain kind of know-how. When handled by those novice in these esoteric sacred arts and clueless of regulations regarding the use of advanced traditional practices, which essentially drinking entheogenic plant brews is. Much too much room opens for ayahuasca’s precarious nature to be made known, triggering mayhem and chaos.

For these reasons I am obliged, and only for the sole purpose of adding clarity to this topic, to reference the sovereign authority of various world heritage traditions. Who in their attempt to preserve the spirit of unspoiled human nature and the path of spiritual self cultivation, have produced exquisite literary masterpieces. Such as, from the Integral Way of Tao, the works of Master Ni (endearingly referred to as Omni), reveal the ways in which each person can achieve themselves. A few lines from Sufi mystical poets Hafiz and Rumi to blur the edges of duality. Reference to Attar of Nishapur’s symbolic story the Conference of the Birds, about the spiritual journey human beings must take in order to achieve a direct experience of God. And the Slavic folk tale of the sacred firebird, which represents the heroes journey and the obtaining of something very rare and very precious.

And while these traditions may not specifically be about entheogenic plant protocol they are precisely about what the sacred plants intend to accomplish and teach! Helping people orient their life compass, charging participants with new zest for life, empowering each person who seeks this in the correct way to tap into their very own essence, where resides in all people, the divine spirit of life. World heritage traditions allow us to re-encounter our authentic selves and raise our vibrational level. They help us reach the type of absolute quality spoken of in the literature! Such to the extent that drinking yagé, is like drinking the timeless literature itself! Simply put, it has to do with preserving the very essence of life. Being that the search for wellbeing and truth unites all world religions, people searching to lean and heal through the use of entheogenic plant brews, can deepen and refine the understanding of their very own faith. This medicine does not request people to leave their faith, rather through their own form of faith go deeper. Reflections, that show us the path home.

In this article allow me to share a few “golden” and “time-tested,” features of traditional schools of thought. Insights into universal phenomena and  guidelines for safeguarding the auspicious, we can say “delicate” usage, of sacramental entheogenic plants.


A Personal Experience of the Union of Tao and Universe

In the late 1990’s, on a visit to my fathers house in New York, I came across a book in his homeopathy chest, The Taoist Inner View of the Universe and the Immortal Realms, written by Hua-Ching Ni. Seeing my interest in the topic my father gifted me the book, as he was sure I would enjoy it. Back in Ecuador, I was leaving my apartment, a small pad in the hot spring town of Baños, for another several months sojourn, in the Amazon region, with Siekopai traditional elder Cesareo Diego Piaguaje. Just before leaving my apartment I oddly enough, heard my name being called from my book shelf? Looking over I glanced directly at the book my father had gifted me, and along it came with me on the voyage.

Once back at don Cesareo’s house, on the rain drenched Aguarico river, it all came full circle. I had nick named don Cesareo, “King Crown and the Rational Crackers,” for a man this profound and funny needed a nick name just as keen. When we weren’t out cooking yagé to heal the villagers, working long hard days with little food and water, or out hunting for lunch, he would be ripping jokes that made no sense, a trait his wife was not fond of. The yagé was insanely strong, and all my rationality has been effectively cracked, shattered into a million piece. I found myself devastated, in a puddle of inexhaustible tears. The colonization frontier and so many things I saw occurring among the indigenous peoples communities I was working with, the ecstasy and the tragedy. All this coupled with probably too much very strong yagé and a Saturn return all had me spinning!

I began reading master Ni’s book, and the words came to life on the pages, gripping me with a fascination like non I had felt before. I was ripe and ready and absorbed them like a sponge absorbs water. Like re-encountering a long lost best friend or relative. Like a compass stuck in a swirl that finally settles and finds again its north. The phenomena of when the thirsty seeker meets an ocean of wisdom. The teachings of the Integral Way of Tao, for me, really sank in deep and helped me gain a fresh perspective to my entheogenic explorations. They allowed me to continue, they gave me the strength of clarity I needed to prevail, at least a little more, on this path, as I was literally on the verge of throwing in the towel.

At the very end of The Taoist Inner View of the Universe and the Immortal Realms, Master Ni, in a few sentences, shares that he offers birth chart readings. It wasn’t long before I scheduled a meeting with him, during an upcoming visit to my parents in the US. Eventually I met master Ni on three occasions. Meetings that marked my life in a deeply positive way.

On one of those meetings master Ni conveyed to me, after looking at me for a long while with a deeply focused gaze, that my work in this world was to find the modern interpretation of the ancient truths, without diluting their essence! I was confused about the yagé and shared with him extensively about this topic and asked him his thoughts. Master Ni softly replied, “If you see it is helping people, then you know it is good!” Just before my time was up Master Ni softly conveyed the following, he said. “One moment with me, is like an eternity.” And he sent me out the door, in a puddle of tears, to continue my work in this world.

The Workbook for Spiritual Development of All People, by master Ni, Hua-Ching  is a great place to start for any sincere student, from the Traditions of Tao, one finds highly practical teachings and guidelines, that perfectly coincides with many aspects of the disciplines and ways taught by our kind hearted Siekopai elders relating to the ways of the yagé and the disposition necessary for success.

Considered the Mona lisa of literature, the teachings of Chuang Tzu, an ancient classic rendered into lucid modern form, again by Taoist Master Ni, Hua-Ching, Attaining Unlimited Life, Teachings of Chuang Tzu. This book offers a very deep tome for those who are seeking an understanding of the nature of life. Contained on each precious page you will find here the teachings of Chuang Tzu and his deep understanding of the universe and how it works through humans. This book offers a jump start on to how to live in tune with universal nature.

Dedicated to the sincere seeker of personal spiritual growth and the truth of eternal life. A passage from this books introductions reads. The truth teaches the perpetual way. False beliefs cause your life to be consumed by great images or ideas. This booklet does not recommend anything of that sort. It only recommends the normal, perpetual flow of life’s channel. The rotation continues endlessly, as with the change of seasons. This is why it is the Heavenly Way.” Click here to download a free pdf.

A Map of the Realms, the Energy Clock and Cultural Considerations…

In order to reign in all loose phenomena that brings out or makes evident ayahuasca’s precarious nature. Firstly it is necessary to clarify the map of the energy realms and the reality of the divine immortals as the pillars and unfailing guides. This is vital for one fundamental reason. This being that the sole intention for using entheogenic plant medicine in a ceremonial context is for communion with the divine immortals. With the “Always new ones”, the ultra clean, ultra fluffy, immaculate and supreme medicine doctors of the immortal realms. Being that the divine immortals are pure universal subtle law, the way to allow them to guide us, is through learning to align and merge with universal subtle law.

Secondly, the importance of understanding the energy clock and how this relates to which spirits one may be connecting with. The universe is an energetic array of realms and realities from the most sublime to the most dense. The human realms are closer to the realms of spirits and the denser realms of ghost and demons, and has a fluid connection with these realities.

The divine realms are always, right here and right now, yet there are veils, that prevent us from having a fluid connection. The energy clock is a valuable tool for understanding the timing of certain activities in regards to the energies at those hours present.

Though the map of the realms and the energy clock have been prescribed and clearly formulated  by the Tradition of the Integral Way of Tao, I have found them as well spoken of and understood among indigenous Amazonian maestros of entheogenic plant medicine traditions. These rainforest schools, with no written languages, being oral traditions and mystical in nature with many teachings being wordless, makes it where long periods of time are needed to understand their deeper essence. The Taoist cannon is loaded with marvelous works of profound literary power. This wisdom grants students a unique vantage point from where to understand different life phenomena. In the study and application of entheogenic plant medicines traditions they reveal themselves as a failsafe tool for this type of navigation.

In conclusion you will find a some discussion, on the topic of ayahuasca’s precarious nature, cultural or traditional considerations and commentary on the topic of “integration.”

We have come into this exquisite world. To experience ever and evermore deeply, our divine courage, freedom and light. Start seeing everything as God, but keep it a secret. ~ Hafiz

The original intentions for using entheogenic plant brews

Ayahuasca inspired patterns painted on a Shipibo home in Peru (1998) photo by the author.

When taking a deeper look at the intention and in-situ traditional usage of entheogenic plants, we can see that historically these have been employed to bring about and enact a vastly diverse array of realities.

On a Personal level: To bring about wholeness, healing and wellbeing through communion with divine immortals. To allow the participant to embody true wisdom that is rooted in respect, that grants one the conviction to personally consecrate oneself to a spiritual way of life. In service to not just oneself, rather as well to others, to ones community and for the people, for the benefit of living beings and the environment.

On a Community level: To facilitate a co-evolution of Heaven on Earth and to maintain an original celestial order. This can be observed among the ayahuasca churches of Brasil where through their work the quality of life of the people and their communities have become enhanced.

On a Regional and Planetary level: By way of mystical and esoteric majesties deflect enthrallments of vampiric galactic forces allowing for harmony to fill the lives of all living beings. On page 201 of Rainforest Medicine, there is a section called “Types of Jaguars to be Avoided,” relating wisdom of the Siekopai drinkers of yagé, about three types of deadly galactic powers, these being the Sëamë’yai: the “enthrallment jaguar,” the Matsima’yai: the “red poison jaguar,” and the Neatañe’yai: the “black shadow jaguar.”  Yagé drinkers of old, knew how to deflect these powers in order to bring about times of peace. Sadly though there are few masters alive today, who embody these skills. Fortunately though, they left the vital instruction that highlights the following, devotion to peace and spiritual cultivation by all people and especially world leaders,  deflects these powers and accomplishes the same phenomena.

Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation. ~ Rumi

Ayahuascas Migration to the West

The subtitle on this article (Sept 12, 2016 New Yorker) reads, “How ayahuasca, an ancient Amazonian hallucinogenic brew, became the latest trend in Brooklyn and Silicon Valley.”

Of course it was only a matter of time, where anything this spectacular would be consumed into Western cultures with a fascination almost like non other. Here just one example of an article in a mainstream magazine, The New Yorker, “The Drug of Choice For The Age of Kale.” Dozens and dozens of reviews are heralding ayahuasca as a panacea heal-all. The curious thing is all this before people have gained a deeper understanding of what this truly is, and the knowledge of how to avoid its precarious nature.

Crowning of the disciple by Pablo Amaringo

Less being spoken of is the potential for ayahuasca ceremonies going haywire. This phenomena is growing exponentially as grandmother medicine travels far and wide without the fundamental education that guides its traditional use. Cultures that have worked with ayahuasca or yagé for generations know all too well that adhering to traditional guidelines is a prerequisite. To guarantee that the auspicious nature of ayahuasca wins over the precarious, certain fundamental pillars must be understood.

Yagé & Ayahuasca ~ Gifts from Heaven and Earth

B. caapi

All across the South American continent Indigenous peoples, communities and various religious groups use the vine “ayahuasca,” or “yagé” ~ Banisteriopsis caapi and its principal admixture plants, these being Psychotria viridis, known as “chakruna” or “amiruka panga,” and Diplopterys cabrerana known as “chagropanga,” “chali panga” or “yagéocó,” as a sacraments. The traditions that govern the use of these and related vocabulary are as broad as the breadth of the entire Amazon , the bosom from where these treasures of the rainforest have been born. Believed to be gifts from divine spiritual beings , we can say from the gods themselves to humanity, so they may not drift from their original unspoiled natures. Use of these plants has been documented in over 120 distinct indigenous groups all over South America. Despite the vast  array of traditions relating to these plants, at their core, there similar foundational pillars. This being, so as to communion with divine beings; as such allowing people to be part of  an integral salvation, one that participates in co-evolving heaven on earth. That’s right, co-evolving Heaven on Earth!

The word ayahuasca translates as, “vine of the soul,” “bitter vine,” or “vine of the spirit.” Some symbolic interpretations of the name relate this to mean, “divine union,” between the light of heaven and the strength of the earth. While yagé translates as, “The essence all spiritual beings use to stay connected with their immortality,” or simply put, “immortal essence.”

P. viridis

Ayahuasca and chakruna  are believed to have grown from the grave of Manko Kapak, the founding father of the Inka people, so that his descendants may access his wisdom. These pants also grew from the heart of the Shiu Amarun, the glistening fertility boa of the earth, when it was slain by the Atacapie, the seven headed boa of chaos and disintegration, so that people may again learn to tap into and unite with the harmony of Mother Nature. Yagé and yagé oco, it is believed were given to the early speakers of Paicoca (Western Tukanoan, the peoples idiom) by The Ñañë Siekopai (Gods Multicolored People). Yet eons before that, before people even inhabited the planet, ceremonies of yagé were being conducted by the a legion of immortals, the “dawn and dusk immortals,”  know as the Naipai. And there are many many other origin legends that share how this essence passed through from the immortal realms to the present physical realms.

These entheogenic plants are considered “gifts of the gods,” having assisted indigenous peoples and human communities in many of life’s countenances. First brought to the attention of Western audiences in the distinguished work of Richard Evans Schultes, Plants of the Gods.

Entheogenic plants have the uncanny and remarkable ability, and this has been highlighted  across various traditional cultures, to grant each individual clarity on how to remain aligned with the currents of a heavenly way of life. Being a co-contributor of evolving heaven on earth is not a philosophical idea, rather a highly practical school of life. It is the “science” of integrity, it is spiritual development and it is energy cultivation. From this we can understand that sacred plant medicine traditions offer participants a ‘jump start,’ in the ability to adhere to a certain life disposition that allows one to align with a celestial order. A way of life that permits each person to open energy blockages and live with happiness and a greater sense of ease. That is when correctly used.

Another comprehensive dive into the topic is the book: Ayahuasca Reader: Encounters with Amazon’s Sacred Vine. A panorama of texts translated from nearly a dozen languages on the ayahuasca experience. These include indigenous mythic narratives, testimonies, and religious hymns, as well as stories related by Western travelers, scientists, and writers who have had contact with ayahuasca in different contexts. I met Luis Luna when he was working on this book and shared with him a Huaorani myth I had documented, which he asked me to contribute. The piece is called, A Huaorani myth of the first Miiyabu (Ayahuasca). From the Huaorani people, we learn yet another perspective, about the subtle power of this most peculiar Amazonian vine.

As we learn from these books, there is a vast body of knowledge related to the use of entheogenic plants. This brings up the topic of the differences between the Indigenous Science of Yagé and the Indigenous Science of Ayahuasca. A short video on the topic can be found here: Differences between Yagé and Ayahuasca.

The Precarious Nature of Ayahuasca

The precarious nature of ayahuasca has not just recently appeared among westerners in its modern context, the drift starts long ago in its ancestral setting. In the Amazon.

For it is not just today that life has been fraught with challenges and complexities.  Notwithstanding, the precarious nature of ayahuasca has not just recently appeared among westerners in its modern context, the drift starts long ago in its ancestral setting. In the Amazon, the use of sacred pant medicines has not all been kind, and any elder of the tradition will share too many accounts of ayahuasca being used to manipulate, enact mind control, force upon people demented realities, bring about trauma, damage others, and it has even been used for murder. In many instances of Ayahuasca Visions – The Iconography of a Peruvian Shaman by Pablo Amaringo and Luis Eduardo Luna, this harsh reality is illustrated.

I also expound upon this topic and how these issues where dealt with, in chapter two of  Rainforest Medicine, “Degradation of the Spiritual Science: Sorcery and Superstition.” Western audiences are just beginning to understand the challenges of working with ayahuasca, and there are countless accounts of ceremonies gone haywire; participants leaving splintered, worse than when they entered. In general terms, in order to guide its auspicious use, the fundamentals remain constant throughout all the cultures that traditionally use it. Allow me here to elucidate some of the lesser understood characteristics of Indigenous Science.

Map of the Energetic Realms

The celebrated Taoist teacher, Master Ni Hua Ching, in his book the Taoist Inner View of the Universe, shares a map of the universal energy spectrum. The chart illustrates that from the most subtle realms, [those transcendent of time and space], to the physical, gross and insensitive realms, [those bound by time and space]. From the subtle origin and the celestial realms only the divine immortals, referred to as the heavenly Shiens, extend through all the vibrational realms without modifying themselves. They extend through those of the starry beings, of the mountain deities, of the numen and doctor spirits; through the realms of the primal energies and elemental powers, and even through the realms of nature spirits, the human realms and the lower realms of ghosts, demons and sorcery realms.

Only the reality of the divine immortals, who are pure universal subtle law, pass through all the veils reaching through all the realms all the while remaining unchangeable.

It is for this reason that the divine immortals, the “heavenly Shiens” as known in the Traditions of Tao. The “Wiñapai” the “Always new ones,” the “Always fresh ones,” the “Matëmopai – the “Heaven people,”  – as they are referred to among the indigenous Siekopai of the upper Amazon. And the many names for them across different cultures – alone, are the unfailing guides of all time tested world heritage traditions, including the sacred plant spirit medicine traditions. From here forth let us refer to them as the “divine immortals.”

The purpose of drinking yagé was to learn to understand the way of the divine immortals. Given it was then who gave the varieties of yagé to the upper Amazonian peoples. And it was them who thought the early people in the ways to use it, and for the sole purpose of communion with these. In reality, not one person living on the earth can say they own the yagé, for the yagé is owned by the divine spirits. And it is they who are allowing us to handle this for the meantime, so we may learn, so we may heal and so we may evolve. We are only borrowing it from them.

If we are borrowing something from someone, this implies we are the guest. The question then is, who is the host?

If you choose to adhere to how all this began, then let the host be the highest, most exalted, divine energies of the multi-universe. When we align to a subtle universal way of life, then we know, who is the host. Reason why the elders always advise, “be generous like a host, and live respectfully like a guest.”

This unique quality of the divine immortals to remain constant through a perpetual state of renewal, is unlike any of the realities in the realms bound by time and space, where any element will undergo modification when they enter either a higher or lower energetic realm. They are unchanging for they are pure universal subtle law. Thus to understand them we must understand the universal subtle law. Master Ni has a book about just this entitled, Tao, The Universal Subtle Law and The Integral Way of Life.

As illustrated in the energy map, natural deities can rise up to the immortal realms and descend to the realms of astral beings and nature spirits. Nature spirits and astral beings can rise to the realms of natural deities and sink to the realms of humans. Humans can rise to the realms of nature spirits and descend to the realms of ghosts and demons.

At the threshold of the realms, there are energetic barriers. In order to pass through the veil and open the blockages, learning to concentrate one’s energy, adhering to the principles of universal subtle law, upholding the art of selfless service and using one’s cultivated virtuous nature will allow one to open one’s inner blockages in order to pierce through the veils to perceive the ultimate realities. Being sincere is a prerequisite for learning to understand universal subtle law and for making even the most minimal progress, let alone for accomplishing long lasting success.

The Hourly Energetic Clock

The hourly clock is a phenomena of many traditional cultures, each with their own unique way of interpreting the types of energy present throughout different times of the day. Again from the Tradition of the Integral Way of Tao, we learn how through the day the interactions of yin and yang vary. A topic far too profound to cover here other than a few aspects of this that coincide with traditional Siekopai wisdom relating to the ceremony of Yagé. On which below I will expound further.

We can understand mid-day as the peak of yang energy. The time of sunset is when the yin energy extends and the yang gets bent up. Early evening, is related to being dismembered; its forms destroyed. Midnight is the peak of yin energy, a quiescent time indicating the endless opening to the properties of the pure realms of the Earth; the multitude of her faces . After midnight the yang begins slowly returning, at 3 am to sunrise begins the time for agreement of yin and yang energies. The dazzling lights begin to increase; yin and yang harmoniously relate as friends.

“The womb of life and ayahuasca in the veins” by Pablo Amaringo

Now that the energy map is clear, allow me to elucidate some related insights into the daily energy clock in reference to sacred plant medicine ceremony. In a nut shell, from sunset to midnight is when the spirits, the elementals and primal energies become apparent, and from midnight to sunrise is when the celestial energies become apparent. Ayahuasca ceremonies traditionally occur from sunset to midnight, for the purpose of using the elemental powers to heal. This has been transferred to modern day settings, and people seem to think that just drinking the ayahuasca in and of itself and reciting healing songs or listening to recordings is sufficient for auspicious results, without the rigorous prior disciplining or knowledge of the realms.

Under the influence of the sacraments all sounds and movements are considered a certain type of invocation. For this reason plant medicine ceremonies, intended to introduce students to the celestial spirits, remain quiet until midnight or even up until the wee hours of dawn.

In a traditional ceremony of yagé, participants drink strong brew throughout the night, all the while remaining quiet and observant, and avoid altogether the elemental powers that are always nearby. In traditional drinking of yagé, many times, if the elders feel there has been disturbances in the energetic fabric of the night, if participants have been making too much noise, or not holding well the required discipline, they will stay silent all night, sometimes even dump the yagé and stop drinking, and just go to sleep. To again try another night. When all is aligned,, at the wee hours of dawn, the ceremony begins. The invocations, chanting and healings occur when the “heaven people arrive” and enter the ceremonial lodge.

Gods Multicolored People and the Tradition of Yagé

The divine immortals, in their kindness and infinite grace, taught the first peoples a vastly diverse array of energy cultivation methods, so that people may evolve spiritually and recuperate the original and unspoiled nature enshrined within each human being. Sacred plant medicine is one example among many of these time-tested world heritage traditions. In my book Rainforest Medicine, I share a Siekopai story of how first peoples learned the spiritual science of yagé directly from a group of divine immortals referred to as the “Ñañë Siekopai” which translates as “Gods multicolored people.” The sole purpose of the traditional drinking of yagé is for the participant to discover proof of the existence of the divine immortals by meeting them, and granting the energy needed to follow a heavenly way.

How did Gods multicolored people teach these first peoples, through drinking with them the yagé, and teaching them different ways to use it. Such as sunrise renewal ceremony, the leaf tea emetic where gallons are drunk to puke and puke and puke. The drinking of yagé as a basic school of education, and the ëo’yagé the extra thick graduation level yagé. As well as many many more traditions aimed at allowing participants to learn healing arts, with others entheogenic plants such as pejí ~ Brugmansia suaveolens and ujajaí ~ Brunfelsia grandiflora, among others.

A classic passage from an early book written by Capuchin priests, “Memories of the Frontier,” relate a moment where a priest enters a ceremony of yagé and asked, “Why do you drink yagé.” The natives replied, “Because god drinks yagé!”

By Pablo Amaringo, Rumis Manchachiskas, “Wisdom of the world within the rock.”

Insights into Ayahuasca Tradition

It is important to understand that ayahuasca is fundamentally a medical tradition; not necessarily an enlightenment tradition. Notions of this carry forth in that ayahuasca is commonly referred to nowadays in western settings as “medicine.” In a traditional ayahuasca ceremony the *maestro” (graduated drinker) directs the powers of elemental spirits and it is these spirits who perform the healing. The patients, if at all, rarely drink. Ayahuasca does have healing properties in its ability to purge toxins and old stuck thoughts, to tonify the heart and cleanse the organs. However, traditionally the patients would not drink, only the students or disciples of the maestro would drink the medicine with the maestro of the ceremony. This is due to belief that during the ceremony, it is the spirits themselves who accomplish the healing, the maestro merely has attained the ability too direct them to do so. To learn this sacred art, old time ayahuasqueros would drink ayahuasca only after vigorous dietas (energy concentration practices) in order to prove the veracity of their discipline. After many dietas spanning extended periods of time, they gain wisdom and they learn to become selfless and they, from the divinities, learn the advanced arts of healing. Note: For further insights read Chapter 4 of Rainforest Medicine: Elements of the Experience, La Dieta: For Purification and Spiritual Mastery, page 118.

The question each person engaging in plant spirit medicine ceremony can ask is: In your ceremony, what spirits are you relating to?

Lola Berlloarte, a muse of the arts, by Pablo Amaringo

The subtle divine immortals are for the most part unconcerned with humanity’s variable nature. For this reason, maestro ayahuasqueros use the elemental powers and nature spirits to heal. These spirits are closer by, in the energy map, in the sense that they are bound by time, space, and thus consequently ~ duality. For this reason, they can be capricious, and inherent in their nature is the ability to do good as well as harm. To use and direct them only for the good is a holy art. A highly successful one at that, as once mastered, no illness stands a chance and many types of miraculous cures can be brought about.

Only after communion with the heaven people is attained the individual associates with elemental energies. Before this they are avoided at all cost! For if is believed that if one first meets the elementals and nature spirits, it becomes much more difficult and laborious to meet the divine immortals. The maestro whose authority stems from the heaven people, can keep the elementals in check, and this, for the sole purpose of healing.

This ability is achieved after rigorous dietas that first enable the healer to achieve communion with divine immortals, also referred to as heaven people. There are rare cases where individuals have become masters of this sacred art after only one ceremony, for the most part though, it takes an extended period of time, great courage and discipline. Being genuinely happy, loving and kind, embodying compassion and moderation, developing common sense and discernment, living simply, being selfless and service oriented, learning to heal and being able to orient people in their life path, are all merely side effects of following a celestial way of life.

To learn it takes great willingness, cosmic purpose and divine courage. One must learn the deeper meaning of triumph, accustom oneself in the art of being comfortable with the uncomfortable and practice exquisite patience, and so much more.

An epic story, by the Sufi mystical poet, Farid ud-Din Attar, called “The Conference of the Birds” summons up the phenomena of spiritual development, and the trials people must undergo, when they begin their search for truth.

“If Simorgh unveils its face to you, you will find
that all the birds, be they thirty or forty or more,
are but the shadows cast by that unveiling.
What shadow is ever separated from its maker?
Do you see? The shadow and its maker are one and the same,
so get over surfaces and delve into mysteries.”

A quote from a passage in the The Conference of the Birds by Attar, edited and translated by Sholeh Wolpé.

The Subtle Energy of Yagé and Its Trail. 


A fascinating aspect of the spiritual culture of Yagé of the upper Amazon, is the phenomena of the “pinta camino,” known among the Siekopai as the “Toyá ma’á.” Essentially this can be understood as toya – designs and ma’a – trail, the “Designs Trail.” Understanding this deeper, it is the “designs,” these being the essence of divine immortals, and the “path,” which represents this essence moving forward, or how divine energy manifests in this world. It moves forward when people align to this path, a path that follows the movements of spirit. So Toya ma’a can be understood as, the movements of the essence of the divine immortals. The divine essence flows from the immortal realms into the mortal realms. And this movement in turn bring forth, the movement of the mortal realms into the immortal realms. A super flow of everything coming in and out of everything all at the same time. The image can be seen as that of a hyperboloid of revolution, an hour glass, or Schwarzchild wormhole, an Einstein-Rosen bridge. When seen from this perspective, we can see clearly that spirit and matter are inseparable, and that there are many types of realities.


There is a Siekopai symbol called the toa’tsá, “that which holds up the fire,” three of these are used to hold up there cooking pots and cassava making plates. In Siekopai cosmology these are believed to represent, “that which holds heaven and earth together.”

Many types of waverings, some more than others, cause the “pinta,” known among the Siekeopai as “yagé toyá,” (these being the celestial energies) to hold back. The brew is rendered nothing more or less that alkaloid soup. Without this spiritual energy infused in the brew, it is worthless to drink, according to traditional standards, and it can even cause harm.

There is an entire school of thought related to ‘carrying on the pinta,’ so that it may not get dispersed, rather that it stay concentrated. When all is aligned and the master of the ceremony blows onto the medicine, activating the brew, with the most powerful part of their body, which is their breath. Ones breath, the subtle connection to life and to spirit. The pinta ignites in its ability to reveal many mystical wonders. Visions of different types of realities come forth, of the ways of heaven, of advice that comes from the inside out, of the various forms of divinities of the earth in all their many shapes and sizes. The electric eel water dragon, and mythic birds, healing doctors spirits may come as colorful fish who suck off ones illness and allow one to be made new. Crowned masters from all races of life forms, chiefs of the animal and bird tribes, dimensional portals, dazzling lights, richly saturated outlined colors. One spirit falls in leaving the contaminations to scatter, or everything turns to sand and falls away leaving only pure spirit. Portals within portal, the realms within realms with realms. Simply put It something words cannot describe, they can only let snippets of colors and sounds, of scents and feelings, trickle through and transmit just some of this peace.

Suniruna Yachay, “Powers of a graduated master” Pablo Amaringo

To conserve the pinta, there are many types of protocols related to preparing, to serving and to traveling with the medicine.  Such as, when cooking the medicine, the cooks never walk behind the pot, as it is believed to cut the pinta trail. The pinta comes from behind the pot, and when it arrives to the pot, it sees that someone has walked behind the pot, and it doesn’t know where to go, straight into the pot, or to the right or to the left so it retreats. Chapter 5 of Rainforest Medicine “Preparing a Proper Brew,” outlines this in detail. When opening the brew always offer abundant incense, as when in serving. It is important that the medicine be brought out only after all has settled into their spots. When all participants are in a meditative mind set and ready to commence the ceremony. Like a grand piano concert at a grant and illustrious music hall, only after everyone has taken their seats and is quiet, out comes the pianist.

Interesting to note, is that alkaloids in the brew are like anchors for the pinta, they pull the pinta to them and want to merge. The pinta though is like a spiritual mist, an energy, the energy of the divine immortals. And it is this that settles on the yagé when certain protocols are respected. Important to note is that ayahuasca or yagé is like a hyper sensitive recorder, or rather like an attractor, it pulls the subtle elements towards it. Reason why all the spirits are attracted to the yagé. Reason why the facilitator who carries the medicine must know the protocols for protecting this medicine, so that it might not get spiritually contaminated, or most likely, so that random spirits won’t take the pinta and rendering it worthless to drink.

The yagé can be fixed though, and here is where ones sincerity comes to place. The brew must be blessed, prayed on, offered generous wafts of aromatic smoke from resins such as copal and others. If the pinta gets shook up on the brew and is disturbed, the yagé fixes itself on its own, the brew is left alone in a cool dark place for up to five days. The pinta returns on its own accord. We are again blessed, with yet another opportunity to experience this.

Factors that Bring on Ayahuasca Precarious Nature

Though trickster spirits are abundant and close at hand for the most part these are inert and alone do not have the capacity to impact physical human affairs.  They infiltrate ceremonies when certain types of transgressions have occurred. Situations occur when they are coupled with the facilitator’s lack of rectitude and ability to create a safe container to protect the participants. Trickster spirits abound, and are sly beyond measure, but not to the natural surveillance of those with experience and whose virtues are intact.

The leafy broom rattle, an important tool of the ceremonial facilitator, in Paicoca (peopled language) this is referred to as a hooka’sayé’pë. This word can be understood as “uniting all of ones virtues, to dismiss anything unvirtuous, so as to allow the celestial energies to rise.”  In this way we avoid stimulating the precarious nature of what has been originally intended to be a catalyst for all that is good!

In the context of modern day usage, no matter how well intentioned, it is much easier to unintentionally permit trickster spirits, known as watí, of which there are millions, to tamper with your and other people’s minds than one might assume. They are a thousand times more savvy than the strong willed may admit. In one quick instant you’re worshiping the god of thoughts, and you’re not even aware that that’s what’s happening.

And the questions arise: Are thoughts even meant to be taken seriously? Are your thoughts even yours?

Before you can say the word cheese, you have left the golden path of the constructive cycle and entered the controlling or destructive cycles. The good news is that your unadorned sincerity will see right through these, and you will know, when to move and when to stay quiet. You will know when you are swaying and you will use your self restraint to allow this to dissolve, it can take a long time to get a grip on this practice.

When there is too much noise too early in the night, when icaros (healing songs, intended on invoking elemental energies) are sung by people who haven’t undergone the disciplining to consecrate their relationship with divine immortals, or when the entirety of the icaro is not obtained and only unleashed are fragments of their purpose rather than the complete circle. In some cases this can cause poisonous snakes and all types of insects to emerge on the surrounding landscape. These types of disparities cause room for ayahuasca’s precarious nature to unfold.

Then there is the issue of contraindicated medications and foods, aged cheese and alcoholic beverages, too much mixing of different types of drugs and entheogens, brews not well prepared, space not well set, and bodies not ready for the experience. All these contribute to ayahuascas’ precarious nature to make itself known.

There is also an entirely different theme of discussion as well, that related to certain cultural prohibitions, such as: eating food prepared by a menstruating or pregnant woman after coming down from the ayahuasca or yagé experience, drinking within several days of having had a wet dream or having ejacualted sperm, men drinking from the same cup as the facilitator or tying up hammocks if his wife is pregnant, holding judgment towards the facilitator, looking for something wrong outside oneself, and not surrendering to the experience, as these are believed to bid for the healing energies to snap.

The sincere student knows that it is not important to do anything correctly, but that it is imperative to do nothing wrong. That there is a lesson in everything that occurs and that all is part of the training. With each passing day one aims and refining and clarifying ones energy. So that it maybe come crystal clear.

All these and more types of waverings cause the “pinta,” known among the Siekeopai as “yagé toyá,” (these being the celestial energies) to hold back. The brew is rendered nothing more or less that alkaloid soup. Without this spiritual energy infused in the brew, it is worthless to drink, according to traditional standards. It can though, as mentioned above, be fixed!  And just how compassionate is that! Another reason ayahuasca and yagé are referred to as Grandmother medicine.

Qualities of the good facilitators 

Bless the Brew by Tomas Wang, Mission Azul

A good facilitator protects the ceremonial space and supports the intention of encountering the celestial spirits. This good person in that swift instant, when the effects of the inebriant begins to make itself known, establishes a celestial shield, where all within are allowed freely to know the most exquisite of all absolute wonders.

A thousand miseries in that swift instant vanish and innumerable blessings are ensured. It is a profound and holy thing. They have studied how this is done; they know the trail to the “House of the immortals.” The yagé toyá is reclusive, as are the energy of the divine immortals, it is shy, it requires everything to be well set, in order to appear at the celestial banquet, where it can serve the guests, as a true host, with utterly amazing majesty.

A good facilitator is always forthright and willing to share how they learned. This person needs to remain optimistic, and positive all the time. Many of them are so good they conceal themselves completely and go un perceived by the majority of people around them. Others were lights so bright in a world so dark, they brought out the darkest forces who wanted to smother this light, and were tricked into going to heal, instead though they were set up and killed. Yagé has always been precarious path, and that won’t change. What our kind hearted elder maestros have kindly shown, through actions, example and word, is that when the protocols are understood and the tradition is followed to the T, no one is harmed and only good is brought about.

As the old drunken master said, with his crown slanted to the side, glistening necklaces draped across his sweat and yagé splotched tunic, “…having to work so hard chopping wood, hauling water, pounding yagé. Withstanding long days of fasting, no food, nor water, hours cooking yagé by the hot fire, in the heat of the sun, just to do harm, I think not! “

The energies of heaven are unattached and ever present, always ready to serve, in an absolute and selfless manner. All divergences to the original guidelines for using yagé  invite susceptibility to manipulation by the spirits. In extreme cases where authority is seized without the truthful election of the people, those types are susceptible to manipulation by evil spirits. At the onset, deviation from the path most often happens outside of one’s awareness, from all ones past issues the prevent one from seeing clearly. It happens with a swift instant. This is why the torchbearers of the tradition always tell new students, “When the spirits call your name, do not go.” A whole lot can be unpacked from this adage of the elders! It is also possible to do harm in one swift motion, and one might not even be aware that harm has been done. All this indeed is a profoundly subtle phenomena that demands the students scrutiny and natural surveillance.

A great hint form the kindest hearted of masters, clearly say, that swiftest way of gathering helping spirits, is through accumulating daily acts of selfless service. In this way we dissolve the illusory boundary between self and others.

Those are the good facilitators, who all the while, when not singing or silent while being fiercely gripped by the powerful yagé, when they are not secretly accomplishing acts of virtuosity, they are smiling; enjoying their lives and laughing.

A Word on Integration

Out with the old, in with the new. By Tomas Wang

While this is an utter simplification of a vastly far reaching conversation. Where words seem at times even absurd! Important to remember is that the essence of a successful ceremony is when afterwards, there is no integration needed. All the participants have been fully integrated by the ceremony’s closure. Of course this may not be the case in rare examples of graduation ceremonies where months of integration may be needed. And in todays society as well, where we are so gravely disconnected, of course much much more integration will be needed. Still this can be lessened and one can come closer to the true affects of the medicine, when the above is understood, so as to allow for the “universal integration” to occur during the magic of the ceremony. The way I have come to see this, is that “Integration,” is more appropriately used as a binomial word, this being, “Universal-integration.” Once we have achieved a basic level of self purification, of self awakening to the vital importance of caring for the inner sanctum of our bodily temple and learning to serve others in ways that are truly beneficial, not just in ways one may think are beneficial, then we can integrate with the highest, most divine and sublime energies of the universe.

Terrence Mckenna, in a personal communication related the following, It was some time ago now but the essence was this. In places where the medicine is native too, among the people of the Amazon who have evolved with the ayahuasca, for hundred if not thousands of years, the lessons are already integrated into their way of life. The plant’s teachings are specific to the environment where both the people and the plant are raised in. Modern western people, with modern western jobs and lives, don’t have that evolutionary cultural background, they have no context to incorporate the lessons that the entheogenic plant medicine have. What lessons does Ayahuasca have for, let’s say a NY stock broker? How will this person incorporate the teaching into their life, when the cultural evolution of the plants and people here would be missing. Therefore yes, integration will be much needed in modern western contexts, to unite the broken scattered fragments into a unified whole. Sorta like the song of Humpty Dumpty.  “Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, all the kings horses and all the kings men, could not put Humpty together again.” 

Universal integration brings peace and authentic joy. Universal integration allows each person to encounter ones genuine self. 

The view of a successful ceremony when no integration is needed, relates to that during the ceremony people experience the fortunate blessing of the impression of universal integration. A sign of this is when all participants leave the ceremony feeling fully integrated. What does feeling fully integrated look like? It can be seen as a calm grace on peoples faces reflecting an overall disposition of wellbeing. 

When people push too hard with the medicine or drink too strongly out of timing, or many of the above mentioned guidelines are not adhered to, they create an opportunity for the preconditioned splinters of our broken humanity to flap forward smack into our faces. We must remember the medicine is sacred, it is pure. Especially when well prepared, it can be powerful beyond measure, it can be maddeningly strong, one must learn to ride this wave in absolute stillness and quietude, to avoid “loosing it.” This means to avoid screaming all night at the top of ones lungs, or thrashing or causing a big fat mess for others in the room that night. 

We are contaminated, preconditioned and impure. The medicine wants to remove all that is impure, fractured and contaminated from within us. It wants to clear all that is in the way from each person who drinks this to obtain communion with the divine immortals.

And it is just this that is happening when the “constricting” affects of the medicine are in its full hold!

There are many ways the medicine brings this out, so that we may see it, so it can be brought to one’s attention. If though, when the affects of the yagé first start getting strong, one remains quiet and calm, in that moment one must surrender completely and let go of all attachments, all of them. One must throw oneself up into the wind as if you were a leaf, and let spirit take you for a ride, free from the bondage of self. Like this one allows the yagé tutu – the “force of the yagé,” to heal you. If though on struggles at the onset of the brew,  one attaches oneself to thoughts, then one can be quickly flung down the rabbit holes of our gazillion pre-conditionings, through levels of traumas, stresses, influences, the commitments we’ve made or hadn’t made, all that we’ve ever done wrong, can all come to the surface in one big attempt to burst the bubble of self created illusions and pre-conditionings, this can be absolutely maddening, it can bring one to ones knees in absolute agony, in total misery, until finally you fall to the earth, and weep forgiveness, and pray to earth deeply to cleanse you, and vow your loyalty to her for ever more by living a life of integrity. This, in order to allow oneself to again, as when we were a child, see, with that same purity of innocence. 

Strong medicine can bring forth many types of hardships, both during the night of ceremony and far afterwards as well. Though they may be hard, when looked at deeper they may not be all that bad. These may not all be necessarily negative, for they at best catalyze the impetus for a deep shift in one’s life. The set back is when something so foreign, so different, so new is thrown into one’s awareness, at a time when one may not be necessarily ready; and as such can throw one into a difficult time in between. Coupled with how far off course as a humanity we have drifted, can be maddening. 

One does not need to “integrate” the experience, one needs to use the medicine to disintegrate, or dissolve, the self created illusions and crust. What one needs to integrate are the scattered aspects of ones being. Use the experience for universal integration, through self-reflection to bring clarity and resolve the parts of one’s life that need rectification. That need to be straightened, that need to be let go of, purified, left behind.

The old crust, so to say needs to crack off. The old crust of addictions, of bad habits, the karma accumulated from wrong doings. The crust from fear driven, stingy and selfish centered traits. All that keeps us from allowing one’s inner joyous child, the jovial spirit that is inherent in each human being, must crack off, so that one can be who one really is. Nothing needs to be added on, only the old stuck and unhealthy ways and attributes, the contaminations, need to be liberated and released. 

Illustration from the Slavic Tale of the Fire Bird

Integrating the lessons of the medicine is important, but in truth there is nothing to take on, only contamination’s to remove. For this reason integration doesn’t seem to be the correct word. Once, what has been clogging the lens, so to say, is removed. Then one can work on the daily project of universal Integration. And this, my friend, is a great joy, and a rare and precious gift! This allows for all the components of one’s being, all the directions of one’s projections, to join together harmoniously into a unified whole! This allows for one to triumph no matter what! Words don’t do it justice, and ultimately there is no one correct way. 

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and righting doing. There is a field, I will meet you there. ~ Rumi