Ayahuasca is a plant medicine which is usually made from two plants: The leaves from a bush, commonly known as chacruna (Psychotria viridis) and the stem of a vine called jagube, mariri, yagé or caapi (Banisteriopsis caapi). This plant mixture has been known for centuries, possibly millennia to the indigenous tribes of the Amazon basin. Therefore we can find today a variety of ancestral lineages that have developed quite distinct settings or ceremonial designs. The Shipibo from Peru are known to hold ceremonies in complete darkness, usually with the shaman and one or a handful of patients. Whereas the indigenous tribes of the Brazilian part of the Amazon drink together with the whole tribe. In Colombia ceremonies usually are held until sunrise. Common to all traditions is the use of medicinal songs, also known as icaros that help move the energy and call in support from the spirits. But ayahuasca culture is not residing in the past, so it continues to re-invent and remix itself. In the Brazilian Santo Daime church, that was created in the 1930s, for example, you find the ayahuasca merged with christian symbolism, and while drinking the entheogenic brew, songs to Jesus and Mary are sung. The latest transcultural addition to the ayahuasca universe is still in the making. Nowadays we find new kinds of shamans, plant healers or facilitators that serve ayahuasca to the ever-growing global tribe of ayahuasca drinkers. Thereby remixing traditions, combining best practices and creating new ways. I don’t know if this is good or bad the fact is it is happening. Important in my opinion is the keeping sacred of the medicine and respecting the ritual that it is embedded in. I have participated in living-room ceremonies with no knowleagable shaman present and have seen the medicine and its ceremony painfully desacralized. But luckily there are also positive examples of new approaches.
Nicola Mina is of Italian origin and has 15 years of experience drinking the medicine and 9 years in serving it to others. His ceremonial design is not specific to any culture, but he does include common indigenous notions that he passes on to the people that drink with him. He first of all remembers the people that come to him about that which is “sacred”. An understanding that we sadly have lost in the west. He helps the people to get over a pharmacological understanding of medicine, as a pill that you passively take, and reminds them of the necessity of the personal involvement in the healing. He is also a musician and recognizes the medicine in music.