Re-reading Ayahuasca

United by Pablo Amaringo (from Ayahuasca Reader)

“You are the shaman,” announced Terence McKenna at the beginning of a new phase of the archaic revival. With thousands of you-shamans going to Iquitos every year to get their feathers, it may be time to unpack that idea, and for that reason the new edition of the 15-year-old classic Ayahuasca Reader (AR) is extremely timely. As Jeremy Narby comments in the book, aya-tourists are bringing hard cash for access to indigenous knowledge, whereas earlier generations of visitors usually brought hard labour, and this is a welcome development, notwithstanding the impacts on Amazonian economies. Meanwhile, the ayahuasca vine continues to spread abroad from its indigenous roots, into diverse legal, social, ritual and moral spaces. All of these areas are explored in the book, often with exquisite writing.

Synergetic Press threw parties last November in London and New York for the book launch. The London proceedings were introduced by Dr David Luke, parapsychologist and resident raconteur at the Ecology Cosmos and Consciousness Salon, who took great care to distinguish between shamanism and non-shamanism in his breakdown of the scene. Jeremy Narby followed, describing his experience of fieldwork among the Ashaninka in the eighties, seeking to challenge the rationale of capitalism in the Amazon, where the logical thing to do is sell the timber and extract the minerals. His argument was that his hosts had uses for a large proportion of the plants around them, meaning that they were using the forest rationally. The conviction his subjects held, however, that it was the plants themselves that communicated their uses to the physicians of the forest, had struck the young Marxist as psychotic rather than rational, and so was the idea that this knowledge could be divined by drinking a powerful emetic roughly translated as “snake-vomit”.

…Read the rest on the Psypress website…