A brief introduction of Santo Daime (Ayahuasca)
Santo Daime is a religious movement
that can be traced as back as 1920's to 30's in Brazil. It is also
dubbed as "The doctrine of Mestre Irineu" (Irineu being the founder).
From the past two decades, Santo Daime has reached out in the world,
gaining adherents from many countries and often being in the highlight
because of the many legal troubles that this movement has faced.
Central to this belief is the use and consumption of the Ayahuasca
(lit. vine of the soul), which contains dimethyltrypitamine (DMT from
now on). This is a psycho-active compound, and this influences the
mind, behavior and the entire lifestyle of the user.
This belief started when Irineu first
got a taste of Ayahuasca between the border of Brazil and Peru. This
produced a series of events in his life which include visions and
seclusion in forests. It was this time that people came to him in the
wilderness to look for cure to various illnesses which they could not
treat in their social and economic conditions. Santo Daime preaches
the doctrine of love, peace and harmony with nature. Though this faith
bears resemblance to Christianity, nevertheless it has amalgamated
themes and practices from South American and African mysticism and
Shamanism. Some of the imagery and practices are similar to
Christianity like the singing of the hymns and the use of a Cross
(though not the Orthodox one), it has adopted the beliefs and deities
of the African pantheon.
These beliefs and practices were
synonymous with the use of plants like Ayahuasca, but as Santo Daime
spread in the western world, people from non-African backgrounds also
embraced them. Physic actions and events are common to Santo Daime
ceremonies. The followers sing and dance to hymns and then they create
the Santo and Ayahuasca liquids. These liquids can also be consumed in
a tea form and are also called by other names like "Cappi" or "Yage".
Santo Daime ceremonies last very long. As long as 12 hours on average!
As mentioned before, the psychoactive compounds inherent in these
drinks create both positive and negative sensations in the devotees.
The most profound of these sensations
are the visions they generate. This indicates that the healing bought
forth by these drugs maybe mental or spiritual (depending on how you
define those terms) and not physical. Devotees of Santo Daime are
taught to "get in touch with their inner selves" and these
physiological experiences are crucial to the healings. That is why the
ceremonies devote a great deal of time to concentration, which typical
of any primitive, meditative faith system.
Since Santo Daime's practices rely on
drugs, this religion has been the focus on many legal battles in many
countries of the world. The government of Brazil has legalized
Ayahuasca and other related drugs legal for religious purposes and
after many legal trials, it also gained acceptance in countries like
the United States of America, France, Netherlands and Italy. Santo
Daime and the use of Ayahuasca has also been the focus of many
national and international researches.