Brazilian Ayahuasca Religions: A Bibliographic Assessment

Authors Beatriz Caiuby Labate, Phd Candidate in Social Anthropology at UNICAMP, Isabel Santana de Rose, , Phd Candidate in Social Anthropology UFSC, Rafael Guimarães dos Santos, Phd Candidate in Pharmacology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Researchers of NEIP (Interdisciplinary Group for Psychoactive Studies,

Flap of the Brazilian edition of the book, by Alberto Groisman, Translated to English by Matthew Meyer

The result of an extraordinary effort by young Brazilian researchers, this work approaches, in an original way, a phenomenon which reflects and synthesizes a form of contemporary spiritual search. I refer to the emergence of the so-called ayahuasca religions, a term used to identify groups organized around the ritual use of a drink, prepared with the plants Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis, known as ayahuasca and considered a sacrament by these groups.

The word ayahuasca, from the Quechua language spoken by indigenous populations located in South America between the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn, has been translated as “vine of the souls,” in allusion to the divinatory psychoactive properties of the plant Banisteriopsis caapi used (together with Psychotria viridis) in these religious systems.

Three branches of the ayahuasca religions are most widely known and recognized, all of them organized in the 20th century: the first, founded by Raimundo Irineu Serra and his followers in the 1920s and 1930s in the state of Acre, Brazil, became known as the “Line of Mestre Irineu.” A second branch, known as the Barquinha, was founded by Daniel Pereira de Mattos in the 1940s on the outskirts of the city of Rio Branco, also in Acre state. A third branch, the União do Vegetal, was founded in the 1960s in the Brazilian state of Rondônia by José Gabriel da Costa.

Today, the ayahuasca religions have expanded to other regions of the globe, attracting much curiosity and a growing amount of research and analysis of the subject.

Thus, while what we call the West tries to define, regulate, and control this extraordinary phenomenon legally and politically (at the end of the 20th century the United States and several European countries initiated criminal cases against members of the ayahuasca religions), the editors of this work, Beatriz C. Labate, Isabel S. de Rose, and Rafael G. dos Santos, have labored to produce an extensive and rich reference tool which, besides being a “bibliographic assessment,” as the authors call it, constitutes a source of great utility to help those who travel the paths of inquiry that knowledge about, and experience of ayahuasca awakens.

An obligatory reference point for studies of the subject, the book also includes two chapters of commentary, in which the authors take up important aspects of the literature about the ayahuasca religions, thus assuring us also interesting analytical ideas about the relevance, the extent, and the complexity of this literature.

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