If you’re new to ayahuasca and wish to experience the brew yourself, it might be a good idea to start in a guided setting.
Traditionally ayahuasca is served by a shaman who has trained for years. A part of the training is a special diet with the plant, that lasts for months up to a year. Besides getting to deeply know the plants themselves (and many other plant remedies), the shaman learns how to conduct a ceremony and how to guide others during their experiences. He or she also learns how to provide healing and establish a safe environment in which all of this can take place.
Nowadays ayahuasca is drunk in all kinds of settings, but still most people involved deem some kind of ceremony necessary. Especially when you drink ayahuasca for the first time, it might be very valuable to have some trained expert nearby. As you can read in usage there are many types of rituals and it’s a good idea to research a bit in order to find out what type of ceremony would fit you.
Here we give some general recommendations and precautions:
THE SHAMAN AS A PERSON
Realise that a shaman is not a saint or supernatural being with special forces, he or she is a human being with good and bad traits, just like everyone else. Working with plant medicines is a kind of a job that requires specific qualities. Some shamans might sing beautifully, but do not specialise in individual healings. For others it’s the other way around. Here again it depends on what type of ceremony you’re looking for.
THE DARK SIDE OF SHAMANISM
Most westerners tend to overlook it, but originally ayahuasca was used with both good and bad intentions. Shamans could use it for healing but also to play magic tricks, go to war or harm their enemies.
Nowadays ceremonies are mainly focused on healing and spirituality (often these go hand in hand). Most of the shamans and other people and groups that guide ceremonies are genuine and authentic, but there are also those misusing their position to gain power, money or sex.
Likewise, while most people experience drinking ayahuasca as transformative and healing, it can also be frightening and disrupting. As it often provokes a powerful and psychologically intense experience, it´s better not to drink ayahuasca when you feel mentally unstable. As with any other psychedelic the experience is never predictable, but set and setting do play an important role.
WHICH CEREMONY SHOULD I ATTEND?
In general we recommend to only visit ceremonies that you’ve already heard good stories about, preferably from someone you trust.
Besides the reputation of the place and the capacities of the staff other relevant factors might be sustainability and respect for cultural heritage and shamanic traditions.
As ayahuasca tourism is increasing a special ‘Trip Advisor’ for ayahuasca ceremonies was established: Aya Advisor. This can also be a helpful resource in finding a trustworthy place. Currently it mainly focuses on Latin America, but we’d like to encourage you to start using it for ceremonies elsewhere in the world.
On our website we also provide a list of groups and people that conduct ceremonies. Beware that we don’t have personal experience with these places and we don’t ‘recommend’ any place in particular. We just hope to make this kind of information more easily accessible.
If you intend to attend a ceremony, please inform yourself well in advance. Our site offers plentiful information. If you are completely new to ayahuasca, we recommend you start by reading the introduction.