At the Edge of the Ayahuasca Ceremony by Sophia Rokhlin

Sophia Rokhlin, co-author of “When Plants Dream”, discusses the economic, legal and cultural dimensions of the psychoactive potion’s popularity in the global psychedelic renaissance.

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive tea that has a long history of ritual use among indigenous groups of the Upper Amazon. Made from the ayahuasca vine and the leaves of a shrub, ayahuasca is associated with healing in collective ceremonies and in more intimate contexts, generally under the direction of specialist – an ayahuasquero. These are experienced practitioners who guide the ceremony and the drinker’s experience.

Ayahuasca has moved out of the Amazon and ceremonies happen nightly, with Hollywood stars, Wall Street players and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs now drinking the brew. Why? What effect might ayahuasca be having on our culture? Could it be the LSD of our time? Does the brew, which seems to inspire environmental action, simplified lifestyles and more communitarian behaviour, act as an antidote to frenzied consumerist culture?

Sophia Rokhlin is an author and nonprofit organizer from New York City. She holds a BA in anthropology and religious studies from The New School and a MSc in Ecological Economics from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (ICTA-UAB). She is a program coordinator at The Chaikuni Institute and directs the sustainable ayahuasca cultivation program at The Temple of the Way of Light, a traditional plant medicine retreat center in the Peruvian Amazon.

She is the co-author (along with Daniel Pinchbeck) of When Plants Dream: Ayahuasca, Amazonian Shamanism and the Global Psychedelic Renaissance (Watkins, 2019) on the global spread of ayahuasca. She is an advisor on the Ayahuasca Community Committee at the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines, and is currently based in Peru.

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