Guided by the moon- shamanism and the ritual use of ayahuasca in the Santo Daime religion in Brazil

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Many other researchers have made similar comments about the habits and beliefs of contemporary Amazonian Caboclos. The Brazilian anthropologist, Eduardo Galvão, attributes it to the influence of settlers and missionaries who, in the beginning of the XVII century, broke up the Indian societies and imposed Catholicism on them by incorporating them into missionary villages.

Although the Indian influence certainly marked the development of these new values and conceptions with many traits of their own, the basic nature of the Catholic institutions prevailed partially because in the native cultures the relatively simple ritual complex was not able to stem the new practices. The old beliefs that were best able to survive were those most closely connected to the environment and which had no equivalent in the Christian religion. The spread of a "general language", a variant on the Indian tupy-guarany also played an important part in the leveling of the different forms of expression. According to Galvão, this even led to a tendency to attribute an exaggerated importance to the Indian contribution to the "Caboclo" culture, in a region exposed to several other strong influences.2

The anthropologist Clodomir Monteiro da Silva, on discussing more specifically the Western Amazon, calls attention to moments of great social effervescence which occurred during periods of intense migration both within the region and, on a more national scale, involving the absorption of outside social groups.

Initially, the region was colonized and settled by waves of destitute people from drought striken areas who came to work in the rubber plantations. The economic depression of the 20's and 30's stopped this flow. The loss of importance of the Amazonian rubber due to the competition from the rubber plantations in Malasia, brought on a substantial drop in the population of the area. A new migration flow started in 1940, when the Second World War made Amazonian rubber important to the West again.

The social-economic changes also unleashed a strong process of urbanization, begun by those who had managed to accumulate some savings and moved to big cities in search of a more comfortable life. These were followed by the rural masses of "caboclos" and by the migrants who had come from Northeastern Brazil in 40's, and their descendants, who frustrated in their hopes for a better life then moved to the towns, big or small. After a period of time, on realizing that there, too, they could not attain their goal, they would start a new movement towards the bigger cities, and local capitals. In the past decades this urbanizing process was speeded up, worsening living conditions in these large towns, and leading to the growth of ever more shanty-towns...

The military regime, which came to power in 1964, had as one of its main priorities the "integration of the national territory" and the complete insertion of the Brazilian Amazon into world economy. The resulting social-economic changes, however, also implied in the disruption of the primitive populations and in changes in the urban order. These social and cultural changes lead to a series of new developments like the growth of the Santo Daime religion around the ritual use of "ayahuasca".


Mestre Irineu
The "Santo Daime" followers consider 1930 as the year their doctrine was founded. That was when Raimundo Irineu Serra, a corporal in the Territorial Guard opened his ayahuasca works to the public in Rio Branco, the capital of the then Territory of Acre, in northwestern Brazil. Previously, he had undergone a long period of initiation, and after he had spent many years in touch with the users of "ayahuasca" in the frontier region between Brazil, Peru and Bolivia..

Described as being Black, and very tall and strong, he was born on December the 15th, in São Vicente do Ferré, Maranhão, in 1892 and died on July the 6th, 1971, in Rio Branco. In 1912 he migrated to the Western Amazon, along with a group of people attracted by the dream of making an easy fortune as rubber tappers.

At first, he settled down in Xapuri, where he lived for two years, and then went on to Brasiléa, where he worked for three years, in the rubber plantations and then to Sena Madureira, for another three years. During this period he also worked as a civil servant for the Border Commission, created by the federal government to map the Acre frontier with Bolivia and Peru.

In the years spent working in the Amazon forest he acquired a deep understanding of the local "caboclo" population and its culture. He also contacted the Caxinawá Indian groups, living both in Brazil and Peru and already undergoing a rapid process of assimilation of the dominant cultural values of both these countries(4).

During a certain period he had, as companions, two brothers, Antonio and André Costa, Black friends who were also from São Vicente do Ferré. With them he first came across the use of "ayahuasca", in the Cobija region, in Bolivia. Reports collected by anthropologists Clodomir Monteiro da Silva and Fernando de la Roque Couto, suggest that it was a Peruvian "ayahuasquero", known as Don Crescêncio Pizango, who first introduced the beverage to Antonio Costa. His knowledge of it was attributed to an Inca king, by the name of Huascar, Antonio Costa introduced the ayahuasquero and his brew to Raimundo Irineu Serra.

Although there is little reliable information on the subject, there are indications that, based on their experience, the Costa brothers opened up a religious center in the 20's, called "Círculo de Regeneração e Fé" (CRF) (Center for Regeneration and Faith) in the town of Brasiléia, Acre. Raimundo Irineu Serra also belonged to this group.

The organization of this center, considered today to have been a forerunner of the Daime, obeyed a hierarchy based on military ranks which went from "soldier" to "marshal". For a certain period there seems to have been a dispute between Antonio Costa and Raimundo Irineu Serra for its effective leadership.

Reports on this period are few and have acquired a certain air of founding myths. This might put in question their reliability, were it not for the fact that they fit in with many local traditions generally associated to the use of the brew. Mestre Irineu seems to have submitted himself initially to the usual processes of initiation and shamanic development already described here for "ayahuasqueros" and "vegetalistas", in the Amazon.

His first experiences are supposed to have included the vision of distant places, like his native Maranhão and the city of Belém do Pará. But the most important vision was the repeated apparition of a female spiritual being called Clara, that later became identified as Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Our Lady of Conception) and was also known as with the "Queen of the Forest". During these apparitions she is presumed to have given him instructions about a diet he should follow, in order to prepare himself to receive a special mission and become a great healer.

Obeying these recommendations, Raimundo Irineu Serra went to the forest, where he spent eight days, drinking "ayahuasca", and avoiding speaking to anyone, specially women who he had been instructed neither to see nor think about . During this period he also had to restrict himself to eating nothing but manioc root, devoid both of salt and sugar. An incident about this period is frequently told involving of his companions, sometimes identified as Antonio Costa, who had thought of adding salt to the "macacheira" (manioc root) and only refrained himself at the last minute. Mestre Irineu was not around at the time, but was warned by a voice of his companion's intentions and later told him about it, and, in great surprise, his friend confirmed the premonition and recognized this as a sign of his spiritual development.

There is another episode which is frequently told about his initiation, when he had a the vision of the moon coming close to him, having at its center an eagle. It was Our Lady of the Conception or the Queen of the Forest coming to deliver her "teachings" to him.

This "miração" or vision was of great importance in his later work becoming the theme of his first hymn besides providing the Daime religion with one of its most important symbols , where the moon represents the idea that this doctrine was taught by the Virgin Mary and the eagle points to the powerful vision awarded to the followers of the new doctrine.

So, Mestre Irineu like many "vegetalistas" of the region, is shown spending some time alone in the forest, following a severe diet, and then receiving important lessons directly from the "teacher plant" or from the spirit associated to it. The name "Mestre", which was conferred to him, also seems to point towards the Vegetalista tradition, whose most distinguished members are often given that title.

After a period of active participation in the "Círculo de Regeneração e Fé - CRF", and many quarrels with Antonio Costa over its leadership, Mestre Irineu first moved to Sena Madureira and, later, in 1920, to the town of Rio Branco, where he joined the Forest Guards. He remained in this force till 1932 ,when he left, having reached the rank of corporal.

In 1930, while living in the, then, rural district of Vila Ivonete; he began to hold ayahuasca works for the general public, calling it by the name "Daime" which he claimed to have received from the Virgin. He became quite well-known in the local Black community, drawing from there the bulk of his following. With the passing of time, his doctrine started consolidating itself and his "works" attracted people of other racial groups. Eventually his healing powers became so well-known in the region that even members of the local ruling elite became interested in him.

There was in force at this time, an official repressive policy against witchcraft based on a decree of 1890, which was intended to curb illegal medical practice, witchcraft, quackery and the use of "poisonous substances". All these articles could have been used against Mestre Irineu and were, it seems, occasionally used by his enemies to threaten him. But the official combat waged against "centers of witchcraft" was not always systematic and many Afro-Indian spiritual and healing groups managed to survive, with the support of politically influential friends or clients by having their activities classed as religious and therefore, out of police jurisdiction(6).

The persecution suffered by the different Afro-Indian religious groups, at the hand of the State, although unable to eradicate these belief systems, had a marked effect in molding them both doctrinally and ritually into forms considered to be more compatible with the dominant values of Brazilian society. Certain aspects were encouraged and others discouraged. Rather than end the practice of magic in general, what was sought was the detection and restraint of those dealing in sorcery and evil (7).

So, as long as they kept within certain limits and emphasized their “commitment to goodness” certain religious centers were able to establish profitable relations with members of the political and intellectual elite. These in turn used their connections with these centers for many different purposes. Some resorted to their magical services while others tried to benefit from their prestige among voters. Mestre Irineu also had friends of this kind and enjoyed the support of important local politicians who were glad to be seen at his side especially during election (8). This may help understand the greater importance Mestre Irineu gave to “white” Catholic and esoteric aspects of his doctrine at the expense of the different forms of possession associated to the use of ayahuasca by Amazonian shamans. Similarly one may consider that this is why his doctrine presents none of the moral ambiguity to be found in shamanic and vegetalista traditions, such as magical attacks against enemies, and the preparation of love potions, for example.

Thus, in the 1940's, with the support of Governor Guiomard dos Santos, Mestre Irineu received as a donation the area known as Colônia Custódio de Freitas, a rural area on the outskirts of Rio Branco. The land was then divided among his followers and their families.

The area became known as the "Alto Santo", and a temple was built there which Mestre Irineu named "Centro de Iluminação Cristã Luz Universal" - CICLU. At the entrance he raised a large Cross of Caravacca, 5 meters tall. After a while CICLU became very well known and attracted large numbers of people who came in search of healing and occasionally there were up to six hundred people taking part in the rituals.

The land, informally divided between more than forty families, was worked under a cooperative system known as "mutirão", which was quite common in the region and made it possible to produce enough to feed everybody.

Mestre Irineu's followers regarded him as a benevolent patriarch and in the community's daily life he played alternatively the role of advocate, arbiter and even police officer in the disputes that might arise among them. He thought of himself as a "sheltering tree"; his happy, hospitable temperament attracted visitors from all sides, and he often received as many as 20 to 30 visitors in a day. He is said to have received all who came to him in his characteristic affable and undiscriminating manner. Even when disagreeing with someone, he adopted a friendly and paternal tone.

In this way, he managed to maintain a sense of cooperation and brotherhood among his followers during the last years of his life. The importance of his charismatic personality grew even more evident after his death when the community was split by disputes involving the spiritual leadership, the ownership of the plots of land and individual misunderstandings among its members.

The Holy Doctrines
In the frequent visions he had of the Virgin or the Queen of the Forest, as he called her, she presented him with a series of revelations and lessons. That is how he learned to call the drink "Daime", which in Portuguese also means "give me", and which he claimed referred to the invocations "Dai-me luz", "Dai-me força", "Dai-me amor" (give me light, give me strength, give me love) which were present in the hymns she taught him and which were to become a central characteristic of the new religious doctrine. The "Queen of the Forest" was also said to have awarded him the title of "Chefe Império Juramidam" (Imperial Leader Juramidam), identifying him with Inca spiritual entities, his predecessors in the use of ayahuasca, and with King Huascar. In the same way that the "Queen of the Forest" was identified with the moon, other celestial bodies, the Sun and the stars were also seen as the visible manifestations of other divine beings. The drink itself was associated with the Sun or even with God Himself. According to Vera Fróes, a researcher and daimista leader: "Mestre Irineu's mission is Juramidam's, a divine being a divine that represents Christ, and reveals His doctrines and teachings, through hymns that correspond to the sacred Bible (10).

The hymns are simple words put to music, considered to be "received" by people through channeling - Though he initially received "chamadas" (calls), which were melodies without words, that he whistled; after some time , Mestre Irineu began receiving the hymns that were to compose his "Hinário do Cruzeiro", which is considered to be the basis of the "Santo Daime" doctrine. They speak of Mestre Irineu's visions , featuring "divine beings" from the "celestial court" including a wide range of spirits from the Christian, Indian and African pantheons.

Little is known of Mestre Irineu's spiritual development in the early years following his first experiences with Daime. We know, however, that, in 1931 when he had already parted company with the Costa brothers, he started to organize ayahuasca sessions involving a few other people. These consisted basically of concentration sessions and of talks in which he transmitted the teachings that he received from the Daime . It is also known that his interests in spiritual research led him to join the "Circulo Esotérico da Comunhão do Pensamento" (Esoteric Circle of the Communion of Thougth) an organization whose center was in São Paulo and which had a wide network of correspondents in the area. He had also joined the Rosacrucian Order. These two organizations had a strong influence on his thinking and some of the basic principles of his doctrine, like the motto "Harmony, Love, Truth and Justice" are direct reflections of the teachings of the "Communion of Thought".

Between 1935 and 1940, the new doctrine took on its present characteristics and the "Hymnary of the Cross" ( the collection of hymns "received" by Mestre Irineu) took form. Some of his followers also "received" hymns which were also considered to be expressions of the "Holy Doctrines", in so far as they confirmed Mestre Irineu's teachings. They are concerned with healing, discipline, visions and guidance, and reflect certain moments as lived by the community and by certain individuals. They form a vast body, difficult to systematize, in which one distinguishes the tendency to consider the material side of life as secondary, false, while emphasis is placed on the spiritual life and the basic principles of harmony, love, truth and justice. As a whole, they form the ethical basis for the daimistas' daily life.

The system also reproduces a familial ideology , and the words "father", "mother", "son" appear very frequently. The daimistas are seen as making up a brotherhood and a symbolic familial relationship is also extended to the elements of Nature and to spiritual beings of the forest and the rivers, as well as to the Sun, the Moon and the stars.

This relationship also emphasizes the principle of duality manifested in the pairs sun/moon, father/mother, God/Our Lady, man/woman, the "Jagube vine/ the Chacruna leaf (ayahuasca components). Although the Christian Trinity is not ignored, this dualism is the axis around which the main ideas of the Santo Daime doctrine gravitate. So, it is considered that during the sessions an "energy" circulates among the participants, that is of a dual, masculine/feminine polarity, whose power or flux may be affected by the existing balance between male and female members of the group. In accordance with this principle, there is a tendency to stimulate the adoption of traditional gender roles, with an emphasis on the woman's responsibility in household activities like cooking , sewing, and looking after children, while men are expected to do the work that calls for physical strength as well as to occupy most of the decision making and prestigious positions in the community.

The world is conceived of as being under the constant influence of spirits, in different stages of evolution - Besides his body or "apparatus", all human beings are thought to have a "lower" and a "higher self". The first is related to matter and is transitory in nature, although it is important for the development of the other half, the" double". "Astral work" thus consists to a large extent in the progressive discovery of this double and of its true identity through "mirações". Thus, the "double becomes the source of inspiration for the actions of the lower self in the material world. Illnesses, considered to be a sign of transgression of the divine order, provide possibilities of atonement, and opportunities to regain spiritual equilibrium (11).

Daimistas believe that the spiritual world is full of conflicts that spill over to the physical plane where spirits must materialize in order to establish alliances. So, there is a constant interaction between the spiritual and the physical worlds. These two worlds, in spite of belonging to different dimensions, are considered to be indivisible and interdependent (12).

Work in the astral plane is conceived of as a war or a battle against weakness, impurity, doubt or illness. The daimistas are the soldiers or "midam", who alongside Jura (God) make up the Juramidam Empire, a source of strength for the obedient, the humble and the clean of heart. Thus, Juramidam means God or God and his soldiers, a notion of the divine which is both individualistic and collective.
Godfather Sebastião
Organizations such as this one, depending to a great extent on the charisma of a leader, are notoriously unstable at times of succession. So, after Mestre Irineu's death in 1971, his organization was torn apart by a series of disputes that arose among his followers.

Initially, the command of the works passed on to Leôncio Gomes, son of one of Mestre Irineu's closest collaborators, and his last wife's uncle. But, he was unable to maintain the unity of the group, and many decided to leave. In 1974, a group of more than one hundred daimistas left, under the leadership of Sebastião Motta de Mello. From then onwards, though maintaining fidelity to Mestre Irineu's teachings, he held his own sessions, adding little by little, new elements to the original doctrine.

After Leôncio Gomes passed away, the was substituted by Francisco Fernandes Filho (Tetéu) who very soon quarreled with Mestre Irineu's widow, Dona Peregrina, and was chased out of Mestre Irineu's house. Tetéu founded a new center, less than a kilometer away from the original one and claimed for himself the original register of the CICLU. in a dispute that continues to this day.

At this new address, Francisco Fernandes Filho was in turn succeeded by Luiz Mendes and the old center which had been started by Mestre Irineu, and which to this day houses his tomb , held in great veneration by all daimistas, is now run by Peregrina Gomes Serra.

There is in Porto Velho, Rondônia, another church which although politically autonomous, keeps a close link with CICLU. That is the Centro Eclético de Correntes da Luz Universal (CECLU) founded in 1964, by Virgilio Nogueira do Amaral, and which follows the basic lines of the doctrine as taught by Mestre Irineu (Nakamaki, s.d. 6).

Nowadays, the most influential of the daimista organizations , is the Centro Eclético Fluente Luz Universal (CEFLURIS) which was started by Sebastião Motta de Mello who led it up to his death on January 20th ,1990.

Sebastião Motta de Mello, now known as Padrinho (Godfather)Sebastião was born in the state of Amazonas, on October 7th, 1920, in a rubber plantation on the banks of the Juruá river. He began to have visions and to hear voices while he was still a boy and used to say that, before moving to the state of Acre, he had already been there on an "astral voyage". He was initiated into the spiritist tradition of Alain Kardec by a Black man from São Paulo known as Mestre Oswaldo. In this work, which did not involve the use of ayahuasca, Padrinho Sebastião frequently channeled well-known guides of the Kardec line known as Doctor José Bezerra de Menezes and Antonio Jorge, attending to the ill and doing faith healing.

In 1959, he moved with his family to an area on the outskirts of Rio Branco, known as Colonia 5.000 where his wife, Rita Gregório, had relatives. For several years he continued to hold healing sessions and was finally introduced to Daime in 1965, when he went to Mestre Irineu in search of healing for himself. On recovering from the problem with his liver that had been troubling him, he began to attend the works at the Alto Santo group, and soon began to receive hymns and to rise in that community's social hierarchy.

Other members of the Colonia 5000 joined him at the Mestre Irineu's and as they lived quite far, he was given permission to produce his own Daime and to preside over works ,as long as he attended some of the main celebrations held at Alto Santo and handed over half of the brew he produced . This agreement was honored as long as Mestre Irineu lived, but after his death Leôncio Gomes, who vied with him for the leadership of the center, began to question the agreement In 1974, during one of the sporadic police raids against his community, hoping to show his allegiance to law and order, Padrinho Sebastião proposed to perform a Daime work for the authorities which would include a solemn hoisting of the Brazilian flag. Leôncio Gomes, who did not agree with the idea, said that if he wanted to introduce changes in the ritual he should hoist a flag in his own house... This disagreement was the catalyst of a definitive separation between the two. According to various stories, Padrinho Sebastião then walked away , followed by his numerous family and a by great part of the Alto Santo daimistas. From then on he began holding his own independent meetings at Colonia 5.000.

That same year the community organization of the Colony was reinforced and the old, traditional "mutirão" system was substituted by totally collectivized agricultural work. The new center soon attracted not only the field-workers from the neighborhood, but also members of the Rio Branco middle-class and young people coming from many parts of Brazil and abroad.

Stressing his autonomy in regard to the Alto Santo, but remaining faithful to the old traditions of the vegetalista "ayahuasqueros", Padrinho Sebastião occasionally introduced other "teacher-plants" in his works. He emphasized that they should be used correctly so that they might grant access to astral secrets and not mere profane entertainment. Of these other entheogens, the one that was most used was "Cannabis", whose spiritual name according to Padrinho Sebastião was Santa Maria" and which he claimed corresponded to the spiritual force of the Virgin Mother, a feminine energy that counterbalances the Daime, or God the Father, a masculine energy.

For some time, Santa Maria was used in concentration work, with a specific ritual aimed at healing. At the same time there was a tendency to consider inadequate the more profane, daily use of the plant. In spite of this the Colonia 5.000 was invaded by the Federal Police, in October, 81; and its sacred Cannabis plantations, called the Santa Maria gardens, were burnt and some its leaders, including Padrinho Sebastião prosecuted. This also gave rise to a series of official measures against all groups using ayahuasca, even those who disapproved of the use of Cannabis. This persecution culminated with an explicit prohibition of the use of ayahuasca which was placed for some time on the list of illicit substances. This led the Colonia 5.000 to suspend the use of Cannabis in its official rituals and to recommend its followers to do likewise.

During the late 70's, the Colonia 5.000 went through a rapid process of expansion, attracting new members and sympathizers from all social classes, coming from various parts of Brazil and from abroad. Towards the end of the decade, the area began to show itself too small to accommodate its three or four hundred inhabitants. The intensive deforestation of the Rio Branco region began to show its terrible consequences, such as changes in the weather and invasions of insects which destroyed the plantations. This, added to the lack of financial resources needed to mechanize agricultural production led to a drop in production. Padrinho Sebastião began to talk about moving the community further away from the city and in 1980, with the authorization of the Instituto de Colonização e Reforma Agrária (The Colonization and Agricultural Reform Institute) - INCRA, he began the settlement of land in the municipality of Boca do Acre, Amazonas, which was considered to have no owner. During two years, the community worked planting rubber in an spot he called "Rio do Ouro", which in May 1982 occupied an area of approximately 13.000 hectares with 22 households, 12.500 rubber trees in production, 215 settlers and an annual production of between 10 and 15 tons of rubber (13).

However a company from the south then claimed ownership of the land and Padrinho Sebastião started announcing that this was not yet the site determined by the astral plane for the community to build its New Jerusalem .

So, in January he led his followers to another area suggested by the INCRA, on the banks of the Mapiá igarapé a river that runs into the Purús river, in the Pauini municipality, in the state of Amazonas. Once again, relying solely on the physical strength of its members and their desire to work their own land, and not counting on any kind of financial help, the community embarked on this new adventure, undertaking the colonization of a stretch of the rain forest, isolated from the rest of civilization, in an area that, to this day, can only be reached after a two day canoe journey from the nearest town, Boca do Acre.

Although it was encouraged by the official land settlement institute, INCRA,, the colonization of this new area did not follow the customary pattern since it was carried out on a totally communitarian basis whereas land in the region is usually attributed to specific individuals.

These activities of the Daimistas have much in common with messianic movements "where the reorganization of a society, or the production of a new one is the result of the joint effort of a social group and a charismatic personality" (14). Monteiro da Silva, as well as Fróes, attributes messianic characteristics to these Daimista movements, owing to their composition, the structure of their leadership and their effort to give a religious answer to economic problems and social anonymity. Stressing this argument Padrinho Sebastião, himself, and Alfredo, his son, announced Mestre Irineu as the New Messiah who under the name of Jura or Juramidam was considered to have brought a Third Testament. His task being the building of the Realm of God, the New Jerusalem, in the forest, the only place where survival would be possible after "the chaos that is being prepared for the world through fire, atomic forces, and pollution" (15). Although not all his followers were going to live in Mapiá, there would come a time, on the eve of the great "balance", when every one of them would be called to go and live there, the only safe place to be.

Couto disagrees with such an analysis, arguing that this exodus did not take place in a context of social upheaval, deprivation or family breakdown, generally taken to characterize messianic movements. This anthropologist is certainly right in calling attention to the importance the daimistas attributed to family values and to their central role in the organization of the community's move to the forest. Couto claims that although a mythical family relationship is established among all the members of the various currents of the religion, which he even calls "The Juramidam Family", the relationship among blood relatives followed the traditional patterns set by the greater Brazilian society. Even in cases where some relatives do not, there are no restrictions with regard to them or to others that do not belong to the brotherhood. At all times the recommendation is for harmonious coexistence.

As mentioned before, there is a tendency to reinforce traditional gender roles and their differences are emphasized in the rituals. Women, for instance, are allocated the task of caring for the "Psychotria viridis" plants and of cleaning their leaves for the preparation of the brew, while the men are in charge of collecting, cleaning and pounding the vine, as well as preparing, storing and distributing the brew. Traditional taboos are maintained, like excluding menstruating women from certain phases of the manufacturing rituals. Value is also placed on virginity and, during the sessions the women and the maidens wear different badges on their dresses and are given separate areas in the room. But , as happens everywhere, the traditional prescriptions are not always followed, and there are even cases of bigamy and homosexual relationships to be found among the daimistas. Members coming from an urban middle class frequently question rules considered to be "machista" and there are centers led by women.

As the anthropologist Alba Zaluar, had already noticed in her research among other Brazilian field workers, this often introduces a cleavage in families, allowing their members to establish strong ties of solidarity with people of the same sex of other families (17). Among daimistas there is a marked existence of a "woman's world" and the separation between sexes even in daily life is common. Although, the male leader , or "Padrinho" has overall authority , there is always a "Madrinha", responsible for the women.


The "backpackers" and the new churches
During the 70's, the military regime using brute force managed to overcome all organized political resistance . This was when the hippie-inspired "Peace and Love" ideology made its belated appearance in Brazil . In the more advanced and democratic societies of North America and Europe, this ideology was an answer to the excesses of a wasteful consumerist society that had shown itself unable to avoid the horrors and stupidity of the Vietnam war or the misery and marginalization of certain minority groups in their own midst.

It was commonly held among the members of this peace and love movement that there was no possibility of a true social change that was not preceded by an inner revolution occurring at an individual level. So there was a great interest in means and techniques that might liberate individuals from an over materialistic and over rational life style. There was a search for alternative values in cultures considered to be less "bourgeois". There arose great interest in Oriental, Afro-Brazilian and Indian philosophy, religions practices etc.

The use of psychoactive substances, like Cannabis, LSD and certain mushrooms represented to many a way to develop their spirituality. However, as there was no commonly shared tradition that might offer the necessary guidelines to render this way safe and fruitful ,for many the consumption of these substances soon lost the seriousness of a spiritual quest, to become simple entertainment.

Some, rejecting the commonly held aspirations of upward social mobility, dropped out of their jobs or schools, and set off to start Utopian rural communes trying to eke out a living from subsistence agriculture handicrafts or artistic production . Others took to the roads recently built by the military regime to further their control over the Brazilian territory, hitchhiking round the country in search of a community guided by the ideals of "peace and love", and close to nature.

At that time, it was common for young members of the middle class , mainly from the prosperous Southeast of Brazil, to set out to the Andes, usually in the direction of the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, in Peru. The journey some times also awoke in them an interest in Amazonian frontier, its people and their customs .

A small number of these ended up going to Acre hearing about Daime and eventually drinking the brew. For them , the Colonia 5.000 seemed to be the answer to their longings. There they found a fully established agrarian community led by the venerable and hospitable Padrinho Sebastião who beckoned to them with his eclectic doctrine of Indian origin and offered to guide them along a well marked road to initiation and spiritual learning. Through the use of ayahuasca, they gained immediate access to experience of ecstasy and enlightenment that followers of other spiritualist traditions take a lifetime to attain.

After a time Padrinho Sebastião had built himself a large following of people coming from all over Brazil and even from abroad. Frequently, after a more or less long stay in the region, the visitors would go back home, taking with them their new ideals and spreading, among their colleagues, friends and relatives, news of their newly adopted faith.

Gradually a few small daimista centers were set up in Southeastern Brazilian metropolitan areas and in a few South American countries. Although they tried to remain true to the principles and practices they had learned in the Amazon, the new social, cultural and ecological contexts ended up producing a few inevitable changes. The very distance between Acre and these urban centers, was already a selecting factor based on economic and life style considerations since not everyone could afford the expense or dispose of the time needed for the initial journey. Therefore, on arriving at these urban centers the doctrine mainly reached middle class young people and adults who were already interested in spiritualism and in the use of hallucinogens.

In November, 1982, the first Daime church, outside the Amazon Region was formally set up. It was named "Centro Eclético de Fluente Luz Universal Sebastião Motta de Melo (The Eclectic Center of the Universal Flowing Light Sebastião Motta de Melo) - CEFLUSME, better known as Céu do Mar (Sea Heaven) and was established in the town of Rio de Janeiro, under the direction of the psychologist Paulo Roberto Silva e Souza. It is located in the large urban Tijuca Forest, a natural reserve protected by the Instituto Brasileiro de Desenvolvimento Florestal (Brazilian Forest Development Institute) .

Sometime later, another daimista rural community was started, in Visconde de Mauá, Rio de Janeiro, under the leadership of Alex Polari de Alverga, a writer, poet , ex-guerrilla fighter and longtime political prisoner. After that other centers were set up in Pedra de Guaratiba , Friburgo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, Belo Horizonte, Santa Luzia, Caxambú, Airuoca, Minas Gerais, Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, São Paulo, São Paulo. as well as in Argentina and Uruguay.


The Federal Narcotics Council and the new CEFLURIS statutes
The spread of the religion in metropolitan areas, and its growing public visibility due to the conversion of a few television celebrities, occurred at a time when the government authorities were increasingly concerned over the use of psychoactive substances. In 1985, the Divisão of Medicamentos do Ministério da Saúde-DIMED-(Pharmaceuticals Division of the Ministry of Health),decided to place the "Banisteriopis caapi" in its list of forbidden products, in the national territory. without making the required consultation of the Federal Narcotics Council whose prerogative this was.

This led the Centro Espírita Beneficiente União do Vegetal, another ayahuasca using religious group, independent of Mestre Irineu's tradition, to petition the Council for an annulment of the measure. As a result, the Council's president , the lawyer Tecio Lins e Silva, set up a working group to gather more information on the subject.

Initially, two councilors, the medical professors, Isaac Karniol and Sergio Seibel, went to Rio Branco to gather information. The report they presented to the Council on January 31, 1986, was unanimously approved.

The report made the following points:

a - Ayahuasca has been used by these religious groups for many decades, not causing any noticeable social damage;

b - Among the users of the brew the predominating moral and behavioral patterns were "in every way similar to those existing and recommended in our society, in certain cases even in a particularly rigid manner ";

c - It's necessary to examine in a global way the ritual use of the drink, as prepared by religious or Indian communities, and taking into account sociological, anthropological, chemical, medical, psychological and general health aspects;

d - The 02/85 DIMED resolution had included the "Banisteriopis caapi" among the forbidden drugs ignoring the 1st paragraph of the 3rd article of the Decree 85.110, of September 2/1980, which instituted the need for a previous hearing of the Narcotics Council whose prerogative it was to exert normative orientation and the supervision of the activities referring to the National System of Prevention, Control and Repression of Narcotics.

During that meeting the composition of the work group was enlarged and alongside Suely Rosenfeld (representing DIMED and the Economics Ministry), Isaac Karniol (Brazilian Medical Association), Sergio Seibel (Ministry of Social Security and Social Welfare.) and Paulo G. Magalhães Pinto (Federal Police Narcotics Repression Division) there were also included a number of scholars:

- Francisco Cartaxo Rolim - Sociology lecturer at the Rio de Janeiro State Federal University;

- João Manoel de Albuquerque Lins, Philosophy lecturer at the Pontifítial Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, and doctor in Philosophy and Theology at the Roman Gregorian University in Italy;

- João Ronildo Bueno, professor at the Department of Psychiatry at the Medical College of t the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro;

- Gilberto Alves Velho, professor and anthropologist at the National Museum, councilor of the Brazilian Society for Scientific Progress - SBPC and ex-president of the Brazilian Anthropological Association.

- Regina Maria do Rego Monteiro de Abreu, university lecturer and. anthropologist.

- Clara Lúcia de Oliveira Inem, clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst and consultant at the those in the new CEFLURIS, are notoriously unstable and prone to divisions. But, unlike groups whose autonomy is guaranteed by their leader's simple ability to gather groups of followers around them, the daimista churches, specially those in urban areas outside the Amazonian Region, are dependent on a central organization to ensure a regular supply of the brew. The "Banisteropsis caapi" and "Psychotria viridis" plantations are still not fully developed and the ingredients of the brew must frequently be gathered in the rain forest. This, besides being extremely laborious, demands a knowledge of the region and its mysteries which is seldom accessible to outsiders. Therefore, despite all the tendencies toward fragmentation that frequently arise, it is quite likely that the daimista organizations will keep their organizational unity, and the resulting ritual and doctrinal uniformity, to a much greater extent than the Afro-Brazilian religions, for example, who have no equivalent common binding interests.

Before his death, Padrinho Sebastião chose his son, Alfredo Gregório de Melo, to be his successor. Padrinho Alfredo, had already gained considerable leadership experience in Colonia 5.000, and in the Rio do Ouro and Mapiá settlements. Endowed with the charisma of being son and nominated heir of Padrinho Sebastião, one of the founders of Mapiá and having a collection of hymns (hinario)which was considered suitable to sing during the most important "official works", Alfredo Gregório de Melo was a good choice for a new leader. Nevertheless he faced a series of challenges in asserting his command due to his relative youth and to the political pretensions of a few of Padrinho Sebastiãos earliest followers both in the Amazon and in the Southern cities. The importance of these leaders of a more urban origin tends to grow, due to their ability to establish working relationships with the large institutions which are important in the political and economic affairs at a national level, with which the daimista communities must now keep in permanent contact . It is now said that, whereas his father's mission had been to build the "community", it is now up to him to build and strengthen the "brotherhood", or rather the large scale organization of the various Daime organizations that follow his father's teachings.

Although this book is basically about the "Santo Daime" religion, one must not forget about the existence, in the West Amazonian Region and in other parts of Brazil, of other religious groups that also use ayahuasca. Although they all make constant references to the forest and its spiritual power, their followers are, in fact, largely of urban origin and continue to work and live in some of the main Brazilian cities .

The one with the largest following and most widely spread throughout Brazil, is the Centro Espírita Beneficiente União do Vegetal-UDV ( Benevolent Spiritualist Centre of the Vegetable Union) which was founded in 1961 by the rubber tapper, José Gabriel da Costa, better known as Mestre Gabriel, in the town of Plácido Castro, Acre It nowadays has its main Amazonian center in Porto Velho, Rondônia, and its national offices in Brasilia. This religious doctrine shows a spiritist influence and avoids any kind of possession trance during its ceremonies, in spite of the original connection of Mestre Gabriel with umbanda, an Afro-Brazilian religion of possession. Although it does not deny the therapeutical properties of the "miração", or shamanic trance produced by the drink, the UDV, fearing charges of unlicensed medical practices, claims not use the brew with that purpose, and concentrates on the furthering the spiritual development of its members. In spite of its rigidly centralized structure, the União do Vegetal has suffered schisms and defections of some of its important leaders, however, unlike the Daime organizations, it refuses to acknowledge the new groups as members of the UDV tradition and even threatens them with prosecution should they insist on using the same name.

Another ayahuasca doctrine is the one founded by Manoel Pereira de Matos. In 1947, after spending six months in Alto Santo, under Mestre Irineu's guidance, he began to perform his own rituals and started a new center on the outskirts of Rio Branco which he called "Centro Espírita Culto de Oração Casa de Jesus Fonte de Luz" (Spiritist Center and Prayer Cult House of Jesus Fountain of Light).Following Matos's death in 1958, his group was torn by dissent and after a time some of its members opened a new church, called "Centro Espírita Daniel Pereira de Matos" (Spiritist Center Daniel Pereira de Matos). The leadership of the original church was left in the hands of Manoel Hipolito Araujo. These and other similar religious groups which follow Matos's teachings are commonly known as "A Barquinha" (the Little Boat), and emphasize the African aspects of Brazilian popular religiosity ,cultivating possession episodes in their ceremonies as well as the more classical shamanic visionary trance brought on by taking the brew. Apart from simple worship, they are also concerned with physical and spiritual healing.

Couto, also, mentions the existence of an Umbanda "terreiro" (center) where ayahuasca is used, it is the "Centro Espírita Fé, Luz, Amor e Caridade - Terreiro de Maria Baiana" (Spiritualistic Center, Faith, Light, Love and Charity - Maria Baiana's Center) in the Rio Branco rural zone, on the left bank of the Acre river. Unfortunately, there is little anthropological information available about it (Couto - 1989:244).

A New Report by the Narcotics Council - June 1992.

The report produced by the Federal Narcotics Council work group, in 1987, had been approved and the religious use of ayahuasca liberated(20). Yet, despite legal principle, an anonymous accusation led to the setting up of a new a police inquiry in the town of Rio de Janeiro in 1988, reopening discussions on the propriety of the use of ayahuasca in Brazil (21).

The opening of this inquiry surprised The Federal Narcotics Council and was considered to be based on weak motives. The accusation besides being anonymous, made obviously absurd to anybody with any knowledge of the matter. Among other preposterous assertions, the anonymous denouncer claimed that:

- "Adepts of the ayahuasca sects number more than 10 million fanatics, in the great urban centers";

- "The majority of their leaders are drug addicts and former guerrilla fighters";

- After drinking the brew, "the adept is taken by exhaustion, and herbs said to be marijuana, are then burnt under the guise of incense, with temple windows and doors shut".

- "The same happens at the União do Vegetal. Unknown to any, LSD or a similar drug is added to the brew when it is to be drunk";

- "The followers are induced to "slave-labor" and to making large donations . To explain all this, the imaginative accuser added: "And what is behind this? - A guerrilla counter-attack is the most likely answer" (22).


On account of this accusation the president of the Narcotics Council designated the author of the previous, Dr. Domingos Bernardo Gialluisi da Silva Sá, to carry out further investigations so as bring the data of other reports up to date .

So Sá paid new visits to places of worship, and to several ayahuasca using religious communities talking to the leaders, listening to their followers, and taking photographs.

In his new report Sá then analyzed the facts and took into account other similar accusations which had also been leveled against the ayahuasca religions. He called attention to the small number of accusations (he only had received three, during the seven years the Federal Narcotics Council had been concerned with the subject). He considered that they were made by parents, who were unhappy with the religious option made by their children and with their search for a new life in the rural communities that followed Padrinho Sebastião’s teachings. So , the problem generally seemed to be a fundamental disagreement between parents and their children, about life projects styles considered desirable by the different generations, rather than the effects of ritual practices on their central nervous systems. Sá considered such difficulties to be similar to those of parents who might be against their children's option to enter a convent or monastery.

Apart from the anonymous accusation, The Federal Narcotics Council also investigated a technical analysis prepared by Dr. Alberto Furtado Rahde from the Coordination of the National System of Information on Toxicopharmacology, on the 1987 report . In this analysis Rahde gave priority to the toxicopharmacological aspects of the subject. Although he did not present any new information in this respect, he restated the known data on the brew's alkaloid components.

Rahde says that several alkaloids had been isolated from the "Banisteriopsis vine (jagube or mariri), of which the most important were:

a - Harmine (also called: 7 metoxi methil-9H-piride (3,4b)- indol; banisterine, yageine, telepatine, or leucoharmine);

b - Harmaline (also called: 4,9 dihydro - 7- metoxi-1methil-3H - piride (3,4 b) indol; 1-methil-7-metoxi-3,4 dihydro- betacarboline: 3,4 dihidroharmine: harmidine; methilic ether of harmalol O-methil harmalol).

From the "Psychotria ("rainha or chacruna) the following active principles were isolated:

a - Dimethiltriptamine (also known as: NN dimethiltriptamine: DMT) N Dimethil-1 H-indol 3- etanamine: 3 - (2-dimethilamine) ethil indol);

b - Monomethiltriptamine c: tetrahydro - B - carboline.

The report went on to call attention to the fact that harmine and harmoline besides being known to have hallucinogenic effects, like tetra-hydro-B-carboline, is classified as an inhibitor of monoamino-oxidase . When ingested with substances of the triptamine type they preserve the action of the triptamine. Harmine and harmaline, like dimetil triptamine, are classified as hallucinogens, and as such, have the characteristic of producing altered states of perception, mood and behavior, of which the most significant are the alterations in visual perception. According to Rahde, they might also lead to severe personality alterations.

Rhade's report continued with the reminding that dimetil triptamine is included in the list of forbidden substances of the United Nations Organization and of the Brazilian Division of Medicines-Dimed (which also includes harmine among forbidden substances in Brazil). Rhade considered that the occurrence of what he called "hallucinatory states" and physical manifestations, like vomiting and diarrhea, demonstrated that the brew is not just a placebo drink, but shows intensive action on users, although up till then , the concentration of the active principles had not been measured.

Rahde"s report ends by discussing the fact that the brew is now to be found all over the country, extrapolating its "original local use, in the Amazon jungle". He considers the UN posture of respect for Indian traditional use of proscribed hallucinogens and stimulants, not to be applicable in this case. He also inquires about the existence or not of plantations of the vine and the leaf , about the way the brew is distributed throughout Brazil and abut the constancy of its composition. He ends with a suggestion that The Federal Narcotics Council should get answers to these questions be furnished to the Federal Narcotics Council, in order to provide determine whether the use of Daime could be characterized as ritualized and restricted . Should its use not be characterized as such, he proposes that the brew be placed in the list of forbidden substances, since its effects are clearly similar to that of its already proscribed components.

Stressing the fact that the best understanding of the question of drugs, is not based on a mechanical vision, based on the predominance of a pharmacological determinism , Sá says, in his final report, that he would prefer to adopt a holistic perspective of the subject. In this case it would be necessary to take into account three different factors: the individual, the setting and the product. This position led to the request of reports to be made by: Dr. Elisaldo Carlini, Professor of Psychopharmacology at the Escola Paulista de Medicina, Dr. Isaac Karniol, Professor of Medical Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Campinas, Clodomir Monteiro da Silva, anthropologist and head of the Department of Philosophy and Social Sciences at the Federal University of Acre, as well as the author of this book, Edward MacRae, doctor in Social Anthropology and researcher at the Department of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology at the Escola Paulista de Medicina.

Carlini and Karniol were asked to give their opinion on three specific items: possible harmful reactions in the human organism; personality alterations and whether the altered states of perception, mood and behavior, mentioned by Rahde, necessarily had negative , harmful or pathological implications.

Carlini's reply emphasized that possible harm to the organism, would depend on a massive liberation of noradrenaline whose best known liberating agent is teramine and which could lead to a hypertension crisis. But in order for this liberation to it would be necessary that the person taking the brew consume certain types of highly fermented cheese (like Camembert) or drink large doses of certain wines; which is not a common practice among the followers of these religions. As for the alterations in the mind of the user, these do not represent a modification of the personality, but temporary changes in the seat of their senses. In addition, such mental alterations may be channeled in a positive direction in the subject's social and individual life, and do not necessarily carry negative, prejudicial or pathologic implications.

Karniol, in turn, considered the forbidding of the religious use of the brew to be much more violent than any eventual side effects of the brew. He also considered that the possible harmful effect in the organism had not been entirely proven; and neither had the alleged severe personality changes. Neither did the altered states of perception, behavior and mood brought on by the ingestion of ayahuasca necessarily have negative , prejudicial or pathological implications.

My own anthropological report was to deal with other questions of a more socio-cultural nature. These questions were related to cultural importance of the fact that ayahuasca had been in use in Brazil for over sixty years. There was also a request for an evaluation of the allegation that the use of ayahuasca had extrapolated its place of origin, in the Amazonian jungle, as well as considerations on the notion of "ritualized and restricted use" brought up by Rahde in his report. My answer was that, as shown by Clodomir Monteiro da Silva, among others, this brew had been used for decades in Brazil, in rituals with the function of integrating its participants into their habitat and in this way promoting the peaceful and orderly behavior of the followers of the different ayahuasca using religions. The restriction of the ritual drink to the Amazonian Region, would be meaningless and equivalent to the banning of their most important religious services , once these religions are predominantly urban. Such a proscription would be counterproductive since it would lead to the structural weakening of the religious organizations which played a key role in the control of the use of the brew. Besides, it would mean doing violence against thousands of people, who had invested their lives in these religions, making them the center of their social, individual and spiritual identities I also called attention to the sad example given by the policy of repression of the Afro-Brazilian religions which had been put into practice during the beginning of the century. I also stressed that the origins of the Santo Daime religion date back to the time when the very popular Afro-Brazilian Umbanda doctrine was being systematized (early 20's) and that the ayahuasca using religions deserved the same respect.

Clodomir Monteiro da Silva's anthropological report , one of the sources I relied on for my own work, points in the same direction, and stresses the social and ritual nature of the use of the brew, which involve a set of sequences of rites and activities that must be observed. He considered the ritual use of ayahuasca to be almost irreplaceable for the followers of those religions, owing to its psychical effects .

The report ends by agreeing with the position adopted by the Narcotics Council when it suspended the prohibition that had been imposed on the use of "ayahuasca" in 1985, stating that the community had been able to exercise adequate control over the use of the brew without the need of State intervention. Any other solution would only have created unnecessary problems. The following suggestions are then made to the Federal Narcotics Council members:

a - "Ayahuasca" (in Brazil mainly known as: Santo Daime or Vegetal), and the vegetable species National Foundation for the Welfare of Minors-Funabem.

One of the expeditions of the work group to Rio Branco, Boca do Acre and Céu do Mapiá also included Federal Police chief Sergio Sakon, one of the members of The Federal Narcotics Council.

The work. group was presided by the Rio de Janeiro lawyer Domingos Bernardo Gialluisi da Silva Sá.

Following the report's recommendations , The Federal Narcotics Council passed a resolution suspending the inclusion of "Banisteriopsis caapi" in the list of forbidden plants for the duration of the inquiry.

The research lasted two years and included interviews, the observation of ayahuasca users, the study of news reports on the various communities and visits to many of them.

Visits were held to União do Vegetal communities as well as to the daimista centers at Colonia 5.000 , Alto Santo, Boca do Acre and Céu do Mapiá in the Amazon . In the State of Rio de Janeiro research was done at the daimista churches Céu do Mar, in São Conrado, Céu da Montanha, in Mauá, and at the União do Vegetal center, in Jacarepaguá. On many occasions the councilors took the brew, and on occasion some had visions, suffered diarrhea or vomited, all expected occurrences. They reported having invariably felt very welcome and having received hospitable treatment wherever they went.

This research led to a series of conclusions on the manner of use and the effects of the brew:



Organic Effects

Doctor Karniol, considered that, in pharmacological terms, ayahuasca should be considered a hallucinogen. Besides the expected effects of this class of substances there were also secondary ones such as: vomiting, diarrhea etc. According to him, there were insufficient elements to allow a more accurate evaluation of the clinical and mental reactions that might accompany prolonged or acute use, among adults, children, pregnant women unborn foetuses. However uncontrolled observation made by the work-group did not register any untoward effects.

It was also noted that the ayahuasca was always made from native species and it was specified that synthetic or concentrated forms of the product should receive a different treatment from the researchers should they exist.

Social Effects
It was considered that the social effects observed could not be attributed to the influence of the brew alone on the organism, but also to the surroundings, the music and the dancing.

The rural communities were considered to be very well integrated in their natural context and a harmonious interaction was observed between individuals of different ages and social class coming from different regions and different cultural backgrounds.

In spite of the geographical and cultural distances between the Amazon and Rio de Janeiro, a great doctrinal and ritual uniformity was observed in the Santo Daime and União do Vegetal centers.

The complexity of the preparation rituals meant that they were necessarily communitarian, involving a division of roles and special ceremonies of great symbolic and religious significance. The common reactions of vomiting and diarrhea, also lead the work group to believe that ayahuasca is not of easy consumption by the public in general for indiscriminate use.

The work group did not find one single objectively proven case that could lead to an unequivocal inference of social damage caused by the use of ayahuasca. On the contrary, the moral patterns maintained were considered strict, the followers seemed tranquil and happy, and were encouraged by the ritual use of the brew to search for social happiness in an orderly and hard working manner.

In his final report, the president of the work-group , on discussing the experiences brought about by the psychoactive nature of ayahuasca stated: "it is important to note that the search for a peculiar form of perception, on the part of the ayahuasca users, in their various works, does not appear to be a hallucination, if you take this word to mean mental disorder or insanity. What all the visited groups showed was a strongly communitarian project in search of self-knowledge and the sacred. It is not up to the work-group to define whether this form of experiencing self knowledge or the sacred is illusion or fantasy - other interpretations for hallucination" (18).

Further on, quoting St. Thomas Aquinas the report argues that "often, the use of faculties we all possess, even if incipiently , is classified in a superficial way as hallucination"(19). According to the report, adopting the concept of hallucination to define a ayahuasca experience makes it difficult to examine the problem, especially when it is associated to the notion of a "total war on drugs", as promoted by the American Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in the world media.

Another question, which The Federal Narcotics Council's work group considered to be of great importance was the discussion of whether or not the Amazonian and the Rio de Janeiro groups shared the same culture, for it is frequently argued that activities which might be acceptable in the State of Acre are not acceptable in the great metropolis.

This would imply a strict separation between the cultures of the two areas, something the work-group denied once they were struck by the constant presence, in Mapiá, of many "pilgrims" coming from urban areas and by the frequent visits paid to Rio de Janeiro by Padrinho Sebastião and his family. Although the doctrine takes on certain metropolitan characteristics in Rio de Janeiro, great efforts are made to ensure that the ritual remains the same and there is a compliance with the basic values of the Amazonian community emphasizing communal concerns over individual ones.

The recommendations made by the work groups final report were accepted and Bannisteriopsis caapi was removed from the list of forbidden products and liberated for ritual use on the 26th of august 1987.

The rapid growth of the new centers, affiliated to Padrinho Sebastião’s organization , and the founding of others without the formal permission the main religious leaders of the group, coupled with the concern with showing the government authorities that the use of ayahuasca was restricted to strictly controlled ritualistic ends, led to an effort to set up a new structure for CEFLURIS, that might answer more efficiently the new needs brought on by this growth.

Significantly, the elaboration of proposals for the new statutes was carried out by one the leaders coming from outside the Amazon, Alex Polari, "padrinho" of the Visconde de Mauá, daimista community, in the State of Rio de Janeiro. He called representatives of the other centers for various preliminary meetings and eventually, the proposal, which counted with the approval of Padrinho Sebastião, himself, was discussed and approved by leaders of all the churches, during a meeting held in Ceu do Mapia in May 1989.

By this statute a new institution was created and, although it was given the same name as Padrinho Sebastião's old organization " Centro Eclético da Fluente Luz Universal Raimundo Irineu Serra (CEFLURIS) (Eclectic Center of the Universal Flowing Light Raimundo Irineu Serra), it was much wider in scope and was meant to congregate all the Daime groups both in Brazil and abroad that followed his teachings. According to their size and to the degree to which they were able to carry out the activities performed at the mother church in Mapia, they were classified in four categories. In a descending order of importance these were: "churches with special charters" (the only ones to be authorized to start new nuclei), "churches with definitive licenses", "churches with temporary licenses" and "spiritual first aid centers" (composed by a minimum of three daimistas, and associated to a church with special license).

When they were drawn up, these statutes seemed somewhat Utopian due to the complexity of the relationship between the various centers which frequently extrapolated the proposed bureaucratic order.

Religious organizations of a loose structure and developed around one charismatic figure, like that are used to make it: "Banisteropsis caapi" (commonly known as "cipó"; "jagube" or "mariri") and the "Psychotria viridis" (known as "folha" , "rainha" or "chacrona") should not be placed on list of proscribed substances drawn up by Dimed, or any other organ responsible for enforcing article, 36, of the Narcotics Law .

b - The illegitimate use of the "ayahuasca" or any other substance acting on the central nervous system, may subjected to reexamination if based on new facts, whose the essential aspects have not yet been investigated by The Federal Narcotics Council. This must be so since the obedience of decisions already taken by the Council is important both for the stability of relations within the public administration itself and for the protection of the individual interests involved;

c -A mixed commission should be set up by the Federal Narcotics Council, with the possible membership of outside experts and representatives of the organizations that make a ritual use of "ayahuasca" with the aim of consolidating common principles and rules, that may be subject to public supervision .

These recommendations were given unanimous approval by the Federal Narcotics Council, in June, 1992 , reinforcing the legitimacy and legality of the religious use of ayahuasca in Brazil.
Notes:

1) Meggers 1977:185.

2) Galvão 1983:6.

3) Mestre Irineu's early years are little known. There are many stories which are frequently contradictory or even mistaken. An example of the confusion existing on the subject is the diversity of names of places where he is supposed to have been born. In spite of what some earlier authors have written , it is now clear that he came from São Vicente do Ferré, in the State of Maranhão.

4) Monteiro da Silva 1983:54.

5) Once again, the information available is contradictory. Some say the "ayahuasquero" was called Don Crescêncio, and Pizango was the name of the spiritual being he incorporated .

6) See B.G. Dantas, 1983 and Y. Maggie, 1988 on the persecution of Afro-Brazilian cults.

7) Maggie 1989:5 and 6.

8) Couto 1987:58.

9) Couto 1989:59.

10) Fróes 1986:25.

11) Monteiro da Silva 1985:20.

12) Groissman 1991:13.

13) Couto 1989:106.

14) Oro 1989:11.

15) Fróes 1986:123-5.

16) Couto 1989:108.

17) Zaluar 1983:110.

18)Report prepared by The Federal Narcotics Council work-group pg. 29.

19) Report prepared by The Federal Narcotics Council work-group pg. 30.

20) For information on the Federal Narcotics Council report I am grateful Dr. Domingos Bernardo Gialliusi da Silva Sá who presided the work group set up to study the ritual use of ayahuasca in Brazil and whose work is frequently quoted in this book.

21) Police inquiry, 09,89 - DRE/SR/DPF/RJ, ordered by M.M. Dr. Judge - 13th Federal Branch, Rio de Janeiro.

22)Report by The Federal Narcotics Council work-group, issued on July 2, 1992, p.p. 1 and 2.

CHAPTER IV


The Santo Daime Rituals
The Santo Daime doctrine made its initial appearance and began to develop at a time when the decadence of the rubber based Amazonian economy forced many of the old rubber tappers to migrate to the urban areas. The basic aspects of the doctrine reflect the Northeastern Brazilian peasant customs and the South-American-Indian traditions which formed the basis of their original culture .In this context, experiences with Daime, were unusual states of conscience and perception, which led to the social construction of a reality of its own, pertaining to a transition between two different forms of civilization.

Monteiro da Silva considers that the individual or collective trances and shamanic flights, should not be taken as simply a liberation of tensions or a sublimation of libidinous pulsation, as suggested by some more superficial analysts of the subject. He considers it more appropriate to think of these psychic phenomena in the context of the migration from forest to town, considering the Santo Daime religion to be a collective rite of passage. It would be a way of attempting to account for the ambiguities of the new project of order. The capitalist expansion disorganizes the old way of life, but on having to live with this new disorder, it reencounters the dionisiac nature lost by the positivism and utilitarianism of Western civilization (1).

The Santo Daime religion is a result of a syncretic process involving elements of both peasant and urban social formations. Thus, one can detect traces of South American Indian culture alongside concentration techniques taken from Western popular religiosity. There is also a close relation between the rituals and the day-to-day activities of the followers of this doctrine. The syncretic process by which the religion developed is a reflection of the needs and pressures present in the context in which it occurred. The consumption of ayahuasca during the rituals, cannot, therefore, be described as a simple manifestation of a pathological individual or collective delirium.

Following this reasoning, Monteiro da Silva considers that the rituals are of great importance for the permanent creation and legitimatization of the doctrinal discourse of this religious group. He ends by considering that there is a correlation between the central idea of cleanliness /search for order and harmony, that runs through all the rituals of the group taking on the shape of a great ritual of transcendence and cleansing; and the "plausibility structures" of the religion - understood as "expedients through which human groups try to render empirical reality acceptable." (2)

Similar conclusions are possible when one uses the concept developed by Victor Turner, the anthropologist who believed there was a permanent tension in society between the tendencies to structure or order those that pushed towards anti-structure or "communitas". Turner considered that there was a human necessity to participate in both and people who are starved of one of them in their daily activities, search for it in liminal rituals. So, while individuals holding inferior positions in the social structures aspire for a symbolic superiority, those in superior positions might aspire for the symbolic universal fraternity of the "communitas", and even submit themselves to penance's in order to attain it. From this point of view, one might consider the Santo Daime rituals to be actions that tend to move social life and, consequently, society, towards structure and order.

This is Couto's argument and he considers that the Santo Daime ceremonies are different from inversion rituals (carnival, for instance) or from the Southeast African rituals of rebellion , studied by Turner, where the balance is shifted in the direction of the "communitas" pole. This is because Daimista rituals push the system towards structure, reinforcing the cosmological order which is lived intensely , being brought out of its customary latent , unconscious status and made to manifest itself during the rituals. The internal order is constantly reaffirmed by the individual effort of each participant, during his ritual "performance", when he submits himself to the demands of the Juramidam Empire. It is through this praxis that the faithful feel they receive the "teachings", and, especially, the symbolical order, believed to be efficacious. In this symbolical reordering, the invisible channels, that connect the new members to the cosmic order, are perceived as being cleared , leading the whole system to an ascesis or to a structure (3).

This reinforcement of order was perceived by the Federal Narcotics Council work groups who were convinced that the daimistas were even more orderly than the rest of the population. They also noted that they often claimed that their compliance to the Santo Daime doctrines had led to a positive reorganization of their lives and given them added tranquillity and happiness (4).

One should also remember Dobkin de Rios' ideas on the importance of the interaction of variables, preceding or following the ingestion of psychoactive substances in determining the perceived effects. (see "Introduction"). Of special relevance here is the shared symbolic system and the expectations of the visionary content which are part of the "cultural" variables. Alongside the biological and social aspects, they are important in leading a great number of daimistas to have similarly perceived experiences with the entheogens. As they base their interpretations of these experiences on a common symbolic repertoire presented by the hymns, the daimistas perceive their doctrinal values as being reinforced and confirmed. The main types of daimista rituals or "works" are the "hymnaries", the "concentrations", the "masses", the "healing works" and the "making of the Daime".


The Santo Daime Rituals As Performed By The Followers of Padrinho Sebastião
As happens in many spiritualist centers and among the vegetalistas, the daimista rituals are called "works" and often presuppose an intense and tiring psychic activity , even though those taking part may be in an apparently relaxed and restful position such as happens during the sessions of concentration.

It is believed that taking ayahuasca leads to a perception of the "spiritual" or "astral" world and to the possibility of carrying out a series of activities in this realm.. Accordingly there are different types of rituals for different purposes, and their form is invariably attributed to Mestre Irineu who is supposed to have learned about them from the Queen of the Forest, or the Virgin of the Conception, source of all daimista knowledge.

Thus, great emphas is given to the need to follow closely the ritual forms inherited from Mestre Irineu. As has frequently been observed by the Federal Narcotics Council work-group and other researchers, there is great uniformity in most of the rituals performed by the CEFLURIS nuclei, which is all the more remarkable, when one takes into account their geographic diversity. Yet the constant insistence on the observation of apparently unimportant details often causes a certain irritation among newcomers to the doctrine who frequently suggest altering the ritual. But the importance attributed to the conservation of the ritual form has lead to a series of official measures such as the elaboration of statutes and the setting up of a body of guardians to ensure the correct performance of the rituals. As specified in item 24 of the statutes:

"We consider, as part of our body of rituals, all those inherited directly from Mestre Irineu, and the additions made by Padrinho Sebastião and by Padrinho Alfredo Gregório de Melo. They are the only ones empowered by this statute to legislate and regulate on doctrinal matters pertaining to ritual.

Any other type of suggestion or proposal for changes in the ritual must be appreciated by the Commission on Ritual and Healing of the Supreme Church Council), the main steering and executive collegiate organism of the bodies affiliated to the CEFLURIS.
The Hymnaries
Hymnaries are considered commemorative festivities for certain religious holidays, birthdays of the leaders or simply the celebration of communion and fraternity. There is a calendar of "official hymnaries", which is supposed to be observed by all the Santo Daime churches. On such occasions, those taking part wear special clothes, called "farda branca" (white uniform), predominantly white in color and of sober cut, decorated with many colored ribbons. On their heads the women wear tinsel crowns. On other occasions, simpler "hymnaries" may be held and the plainer "farad azalea" (blue uniform) is worn, consisting of white shirts or blouses and navy blue trousers or skirts.

There are different hymnaries which are sung according to the occasion. There are the, so called, "official hymnaries" which are those "received" by some of the main "padrinhos" such as Mestre Irineu, Padrinho Sebastião or Padrinho Alfredo or some of Mestre Irineu's closest followers and which are sung on some of the most important holidays. But there are also hymns "received" by other followers of the doctrine and which may be sung on other, less formal occasions. During the "hymnary" the participants stand around a central table usually in the form of a six pointed star, on which there is a double armed "Cross of Caravacca", a rosary and other symbols of the doctrine. The men and women line up according to height on opposite sides of the room. According to the shape of the table, and the number of participants, they may be form four or six groups: men, young men, boys, women, young women and girls (see figures 2 and 3).

Many play "maracas" or rattles, accompanying the singing and marking the rhythm of the dancing. The steps are simple and vary according to the rhythm of the hymn. The singing is often accompanied by musicians playing seated around the table. This orchestra is normally composed of guitars, flutes and percussion instruments, but any other instrument may be added. The ritual begins at a predetermined time, generally at sunset. To mark its beginning, the catholic rosary may be said or, on less formal occasions, simply three Lord's Prayers and three Hail Mary's. At the end of the ceremony these prayers are repeated alongside other Catholic, Esoteric or specifically daimista ones.

After the opening prayers the Daime is then served; a small cup is handed to the adults, and a smaller amount to the children. This happens several times during the work, at approximately two-hourly intervals.

Depending on the occasion and on the hymnary being sung, the ritual may last between six or twelve hours. During this period, the participants must keep to their place in the line, refraining from talking or from any other kind of behavior that might hinder other people in their efforts to concentrate.
Halfway through the ritual there is usually an intermission lasting for about one hour, the only time allowed for conversation. Sometimes, still under the influence of the beverage, people may opt to remain silent and in a state of introspection.

During the intermission the participants are given permission to leave the room and may eat something light or drink a little water. Smoking is also permitted, but at a distance, so that the tobacco smoke does not reach the place where the ceremony is being held.

At the end of the ritual, a few catholic prayers are recited again and the leader pronounces a last invocation to God the Father, The Virgin Queen Mother, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Patriarch Saint Joseph and to all the spiritual beings of the celestial court. At the end of the session, and every time they take the brew, those taking part in the session cross themselves, thus emphasizing their commitment to Christian principles during their astral work.

Alex Polari explains the meaning of this ritual:

"The hymns are a mirror of the life and of the human relations within the community. It's the great opportunity for cleansing and transformation, where all, in brotherhood, standing shoulder to shoulder in the current of energy, spend up to twelve hours singing and voyaging internally under the guidance of the hymns and the Daime experience. During this period one sings and dances to the hymns evoking the remembrance of the origin of everything. We worship God, rendering Him all homage and during that night as it becomes day, we make new commitments to Love, Truth and Charity. We feel part of the Whole, ready to understand our faults and to reconcile ourselves with our brethren. We are stimulated to change and improve ourselves, with more Faith, so as not to deny our way and with more firmness to keep to it. At the end, happiness, the Sun rising, an embrace, the blessing, the hand shake, many questions answered.

During the ritual, some of the participants, moved by their visions or going through difficulties in their process of introspection, may show signs of unrest, and, maybe, even loss of control over their movements. Others go through physiological reactions to their the ingestion of ayahuasca, feeling nausea and occasionally vomiting or suffering from diarrhea.

To deal with such cases, to maintain order in the room and enforce the ritual norms, some of the more experienced daimistas are nominated "guardians". It is their duty to determine where the participants must place themselves in the lines and to make sure everyone keeps to his place. They must also oversee the flow of the dancing, resolving any kind of disruption, helping those going through difficulties, controlling the entrance and the exit, etc.

The danced hymnaries are supposed to be occasions of happiness and brotherly feelings. They are therefore open to all who wish to take part, regardless of whether they wear the uniform or not, the only requirement being the compliance to the rules demanding an abstinence of sex and alcohol during the three preceding days and during the following three. Any other restriction should be simply due to practical questions such as the need to avoid over crowding or a disproportional number of newcomers in comparison to the number of more experienced daimistas in uniform.

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The Concentration
Other rituals are usually closed to those who do not wear the uniform. Such is the case of the "concentration works", performed by uniformed daimistas on the 15th and 30th of every month. Lasting for between two to four hours, this ritual which aims to promote spiritual development is largely performed in silence , while those taking part remain seated keeping their backs straight. Initially, they must try to focus their minds in one direction leading to a gradual quieting of the stream of thought. Once this has been accomplished, they enter into a state of meditation and identification with the "Internal and Higher Self", and with the "Divine Power", transcending all ideas, names and forms. This ceremony, which may also include reading from the Gospels and from the sacred scriptures of other great religions or instructions and sermons by the commander of the works, usually ends with all those present standing and singing Mestre Irineu's last eleven hymns which are considered to be a summary of his doctrine.

Latecomers are not usually allowed in during these sessions and the Daime is only served at given moments. The point of these rules is to avoid any disturbance of the atmosphere of tranquillity and complete silence, essential for meditation



The Mass
The most solemn Daime ritual is the mass for the dead. During such an occasion, ten hymns are sung which deal with the subject of death .The work begins with the saying of the Catholic rosary and between each hymn there are three repetitions of the Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary. Marking the solemnity of the proceedings, there is no dancing and the singing is not accompanied by instruments.
The Healing Works

As discussed above, ayahuasca is frequently used by shamans and vegetalistas to fight physical and spiritual illness. It is through healing episodes attributed to their shamanic abilities that ayahuasquero masters become respected and influential in their communities. So healing is probably the field in which variations in ritual occur most often, since the gift of healing is considered and individual attribute. Therefore, those who distinguish themselves as healers, tend to develop their own way of doing things, adopting the practices that best fit their specific powers and personal idiosyncrasies. In the case of the Peruvian "mestizo" vegetalistas, for example, in spite of their common ideas about the nature of illnesses and about the principles of healing, each shaman has his own songs, allied spirits and specific methods of healing .

Among the daimistas Mestre Irineu was known, above all, as a powerful healer, as was Padrinho Sebastião and a few other of their followers. The daimista healers' repertoire of religious conceptions is much more restricted than that of the "mestizo" healers, familiar with elements of many Indian, European and African cultures, borrowing and adapting them in the way they find most suitable. But, even feeling a need to remain faithful to their doctrine, the followers of Padrinho Sebastião , consider their center to be free and eclectic, allowing for other influences in their work and this also gives them a certain degree of flexibility in their rituals.

So, alongside the traditional ceremonies taught by Mestre Irineu, the followers of his doctrine resort to a wide range of other healing techniques.

Although all the rituals involving the taking of the brew are considered to be potentially healing(8), traditionally two of them have been considered to be specially effective. The basic principle is the search for salvation of all those taking part through the indoctrination of spirits and the offering of charity to suffering souls.

a.



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