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

The opening of the table, prayer work , table work or work with crosses


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The opening of the table, prayer work , table work or work with crosses. Monteiro da Silva(1985) considers this to be a ritual which aims to diagnose the causes of disturbances and provide spiritual first aid. Froes, Couto and the official

CEFLURIS book of ritual norms, on the other hand consider that they aim to deliver the patient from "obsession" and "from negative fluids". This ceremony may be held in the patient's presence, but may also be held in his absence when the simple invocation of his name will be sufficient.

In order to hold this ceremony there must be an odd number of participants, which may range from three to nine. Each one must hold a cross in his left hand and a candle in his right one (regardless of the number of people taking part, there must be nine crosses, and if there are not as many people present, those that are left without someone to hold them may be placed on the central table). This is a relatively short ceremony, and should be repeated on three consecutive days. All those taking part must be in observance of the Daime interdictions of sec and alcoholic drinks, and must strive for a state of harmony and interior cleanliness. Only a small amount of Daime is served on these occasions and not necessarily to all those present. Apart from a concentration, there is a recitation of the Roman Catholic prayer Hail Queen and of another against evil and dark spirits. A few predetermined hymns are sung, which seem to be taking the place of the "healing calls", that used to be made during the early days when the doctrine was still being developed, in order to invoke certain healing spirits like Tupequapá, a forest spirit who detains great knowledge on herbs(9).

b.Concentration works with healing hymns. These ceremonies are considered to be a kind of intensive therapy, and demand cleanliness of body and mind. To attain this larger amounts of the brew are served, frequently leading to strong bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, which certain scholars have considered to be cathartic and ab-reactive(10).

The ceremony consists in the recitation of the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Hail Queen and a consecration of the room. After an hour long concentration, a specific selection of hymns is sung.

In their basic form, these two "works" keep very closely to Mestre Irineu's original instructions, although in the CEFLURIS groups they also sing a few hymns received by Padrinho Sebastião and some of his followers. In the centers following his guidance these ceremonies are commonly called "star works", owing to the shape of the table around which they are held. It is usually placed in the middle of a hexagonal room built specially for this purpose and known as the "Star House".

But there is also another type of work, which was developed more recently and which shows strong umbandista influence. They are known as "banca"(bench) or "Saint Michael in the woods" works, and aim at the "indoctrination of suffering spirits", "deobssessions" and other activities of "spiritual charity". During these ceremonies there are frequent episodes of spiritual communications or incorporations. These works consist of prayers, concentrations, hymns and drinking Daime. Many of those taking part may be "acted upon"(possessed) by spiritual beings, and the development of the session becomes less predictable. But even in these cases the person in charge of the session is in control and the mediums under possession must have his permission to make itself manifest, and it is also he who controls the singing of hymns and the making of calls.

This kind of work with possession episodes has recently become more frequent and accepted, after a special area was specially set aside, in Ceu do Mapiá, for umbanda ceremonies, a few other centers followed suit. For a time there was even an attempt on the part of a leader from São Paulo to hold joint Daime and Candomblé sessions. But, although umbanda is acceptable to many daimistas, due to its Catholic syncretism which is very reminiscent of the Santo Daime doctrine, Candomblé, with its greater esteem for purity of its pagan African roots, is harder to assimilate, and many are loath to mix it with Daime. Nevertheless there seems to be a marked tendency to diminish the distance that Mestre Irineu is said to have tried to keep between his doctrine and the Afro-Brazilian possession religions(11).

Some writers make a distinction between different methods used by daimista healers, calling one type "direct therapeutic techniques" ( making use of medicinal plants, poultices, massages etc.) and the "indirect" ones (using dreams, visions, "astral work" etc.). But, the basic instrument is the Daime and its main allies: the spirits of the water, of the forest and of the astral plane; certain collections of hymns, the feeling of brotherhood (in the dancing, in the help offered during healing works, etc.); other allies are the medicinal plants and different types of diets - " by the mouth", " in the bed" and "from the surroundings" (12).

The techniques employed by healers, during the works may be classified as follows: (13)

"Mirações"(Visions): when the healer receives detailed information, from divine beings, to be transmitted to the patients.

Autoscopy: journeying inside the patient's body with the help of a spiritual guide, who diagnoses its physical and mental condition.

Co-autoscopy: when more than one participant journey inside someone's body, a room or an open place . They feel they are having visions in common.

Ecstatic Flight: A journey through different places in the world with a specific mission.

Possession: Identical phenomenon to the mediumnic incorporation in Afro-Brazilian cults.

Alongside these techniques, the daimista healers may resort to others, drawn from different spiritual traditions or from their own inspiration. So, it is common for them to resort to prayer-sayers, either in Céu do Mapiá or in Colônia 5.000 and Padrinho Sebastião, himself, at the end of his life, did not hesitate in consulting with shamans from other traditions, in his search for relief from illness. It is said that one of them, in the Boca do Acre area, extracted objects and insects from his body. Later this material was put in a jar an shown to whoever might have been interested. Padrinho Sebastião died shortly after a work, that took place in the daimista center, Rainha do Mar (Sea Queen) in Pedra de Guaratiba, Rio de Janeiro, during which he underwent treatment by an Umbandista healer.

Another story is told of a young man said to be "suffering from mental and emotional disorder and whose personality who was taken in chains to Padrinho Sebastião, in Céu do Mapiá. He was asked to look after the boy "whose personality had been shattered and who was visibly under great mental and emotional distress". Padrinho Sebastião held a sequence of three sessions of St. Michael's works, on consecutive days. On the third day, in place of the traditional work, he ordered the young boy to help slaughter and quarter an ox, using a large, dangerous looking knife and getting himself heavily splattered with blood. On the following day the traditional work cycle was resumed and in the end the young man showed signs of marked improvement and became capable once more of maintaining normal conversation. He then reported having received a threat of death from a friend and this was them considered to be the cause of his ailment (14).

Among the most recent techniques, incorporated to the daimista healing repertoire , is the use of crystals to reestablish the " balance of energy" of those undergoing difficulties during the works. In São Paulo, for instance, the godmother of Flôr das Águas church had already developed a healing technique using different types of crystals, even before affiliating herself to the doctrine. Under her guidance, this practice acquired considerable importance, among daimistas in São Paulo.
The "Feitio" or Preparation of the Daime

The making of the brew involves a complex ritual procedure which is frequently considered to be the most important of the daimista ceremonies since all the other rituals depend on the brew produced on these occasions. The manufacture of the beverage follows detailed ritual prescriptions and must be correctly executed, in order to assure the efficacy of the sacrament. Since the brew is considered to be a divine being, akin to the consecrated host in the Roman Catholic Church, the "feitio" is, an act of magic and consecration, demanding from that those taking part undergo a rigorous physical and spiritual preparation.

The process is extremely laborious and physically demanding. Those who go into the forest, in search of the ingredients commonly undergo all kinds of privations and discomforts and those who are directly involved in the manufacture must carry out tasks involving great physical effort such as hammering the vine to reduce it to fiber chopping wood and cleaning the oven. But this ritual is also considered to be a moment allowing great spiritual purification and interior development, demanding silence and great concentration. It is, also, the only ritual during which the Daime supply is free available for all to take as much as they wish.

During this ritual, the exhaustion and the effect of the brew bring the participants face to face with their weakness and personal difficulties and more than ever those taking part are led to understand the importance of the basic spiritual qualities emphasized by the doctrine: firmness, purity of heart, humility, discipline, harmony, love, justice and truth. The work is carried out in a "feitio" house, specially built for the purpose, where a Caravaca cross and an image of the Virgin are always present. Other daimista symbols are also to be seen such as the sun, the moon and stars .

In the same way as in other rites, the "feitio" has a commander directing the works, generally the local "padrinho". In certain cases, he might be another highly experienced specialist, called in from other churches.

As in other rituals, men and women are kept separate, and engaged in activities considered appropriate to their gender. The usual recommendations of abstinence from sex and alcoholic beverages apply and no food may be consumed in the "feitio house". Men are given the heavy work, like collecting, transporting, cleaning and hammering the liana, besides preparing the brew, which involves handling big cauldrons with boiling liquid and keeping the fire. When the church has its own plantation, the women gather the Psychotria viridis leaves and clean them one by one. Otherwise they are gathered by the men in the forest, and brought to the village to be cleaned by the women.

The search and harvesting of the liana and the leaves is probably the most difficult part of the "feitio", requiring great experience and knowledge of the forest. Nowadays this stage tends to be reserved for specialized groups of "mateiros", or woodsmen, who have a great knowledge of the forest. Some churches now have their own plantations, which makes the work much easier and all can join in and help. Maybe, because daimistas tend to prepare large quantities of the brew at a time(somewhere between one hundred and five hundred litres ) Their harvesting methods are much simpler than those used by the vegetalistas studied by Luna and Dobkin de Rios. In place of the ceremonious procedures of the Peruvians, daimistas simply pull the liana from the trees, cutting it into pieces 20 cms. long on the spot and then, packing them into bags that may come to weigh up to fifty kilos.

The next stage happens in the "feitio" house, where men clean the pieces of liana, peeling off the skin and removing dirt and imperfect bits. During this work participants must remain in concentration and strive for their own inner cleansing. Next comes the "beating ", the ceremonial pounding of the liana, usually set to begin at 2:00 am and carried out by groups of twelve, who alternate in two hours shifts. The liana or "jagube" pieces are placed on tree stumps fixed to the ground and beaten with hard wooden hammers. Hymns are sung to help keep the rhythm of the pounding.

The next step involves the cooking of the brew. This is generally done using three sixty litre cauldrons placed over a big furnace with three openings, one for each pan and using wood for fuel. In the cauldrons the liana fibers and the leaves are placed in alternating layers , up to the brim. It is estimated that for every bag of "jagube" half a bag of leaves must be used. The important balance between the "power" and "light" of the brew depends on the right dosing of the ingredients.

The cauldrons are then filled with crystalline water and left on the fire for several hours until the liquid has been boiled down to a third of its original volume. This is the most delicate stage of the procedure and as Fróes says: "One must avoid talking to the person in charge, because he must concentrate on the boiling brew and be aware of the moment when a Santo Daime being, present in the astral plane, manifests itself to indicate the exact moment when the boiling is done and the cauldron must be removed from the fire".

Once this point is reached the cauldrons are taken off the fire and the liquid, now called "cozimento" is strained and set aside. The cauldrons are once again filled with liana and leaves, and the "cozimento" is then poured back in. Once again, the sixty litres are boiled down to twenty, and the, so called, "First Degree Daime" is obtained. Boiling the same liana and leaves with fresh "cozimento", one gets the "Second Degree Daime" and, repeating the procedure, "Third Degree Daime".

Once ready, the brew is cooled and aired by continuous transferring from the cauldron to bowls and jars and then back again to the cauldron. The Daime is then poured into big bottles which have been previously carefully cleaned and dried and which are filled to the brim so as to ensure that no air remains , to avoid fermentation .They are then closed with wooden or cork stoppers and the quality of the brew is insured for many years,

Since this is a magic procedure to produce a sacred drink certain taboos must be observed. Just as care must be taken over the observation of dietary and sexual rules, so must there be care that none of the women taking part in the procedures be having their period. The handling the drink also requires special attention; no water may be added to the "cozimento", and Daime must not be lost or spilt on the floor. Certain times are considered to be more appropriate for the preparation of Daime, such as during the new moon . There are also times which, for a mixture of practical and doctrinal reasons, are considered to be ideal to begin certain tasks, generally in the early morning.

Depending on these various factors, on the quantity and quality of the ingredients, and on the degree of harmony and spiritual perfection among the participants, each batch of the brew, will have its specific characteristics.

Therefore each bottle must be labeled with the date of the manufacture, the phase of the moon and the "degree" of the brew.

Although there are many different ways of preparing ayahuasca and many possible variations of the basic ingredients, the followers of the Santo Daime doctrine try to keep to the strict indications left by Mestre Irineu on the subject. The process must be always the same and, besides the liana, the "chacrona" leaf and the water, no other ingredient may be added. The vegetalistas and the rubber tappers who were Mestre Irineu's original followers, lived in close contact with the forest, from which they extracted almost everything they needed for their daily life, including "jagube" and the "chacrona" leaf. Today, even those who still know the forest and its secrets, have great difficulty in finding "reinados", areas where the liana abounds. Owing to generalized deforestation and to an overharvesting of the liana, experienced woodsmen must now spend weeks in the woods, in order to get enough for one "feitio"

Besides, this religious movement has now spread to various parts of Brazil, where the necessary ingredients for preparing Daime do not exist, and where the new daimistas, usually middle-class, have neither the strength nor the necessary know-how to carry out a "feitio". So, these groups must rely supplies prepared by specialists working full time, in Colônia 5.000 and in Céu do Mapiá.

Due to the importance of this ritual, in the spiritual development of daimistas, "feitios" are occasionally held in churches of the Southeast. The process then becomes even more laborious, requiring shipments of the liana "in natura" being sent from the Amazon as well as the presence of Amazonian specialists to act as supervisors. This makes it difficult to envisage the setting up of a genuinely autonomous production in these regions in the near future, which would be able to produce enough of the brew to attend fully to the needs of the extra-Amazonian churches. Of course, this also means that, at the doctrinal level, these groups will also continue to be governed by the Amazonians, who will keep their power to punish deviations from orthodox practices by cutting the supplies of the sacred beverage.

1. Monteiro da Silva, 1988:37.

2. Monteiro da Silva, 1985:1 and 2

3. Couto, 1989:132 and 133

4. Items IV and IX state:

IV - Moral and ethical standards of behavior, in every way, resembling those existing and recommended in our society are observed in the various communities, sometimes even in a rather rigid manner. Obedience to the law always seems to have been specially stressed.

IX - After the ceremonies, everyone goes home in an apparently normal and orderly way.

The followers of the religion seem to be tranquil and happy people. Many consider the religion and the brew to be responsible for a reorganization of their families, for a renewal in their interest in work, and for their encounter with themselves and with God. (Final report on the activities carried out by the work-group assigned by The Federal Narcotics Council to examine the question of production and consumption of vegetable species, pg. 7).

5. Although all branches of the Santo Daime Doctrine maintain great uniformity in their rituals, we are dealing here with the followers of the branch led by Padrinho Sebastião, the only one active at a nationwide level, and counting with numerous affiliated churches outside the Amazon region.

6. Two examples are the "Prayer to Caritas", borrowed from the spiritist repertoire and the prayer which invokes harmony, love, truth and justice, taken from the group known as " The Esoteric Circle of the Communion of Thought".

The Prayer of Caritas

God, Our Father, who art all Power and Kindness, Give strength to those suffering probation. Give light to those who search for the truth. Put in the heart of man compassion and charity.

God, give to the traveler his leading star, to the afflicted consolation, to the sick rest.

Father, give to the guilty repentance, to the spirit Truth. to the child a guide, to the orphan a father.

Lord, that Thy kindness be spread over all that you created.

Lord, bring pity on those who do not know You, hope for those who suffer.

Let Thy kindness allow the consoling spirits to pour Peace, Hope and Faith everywhere.

God, a ray, a spark of Thy love can set the world aflame. Allow it to drink from the source of this, Fecund and Infinite kindness and all tears will be dry and all pain Will be assuaged.

As one heart, on the mountain, we await Thee with open arms.

O! Power! O! Kindness! O! Beauty! O Perfection! and we desire to deserve Thy Mercy somehow.

God! Give us Strength to help us progress and reach up to Thee.

Give us pure Charity. Give us Faith and Reason.

Give us simplicity that will make our souls the mirror wherein Thy Image should be reflected. Amen.

I thank Thee, O God! because this place is full of Thy Presence.

I thank Thee, because I live in Thy life, Truth, Health, Prosperity, Peace, Wisdom, Happiness and Love.

I thank Thee, because all who enter here shall feel Thy Presence.

I thank Thee because I am in Harmony, Love, Truth and Justice with all beings.

7. Polari de Alverga,undated:6.

8. Couto 1989:158.

9. Couto 1989:154.

10. See note 2, chapter 2.

11. Walter Dias Júnior 1990.

12. Monteiro da Silva 1985.

13. Monteiro da Silva 1985.

14. Walter Dias Jr. 1990.

15. Fróes 1986:69.
5 - The Controlled Use of Ayahuasca and Its Structuring Effects in the Santo Daime Rituals
"The first thing Daime obliges you to do, is to abandon any pretension of considering it a hallucinogenic beverage that will give you "kicks". Those who go that way slip and fall. And sometimes the fall is nasty".

Alex Polari de Alverga

"O Livro das Mirações"

Nowadays, it is often said that the use of psychoactive substances has been a widespread human practice, since time immemorial. A practice that some researchers associate to an inborn need of man to provoke periodic alterations in his conscience.

Researchers, interested in the effects of these practices emphasize the importance of considering different patterns of use: "hard" and "soft" practices.

The French anthropologist Martine Xiberras , for instance, considers the "hard" ones to be marked by a style of unrestrained consumption of products and of violent means of absorption. They imply a search for anesthesia for both body and soul, leading to a withdrawal into the self and a closing to the outside world. This results in a total submission to the power of these substances, leading to the isolation characteristic of solitary and individualistic drug addictions, like heroin dependence.

The "soft" practices lead to a state of effervescence and to the use, even if in a chaotic manner, of the cognitive and emotive faculties. This state is similar to the "trance", when all the subject's senses are on the alert, ready to act at the slightest internal or external stimulus. In this state of great sensitivity or of extreme vigilance, the individual is precipitated into a situation of excitement, that forces him to try to overcome the usual limitations to his performances.

All these practices imply a search for the self, expressed in the control of the use, as much as in the behavior maintained during the effects of the effervescence. Although Xiberras develops her observations in a European context, dominated by lay and materialistic concepts, she maintains that the name and the specific experience of the "trance" hark back to other cultural contexts, where such altered states of consciousness and such sensorial experiences are used as a means of perceiving and communicating with "the other world", with divine or occult powers.

Among European users of illicit psychoactive substances, the "soft" practices and the state of effervescence seem to characterize a desire for an opening to the outside world. The users seek to be in control, participating completely in their surroundings near or far. The products lead to extroverted euphoria and the beginning of the practice is built on the desire for expanded communication; the consumption happens in a communitarian way. Although rejected by the social body, the practice is valued by small groups of users, among whom the experience of the "trance" is guided and modeled so as to expand the ability to communicate and to share sensations. Therefore, this practice acquires the status of an initiation or of an integration with the group and is a real apprenticeship of the use of the drug as a mean of self control and as a new process of socialization in of an affinity group.

While the "hard" practices are based on a submission to the substances, requiring no training, the "soft" ones demand knowledge, control and initiation. This apprenticeship of another state of consciousness does not end with the ending of the immediate effects of the drug. A biological and psychological memory of the alternative sensibility lingers on and continues to act. Little by little, this experience affects the user's life changing not only his range of perception but also his view of the world.

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