Book Review: A Hallucinogenic Tea, Laced with Controversy
A Hallucinogenic Tea, Laced with Controversy: Ayahuasca in the Amazon and the United States, 168 pages from Praeger Publishers (July 30, 2008). Authors MARLENE DOBKIN DE RIOS and ROGER RUMRRILL discuss Amazon Shamans (Ayahuascaros, among other terms that have slightly different meanings) use of a tea made from the Ayahuasca plant, native to the Amazon.
There are few true Shamans left, according to the Shamans de Rios interviews for the book. Training takes two years and requires many hardships, such as forays into the forrest, severe diets, celibacy: so much so, that the Amazon youth prefer city life to taking up tribal customs, such as Shamanism.
That’s not to say they don’t produce their own brand of Shamanism to tourists, offering Ayahuasca Tea (without the proper prayers, chanting, etc) to tourists. This is called “Drug Tourism” and the authors detail what Drug Tourism is and how it is harming Tribal life and how it affects how the plant is disappearing from the Amazon.
This is a great book that discusses the manners in which Shamans train, believe, go about their vocation, administer to local tribes (mostly women and children). With drinking the tea, a Shaman ‘communicates’ with spirits (not as we in the West describe them) then help whomever comes to him. In it’s proper respect, Ayahuasca Tea helps the proper Shaman delve into the problem, thus helping his ‘customer’.
Improper use of the tea has skyrocketed, and many false Shamans have sprung up around the Countries. Countries don’t seem to mind, as the ‘drug tourism’ brings in much needed capital. Although Shamanism is dying out, the religion it professes has spread to many Western and Industrialized Nations, including the United States.
And there was the problem, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency here in the U.S. When the religion started, the U.S. placed the tea on their list of forbidden substances. After many years and lawsuits later, the religion won their right to use the tea for their services.
The book is enjoyable, as the authors discuss conversations with Shamans, details religious rites, reasons for using the Hallucinogenic Tea, their use of psychology, biology, counseling, consultation of spirits, etc., the authors do repeat themselves quite often.
Overall, I recommend this book to anyone interested in Cultural Anthropology, Shamanism, Amazonin Influences, Religions.http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=BrickONeil&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0313345422&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr