References to the ritual use of drugs are scattered through the history of religions, the practice is ancient, its origins lost. Ancient Greeks, Hindus, Mayans and others routinely and ritualistically included drug use as part of the worship of their deities.
Many believed it help relax, clear the mind and open themselves up to communing with their gods and the spirits.
In some Native American tribes, the use of a drug known as peyote has always been central to their worship. A loose federation of ‘churches’ was finally incorporated in the state of Oklahoma in 1918 as the Native American Church. The ritual of the ingesting of peyote is a highly symbolic night-long ceremony. It is looked on partly as the possessor of magical qualities of protection and healing and the revealer of hidden knowledge, and partly as a guide that motivates and strengthens the worshipper.
Now rising demand for ayahuasca has led to hundreds of new churches, which advocates say are protected from prosecution by a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
In the ritual, a brew containing an Amazon rainforest shrub with the active ingredient N, N-Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, and a vine containing alkaloids that prevents the drug from breaking down in the body is ingested.
Those who drink ayahuasca report seeing shapes and colors and going on wild, sometimes terrifying journeys that can last hours. In this dreamlike state, some say they encounter dead relatives, friends, and spirits.
The roots of ayahuasca go back hundreds of years to ceremonial use by Indigenous groups in the Amazon. In the past century, churches have emerged in several South American countries where ayahuasca is legal.
Proponents say that In every major city in the United States, every weekend, there's multiple ayahuasca ceremonies taking place.
One believer commented, “We just try to create a spiritual experience without any dogma and just let people experience God for themselves."
About the writer: Matthew Woodruff is an Independent Journalist and Author who believes in Free, Honest and Open Reporting. Visit at MattWoodruffAuthor.com.
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