Ayahuasca, coca, peyote and other sacred plants. The meaning of its use in the indigenous world

Ayahuasca, coca, peyote and other sacred plants. The meaning of its use in the indigenous world

The best known are ayahuasca; the cebil; the san pedro or wachuma; the toé or floripondio; the shaman; the cinnamon; epena and coca (South America); peyote and psilocybin mushrooms (North America and Mesoamerica) and tobacco (throughout the continent).

These plants, whose use is of millenary antiquity, are distinguished from other medicinal plants because they allow reaching those states that allow travel to other planes and / or dimensions of reality, that invisible world that is populated by spirits, beings, entities and phenomena that are beyond ordinary reality.

It is that the idea of ​​reality that supports the worldviews of indigenous peoples is more complex and multiple than that in which we, Westerners, were taught and used to understand as the only possible one.

The ceremonial and ritual intake of these vegetables enables both the shaman and the patient to make contact with the invisible world and the beings and situations that inhabit it; In the particular case of the shaman, the ability to travel through these worlds and take from them the powers, information and keys that he will need - once he returns - in the process of diagnosing and curing the disease is added.

One of the greatest abilities of the shaman is precisely to return, because it is not only important to travel through other realities, but also to know how to return from them to this world.

The discovery of these powerful plants by the West, as well as the meaning of their use and their efficacy as a substantive part of indigenous medicine, highlighted the existence of other forms of wisdom and knowledge, inserted in the broader contexts of the complex original worldviews.

When we say the existence of other forms of knowledge, we mean that we have to make the effort to set aside the parameters of our cognitive models or the laws of Western science with which we habitually move and try instead to understand that there are others. different ways of conceiving the world, life and the universe and that these ways can be as valuable as ours.

Such is what happens with indigenous worldviews.

Coca leaf

It is in this framework of analysis that for many years I have stopped using the term hallucinogen to define these plants.

Unfortunately that term is still used in certain academic circles and, in my opinion, in the wrong way since it confuses "The pathological connotation that it has with the spiritual, ceremonial and healing meaning that, on the contrary, the use of these vegetables has among the indigenous people." (Martínez Sarasola 2010: 146; see also Llamazares and Martínez Sarasola 2004: 260).

It seems important to me in this direction to reaffirm the use of the expression "sacred plants" (widely used in the indigenous world), as well as "psychoactive plants" (that act on the psyche), "master plants" (because they teach) or "entheogens."

This last word, widely used in recent years, was created in 1979 by Gordon Wasson, Carl Ruck, Jeremy Bigwood, Dany Staples and Johnattan Ott to replace precisely the questioned "hallucinogen"; "Entheogen" means "that generates God within us" and I think it is a term that conveys with enough precision the meaning and function of these plants.

This last aspect, that of being instruments of communication with the sacred planes, is more than important because it completes the deep meaning that they have for indigenous and shamanic conceptions by generating the possibility of direct and personal contact of people with the sacred, with divinity.

And this spiritual connection takes on even greater relevance because for native peoples the concept of health has to do precisely with being in spiritual balance, while on the contrary, illness is the product of an imbalance of the spirit.

The function of the shaman is to position the patient, restore his balance, return him to his axis, that which firmly connects the person with the Earth and Heaven.

All this extraordinary and ancestral knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation and "With the restrictions of the reserved knowledge" (Llamazares and Martinez Sarasola 2004), the shaman having to maintain throughout his life an almost exemplary discipline, in detail prescribed, which will allow him to exercise his profession within the framework of seriousness and respect that the worldview and plants require.

It must always be borne in mind that, for the shamanic conception, the sacred plant is a living being that enters the patient's body during the ceremony.

Once there, the spirit of the plant will dialogue with the spirit of that person, an action that will be guided by the shaman, with his chants, drums, rattles, tobacco smoke and / or any of the different ecstatic techniques that will help him in the healing.

All this delicate process, in which two spirits of different species interact for healing, is a central part of these ceremonies, denoting once again "The seriousness of these issues" how the indigenous themselves define certain central themes of their cultures.


In recent years, sacred plants have left their places of origin and are "traveling" through different parts of the world, often with shamans who invite people of different origins in ecumenical ceremonies.

Many of these people have also had access to these experiences in the indigenous sphere.

On many occasions these sessions have the healing, medicinal and transcendent sense that we explained above, but in other cases they are carried out for the mere fact of experimenting or for purely recreational purposes.

In many cases, these meetings are also led by untrained people and, therefore, who are not in a position to carry them out, and even less to implement medicinal purposes.

I believe that this knowledge, as ancient as it is valuable, today is being opened to many people beyond the borders of the indigenous world and even making possible the development of very important projects related to health [3].

It is auspicious that this knowledge can be extended to more and more people, but it is also key that this is done taking into account the ceremonial and ritual frameworks that constitute an inescapable complementarity.

Take these frames into account; Having the guidance of recognized shamans and / or properly trained and authorized people of knowledge and, especially, not forgetting the deeply spiritual sense of these experiences are some of the aspects to consider so that the healing processes with this other medicine are cared for. , effective and respectful.
By Carlos Martínez Sarasola *
Chronicles of the Land without Evil

Video: Jacques Mabit San Patrignano 2014 (June 2021).