Sunday, June 9, 2013

Santo Daime: Ayahuasca in Amsterdam

Back in March i took part in the ceremonies of the Santo Daime Doctrine as practiced by the Ceu di Santa Maria (Heaven of Saint Mary) in Amsterdam, Holland.

Santo Daime, as explained by the web site, is ayahuasca with a new name. And what is often called "The Santo Daime Church" is a religion, recognized officially now in Holland, Portugal, and Brazil (perhaps among other places, i don't know) that "praise(s) God, Jesus Christ, saints, angels and spiritual beings of many cultures, especially the Christian, Indigenous and African ones. The use of Santo Daime sacrament is done in the dates of its festivities calendar, following the ritual rules set by both Master Irineu and Padrinho Sebestião." ( It has been recognized by an official religion in several countries, including Holland, where it's legality was challenged and won. In 2001, the Amsterdam Criminal Court found that Santo Daime practice should be legal and respected under the European Treaty of Human Rights (more detail here.)

Now, this is not the first time i've done ayahuasca. In fact, my (very detailed) account of my 4days' workshop study with shamans from Peru  is the most-read article on this blog. Seven months later, i wrote, "My me is better and stronger", because of that experience. So, i was all up for it when i found out there were ceremonies happening in nearby-Amsterdam!

Interior of
Maarten Lutherkerk, Amsterdam (click for photo credit)
What a crazy different experience though with Santo Daime folks than with the shamans though! With the shamans, we all sat in one circle in a domed room in the forest of Austria, lying on yoga mats and sleeping bags in the dark. With Sainto Daime, the setting was a Protestant Christian church named for Martin Luther in downtown Amsterdam!!

There was more than 100 participants, mostly middle-aged, conservative-looking Dutch people (with only the occasional bearded or tattooed exception). The seats were quite tight together, the lights remained on, the music was mostly Christian.

In order to participate we had to go through a quick phone interview. And it was suggested that we all wear white (i arrived in a red sweater, not having any light-colored ones, and they let me borrow a white sweater from Lost and Found).

The staff of people watching over us during the ceremony carefully assigned us to seats of their choosing. Then one by one we each went up onto the altar of the church to drink the sacrament of ayahuasca, here called Santo Daime.

As i sat back down i found the sensations were neither as quick nor as strong as when it was brewed by the Peruvian shamans, though i guess that it is a hard comparison to make. i had prepared for these ceremonies, as i had for the Peruvians, by fasting for about 22hours. The Peruvians demanded a strict preparation of very limited diet and no sexual activity for 10days before their ceremonies. The Santo Daime folks made no such stress, and so i ate normally up until the day before.

Of course eventually the psychedelic effects of Santo Daime kicked in. And it was a nice, comfortable, though powerful ride. Then it was announced that it was time for Santa Maria, and a marijuana cigarette was passed around.

Now, surely the Santo Daime folks know what they are doing. But my Peruvian guides, and several of my friends knowledgeable in this area, strongly recommend mixing ayahuasca with nothing, and especially not with marijuana. Maybe as "Santo Daime" it is easier to mix, i don't know, because i refused to mix sacraments and let the joint pass by untouched by me.

Then, a little while later, things got crazy and i was amazed:

We were invited up for another drink of Santo Daime!!

Now, for a description of what a trip with ayahuasca is like, check out the very detailed description i wrote of my first experience. Suffice for here to say that i have a policy of not adding substances to my system while already tripping. Even as they began going up for more, the clear part of my mind, observing my psyched adelic part, was saying, "I can't believe they're going to take MORE of this stuff right now. But I'm not going to join, I'm not going to join..."

And then i impressed myself, when one of our (wonderful) ushers touched my shoulder and indicated it was my time to go to the altar, by making what i'm sure was a goofy looking smile/grimace, shook my head and shrugged my shoulders. So they moved on.

And then those crazy mofos passed another set of joints (without me, cuz that's crazy)!!

Now, by the end, about 4 or 5 hours after the beginning, i felt nearly entirely sober. But how all those folks took two doses of each and had themselves together by the end, i don't know!

On the one hand, i think that maybe i've gotten what i need to get from Mama Ayahuasca. That maybe it's not necessary to do more ceremonies. On the other hand, it is fun, cheap (50euros for all this) and did leave me with a well-needed boost of clarity and emotional comfort. So i do think i would happily join the wonderful folks of Santo Daime again if it ever became convenient for me.

If you are interested, i think you can find all the information you need to check them out or attend ceremonies here:

Thank you to the Santo Daime Church, Padre Irineu and the others,to the ministers and assistants that helped us all enjoy the sacraments, and especially those who have struggled, successfully, for legal recognition! :-)

Hari om.


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