For thousands of years, the Holy Medicine has traditionally been consumed within the context of Sacred Ceremony by the Amazonians. Consuming the Holy Medicine by attending the Sacred Ceremonies reveals the wisdom of the ancestors of the Amazonian and the teachings of the Holy and Divine Mother Ayahuasca.
These Sacred Ceremonies are the portals to access the hidden dimension of the spirit realm of the forest that had been handed from generation to generation to heal individual and communities. Every aspect of the Sacred Ceremony is designed to heal, from preparing the Holy Medicine to the closing prayer of the Shaman.
Traditionally, every community from the Amazons have their own way of Sacred Ceremonies. The rituals are dependable on the Shamans. Nowadays, many Religions for the Holy and Divine Mother Ayahuasca have evolved their ways of performing the Sacred Ceremony.
Environment of a Sacred Ceremony
Sacred Ceremonies in the Amazon rainforest usually take place either in the Shaman’s own house or in a ceremonial maloca. Traditional, experienced indigenous Shaman are present in different areas of the Amazon. A maloca is a large construction made from wood that is often decagonal octagonal in shape, with a high, sloping roof that reaches its highest point in the center.
Sacred Ceremonies which take place in a house, the participants are usually given a comfortable chair to sit on comfortably during the ceremony. If it is inside a maloca, a small mattress will usually be given to sit or lie on. In addition, the participant will usually be provided with a pillow and a blanket.
Most locations where Sacred Ceremony are held in the Amazons have their own ceremonial maloca. Depending on the size of the maloca, dozen to thirty people can fit in the maloca comfortably.
During a Sacred Ceremony
Sacred Ceremonies always take place after dark. It gets dark rather early in the upper Amazons because of closeness to the equator. Generally, it is always dark before 7 pm, and the length of the day is almost the same all year round. Most Sacred Ceremonies start around 7 pm to 9 pm, but some Shamans prefer to start even later. A Sacred Ceremony generally lasts for 5 to 6 hours, however they can sometimes be much longer.
Most participants in the Sacred Ceremony gather before the Sacred Ceremony and they are expected to act according to their intentions in the Sacred Ceremony from the beginning to the end of the Sacred Ceremony. The mutual integrity of the participants create a Sacred environment which helps the facilitator to complete the Sacred Ceremony harmoniously.
After the Sacred Ceremony begins, all the participants usually sit in a circle within the maloca or ceremony room and the participants take time to relax and adjust themselves to the environment where the Sacred Ceremony is taking place before consuming the Holy Medicine. To enter a more comfortable state and prepare for the Holy Medicine, participants often may find it helpful to meditate or practice mindful breathing exercises. Practices such as Yoga, Qi gong, or Tai Chi are also found to be useful.
The Shaman completes the preparation of the Holy Medicine generally before the Sacred Ceremony night. Once everybody is in their place and relaxed, the Shaman is ready to begin consuming the Holy Medicine. When it is time to drink the Holy Medicine, each participant in the maloca will take turns to sit in front of the Shaman and consume the Holy Medicine to meet the Holy and Divine Mother Ayahuasca.
When a participant goes forward, the Shaman will pour the Holy Medicine into the Ceremonial Cup. The Shaman will intuitionally perceive the quantity of the Holy Medicine needed for each individual. Newcomers are sometimes given a smaller dose than those that are familiar.
The Shaman may sometimes blow mapacho smoke over the cup, and sometimes might also say prayer or intention into the Ceremonial Cup and sing a Holy Icaro before passing to the participants. After receiving the Ceremonial Cup, participants focus on their intention on the Holy Medicine before consuming the Holy Medicine. Participants are advised not to focus on the taste of the Holy Medicine and consume the Holy Medicine one or two attempts. The faster one consumes, the easier it is, and less likely you will vomit it.
After a participant has consumed the Holy Medicine, one returns to their initial position in the room, and the following participant then goes forward until every participant in the room has consumed their Holy Medicine. The Shaman usually consumes the Holy Medicine at the last.
Spiritual Protection of the Holy Space of the Sacred Ceremony
One of the essential roles of the Shaman during a Sacred Ceremony is to protect the Holy Space of the Sacred Ceremony and everyone in it. Without the spiritual protection from an experienced and well intended Shaman, the participants are more vulnerable and open to negative spirits and energies.
After everyone in the room has consumed the Holy Medicine, the Shaman usually goes around and blows Mapacho smoke over each person, primarily over their hands and head. Mapacho is tobacco of the Amazons and considered Sacred and very powerful Holy Plant Medicine. The Mapacho smoke acts as a protection shield from negative spirits and energies. After the blessing, it is time to turn off all the lights. After consuming the Holy Medicine, the rest of the Sacred Ceremony usually takes place in complete darkness.
There are other rituals which the Shaman may perform before the Sacred Ceremony begins, using flowers, leaves, and water, for example.
Closure of the Sacred Ceremony
The Shaman usually closes the Sacred Ceremony according to his/her intuitional feelings, if he/she feels it is safe to do so, and also when he/she feels that his presence is no longer necessary in the room. Usually, after five to six hours, the Shaman closes the Sacred Ceremony.
Often, the Shaman will end the Sacred Ceremony with some form of thanksgiving prayer by lighting a candle. After the Sacred Ceremony has been closed, participants may still continue to feel the effects of the Holy Medicine. If the Sacred Ceremony happens in a maloca, participants can choose to sleep on the mattress, or return to their accommodation.
It is important to maintain silence after the Sacred Ceremony is over, or at least not to start any unnecessary conversation inside the maloca as other participants may still be absorbed in their inner experiences and hearing the voice of others may disrupt a smooth experience for them.
Sacred Ceremony Etiquette & Rules
Different Retreats and Shamans may set slightly different rules for the Sacred Ceremony depending on the context, background, and traditions.
The following rules are generally followed in all Sacred Ceremonies so all the participants can achieve most from their Holy experience from consuming the Holy Medicine and receive a deep healing experience:
No talking to others
It is very important not to talk to other people during the Sacred Ceremony. Not only does it distract the participants from their own thought process, it also interferes with thought process of others. The only time the participants usually talk is if one needs anything or need any help from the facilitator.
No helping others
Sometimes other participants may sound like they need help. They could be groaning, moaning, crying, or sound like they are in pain. However, it is not your task to help others, even if they are your partner or friend. Again, it can affect both of your experiences in a negative way. The experiences undergone by participants are experiential and ‘internal’, and the external reactions may not convey the internal changes and healing taking place. If a participant really needs help, then you need to trust that they will call out and ask for it. Good experienced facilitators and shamans will always know when it might be necessary to step in and assist somebody. Trust them that they know how to do their job and let it go.
No smoking commercial cigarettes
Do not smoke commercial tobacco or cigarettes during the Sacred ceremony. However, around the Amazon, it is virtually always allowable to smoke Mapacho, which is natural tobacco from the Amazons. Most shamans and Retreats will make Mapacho available.
Do not leave the space or area of the Sacred Ceremony
One of the most important rules of all is to never leave the Sacred Ceremonial space until the Sacred Ceremony completes. Participants may go to the toilet if and when needed, but always return to earlier location. Most Retreats have strict rules about not leaving the area of the Sacred Ceremony. Participants are always encouraged to honour the rules and regulations of the Centre which they are attending.
If participants are allowed to roam outside, they are warned not to go wandering into the Amazons and not go back to any other accommodation. During the Sacred Ceremony, the facilitator and the Shaman are completely responsible for the participant’s wellbeing, and therefore they must know the location of participants at all times. If any of the participants go ‘missing,’ then search parties have to be sent out, and participants of the Sacred Ceremony may not get the help they really need it if they are not locatable.
- Kristensen, Kim. (2018). Jungle Pilgrims: North Americans Participating in Amazon Ayahuasca Ceremonies. The Ayahuasca Phenomenon. [online], Available at: https://maps.org/articles/5408-the-ayahuasca-phenomenon [Accessed 19th May 2021]
- DeKorne, Jim. (1994). Psychedelic Shamanism: The Cultivation, Preparation and Shamanic Use of Psychotropic Plants. Loompanics Unlimited: Port Townsend, Washington.