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1 (2009) 66-98] doi:

JSRNC (print) ISSN 1363-7320 JSRNC (online) ISSN 1743-1689


_________________________________________________ Visions of Christ in the Amazon: The Gospel According to Ayahuasca and Santo Daime* _________________________________________________
Lisa Maria Madera

Servidao Srvulo Chagas 299, Campeche, Florianopolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil

In the Amazon, under the inuence of ayahuasca, eco-revolutionary Christian visions describe how Christs power takes root in the Amazonian ground. I explore the Gospelthe story of Christs life and teachings according to ayahuasca, as told by the Quichua Aguarico Runa, a native people of the Ecuadorian upper Amazon. I then trace local phrasings of the Gospel according to Santo Daime, a Christian sect indigenous to Brazil. As the Christian myth transforms, these radical botanical visions reinterpret South American history, bringing healing to continental and communal memory, and to the decimated and threatened land.

In the Amazon, under the inuence of ayahuasca, we nd alternate and eco-revolutionary Christian visions where the miraculous power of Christ takes root, not in the European or Mediterranean imaginary, but within the fertile ground of the Amazonian world. Under the vines inuence, the Christian myth takes on a radical botanical edge that aligns and expands according to the Gospels vision of Christ as an uncanny person who has extraordinary encounters with the natural world. According to the Gospels, when Christ was born, a star marked his birthplace. As a young man, the Gospels recount that Christ stilled the storm. The winds and the waves obeyed him. He walked on water. He smeared mud on a blind mans eyes and healed him. He cast a legion of demons into a herd of pigs that promptly threw themselves into the sea. He ew with the Devil in the desert. He raised Lazarus and Jairuss
* I am grateful for valuable editorial comments from Bia Labate, Edward MacRae, Tod Swanson, Bron Taylor, and Robin Wright.
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Madera Visions of Christ in the Amazon


daughter from the dead, and, of course, he himself came back from the grave. These stories of the natural world giving voice to the divine in turn link back to the Hebrew Bible stories of God appearing to the Israelites as a cloud by day and a pillar of re by night, the splitting and collapsing of the Red Sea, the ten plagues of Egypt, the burning bush, all the way back to the myth of Creation itself. When we compare these scriptural themes of the wild expression of the divine through nature, we nd similar values and events expressed in Amazonian ayahuasca visions that describe human access to an ongoing revelation of the sacred in the natural world around us. Beginning in the 1930s, there is an ongoing line of controversial scholarship that proposes that many of the worlds major religions, including Jewish and Christian traditions, were shaped by the ritual use of a variety of entheogens, sacred vision-inducing power plants. These arguments range from Robert Gordon Wasson (1968), who argued that soma, the divine nectar of the gods in the Hindu Vedas, was a sacred infusion of the mushroom Amarita muscaria, to the philologist John Allegro, a British scholar on the international team of editors translating the Dead Sea Scrolls. In his book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross (1970), Allegro contended that the early Christians were a sect centering on the ritual use of the Amarita muscaria and that Christ was actually a code word for the mushroom. In 2000, the psychoanalyst Dan Merkur proposed that the holy manna that fed the wandering tribes in the Sinai was a psychoactive mushroom, and, most recently, scholar of cognitive psychiatry, Benny Shanon (2002, 2008) of Hebrew University, proposed that Moses visionary encounters with God in the Sinai desert were mediated through the psychotropic use of the acacia tree, an entheogen with the same chemical properties as ayahuasca. These controversial theories and hypotheses regarding the inuence of entheogens over the origin and history of religions provoke dynamic discussions regarding the role of plants in the human relationship to the divine. In this article, rather than discuss the inuence of entheogens in relation to the origins of religious traditions, I want to explore the reverse: What happens to the traditional Christian myth when it comes under the inuence of ayahuasca? In other words, how does ayahuasca transform the telling and retelling of the Christian story? In as much as the Gospel is the story of Christs life and teachings, this article explores the Gospel

1. For discussion of the role of entheogens in world religions, see Allegro 1970; de Flice 1979 [1936]; La Barre 1972; Ott 1995; Shannon 2002, 2008; Wasson 1968; Wasson 1986; and, in popular culture, McKenna 1992 and Merkur 2000.
et al.
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according to as told by the Quichua Aguarico Runa, a native people of the Ecuadorian upper Amazon, and then traces local phrasings of the Gospel according to Santo Daime, a Christian sect centered on the ritual use of that originally emerged out of the upper Amazon in the 1920s and later spread throughout Brazil and into other parts of the world. By understanding the transformation of the Gospel within local Aguarico and Daime contexts, we can see howwhen transplanted into the Amazons fertile and psychedelic soilthe Christian story takes root, ourishes, owers, and grows wild. But what can be gained by understanding how the Christian myth is transformed under the inuence of ? Scholar of religion Wendy Doniger denes myth as a true story in which many people have come to nd their meanings. Doniger writes that a myth is true in the sense that its meanings are implicit and that we cannot understand a myth merely by telling it, but only by interpreting it. In fact, there no myth devoid of interpretation; the choice of the words in which to tell it begins the process of interpretation. In addition, myths encode meanings in forms that permit the present to be construed as the fulllment of a past from which we would wish to have been descended (Doniger 1995: 31). Throughout this article, I will decode some of the meanings embedded within Christian visions, framing these within a broader historical and cultural context, thereby sketching out how these particular narratives construct the present in relation to an inherited past. To better understand the botanical re-visions of the Christian myth and the cultural meanings preserved in the retellings, I will discuss two visionary narratives that emerge when Christianity is introduced into the pre-existing culture of the upper Amazon. I will begin with a discussion of an Aguarico post-colonial narrative that recasts Christs Passion through the lens of an battle between the powerful Amazonian shaman or Nuestro Seor, or Our Lord Jesus, and the treacherous or witch devils that seek to destroy him. This Aguarico mythic account of Christ deeply aligned to the rainforest resonates, in turn, with Brazilian Santo Daime doctrine where visionary encounters with Christianity form a radical botanical theology of transubstantiation. Through a brief analysis of local Santo Daime doctrine and ritual practice as expressed by a few of its contemporary followers, I will trace out how Daimistas graft Christian theology to an Amazonian botanical sensibility, rephrasing the Christian myth in the process. When Christianity melds with , the traditional Gospel transforms and is reborn, exploding in livid color against the backdrop of the Amazonian riverine world.
ayahuasca ayahuasca ayahuasca is ayahuasca ayahuasca ayahuasca yachaj brujo diablos, ayahuasca
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Ayahuasca, which means vine of the spirits in Quichua, is a vision-

inducing brew usually made from two or more plants whose recorded use in South America dates back to the Incan Empire. Used for millennia among indigenous groups in the Upper Amazon, ayahuasca is also known through the local names of yag, caapi, natem, pinde, karampe, vegetal, and Santo Daime, among others (Luna et al. 1991: 10).

Figure 1. Malpighaceae Banisteriopsis caapi

The brew is made by pounding or grating the Banisteriopsis vine and mixing it with the leaves of Psychotria viridis or Chacruna (DMT), or other plants of either therapeutic values, such as cacao beans or anti-rheumatic plants, or stimulants such as tobacco, caffeine, or coca. This plant mixture is then cooked into a bitter, dark brown brew. Considered to be spiritually and physically cleansing, the brew is a purgative that can cause violent diarrhea and vomiting. Ayahuasca produces intense visionsat times extraordinarily beautiful, at others horrible and terrifyingwith thematic similarities reported throughout South America. Those who drink the tea often report that an invisible spirit world embedded in nature becomes apparent, making the person aware of a profound interconnection between species that exists throughout the universe. Amazonian yachajs or shamans recognize ayahuasca as a living sacred spirit mother that teaches, disciplines, and reveals. For many Quichua Runa living along Ecuadors Napo and Aguarico Rivers, ayahuasca
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functions as a spiritually cleansing and curative potion, and it serves to guide as they diagnose a patients illness or discern the cause of events. Some utilize different parts of the plant as treatment for specic diseases, but on the whole, the healing role of lies in its power to reveal both the cause of a persons suffering and the means to release that person from disease. Within Amazonian cosmologies, the physical and the spiritual world interpenetrate and reveals this interconnection and the means to strengthen or sever these links. Within Christian Amazonian communities, sometimes compare their experience of suffering under the effects of to Christs suffering on the cross.
yachajs ayahuasceros ayahuasca ayahuasca yachajs ayahuasca

In this Amazonian interpretation of Christs sacrice, the crown of thorns twined around Jesus head represents the vine and the visions that it offers. In another Kofn account, rises directly out of Gods head. In his forgetful old age, God pulls a hair from his head and plants it in the forest:
ayahuasca ayahuasca

Like , the Passion immerses Christ in a world of horrible delusions. But also like it eventually teaches him to overcome these delusions and gives him the clear vision he needs to distinguish the species and create the world. Therefore, kams shaman Miguel Chindoy says that the crown which they put on Christs head, and which made him bleed was made of (Ramrez de Jara 1986: 184). And Asael Moreno, an Ecuadorian Kofn shaman, says that the Lord Jesus Christ drank in order to suffer, in order to learn (Studebaker Robinson 1979) (Swanson 1986: 128).
yag yag yag et al. yag

The story shows how God learns from the Kofn the miraculous powers of His own buried body. Within the upper Amazon, learn and become distinguished through the suffering of and the access it offers to the spiritual world. Assisted by plant, animal, and spirit helpers in the world of visions, the battles powerful forces of evil. On the banks of the Aguarico River, the story of the life and death of Christ takes root within this contextas Christ comes into the Amazon, he is identied as a and his story gains meaning through the visionary lens of the world.
yag, yachajs ayahuasca yachaj yachaj ayahuasca
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With His left hand God plucked a hair from the crown of His head. With His left hand He planted that hair in the rain forest for Indians only. With His left hand He blessed it. Then the Indiansnot Goddiscovered its miraculous properties and developed the rites. Seeing this, God was incredulous, saying that the Indians were lying. He asked for some brew, and on drinking began to tremble, vomit, weep, and shit. In the morning he declared that it is true what these Indians say. The person who takes this suffers. But that person is distinguished. That is how one learns, through suffering (Taussig 1987: 467).


Madera Visions of Christ in the Amazon

Ethnocidal Simplication of the Ecuadorian Amazon


Since the arrival of Europeans to the Americas, chilling accounts of greed, violence, abuse, slavery, decimating disease, and cultural disruption permeate the history of the upper Amazon. According to Blanca Muratorio (1991: 41), the earliest documented records in the Quijos region reveal that between 1559 and 1608, as a result of disease and brutal raids, the population decreased from 30,000 to 2,829. The Jesuits controlled Archidona parish from 166074, and from 1708 until their expulsion in 1768. Organized for Christian indoctrination, the Jesuit reducciones concentrated large numbers of people from different ethnic groups, which became one of the major foci for the spread of diseases and epidemics (1991: 41). As a result, in 1737 Indians of the Quijos region ed to the Bobonaza River and north towards San Miguel and the Aguarico Rivers (1991: 42). In the early nineteenth century, Portuguese raids, Spanish abuses, and deadly epidemics continued to wipe out entire ethnic groups and decimated others (Muratorio 1991: 41). During the rubber boom of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the terrors and nightmare of the debt peonage system intensely practiced through the neighboring Putumayo region also bled into the Ecuadorian Amazon where Indians were victims of slave raids and abuse by local and neighboring rubber barons (Muratorio 1991: 99-121; Taussig 1987: 17-92). Oil exploration, and its corresponding effects of displacement and environmental change, began as early as the 1920s in Pastaza Province and intensied in the 1960s through Napo and Sucumbios Provinces. By the late 1970s, Lago Agrio, on the banks of the Aguarico, had become a small boomtown supporting the surrounding oil elds. Muratorio writes that the cultural disruption created by this lengthy process of conquest and evangelization brought about an ethnocidal simplication of the Amazons rich ethnic variety resulting in the widespread Christianization of the Indiansno matter how supercial it may have beenand in their complete Quichuanization (1991: 42). In his account of a patient with Karsakovs syndrome, a disease that causes severe amnesia, clinical neurologist Oliver Sacks reects on the patients constant need to create elaborate ctions about his life in the face of the devastating loss of memory. We have, each of us, writes Sacks, a life-story, an inner narrativewhose continuity, whose sense, is our lives. It might be said that each of us constructs and lives, a narrative, and that this narrative is us, our identities (1998: 110). But for the victim of amnesia, whose world keeps disappearing, losing meaning, vanishinghe must seek meaning, make meaningcontinually
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inventing, throwing bridges of meaning over abysses of meaninglessness, the chaos that yawns continually beneath him (1998: 111). The story of Christs Passion on the Aguarico is both a mythic result and response to ethnocidal simplication. To the extent that this postcolonial myth reects the values of the ayahuasca world, this suggests the possibility that the continual use of ayahausca through the ravages of Andean and Amazonian history has served to preserve visionary lines of history, throwing ropes of meaning across the abyss, adeptly challenging the threat of cultural amnesia in the face of the encounter with multiple disappearing worlds.
The Life of Christ in the Aguarico In the 1980s, along the banks of the Aguarico River in the northeastern Ecuadorian jungle, the anthropologist Alessandra Foletti-Castegnaro (1985) recorded an Amazonian account of Christs Passion. A variation of a myth told all along the Aguarico and Napo Rivers, the story describes Nuestro Seor (Our Lord Jesus) as an old beggar traveling through the Andean foothills and along the rivers in the Amazon basin counseling, healing, and helping people as he traveled. In the midst of his travels, the story relates that Nuestro Seor encountered envious brujo diablos or witch devils that chased him across the countryside and nally killed him in his own home. For those accustomed to the traditional story of Jesus life, death, and resurrection as told in the New Testament Gospels, this particular Aguarico account presents a highly unusual description of the life of Christ. A mythic celebration of collage and powerful evocation of palimpsest, the Aguarico narrative combines an amalgam of Andean and Amazonian story elements with some of the Gospel narrative features from the Mediterranean version of Christs Passion. This story does not function as a myth in isolation, but rather it shares its themes, its cast of characters, even some of its events with other myths (Doniger 1995: 31). Framed within the upper Amazonian historical and cultural contexts, the myth makes sense as a local rephrasing of the Gospel under the inuence of ayahuasca. While ayahuasca is not named in the account, the inuential presence of the vine is culturally implicit to the narrative. Native American scholar and activist Vine Deloria writes that tribal religions are actually complexes of attitudes, beliefs, and practices netuned to harmonize with the lands on which the people live (1994: 70). Christianity, however, eliminated the dimension of land from religion (1994: 144). In its early moments of development, Christianity effectively
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pulled its roots out of the land by substituting heaven for the tangible restoration of Palestine to the Jews suffering under Roman control (1994: 144). Because of the intense variation of culture, climate, and topography, when Christianity came to the Americas, it shattered on the shores of the continent[s], producing hundreds of sects in the same manner that the tribes continually subdivided in an effort to relate to the rhythms of the land (1994: 145-46). The Aguarico retelling of the Christian myth effectively takes this shattered Christianity and encodes cultural as well as topographical layers of meanings that both preserve and transform not only a Christian, but also an Andean and an Amazonian history. As a powerful tool of interpretation, the visionary lens of ayahuasca has been used to make sense of the world throughout Amazonian history. As the myth travels through space and time, upon reaching the Amazon, it transforms within the interpretive range of the ayahuasca world.
In the time before, Kofn the storyteller begins, Our Lord used to walk through the world. He looked like a little old man and he walked all over the place without ever stopping to rest. In this way he walked around counseling the people, seeing how they lived, helping them. But after a time some , you know, those witch devils that come around sometimes, they became envious of him and they began to stalk him, hunting him down in order to kill him (FolettiCastegnaro 1985).
brujo diablos

In this opening section of the story, the narrators invocation to the time before calls out to the mythic time before the conquest and conjures the oldest and most familiar of Andean creation myths, the story of the

or transformed the world as they traveled through it. Evolutionary in structure, the myths of the waka ancestors emphasized the way that nature evolved by adapting to conict and change. The most famous written accounts of these mythic waka ancestors are recorded in the Peruvian Huarochir manuscript, which is the oldest Native Andean document that relates local religious traditions. Written in Quechua sometime between 1598 and 1608, the manuscript recounts the escapades of two of the local Huarochiri ancestors, Viracocha and Paria Caca (Salomon et al. 1991). Typical tricksters, Viracocha and Paria Caca often traveled in disguise as beggars, birds, plants, rocks, and so on. As these wakas met up with other people, animals, plants, or landforms, they would strategically change these creatures through blessings or curses depending on whether these creatures were helpful or hostile to the wanderers. Plant and animal characteristics and features of the earth and sky all served as
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wakas or ancestors whooften traveling in disguisecreated


Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture

proof of the travels (Madera 2005). In the of Peru these myths still resonate with contemporary or lineage groups who say, for example, that the Milky Way is the trail of Viracochas sperm seeding the night (Urton 1985). Preserving the same evolutionary structure as the myths, post-contact Andean narratives maintained variations of the traditional plot lines but recast Nuestro Seor (Our Lord Jesus) into the role of the wandering Additionally, in his discussion of the Nuestro Seor myth cycle in the Andes and Amazon, Tod Swanson (1986) locates the roots of these myths in the Incaic solar calendar where the Incas divided the solar godhead between the Churi-Inti or Son Sun, was born at Inti Raymi, the feast of the winter solstice, and then traveled south growing closer, warmer and stronger until it reached its full maturation as Viracocha, the adult sun during Capac Raymi, the great Inca summer solstice festival in December (Demarest 1981: 25). After the feast of Capac Raymi Viracocha, the mature Seor Sol, then began his adult traveling life shifting gradually northward and waning until its death and subsequent rebirth (as Punchao, the son) in Inti Raymi (Demarest 1981: 27). The Nuestro Seor cycle mirrors this calendrical movement of maturation, pairing the Christ Child with Punchao and the aged God the Father with Viracocha. Within this cyclical solar Christology, the birth narratives are also resurrection narratives, and therefore, the child Christs powers to discern and create are actually fruits of the crucixion they seem to precede (Swanson 1986: 122). From this perspective, the Aguarico narratives opening invocation to the time before also calls out to the story of the Creating Christ who brings order to the old, dying world. Associated with Dios Yaya (God the Father), this primordial time, the time before, is characterized by chaos, cacophony, and confusion engendered by Gods old age (Swanson 1986: 119). In this narrative, like others in the region, the Indian Christ that appears to transform the chaos of the primordium is an ambiguous gure because he emerges out of the very primordium he overcomes (1986: 122). This solar connection with the life of Christ aligns the pre-dawn sun to Jesus birth and childhood. The ight of the Holy Family, for instance, takes place during the earliest light of the morning:
wakas altiplanos ayllus, , waka wakas. Punchao and Viracocha. Punchao,

As dawn approaches, the increasing light of the sun begins to reduce these primordials to distinct species of plants and animals, and to relate them to each other in a seasonal harmony. To resist this fate, the demons pursue Christ through the grey forests and mountains hoping to kill the child sun before he rises. But as they ee, Christ and Mary create the world (Swanson 1986: 123).
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As a result, throughout the Andean highlands and to a lesser extent into the Amazonian lowlands of Ecuador, local stories relate in detail the specic encounters that Jesus, his mother Mary, and their burro had as they passed through a storytellers home. The events in the Holy Familys ight altered the South American landscape, leaving their sacred mark on rocks, elds, rivers, animals, and plants. Like the pre-contact myths, the stories of Nuestro Seors adventures traveled with traders, porters, and yachajs who carried these tales throughout the Andean mountains and down into the Amazonian foothills. Set adrift from the Bible and married to these older Andean plot lines, the Christian story traveled, transformed, and adapted to local geographies, histories, social needs, and cultural realities. Dressed in new costume, but maintaining its Incaic and Huarochir roots, the story made its way across the mountains, down into the Amazonian foothills, emerging in the late twentieth century on the banks of the Aguarico, as a story that recounts how Nuestro Seor disguises himself as a beggar and wanders without resting across the land. Once the story reaches the Amazon, it absorbs the realities of the ayahuasca world. As he travels, Our Lord Jesus has the curative powers to see, counsel, and heal those he encounters. Here Nuestro Seor plays the role of a traveling yachaj, literally knower, healer, or medicine person. Consequently, the myth also ts into an Amazonian genre of stories about the deadly battles between yachajs. Traditionally, these battles between yachajs take place on the spiritual plane during ayahuasca ights. Under the inuence of ayahuasca, yachajs can recognize, counter, and evade their enemies, and, most importantly, they can shape shift into the form of another creature as a means of traveling incognito, escaping pursuit, or launching surprise attacks. Within the Amazonian cultural context, it is understood that the yachajs power arises directly from his or her intimate knowledge of and skilled experience with ayahuasca. In this story, it is Nuestro Seors signicant powers that attract the envy of brujo diablos, demon witches who use their power to kill rather than heal, to curse rather than bless. On the banks of the Aguarico, Christs Passion is thus recast through the lens of an ayahuasca battle between the powerful yachaj Nuestro Seor and the treacherous brujo diablos that seek to destroy him. Later in the text I will discuss the resonant meanings elicited by these brujo diablos but for now I will focus on the nature of their envy.
2. 82-109. For an historical account of battles between

yachajs in Brazil, see Wright 2004:

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In the Andes and in the Amazon, envy is a primary sin. In a region where the strength of communal bonds and communal identity traditionally (and ideally) take precedence over individual needs and desires, envy is considered to be a vengeful and murderous emotion with the extraordinary power to disrupt and destroy the blossoming of life, luck, and love. Within the logic of the Aguarico world (as well as within the extended Ecuadorian Amazonian and Andean world), the cause for the envy is implicitthe Son of God is a powerful He possesses knowledge and has established an extensive network of alliances with the forest, mountains, and rivers; the plants and the animals; the living and the dead; the four elements and the extended cosmos; and therefore possesses the ability to thwart or foster life, luck, and love. For Amazonian , many of these alliances are formed during ights where the spirit nature of the world reveals itself. Under the inuence of , the forms and breaks alliances, and guides, negotiates, attracts, and repels the ow of spiritual and material energies in, through, and around his or her home community. Because of this mastery, the skilled continually risks attack from envious competitors who want to steal his or her power or undermine the health and well being of the community. Within the region, the addition of envy into the story provides an immediately accessible rationale for Nuestro Seors troubles. Gone is the complicated historical and remote political intrigue surrounding the Mediterranean account of the crucixion of Jesus. With a simple alteration, the Aguarico story cuts to the chase by dispelling any confusing background material and adeptly identies a powerful, locally recognizable motivation behind the enmity that rapidly propels the tale. When Nuestro Seor encounters the killing envy of the , he returns to his jungle home and works in the elds closest to his home so that he can hide when necessary. Here the story describes the Creating Christ in action. It shows plants and animals engaged within Christian realities, acting as sentient players in the spiritual life of the world. When the arrive, Our Lord seeks shelter from the plants in his or vegetable garden. When the plants fail to care for him they are punished in kind. And so the myth continues:
brujos yachaj. yachajs ayahuasca yachaj yachaj brujos brujo diablos chacra


Now when the devils arrived, Our Lord hid in his eld. First he hid beneath the yucca, but as the little branches broke under his feet they made so much noise that they couldnt serve as a proper hiding place. And so he went and hid beneath the maize plant, but these leaves, too, crackled loudly as they bent and there was no way they could save him. Finally he
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through it. Unlike the creation of the world in Genesis, the story reveals how the Amazon is not created in a few days upon divine verbal command; instead, creation is an ongoing, transformative event that occurs in the dynamic encounter between creatures or species. This Aguarico account maintains Andean and Amazonian mythic visions of many creations, always in motion (Madera 2005). The story demonstrates the intimacy of this creation. The limitations of yucca, maize, and peanuts and their failure to help Nuestro Seor directly affect Quichua Runa who depend on these domesticated plants for food. In the end, it is the Quichua Runa that suffer from the frustrated encounter between these plants and Our Lord. Unable to remain safely at his home, Nuestro Seor travels from house to house with the devils in hot pursuit. He blesses those who feed him and clothe him with fertile elds and storehouses full of food, but those who insult him or refuse to aid him receive his curses. It is here where we see Nuestro Seors ability to curse others that the myth offers a more detailed description revealing Nuestro Seor as a traditional yachaj who travels with a range of spiritually laden materials that can be used either for healing or harm. Sometimes, the teller relates, Nuestro Seor
would run into bad people with a bad heart who would say to him, Hey, you! Ugly old man! Who told you to come here? What kind of curses and sorcery do you come carrying around with you anyway? Now it is true that Our Lord carried with him all kinds of sickness, carachas, mushroomsand so, cursed like that, he would leave these things under the houses of these bad men so that they would realize who they were dealing with ( ).
Foletti-Castegnaro 1985: 78

went and hid beneath the peanut. Here he was able to belly underneath the plant but the poor little leaves were so small and so few that they failed to hide him sufciently. That is why even today we cannot eat raw yucca or raw maize. We have to cook the yucca and the maize because Our Lord was not able to hide beneath their leaves. This is also why we can eat peanuts raw, but only a few at a time. Too many will make you sick ( ). Like the wakas before him, Our Lord creates the world as he moves
Foletti-Castegnaro 1985: 78, authors translation

yachajs to harness the powers of nature to the necessities of the

This depiction of Nuestro Seor reects the traditional abilities of

momentblessing or cursing, bringing healing or causing harm, depending on the demands of the particular situation. To the people who fail to offer hospitality and curse him, Nuestro Seor leaves disease. To the people who offer food and shelter to the old beggar, Nuestro Seor blesses their elds and brings plentiful harvests.
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Brujo Diablos

It is worth pausing for a moment to consider the themselves. Both Spanish words are used in the original Quichua version and they point to a larger religious history of the interaction between native traditions and Christianity. In the Andes, the term is used to refer to a killing , someone who generally uses his powers to destroy rather than heal. The Spanish term is used for who use their powers for healing rather than harm and who traditionally state this fact, along with their Christian alliances, at the beginning of a curing session (Freedman 2000: 113-19). Despite the fact that historically, within the region, Jesuits appointed as captains or leadersof the and thus played a pivotal role both in disseminating Christianity and in navigating native response to Jesuit control, still in the contemporary Napo world, do not incorporate Christianity into the structures of the curing sessions to the same extent as their Andean counterparts. Instead, is used as a polite form to refer to a who is friendly to the speaker and simply means the from a competing family or community who attempts to attract limited local resources away from the speakers community towards the rival people and home. Historically, since the conquest, Catholic and later Evangelical missionaries in the twentieth century often identied , and other ritual and herbal specialists in the Andes and Amazon as witches or sorcerers who consorted with the Devil. The Devil itself is foreign to South America and the idea was initially imported to the continent with Catholic Europeans on the heels of the Inquisition. Catholic authorities in South America projected this European notion of the Devil onto Andean and Amazonian spirits and nature deities. However, as time progressed, Native Andean and Amazonian Christians maintained many traditional customs, weaving Christianity into their own cultural systems of belief (Cervantes 1994; Mills 1997). Through this process, among Native Andeans and Amazonians, the concept of the Devil took on an additional nuance and came to represent dark, dangerous, destructive, or consuming spirit manifestations of the land. The Devil manifestation of the land is typically associated with envy, power, money, greed, violence, illicit sex, deformity, disease, war, and other typical non-Christian values, so to speak. Killing or seek out this consuming, glutinous aspect of the land in order to gain power or wealth or to cause harm to their enemies.
brujo diablos brujo yachaj curandero yachajs yachajs capitanes reducciones yachajs yachajs











3. Tod Swanson, personal communication, September 2008.

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Consequently, with the brujos in hot pursuit, Nuestro Seor travels year after year across the countryside, visiting people and helping them. In moments when the brujos nearly catch him, Nuestro Seor would make snow fall in the path and then he would slip from view and look as they might, the demons could no longer nd him. Finally, says the Aguarico storyteller,
Nuestro Seors hour arrived and of his own will the Son of God allowed himself to be caught. He returned to his homeland, to a mountain, a cerro named Calvario and he arrived to the house of some women. There he hid in a room ( .
Foletti-Castegnaro 1985: 78)

Because of his willingness to submit to his fate, Nuestro Seor has some control over the parameters of his death and goes home. In Ecuador, many traditional Andean and Amazonian people believe that when they die they go to live inside their home mountain, or cerro, the place out of which they were born. Transformed by this indigenous narration, we nd that Calvary is the Son of Gods cerro, his home mountain, his place of origin, his dawning placeas it wereor his pacarina to use the older Andean Quichua term. It is in this context that the Son of God returns home, to his tierra, to the locus of his powerhis cerro Calvarioto die. The suggestion that Christ, too, has a pacarina reveals the way that this key Christian gure has been fully re-framed by native cosmology. He was born out of the Amazonian land and will return into the land when he dies. This basic inclusion suggests the impossibility of imagining Christ arising out of an alternate reality. His accessible power as a focus of Native Christian worship depends upon his familiarity with and participation in the local Andean and Amazonian worlds. And so Nuestro Seor returns to his homeland, to his cerro Calvario.
When the diablos arrived, they searched through the whole house until they found him. They caught him, whipped him, insulted him and beat him. Afterwards they made him carry the cross. They called on a blind diablo and had him kill the Son of God piercing him through with a lance ( ).
Foletti-Castegnaro 1985: 78

At this point, the myth shifts in source material from the Andean stories of the traveling wakas or ancestors to the Gospel accounts of Christs Passion. The women at the cross translate into friends who protect the Son of God by hiding him in their home. The image of the cross itself appears suddenly and disappears quickly. The story acknowledges the symbolic importance of the cross as an object of ritual humiliation and thus gestures to the colonial history of extirpation of idolatry and the neo-colonial repression of native traditions.
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During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Church authorities organized ofcial extirpation campaigns to wipe out specic native religious practices that the Church dened as witchcraft. The idea of what made up witchcraft and sorcery was informed by the European inquisition and imported to the Americas. One of the punishments for sorcery included a procession of shame where the accused was forced to wear a or pointed headgear and led half naked through the town on the back of a mule with a wooden cross hung around the accused persons neck while the town crier called out the sorcerers crimes (Mills 1997: 124). Church authorities also planted crosses on sites (Andean holy places) after destroying all sacred objects, punishing the ministers of the and attempting to dismantle the surrounding cult of worship (de Arriaga 1920 [1621]). In the Amazon, the cross was used as the symbol of religious and social conquest over hunter/gatherer groups whose conversion entailed forced settlements in Christian towns or (Muratorio 1991: 72-98) The Church and the States condemnation and persecution of ministers, native healers, traditional religious specialists, and continued in some form all the way through the late twentieth century. For this reason, in the Aguarico account, the cross does not signify the instrument of Christs death and human redemption, but rather represents the sign of his conquest and humiliation. This in turn aligns him with Native Amazonians and Andeans in their relation to the cross as the signier of the historical repression of native traditions by various Church authorities. And so the story pauses momentarily on the cross as a sign of humiliation, but then swiftly changes the details of Christs death by translating the Roman Centurions spear into a familiar deadly weaponan Amazonian lance. The trick a blind demon into piercing the Son of God through the heart. Two tiny drops of Jesus blood spurt from his heart and splash into the eye of the blind demon and heal him. Upon recovering his sight, he echoes the Roman centurion at the cross and exclaims in horror: This was the Son of God! Why did you make me raise my spear against him? This narrative ploy allows the spectacular unveiling of the stranger revealing his identity as the true Son of God. The myth suggests that, like the blind demon, the previous men with bad hearts would not have treated this so poorly had they realized his true identity. Sadly, these realizations come too late:
coroza waka waka reducciones . waka yachajs brujos yachaj

When the Son of God died, the Demon became blind again. Afterwards they buried the Son of God beneath his house. The demons took possession of all of his things and took over his house and they began to eat all of his chickens. They even proceeded to cook the white rooster, which is the rooster of God. While they were eating, the cock
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over his house. Now, as discussed earlier, throughout this region when the Diablo (Devil) appears in personal accounts, local myths, and legends, he frequently appears in moments of imbalance motivated by envy, greed, or a desire for power. However, instead of appearing as a Runa or an indigenous person, invariably in these settings, the Diablo appears as a Seor, a gringo (white man), or an hacendado (landholder) (Madera 2005). In Bolivia, June Nash and later Michael Taussig recorded the sacrices of llamas, coca leaves, and aguardiente required to El Tio, the spirit owner of the Potosi tin mines who appeared as a gringo devil (Nash 1993; Taussig 1980). In Ecuador, Tod Swanson recorded as well an account from the brujo and foreman of the construction crew on the Guacamayos road built in the late 1980s where the mountain appeared as the Devil, dressed as an upper-class gringo, and required the sacrice of fteen men in exchange for the carving out of the mountains body (Swanson, unpublished ms.). These three written records reect a fairly common apparition within shamanic stories where the consuming, killing, dark side of the mountain, forest, or river appears as a Seor, a patrn, a gringo, or white or light-skinned man often with green or blue eyes. Given this narrative pattern of Amazonian and Andean stories about encounters with the Devil, within the Aguarico myth the brujo diablos may well represent oppressive landholders and white colonizers, and, in this way, Christ becomes doubly aligned to Native Amazonians in their suffering. Through this lens, the story of Nuestro Seors suffering is also the story of the suffering of Native Amazonians at the hands of thieving conquistadores, explorers, hacendados, and brutal colonizers. These murderers and thieves bury Nuestro Seor beneath his house in traditional Amazonian fashion and proceed to cook the white rooster of
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farted three times, each time with such force that it was like an earthquake shaking his whole body. And because they were witches, they became frightened and they wondered amongst themselves, Could this rooster still be alive? No, no its not possible, certainly he is dead. Why are you afraid? But then, after that, the Son of God came back to life. In that same instant the white rooster began to crow from the pot where they were cooking him, Resuscit! Hes alive! Hes resurrected! The rooster opened up its wings and shook them as he crowed and as he did so he ung the aj [hot sauce made from red peppers] from the soup straight into the devils eyes. With that, all the devils turned into frogs. And then the Son of God sent them all down to the Kingdom below, down to hell ( ). Finally, like the Roman centurions gambling over Jesus robe, the brujo diablos take possession of the Son of Gods Amazonian property and take
Foletti-Castegnaro 1985: 79


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God, the rooster that crowed when Peter denied knowing Jesus. In this indigenous translation of Christs Passion, rather than crowing three times, this rooster farts over the outrageous betrayal of his dead master. The fart adds humor at a depressing moment in the story, while at the same time hilariously gesturing, in strength and effect, toward the earthquake of Golgotha at the moment of Jesus death, which is traditionally clocked at 3:00 in the afternoon. At the moment of the resurrection, the cock comes back to life and speaks, crowing, In an inverse gesture of the earlier splashing of Christs healing blood, the rooster ings the into the demons eyes and turns them into toads. In the Napo and Aguarico regions, rubbing or red pepper in the eyes of children is a traditional form of discipline that helps the child to correct the error of his or her sight and to gain wisdom, endurance, and the ability to see clearly. Here the demons are punished for their inaccurate vision. The tests the demons for the nature of their true spirit. They fail the test by transforming into toads, revealing their true characters as creatures of darkness. Again, Christian elements combine with Amazonian details to create a powerful story, spicing up the original version through the embellishment of complimentary differences. We do not see the resurrected Christ; instead, the white rooster of God rises up out of the pot his white wings ung open. Shape shiftingfrom human to bird (or some other creature for that matter) and back againis an essential feature of both ancestral myths and stories. Within Catholic churches in Ecuador, as in the local church in Napos capital of Tena at the Josena Mission, the Christian symbol of the Holy Spirit, the white ying dove, often hangs above images of Jesus with his arms stretched out on the cross. With his wings wide open, the white rooster echoes simultaneously the visual form of the dove and the crucixion, thus uniting the white rooster to the spirit manifestation of Nuestro Seor. This shift in the shape of the Christian resurrection story gains an eerie angle when the resurrected Jesus appears as a crowing bird rising out of the primordial soup. The Aguarico myth re-gures Our Lord Jesus as a clever Amazonian shape-shifting within a recognizable local geography. Nuestro Seor is not a foreignera , or . Instead, narrative tradition suggests that the are the foreign aggressors while Christ is native to the Amazon. Nuestro Seors success in vanquishing his enemies arises out of his local knowledge and mastery of Amazonian forces within a specic world. Informed by his visions and travels, Christs autochthonous power as allows him to win Amazonian and Andean allies alikethe plants, the snow and fog, the
Resucit! Resucit! aj aj aj ayahuasca yachaj gringo rancia, brujo diablos extranjero ayahuasca yachaj
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white rooster of Godwhich all work with him in conquering the brujo diablos. The myth displays the healing and revelatory powers of ayahuasca. In fact, through the ayahuasca visions, the Christian story itself is healed and Christ himself redeemed and released from the grip of the brujo diablos, who for a time controlled his house. The narrative powerfully rephrases a shattered Christianity. In this Gospel according to ayahuasca, the conquest and colonial expansion of Christianity is reframed as the aggressive and greedy action of brujo diablos during the time that Nuestro Seor lay dead. We will hear this aspect echoed and amplied in the Gospel according to Santo Daime. For now, this piece of the story opens up the opportunity to reect on an alternate theological explanation for the terrors that have visited the Amazon since the time of the conquest. When we consider the Christian Church as that which houses the spirit of Christ, the story provides an explanation for Christianitys dark history. In the narrative, Nuestro Seor lies dead while his housethe Churchserves as a hideout for murderers and thieves. It is as if the conquest of the Americas and the brutal colonization of the Amazon, that process of ethnocidal simplication, had occurred within the expanded space of Holy Saturdaythe time between Christs crucixion on Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday morning. This logic is consistent with an ayahuasca sensibility where time and space frequently expands, doubles, or collapses. In this alternate time/ space, ayahuasca allows the person to enter into the past or the future and connect with people from other places and other times. As we will see in the Gospel according to Santo Daime, in this alternate Amazonian mythic history the conquest of the Americas takes place in the darkness of Holy Saturday when Christ lies dead and God has turned his face from the world. In the face of profound historical and ongoing challenges to survival, the Aguarico retelling of the Christian myth casts bridges of meaning over abysses of meaninglessness. These bridges, these mythic innovations, create communal continuity in the midst of the disruptions of change. As Sacks argues, To be ourselves we must have ourselves possess, if need be re-possess, our life-stories. We must recollect ourselves, recollect the inner drama, the narrative, of ourselves (Sacks 1970: 111). In an act of cultural resilience, the Aguarico narrative repossesses communal life-stories by adeptly selecting and then weaving together a Christian, Andean, and Amazonian history and cultural inheritance

4. For an analysis of Indian suffering under the Conquest and the corresponding meaning of the crucifixion, see Swanson 1986: 140-54.
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thereby preserving and, at the same time, transforming the cultural past. The post- and neo-colonial myth recollects communal life through story and, in so doing, afrms the meanings and values of the present. It is in part the resilience of these kinds of continuous narratives that serves to maintain communal identity. For the Aguarico Runa, their identity depends on the history of their cultural alignment to the banks of the Aguarico. Accordingly, Christ comes to the Amazon, he comes to the Aguarico, and there, powerful that he is, he transforms and aligns himself in solidarity with this river forest world. The Aguarico account reveals how, for the Quichua Runa of Ecuadors northeastern jungle, the Christian story takes root into local ground. As it drinks in the nutrients and water of this specic cultural soil, the story takes new form and readjusts to the extended logic and history of the Amazonian encounter. Like the Quichua Runa, Christs power is expressed and revealed through his native alliance to the Amazon and his intimate knowledge and mastery of this intricately complex environment, a mastery traditionally mediated by . At the same time, the Amazonian elements of the myth gain force through the radical potential of the Good News of this imported Christian story where good is destroyed by evil but wittily wins in the end: the dead come back to life with new powers gained from the gravea grave imbued with the powerful mythic history and biological realities of the Amazonian hills The post-colonial Aguarico story of Christs Passion reveals the way in which multiple layers of indigenous meanings, values, and identities, both Andean and Amazonian, are preserved within the mythic context through dexterous narration that maintains the local geographical setting and marries ancestral and Christian plot lines, while insisting on the value of indigenous character traits. By maintaining the landscape, meanings within the myth privilege a local cosmology and history despite the playing out of a sacred plot originally cast in the Mediterranean. The narrative rephrases and reframes a shattered Christianity. Here, the larger cosmological realities of the Amazon and nearby Andes take precedence over written Scripture and become the stage out of which the Christian plot emerges. By marrying and interweaving multiple mythic realities, Christian, Andean, and Amazonian, a new powerful creature is bornan Amazonian Christian story where the redemptive death-defying power of the Gospel takes root within the innitely fecund, transformative, and evolutionary world of the Amazon basin. The Aguarico Runas experience of Christ deeply rooted and aligned to the rainforest resonates, in turn, with Santo Daime doctrine in Brazil, where visionary encounters with Christianity form a radical botanical
yachaj ayahuasca .
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theology of transubstantiation. While the Aguarico Runa describe Christ as an Amazonian yachaj intimate with ayahuasca, the Doctrine of Santo Daime goes one step further and proposes the revolutionary idea that Christ has returned to this world as an ayahuasca power plant, re-incarnated in his Second Coming within the alchemical mix of this Amazonian brew. Santo Daime is a Christian tradition indigenous to Brazil that melds popular Catholicism and nineteenth-century European Spiritualism with Native Amazonian and Afro-Brazilian traditions. The doctrine was founded in 1920, in the State of Acre by Raimundo Irineu Serra, a sevenfoot tall, afro-Brazilian rubber-tapper, after the collapse of the rubber industry. Part of a larger group of migrants from northeastern Brazil, Serra was one of thousands of displaced and dispossessed, exploited and downtrodden rubber-gatherers who sought to eke out a living in the unknown andto themexceedingly dangerous frontier regions (Wright 2008: 182). While working in the Amazonian forest, Serra and his friend Antonio Costa rst took ayahuasca in the Cobija region of Bolivia with a Peruvian vegetalista, Don Crescencio Pizango, who reportedly credited his knowledge of ayahuasca to descend all the way from the Inca Huascar (MacRae 1992). Through the revelations of mama ayahuasca, Serra encountered a blond, blue-eyed Queen of the Forest dressed in blue. The Queen of the Forest revealed herself to be the Virgin of the Conception and she called ayahuasca Santo Daime, literally Saint Give Me, as in Give me strength, give me love, give me light. In Serras visions, the Virgin revealed that Santo Daime was the living Christ incarnate and she gave Serra a collection of hymns that grafted together Christian theology with an Amazonian Irineu with the mission to replant the Doctrine of Jesus Christ on Earth. From Mestre Irineus visions emerged an Amazonian theology of the hibernating Christ. According to Daime legend, when Jesus died,
botanical sensibility. In addition, the Queen of the Forest entrusted Mestre

Santo Daime

Seors house after they murdered him, the Daime myth suggests a
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the Doctrine saw the distortions made to Jesus teachings, and It knew the necessary darkness ahead for humanity. It left the world at large, entering the deep forest. There It secreted itself in the jagube vine and the rainha leaf. It waited with Its guardians, the native peoples of the Amazon, for the day when humanity would be ready to re-embrace It (Goldman 1999: xxiv). Similar to the Aguarico account of the brujo diablos ransacking Nuestro


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theology of Holy Saturday where the spirit of Christ abandoned the Church after Jesus death and retreated to the Amazon to hibernate in the sacred plants during the brutal age of Christian conquest and Amazonian exploitation. For some followers, Mestre Irineu was actually a reincarnation of Jesus who had returned to earth to serve as the instrument for the re-awakening of the Doctrine.

Figure 2. Banisteriopsis caapi vine

By the 1930s, Mestre Irineu, the Christ of the rubber-working and caboclo communities (Wright 2008: 182), had drawn together a community of mostly poor, black, rural devotees that used Santo Daime as a communal means of accessing divine guidance, communing with the natural and supernatural world, and forging healing. The legend of the hibernating Christ may have been one of the many aspects of Santo Daime that resonated with the rubber-tappers of Acre and their own particular brutal histories of abuse and disenfranchisement. In addition, Strength was an important element in indigenous experiences of , suggests Robin Wright, love and light were the building blocks of a new community sentiment for those who had been literally abandoned in the unknown (2008: 182).
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The movement gained force, attracting rural peasants, Native Brazilians, and environmentalists. Drawn by the apotheosis of nature and the possibility of using hallucinogens reminiscent of Castanedas account backpackers from the countercultural movement ocked to the early Daime communities like Colony 5000, a utopian colony led by Sebastio Mota de Melo (Wright 2008: 182). According to Wright, The objective of the members of the Colony was to nd a way of eking out their survival while living in harmony with nature, autonomous from the corrupt, urban way of life, and in accordance with the teachings of Mestre Irineu and especially in their further elaborations by Padrinho Sebastio (2008: 182). In 1987, as a result of CONFEN (Conselho Federal de Entorpecentes) a Brazilian government commission led by doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists, and lawyersthe Brazilian courts legalized the ritual use of Daime. This further legitimized Daime and attracted more followers. Currently, there are more than fty Daime communities in Brazil and the rest of the world. Unlike the Runa of the Ecuadorian Amazon whose narrative histories and cosmologies root communities to a specic topography, in this marriage between Christian theology, Amazonian botany, and Brazilian demography, Santo Daime Doctrine took on a mobile form and traveled with its adherents across the land. As Santo Daime, the Banisteriopsis vine, and the Psychotria viridis literally left the Amazon, it took root in new ground. In places where the plants traveled as dried materialto Europe, Asia, or the United StatesDaime functioned as a kind of botanical ambassador whose use forged unusual alliances beneting the preservation of all species. The Santo Daime communities in the Netherlands, for example, have dedicated their efforts to strengthening European support of Amazonian preservation and raising money to aid the Ceu de Mapia community in their attempt to live in ecological harmony with the rainforest (Groisman 2000). Given the vast cultural differences between Daime communities, conicts within and between communities inevitably occur. Still, in places where the plant was carried in living form and replanted, as it has been replanted in the Atlantic Forest on Santa Catarina Island in southern Brazil, Santo Daime effectively creates new sanctuaries as communities work to preserve and protect the native and adopted ecosystems that support these sacred plants.

5. See, for example, MacRae (1992: 114) and his description of conflicts between southern Brazilians and the northern members of the community.
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Figure 3. Mestre Irineu

One of these recently founded sanctuaries created by the Doctrine of Santo Daime is the Associao Comunitaria Espiritualista Patriarca So JosThe Community of the Patriarch Saint Josephin the town of Vargem Grande on Santa Catarina Island in the south of Brazil. Led by Enio Staub, the group is made up of urbanites primarily from Rio and So Paulo. Members of the group initially arrived on the island in 1987 and set up base near the beach of Santinho. In 1991, the group bought forty-ve hectares of pasture and farmland and founded The Community of the Patriarch Saint Joseph. Currently a total of about sixty
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people live in eighteen houses at the community, while some one hundred and fty people live outside of the community but regularly participate in the Santo Daime rituals. In 2004, as part of a documentary video project, I had the opportunity to interview Enio Staub as well as a few other members of The Community of the Patriarch Saint Joseph. When Staub rst told me the story of Santo Daime, I was struck by how an Amazonian ayahuasca vision by a marginalized rubber-tapper powerfully re-invented and re-inscribed the Christian myth in such a profoundly attractive and identiable way that it created a narrative bridge of meaning that transformed the lives of thousands of disenfranchised Brazilians, disaffected urbanites, and other followers all over the world. Accounts of the transformative nature of Daime permeate the myth. Embedded with layered incarnations and reincarnations, Santo Daime Doctrine echoes Andean and Amazonian myths of the shape-shifting powers of nature spirits, ancestors, yachajs, and the divine. In one of Mestre Irineus miraes or visions, the Mestre looked up at the seven stars of the Pleiades and saw the stellar manifestation of Christ who then re-emerged in the form of the botanical Christ Child of Santo Daime. The Gospel according to Santo Daime offers this kind of radical vision of the incarnating uidity of the divine: Christ as human, Christ as star, or Christ as plant. This, in turn, echoes Andean and Amazonian understandings of the transforming, evolutionary, shape-shifting nature of sacred life reected in regional myths and creation stories, where we see many creations always in motion. Additionally, according to Daime legend, Christ incarnates into the vine at the moment of crucixion when Christ retreats into the forest and hibernates in the sacred plants during the Conquest (Goldman 1999: xxiv). This story of the Hibernating Christ echoes aspects of the Andean Nuestro Seor solar cycle where, in Gods old agein the moment before the crucixionthe world grows chaotic, corrupt, and disorderly. According to this solar Christology, the crucixion is the sacricial death of the old sun that empowers resurrection or solar rebirth as the Christ child. But Christ is also the new sun who rises from the old suns death to impose order on the primordium from outside (Swanson 1986: 122). The Daime legend calls to mind the Kofn account of the elderly God burying a hair from the crown of his head in the forest. The hair this small piece of the buried body of Godtransforms into the yag vine whose miraculous power is then discovered by the Kofn (Taussig 1987: 467). In taking yag, God consumes the brew made from his own buried
6. Conversation with Enio Staub, June 2004.

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body and learns that through suffering one gains discernment. In an additional account evoking the Last Supper, it is Christ who offers to the Kofn, saying, My children he who has no fear [in drinking this] will learn as I have, and he who has fear will not learn (Robinson 1979: 262). In Daime Doctrine, the male divine spirit, God the Father, infuses the vine, while the female divine spirit, the Virgin of the Conception, infuses the Rainha chacruna leaves. Santo Daime is the child of this union, the reincarnation of Christ as plant. Enio Staub reected on this union, drawing comparisons to Jesus miracle at the wedding in Cana. As the marriage of one plant with another, Staub related,


Here the vine of the souls, transforms into Santo Daime, the wine of the souls. In the invocation to the miracle at Cana the layered meanings invested in Santo Daime summon not only an Amazonian inherited past but a Christian mythic history as well. The story of Jesus at the wedding in Cana activates the metaphor of marriage while conjuring the miracle of water turning to wine. When adherents drink the tea, they partake in the marriage of two plantsbotanical incarnations of God the Father and the Virgin of the Conception. United in water, these divine botanical parents give birth to Santo Daime, the Christ Child incarnated in the wine of the souls. The sacrament of Santo Daime parallels the Catholic theology of transubstantiation where, as a result of the priests blessing, the wine and the wafer miraculously transform into the redemptive blood and body of Christ consumed by Christians in Mass. Like the Catholic Eucharist, in this radical botanical theology of transubstantiation, when adherents drink the wine of the souls they partake of the living Christ Child, becoming infused by his being which then unveils the true nature of the spiritual and physical world. Or as Padrinho Sebastios hymn conveys:
ayahuasca, ,

we can make the comparison with the Christian tradition. We can see that within the Bible, within scripture, that the rst so-called miracle of Jesus, the citizen Jesus, was at a wedding when he transformed water into wine. And so, in a similar fashion, we can also see in the marriage of jagube with the leaf, where we add water, this also transforms into wine. The wine of the souls, Santo Daime (Madera 2004).

I live in the Forest I have my teachings I dont call myself Daime I am a Divine Being I am a Divine Being I came here to teach you
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The more you ask of me The more I have to give to you (Polari De Alverga 1999: xxxi).


Like the Eucharist, when Daimistas partake of this wine of the soul, followers abide in Christ/Daime and Daime/Christ abides in them. Daimistas consider the brew as a spiritual short cut to God as the visions radically reveal an alternate reality, stripping the veil from the material world so that the spiritual realities become present. Daime has that delicacy, says Staub. It is that Child that goes right there into your heart, with love and at the same time with great discipline, the discipline of a father or a mother who gives special attention to the child and knows what needs to be corrected (Madera 2004). As Daime lls the person, it takes him or her on a journey, leading them through a spiritual path, a way that reveals the true nature of life. In the founding moments of the tradition, Mestre Irineu as well as many of his original followers were illiterate, nor does the Bible play a signicant role in contemporary Daime ritual or worship. Nevertheless, aspects of Daime doctrine resonate strongly with the Scriptures informing the Christian Eucharist. In particular, the doctrine offers a provocative literal re-interpretation of Jesus farewell discourse to his disciples at Passover. As recorded in the Gospel of John, chs. 1317, on the eve of Jesus arrest and crucixion, Jesus told his disciples:
Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Fathers house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am there you may be also (John 14.1-3).

Among Christians, this promise of Jesus return is known as Christs Second Coming, and, for a signicant number of followers, Santo Daime is the Second Coming of Christ where Christs spirit is made material, incarnate in the brew. A few verses later in the biblical text, Jesus says, I am the way the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me (John 14.6). And then, I am the true vine I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15.1, 4). Within the context of Santo Daime Doctrine, in his Second Coming to earth, Jesus had literally fullled his prophecy. He returned to the Amazon as the way, the truth and the life, reincarnating as the true vine within the tea. Peregrino, which means Pilgrim in Portuguese, is a middle-aged leader in the Vargem Grande community. Peregrino relates the story of his encounter with Santo Daime and the spiritual path that led him to
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the community in Florianopolis. For Peregrino, like many followers of Daime, an urban existential crisis compelled him toward a radical transformation of his personal identity and lifestyle. Peregrinos story has the cadence of a Christian conversion narrative and echoes the Gospel stories of the Galilean disciples who abandoned their nets to follow Jesus. For me Daime was like this, Peregrino told me,
In So Paolo I managed for a while part of [a famous hotel.] It had a nightclub You go to my mothers house and you will see a picture of me with my arms around Pel. At my nightclub Chico Buarque, Pelthat whole gang would hang out there. Just so that you have an idea, Pel celebrated his ftieth birthday at my nightclub covered by Veja magazine. I watched all this. I participated in all the parties. I had everything a person could ever want, you know? But then I thought, is this all that life offers us? And I came to the conclusion that it was so little. Sure there was good food, I could go out with whomever I wanted, but still it seemed like so little. I thought, I want much more than this. And so I sold everything and went away to Chapada dos Guimares. I went way in there. Its the door to the Amazon, the opening to the Amazon. I went there to Chapada dos Guimares and I stayed there for two years. I lived on the bank of a river. Me, who had everything in So Paulo, moved to the bank of a river in a hut, no water, no plumbing, no electricity, no lights, in a completely primitive state. And I stayed those two years there (Madera 2004).

From the outset of Peregrinos story, the invocation Daime! or Give Me! compels his spiritual search. Peregrino had everything from urban life that he could ever have wanted, but still it seemed like so little, and he wanted so much more. The transformation, the shift in the shape of Peregrinos identity, begins when he sheds his So Paulo skin and leaves everything behind. He turns his back on the civilized and sets his sites on the primitive. He goes North, to that magical imaginary, to the door to the Amazon, and lives in a completely rustic fashionin a hut, on the bank of a river, no plumbing, no electricity, no lights. He lives like this for two years, and then he is called back to the city for business. His timing is perfect, divinely guided, perhaps:
One week after I returned, a friend of mine, a university professor, a physicist, a mathematician, a statistician, he says to me, Peregrino, I found what I have been looking for for so long. I found a spiritual path in Santo Daime. And I said, Are you crazy? Are you nuts? Santo Daime! I saw a Global Reporter on T.V People who take thatthats heavy drugs! People who take that fall on the oor. They start vomiting. I cant believe this, Sergio! Now Sergio is a person, how should I say it, culturally speaking hes the most intelligent person I know. You know? I said to him, I cant believe that you got involved in a mess like that. He said, No. You need to go
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Madera Visions of Christ in the Amazon

there. No, I dont need to go there. You crazy? Im getting out of here and going down to Florianopolis. No, you need to go there because when I talked to the Master, he said your name, Peregrino, he said, Thats the person. This is the man. No way! Youre making this whole thing up! Youre trying to trick me by getting to my vanity! Im not going, no way. And then my crazy vanity got to me. I wanted to know why this guy said I was the one? Why did he say I was the guy? He probably tells the whole world that! Im going to go nd out. And thats how I came to know Daime I came to know Daime in the city of Ondonopolis in Matto Grosso (Madera 2004).


Back in the city, through a message carried by the most respected and rational of friends, Daime calls Peregrino. Peregrinos initial resistance to the idea of involving himself in heavy drugs, in a mess like that erodes in the face of irresistible curiosity and crazy vanity. Why did [the mestre] say I was the guy? Peregrino closes his story with the narrative rhythms of respect. With detailed specicity he marks where and when. He sets his personal ag, marking the moment of his profound transformation, onto the Brazilian map. And thats how I came to know Daime I came to know Daime in the city of Ondonopolis in Matto Grosso. Staub describes the way Daime takes root in peoples lives. Like Peregrino, he evokes the metaphor of a Door. His words convey the image made famous throughout popular Christian culture of Jesus knocking on the wooden door of the soul.
Daime has great meaning for those that know Daime, those that take Daime, those that partake of the sacrament of Daime. For those that take it, they receive a knock on the door of their hearts. Their hearts are touched by understanding and it awakens that consciousness. I believe that it is a cosmic consciousness, but also an individual consciousness, an individual consciousness you know, because it brings self-knowledge (Madera 2004).

Within the tradition, the sacrament of Santo Daime is consumed ritually by the entire group of fardados (literally, those who are uniformed, referring to the uniform clothing initiated men and women must wear at all ceremonies), in two alternate settings: a ritual of concentration where members drink the Daime tea and then sit for two hours and meditate together; and a dance ritual where members sing hymns while dancing throughout the night. The dance organizes male and female energies by separating the men and woman and organizing them according to their social status as virgins, married, or single. The Dance takes the form of a mandala, Staub described,
with men and women separated, separating their energies and as it forms a dance in that way moving from one direction to the other, continuing with three types of dances, the march, the mazurka, and the waltz, and so in a certain way this creates a dynamo of force, right? In this movement

Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009.


Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture

that is also like, how can we describe it, like the movement of the waters, the river, the sea, that kisses the beach and then returnsand thats how we are within the hall dancing like that. And through this we go detaching our spirits from our intellects, from the material world, through the discipline of the dance, of the energy, and from there in that moment, then, as everyone becomes attuned to each other within the ceremony of the dance, each one beginsaccording to their individual ability and understandingeach one begins to detach from the physical plane, while remaining within the little square dancing the entire time (Madera 2004).

By separating and organizing these material energies into the moving mandala, the dance creates a dynamo of force that mirrors the movement of water currents in nature. Through the strict discipline of the dance, members begin to disconnect from the material plane and begin traveling into a realm where the uidity between the material and spiritual world becomes apparent. Just as Christ healed the blind mans eyes with mud, so, too, through the botanical miracle of Santo Daime, the veil that blinds the person in waking life falls away and the active, invisible world of spirit appears before his or her eyes. The spirits of the earth, air, water, plants, and animals, the spirits of the planets and the stars, creatures from other galaxies, the spirits of the living and the dead all emerge during the miraes (visions). Peregrino describes the transformative power of one of these miraes where he encounters and enters into that dynamo force of nature:
I drank Daime one night and I came down to wash my hands in the stream there and all of a sudden a whirlwind came up, a spiraling energy of the forest came up right here and stopped right in front of me like that and said, Now we are going to show you the force of Nature, the power of the Forest. And I became frightened and then that whirlwind came and surrounded me. It was like entering into a centrifugal force. It tore me up into a million pieces and then I rmly focused my thoughts on Jesus Christ, who is a great master. I focused my thoughts while that wind absolutely destroyed me. Until I relaxed and said, Alright, theres no way to go back. And then I came back and that energy left and said, Now you know what is the energy of the forest. And it went away, just like that. It was fantastic! What I want to say is, things like that happen with Daime because we go through trials, you know? Daime tests you. It puts you through trials I can only give thanks because all of a sudden in this incarnation I found a spiritual path that demands a lot but it also gives you so much, you know? (Madera 2004)

As Padrinho Alex Polari de Alverga, a leader of the Cu de Mapi community, writes, the mirao is an inner perception combining insight and ecstasy that can be induced by the ritualized use of these divine plants in a religious context. He continues:
Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009.

Madera Visions of Christ in the Amazon

The mirao contains the model for a new state of being brought forth from an internal reality, revealing an ancient wisdom and foretelling a spiritual consciousness, our whole being beholds a mystery and shares a secret: Christ is risen among us in a new form! He left the sumptuous cathedrals and now He pulses in the heart of the Amazon forest. The Green Hell of the conquistadores has become a Green Paradise for those willing to enact the conquest of themselves. The forest is the Garden of Eden, wherein may be found both the Tree of Life and the forbidden fruit (Polari de Alverga 1999: 2).


Like the Gospel according to Ayahuasca, the Gospel according to Santo Daime regards ayahuasca as an empowering source of enlightenment. It afrms the divine potential of life within nature. It envisions the plant and animal world engaged within Christian realities and acting as sentient players in the spiritual life of the world. It regards the Amazon forest as Scriptures true spiritual setting. It counters the brutal moments of South American religious and economic history by separating a shape-shifting Christ out from the repressive activities of the Church and proposing, instead, a theology of Christs hibernation and botanical incarnation into sacred power plants. Additionally, Santo Daime relocates the Garden of Eden from Mesopotamia to South America where Daime/Christ is both the forbidden Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life in the Amazonian paradise. In effect, this replacement of the bread and wine Eucharist with ayahuasca
brings an eco-spiritual force into communion with Christian saints and their prescriptions of love, peace, charity, and fraternity. By unifying the naturalized and the civilized, it appears to work as a bridge over the 500 years of culture clashes wrought by the colonialist enterprise. In this way it births new cultural forms of indigeneity, ways of belonging to the land that reect the needs of the various peoples brought to it (Morgan n.d.).

If tribal religions are, as Deloria writes, complexes of attitudes, beliefs, and practices ne-tuned to harmonize with the lands on which the people live (Deloria 1994: 70), then Santo Daime communities like the Associao Comunitaria Espiritualista Patriarca So Jos may indeed have taken a shattered Christianity and given birth to a new cultural [form] of indigeneity. Santo Daime mediates this new indigeneity by requiring a person
to be present within the material world within natureplanting the jagube vine, planting the rainha leaf, planting wood for the re, cultivating the springs, caring for them, making sure that the water never runs dry in order to ensure that nothing is missing that is required for making the Medicine.

At the same time, it requires the person to detach

Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009.


Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture

into profound spiritual spheres, as the hymns say. Where the person travels alot within his own being and within the universe, returning, at times from the ceremony, after the ceremony nishes, fullled, content, with all kinds of revelations that frequently transform the persons entire life, things that they already knew, or had forgotten about, or things that they had never known, never thought theyd known, though effectively this was inside of that person (Madera 2004).

It is this principle that impels Daime followers to attempt to create an ecologically sustainable community living in harmony with nature as they do on Santa Catarina Island. The Associao Comunitaria Espiritualista Patriarca So Jos actively reforests the land with native species, offering ecological workshops, building ecologically sound houses, and creating guidelines that limit negative human impact on the environment. Because dogs and cats hunt and destroy nesting sites of native species, members are not allowed to have these domestic animals. Additionally, members are asked to turn off lights outside their houses at night in order to allow for maximum visibility of the stars. As a result of the reforestation, the community has seen a signicant rise in the population of threatened species, like the islands toucans. This sanctuary has also become a winter roosting site for migrating birds such as the swallow-tailed kite. Signicantly, the community has successfully transplanted both the jagube vine and the chacruna bush onto the communal lands, insuring communal access to Santo Daime. Like the story of Christs Passion in the Aguarico, Santo Daimes radical botanical visions offer a re-phrasing of the relationship between the Gospel story and human history. In so doing, the Gospels according to Ayahuasca and Santo Daime both provide the possibility not only of physical and spiritual healing to individuals, but also through the weaving and rephrasing of important cultural myths, they cast narrative bridges of healing across continental and communal memory, and thus serve as defenders of the decimated and threatened land. As Staub says, Daime brings with it the understanding that each one of us is a very important particle of the universe, right? Because from each of our lives, through the development of each of our lives, we are reafrming all of that divine potential of the sun, the moon, and the stars, of all of nature, the very existence of life within all things, you know? (Madera 2004)
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