In the 16th century, Christian missionaries from Spain first encountered indigenous western Amazonian basin South Americans (modern Peru/Ecuador) using ayahuasca; their earliest reports described it as “the work of the devil.” Early in the 20th century n the 20th century, the active chemical constituent of ayahuasca (now known by the botanical name B. caapi) was first named telepathine due to its apparent telepathic properties. Shamans lead the ceremonial consumption of the ayahuasca beverage in a rite that typically takes place over the entire night. During the ceremony, the effect of the drink lasts for hours.

Known to bring about optic and auditory hallucinations, the drink made from the so-called “vine of death” or “yagé” is used primarily for healing and spiritual awakening. Ayahuasca affects human consciousness for approximately six hours, beginning half an hour after consumption and peaking after two hours. Unlike other entheogens, which usually leave the user feeling tired and fatigued over the ensuing days, the user of ayahuasca is left with an enhanced sense of energy and enthusiasm during the week following the experience.

In Brazil a number of modern religious movements based on the use of ayahuasca have emerged and have been ruled legal, the most famous of them being Santo Daime. Ayahuasca is legal in the United States per a unanimous 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision called Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal. However, the court established narrow provisions for ayahuasca’s ritual use—mainly that the sacrament must always be served in the context of an unambiguously spiritual ritual that would be viewed as being protected by the First Amendment under Freedom of Religion.

Shelli Joye recent ayahuasca experience in northern California
Narration of Shelli Joye’s first ayahuasca experience, March 12, 2012