I have been taking ayahuasca for years in different places with different people and traditions. At the time of writing, I have been attending hundreds of ceremonies and have led myself probably over 50 ceremonies. The great majority of them were in the Santo Daime tradition.
When I started to drink ayahuasca, I was every time having deep and powerful experiences. Most of the time cleaning a lot. But as I was practicing more and more, I started to notice that sometimes my experience was stronger and deeper. I also started to notice that the people around me could have very different experience from place to place. I started to observe things in a different way, trying to understand what ingredients make the most amazing ceremonies.
Here are my findings on what I believe are the elements that makes the best ayahuasca ceremony.
The Ayahuasca Tradition
Ayahuasca comes from the Amazonia forrest. It is believed to be traditionally used for more than 5000 years by indigenous groups living in countries spread on the amazonian forrest. Last century, new Christian religions emerged from the amazonian forrest and started to spread over Brazil and then around the world. Nowadays some New Age rituals with ayahuasca are emerging, most of the time based on older traditions.
It makes sense to believe that the ayahuasca tradition has an impact on the experience you might have during a ceremony. But it would be a lack of humility to pretend that a tradition or an other provides a better ceremony experience in general. Every tradition has its own particularities in term of ayahuasca brew and ceremony rituals.
|Tradition||Framework||Country||Ayahuasca Composition||Other Plants||Body Position|
|Huni Kuin||Shamanism||Brazil||Banisteriopsis caapi & Psychotria viridis||Rapé||Sitting on the floor, laying|
|Barquinha||Christianity||Brazil||Banisteriopsis caapi & Psychotria viridis||Sitting on a chair, standing and dancing|
|Santo Daime||Christianity||Brazil||Banisteriopsis caapi & Psychotria viridis||(Cannabis)||Sitting on a chair, standing and dancing|
|Uniao Do Vegetal||Christianity||Brazil||Banisteriopsis caapi & Psychotria viridis||Sitting on a chair|
|Inga||Shamanism||Colombia||Banisteriopsis caapi & Psychotria viridis||Sitting on the floor, laying|
|Shuar||Shamanism||Ecuador||Machapo||Sitting on the floor, laying|
|Shipibo||Shamanism||Peru||Banisteriopsis caapi & Psychotria viridis||Machapo||Sitting on the floor, laying|
The People With Whom You Do It
During any spiritual ritual practiced in group, the energy of the people is mixing and forming a global current of energy. Have you ever noticed that meditating with a group of experienced meditators makes it easier for yourself to get your mind still and have a peaceful meditation? This is because of the collective energy developed by the group of people working together. This is why the people with whom you are doing a ceremony is so important.
Sometimes I feel myself contributing to higher the vibration of the current. Other times, when I have the opportunity to attend a ceremony with close to enlightened participants, I feel the opposite. They contribute to higher the vibration of the current at frequencies that are challenging my body and I feel blessed to benefit from such amazing energy.
If you are doing ayahuasca for the first time, you will most likely be challenged by any nice current. But if you have already cleansed a lot, you will probably love to get the opportunity to sit with extraordinary people.
The Ceremony Leader
In my understanding, the ceremony leaders have most of the time a great influence on the current. They know how to tune into higher frequencies and to channel lot of good vibes in the current. They are usually very present during the work. I mean they maintain a very grounding presence into the now.
They lead the spiritual work and the music. In shamanic traditions, they are the ones singing icaros. They usually serve the ayahuasca.
The most amazing ceremony leaders I have met all share the following characteristics:
- Serenity, calmness, humility, authenticity
- Openness, compassion, love
- Devotion, dedication, firmness
- Learn as a child with their family
The Current Holders
They are the ones assisting the ceremony leader in order to build a strong and high frequency current. They usually participate to the music, the singing, the prayers and the dances.
Current builders usually tune into higher frequencies and channel energy to feed the current. In Santo Daime tradition, the church members sing together in union to all connect in the current.
They are the samaritans. They take care of the participants in need. They make sure that everyone get the support they need and that everybody is safe.
As you can imagine, every participants impact the current. I have noticed that it is usually peaceful to sit in a current of people who already did ayahuasca many times. They already cleansed a lot and know how to stay calm even when the ceremony is challenging. When I am surrounded by beginners, I feel a lot of fears and agitation, which makes it more difficult for me to stay calm.
Peace, Harmony And Compassion
I believe that those qualities are the pre-requisites for a trustful and healing current. In order to deeply relax and let it go, such qualities in the energy are helping in a tremendous way.
The Size Of The Group
Small, medium and large group sizes provides different advantages and disadvantages:
|< 6 people||It is usually easier to relax and let it go in the intimacy of a small group, especially when people know each other.||The “quality” of the ceremony leader might have a big influence on the experience.|
|7 > 15 people||Can be a very serene atmosphere when the current is mainly composed of experienced people who are used to practice together.||Can lead to a chaotic current when it is composed mainly of unexperienced participants.|
|> 15 people||Can generate a tremendous energy when many people are actively contributing to the current.||Can lead to a chaotic current when it is composed mainly of unexperienced participants. It is not always easy to relax and let it go in the middle of a many unknown people.|
I personally have a preference for a small settings with max 6 people. The intimacy of the ceremony provides usually serenity and trust in the current. It helps people relax and follow the guidance of the ayahuasca.
The Plant Medicines
Depending on the tradition and the ritual, different plants might be served during an ayahuasca ceremony.
In my experience, it is sufficient to do a ceremony with ayahuasca only. You don’t need to take additional plants to get a wonderful and profound experience. However the use of other plants might bring you additional benefits.
The composition and the preparation of the ayahuasca brew differs in the different traditions. The plants used and the way they are cooked have an influence on the effect that have the ayahuasca. While cooking ayahuasca, tribes in Amazonia mix different plants, each bringing their associated ceremonial values and spirits.
Traditional ayahuasca brews are usually made with Banisteriopsis caapi as an MAOI, while dimethyltryptamine sources and other admixtures vary from region to region. There are several varieties of caapi, often known as different “colors”, with varying effects, potencies, and uses.
- Psychotria viridis (Chacruna) – leaves
- Diplopterys cabrerana (Chaliponga, Chagropanga, Banisteriopsis rusbyana) – leaves
- Psychotria carthagenensis (Amyruca) – leaves
- Mimosa tenuiflora (M. hostilis) – Root bark
Other common admixtures:
- Justicia pectoralis
- Brugmansia (Toé)
- Nicotiana rustica (Mapacho, variety of tobacco)
- Ilex guayusa, a relative of yerba mate
Common admixtures with their associated ceremonial values and spirits:
- Ayahuma bark: Dead head tree. Provides protection and is used in healing susto (soul loss from spiritual fright or trauma).
- Capirona bark: Provides cleansing and protection. It is noted for its smooth bark, white flowers, and hard wood.
- Chullachaki caspi bark (Brysonima christianeae): Provides cleansing to the physical body. Used to transcend physical body ailments.
- Lopuna blanca bark: Provides protection.
- Punga amarilla bark: Yellow Punga. Provides protection. Used to pull or draw out negative spirits or energies.
- Remo caspi bark: Oar Tree. Used to move dense or dark energies.
- Wyra (huaira) caspi bark (Cedrelinga catanaeformis): Air Tree. Used to create purging, transcend gastro/intestinal ailments, calm the mind, and bring tranquility.
- Shiwawaku bark: Brings purple medicine to the ceremony.
- Uchu sanango: Head of the sanango plants.
- Huacapurana: Giant tree of the Amazon with very hard bark.
The ayahuasca brew can be more or less concentrate. A higher concentration produces a stronger effect. You then understand that to get a stronger and deeper experience, it depends on the concentration of the brew as well as the quantity and number of time that you are drinking. Drinking a small glass of concentrated ayahuasca can produce a much stronger effect than a big glass of less concentrated tea.
Tobacco (Rapé, Mapacho)
Tobacco is both grounding and stimulating, which explained the balanced but energized feeling it leaves you with. This is why indigenous cultures of the Amazon have used the tobacco snuff rapé for generations as a precursor to ayahuasca ceremonies and as an initiatory spiritual cleansing to help a person mentally and emotionally prepare for their ayahuasca journey. For a similar reason, tobacco is also often used during an ayahuasca ceremony in the form of mapacho cigarettes. Burning the tobacco—turning it from earth into air—serves as a means of communication with the spiritual world and helps protect the ceremonial space from bad spirits.
In some traditions, it is common to administrate rapé during ayahuasca ceremonies. The shaman blows the rape powder into the narines of the receiver. It is burning the sinuses in a painful way. I feel its energy more masculin and viril than the ayahuasca. I have witnessed many times people purging very loud after taking rape. It is said that taking rapé connects you to to an ancient lineage of souls and allows you to benefit from their teachings.
In the Santo Daime tradition, few places use cannabis during their ritual. They call it Santa Maria and consecrate it during the ceremonies. I feel its energy more feminine and softer than the ayahuasca.
Different ayahuasca traditions have very different rituals. It is not the purpose to present here the different rituals, their specificities and advantages. But keep in mind that the ritual itself has a strong influence on an ayahuasca experience.
The shaman or ceremony leader is usually making incantations and singing songs, sometimes called icaros. Those callings are usually composed of prayers, healing requests and entities callings.
Prayers from different traditions have similar impact on the current:
- They clean the current from stagnant energy
- They elevate the frequency of the current, allowing evolved entities to connect at a frequency they can reach
- They protect the current, the ceremony space and the participants from lower frequency entities
As most of the time, an ayahuasca ceremony intent is to provide healing to the people, callings are done in order for participants to receive healing.
Calling Evolved Entities
Calling evolved entities to come and provide healings and teachings to the participant is something very common in most of the traditions. Group of entities from a specific lineage are usually called. With the ayahuasca waking up the pineal gland, some people can see, hear of feel the presence of entities. It is also possible to feel energetic surgeries on one’s energy field. It is usually coming with strong body sensations, like feeling a cut, a burn or even internal organs moving.
In the Santo Daime tradition, it is quiet usual to call the following entity groups:
- Christian figures like God, Mary, Jesus and the angels
- Caboclos, that are indigenous entities from the Amazonian forest
- Orixas, that are entities coming from the Umbanda tradition
- In some lineages, other groups of souls might be called like for example Hindu deities
I am not familiar enough with most of the shamanic traditions to speak about what entity groups shamans are calling.
The location has a great impact on the strength and the quality of a ceremony. I have experiencing ceremonies in very different locations and I discovered that doing it in a place where the energy of the place itself is strong makes a huge impact.
Here are my favourite spots:
- A wild and preserved tropical forest
- A special energetic place (for example where the soil is full of quartz)
- A church or spiritual center where spiritual activities are run regularly for decades
I have also tried to do it in my flat in the center of a big city. It is clearly not the best option.
The Ceremony Space
The ceremony space also has an influence on an ayahuasca ceremony. The main aspects are the natural propension to support high vibration, the energy portals and the comfort and security.
Architecture & Materials
It is known that the architecture of a building has a great impact on the vibration you can feel inside. A construction based on sacred geometry, for example an hexagonal building, will have some energetic properties that are supporting spiritual work. The interior design of the ceremony space has also an influence on how the energy is flowing.
The materials used for the construction has also an influence on the energy of the place. I do believe that a wooden construction don’t impact much the energy. In contrario, a metallic structure or roof might conduct the energy and therefore impact the current of a ceremony.
Altars, sacred objects and crystals are known to influence the energy of a place, making a connection with a higher form of life.
The ayahuasca experience can be deeply challenging for the body and can trigger physical cleaning in the form of vomit or diarrhea. In this situation, having an easy access to clean and comfortable restrooms is much appreciated. Having the possibility to purge outside in the nature is clearly my favourite setting.
Mosquitos and other insects that bite can also be an additional difficulty while being challenged by the ayahuasca. I do prefer mosquito free spaces to do ayahuasca.
How People Are Placed
The way people are placed relatively to each other has a great influence on how the energy flows and how the current is built.
Circles, Hexagons, Lines
People placed in one or more circles or hexagons allows the energy to flow through everyone and increases the healing effect of the group. Everyone’s energy is shared and a spiritual collective work helps everyone to get the most healing possible.
The energy flowing in a circular way is known to help open the crown chakra if turning in the contrary sens of a clock. A circle setting will then help all individual to increase their connection with the divine.
The same logic applies for lines. Except that there is no elevating effect obtained by the circular movement of the energy.
I don’t think it could be a bad thing to do a ceremony with people sitting in random places. But I believe that sitting in circles or lines might improve the circulation of envergy and, therefore, provide a more profound experience.
The position of people during a ceremony can have a great impact on a ceremony. Sitting, laying down, standing up or dancing might help the energy flow in different ways.
Laying down is probably the most popular position for a ceremony which purpose is healing. It is usually easy to relax your body tensions and your mind while laying down. Which can help to let it go and follow the benevolent guidance of the ayahuasca.
Sitting on a chair or in a lotus position might help you to stay more present during the ceremony. To be in a more active meditative state. Maintaining a straight position, which allows the energy to flow well in your chakras and nadis, helps to release energy blocks. But keep in mind that tensions are restraining the flow of energy.
Standing up is for a time allows the kundalini to raise and can trigger deep healing. But it can be challenging to stand up while your brain is a little dizzy.
There are dances or simple steps that aim is to make the energy flow in the body and in the current. When hundreds of people are doing the same steps in syncronicity and harmony, it might generate a tremendous energy for every participant. When done during a full night, it makes the energy flow in nadis and chakras, allowing participant to reset and harmonize their energy system. Some might experience a samadhi state.
When people deeply respect the ritual and striclty follow rules, things become more efficient for everyone. It is like if everyone plays the game in a team. The global result is enhanced for the whole group. It is sometimes difficult to find the right balance between letting go of any control and, in the other hand, not disturbing other’s experience.
When You Do It
It is known that the moon and the stars have an influence on the energy in the planet. Some traditions take advantage of this to schedule sacred rituals.
In some traditions, specific ceremonies are scheduled to celebrate founders or leaders of their traditions as well as Christian figures like saints. It is known to increase the connection with such entities.
Many ceremonies are happening during the night. Few during the day. I am not sure what is different in daytime, but the best experiences happen with eyes closed.
Your Own Influence
Like for many things in life, a good preparation might result in a better experience.
Adapt Your Diet
Different traditions recommend different diets during a different lap of time. Following the shaman diet’s recommendation is obviously a good idea.
Get To Know The Other Participants
It is key to be able to relax during the ceremony. Knowing your ceremony buddies will help you feel at ease during the ceremony. You might feel anxious and stressed before and during the ceremony. You might have to purge or cry in front of others during the experience. It is easier to face such intense experience if you know and feel at ease with others in the group.
Make Your Energy Flow And Calm Your Mind
If you practice yoga, tai chi, meditation or any discipline that helps make your energy flow, it is recommended to practice a little before the ceremony. I usually like to go for a walk in the nature to achieve that.
The ayahuasca experience is supposed to help you dissolve resistances. The best way to achieve it is to deeply relax and trust the process.
Here are some hints that can help you to achieve it:
- Trust, trust and trust
- Relax and let things happen, don’t try to control
- Let things flow, don’t resist
- Be curious, don’t judge
- Be mindful
- Mind your own business
- Respect other’s experience
What Makes The Best Ayahuasca Ceremony?
As you can see, there are many factors that influence an ayahuasca ceremony. It is very difficult to find a setting where all variables would be as you like. My best advice would be to follow your intuition and find a setting with:
- Whatever makes you feel safe enough to deeply relax
- Good people with good intention and a peaceful and harmonious athmosphere