Santo Daime, a Brazilian religion organized around a potent psychoactive beverage called ayahuasca, is now being practiced across Europe and North America. Deeming ayahuasca a dangerous “hallucinogen,” most Western governments prosecute people who participate in Santo Daime. On the contrary, members of Santo Daime (called “daimistas”) consider ayahuasca a medicinal sacrament (or “entheogen”). Empirical studies corroborate daimistas’ claim that entheogens are benign and can be beneficial when employed in controlled contexts. Following from anthropology’s goal of rendering different cultural logics as mutually explicable, this article intercedes in a misunderstanding between policies of prohibition and an emergent subculture of entheogenic therapy.
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Software called Anthropac sorts how a social group prioritizes items within a “cultural domain.” Stephen Borgatti (1994: 265), the creator of Anthropac, defines a cultural domain as “a set of items which are, according to informants, of a kind.” Once a cultural domain is identified, freelists convey the relative significance of specific domain items. Such inferences are based on the notion that entities which are more significant in the minds of informants are mentioned earlier than less significant entities (de Munck and Sobo 1998: 79).
“Sacred plants” is an emic category common to daimistas.
“Smith’s s” is a statistical measure of the number of informants who mentioned an item relative to that item’s average ranking among all the freelists as a whole (Smith 1993).
Ayahuasca is made by combining leaves containing N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) from a plant (usually Psychotria viridis or sometimes Diplopterys cabrerana) with the bark of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, containing Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs). MAOIs neutralize the MAO stomach enzyme that would otherwise render the psychoactive DMT inert (Shanon 2002: 15–16; see also Beyer 2009).
In this section, all quotations concerning Dr. Maté’s work are derived from a newspaper article: “B.C. Doctor Agrees to Stop Using Amazonian Plant to Treat Addictions.” The Globe and Mail, Nov. 09, 2011; http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/bc-doctor-agrees-to-stop-using-amazonian-plant-to-treat-addictions/article4250579/.
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In recognition of their steadfast patience with the author’s incessant questions, I dedicate this article to the members of the global Santo Daime community. For providing financial support for my research, I would like to thank the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC); the Paul and Elizabeth Selley Doctoral Fellowship; the Murphy Institute Center for Ethics and Public Affairs; as well as the School of Liberal Arts, Stone Center for Latin American Studies, and the Department of Anthropology at Tulane University. I would like to extend a special thanks to the members of my Doctoral committee (William Balée, Adeline Masquelier, and Allison Truitt) for their erudite guidance. Additionally, I am grateful to my friend and colleague Kenneth Tupper for helpful comments with an earlier draft of this paper.
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Blainey, M.G. Forbidden Therapies: Santo Daime, Ayahuasca, and the Prohibition of Entheogens in Western Society. J Relig Health 54, 287–302 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-014-9826-2
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