Ayahuasca Therapy and Santo Daime Mysticism in Europe: Ethnographic Challenges to Prohibition

Marc Blainey

Abstract: This presentation will present findings about why some Europeans are choosing to follow the Brazil-based Santo Daime religion, an eclectic mix of Catholicism, shamanism, and African spiritualism. Santo Daime members (fardados) offer a variety of explanations for why they attend Santo Daime rituals, but the main theme can be summed up by one informants who said: “Santo Daime is the key to a lot of solutions.” Fardados believe ayahuasca induces a mystical state of awareness, where the subjective boundary between the observing self and the observed world appears to dissolve. They interpret this not as “hallucination”, but as an otherworldly encounter that catalyzes medicinal cleansings of both body and spirit. My research underscores an ethical tension in modern Western states: policies forbidding “hallucinogens” treat Santo Daime as criminality, but fardados consider ayahuasca a holy sacrament. This presentation outlines research into how fardados’ perspective demands that Euro-American societies reconsider the indiscriminate prohibition of entheogenic substances.

Marc G. Blainey was born in Toronto, Canada. He has a BA in Anthropology (University of Western Ontario, 2005) and an MA in Archaeology (Trent University, 2007). He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at Tulane University. He has previously conducted research into the shamanistic ingestion of entheogens by the ancient Maya culture. Presently, he is conducting research on European members of the Santo Daime. He is now completing a PhD dissertation entitled “A Ritual Key to Mystical Solutions: Ayahuasca Therapy, Secularism, & the Santo Daime Religion in Belgium.”

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