The Ritual Use of Ayahuasca:
The Healing Effects of Symbolic and Mythological Participation
Justin Panneck is a faculty member for Colorado Technical University and holds a PhD in Health Psychology from Walden University. He conducted a recent case study on the spiritual experience of practitioners in the Santo Daime Church. Based on his ayahuasca visions, Justin wrote and published a fictional book entitled The Knight of Dark Wood: The Last Tree Whisperer, which includes themes related to mythology and consciousness. He has spoken at several conferences in San Francisco on a topics related to Jungian psychology, archetypes, mythology and plant-based visionary states. He ...view middle of the document...
Examining these motifs and stages allows individuals to understand themselves in much greater depth; the dissolution of negative patterns and behavior, or trauma, etc.; and the further stimulation of positive changes in “beingness.”
Liminality is a term coined from twentieth century anthropology by Victor Turner, where limen in Latin translates to ‘threshold,’ and may be applied to certain states experienced by individuals as they pass over the threshold from one stage of life to another (Palmer 1980). Palmer describes that during the liminal stage, or the ‘between stage,’ one's status becomes ambiguous; one is "neither here nor there," and is "betwixt and between all fixed points of classification (5). This is the marginal zone where many of our great writers, critics, and artists have experienced glimpses beyond the social borders, from within the deep, foamy mythological waters of the collective unconscious, where the whisperings of ethereal minds have wrought a blooming magnitude of progressive ideas and forms.
HEALING EFFECTS OF SYMBOLIC AND MYTHOLOGICAL PARTICIPATION
Throughout the spiritually thematic ecstasies and illuminations witnessed during ritual ayahuasca sessions, individuals gain access to a sort of “mythic consciousness,” which from a neurophysiological perspective may be typical of accessing ancient parts of the brain (e.g., the R-Complex); and from a more transpersonal and psychodynamic approach, the depths of the unconscious, further re-orienting deeply imbedded primitive belief structures. Often, images can be so vivid and poignant, despite how unique or grotesque they may be, that a deep chord is struck in the psyche. For example, during one of my ayahuasca sessions with the Santo Daime church, I recorded the following from my own journal:
There was one rather ghastly vision of a dead, morbid body in a glass capsule that had just rolled over toward me—its eyes open; its body morbidly white, although tinged with frigid, cobalt blue, grayness, and dull olive tones. The whole scene appeared to be something that was ‘hiding’ underneath a structure of some sort, as if something was ‘swept under the rug’ and now it was being unearthed, examined and disposed of.
What symbolic message could this represent? I immediately thought of my scatological tendencies, bad eating habits, a few other unmentionables, and the obstinacy of my full creative expression. Whatever its symbolism, it was quite poignant to me. This image closely resembles the oft-repeated mythological “death metaphor,” and possibly represents a critical stage in my personal growth process as my old paradigm was “dying off” and being replaced by the rebirth of a new paradigm. These visual narrations may sometimes be referred to as a metaphorical parable, which are not unlike parables in the Bible: an image is presented and the experient takes away a moral lesson (Shanon 2010).
Therefore, it is important to incorporate, or at least consider mythological...