On Wednesday a federal judge in Oregon ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) allows followers of the Brazil-based Santo Daime sect to consume ayahuasca, a psychedelic tea ontaining the ordinarily illegal drug dimethyltryptamine (DMT), as part of their rituals. Guided by the Supreme Court’s unanimous 2006 ruling in “a very similar case” involving Uniao do Vegetal, another Brazilian religious group that also consumes ayahuasca, U.S. District Court Judge Owen Panner concluded that RFRA “requires that plaintiffs be allowed to import and drink Daime tea for their religious ceremonies, subject to reasonable restrictions.”
Although the Daime works keep within the traditional shamanic parameters, one should take into consideration the remarks made by Couto, that, here, one is dealing with what he calls “collective shamanism”. The command of the works is held by more experienced shamans, but the shamanic activity is not, exclusively in the hands of a few initiates and all participants are considered apprentice shamans and even potential shamans. Taking part in the rituals is a way of learning the art, and it is thought that any of the participants of the ritual may display shamanic powers which are considered to be latent in human nature.
We have talked before about the Grob, McKenna, Callaway, et al., psychiatric study on the long-term effects of drinking ayahuasca in the ceremonies of the União do Vegetal church. I noted that the study had not clearly disentangled any bias that might have resulted from the fact that the ayahuasca drinkers — but not controls — had been preselected for their orderly churchgoing habits. Here is a study that may shed some light on that question.