Ayahuasca — both the ayahuasca drink and ayahuasca shamanism — has been subject to the forces of globalization and modernity that have affected every other aspect of Amazonian life. The results of this encounter have been mixed, on both sides — on the one hand, new forms of literature and art, new religious movements, experiments in religious organization; on the other hand, oppression, exploitation, and the piracy of valuable traditional knowledge.
But you know that ayahuasca has hit the mainstream when it is endorsed by international celebrities. In his autobiography, Broken Music, Sting says, “Ayahuasca has brought me close to something, something fearful and profound and deadly serious.” He told a Rolling Stone interviewer that ayahuasca gives you “a hallucinogenic trip that deals with death and your mortality.”
Tori Amos agrees. “The most influential journeys I have had,” she has said, “have been with ayahuasca.” And she elaborated: “It’s an internal journey; it’s not a drug — it’s a journey.” Oliver Stone is more succinct. The New York Daily News quotes him as saying, “I like ayahuasca,” along with other things.
Paul Simon has written a song — Spirit Voices on his 1990 album The Rhythm of the Saints — about drinking ayahuasca in Brazil:
All of these spirit voices rule the night
My hands were numb
My feet were lead
I drank a cup of herbal brew
Then the sweetness in the air
Combined with the lightness in my head
And I heard the jungle breathing in the bamboo
Globalization marches on.