Psychonaut ethnobotanist Terence McKenna captures the journey along a ghostly trail into the Colombian Amazon Forest, the descent of the Rio Putumayo, and his stumbling upon the “starborn magic mushroom,” activated by psilocybin. Watch Peter Bergmann’s experimental documentary.
Ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes, one of the most important plant explorers of the 20th century, served as a key inspiration in a recent film called “Embrace of the Serpent.” In December 1941, Schultes entered the Amazon to study how indigenous peoples used plants for medicinal, ritual, and practical purposes. After nearly a decade of fieldwork, he made significant discoveries about the sacred hallucinogen ayahuasca. In total, Schultes would collect more than 24,000 species of plants including some 300 species new to Western science.
Every day, more and more tourists arrive in Iquitos, Peru, seeking spiritual enlightenment or a psychedelic experience first made popular by William Burroughs and the Beatniks in the 1960s. Unfortunately, some well-paid “shamans” lack the experience or understanding of the powerful and sacred botanical brews used for thousands of years for healing and divination. And the gringos-on-holiday often get over their heads in the wilds of the Amazon.
Matthew Pallamary, Dorchester native and author of several fiction and non-fiction books on the South American indigenous perspective, examines healing from the collective shadow exemplified by the Boston Marathon bombings and managing the spirit of the “wolves within.”
Terence McKenna: We have no tradition of shamanism. We have no tradition of journeying into these mental worlds. We are terrified of madness. We fear it because the Western mind is a house of cards, and the people who built that house of cards know that, and they are terrified of madness.
“Other Worlds,” a documentary by French filmmaker Jan Kounen, is an informative journey into the cosmology of ayahuasca shamanism practiced in the Peruvian Amazon.