Psychedelics, animism and spirituality

Authored by: Andy Letcher

The Handbook of Contemporary Animism

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9781844657117
eBook ISBN: 9781315728964
Adobe ISBN: 9781317544500


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In her book Wild: An Elemental Journey, the travel writer Jay Griffiths describes a vision occasioned by her drinking the Amazonian hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca, under the guidance of shamans in Peru. She felt herself transformed into a jaguar and then, clear as day, transported back to her university town of Oxford where she prowled through the reading rooms of the Bodleian library, “roaring in anger and disgust at how my culture can know so little for knowing so much” (Griffiths 2008: 98). Her anger was triggered by the chasm she perceived between dry Western epistemology and the oppressed “wild and wet” knowledge of the rainforest. “Amazonian shamans”, she writes, “feel they are drinking knowledge when they take ayahuasca … people don’t just learn about plants, they learn from certain plants called ‘plant teachers’ or doctores, which teach people medicine. This is a contradiction in terms to the Western mind – it balks at there being intelligence in anything other than humankind” (ibid.: 17).

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