The use of hallucinogens in ancient practices was to help reinforce ones beliefs of the supernatural world.
These people that use the hallucinogens are called "Shamans"ÃÂ. A Shaman can basically do anything. He/She can see things that are happening without actually witnessing it. They can even describe a person who has committed a crime without even ever seeing the person.
Hallucinogens are only one way of reaching the supernatural world. Other ways are fasting; flagellation and self torture; sensory deprivation; yogic meditation; and ritual dancing and drumming. (Pg 7 intro.) Taking a journey through the supernatural world is referred to as "taking a trip"ÃÂ. (Pg 7. intro) What takes these shamans on their journeys is a magical mushroom called an Amanita Muscaria. This mushroom contains muscarine and muscimol which is the cause of the hallucinations.
The Shaman who has eaten this mushroom is said to act crazy, talking to people who really are not there.
If the shaman goes to the bathroom while on the hallucinogen, his urine is kept because it is said that if dranken it will make him "trip"ÃÂ longer. If he does not drink it he can offer it to others to drink.
One tribe, the Cashinahua, would make a drink called ayahuasca. They would drink this almost every other week. Some of the men would not even drink it. The Cashinahua would drink the ayahuasca after dark time; usually around eight o'clock and their trip would last up until three in the morning.
The drink is prepared by one man going into the jungle to collect Banisteriopsis and five branches of Psychotria. (Pg. 11) These two ingredients are crushed up and then placed in almost boiling water.
Every Cashinahua man who was drinking would take a pint from the pot while chanting sentences over it. After each man has gathered his pint they all come together to chant quietly. They do this until the drug starts to have its effect. After fifteen minutes he is allowed to have another pint if he wants to have a good trip. One man never takes this drug, the Ayahuasca, alone.
The Cashinahua often hallucinate the same things in a repeated notion. The most common things that are repeatedly seen are bright colorful snakes, jaguars, spirits of ayahuasca, falling trees, and lakes filled with large man eating reptiles (anacondas and alligators). (Pg. 12) It is not often that you will hear a Cashinahua say he found his "trip"ÃÂ to be exciting or pleasant. Almost every man will admit that it was a horrible experience. The reason for doing it is to learn about their past and people, and also about things that could affect their society.