My Story with Ancient Voices, why I’m doing this…

“I heard the call that is coming from the Forest, that is calling those who are able to hear her”

For centuries, the indigenous tribes of the Amazon have used a sacred medicine as a powerful tool for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing and awakening. This medicine is known as Ayahuasca, a Quechua Indian word which translates as ‘Vine of the Soul’.

I was only 18 years old when I first experienced mother Ayahuasca. It was in the form of a Santo Daime ritual 224311_10150181730611864_3960155_nin the mountains above Rio de Janeiro. I went looking for a drug, a high, a escape from the oppression of babylon. I was a rebel young man at the time, struggling to find my place in society and generally embarking on a destructive path of parties and thrills that could maybe soothe my heartbreak in seeing such a sick and depressing world around me.

But what I found was much more that that. The Daime saved me. It brought me a clarity and comprehension of life and the world that I had not experienced before. It showed me that there was a better way to deal with my revolt and my heartbreaks. It gave me a way to wash away my negative emotions and to shed light in each one of my problems.It also brought me a community of amazing people, who seemed to live in a separate reality, enjoying life connected to nature and in communitarian ways that were nurturing and supportive no matter who showed up. When I started to dig a little bit deeper, I found in it a world of healers, true shamans living in the forest and teaching their young ones their traditions. To know and connect with nature, to live on the earth under the Universal Laws of The Way.

I had the opportunity to sit with these simple humble folk, true Forest Shamans, true healers and guides for humankind. I was lucky enough or made enough right choices in my life to be able to experience their true kindness and beauty.

Like myself, I saw hundreds, thousands of young people maybe. Many like me, coming looking for a hallucinatory or pschycodelic experience and ending up encountering their higher selves, their healing and a new direction in life. This is why I embrace Ayahuasca. A Mother Teacher that opens the eyes and cleanses the heart of the people. A lot of times, bringing healing in the physical body as well. Even terminal patients have found healing by ingesting this medicine. She is a Teacher. For me, my doctor, my mother and my protector.

The phenomena of Ayahuasca has been developing and evolving for many centuries in South America. However, over the past two decades or so, the medicine has spread to all the four corners of the earth. It is said that on any given weekend, more hundreds of ceremonies are held in the city of New York alone.  Young, old and every age in between, participants come looking for healing and connection, for a deeper understanding of life and of themselves and for a light to illuminate the problems of life in a world devoid of spirit.

Wordlwide, the Santo Daime church has expanded to tens of thousands of devoted members and the UDV church continues to grow in America and beyond. But what is it that attracts people of all walks of life to this intriguing movement?  To participate in ceremonies that last all night and that often times include vomiting and feelings of nausea and confusion? What could make it so attractive and so powerful?

This is why I am doing this, to preserve, to document and to expand the consciousness of the forest to the entire world. To help our elders and to learn from them. To give back to mother earth, to help re-establish the balance in our dear Gaya and for all of humanity.

Healing Powers of the Medicine

Geraldine Finnerman, a dutch woman living in Amsterdam in the early 80s was diagnosed with a fatal tumor. She was given 6 months to live by traditional medicine. She then flew to Brazil to the rainforest to join the Santo Daime community and spend her last days drinking the medicine and hopefully finding her spiritual evolution before she died. She survived the 6 months, then 6 more, then a year. Geraldine survived until this day. By the power of the medicine, the faith in her grew strong and while the tumor disappeared. More than 30 years later, Geraldine leads a thriving Ayahuasca, Santo Daime Church in Amsterdam… Miracle Medicine? Some still call it a drug. I feel offended by that…

Historical use of ayahuasca

Evidence from pre-Columbian rock drawings suggests hundreds of years of ayahuasca use in the Amazon, although Western scientists and explorers have only been exposed to the brew over the last 150 years. In 1851 British plant explorer, Richard Spruce, discovered the Tukanoan Indians in the upper Rio Negro region of the Brazilian Amazon using a liana (vine) known as caapi to induce a state of intoxication. Ecuadorian geographer Villavicencio first mentioned ayahuasca in 1858 while he was exploring the jungles of Ecuador. He described how the source of the drink was a vine used to foresee the future battle plans of enemies, diagnose illness, determine which spells were used and which to use, welcome foreign travelers, and insure the love of their womenfolk (Shultes, 1961). Villavicencio took the drink himself and described the experience of “flying” to marvelous places.

For centuries, the indigenous tribes of the Amazon have used a sacred medicine as a powerful tool for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing and awakening. This medicine is known as Ayahuasca, a Quechua Indian word which translates as ‘Vine of the Soul’.

Having been almost completely ignored by Western civilization for centuries, Ayahuasca has recently attracted a lot of interest from Academics, Doctor’s, Philosopher’s, Artist’s and Mystics due to the mysterious healing and teaching properties that it possesses.

It is widely believed that Ayahuasca is the ‘medicine of our time’, giving hope to people with supposedly ‘incurable’ diseases such as cancer, HIV, and Parkinson’s disease, as well as chronic depression, anxiety, and drug addictions. Ayahuasca can provide valuable insight into the sociological and ecological problems of today’s world, and inspires ideas about how to resolve them.

Spirituality is at the core of the Ayahuasca experience. Purification of mind, body and soul in a healing ceremony can catalyse a profound process of spiritual awakening and development. This process of growth and spiritual evolution can continue indefinitely even if Ayahuasca is not taken again.

Ayahuasca is divine, sacred, magical – teaching a deep respect for life and the world and facilitating personal healing and self-discovery far beyond the boundaries of conventional modern medicine. Indeed, it is believed that a single Ayahuasca session has the potential to be equally as effective as 10 years of psychotherapy or meditation.

The Ayahuasca experience is highly individual and unique to each person as it enables a direct connection with the deepest parts of the sub-conscious, facilitating a deep connection with our true, inner and higher self. Ayahuasca provides a window into our soul and shows us who we really are and who we can become.

We strongly believe that the benefits to be gained from learning about Ayahuasca are immeasurable, both on a personal and planetary level.

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It was 1998 when I first had the chance to sit with some elders in the community of Ceu do Mapia, the Santo Daime’s main center in the state of Acre in Brazil. It was my favorite thing to do at the community as every evening, right around 6pm, they would come and sit, watching kids play and chat about all kinds of things. As they knew I was coming from the South and eager to hear their stories, they gathered up rolled up their smokes and started telling all kinds of beautiful and inspiring stories about how the community started out, how Padrinho Sebastiao was an incredible spiritual leader, the hardships they had to face until things started to really work out and how hard it was for those first pioneers that ventured into the inhospitable jungle with nothing but the belief that the truth Padrinho Sebastiao was receiving, the guidance from above, would bring them to the promised land. Indeed it has.

One time, I was “chilling” in the forest with a few of these elders and a group of Americans I was leading in a tour of the community. The night before my daughter Aisha had an incredibly powerful asthma attack that kept us up for most of the night. As I mentioned that this had happened to her, two of my most beloved elders suddenly disappeared from the crew for a while. We were all getting ready to start heading back to the village when Pad. Valdete came back with some fungus he extracted from the bark of a tree and said to me: Give this to Aisha and she shouldn’t have any asthma troubles anymore while you are here.  A few days later as we were preparing to board the canoe that would take us back from the village (which is two days by canoe into the rainforest from the nearest town), one of the other elders that were there during that conversation in the forest came running, bringing yet another grassy looking herb which he told us that if she took that after taking what Valdete had given us, that she would never have asthma again. She never did…

I had the opportunity to sit with these simple humble folk, true Forest Shamans, true healers and guides for humankind. I was lucky enough or made enough right choices in my life to be able to experience their true kindness and beauty. Everyday, as my family stayed at Mad. Julia’s house, she would sing the oracao with us, a group of 12 hymns Padrinho instructed all the people in the community to sing daily at 6pm. Her disposition to sing the Oracao after having worked all day, taking care of her grandchildren, of her animals, the house and the people that came to her looking for guidance and advice was just out of this world… truly hard to believe that that 70 something woman had that much energy to do all that and still have the energy to correct us as we sang the hymns, show us how to do them right, give us teachings and share her wisdom.

After coming back from the community, I was so touched by how these elders lived, how they always had positive energy, friendly and wise words to give and how beautiful they were. They received hymns, that told the story of their struggles, that shared the wisdom they received while they advanced towards the spiritual truth they were following and receiving, living in a self-sustainable community so far from civilization, so removed from the busy life of the city full of distractions and traps. These people were for real. They were changing the paradigm that we have grown to believe as the only option out there.

A few months after I returned, I received the news that Seu Luiz, this little old man that had fought a jaguar and survived to tell the story in his own splendid, funny and enlightened way, he had passed on. Left this world and took with him his stories, his humor, his wisdom and his songs. A little while later, Mad. Cristina went… I kept on thinking about how fortunate I was to sit with them, to sing and eat and hear their stories. That was when the inspiration for this project hit me. Like five tons of Vine falling on my head. I had to do this. To preserve their knowledge, to share their inspiring life stories and to make sure that future generations would still remember who they were. This is how Ancient Voices was born, out of my sheer desire to make sure that Seu Luiz and Madrinha Cristina would be remembered. That many of the other elders in all the different communities that spread throughout South America and the Amazon basin would be able to give their wisdom back to the world, not only to the few fortunate ones like myself but to a much broader reach of people of all walks of life everywhere.

This is a time where this medicine is spreading its wings more than ever. By and large BECAUSE of the lives of these elders, who believed in it, who saw the light of the Divine through the sacrament made of the Vine and the Leaf, through the path that was laid out in front of them by the grace of the bountiful blessings of Mother Nature.

This is why we are doing this, to preserve and to expand the consciousness of the forest to the entire world. To help our elders and to learn from them. To give back to mother earth, to help re-establish the balance in our dear Gaya and in all of humanity.

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