Laurens Olde Wolbers

As a Religious Studies student, I am very much interested in the boundaries between religion, spirituality and psychotherapy. These can all be considered as fields of healing. My interest to apply for an internship at the Meertens Institute was encouraged when I bestowed upon some angel cards in one of the local health food shops. Such a secular place could not be ‘’tainted’’ which something so spiritual or religious. This made me eager to learn more about health food shops, herbalism and spirituality.

With this in mind I contacted Mr. Margry to apply for an internship. To research health food shops and herbalism seemed a little bit too ambitious so the topic got narrowed down to Ayahuasca as a source for alternative healing. After some research in the literature about Ayahuasca and alternative healing the interviews began. This led me to several places in the Netherlands and to some interesting people. I have divided the people to interview into persons who were  responsible in facilitating or leading the Ayahuasca ceremonies and people who partake in ceremonies. Furthermore there was also a division between the different context in which people can partake or facilitate Ayahuasca ceremonies. These are the native shaman context, the religious context and the spiritual/psychotherapeutic context. All of these stress the major potency of Ayahuasca as an healing method, although in different manners. Briefly, in a native shaman context the major alleged capacity of the shaman is that he or she can look into the energy system of the patient and can remove negative energies and heal this energy system. In a religious context healing is established by cleansing the individual of the ego. In a psychotherapeutic/spiritual context Ayahuasca is an healing method in regressing people into past memories. Eventually people can get in touch with their essence which establishes a sense of freedom. All users stress that guiding the ceremony is important to make people feel safe and process the hard experiences which people can endure in a ceremony. For the participants, Ayahuasca is not a drug or a toy people can use recreational. People have to prepare to be receptive of the ‘’medicine’’. This can include dietary and behavioral restrictions.

If people perceive Ayahuasca as an alternative healing method is hard to say. The term alternative has a negative connotation according some of the participants or the label doesn’t seem to do justice to Ayahuasca as a ‘’medicine’’. Some people just prefer Ayahuasca as an healing method or as the healing method above all other healing methods. Still, Ayahuasca can be seen as an alternative healing method in the sense that Ayahuasca heals different levels of being, which are physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.