What is the Santo Daime?
In the heart of the Amazon
Santo Daime is a term that refers to the spiritual doctrine founded in the 1920s, in the city of Basel (BC), by Raimundo Irineu Serra, a migrant from northeastern Brazil to the Amazon at the time of the rubber boom. Commonly known by the followers of his doctrine as Mestre Irineu, he had his first contact with ayahuasca (the main component of Santo Daime tea) in the Bolivian Amazon. The drink brought him the vision of a woman who presented herself as “the Universal Queen”.
Pilgrimage and revelation
It was this vision that first led him to wander through the jungle for eight days. He says that after his journey, the vision revealed itself as the Virgin Mary and, according to Irineu, guided him to spread the word of God through ayahuasca. The infusion would be called Daime, from the verb “to give”: which are hymns used in cults today that may include expressions such as “Give me love”, “Give me faith” and “Give me healing”.
One big family
The Santo Daime has foundations of Christianity well rooted in its doctrine. For example, the Holy Family is the basis of their beliefs: God is the supreme entity, Jesus is a role model and the Virgin Mary is idolized for having brought the word to Irineu. It is worth noting the influence of the Spiritism movement within this doctrine: they believe in community life and in the union to propagate the teachings learned among its members.
The doors of perception
The Santo Daime focuses mainly on the ritual practiced with Ayahuasca tea, which the followers believe offers the consumer the power to amplify the strength of consciousness and connect him/her with the spiritual world. Under its effect, the person would have a clearer vision of the Universe as well as find the answers to their anguish and doubts. According to followers, Irineu also considered the liquid as a way to find true love. During the cult, the Daime is ingested up to three times in an exhaustively planned ceremony and with a previous physical and mental preparation.
Everyone does their part
When the Ayahuasca-based drink is prepared, it is considered a very important ritual. In this, the women are in charge of separating the queen leaves, also known in the Amazon as chacronas. The men are in charge of cutting the jagube vine. Together, the two ingredients are boiled, creating a tea with strong hallucinogenic properties. The rules for its religious use were made official in 2010 by the Brazilian government and since 1992 its consumption was decriminalized for ritual and spiritual uses.
Consumption is not for everyone
Research on the toxic effects of ayahuasca has not advanced in greater depth in recent years, which is why the community is organized to avoid excesses. The infusion is contraindicated for children and pregnant women, and is forbidden for people with psychic illnesses, such as schizophrenia. Newcomers to the service fill out a term of responsibility and an anamnesis sheet on the state of their physical and mental health.
What is the ceremony like?
This is led by a godfather (a kind of priest), the spiritual meetings take place on the 15th and 30th of each month. During the first part of the ceremony, the congregants, the adepts (always dressed in light colors such as white and blue) form a circle, divided by sexes. Afterwards, they form a line to drink the tea, also with the same separation – the dose consumed by women is half that of men.
Each person takes about three doses, but there is freedom to take more or less. The second phase begins, that of meditation, in which the adepts “access the consciousness” under the effect of ayahuasca. Throughout the service (which can last several hours), hymns are sung, along with the meditation, which recall the lessons of the doctrine and the life of Irineu as well as other important godfathers who shaped the doctrine, such as Padrinho Sebastião.
The doctrine is disseminated
The first services open to the public began around 1930, in Vila Ivonete, near Rio Branco (AC). Subsequently, they had a wide extension throughout Brazil. Currently, there are about 50 affiliated centers with more than 10,000 followers in their ranks. The main Church in the extension of Brazil is the Church of Eclectic Cult of the Flowing Universal Light and one of the most famous centers is located in the community of Alto Santo, in the rural area of the city of Rio Branco.