Don Rómulo Magin has small, lively blue eyes, glassy due to advanced cataracts. At 94, Don Rómulo wakes up at dawn every day in his house/maloka in the Peruvian Amazon, takes up his machete, and opens paths in the jungle, or identifies medicinal plants he will use in his healing practices. His vision may be weak, but he still precisely recognizes hundreds, perhaps thousands of plants, which will be part of the diet for visitors and disciples at his center.
Don Rómulo was born in Ecuador and belongs to the Aguaruna people, related to the Shuar, and, as he says, direct descendants of an Inca lineage. His father and grandfather were healers. His mother tongue is Quechua, in which he speaks and ‘ikarea’. His Spanish is rudimentary, sprinkled with jungle idioms and Quechua terms, so his son Winister helps us with the translation into Spanish. Winister, like his son Winister Jr., was born in Peru, in the Loreto region, so their main language is Spanish. However, they continue to use Quechua in their ‘ikaros’: “The ‘ikaro’ must be done in Quechua,” explains Winister, “so that the medicine can do its work, Spanish is not suitable.”
The data comes from a study conducted in America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand by the ICEERS Foundation. The report was compiled between 2020 and 2021 and was released in the last month of June.
The globalization of ayahuasca, which has led to an increase in its consumption and a rise in so-called psychedelic tourism, has been pointed out by some experts as a threat to the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and also to the sustainability of the plants used in its preparation.
In an interview with Psicodelicamente, Jeremy Narby, a Canadian anthropologist based in Switzerland, argues that this movement also has a positive side. “The external interest in Amazonian shamanism has led indigenous people to reconsider the value of their own knowledge.”
Albert Casasayas teaches Spanish and Latin American Studies at Santa Clara University in California. He admits he’s a newcomer to psychedelia or, according to Juan Carlos Usó, who wrote the book’s prologue, a “neo-convert.” This fresh look at psychedelics is one of the book’s greatest strengths. The book is not intended to be academic, but rather a “middle-ground” perspective, distinct from those deeply involved in the psychedelic community but also beyond the “very biased mainstream media with its anti-drug discourse.”
Speaking via Zoom from California, Albert is preparing for the imminent academic year while continuing to delve into the complex, fascinating, and often paradoxical world of visionary drugs.
In 1910, the German bacteriologist Paul Ehrlich made a groundbreaking discovery and patented arsphenamine, a chemical compound derived from arsenic that proved effective against syphilis and was marketed for two decades under the trade name ‘Salvarsan’.
Ehrlich, who had already been awarded a Nobel Prize for his vaccine research, had a profound impact on 20th-century pharmacology with his concept of the “magic bullet”:a pharmacological compound that specifically targets a particular pathogen without harming the host’s body.
‘Salvarsan’ was the first successful drug based on the “magic bullet” hypothesis and saved millions of lives in Europe until the introduction of penicillin, discovered by Alexander Fleming two decades later. Penicillin proved to be more effective than ‘Salvarsan’ for treating syphilis and other infectious diseases. However, the echo of Ehrlich’s discovery and the “magic bullet” concept continues to resonate, albeit with diminishing influence.
Allan Finney began his “healing journey” with ayahuasca at the age of 59, seven years ago, with a lineage of Shipibo shamans in Peru. The journalist and television producer from British Columbia, Canada, returned home to find that ayahuasca was illegal, in contravention of the UN Conventions on Narcotic Drugs, which recognise that the Amazonian concoction is not banned. How did this happen? “It’s about the pharmaceutical industry, about big corporate interests. They don’t want to see people being cured, healed by ayahuasca,” Finney responds in this interview we conducted via Zoom last week.
To try to get a licence for the use of traditional ayahuasca in Canada, three years ago he founded Companionship for the Sacred Vine (CSV), a religion that would allow the opening of ayahuasca centres in the Shipibo tradition in all provinces of Canada.
Why a religion? “Because it is the only legal possibility Canada allows to import ayahuasca,” explains Finley. In order to file a legal battle in the Supreme Court, and eventually sue Health Canada, the CSV has launched a crowdfunding campaign seeking to raise $20,000.
We chatted with Antón about the current state of psychedelic-assisted therapy in Europe, about research in Spain and about the eventual (and unlikely) integration of the shamanic model in the future regulatory framework.
Francisco Azorín is a veteran in the defence of cannabis clubs, an experience he applies to put recent police operations on ayahuasca ceremonies into perspective. Azorín achieved a landmark court ruling on ayahuasca in the Malaga provincial court in 2021. It recognised that ayahuasca cannot be considered a “toxic drug, narcotic or psychotropic substance”. Only two years have passed, but the current situation of the plant is very different. Nobody would dare to speak today of the “(pen)last judgement on ayahuasca”.
We talked to Azorín, member of the Murcian law firm Brotsanbert, about laws, politics, police strategies and the role of shamanism in the booming ‘psychedelic renaissance’.
“For me, the Amazon is the last frontier, a mysterious universe where the power of nature can be felt like nowhere else on Earth. Here, there is a forest that stretches to infinity and contains a tenth of all existing plant and animal species. It is the world’s largest natural laboratory,” writes Sebastião Salgado in the foreword to his new book ‘Amazonia’, which has just been published by Taschen.
Slowly but surely, the repeal of the ban on psychedelic drugs is progressing state by state, country by country. The normalisation of entheogenic substances raises, however, several questions: who is legitimised to give these medicines: doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, shamans…, what experience does a traditional healer need and how can he or she prove it, can these substances be dispensed as if they were conventional medicines?
To answer these and other questions, we talk to Manuel Villaescusa, psychologist, musician, ayahuasca expert and co-founder of the Plantaforma de Defensa de la Ayahuasca.
Marc Aixalá, psychotherapist, holotropic breathing facilitator, founder of the ICEERS Support Centre and now also a writer, has just published a book that looks set to become an instant classic: ‘Integración psiquedélica’, published simultaneously in Spanish by Eleftheria and in English by Synergic Press (with translation by Adam Aronovich), was born “as a ‘self-reflection’ to clarify in writing the ideas of what I had learned in these years”, as Marc explains to us in this interview, which you can watch and listen to in full here: