Ayahuasca: The Peruvian Amazon’s Most Sacred Ritual


With his trip to Peru looming on the horizon, Travel and Living in Peru contributor Garrett Heng considers the sacred Amazonian ritual of ayahuasca and the testimonies of a few well-known figures who have taken it.

Life changing experiences are few and far between for most people; in fact, some may never experience them at all. Those that do sometimes swear that they have seen God, or perhaps have had some sort of intervention from another force entirely. In other scenarios, these experiences could be taken negatively or positively, but it’s a very different experience with ayahuasca.

Every time I have heard of someone taking part in this somewhat sacred ritual, they always have positive things to say about the profound experience.

What is ayahuasca and what happens when you take it?

(Photo: Flickr)

Ayahuasca derives from the Quechua word “ayawaska,” with aya meaning “spirit” and waska meaning “woody vine”. It has been hispanicized as modern culture has begun to take part in the ritual more frequently. DMT is the main active ingredient in this brew, taking the form of a tea that is then consumed.

When taken, the user typically reports a religious or mystical experience that helps explain their purpose in the world, while others have reported an understanding of the universe as a whole.

Negative experiences typically arise when ayahuasca is consumed in an unnatural environment, so a shaman is recommended. Expect to purge some contents from your stomach in the aftermath.

Celebrity Testimonies

DMT is a schedule I drug in the United States, meaning ayahuasca is utterly inaccessible. If you make your way to Peru, legality no longer becomes an issue.

But before you buy your ticket, let’s hear some personal testimonies from celebrities that have undertaken this adventure. You will find, however, that money and influence don’t need to be attained in order to understand your purpose in the world.

Penn Badgley

Acclaimed actor from Gossip Girl, Penn Badgley found himself with an indigenous tribe in the Colombian rainforest. When his body finally succumbed to the effects of ayahuasca, he described it as follows:

“I dropped into my heart, and I felt it in my blood and all of the discomfort and this mercurial nature of perceptual boundaries during these ceremonies seemed to melt away and all melt into one gleaming psychic arrow pointing towards my heart….and that was the simplest but, to this day, the most profound moment of my life.”


A musician by trade, Sting had a very well-known ayahuasca experience.

“I realized for the first time that this is the only genuine religious experience I have ever had.”

For people that haven’t had visions of the afterlife, or something to call a life-changing experience, ayahuasca seems to gently administer these sensations.

Chris Robinson

As the front man for the Black Crowes, Chris Robinson adds yet another musician to the repertoire of influential ayahuasca users. His thoughts:

“I was very lucky, eight or nine years ago, to have an ayahuasca experience. Even though a lot of my belief systems had let me up to that day, and believing in the esoteric realities of aggressive psychedelic and entheogen-driven experience, that was the literal opening up of all my minds and hearts. Where my mind and heart and soul all coalesce of having at least the initial understanding of the interconnectedness of all living entities in the universe, really.”

Will I be taking ayahuasca on my trip to Peru?

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The jury has reconvened, and with all of the positive collective experiences across the world, I think ayahuasca is worth a try; at least under the most ideal conditions. I plan to partake at some point, legally. I will be traveling through the Amazon in January, but with only a short amount of time to experience the rainforest in all of its grandeur, I don’t think ayahuasca is feasible. When I return to further explore this area of the world, you will be the first to hear about it.

Don’t Miss




Cover Art: Wikimedia Commons



Author, dedicated father, and gym nut. I spend most of my days either working, planning future travels, or watching the seasons battle each other in Wisconsin.