Institutt for sosialantropologi
master's thesis

Portals to the unseen Re-inventing ayahuasca practices, shamanism, and the anthropologist in the entheogenic field


Master's thesis submitted at Department of Social Anthropology, spring 2021.

By: Camilla Fleime Møll
Supervisor: Professor Olaf Smedal

In this thesis I bring forth the phenomenon of re-inventing and re-creating ayahuasca practices, especially in Brazil and Norway. Based on a one-month fieldwork in Brazil in January of 2020 in a Santo Daime community and a weekend ayahuasca retreat in Norway in the summer of 2021. Because of the COVID-19 lockdown, the fieldwork was shortened which changed the trajectory of the project.

Ayahuasca is a concoction from the heart of the Amazon and has dispersed all over the world in a mere century. Where it first was thought of as the “devils brew” by colonists to now be sought after by people from all over the world, in different religions and belief systems, from different social groups and backgrounds. The practices surrounding ayahuasca are largely shamanic where an unseen world is as real as the material one.

Through the text I will show how a diverse cultural and religious landscape in Brazil have shaped the ayahuasca religions and practices and subsequently the dispersion of ayahuasca abroad. Santo Daime emerged in 1930 where people sought after it for healing and enlightenment. The founding members were of lower socio-economic classes while today the largest bulk of the Santo Daime members are from the new-middle-class.

By looking at the ritual structure it uncovers a system that is put in place for the safety of those involved in ayahuasca practices.

I discuss how the anthropological method is a good way to gain insight into such practices as well as situating the anthropologist in the entheogenic field.

Keywords: Re-inventing Ayahuasca Practices, Shamanism, Santo Daime, Ayahuasca Diaspora