Flashback Friday: Yagé, Psychic Vine of the Amazon

Friday, Aug 16, 2019

Each Friday, we’re republishing an article from the High Times archives. This week, the topic is yagé, otherwise known as ayahuasca. Originally featured in the “Vagabond” section of the August 1979 issue, the article was written by none other than celebrity physician and erstwhile High Times contributor Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D.

Excerpt from the August, 1979 issue of High Times / Timothy Plowman

Every Saturday in a remote region of south-western Colombia, sick people make their way to a hut in a jungle clearing. The hut is a two-to-three-hour walk over a rough trail from a little port town called Mayoyoque on the River Caquetá, a tributary of the Amazon. Some of the people are very sick with high fevers, infections and chronic diseases that have not responded to medical treatment. The goal of their pilgrimage is an Ingano Indian witch doctor named Luis Nutumbahoy. He is a yagero, a man skilled in the use of yagé (yah-HAY), the powerful psychedelic drink of the Amazon, and every Saturday he cooks up a batch of it to use in curing ceremonies.

I have been interested in yagé for years and have visited a number of yageros in the western Amazon. Last January, on the recommendation of a Colombian friend, I made the long and difficult trip to see don Luis and his ceremony.

Freshly cut tanks of yagé, showing pattern of “ hearts ” / Diego Léon Giraldo Beaten sections of yage ready for cooking/ Diego Léon Giraldo Selecting chagrapanga leaves from banana-leaf-lined bag/ Diego Léon Giraldo Adding Chagrapanga leaves to hot water/ Diego Léon Giraldo Beaten age sections added to pot/ Diego Léon Giraldo Waiting for the ya ge brew to finish cooking/ Diego Léon Giraldo Simmering brew of yage and chagrapanga/ Silva Patiño First batch drains while second batch cooks/ Diego Léon Giraldo Don Luis chanting with palm-leaf rattle/ Diego Léon Giraldo