There is often something arrogant and presumptuous in the way Westerners look at the other cultures, with obviously some exceptions. And as if this was not enough it is accompanied by a mercantilist inclination, and the self-recognised right to buy everything, even culture. Ayahuasca, the sacred plant that is becoming more and more popular around the globe, does not escape from that attitude. People feel the right to use it for narcissistic experiences with the only scope to spend a different weekend or to have fun or to feel good.
This is a totally disrespectful way to use a tradition cultivated by many population of the Amazon for thousand of years and very egocentric. But this is not all! The issue presented till now was about attitude and respect, but it involves also safety. In fact, the unconscious use of such a powerful mean, without the guidance of a tradition and a person that is guardian of that tradition can have harmful effects, or, if the person is lucky, no effect at all.
To explain what is the danger I will use a metaphor. You should imagine people to be like a little city, protected by walls. When people drink Ayahuasca, those walls are taken down, partially or completely according to the power of the plant, how the person naturally tends to open, etc. When the walls are down, people can start to experience all the jungle outside, looking all the beautiful and stunning tress, encountering amazing animals, roaming free, walking around rivers. But people can also encounter a starving jaguar that wants to eat them, or a cliff from which is easy to fall. Dangers are real and out there.
The role of a tradition and a shaman that guide the rituals is to prevent, with all the Spirit helpers, that this negative things will happen. They can tell where there is the cliff, or they can keep away the jaguar. And in case the person falls from the cliff, they are able to take the unlucky out.
A shaman can guide an initiation thanks to the huge experience of the jungle. He can cope with it, solve the issues and help other people to do the same. Now, here (Europe, Western countries in general) I see people that take Ayahuasca few times and after that propose themselves as guides. This is absolutely irresponsible and dangerous for the participants. Moreover it will not lead far away, because in order to use Ayahuasca with pragmatism, therefore to effectively provoke a constructive change in our lives, there is the need of a tradition, that generation after generation, in thousand of years, developed successful ways to do so.
To conclude, there is the most shamanic reason which is maybe difficult to understand by Westerns because many do not believe in Spirits, while other that encountered Spirits think of them as superior beings, full of unconditioned love. Ayahuasca is inhabited by many Spirits and these Spirits are conscious, extremely powerful and with a huge knowledge. They can open certain doors, but the initiation must be introduce by somebody that is already an ally. Therefore new people should be introduced by a shaman to have access to certain realms and to have then the guide not only of the shaman and Spirit helpers, but also of the Spirits of Ayahuasca themselves. They could otherwise feel the disrespect and they will give to people unreliable visions. But this is a discourse that we will deepen during the Ceremony of Initiation.
Picture's author: Pablo Amaringo