Chapter 10: Altered States of Consciousness

How does your state of mind impact your spirituality?

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10.2 Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca, also called la purga, is a brew made from the ayahuasca vine, chacruna leaves and the leaves of various plants and shrubs indigenous to the region. It is a hallucinogen that has been used for attaining ASC during healing rituals in various indigenous Amazonian cultures. It is a hallucinogenic with evidence of healing qualities, but is very potent. Inappropriate use of ayahuasca can cause severe psychological side effects and in some cases even death.

10.3 Possession in Voodoo

Haitian Voodoo ceremonies are highly secretive and are typically not open to outsiders of the religion. While there is no central authority who defines or regulates the religion, the word “Bembe” is often used to refer to a religious service performed to connect with the loas. These ceremonies are led by the religious leaders (oungan/priest or manbo/priestess) whereby the leader ritually invites a loa to join the ceremony. The group will always offer the loa’s favorite items (including food, drink, tobacco, perfume, etc.) as a ritual sacrifice to the loa.

10.4 Spirit Possession

Before continuing, please read and take notes on the following material:


Brown, Karen McCarthy. Mama Lola: a Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn. University of California Press, 2010.


“States of Consciousness” is by Robert Biswas-Diener and Jake Teeny is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available in the Licensing Agreement.

Cultural Anthropologist in Los Angeles

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