Ayahuasca is the new frontier for ‘psychedelic feminism’

In the heart of the Amazon, women travel by boat to the wild town of Iquitos before driving deep into the jungle.

Inside thatched huts, the symphony of frogs and insects builds to a crescendo and the jungle seems to come in through the netted walls, expanding like sacred geometry. By candlelight, shamans sing while pouring the ayahuasca, a foul-tasting brew that will provoke “la purga” — vomiting and diarrhoea.

Its effects — psychedelic visions — are claimed to be profoundly healing for some. But it carries risks, from psychosis to sexual assault. Several people have died through ayahuasca tourism, largely from other plant-based brews prepared by shamans.

But in an era where experiences and “bucket lists” are prioritised over savings and mortgages, psychedelic tours to the Amazon are sprouting like ferns in the jungle. In Peru, where taking ayahuasca is legal, there are up to 100 retreats in the Iquitos region alone.

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