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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Céu do Mapiá: Social Organization and the Role of Ayahuasca in the Amazonian Santo Daime Community

  • Author(s): Bulajic, Nikola
  • Advisor(s): Hunefeldt, Christine
  • et al.

This thesis is an ethnographic case study of a secluded Christian community called Céu do Mapiá located deep within the western Brazilian Amazon. The roughly 700 permanent residents are members of the internationally recognized, fairly young Brazilian religion called Santo Daime. This thesis is the product of ethnographic field research conducted in July of 2015, its author having visited the isolated community, having observed and interviewed many of its inhabitants, and having himself participated in village life. The principle goal of this study has been to create a reliable pool of information about the Céu do Mapiá community in order to better be able to understand the nature of its socio-economic organization considering its important role as the mother community for all Santo Daime parishes around the world. It is important to understand the causes for the community’s ability in maintaining such a sizable population, comparatively speaking, in such an isolated and hostile environment. The successful model of conservation of the 560,000 hectares of the surrounding National Forest of Purus and Mapiá-Inauiní also deserves attention. The information gathered in the following pages also explores vital questions of U.S. drug policy, considering Santo Daime’s sacrament, the ancient Amazonian entheogen called ayahuasca is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance in the US. Considering also that ayahuasca has increasingly been the focus of intensive academic, medical, and scientific research of late, this thesis considers implications of its classification and argues that reconsideration of its legal status and use is a question of not merely reason but also fundamental human rights that ought to be addressed.

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