Entheogens are classified as a group of psychoactive substances termed after their
ability to induce altered states of consciousness contributory to spiritual or mystical
experience. Entheogens have fundamental value to so many cultures such as the
indigenous Shipibo people, Hinduism and Christianity, as well as countless others-
facilitating healing, providing visionary cosmology, and enhancing one’s comprehension of
the world in extraordinary measures. These are some of the numerous reasons why they
have earned the rite to be called “sacred” and are still in use after centuries. These religions
share similar aspects regarding the substances that have been presented; Cannabis, ‘magic’/
Amanita muscaria mushrooms and Ayahuasca, and differ in morals and how the substance
are expressed within art, rituals, and Gods.
“Entheogen” was initially defined in The Road to Eleusis (1978) by Wasson,
Hofmann, and Ruck. Ruck suggested “a new term that would be appropriate for describing
states of shamanic and ecstatic possession induced by ingestion of mind-altering drugs” (p.
139). It was coined as a replacement for the term “hallucinogen” and the literal meaning of
the word means “that which causes God to be within an individual”. It is derived from two
ancient Greek words-(entheos) meaning “the god within” that refers to the vehicle of
transference of artistic states or ecstatic passion, with the second half of the word
(genesthia) meaning to ‘come into being’ or the act of becoming. When the two combine,
an entheogen is a substance that causes feelings of inspiration, often in a religious or
“spiritual” manner and variates on the theme of being geared towards achieving
The key importance of this term is that it doesn’t imply that something is created;
as opposed to just perceiving something that is already there, nor that the experienced is
within the person consuming it; as opposed to having independent existence. Strict
categorization of entheogen substances would refer only to visionary drugs that can be
shown to have purpose in religious rites. A looser definition would associate both artificial
and natural drugs that result in altered consciousness similar to those that have been
documented for religious reasons, such as psychedelic drugs like LSD, shrooms, acid, ect.
Dating all the way back to the Classical antiquity, 8th century BC through 6th
century AD, the original divine patron of visionary experiences through religious context is
Dionysus, the Greek God of ecstasy. He manifested the ferment of the grape which
contrasted with intoxicants that preceded viticulture from other sources such as venoms,
toxic herbs and mushrooms, much like the substances used within these three religions.
Ayahuasca is a brew concocted from two plants- the Ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis
Caapi) and Chacruna, or Psychotria virdis leaf and means “vine of the soul”. It is
commonly seen to be a sacred plant seen to facilitate heal...