Updated: Jan 9
Reverence refers to deep respect and regard for something or someone. Reverence is the foundation of all spiritual practices; honoring the wisdom and the rituals of those who have come before us and laid the ground for our growth, healing, and transformation.
As psychedelic substances gain broad acceptance and popularity in mainstream culture, the commodification of these sacred medicines seems inevitable. Many indigenous communities have safe-guarded these ancient ways and traditions for centuries at a great cost to their communities often under the threat of persecution and death as demonstrated by the Spanish Inquisition all the way to the modern-day War On Drugs.
While shifting the capitalistic market forces is beyond any one individual or community's reach, practicing awareness and mindfulness, educating others, and leading by example are simple yet critical opportunities for each individual to uphold these ancient ways, pay homage to the communities who have made significant sacrifices to safeguard the traditions, and inspire a mindful and reverent approach to sacred plants.
Colonization has been a hallmark of western economic growth for many centuries; ancient plant shamanism practices are unfortunately not immune to this assault. As scientific research demonstrates the profound healing qualities of psychedelic plants often in areas where western medicine has struggled and often failed to provide adequate solutions, the very same capitalist forces that once outlawed sacred plants in an effort to protect the pharmaceutical company profits are now actively seeking to secure patents and profits from the very same medicinal plants. It is up to each individual, leader, and community to be aware and actively work towards upholding the ancient traditions with deep reverence, and ensuring economic inclusion and prosperity for indigenous communities.
A reverent approach to psychedelic medicines requires mindfulness, humility, and reciprocity. By studying the history of the indigenous traditions that have gifted us the wisdom and knowledge for proper cultivation and consumption of these plants, we are made aware of the great sacrifices and profound commitment and mindfulness through which they have developed and protected the wisdom of their ancestors to the benefit of the modern-day masses.
It is through the close study of ancient traditions like the Tonkawa in the US, the Shipibo in Peru, the Mazatec in Mexico, the Yawanawa in Brazil, and the Koreguaje in Columbia that we are enlightened to the extent of centuries-long struggles and sacrifices that have protected the land, the cultivation, and the traditional practices from which we are actively benefiting from today.
A reverent approach pays homage to the commitment and struggles of these communities for centuries by honoring, protecting, and rewarding these communities through both economic means and a mindful and respectful approach towards their rituals and wisdom.
Here are some simple yet important ways to ensure a reverent approach:
Study the history and traditions of the tribes and cultures that have cultivated and protected ancient plant shamanism traditions
Respect the boundaries and requirements set forth by these traditions including proper diet, setting, attire, and most importantly the background and qualification of the facilitators
Observance of a ritual is not the same as permission to perform the said ritual. Seek the counsel of elders and teachers from the tradition to ensure an appropriate and respectful approach.
Be mindful of cultural appropriation. While many traditions welcome participation in their prayers, songs, and ritual adornments, the context and container are of utmost importance. Seek to study the nuances of right relation to these practices before engaging.
Secure the blessing of a traditional elder or ordained teacher of a tradition before facilitating any rituals associated with their culture. Remember, experience is not the same as permission, no matter how long someone has been practicing.
When engaged in personal practice, offer prayers of gratitude and respect to the plants, the land, the wisdom carriers, and all the forces who have carried and shared these traditions.
Engage mindfully, avoid unconscious use, and educate others to do the same with kindness, grace, and commitment.
When investing in plant medicine products/experiences, seek to support indigenous communities and marginalized communities of color who have been most impacted by the history of colonization and the war on drugs.
Avoid high-ticket retreats and experiences unless a majority of the profits are directed towards indigenous communities.
As psychedelic plants grow in acceptance, reach, and demand, it is our responsibility as conscious practitioners to honor, protect, and nurture these ancient ways and ensure equity, justice, and prosperity for the communities that have gifted us these potent and profoundly healing medicines and the wisdom to carry them with safety, respect, and reverence.