How Four Indigenous Cultures Currently Use Psychedelics

The Yanomami People use a psychedelic plant that you may never have heard of.

Evan Lewis-Healey
4 min readSep 16, 2021


Mexican folk art design, retrieved from pxfuel

Don’t let the industrialization of psychedelics fool you: The Western world certainly didn’t spearhead the use of psychoactive substances for healing. Many of the techniques utilized in modern psychedelic ceremonies are rooted in Indigenous use of entheogens.

While we are still unsure how long Indigenous cultures have been using substances like magic mushrooms and ayahuasca for, we are certain that psychedelics remain a cornerstone of many Indigenous religions and cultures to this day.

Here we’ll explore the fascinating and multi-faceted ways that different psychoactive plants are currently used for spiritual and ritualistic purposes around the globe.

Magic Mushrooms and the Mazatecs

The Mazatecs are an Indigenous community in the Oaxaca, Puebla, and Veracruz regions of Mexico. The Mazatec people have used psilocybin-containing mushrooms for many generations in ritualistic settings.

The mushrooms are consumed in ceremonies called Veladas, and are led by curanderos, who are considered healers (the root of the word translates literally as ‘to cure’). The Veladas are performed so that the Mazatec people can come closer to God and experience the divine.

The Mazatecs may be the most famous Indigenous culture to use psychedelics. In 1957, R. Gordon Wasson, a banker and ethnomycologist, famously appeared in Time Magazine, where he documented his psychedelic trips with the curandera Maria Sabina. This was the first time that the ritualistic use of psychedelics was widely introduced to the West.

Since then, Sabina was inundated with interest from Westerners seeking to participate in the Veladas, which ultimately threatened the future of the Mazatecs at the time. This introduction to the ritualistic use of psilocybin mushrooms could certainly have been handled with more care — Sabina was subsequently ostracized by her community after Westerners continuously poured into the Mazatec regions.

Ayahuasca and the Shipibo People



Evan Lewis-Healey

PhD student at Cambridge University. Studying the cognitive neuroscience of altered states of consciousness | Writer for Psychedelic Spotlight

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