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Trippin’ Jaguars – Ayahuasca and Trans-Cultural (-Species?) Visions

The above clip, taken from the BBC series Weird Nature, shows a jaguar in the Peruvian rain forest eating the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, one of the major constituents of the shamanic brew ayahuasca. The caapi vine contains the chemical harmine as well as other monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) that allow the hallucinogenic DMT in the other main ingredient in ayahuasca (often Psychotria viridis) to be orally active. The jaguar seems to be affected somewhat by the vine, though it’s difficult to tell how much of that is us forcing our own preconceptions on the clip. As noted though, there isn’t any DMT in the caapi vine, although it does have the harmala alkaloids that were originally labeled ‘telepathine’ by early researchers, on account of its supposed ability to enable telepathic contact between tribe members.

One of the many mysteries regarding the ayahuasca brew is how the indigenous people of South America came to mix the two main ingredients, out of all the millions of possible combinations of plants in that region. The video clip above raises the question of whether the use of the caapi vine might have been at least partly based on the observation of animals ‘self-medicating’ with the plant. The study of this phenomenon is known as Zoopharmacognosy.

To make things doubly interesting, one of the most commonly reported elements in ayahuasca visions are…jaguars! And these visions even seem to transcend cultural and geographical boundaries. Chilean psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo administered harmaline to 35 white, urban volunteers, without telling them the substance they were taking, its origins, nor the expected effects. He was surprised to note that “strangely enough, tigers, leopards or jaguars were seen by seven of the subjects even though big cats are not seen in Chile”. Michael Harner, an expert in shamanism, described this result as “unexpected, and remains unexplained”.

(original video via, and Rick’s Wednesday Grail News Briefs)

  1. Ayahuasca
    One of the commonly reported occurrences in Ayahuasca ceremonies – as noted by the members of the UDV Church particularly, is of shared visions.
    If a number of people are experiencing the medicine together, one participant with a particularly intense ‘vision’ can seemingly influence the others to ‘see’ the same thing.
    It would be interesting to find out whether these seven were separated, or together at the same time and place.

    I was told by a participant of a particular case in Brazil where a newcomer was admitted to a daytime ceremony without the usual vetting process, (in which visitors are assessed for compatibility by senior church members. )
    Many of the participants reported erotic visions during the ceremony, which were totally out of character with those of normal services. On questioning, the newcomer admitted that his whole experience was an erotic ‘dream’ which seemed to leak into the experience of some of the others.

    This phenomenon implies what could be termed as a shared unconscious, and is a fascinating aspect of the experience.

  2. What’s Noö Pussycat!
    Greg I’ve had several weird interactions with our domestic tabby and me brother who’s cat she ostensibly is’s constantly amazed when I say things to her like “Don’t you think y’need to stop zonkin’ on the couch for a bit an’ go outside for sunlight and eat some grass?” and as if she’s understood every word she does exactly that!

    The point being given witches had cats as familiars and the Ancient Egyptians worshipped them as gods it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if when the buggers’re actually able to get something more exotic than mere common or garden greenery down their gizzards they might well do the grand tour and cross over to the human section of the internet of waking dreams.

  3. Jungle Catnip
    This jaguar is behaving exactly the same way a domestic moggie would with catnip. So I did a little digging on catnip and found that the plant contains alkaloids similar to cannabis. I wonder how similar ayahuasca’s alkaloids are to those in catnip?

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