Preparing ayahuasca: A new Máíhɨ̃ki Project movie

September 22, 2013

Christine Beier recently completed the English-subtitled version of this year’s movie from the Máíhɨ̃ki Project, which is now available on YouTube, below. This short movie follows Liberato Mosoline Mogica, his brother Alberto Mosoline Mogica, and several members of their extended family, as they prepare yáhé, or as it is better known in Peru, ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic drink used by many Amazonian peoples in ritual and shamanic contexts, made from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and leaves of Psychotria viridis. Most Amazonian peoples prepare ayahuasca by cooking the Banisteriopsis and Psychotria together, but Máíhunas do not, instead pounding the two ingredients into a fine meal which is then soaked in water.

Máíhunas are understandably proud of this distinctive way of preparing ayahuasca, but the older men who know how to prepare it are concerned that younger men are not carrying on the tradition, and that they are not planting the yáhé (Banisteriopsis) or yáhéoko (Psychotria) necessary to do so. Liberato, who is also the leader of Nueva Vida, the community in which the Máíhɨ̃ki Project is based, decided that it would be good to document the Máíhuna way of preparing ayahuasca, both so that non-Máíhunas are made aware of the unique Máíhuna technique, and so that young Máíhuna men will be interested in carrying on this Máíhuna tradition.

The movie is available with Máíhɨ̃ki and English subtitles  here, and with Máíhɨ̃ki and Spanish subtitles here.

The movie was filmed, edited, and subtitled in Máíhɨ̃ki and Spanish by Christine Beier, in the community of Nueva Vida in July and August of this year. The content in the voiceovers was the result of collaborative work between Chris and Liberato, with the voice being Liberato’s.

Those interested in seeing last year’s Máíhɨ̃ki Project movie, which documents the preparation of manioc beer, can find it here.

A fun language contact fact to close with: ayahuasca is more commonly known in Colombia and some other parts of the hispanophone world as yajé.  This word was presumably borrowed into Colombian Spanish from a Tukanoan language (Máíhɨ̃ki is a Tukanoan language), which is not entirely surprising, since there are many Tukanoan peoples in Colombia. It is, however the only word Tukanoan origin that I know to have both been borrowed into an Indo-European language and then widely diffused beyond the original areas in which it was used, as a quick consultation of your favorite search engine will reveal.

2 Responses to “Preparing ayahuasca: A new Máíhɨ̃ki Project movie”

  1. Yoram Says:

    Lev, can you tell which branch of Tukanoan yaje comes from?

  2. Lev Michael Says:

    Hey Yoram,

    That’s a great question. Interestingly, a superficial examination suggests that its a borrowing from Western Tukanoan. I’ll look into this in greater detail over the weekend though and see what I turn up.


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