1990s – Terence McKenna Helps Popularize Ayahuasca Across the Globe
In writings and talks, Terence McKenna, brother of ethno-pharmacologist Dennis McKenna, popularized ayahuasca particularly during the 1990s while keeping a busy international speaking tour when not geeking-out online in Hawaii researching and exploring. He helped pioneer the idea of ayahuasca as a combination of two plants in which DMT is made orally active by combining it with an MAOI, and that DMT visions are the essential part of ayahuasca. A common perspective among indigenous practitioners was that ayahuasca is primarily not DMT but the less psychoactive component of the brew, the ayahuasca vine. In this wide tradition, the vine can be mixed with or without optional “helper plant” admixtures such as the DMT-containing plant.
This perspective on ayahuasca was widely adopted, and the idea spread that the ayahuasca vine has no psychoactive effects of its own, that it is a mystery how indigenous people figured out how to use an MAOI to make DMT orally active, and that any combination of plants or chemicals that used an MAOI to make DMT orally active was equivalent to ayahuasca. The psychedelic subculture embraced ayahuasca analogues, especially brews combining Peganum harmala with Mimosa hostilis, and many used the name “ayahuasca” for analogues, today known as pharmahuasca.
Terence McKenna become an internationally recognized speaker on topics of ayahuasca and psychedelics. With lyrical performances, he presented numerous lectures to large audiences at venues all across the Western world. As Xavier Fancuski described:
“Praised by hundreds of thousands of zealous soul-seekers worldwide, Terence McKenna’s accounts of his experiences with psychedelic substances have gifted us with astounding glimpses into the otherworldly. His lyrical intellect and learned interests included shamanism, renaissance alchemy, archeology, Jungian psychology, and technology. This made him a polymath like the psychedelic scene had never seen.”
The famed psychedelic bard left the mortal realm for good in the year 2000, dying too young at the age of 54. You can read more about the life and work of Terence McKenna in this article from the Kahpi Magazine.
Davis, Erik (2019) High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies. MIT Press
McKenna, Terence (1993). Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution. Bantam.
McKenna, Dennis (2012). Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss: My Life with Terence McKenna.
Francuski, Xavier (2018). The Life and High Times of Psychedelic Bard, Terence McKenna. Kahpi