We Need to Talk About Your Issues with Shamanism, Ayahuasca & Money

We need to talk to you about your money issues around ayahuasca, sacred plant medicines and spirituality…

Yes, I said YOUR money issues.

Did I trigger something? Ya, I know it’s a controversial topic that gives enough people hulk rage to send me offensive emails, as well as nicely worded emails admonishing me for my transgressions…

So I thought it was about time I address some of the most common accusations / concerns and break it down.

You see, there is an unexamined belief around charging money for anything related to spirituality being bad, evil, etc… And I suspect that those people who have the biggest issues around spirituality and money are broke and struggling themselves. If this sounds like you, I invite you to repattern your beliefs around money, to see money as a form of energy to be used towards positive or negative ends. I also invite you to explore what reciprocity and right exchange mean to you.

Just So That You Know What I Do

Because I find myself accused of selling medicine by people who really have no idea who I am, what I do, or why I do it. Therefore I will say for the record:

  • I do not pour medicine, or lead ceremonies
  • Organizing trips to the jungle is not my current business model, though this might change in the future, depending on what my clients want
  • I do not sell sacred teachings & secret practices I’ve received from indigenous shamans
  • Physical goods I have sold are sourced through fair trade partnerships with the indigenous tribes
  • I am a publisher who offers free as well as premium content
  • The revenue generated from EntheoNation goes towards paying my staff, content production and operating costs
  • I pay myself with revenue I earn as a marketing consultant and business coach

So let’s break this down piece by piece. Let’s start with a fundamental question…

Would You Work Full-Time for Free?

How do you feel about working full-time for free? You probably have a job. If you were to spend all your time working your job, and were expected to work for free, how does that make you feel?

Let’s say you quit your job and devote yourself entirely towards a higher purpose. Something spiritual, such as teaching yoga or meditation. Or something charitable in nature, like supporting indigenous people. If you were not being paid for your labor, where do you expect money to come from to pay your bills? Donations?

Let’s say the average income to thrive in the United States is $50K a year (depends of course on where you live). Have you ever tried to raise this amount of money in donations? Have you ever successfully raised $10K? How about raising this amount consistently year after year? How much time does this take you?

How efficiently would you accomplish your mission if you didn’t have any money to pay for essential services, like utilities?

If you are independently wealthy and have a lot of rich, generous friends, you are in the 1%. Awesome, then I ask you to consider funding EntheoNation by becoming a Patron of EntheoNation on Patreon right here!

For most of us, we need to work to generate income to pay our bills. Increase the amount of your bills if you have a business with overhead costs like staff, equipment, and software.

Common Misconceptions Around Shamanism & Money

Most of these misconceptions arise from incorrect cultural projections as well as a failure to deeply reflect upon socioeconomic dynamics before making accusations and/ or sweeping judgements.

“How Dare You Sell Sacred Plant Medicines?”

First of all, I am not a plant medicine facilitator, and I have no intention to be one in the near, or mid future. If Spirit should call upon me to pour medicine, I take this responsibility very seriously, and I do not have the time right now for the many years of deep training this endeavor would require. I believe everyone has unique gifts, and mine happen to be in digital media, so a publisher of independent media I shall be.

There was a short period of time I offered shaman-made rapé, and this was fairly sourced from indigenous people I personally know and trust. This is a valuable source of income for the tribes, it not only keeps an incredibly laborious shamanic art alive, it sustains a lot of people who live in the forest and do not have opportunity to earn the cash they need to buy things like clothes, medicine, and gasoline, as well as food, since most of the game around villages have long been depleted.

However, as a digital nomad, I’ve decided that I prefer not to sell physical products. I do support the commerce of fair-trade, sustainably-harvested, shaman-made rapé because it is an economic lifeline to many indigenous tribes.

“Sacred Plant Medicines Should be Free”

Actually, shamans were always paid. They are healers, doctors, and curanderos, and were always traditionally paid for their services. It’s a doctor – patient paradigm. Often the people who get most upset are projecting other cultural paradigms onto shamanism. For example, in the East, many spiritual teachers are renunciates, living in community supported monasteries, and whatever money they receive for services rendered comes in the form of a donation.

But Amazonian shamanism doesn’t have this paradigm. Shamans are doctors who are paid for their services, they are not supported by regular tithing of food, clothing, and alms from their village. Shamans are not spiritual renunciates following a prescribed code of conduct and bound by spiritual vows. They are primarily herbalists, healers with expertise in medicinal plants, and they are usually married with children.

Many Westerners mistakenly believe that the sacred medicines ought to be offered for free. That means they expect that the curandero, or healer, spends hours seeking and harvesting the medicine in the forest, preparing the medicine, and then healing the patient for free? What Western doctor would render their medicine and services for free? Even in countries with universal health care, taxpayer money funds these services.

“But Santo Daime is Free”

Another thing they fail to discern is the economics of free Santo Daime, and fees paid to curanderos facilitating an all night ceremony, or 10-day dietas at their centers in the jungle. The medicine produced by the Santo Daime community is often offered freely as part of a church service. Many factors make this possible.

The church members get together periodically to make large batches of medicine, which they produce in a spiritual work over several days called a feitiou. Many people participating in a feitiou are doing this in a karma yoga volunteer kind of way. If there are core people facilitating the feitiou, because face it, volunteers can be kind of unreliable, they are paid a nominal fee.

The church receives monthly membership dues from its congregation. This pays for all the costs associated with having Daime works, from toilet paper, to candles, electricity, water and guitar strings.

Churches make money by selling batches of Daime overseas for much higher prices than what a liter typically costs locally. The low-paid feitiou workers are not typically included in profit-share. Obviously, you can see how this is a very controversial practice.

Finally, the reason why you, as a visitor, get to participate in a church work for free or for a nominal visitors contribution, is because ultimately, the hope is that you will join the flock, and become a convert.

So this is why Daime is free. So it’s important to not confuse this community-centric system, where costs are born by the community, with the shaman-centric system, where costs are born by the shaman.

“The Indians Give It Away For Free”

Some misguided Westerners will even claim that the indians will give you ayahuasca for free. Yes, that is indeed the case, but I will also say that if you, a Westerner who can afford an international plane ticket to go to Peru, Brazil, Colombia, or Ecuador, and then travel hours if not days to arrive at an indigenous village, if you expect the villagers to offer you their hospitality without some form of exchange, then I’m sorry to say, you are being a parasite.

Because this is how it works, and I share this with you, because I’ve been going to the restricted indigenous territories in Brazil for years as a guest of the tribes. There are areas that are strictly off-limits to outsiders, where you would have to apply to FUNAI, which is the ministry of indigenous affairs, for permission to enter these areas, which will most likely deny your request. You can only go there as a guest, and if the chief of the community is expecting you. Because there are no hotels, no public, transportation, nowhere where you can buy food for yourself. If you were to turn up there without an invitation, you will be sent back downriver.

So as a guest, what you need to do to make yourself welcome, and certainly not a parasite, is, you have to

  1. Hire a boat and provision yourself with enough food and gasoline for you, your boat crew (usually 2 people) for your journey there and back
  2. You need to bring supplies for the family you are staying with, so food for them during the time you are loged with them
  3. Plus gifts for the village, most definitely the chief and his family, and this will be in the form of items they need for day to day survival, such as propellers for canoe motors, dish soap, fishing hooks, batteries, canned food and dry goods, clothes and medicine, and beads for the women
  4. You may also be expected to make a monetary contribution to the village

And if you do all of that, sure, you will most likely be invited to drink ayahuasca with the village and NOT be charged fee at the door of the maloca.

Here’s the deal…you have to understand, indigenous people are the poorest of the poor. They mostly live off the land, but they still need money to buy manufactured goods, and they don’t have much opportunity to make money. Even though they may grow food and hunt, they have enough struggle feeding themselves and their kids. And hunting is hard work. That’s only in places where game hasn’t been completely depleted. If it has, then they must buy beef or chicken.

So if you think you can drop in, as a rich Westerner, and be housed, fed and given ayahuasca for free, I’m going to say, “Pull your head out of your ass, dude, and don’t be an entitled, Western parasite.”

“Why Don’t You Find a Wealthy Donor or Crowdfund?”

“You know, you should ask Oprah to fund your project!”

Over the years I worked in the nonprofit sector, this one gets tossed around a lot. At which I reply,

“That sounds like a great idea! Why don’t you go ask Oprah for $5K to fund this project?”

I spent a decade of my professional career in the nonprofit industry in direct response fundraising and donor development. I can tell you from 10 years of experience the amount of time it takes to cultivate wealthy donor relationships or to crowdfund is significant – a full-time job in fact – and that most of the people who toss around this easy suggestion have never raised money for their own endeavors themselves. Those who do, get how much work this is, and how you can easily spend all your time doing it, which then means you are not implementing your program.

So if you do strongly believe that EntheoNation should be free of commercial offers, then I humbly invite you to support our Patreon Campaign by clicking on the banner below. Namasté.

Art by Salvia Droid

About the author, Lorna

Lorna Liana is a new media strategist and lifestyle business coach to visionary entrepreneurs. She travels the world while running her business as a digital nomad. Lorna's boutique agency provides “done for you” web design, development and online marketing services for social ventures, sustainable brands, transformational coaches and new paradigm thought leaders. She is also a personal development junkie, and 20 year practitioner of shamanism, with extensive training in Tibetan Bon Shamanism and the ayahuasca traditions of the Amazon Basin.

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