Plants - Drugs Mind - Spirit Freedom - Law Arts - Culture Library  
Full Review
Aya: A Shamanic Odyssey
by Rak Razam
Icaro Publishing 
Book Reviews
Reviewed by David Arnson, 12/9/2012

Aya: A Shamanic Odyssey is a fast-paced and entertaining exploration of the ayahuasca tourism phenomenon in Peru. Author Rak Razam transports the reader along with him to the jungle riverport of Iquitos, as he covers the 2nd International Amazonian Shamanism Conference in 2006. Razam, who attended this event in order to cover it within the pages of the Australian Penthouse magazine, ended up writing an entire book about his experience—one that is at once both mesmerizing and hyperbolic.

Razam does a great job detailing the myriad cast of characters involved in the scene: from native to gringo shamans, ayahuasqueros to tabaqueros to perfumeros, spiritual to hedonistic “seekers”, and everyone in between. During the author’s two-month stay in Peru, he seemingly manages to consume enough ayahuasca to fill a bathtub; yet he remains self-aware and reflective, making his experience meaningful for him and his readers. He also describes personal experiences smoking DMT during his time in Iquitos, while hooked up to a local gringo shaman’s EEG machine!

Throughout the book, Razam insightfully compares and contrasts the many different modes that ayahuasca ceremonies can take: from wealthy New Age modalities to drinking in a poor campesino’s hut with small children present. The local aya culture is extensively explored, and readers learn about many details of these rituals, such as the ever-present mapachos (a potent form of tobacco, Nicotiana rustica), the various icaros (shamans’ healing songs), the use of virotes (magic darts employed by dark shamans to injure others), the assorted ayahuasca admixture plants, and why Tuesdays and Fridays are the most auspicious ceremony days.

Readers follow the author through his sojourns in Iquitos, onto a quest for magic stones near Pucallpa, then down to Cuzco and a midnight visit to Machu Picchu. I used Aya, in fact, as a guidebook within Peru on my own visit there in 2009. Most of Razam’s observations of Iquitos were spot-on, with just a few exceptions (for example, the gringo bar Yellow Rose of Texas was pretty quiet when I was there, not the social mecca he describes it as). And I was pleased at having being turned on to the fine Casa de la Gringa in Cuzco, a comfy international hostel known for its ayahuasca and San Pedro ceremonies.

Occasionally Razam’s gonzo journalism is a little over-the-top, such as when he begins a chapter by describing his vision of a giant stingray swimming through the room, or when he painstakingly writes out the improvised nonsense syllables that he sang during some of his experiences. But these are minor quibbles and Aya stands, all in all, as an observant, detailed overview of the fascinating and multilayered ayahuasca culture within Peru.

Fatal error: Uncaught TypeError: count(): Argument #1 ($value) must be of type Countable|array, null given in /www/library/review/review.php:699 Stack trace: #0 {main} thrown in /www/library/review/review.php on line 699