Aussiewaska: A cultural history of changa and ayahuasca analogues in Australia

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ntroduction While the complexities of the global ayahuasca proliferation have drawn the attention of scholars in recent years, the cultural career of DMT (N,Ndimethyltryptamine) remains conspicuously under-researched. Most known for its role in the ayahuasca brew – where it is orally potentiated by beta-carboline harmala alkaloids contained in the liana Banisteriopsis caapi – the tryptamine compound DMT has made an independent, if gradual, release into the modern cultural bloodstream. DMT’s psychopharmacological actions were discovered in 1956 (Szára, 1956) after which it was identified within psychiatry as a “psychotomimetic,” before its appearance as a recreational drug in the 1960s and subsequent classification as a “dangerous drug” with “no medicinal value.”2 Given these developments, along with its recognized occurrence throughout world flora and mammals (Shulgin & Shulgin, 1997), its “coming out” in the 1990s-2000s as an “entheogen” (Ott, 1996) enabling access to higher dimensional “hyperspace” (McKenna, 1991), and its role in customizable “ayahuasca analogues,” DMT has had a complex career of its own (see St John, 2015a). DMT is responsible for sudden and short-lasting (20-to 30-minute) effects ranging from complex geometric patterns and synesthesia to out-of-body states and encounters with disincarnate beings, and its impact is apparent within a networked cultural movement of experimentalists, artists, and alchemists. While today recognized as a serotonergic neurotransmitter that crosses the blood-brain barrier, where it has an affinity with various receptor sites (Hanna & Taylor, n.d.), and where its endogenicity to humans has prompted its veneration as “the spirit molecule” (Strassman, 2001) and “the brain’s own psychedelic” (Strassman, 2008), the ubiquity of DMT throughout nature and its purpose within the human brain remain a mystery.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe World Ayahuasca Diaspora
Subtitle of host publicationReinventions and Controversies
EditorsBeatriz Caiuby Labate, Clancy Cavnar, Alex K. Gearin
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781317011590, 9781315551425
ISBN (Print)9781472466631, 9781138385696
Publication statusPublished - 11 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameVitality of Indigenous Religions


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