Santo Daime is a new religion founded in Brazil at the beginning
of the twentieth century when Raimundo Irineu Serra
was introduced to the use of a powerful hallucinogenic brew
called ayahuasca while in the upper Amazon. The drug is
made from boiling the vine Banisteriopsis Caapi in water along
with various other plants. The resultant mixture contains several
psychedelic substances that produce a unique ecstatic experience
that has been compared to that produced by peyote. In
the case of Maestre Irineu, as he is called by those affiliated with
the movement, his use of ayahuasca was accompanied by an apparition
of the Virgin Mary in which she began to expound the
doctrine of what would become the Santo Daime religion. Mary
appeared as Our Lady of Conceiçao and opened the way for
viewing Christian teachings through the new experience.
Soon after his initial experience Maestre Irineu received the
text of new songs that now comprise a hymnal for the movement.
He also received the movements to three dances, each
with very simple steps, that are used to accentuate the flow of
divine energy. Additional hymns have been received through
the years and as the group has spread to other countries, new
hymns in languages other than Portuguese have begun to be
received and accepted for use in the rituals.
Santo Daime rituals begin with the separation of the men
and women into two groups in the meeting hall. Two lines are
formed and the ayahuasca is received. Then the hymns are
sung and dancing begins. Different songs have different purposes
(healing, communicating with spirits, celebration). Additional
sips of the sacramental substance are handed out every
few hours. The ceremony may last as long as eight to twelve
Maestre Irineu was succeeded by Padrinho Sabastiao de
Melo, who was in turn succeeded by his son, Padrinho Alfredo
Gregório de Melo, the present international leader. A second
smaller group is headed by Padrinho Alfredos brother, Paulo
Roberto de Melo. The larger group was incorporated in Brazil
in 1974 as the Eclectic Center of the Universal Flowing Light,
the term Eclectic referring to the mixing of Christian and
traditional beliefs within the church. It is headed by a spiritual
council, and headquartered at Céu do Mapiá, a community created
by Padrinho Sabastiao de Melo. Céu de Mapiá is located
in the jungle on the Purus River, a tributary of the Amazon
River. The branch of the movement led by Paulo Roberto has
established centers in Hawaii, California, and the Netherlands.
The Eclectic Center of the Universal Flowing Light may be
contacted through its website at httpwww.santodaime.org.
The Eclectic Center of the Universal Flowing Light. http
www.santodaime.org. June 12, 2000.