Whether you call it ayahuasca, iowaska or simply aya, the fame of this traditionally sacred brew native to the Upper Amazon region of South America has spread far and wide in recent years. The plant brew featured in Wanderlust (2012) and While We’re Young (2014), movies starring Jennifer Aniston, Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts. And in real life, even top Hollywood A-listers and chart-topping musicians have heard the call to drink ayahuasca, seeking the deeply spiritual experiences which ingesting the brew can lead to.
Is a celebrity ayahuasca experience different?
The experiences most celebrities seem to have with the plant appear to be very different from a typical or traditional ayahuasca retreat. These latter generally involve the interested participant flying – at least if they’re a non-native – to a peaceful location of natural beauty in South American countries like Brazil or Peru where they can relax and approach their experience from a serious perspective. At least one piece of Hollywood lore involves a shaman being flown into Los Angeles from the Amazon to carry out a ceremony in an ultra-rich part of the urban landscape. The price?
Ten thousand dollars and expenses paid.
Needless to say, it’s a bit of an earner for some Amazonian native shamans who are happy to share their ancestral wisdom with non-Amazonians. If only to ensure they are doing it right.
Which celebrities have tried ayahuasca?
Some of the most well-known celebrities who have tried ayahuasca include:
1. Paul Simon
Paul Simon, certainly best known as the Simon in Simon and Garfunkel, recounted his experience with ayahuasca in a song called Spirit Voices, released in the 1990s. One of the suggested original traditional uses of the sacred brew was to inspire artistic creativity in its drinkers and this is a frequent outcome for the musically and artistically inclined – or even those who usually aren’t – after their experience.
Simon also reported that he experienced fighting off a giant snake in his vision. Overcoming trials and disturbing images is also a regular feature of most peoples’ experience.
2. Tori Amos
Tori Amos has spoken of her ayahuasca experiences several times, citing their influence on freeing her mind to write her music, and describing at least one of them as “very structured.” The shaman or guide who structured Amos’s experience made the group plan out what they wanted to achieve long before they actually sat down for their ceremony. After the ceremony, they then reconvened and discussed whether they thought they had achieved their goals.
3. Jim Carey
The legendary actor and comic, famous for his many roles in everything from Ace Ventura to The Truman Show to Yes Man has allegedly had an ayahuasca experience or two in his time. An anecdote relayed by a shaman in the Los Angeles area tells of Carey on top of a high hill convincing himself that he could earn $10 million for a single picture and refusing to come down until he succeeded. This, he did.
It has to be said though that the shaman choosing to share the very personal experience of a person he was guiding isn’t usually accepted practice.
The frontman of The Police once recalled of his experience with ayahuasca in his autobiography, “each leaf, each flower, each insect called me. It was a feeling of being connected that fascinated me.”
The promotion of this feeling of connectedness is perhaps one of the most interesting and important elements of ayahuasca’s effects. Many people report a feeling of oneness with the natural world or the universe as a whole.
5. Oliver Stone
The director, probably best known for the films JFK, Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July and Natural Born Killers also wrote Scarface. He once claimed that while he’d never touch cocaine, he believed in “LSD, mescaline, mushrooms and ayahuasca.” Possibly another artistic type finding themselves a natural fit for ayahuasca’s creativity enhancing properties here.
6. Lindsay Lohan
The actress, star of the movies The Parent Trap and Mean Girls, has had well-publicized struggles with different types of drugs. She credits ayahuasca with helping her to overcome her addictions. This is yet another reported affect of the brew and one of the reasons why William S. Burroughs – the well-known American novelist and Beat generation thinker – first sought it out in the Amazon back in the 1950s.
Lohan has said that ayahuasca “changed my life”, referring to the fact she believed that her experiences also later helped her come to terms with the deep emotional pain caused by a miscarriage.
7. James Scott
The Days of Our Lives star seems to have had a much more traditional sort of ayahuasca retreat in Peru. He once told an interviewer of the spiritual experience he had while sitting in a hut in the Amazon with native shamans.
On his return from the jungle, he resigned from his show. “I came back a very different person,” he said. “It was the most important thing I have ever done.”