When people drink ayahuasca tea, the psychoactive, plant-based Amazonian drink, they have visions. Sometimes, those are visual hallucinations: these ceremonies happen at night because the spirit of the plant is supposed to speak most clearly in the dark.
Sometimes, though, they are inspirations—big ideas about how to change the world. Like many who are “called” to ayahuasca, Trinity de Guzman had a vision of spreading the gospel of the plant. But where for many that might mean proselytizing to their friends, for de Guzman, it took the form of a more specific idea.
In 2015, de Guzman was Skyping with an ayahuasca ceremony leader he admired about setting up a venture together, and the leader mentioned she could see herself living in the Pacific Northwest. “I was sitting a lot with the medicine”—ayahuasca—“at the time, maybe two times a week,” de Guzman says, leading a “small, private ceremony” for himself and a friend. “That's when the clarity came through.” He would start a church—an ayahuasca church—the first public and legal ayahuasca church in the United States.
That was how Ayahuasca Healings began. Soon, the message had been pushed out, on Facebook, on message boards, all over the internet. Ayahuasca Healings was coming to America, and they promised that their ceremonies would be “100 percent legal."
At Ayahuasca Healings, anyone seeking an ayahuasca experience could apply to join the church. There was no need to travel to Peru, where ayahuasca tourism is booming, or to worry about prosecution for possessing or consuming ayahuasca's active ingredient, DMT, a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the U.S. As a religious organization, the founders believed, Ayahuasca Healings had the constitutional right to use ayahuasca in their ritualized ceremonies.
The market for such a place certainly existed. Virtually unknown in America until a decade or so ago, ayahuasca has been embraced by a broad swath of curious adventure-seekers, from Bay Area tech types to the Brooklyn creative class. After de Guzman started pitching Ayahuasca Healings online, towards the end of 2015, news of the group's upcoming retreats was broadcast everywhere from psychonaut forums and YouTube channels dedicated to psychedelic and spiritual experiences to popular media outlets including Vice, Complex, Medical Daily, and The Daily Beast.