views updated

Beneficent Spiritual Center Uniao do Vegetel

The Beneficent Spiritual Center Uniao do Vegetel is one of several religious groups that have arisen in the twentieth century in Brazil whose practice is built around the consumption of ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is an hallucinogenic substance created from the vine known as Banisteriopsis Caapi, which is boiled in water along with various other plants that also contain psychedelic properties. It was founded by José Gabriel da Costa, known by his followers as Maestre Gabriel.

Maestre Gabriel was born on February 10, 1922, in Coracao de Maria, a small town in the Brazilian state of Bahia. In 1942 he became part of a government program to accelerate the production of rubber for the war effort and while working in the area near the Brazilian/Bolivian border encountered ayahuasca (or hoasca). The formation of the Unioa is dated from that experience though the reconstruction of the religion would take the next 20 years. Maestre Gabriel died on September 24, 1971.

According to the Uniao de Vegetel, its religion dates to the time of King Solomon in Israel. Over the years it has disappeared on several occasions, but as God sees fit, spiritual personages are called forth to reestablish it. In the past, such an effort was reinitiated by the Incas. Maestre Gabriel traced his own introduction to the substance to a people who continued its use from Incan times though the Incan ritual and doctrine had been lost.

Rituals of the Uniao de Vegetel have some resemblance to the Santo Daime, the older ayahuasca group in Brazil. It includes the consumption of the drug and the singing of the songs that were received by Maestre Gabriel. The group has more than 75 centers in Brazil, and may be contacted through its webpage at http://www.udv.org.br/udvpag01-ing.htm.

In 1991 and 1995, the Uniao organized international conferences to promote the study of ayahuasca and assist in the process of its legalization and legitimization internationally.

Sources:

Beneficent Spiritual Center Uniao do Vegetel. http://www.udv.org.br/udvpag01-ing.htm. June 12, 2000.

About this article

Beneficent Spiritual Center Uniao do Vegetel

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article