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 hours.
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 Alfredo's 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 http://www.santodaime.org/.
The Eclectic Center of the Universal Flowing Light.http://www.santodaime.org/. June 12, 2000.