Santo Daime was founded in the Brazilian Amazonian state of Acre in the 1930s and became a worldwide movement in the 1990s. Santo Daime rituals involve collective singing of hymns, sometimes while engaged in a formalised dance step, other times simply seated in chairs, combined with the consumption of Daime, or Ayahuasca.
Santo Daime is syncretic in that it incorporates elements of several religious or spiritual traditions including Folk Catholicism, Kardecist Spiritism, and African animism and South American Shamanism. The religion, called simply the Doctrine of Mestre Irineu by its most senior practitioners, has little basis in written texts. Instead, its teachings are learned experientially, through singing of inspired hymns, which explore perennial values of love, harmony, and strength via the consumption of Daime. Ceremonies, which are called trabalhos meaning “works”, are typically several hours long and consist of drinking Daime and either sitting or dancing while singing hymns and playing maracas, or sitting in silent “concentration”.
The drinking of Daime induces a strong emetic effect which is embraced as a purging of both emotional and physical impurities. Overall the Santo Daime promotes a wholesome lifestyle in conformity with Mestre Irineu’s motto of “harmony, love, truth, and justice”, as well as other key doctrinal values such as strength, humility, fraternity, and purity of heart.
Legality in the United States
In the United States, court battles over ritual use of ayahuasca have mostly been fought by the UDV. So far, the UDV has been able to continue practicing legally because of the Supreme Court decisions that soundly rejected attempts by the government to prohibit it. In September 2008, the three Oregon Santo Daime churches filed suit in federal court to gain legal status. Their trial ended January 23, 2009. The case, Church of the Holy Light of the Queen b. Mukasey, presided over by Judge Owen M. Panner, ruled in favor of the Santo Daime church. In March 2009, Judge Panner found that the use of hallucinogenic tea by members of such churches was legal, issuing an injunction barring the government from penalizing them for its consumption.
From the Eyes of the Santo Daime (Interview)