Sending out Your Soul: An Entheogenic Forum Community Explored through Language
AuthorFrias, Erin E.
AdvisorNevins, Marybeth E.
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The purpose of this thesis is to examine the discourse of an online forum community centered on an entheogenic medicine called ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is an indigenous brew made out of two hallucinogenic plants used by shaman of the upper Amazon regions of South America to send their souls to the supernatural world. The purpose of taking ayahuasca is to receive guidance and knowledge from ancestral and plant spirits in order to heal mental and physical illnesses. Globalization and the World Wide Web have contributed to the spread of ayahuasca to mainstream society where spiritual discourse and alternative medicinal practices are recontextualized to fit within the domain of contemporary ayahuasca use. I will analyze three ways the ayahuasca.com forum community has re-contextualized ayahuasca through language. The first discursive strategy is the use of alternative words in place of common words used by mainstream society to characterize psychedelic drugs and the people who use them. The formation of the forum register creates a new meaning for ayahuasca and the experience that disassociates them from the discourse associated with recreational drug users; secondly, the use of spiritual discourse, which further separates the forum members from recreational drug users, in order to build a foundation that justifies their use of an illegal substance under the auspices of freedom of religion in the United States; thirdly, the discourse surrounding modern ailments, modern medicine and motivations for participating in an alternative form of healing are understood as the growing disenchantment of Western medicinal practices like long term drug treatments that focus on symptoms rather than internal or psychological causes.