on Corrreio Braziliense
World, May 23, 2001
HOLLAND SURRENDERS TO DAIME
tribunal in Amsterdam rules that the religious use of
the hallucinogenic tea is not a crime, and opens the way
for the legalization of the religious practice in other
European countries. In Brazil, the Dutch woman who started
the process celebrates.
Correio Braziliense Staff
Fijneman, a tranquil, 56 year-old Dutch woman with a Zen
face and a gentle gaze, accomplished what seemed unthinkable
a few years ago. After making a mockery of a medical diagnosis
that gave her just a few months to live, this grandmother
of five beat the Dutch Justice department and won the right
to practice, legally, the rituals of the Santo Daime religion
in Dutch territory.
of the Amsterdam center, Geraldine was arrested in October
1999 as she distributed the Santo Daime tea to her followers
during one of the religion's rituals. The drink, a mixture
of two tropical plants, also known as ayahuasca, contains
the psychoactive substance DMT (dimethyltryptamine), which
is prohibited in Holland. She spent two days in prison and
had the 17.5 liters of the drink in her possession confiscated.
She was freed after analyses demonstrated that the liquid
contained just 3 grams of DMT, a quantity not considered
harmful. Guided by the lawyer Adele van der Plas, she preferred
to be tried. "It was a way of forcing a judicial decision
about the matter that, if it were favorable, would permit
the holding of Santo Daime rituals in the country," Adele
explained. It worked.
a trial lasting a year and a half, Amsterdam's Supreme Court
ruled that the use of ayahuasca within the rituals of the
Church of the Eclectic Center of Universal Flowing Light,
the official name of the religious movement, is not a crime.
and the lawyer, Adele, celebrated in Brazil, where they
arrived some days ago. "At last I can take Santo Daime again
and help other people who need support in their lives,"
she told the Correio yesterday, before embarking for the
sect's headquarters - Ceu do Mapia - in the municipality
of Pauní, in Amazonas state, for a long stay of three
months. "I want to heal myself again."
is reason for Geraldine's anxiety. She attributes to the
religion and the ingestion of ayahuasca the fact that she's
been alive for the last nine years. In 1992, Geraldine was
diagnosed with a brain tumor. Surgery was not feasible owing
to the tumor's location. Doctors gave her few months to
live. Desperate, she sought alternatives. She heard of a
group that utilized Amazonian plants in Pisa, Italy, and
went there. "When I took the tea, I knew that it could help
me a lot." Two months later she was in Amazonia, where she
stayed 60 days. "Santo Daime completely changed my life.
It helped me to get to know my dark side and my enlightened
side." When she returned to Holland, the doctors didn't
know what to say.
tumor had entered remission," she says.
the trial lasted, however, Geraldine was forbidden to use
ayahuasca in Holland and the rituals of the cult were done
without the drink. She limited herself to taking it during
sporadic trips to Brazil. "My health suffered a relapse
and the tumor began to grow again," she says, attributing
the fact to the tension she lived through during the last
months of the trial.
this time, the lawyer, Adele, claimed that the utilization
of the drink was fundamental to the functioning of the religion
and that its prohibition, therefore, violated the European
Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties. According
to the treaty, freedom of religion cannot be limited except
by reason of public safety, protection of public order,
health and morality, or the rights and freedoms of others.
"The prosecutor had to prove that the use of ayahuasca in
the church's rituals was harmful to society, and he could
not," Adele explains.
its decision, the Dutch court states that, owing to the
small number of members of the religion in the country-about
100 people-and to the rigid control that the leaders exercise
over the use of the drink in the rituals, the consumption
of ayahuasca does not present significant risk to public
health, and that the freedom of religion intended in the
Convention on Human Rights, in this case, supersedes the
anti-drug laws that prohibit the consumption of DMT. The
decision may serve as a precedent for similar cases in other
European countries that are signatories of the same convention.
Currently, the Santo Daime religion has representatives
in almost all European nations, including Italy, Spain,
Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, and Belgium,
but it faces resistance in the majority of them.
with the decision, Geraldine doesn't hesitate to reject
any notion that the decision may bring publicity to the
sect in Holland. "We don't go after people, they find us,
of free and spontaneous volition," she says.
she and her lawyer are thinking of doing is asking for reparations
for the days spent in prison and the confiscation of the
drink. That is, if there is no appeal of the decision. "The
prosecutor of the case told us he has no intention of appealing,
but the Dutch government may have some say in the matter,"
the lawyer explains.
ARTISTS TURNED FANS - The
Santo Daime religion has for decades been a part of Amazonian
culture, but it was the hippies from São Paulo and
Rio de Janeiro who took it upon themselves, in the late
70s, to take the Daime rituals to the rest of Brazil. In
the 1980s, various celebrities such as Ney Matogrosso, Lucélia
Santos and Maitê Proença, among other artists,
tried the drink and became defenders of Santo Daime culture,
helping to publicize the religious group. Some remain members
to this day, like the cartoonist Glauco, leader of one of
the Santo Daime communities in São Paulo, where he
uses the rituals to help drug addicts to kick the habit.
DRINK SAID TO OPEN THE
MIND - Santo Daime
is an eclectic religion resulting from the syncretism of
several cultural, folkloric and religious elements, including
Catholicism, and originated in the early 20th century in
Amazonia, when the grandchild of slaves, Raimundo Irineu
Serra, had a "vision" upon consuming a drink used by the
drink is a concoction of two tropical plants, the vine Jagube
and the leaf Rainha, and has properties that are hallucinogenic
or, as the members call it, "entheogenic" (manifesting God
within each one). According to the followers, the drink
is utilized during the rituals to produce an expansion of
consciousness and to permit self-knowledge. Among the physical
effects of the drink are nausea, intestinal discomfort and
vomiting. Some feel absolutely nothing.
1974, a follower of Mestre Irineu, Padrinho Sebastião,
registered the religious movement with the name Raimundo
Irineu Serra Eclectic Center of the Universal Flowing Light
[Centro Eclético da Fluente Luz Universal Raimundo
Irineu Serra] (CEFLURIS) and developed the idea of communities
around the churches. After years of suspicion owing to the
psychoactive properties of ayahuasca, and several commissions
that evaluated the effects of the drink and the religion's
rituals, the Federal Council on Narcotics [Conselho Federal
de Entorpecentes] (CONFEN) authorized the utilization of
the tea in the Santo Daime rituals in 1991.