* The Dream Hunt (Na'vi name: Uniltaron) is a rite of passage, in which Na'vi seek their spirit animal. During a chemically induced trance caused by the bite of an arachnoid and swallowing a glow worm, they express themselves musically as the spirit moves.
Uniltaron songs are especially interesting. While under the chemically induced effects that mark the Dream Hunt, a Na'vi may utilize any kind of expression: standard social song structures, imitations of domestic cascading vocal style, children's songs from deep in their memories, wildly improvised songs or chants. The only type of songs not heard in this context are personal songs and the ritual songs of mourning.
Vision Quest in Avatar Movie - Deleted Scene
This is the Vision Quest Ceremony that did not make it into the final movie. Please take note that the Dream Hunt / vision quest requires two separate chemicals - just as Ayahuasca...
The Na’vi’s nearly telepathic understanding of their environment is grounded not only in ritual, plant-lore, and that earnest seriousness that now afflicts PC Hollywood Indians, but in an organic communications network: the fibrous, animated, and vaguely repulsive pony-tail tentacles that not only allow the Na’vi to form direct control links with animals but also, through the optical filaments of the “Tree of Souls,” to commune with both ancestors and the Eywa (=Ayahuasca), the biological spirit of the planet whose name resonates with Erda, our own Earth.
Call it ayahuasca lite. For while Avatar features nothing like the South American shaman lore and stupendous aya visuals that litter the otherwise very bad 2004 Western released here as Renegade, the film does suggest that the bitter jungle brew, and ideas of ecological wisdom now attached to it, is having a trickle-down effect. The banisteriopsis caapi vine that gives ayahuasca its name (though not its most hallucinogenic alkaloids) is also known as the “Vine of Souls,” which echoes the Na’vi’s Tree of Souls. And when Sigourney Weaver attempts to establish the efficacy of the Trees through a neurological discourse of electrical connection, the corporate tool Parker asks what she’s been smoking—a backhanded way of acknowledging how much Avatar’s visionary take on ecological consciousness is grounded in psychoactive consciousness.
My interest in the film Avatar was further piqued today as I read a portion of the film’s script that recently found its way to the internet. You can read it for yourself, but there were a number of deleted scenes from the final film.
This particular scene dealt with Jake Sulley’s avatar participating in a sacred visionary ceremony. According to the script, the ceremony using a ‘psychoactive alkaloid’ was an initiation and it was Jake Sulley’s intention to ‘become one of them’.
This is particularly interesting to me as the ceremony involved eating a special worm and then immediately being stung by a scorpion type insect. Apparently the visionary effects of the ceremony required two separate components.
Of course this mirrors exactly the pharmacology of ayahuasca. The psychoactive component from the chacruna bush of ayahuasca is dimethyl-tryptamine or DMT which is also identical to the human neurotransmitter produced in the pineal gland. DMT when ingested orally is destroyed by the digestive stomach enzyme monoamine-oxidase or MAO. However, the ayahuasca brew contains a 2nd plant called caapi, which contains strong but temporarily acting MAO inhibitors which allow the DMT to pass from the gut to the brain.
The mechanism of inhibiting MAO was not discovered by Western science until 1952. The discovery happened ‘by accident’ while researchers were attempting to develop a new drug for treating tuberculosis. Ayahuasca has been in use among indigenous tribes for over 3,000 years we know of. Incredibly, simple tribal shamans have incorporated this fairly sophisticated process millennia before its discovery in ‘modern’ science.
Talk about intelligence in nature!