Kentucky Ayahuasca: What can we learn from this Vice Series

Kentucky Ayahuasca Shaman Steve Pupp
Kentucky Ayahuasca Shaman Steve Pupp

Kentucky Ayahuasca is a useful insight into what Ayahuasca can do for people. The way it describes the narratives of the people attending is great as it highlights a yet unseen (by me at least) look into what drives some people to do Ayahuasca.

What is Kentucky Ayahuasca?

Kentucky Ayahuasca is the name of a Vice documentary series which focusses on the work of Steve Pupp and his team who form an organization called ‘Aya Quest’ who administer Ayahuasca ceremonies in Kentucky, USA.

Where can I watch Kentucky Ayahuasca?

This is a Vice documentary series, but is available in several places,

  • The Vice Website has episodes you can watch for free as a guest member or you can sign up (and pay) to watch all of their content.
  • They also have some free videos here to watch, which are more like excerpts from the show.
  • YouTube has several videos from Kentucky Ayahuasca, one of which you can view below. This is a 40 minute documentary not actually an episode in the series but is based on the same footage it seems.

Thoughts on Kentucky Ayahuasca compared to my Peruvian Ayahuasca Experiences:

The healing:

From the series itself, it seems as if the healing itself is or has the potential to be very great. I say this because the insights that people experience seem to be accurate to similar insights and in a similar fashion to what I had in Peru.

I also think that watching Kentucky Ayahuasca can give you an interesting insight into why people do Ayahuasca. The personal traumas, the PTSD, the particular issues that we have. So far, these seem to be focussed on psychological issues but that’s fine.

Other documentaries I’ve seen focus on documenting the experience of being in a ceremony, i.e. the puking, etc. which is accurate, but I always felt like they didn’t really touch effectively on the quality and nature of the healing that Ayahuasca can do. Kentucky Ayahuasca does a better job of this through its narrative and production. There are moments when Steve has to talk to the attendees one-to-one and in these moments you can get a great idea of the healing they are experiencing and in need of.

It would be good to have follow-up episodes that follow people after their ceremonies to see how the lessons and insights they learn at Aya Quest have ben integrated in the days, weeks, months and years post-ceremony(s).

The ceremonies themselves are different:

After watching a few episodes they seem very westernized. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. I think I have a personal view that ceremonies should be ‘traditional’, but I concede that perhaps this is just a particular mindset I have fallen into without much merit. If done right and by people with a sincere intention (which I think Steve and his team have) then I don’t see any reason why Ayahuasca ceremonies held outside of the traditional context would be worse. In fact, I think if Ayahuasca is to spread and help more people it might become the norm.

Some things I noted that were different,

  • The lights are on. Granted they need to film in there so this may be something related to that. The Ceremonies I have been to in Peru are held in almost complete darkness for most of it. Some light by a candle at the beginning to get into place but that’s it. I think in my ceremonies I would get distracted if I was able to see everyone and everything. The dark helps me to concentrate on the visions I’m having and hence the lessons.
  • Steve and his team seem to pull people out of the ceremony and talk to them. Perhaps this is just what it ‘seems like’ as that could be an effect of the editing process. This could also be a documentary storytelling feature such that they aren’t just filming people throwing up all the time. Like I said above I quite like this, but I do think that that would be distracting for me if I was in it.

In summary, it’s a really interesting show that first-timers to Ayahuasca should watch to understand the potential types of things Ayahuasca can help you with. If you are attending a ceremony in Peru however, then it isn’t accurate in terms of the experience. At least compared to Santuario Retreat where I have done 8 ceremonies.

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