What is Santo Daime?

June 21, 2024


Santo Daime is a spiritual practice that originated in the Brazilian Amazon in the early 20th century. It combines elements of Christianity, indigenous shamanism, and African traditions to create a unique and powerful form of spiritual healing and growth. The central sacrament of Santo Daime is a psychoactive brew called ayahuasca, which is made from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and the leaves of the Psychotria viridis plant. This brew is used in ceremonies called “works” or “concentration” to facilitate spiritual experiences and personal transformation.

History of Santo Daime

Santo Daime was founded by Raimundo Irineu Serra, a Brazilian rubber tapper and spiritual leader, in the early 20th century. Serra had a series of powerful visions and spiritual experiences that led him to create the Santo Daime tradition. He believed that ayahuasca was a gift from God that could help people heal and grow spiritually. Santo Daime has since spread to other parts of Brazil and around the world, with followers in countries such as the United States, Europe, and Australia.

Beliefs and Practices

Central to Santo Daime is the belief in the existence of a divine force called “the Daime” or “the Divine Light.” Followers of Santo Daime believe that the Daime can help them heal, grow, and connect with the divine. The ayahuasca brew is seen as a sacrament that can facilitate this connection and help people access higher states of consciousness. Santo Daime ceremonies typically involve singing hymns, dancing, and meditating, all under the influence of ayahuasca.

Ayahuasca and Healing

Ayahuasca is a powerful psychedelic brew that contains the psychoactive compound DMT (dimethyltryptamine). Many people who have experienced ayahuasca report profound healing and transformative experiences, including insights into their past traumas, fears, and limiting beliefs. Ayahuasca is often used in Santo Daime ceremonies as a tool for healing physical, emotional, and spiritual ailments. Some people also use ayahuasca for personal growth, self-discovery, and spiritual awakening.

Legal Status of Santo Daime

The legal status of ayahuasca and Santo Daime varies from country to country. In Brazil, ayahuasca is legal for religious and cultural use, and Santo Daime is recognized as a legitimate religion. In other countries, such as the United States and many European countries, ayahuasca is considered a controlled substance and its use is restricted. However, there are exceptions for religious groups like Santo Daime, which are allowed to use ayahuasca for religious purposes under certain conditions.

Controversies and Criticisms

Santo Daime and ayahuasca have faced criticism and controversy from some quarters, particularly from those who are skeptical of the use of psychedelics for spiritual purposes. Critics argue that ayahuasca can be dangerous, especially when used outside of a traditional ceremonial context. There have also been concerns about the environmental impact of harvesting ayahuasca plants and the potential for exploitation of indigenous cultures. However, supporters of Santo Daime argue that when used responsibly and respectfully, ayahuasca can be a powerful tool for healing and spiritual growth.

Scientific Research on Ayahuasca

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca and other psychedelics. Scientific research has shown that ayahuasca can have positive effects on mental health, including reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Some studies have also suggested that ayahuasca can enhance creativity, increase empathy, and promote spiritual experiences. Researchers are continuing to explore the potential benefits of ayahuasca and how it can be used in a therapeutic setting.

Integration and Aftercare

After participating in a Santo Daime ceremony or drinking ayahuasca, many people find it helpful to engage in integration practices and aftercare. This can include journaling about their experiences, talking to a therapist or spiritual counselor, and participating in support groups with others who have also worked with ayahuasca. Integration is important for processing and integrating the insights and healing that can come from ayahuasca experiences, and for maintaining the changes and growth that can result from these experiences.


In conclusion, Santo Daime is a powerful spiritual tradition that uses ayahuasca as a sacrament for healing, growth, and connection with the divine. Followers of Santo Daime believe in the transformative power of ayahuasca and the importance of spiritual practices such as singing hymns, dancing, and meditating. While Santo Daime and ayahuasca have faced criticism and controversy, many people have found profound healing and growth through their experiences with these sacred plants. As scientific research continues to explore the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca, it is becoming increasingly clear that this ancient tradition has much to offer in terms of personal and spiritual development.

Tatiana Cesso

As a journalist, I've made it my mission to explore and share stories that inspire, inform, and entertain. You may have stumbled upon my work in esteemed publications such as InStyle, Marie Claire, Bazaar, L’Officiel, and Vogue, among others. Having called the U.S. home since 2010, I've lived in Chicago, LA, and currently, Miami. But my heart always beats to the rhythm of Brazil. It's where I was born and raised, and my love for its culture, people, and energy knows no bounds. To share this passion, I've founded Brazilcore, a platform aimed at bridging the gap between Brazil and English speakers worldwide.