There are different ways of performing an ayahuasca ceremony. Some are more modern and others are steeped in ancient traditions.
The traditional Peruvian ceremony is much less of a ritual than what is believed by the western world. Nowadays Peruvian ceremonies largely consist of placing ayahuasca in a glass and drinking it. They may place the ayahuasca in the bottle and verbalize their intentions before drinking, with little to no ritual beyond this. Some may blow tobacco smoke over the medicine, or on the participant themselves.
Traditionally the curandero (the Shaman) will be the only one drinking the ayahuasca. Traditionally, the patient wouldn’t ingest the liquid. Nowadays, affected by the increasing interest from the west, people have started paying closer attention to their culture, and are more interested in partaking and drinking the liquid.
South American ceremonies from other areas of the continent differ from traditional Peruvian ceremonies. They are usually conducted at centers in Peru with a semi-traditional feel. The people that come to these centers are mostly westerners who usually expect a ceremonial ritual. These are often attended by western practitioners who have adopted ceremonial rituals from other spiritual ceremonies, like the shipibo tribe (the largest ayahuasca tribe in Peru). They do not burn incense and other stuff. This was borrowed from the North American tribes who use incense like Palo Santo. We see these combinations between new and traditional in a positive way that makes the medicine more approachable to westerners.
In both methods detailed above, the Shaman will start singing his Ikaros about 30 minutes after drinking. The singing will last at least 2 and a half hours. If it’s less, the brewer might be off.
The third method we want to present is done by the Santo Daime Church. The ceremony is constructed differently and experienced differently since they are mainly introducing ayahuasca to Christians. They also have a different way of drinking; the ceremony is during the day, (unlike the Peruvians who do it at night) they manage their own drinking (as opposed to served by a shaman), and they drink in large groups.
In the Peruvian ceremony, one might encounter many things during his session— heaven, hell, himself, their fears… When one drinks with Santo Daime, they meditate on certain aspects of God, sing parts of certain songs, and they don’t allow dark energies in their ceremonies, it is all blessed and connected to God. And while that might sound like a good thing, it leaves the unprepared for a more traditional ceremony. Santo Daime shamans that participate in a Peruvian ceremony have a really hard time going through it. The reason is that in order to fix certain parts of your consciousness, it’s necessary to go through the darker regions in yourself, if only for a short while. In the Santo Daime, you are supposed to do different things at different times, like stand, sit, ect.
The fourth ceremony is known as a “music cercueil”. This is usually performed by westerners with a background in Buddhism, yoga, meditation, Hinduism, or other eastern philosophies. Their ceremonies might be different in that the ceremony could be held by several people rather than with one Shaman. The idea is that all the participant have space, and everybody in the group is responsible for the flow of energy and the security of the session. This is the typical way it is done by westerners that drink outside of the traditional ceremonial context. They also use musical instrument which is very uncommon in traditional ceremonies