Ayahuasca Mainstreamed

The spirits must have granted me a momentary fit of prescience. On February 3, I published a blog post on selling spirituality; on the same day, the Los Angeles Times Magazine published an article on a self-professed ayahuasquero named Lobo Siete Truenos, or Wolf Seven Thunders, and the growing role of ayahuasca in what the article calls the "nouveau wealth" of suburban California.

Truenos has a murky background. He gives, the article says, "few straight answers about his background but plenty of mystic filigree." He has founded his own church, which he calls Aurora Bahá, presumably to add a semblance of legitimacy to his use of a substance whose possession remains — despite the United States Supreme Court ruling exempting the União do Vegetal — a felony. Truenos also possesses an eagle's wing. If he is not a Native American, that too is illegal. But his ancestry is as murky as his history: he is, apparently, Dominican, Lebanese, Basque, and Taino. According to an email attributed to him, this means mostly Lebanese.

Lobo Siete Truenos, Wolf Seven Thunders, also known as Francis de la Maza

What purports to be email correspondence by Truenos has been published in an online discussion group called the Ayahuasca Tribe. "I am the Keeper of the Fire Bundle of Purification of the Eagle and the Condor," he wrote, "sometimes referred to as the Altar of Unification and the Altar of the Seven Thunders. This sacred Altar is the Manifestation of a Point of Light, which Point represents the Unification of Several Initiatic Currents on this planet." These initiatic currents are, unsurprisingly, united in none other than Truenos himself. They are detailed on a Web page he has published, where he also calls himself Francis de la Maza, meaning Francis of the Mace, a mestizo curandero, initiated by the Shipibo-Conibo in Brazil. But there's more. He is an Elk Dreamer and Keeper of the Fire of Quetzalcoatl, and he has been initiated into the Khemetic Mysteries of Egypt, the Tibetan Buddhist path of Dzogchen, the Gnostic Mysteries of the Rosicrucians, the Yucatec Mayan path of Puts'yaj, and the Yoruba Ifa path of Nigeria as a Babalao. He is clearly a busy guy.

He also claims to be a pipe carrier of the Yankton Sioux, and to be the carrier of a portion of the sacred bundle of Crazy Horse.

Now, there are thousands of ayahuasqueros who toil in obscurity in the Amazon, providing services to their communities — people of genuine learning, compassion, and integrity. My teacher don Roberto Acho works as a carpenter to support his healing work. But, of course, the Times was not interested in those ayahuasqueros. In fact, it was not all that interested in Seven Thunders. What the article was really interested in was his clientele — that is, the sort of people who read the Los Angeles Times.

These clients are pretty much as I described them in my post on selling spirituality. They are largely white, urban, relatively wealthy, and spiritually eclectic. They have no particular involvement with the struggles of the indigenous community whose healing ceremonies they are purchasing. Their goal is not an increased intellectual or scholarly understanding of the culture from which the ceremony comes, but rather their own personal spiritual growth, healing, and transformative experience. Indeed, the article repeatedly stresses that ayahuasca is the hallucinogen for smart people — liberal thinkers, academics, writers, journalists, psychiatrists, soul-searching intellectuals.

What are these people looking for? The article quotes one artist — it is not clear whether he is a client of Truenos — as saying that "ayahuasca brings your awareness to a place where it's understood that you are connected to everything on Earth." Another consumer, a high school math teacher, says that ayahuasca cured his clinical depression. He now offers ayahuasca ceremonies himself, for a suggested donation ot $75 to $300 per person. Author Graham Hancock credits ayahuasca with having improved his life. When pressed for details, he says, "I'm a better husband and father." Truenos himself says that ayahuasca is a cure for the "cancer of indifference," a remedy for our "failures in integrity."

I am glad that ayahuasca ceremonies are making these people — talented, intellectual, privileged, rich — feel better about their lives. I hope Truenos has strong protective spirits. I hope la diosa holds his clients with compassion. I hope his clients are contributing their talents, their intellects, and their wealth toward the communities from which Truenos claims to have learned to heal.


  1. Thanks for your post. I read the LA times article and was looking for more info on Lobo Siete Truenos. Keep up the good work.

  2. Thank you for your post as well. You actually put words to some concerns and gut-feeling of weirdness I had after going to a Lobo Siete Truenos ceremony. For a man that claims many different spiritual initiations, he acted as though he had sole claim to the "real truth." And he actively tried to discredit others around him with other approaches to spiritual (plant medicine) exploration...

    I thought it was just me...

  3. As my uncles and Aunties would say…
    He must be a very holly man!
    I only know of one descendant of Tashunka Witco and all that he got was the rifle his relative surrendered to the US army and a pair of leggings and a lock of hair. It took many years for the government to give those back. Ceremonies also had to be performed to bring these in a proper way. So, If Mr. Truenos has any part of a bundle, he is either a very lucky man and very good in keeping this bundle away from the seven fires council of the Lakota or a very crafty person to not get caught by the museums security staff, who in turn decided to keep in secrecy the theft of such an important bundle.

    It is also very honorable to know of someone that actually carries the fire of Quezalcoatl. Especially since that distinction was for another kind of tlamakazke. The ones known as Tezcatlipocas. Also unless a person is a tlamakaske the function of fire carrier usually would go to a woman. Then again those Mexicas may be either very confused about their own traditions or making all sorts of concessions nowadays

    It just occurred to me! I have a bundle made up of clothes that got completely soiled in sweat, water and other bodily and nature based fluids during my last trips to South Dakota, Mexico and Colombia. I haven’t got around to wash them yet, due to the nature of the stench and yukieness of the garments. I wore these clothes in ceremonies and I was about to dispose of them, but stopped to wonder that if I bring them together I would qualify as a Condor-Eagle bundle carrier?

    If I ever met Mr. Truenos I’ll ask for a good blessing, a chakra alignment and an oil change
    I really need it!

  4. i was contacted by him on tribes when he first came there... i could'nt beleive a word he said... i felt he was dellusional to be honest.

    "I am glad that ayahuasca ceremonies are making these people — talented, intellectual, privileged, rich — feel better about their lives."

    this is a serious thing to address in the work with medicine today.the "use" of these sacred medicines for narcisitic personal development is somthing i see rampant today with "shamanic" healing circles. i often hear people talk about healing and the need for healing... or the healing they received... then i ask them what was wrong with them, what they need healed, few actually know... its not about healing its about getting more being more.. more more more, me me me, I I I... spiritual averice IMHO...

  5. One of the sad side effects of having so many ceremonies available is that people do not value the ceremonies as much and they become a fix. I was having a conversation with a Sundance intercessor last night about one version of 7 truenos that comes to our town and brings medicine, feathers and a really good time. But that fails in advising people to work hard and live a decent life. My uncle and I agreed that people use a ceremony to escape and feel good about their issues and as an excuse to not go to therapy. I have another uncle form Peru that when people come whining and not asking for healing, he asks them to change their diet for a healthy one and then go see a therapist, I love it!
    If the person that runs the ceremony is confused too this just creates more and more trouble in people. It is really common to encounter people that have gone to ceremony for years and do not know the basic protocol and meaning of he ceremony. However, these people can show you all of their fancy feathers and tell you of the thousands visions they had in ceremony. My elder Don Luis Martinez Macuiltochli had this observation about the plant medicine ceremonies –Look around, all these healthy people going to get cured!, there’s nothing wrong with them, they are just wasting good medicine!- this truth also applies to all ceremonies, it is less and less that I see an opening in ceremonies for people that are physically sick. Maybe those ceremonial leaders do not want that because then they would have to really show if they really have “medicine” and can heal. People should make a point of going to elders that are capable, can hold you accountable and they also can be held accountable and have communities behind them. If that is not available, then a combination of ceremony and therapy should suffice.

  6. Steve,

    I spotted your considerably crass comments while reading an article on the Internet. After some thought and consideration, I thought it appropriate to meet your inaccurate backbiting with a dose of some direct truth. For an individual with your background it was surprising to witness your complete and utter lack of independent investigation of truth. It begs the question whether you are deliberately attempting to mislead people.

    It is very evident from your approach and writings that you make many assumptions about people you do not know, nor have made any sincere effort to get to know. Where facts are absent, it appears your preferred strategy is to just make things up.

    With all due respect, you display many of the overly intellectual and myopically specialized characteristics inherent in those who have been steeped in an academic environment that seeks to compartmentalize humans into little containers. It would seem - and history can certainly attest - this is especially a 'professional hazard' of those in the field of 'advanced' psychology. Such a line of study and investigation certainly has its place in the world, though not in approaching the Mysteries of the Creator; which is exclusively the domain of a pure and sincere heart.

    I might add that your approach is exceedingly reminiscent of that advanced by the persecutors of the inquisition...and we know all to well who were the real 'witches' in that scenario.

    Perhaps the reason you are so focused on the selling of spirituality is that you represent the very culture and mindset from which such concepts and activity have arisen. Some of those who have tried to patent our indigenous medicines have had backgrounds not unlike yours.

    I do not feel that this message would be complete without saying that your preoccupation, dare I say fascination, with sorcery SPEAKS FOR ITSELF.

    If you are going to write about people, at least make a sincere attempt to do so fairly and accurately. What you have written about me is laced with half-truths.

    La realidad es que yo soy un Mestizo Curandero y Ayahuasquero y el guardián del Altar de Fuego de la Águila y el Cóndor...no porque yo lo deseaba ser, sino porque es mi Don. Conoces lo que es un Don? Un Don proviene de Dios solamente y no de el campo humano.

    Si...la verdad es que tengo abuelos y abuelas en varias tradiciones indígenas que me han entrenado y iniciado...Pero evidentemente, la verdad no te importa. Todo tus acciones estiman que no eres un hombre de integridad...Y yo no tengo pelo en la lengua para decir te lo.

    Tu atacas lo verdadero sin conocer. La conclusión mas razonable debe ser que tienes que atacar lo autentico para dar te credencia como un Ayahuasquero y "Shaman". Pero se sabe bien que como uno que proviene de los Estados Unidos, tu no tienes ninguna raíz propia y verdadera como representante de la Madrecita...Tu no puedes decir lo mismo de los Taino's de Quisqueya (mi madre tierra) que han usado la Cahoba por miles de anos. Tu deseo de tratar de desacreditar lo autentico es justamente la táctica que usan los brujos.

    Todas acciones tienen consecuencias, y tus mentiras y críticas a mi espalda tendrán ellas. Dios es el Justo Juez. Este es el Día de la Luz y el Reino del Dios de Gloria.

    Tal vez esta mensaje te inspirara a contemplar y meditar sobre tus métodos...No se...pero si se una cosa. Por ha ora, es claro que tu no eres un verdadero guerrero de la Paz.

    Lobo Siete Truenos

  7. Lobo --

    I would be very grateful if you would use this space to correct any misstatements I have made.

    -- Steve

  8. This is the first time I am writing here. I've read the LA Times article and it disturbs me. I beleive Lobo and people like him are being careless and reckless like a certain predecessor from four decades ago...Timothy Leary. As there were substantial positive aspects to LSD, his careless ranting and raving about it, no doubt helped not a little in that substance and most of its class being outlawed. Similarly, I think Lobo is quite naieve about the individuals who sit on the Supreme Court. Their ruling about the UDV can easily be construed to mean just that...its about the UDV, not your church. And if you tried to appeal your case to the Supreme Court, they can easily decide to deny cert, and you will have effectively ruined ti for everyone else. Calm down, proceed slowly, try to keep ayahuasca in research circles, and maybe, just maybe, the laws will change a little. But what you and your ilk are doing, Lobo, is irresponsible and not helping the cause.

  9. I agree with these concerns. No court has ever given any church a religious exemption for the unrestricted possession, use, and distribution of ayahuasca. Courts are eager to see ayahuasca users as a bunch of ragtag hippies attempting to evade the drug laws. The burden is on the claimant to show otherwise. Now my personal belief is that ragtag hippies should be able to drink ayahuasca if they want to, but that is unlikely to be the law in the foreseeable future. :-)