Before proceeding, it is pertinent, I think, to cite observations made some thirty years ago by C. Naranjo (1973«). In an experimental setting, Naranjo administered harmaline (one of the chemical constituents of Ayahuasca) to thirty-five Chileans with no knowledge about Ayahuasca. Especially salient in the visions these subjects had were serpents, crocodiles, felines, and birds of prey (see also Naranjo, 1973£). The felines mentioned included tigers, leopards, and jaguars (but apparently, not lions). I find the similarity between these findings and those surveyed here striking.
Traditionally, Ayahuasca is closely linked to serpents (see Dobkin de Rios, 1973; Harner, 1973c; Luna and Amaringo, 1993; and Lagrou, 1998). Serpents are also extremely common both in my own visions and in those of my informants. Indeed, in both my data and those of my informants, serpents are the most common animal and, in fact, the most common single content item reported. As described in Ch. 1, the very first figurative items I saw with Ayahuasca were lizards and in my first major Ayahuasca experience serpents featured prominently. Subsequently, I have seen serpents on many occasions. On several occasions, I have also seen crocodiles, both natural and mythological, and dinosaurs. About a third of the serpents I have seen were mythical or non-naturalistic in one way or another. Some of the serpents were adorned with flowers or shining scales. Phantasmagoric and serpents like those of mythology were also reported by my informants. Amongst these were gigantic serpents, serpents characterized as ‘cosmic’, winged serpents, and ones made of or emitting spewing fire. At times, serpents appear intertwined in pairs, with one serpent coiling around another; this motif is discussed at length in Narby (1998). My own experience is that, in general, serpents appeared either as the first figures in a session or whenever I was embarking upon a new stage in the session. Why serpents are so prominent in Ayahuasca visions is an intriguing topic that I shall discuss elsewhere. Here I will just note that the associations I had with serpents in my visions were of wisdom, enchantment, seduction, and healing. A grand vision in which I saw serpents in conjunction with disease and cure is reported in the next chapter.