The Sabina Project is named in honor of María Sabina, a Mazateca curandera, or healer, who is credited with “introducing” the Western world to magic mushrooms. For decades, Sabina used psychedelic substances in veladas, or healing ceremonies, exclusively within her community in a remote corner of northern Oaxaca, Mexico. That changed in 1955, after she led multiple ceremonies for R. Gordon Wasson, a CIA-funded amateur mycologist. Upon return to the U.S., Wasson published his accounts of velada with Sabina in Life magazine, galvanizing a flood of counterculture, mushroom-greedy gringos to head south in search of her. The demand was unprecedented, and Sabina was overwhelmed. Mushrooms became scarce to the point there were little left for the Indigenous community’s ceremonies. Angry and resentful, Sabina’s people retaliated against her. Her son was killed, her home was burned, and she ultimately died an outcast.
James and Wright seek to honor the spirit of Sabina by providing meaningful ceremonies in ways that are inclusive and safe, not appropriative or abusive. “There is a lot of fear and shame around the use of these medicines that have been categorized as drugs by the same system that created the War on Drugs, which has been used to oppress our communities for decades,” says James. “The truth is, these medicines come from our traditions.”
When James and Wright attended 2019’s inaugural People of Color Psychedelics Conference hosted by the People of Color Psychedelic Coalition in D.C., they witnessed attendees speak of the need for spaces where BIPOC could talk through healing from the trauma of racism through psychedelic journeying. That’s when the pair united on the idea for their collective. They would meet that need while still welcoming all, and working in community with white journeyers aligned with their vision of equitably redistributing access to these medicines.
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