A variety of news sources are reporting that 18 year-old Kyle Nolan supposedly disappeared after going on a "visionary experience" in the Amazon in August. Nolan, a triplet who was known for his shyness, was determined to attend the retreat even though it was against his parents' wishes. When he never returned home and his family was unable to contact him, Nolan's mother flew to Peru to look for her son. With the help of Peruvian police, she was able to retrace Nolan's steps and find the shamanic retreat center along the Brazilian border where he had gone on the 10-day, $1200 shamanic ritual trip.
It was during this investigation that Shaman Jose Pineda Vargas, 58, confessed to burying Nolan who died after drinking an excessive dose of ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic concoction derived from Amazonian vines and shrubs. Used in indigenous ceremonies under the guidance of a shaman, it is said to heal sickness and enable a person to communicate with nature and/or dead relatives. Vargas led police to where Nolan's body was found in a shallow grave, having been buried to avoid bad publicity for his retreat center.
The website for Vargas' retreat center, which refers to him as "Master Shaman Mancoluto," says he helps Ayahuasca initiates "open their minds to deeper realities, develop their senses and intuitive capabilities and unlock the person's untapped potential."
The center claims to hold five ceremonies over 10 nights during which time participants ingest brews made from local plants. Potential retreatants are reassured that people familiar with the side effects of the concoction are always on site to help.
Not that this precaution did much good for Nolan.
Shamanic ritual retreats are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among yoga instructors and other "spiritual tourists" with sites such as the "Sacred Valley" in Peru where ayahuasca retreats are turning the area into a major tourism center.
For those who have never heard of it, Ayahuasca is considered to be a "magical potion" which is comprised of a combination of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and the leaves of the Psychotria viridis (or alternatively the Diplopterys cabrerana) which are indigenous to the Amazon basin. Used by native people from the region, the active ingredient is dimethyltryptamine or DMT, a powerful hallucinogen. Shamans who use it say that it produces a trance that can last up to four hours during which time a person can enter the "world of spirits" and communicate with them.
Nolan is said to have died on August 22, just five days after arriving at Vargas' center. His father, Sean Nolan, has since raised $8,000 to bring his son's body back from Peru and is calling for a second autopsy to determine whether or not his son was murdered.
Vargas and two other men were later arrested on charges of homicide and illegally burying a body.
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