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Kos Film Festival, Hippocrates and Ayahuasca

A couple of weeks ago I screened Vine of Soul in Greece at the Kos International Health Film Festival. I’d never heard about the beautiful Aegean island of Kos and to my knowledge this was the only film festival in the world that focused exclusively on ‘health’.

How wonderful, I thought, that artistic director Lucia Rikaki selected a film about ayahuasca and shamanic healing for this festival – she’s certainly pushing the envelope more than most. And then it dawned on me…

Kos was the birthplace of Hippocrates, the widely accepted ‘father of modern medicine’ best known for his famous oath of medical ethics.

Hippocrates stressed the importance of treating the whole person – mind, body and spirit – an observation making him even more relevant today than the last two hundred years of medical practice focused exclusively on the physical body.

Before any consultation, a patient had to spend the night at the Asclepion and recount the previous night’s dreams. Once diagnosed, a garden of over three hundred herbs and plants could provide pharmacological aid.

The famous Kos doctor believed the most potent healing tool lay within, through a powerful natural process one could tap into. It was something he, himself, had experienced.

Like Plato, Socrates and Pythagoras before him, Hippocrates was an initiate of the sacred Mystery School of Eleusis whose sacrament was a psychoactive plant-based drink similar in effect to ayahuasca.

Albert Hoffman, Gordon Wasson, Carl Ruck and Benny Shanon have all written about this extraordinary initiation at the birth of the Western mind. Little wonder then that Hippocrates understood the sacred nature of all healing – that everything was interconnected.

So now it made perfect sense to me that Vine of the Soul was screening in Kos – the birthplace of Western medicine finding its echo in contemporary ayahuasca shamanism.

And the audience – mostly Greeks of course – were very enthusiastic about the film. No one left scratching their heads.

For many, I suspect, the film was a journey to another place and time that brought them right back home.

— Richard Meech

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