The Feminist Who Helps Women Find Their Voices With Psychedelic Plants
by Fiona Tapp
Zoe Helene is a “psychedelic feminist” and journeys with ayahuasca to help women to find their voice. Through her organization, Cosmic Sister, she awards feminism grants for workshops and journeys in the Amazon jungle.
Spiritual exploration and world travel tend to go hand in hand. That wonder of learning about a new place, getting to know new people and sampling that first taste of a yet undiscovered food, can be transformative. The greatest insights I have ever had in my life, the little glimpses of wonder and appreciation for this beautiful world have all been experienced far from home.
Tiny sparkles of creativity reached me while I washed a baby elephant in a river in Sri Lanka. I found my path on a wobbly bike cycling down a Beijing hutong. And, while sharing silence with a monk in Thailand, I found direction and answers to questions that couldn’t be solved without the space that travel provided.
Sometimes we have to get away from everything we think we are to create enough space for wisdom to find us.
And that’s where you’ll find Zoe Helene. She creates sacred spaces in the depths of the Amazonian jungle, journeying with ayahuasca, a powerful hallucinogenic combinatory plant spirit medicine brew, to lead women on spiritual journeys.
She approaches her work from an eclectic background featuring Hebrew, Greek, and Celtic traditions and her experience living in a predominantly Maori town in New Zealand, where her family moved when she was 10. These converging cultures allow her to openly accept wisdom from a variety of sources.
Zoe Helene believes strongly in female intuition and that we create opportunities when we listen carefully to our inner voice. As a young woman, she was offered a scholarship to Yale but turned it down to pursue a mentorship under the renowned costume designer, Patricia Zipprodt.
“I felt a deep artistic connection with Patricia, and my life has been enriched by the wisdom she passed down to me. I made the right decision,”
She speaks of connections and threads between people and cultures that have brought her to the point where she is today. This tutelage with Zipprodt went beyond the aesthetics of costume design into an exploration of the plants and fibers needed to make materials and dyes to color them with.
When she met her future husband, an ethnobotanist, this interest in plants and their uses developed into a mission to bridge the gap between people, relationships, and plants.
Zoe Helene believes her work is to focus others and her own intentions on the question of self. To see ourselves as our primal truth, as mammals who function best as part of a tribe. But finding the right tribe can be a life’s work. Zoe Helene has some simple advice for knowing whether you have found your own place in a group. She explains if you can be yourself, then you belong but if you have to censor your true feelings or thoughts or feign interest in things you do not feel passionate about, then she advises you to keep seeking your true path.
Although she identifies and respects beauty in various religious traditions, Zoe Helene says to journey with sacred plants no religious affiliation is required.
“This work is more about breaking free from programming and conditioning and systems that tend to bind, blind and divide people.”
Zoe Helene has created her own intersectional tribe exploring feminism and psychedelic discovery through sacred and medicinal plants like ayahuasca and cannabis in the depths of the Amazonian jungle. She works in collaboration with indigenous people to release the transformational power of these plants and fungi.
Zoe Helene finds that there is universal interest in her work and has shared the ayahuasca ceremony with people from many countries, including the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Poland, Sweden, Italy, France, Germany, Lebanon, and many others.
Through using psychedelics, Zoe Helene helps women to confront core feminist issues in fresh and exciting ways.
“Psychedelic sacred plants can be an extraordinary ally for personal growth and empowerment that can help liberate us from unhealthy social programming, reconnect us with our true selves and our path of heart, and inspire us to help others do the same,”
She speaks about journeying as a collaborative effort. As much as the women participants are growing and developing through this experience, Zoe Helene too has her own work to complete.
She is quick to point out that you don’t need to be in crisis to benefit from the sort of spiritual awakening that can accompany the ceremonial inhalation or ingestion of psychedelic plants. She described her pre- journeying self as “stable” and “successful.”
“Working with ayahuasca and cannabis (or whichever ally you’re journeying with) is a process. It’s not a magic potion that cures all in a ceremony or two, and what you bring to the table is an essential aspect of the work,”
She teaches that this work on personal improvement requires an honest and deep exploration of self.
Zoe Helene’s practice is intentional, thoughtful, and safe. She will not promote unhealthy or addictive behaviors and advocates, beyond all else, for responsible journeying.
Experiencing the power of ayahuasca in its natural setting of the Amazon, is not only preferable to working with it in the US because of issues of legality (DMT, which can be extracted from the plant, is a controlled Schedule 1 drug by the DEA) Ayahuasca is not only completely legal in Peru, but is actually revered and designated as a “Cultural Patrimony” by the Peruvian government.
“They’re proud of it, as they should be because it’s a treasure.” Zoe Helene says.
In the jungle, the experience is pure and authentic. Indigenous Shipibo healers perform songs and rituals inside a sacred space called a moloka hut.
During a journey, visions and dreams come to participants as they work through the emotions and sensations they need to confront. Zoe Helene describes the multidimensional experience vividly:
“When I journey, a big, beautiful male jaguar often comes to me as a protector during especially emotionally challenging visions. He’s like the night sky, and he wraps around my body like a shimmering shield. “
Zoe Helene explains how, although some visions can be frightening at first, there is a necessity to relax and accept in order to progress.
“These abstract visuals were frightening and nauseating at first but after a while I learned how to flow-surf the visionary experience, which is a little like riding, navigating and surrendering–all at the same time.”
Zoe Helene is generous in her interpretation of wisdom. She praises the Shipibo healers; these women teach and support her and she gives back by encouraging sustainable plant medicine trade and promoting interest in their indigenous cultural arts and traditions. It is an exchange built on deep respect and a commitment that took time to forge into important relationships.
Her time in the jungle rejuvenates her and brings her closer to knowing herself… which is true wisdom. But it also reveals challenges and difficulties that she must face.
“Being on the environmental frontline means bearing witness to the best and worst of what we’re capable of as a species. When my heart hurts, I meditate on the miracle of life in these interconnected rainforest beings, and their spirit medicine leaves me renewed, refreshed and inspired to keep up the fight.”
For more information on Cosmic Sister’s “Plant Spirit” Grants and scholarships that help outstanding women to travel to the Peruvian Amazon to participate in authentic, traditional ayahuasca ceremonies with experienced indigenous Shipibo shamans visit: http://www.zoehelene.com/
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