'Kentucky Ayahuasca': Chief Shaman of Aya Quest Steve Hupp reveals what drove him to offer therapy with the Schedule 1 drug: 'America needs this!'

In the US, ayahuasca is a Schedule 1 drug because of its hallucinogenic properties. It is still considered a drug and this is a perception the American Shaman wants to change

'Kentucky Ayahuasca': Chief Shaman of Aya Quest Steve Hupp reveals what drove him to offer therapy with the Schedule 1 drug: 'America needs this!'

Viceland's latest documentary series 'Kentucky Ayahuasca' tells the story of how a former bank robber met a South American shaman in prison and got fascinated by ayahuasca. The drink is considered a herbal medicine and is a potent entheogenic tea which has hallucinogenic properties that some say is useful for confronting any kind of trauma or illness that has been stored in the body and mind. The experience that participants go through at Aya Quest allows each individual who drinks it to heal and recover faster than what is seen with conventional forms of therapy.

In the United States, however, ayahuasca has been described as a Schedule 1 drug because of its hallucinogenic properties. It is still considered a drug and this is a perception that the American Shaman wants to change.

After he went through a profound experience himself from trying ayahuasca that Guadalupe, the South American shaman, sent him in a two-liter bottle that was labeled 'dog shampoo', Steve Hupp was determined to prove that ayahuasca has many uses for the benefit of people suffering from trauma or illness.

Chief Shaman at Aya Quest, Steve Hupp (Source: Mike Beyer/Viceland Network - Kentucky Ayahuasca)
Chief Shaman at Aya Quest, Steve Hupp (Source: Mike Beyer/Viceland Network - Kentucky Ayahuasca)

MEAWW has exclusively learned from Steve, the chief shaman of Aya Quest, that "America needs this!" and how the only risk involved with taking the drug is "being too scared to progress and seeking validation instead of open exploration". Here's what Steve had to say when we asked him what the whole deal is:

You've been conducting spiritual healing with ayahuasca for almost 20 years now and you've helped countless people heal. What was the revelation you made about yourself when you took ayahuasca for the first time and why do you still do it?

The 'rope of my transition has many threads' so to speak, but for me, it was becoming aware, accepting and opening to spiritual interaction on many levels. I will do this 'work' until I die, just like I will breathe until I cannot anymore. The reason why is because I was 'invited' by Mother Aya and other 'Spiritual Collectives' who have impressed upon ME that humanity needs this. AMERICA NEEDS THIS!  

Tell us a little more about what happened on the day you were arrested? What went wrong with the robbery and what was your opinion of your cellmate, Guadalupe?

The robbery went flawlessly as did the initial getaway and switch from stolen ride to my ride. My partner was driving my ride as I was taking off the disguise and checking the money. We both had our police scanners on and he heard a cop say, "I have a suspicious guy in a van'. I look up and he is white as a 'ghost' and his eyes are the size of 'pie plates'. I yell at him to 'GO! GO! GO!' so that we could break line of sight and I could jump out with everything and go on foot. He [was supposed to] go ahead a few hundred feet and pull over so [the cops] did not have the 'point of origin' on my escape path.

Instead, he pulled over and got out with his hands up and left me in the back of the van. I jump to the driver seat as the deputy opens fire with his riot gun. His second shot takes out the rear tire but it’s a front wheel drive van and I took off, hid the van and went on foot.

Lupe was a very unique human who saw more in me than I saw in him, he liked to make impressions on your mind that 'dropped bombs' in your mind after you thought about it. His people skills were flawless but at the same time, he did not really care what people thought.

A glass of ayahuasca rests on a bench next to ceremonial items while an American flag can be seen in the background (Source: Mike Beyer/Viceland Network - Kentucky Ayahuasca)
A glass of ayahuasca rests on a bench next to ceremonial items while an American flag can be seen in the background (Source: Mike Beyer/Viceland Network - Kentucky Ayahuasca)

What were your interactions with the mysterious South American shaman like in prison? What made you want to try ayahuasca for the first time?

He was a social reclusive like most healers and shamans are. It wasn’t like I was his student then, I just learned to listen when he did speak. I was at crossroads in my life. I was so close to re-embracing criminality and going 'hard'. I feel Mother was testing me in many ways for many reasons. She struck when the metal was hot.

How did you meet Teri and Nik? What made the three of you becoming heavily involved in these types of spiritual journeys?

Teri was my first boss at my first job while I was in the halfway house and I met Nik through Teri.

How did you come to have a shaman's daughter working as your apprentice?

She came with another member to our ceremony and liked what she 'felt'.

For the layperson, please explain briefly how the Native American Religion and the main acts passed by the government help you and your team conduct these ceremonies.

When you say 'Native American' where religion is concerned is a vague term, it would be like me saying 'Caucasian American'. How many religions, cultures, and beliefs exist that encompasses [the term]? So this gives Constitutional Religious Protection to a flexible and fluid spiritual path. The main case is the one the União do Vegetal (UDV) [the Christian Spiritist religion that originated in Brazil and is now practiced by over 17,000 people in six countries] won in 2006. My deepest respect goes to Mr. Bronfman of the UDV for taking that case to the Supreme Court.

Steve Hupp with his wife Teri and stepson Nik (Source: Mike Beyer/Viceland Network - Kentucky Ayahuasca)
Steve Hupp with his wife Teri and stepson Nik (Source: Mike Beyer/Viceland Network - Kentucky Ayahuasca)

Which one of your participant's did you most connect with? Have you ever been witness to one of your participants making a powerful realization about themselves?

I have witnessed many miraculous human transitions: physical and spiritual. When you see 'a dead person walking' (suicidal) and seeing the blanket of despair lifting from their eyes is always special. Child abuse survivors are the most touching.

What are the risks involved with taking a spiritual journey based on your experiences or the experiences of the participants?

The only risk is being too scared to progress, seeking validation instead of open exploration.

How easy or difficult is it to conduct the ceremonies you do in the notorious Bible Belt? 

We have had some resistance, but I had to be aware of my own judgments. In my mind I am not in 'the bible belt'; I am in a 'Spiritually Charged Environment' that is exciting and vibrant. We walk and are open to all, including Jesus and his teachings.

From uses in religion to uses in therapy, you've brought ayahuasca's many healing properties to the spotlight with this documentary series. What do you say when you are faced with the stigma against this Schedule 1 drug?

I focus on what’s working and let the keyboard warriors do their thing without much thought.



 

The documentary series was filmed over a period of eight to nine weeks in Burnside, Pulaski County, and a total of 30 participants had profound experiences in the 10-part series. Viceland's 'Kentucky Ayahuasca' premiered on Wednesday, November 28, at 10 pm ET/PT.