Lynsey Bourke

Lynsey Bourke, abortion doula and entheogenic practitioner, wins Cosmic Sister Emerging Voices Award
Cosmic Sister Emerging Voices Award
Psilocybin Summit

Lynsey Bourke (@psychedelicabortiondoula) is an international abortion doula and entheogenic practitioner who has lived and worked in the US and Africa for 17 years (the last five in Francophone, West Africa), finding creative ways to give women tangible reproduction choices, including sacred abortion and birth control. She travels often to Gabon, where she became a Bwiti initiate in the Fang tradition, and she is a psychedelic integration coach trained by Being True To You ( She facilitates 5-Meo-DMT ceremonies focused on healing reproductive and sexual trauma and spiritual transformation. Lynsey holds a Master of Philosophy in Criminology and Gender Studies from University of Cape Town and a BA in International Studies/Economics from University of the Pacific.

Do you consider yourself an educator?

I would consider myself a doula for difficult experiences and trauma. My career has taken me to some of the most remote parts of the globe to work on aspects of the collective shadow, and entheogens became an extension of this, a tool I used to heal myself from the stress and secondary trauma of my work. I supported many women through difficult reproductive experiences—abortion, miscarriage, births—and started building nurturing containers where they could cry, laugh, grieve, bleed, and heal.

Where are you originally from and where is home base for you now?

I am originally from Montana and am not very well traveled in the US. I have spent most of my adult life in Africa, most recently, in Senegal. COVID lifted the veil, in a sense, of how global business can flourish. The office, as it once was, is dead. Home can be constructed anywhere on the planet and work done remotely. I plan to spend the next year between the US and South Africa.

After decades of reproductive rights advocacy work, you recently started building your own website. What prompted this?

I noticed a disconnect between global abortion movements and spirituality. The religious sects have laid claim to spirituality, and safe abortion advocates have to be wary about treading in these areas. I have been slowly building a website called Self-Guided Abortion that guides people through the process of a sacred abortion, self-managed with pills. The abortion procedure can be conducted as ritual, and the container of ceremony helps to process the experience. While this piece isn’t inherently psychedelic, it was inspired by spirit. Human reproduction exists on a spectrum, and all of these places are inherently divine. The space of pregnancy exists in the realms between the living and the dead, and this choice of whether or not to birth life is an ancient one. Giving proper reverence to the shadow of reproduction allows an individual to stand more in her power, more in the agency of this choice.

What led you to focus on reproductive rights and sexual trauma?

I came to this work from personal experience. I had an illegal abortion in East Africa 15 years ago. This abortion changed my life. I couldn’t believe I was legally barred from this choice. The majority of women in the country couldn’t access a safe abortion and had to resort to procedures that could maim or kill them. I was lucky—my privilege afforded me a safe abortion in a nice clinic, but it was expensive and out of budget for most people. Women of means will always be able to access abortion, even when it is illegal for the general population. Unsafe abortion accounts for a lion’s share of maternal mortality in most of Africa. The solution to this isn’t always taking to the streets and demanding that laws change. Sometimes, it’s just as simple as getting pills directly into people’s hands, working under the radar and within networks of smart people.

Choosing if, when, and how to bring life into this world is the most sacred of decisions. The agency to make this choice from a place of love, fully wanting that child, is a gift every person deserves to be born into. A world where every child is wanted casts love waves into the oceans of consciousness and can heal ancestral lines and future karmas. I am passionate about helping create a world where every child is wanted and every person has the tools to effectively heal abortion and reproductive trauma.

Sometime in the last decade, my medicine work started to merge with my reproductive health work. I started to hold ceremonies specifically for women who had recently experienced the loss of what could have or would have been a new generation. This type of ceremony must be fragilely held, carefully served, and come from the deepest realms of the maternal heart.

What was it like being initiated in the Bwiti iboga tradition?

I started travelling to Gabon in 2016. I had been fascinated by iboga and Bwiti for many years. When Gabon was assigned to my work portfolio, I was gifted a five-year visa from the Gabonese and would end up traveling there around 20 times before COVID hit. Gabon is authentic. People are who they are, and the Bwiti community is no different. There aren’t an extraordinary number of tourists, so for the most part, Bwiti initiations are set up for locals, which is why the initiation landscape can be a bit intimidating to non-French-speaking tourists. I became really close with Tatayo at Ebando, and eventually it made the most sense for me to initiate there. Ebando is on the pulse of the iboga conservation movement in Gabon and is working to sustainably plant iboga through the Blessings of the Forest initiative.

How was your own initiation experience?

My own initiation was very intense. Iboga takes you down to some of the deepest depths of your original makeup. You contend with your ancestral lineages, understand your soul’s destiny, and often get very tangible homework assignments on how to improve your person and transform your life. The medicine lasts for 18 hours or more, and during initiations, people generally take high doses.

My own initiation reset my life and sent me into a deep love affair with Iboga wood bark. I began working with it on my own over the next years, microdosing for intentional periods in tandem with larger, visionary doses on specified weekends. I was living in Senegal at this time and working a very demanding job. I had a lot of unprocessed trauma and iboga helped me work through a lot of it—bit by bit, piece by piece. I was presented with a lot of shadow material, the nasty bits of my being, which is the homework. This medicine has such an amazing capacity to heal because it is pure shadow awareness and integration to elevate the soul into pure light. Once the homework is integrated, the teachings of the light can properly shine through.

The experience of working with this medicine—in Gabon—is extraordinary. It grounded my iboga work in the ancient traditions of the Bwiti. I speak French and am able to really speak with people, and I have developed deep friendships over time. I learned a lot about Bwiti through this, as well as the rigors associated with training to become a Bwiti Nima. In some lineages, it can take up to 14 years to be ordained to serve the wood. There is a bit of tension between the Western-style iboga and ibogaine ceremonies that are popping up globally and Bwiti communities. I would encourage more people to go to Gabon for initiations and base their work with iboga in these ancient ways. Entheogens can be quite elastic in their applications, as ibogaine (the extracted psychoactive alkaloid in iboga) has been used in clinical Western settings for addictions.

Traditionally, iboga is used in Central Africa for spiritual development and evolution. Because of the rise of ibogaine as a “cure” for addiction, people in the West tend to think iboga is primarily for addicts. As more people travel to Gabon and work with the Bwiti, I think iboga’s spiritual activations will rise in Western popularity as well. I have noticed that the majority of people traveling to Gabon for initiation are mainly, “white” men. In the last years, there have been increasing numbers of BIPOC women initiating in Gabon, but it would be lovely to see more. Gabon is one of the most expensive countries in the world, and it is also expensive to fly there. Additional resources will be needed to make it available to more people and provide structures necessary to allow for a smooth journey.

If funding were not an issue, what would your “big dream” vision with Iboga be for Psychedelic Feminism?

I was extremely privileged to have the opportunity to travel so often within Africa—and to Gabon through my work. It would be a beautiful thing to develop a sort of scholarship program specifically for North American medicine women (and especially those from the African diaspora) to travel to Gabon and initiate in traditional Bwiti. This is a concept currently being explored and funders currently sought.

You focus on 5-MeO-DMT. How does this differ from other medicines for you personally?

I was trained in 5-MeO-DMT facilitation two years ago, while I was living in Mali. I met some good people working within the South African iboga circles, and one of them served Toad as well. My training was a deep initiation into this medicine, on the banks of the Niger River. I am still in awe of the power of this medicine to respond to prayer and intention and the ways in which it transforms one’s Earth Walk in tangible ways. I began serving medicine in Mali and Senegal, and soon different themes began to emerge. I have been working as an abortion counselor and abortion doula for the last 15 years. My own medicine work had brought profound healing around my own reproductive traumas, and similar themes were also emerging in my small, intimate ceremonies. Many of my medicine clients had trauma from birthing, abortion, miscarriage, sexual abuse, heartbreak, and gynecological conditions. We started working into these sensitive spaces—co-creating containers based on their individual needs and process to heal taboo aspects of the human experience. This can bring profound healing—a sort of soul retrieval for the repressed aspects of self. 5-MeO-DMT is especially geared towards this kind of work, as it reveals aspects of divinity that bring clarity to one’s own life in tandem with the collective consciousness.

About a year ago I switched primarily to synthetic 5-MeO-DMT. The increased popularity of Incillius alvarius, commonly known as Bufo or Toad, means increased quantities are being harvested to fill the demand. I was fortunate to be introduced to synthetic and truly believe the experience isn’t different from the Toad. Some argue there is a spiritual element inherent in the Toad medicine that is missing from the synthetic. I haven’t noticed this. In fact, the last times I worked with the Toad medicine, the message was that it is time to work primarily with synthetic—in an effort to protect the future populations of the Incillius alvarius.

My work with iboga in the years before I discovered 5-MeO-DMT really grounded my medicine experience. It is something I have noticed similarly with others who have worked with both medicines. The risk with 5-MeO at times is people can get a really grandiose view of the world. The medicine can show us both individual and collective potential. The secret is that this potential exists in every one of us—and it’s important for this fact to remain front and center of any facilitator’s practice.

What sacred medicines have you worked with personally?

My medicine practice originated with psilocybin a few decades ago. During the early days, I went to the wilderness with my girlfriends to eat mushrooms and have adventures. After working with ayahuasca, I learned how to work with plants in a ceremonial container, which changed the way I worked with mushroom completely. This provided the foundation I needed to start working with high doses of mushrooms, receiving their full visionary potential. When the time is right, I would love the opportunity to spend time in Oaxaca with the powerful mushroom lineages there.

The Comic Sister Emerging Voices Award (CS EVA) supports individuals who demonstrate outstanding potential in the field of psychedelics and cannabis to strengthen their visibility in the community. Special thanks to Mt. Tam Psychedelic Integration (@tamintegration) for donating an all-access pass to the Psilocybin Summit (@psilocybinsummit) to each CS EVA winner.

Opinions expressed by honorees are their own.

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September 2021