Uma Diaz

Uma Diaz
Cosmic Sister Emerging Voices Award
Psilocybin Summit

“In recent years, I have been deepening and reflecting on how little recognition there is for the spiritual wisdom of women and our mystical experiences. In order to access mystical experiences, we have always had to go through intermediary men.” – Uma Diaz

Uma Diaz (@uma_fem), a menstrual therapist, maternal educator, doula, and midwife, conducts workshops on sexual well-being and female-only psilocybin and cocoa ceremonies. She founded UMAY and co-founded LUA, two collectives that promote women's sexual and reproductive rights, and also co-founded MAGÜARE (maguaretreats.com), which defends the knowledge of grandmothers and facilitates safe psychedelic therapy for women. “I believe in the transformative power of mothers, in prenatal ecology, in the care of the mother-baby dyad, in sacred plants, psychedelic therapy, and in treating the care of the natural world as a priority, to ensure a better future for all,” she says.

Uma was born in the Colombian territory of Latin America into a family with a long shamanic lineage and knowledge of Colombian Indigenous traditions. Sacred plants have been a fundamental part of her life journey. She first experienced ayahuasca when she was seven years old and participated in traditional ayahuasca ceremonies every eight days until she was an adolescent.

She is studying psychology with a special focus on perinatal care and children’s health at Universidad Nacional Abierta y a Distancia (UNAD) Colombia.

How does being female in a male-dominated world factor into your personal life and/or professional work?

Women are crucial. Being female in a male-dominated world has marked all my personal, spiritual, and professional experiences. It has deeply affected my entire life.

In a world in which economic, political, social, and cultural decision making has been dominated by men—especially in Latin America—these domination systems continue to reproduce, even in the shamanic, spiritual, sacred medicine and psychedelic therapy communities. Women in these spaces are denied access to knowledge as well as opportunities to lead, learn, and facilitate. Undervaluing women led to the generation of disorders, abuse of power, sexual abuse, and unequal distribution of wealth in these communities.

In recent years, I have been deepening and reflecting on how little recognition there is for the spiritual wisdom of women and our mystical experiences. To access mystical experiences, we have always had to go through intermediary men.

What sacred medicines do you work with personally?

Ayahuasca was my primary sacred plant for 16 years, and she carried all my personal and spiritual work. There were times when I questioned the treatment of women in these spaces, and that led me to distance myself, but my love for the plant kept me coming back.

I’ve also experienced peyote, and it’s one of my favorite sacred plants—especially in Wirrarikas (Huichol) ceremonial tradition. I have been interested in sacred plants throughout my entire life, always with a personal interest in exploring my connection to and relationship with Mother Earth and the natural world. I’ve also experienced san pedro, yopo, iboga, and synthetic psychedelics such as LSD, DMT, and MDMA. Psilocybin is my preferred elemental to work with personally and in the women-only ceremonies I facilitate.

Why are women's voices important, especially in the sacred psychedelic medicine world?

To answer this question, I have to contextualize the problem in our community and the various circles where sacred medicines are circulating with great speed and growth. Plants, fungi, and substances that allow us to explore our range of consciousness are sacred, a gift from the universe to humanity, and it is our duty to track down any mismanagement of these sacred gifts. Throughout my life, I have experienced painful situations, frustration, and disappointment because I am a woman. I have had to observe and experience many injustices and abuses of power by those who hold the power or control over these sacred medicines. Not all male leaders commit abuses, but many do.

Though we recognize the benefits sacred psychedelic medicine can bring us as individuals, it is also essential to recognize that, as a family and as a society, we are still far from finding the key points that allow us to take advantage of sacred psychedelic medicines’ potential. In addition to the benefits and teachings that bring healing and well-being in times of difficulty, it is also important for women to be aware of the dangers, deceptions, confusion, and the need for support and education.

I have been fortunate to experience sacred medicines since I was seven years old, as a woman in Latin America, but being female has led to difficulties and challenges. I have seen the harmful actions of some spiritual leaders, guides, and shamans, and I think about how idealization of power figures is shaped by altered states of consciousness and how psychedelics can cause transcendental experiences toward the person in charge, leading to abuses of power. Many practitioners and participants are not aware of this unacceptable commonality.

In general, our society and people who participate in healing circles who have little experience with these substances and guides tend to overly romanticize. Women and the feminine vision are necessary to facilitate safe and exclusive spaces for women, which is the immediate need, but we also need men to accept and seek female spiritual leaders, shamanas, therapists, and facilitators to help us continue to balance the world and deepen our connection with the earth and its medicines so our desire to help, love, and serve is not so easily contaminated with greed and superiority.

Can you share a personal medicine healing experience?

When I was 18, a 9-year-old girl confessed to me she had been sexually abused by a well-known Indigenous ayahuasca shaman in Colombia who was close to my family, causing a spiritual crisis that led me to doubt the plants’ benefits.

I did not hesitate to report the abuse because I had been a victim of abuse to a lesser degree. The girl’s mother and I started a legal process that went on for seven years as we collected evidence and did all the pertinent studies on the girl, and all the shaman’s followers persecuted us, accused us of slander, labeled us “crazy,” and discredited us by saying that we were in love with the shaman and that he did not reciprocate. They claimed we had created fantasy, a lie, and this created great conflict and crisis in my life and in my family. My mother didn’t want me to testify against or denounce the shaman for fear of spiritual repercussions. For two years, this broke my relationship with plants and shamanism.

When I returned to the sacred plant community, I did a session with psilocybin and was shown the importance of creating safe spaces and sacred ceremonies facilitated by women for women. I co-founded MAGÜARE with my brother and the mother of the girl who was abused to facilitate ceremonies exclusively for women. This has been a most restorative experience. As long as women are included and respected as leaders in this movement, and as long as safe spaces are created and facilitated by women for women, I believe sacred plants and therapy will revolutionize the world.

Were you abused by a shaman?

Yes, I was also a victim on several occasions. When I was 13 years old, in the early morning after a ceremony, a man who was in that ceremony touched my vulva and my breasts without my consent. Those were ceremonies with more than 30 people, and my mother was not aware of me. As women, we normalize these situations and remain silent. Then when I was 15 years old, my parents hosted another taita (“shaman”) in our house when they were organizing his ceremonies for large groups of people and my friends. One morning after a ceremony, the shaman lay down on my bed and began to caress my legs without my consent, but I left the room. By that time, I already had a bit of character, which saved my life, but I could never communicate that to my parents. They were blind, obsessed with shamanism, and treated shamans as if they were gods. They were their disciples, and they were very devoted to those people.

Years later, when I was 17, the same shaman who abused the girl—whom I had known since I was a child and regarded as my grandfather—started caressing me during a ceremony he performed, but I thought it was the effect of the ayahuasca. During the last day of that trip, when we said goodbye, he kissed me on the mouth without my consent, confessed he was in love with me, and proposed we go live together. That was one of the many reasons why I decided to go to Argentina, to escape from that world.

Please share a little about your ancestry/heritage and what that means for you (especially in regards to sacred psychedelic medicines).

I was born in a mestizo family that took yagé from the Kofán tradition, an Indigenous community of the Colombian-Ecuadorian Amazon. Ayahuasca was the first sacred medicine I tried, when I was 7 years old, together with my parents. I continued taking ayahuasca with my parents weekly and sometimes up to two or three times a week. When I was 12, I tried peyote in teepee ceremonies. At the age of 18, I tried yopo with the Sikuani Indigenous people of eastern Colombia. All these medicines were always wrapped in an Indigenous ceremonial context deeply marked by tradition. At the age of 25, I decided to open myself to the psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy approach and some medicines of synthetic origin such as LSD and MDMA.

The most valuable thing I observe with medicines is not the psychedelic effect they have on me, but the way they are a manifestation of their environment, the ecosystem and the culture that created them. Observing how Indigenous cultures build entire realities with these medicines is one of the most beautiful and fascinating things in the world. Indigenous peoples are very clear that the true depth of these medicines cannot be understood by observing with microscopes or condensing them into neurotransmitters and biochemical components. I value the importance of the advances that have been made from the West in scientific psychedelic research, but I also recognize there are other sources of knowledge that are equally valid and can show us what science cannot see, which is the spirit of things.

What do you do professionally and why?

My psychedelic experiences at such an early age allowed me to develop an empathy, connection, and a deep love for the earth and the natural world, which aroused an interest in ecology when I was a pre-adolescent. By the time I was 15, I was an eco-feminist without even knowing what that was. When I graduated from high school at 16, I wanted to study ecology, but I did not have the financial resources to pay for that professional career. A year later, I began my studies in environmental engineering, then moved to Argentina, where education is free, to participate in a permaculture diploma that transformed my life. I spent four years living in ecovillages and permaculture institutes, learning about natural construction, food sovereignty, seed conservation, and edible forests.

During a class, I learned about home births as an alternative counterculture, and my interest was immediately aroused. I had observed during my trips to jungle communities how normal it was for women to give birth accompanied by other women in their homes, and I devoted my life to midwifery, herbs, women, and babies. Midwifery became my political conviction in defense of the mother.

I first trained as a doula at age 20, and I attended home births for four years with my first mentor, Carolina Zuluaga, a well-known Colombian midwife. Since then, I have studied various knowledge to promote maternal health and mothers’ emotional bonds with their babies.

I married a well-known Gestalt and psychedelic therapist, and he initiated me into cocoa ceremonies, psilocybin therapy, and synthetic psychedelics while I traveled around the world supporting his psychedelic retreats, individual sessions, and pilgrimages to Indigenous communities. We formed an NGO, a psychedelic training and a permaculture project in the Colombian jungles, as I continued my midwifery studies in a birthing clinic in Guatemala with my second mentor, Hannah Freiwald, and in Mexico with other midwives. During this period, I re-experienced patriarchy in the world of psychedelic therapy that led to a very painful and traumatic divorce.

After I divorced in 2020, I co-founded two projects in Colombia—a midwifery project called LUA and an advocacy project called MAGÜARE, recognizing the knowledge of Indigenous women and grandmothers and facilitating individual and group psilocybin sessions. Over the past two years, I’ve traveled to different communities with the MAGÜARE team in search of five shaman grandmothers from different Indigenous peoples we can bring together to create pilgrimages to their territories and communities. I will launch UMAY to advocate for prenatal ecology, midwifery, and women’s sexual and reproductive rights in November 2022.
I am keen to find more resources so women can safely access mystical, transformative states without running any risk of being violated and without intermediaries who claim the merit of their work.

Do you facilitate psilocybin and cocoa ceremonies for women only?

Yes, I have facilitated female-only psilocybin and cocoa ceremonies for three years because here in Colombia, the stigma that women cannot share ceremonies is very strong. I wanted to provide women with a safe space for exploring consciousness and carry out healing processes that happen in women-only spaces. After each ceremony, many women share that they have been sexually abused and had never been able to share it before.

Do women and grandmothers facilitate ceremonies?

Most of these grandmothers do not provide any psychedelic medicine plants because they are not allowed to, but they are connected to the spirit world and it is the way they heal people. I want the knowledge and work of caring for grandmothers to be fully liberated and publicly recognized.

Will the pilgrimages to Indigenous territories be only for women?

Yes. This women-only pilgrimage will be a journey to meet Indigenous midwifes and medicine women, and my vision is to include women from four Indigenous territories; Kofán Ayahuasca healers from the Ecuadorian Amazon, Wiwa healers from The Sierra Nevada de Santa Martha, La Guajira, from Wayúu territory, who work with psilocybin, and Al cauca healers from Misak territory. I am also hoping to organize a traditional Huichol peyote ceremony with a female healer in Colombia.

What motivates you to do this?

The absence of women in shamanism or psychedelic therapy led to a multitude of disorders, abuses of power, economic inequality, sexual abuse, and inequality of knowledge. It is imperative that we reclaim our position and presence as women in these spaces to balance the scale. Part of this process is respectful public recognition of the rich wisdom and knowledge women hold, including midwifery, cooking, weaving, care work, healing, spirituality, and so much more.

Experiencing violence as a girl and adolescent sparked a keen interest in self-knowledge, babies, spirituality, tools for personal growth, ecofeminism, food, alternative medicines, and a deep love for Earth at an early age. Each and every one of those experiences led me to seek answers in thoughts, philosophies and models of counterculture life. And all those experiences and my love for the land and the natural world led me to understand the historical relationship between the domination of nature and women's bodies, when then led me to ecofeminism, where I found many of the answers I was seeking.

Why are women important in the rebirth of sacred plant use and psychedelic therapy?

Our voices matter in all areas of life and in this field that grows stronger every day. Shamanic and assisted psychedelic therapy must be built in an egalitarian way and integrate our knowledge and our voice to create safe experiences.

In the patriarchal domination model, the great work of women is not recognized, from the grandmothers in the Amazon who get up every day to light a stove to cook, go to the farm to harvest what they have sown or go to the river in search of fish or to wash their families' garments, nor their extensive knowledge of herbalism, traditional medicine, and the subtle dialogue they have with their ecosystem, the work they do on a daily basis. With their hands every day they prepare the food that nourishes those taitas (male shamans), who then go out to the cities to facilitate ceremonies while they are in the jungle taking care of the home and the young, invisible work that in all cultures is maternal. This invisible work makes humanity exist.

We must also recognize the task of all those mestizo women who accompany and assist all these mestizo neo shamans for free while the shamans profit on behalf of the cultural appropriation of Indigenous people and all the women they have denied any possibility of accessing knowledge or facilitating ceremonial spaces. I have met many women, therapists, grandmothers, shamans, and companions of leaders who have never been recognized for their work or their knowledge, much less been remunerated for their great contribution.

Tell me about ecstatic dance as sacred medicine.

Ecstatic dance is a very sweet and powerful medicine and the language of life. I cannot imagine dance without spirit, nor spirit without dance.

Dancing is a mystical and wild experience, a bridge of connection with the divine, awakening the body to recognize the sacred, and a way to access union directly, without intermediaries and spontaneously. I entered that state a few years ago during a music festival. I danced for three days, non-stop, from the time I woke up until dawn. I had very little sensation of appetite, but I remember drinking a lot of water. It was as if I was intoxicated with the beauty of nature, the trees, the water, the jungle that surrounded me—and the music. The last night, in the middle of the rain, I suddenly and spontaneously opened that door to the divine, an oceanic feeling of happiness that is so difficult to describe. I remember being very surprised to have experienced that sensation just by dancing, drinking water, and contemplating the natural world.

Since then, dancing has become my favorite practice, my ritual, and my way of accessing that sacred place of opening consciousness and connecting with creative energy. Let's dance, freely, without the norm or the form!

Is human beings’ relationship with Earth important to you?

We are completely interconnected with all the life forms that make up this planet. One of the most important challenges humanity faces is to truly learn how everything in the universe interconnects, that we cannot live without a healthy planet, that our well-being depends directly on the well-being of Gaia, and that we must take responsibility for the health of our global ecosystem.

Indigenous peoples have offered me so much, and that has been a fundamental part of my trip. What I value most is their infinite knowledge about their environment, Mother Gaia, and nature as well as the balance between the natural and human world. If they have given me a legacy, it is the defense of life, water, air, earth and the infinite certainty that women are a manifestation of the great Mother Gaia.



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.

PLEASE NOTE: Uma is a native Spanish speaker. We have worked together to co-create this interview, translating respectfully, as best we can.

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September 2021