By Olivia LaVecchia

Dennis McKenna is a professor at the University of Minnesota, and an ethnobotanist by trade. Much of his work has focused on one thing: ayahuasca, the psychedelic that is the subject of this week's cover story.

“My whole professional career turned out to be about ayahuasca,” McKenna says. “There was nothing more interesting on my radar.”

See also: Ten celebrity ayahuasca users

In addition to his research, McKenna has drunk the hallucinogenic brew himself “several hundred” times, he guesses, since 1981. A decade later, he experienced one of his most powerful ayahuasca visions.<

It was the summer of 1991, and McKenna had been invited to Brazil for a conference organized by the Uniao do Vegetal, a syncretic church that treats ayahuasca as a sacrament. At the end of the trip, he joined in one of the UDV's ceremonies.

At dusk on a humid and balmy night, McKenna walked over to the church's temple. In a room with 500 others, he drank first one cup of the brownish liquid, then a second.

“It was like being borne upwards in a high-speed elevator,” McKenna writes in his new book, The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss.”I had the sense that this was one elevator it would be hard to exit before reaching the top floor.”

McKenna plunged in. Here's his own description, set to original illustrations by Fred Harper.

The Ayahuasca Trip from Voice Media Group on Vimeo.

This was just the beginning of McKenna's immersion into a molecular roller coaster ride through photosynthesis. Check out the rest in this twopart video of a reading he gave from his book.

See also: Ten celebrity ayahuasca users

Like us on Facebook at LAWeeklyMusic.

The Oral History of Low End Theory

Syd the Kyd on Her Sexuality and Why She Hates the Word “Lesbian”

What the Hell is Trap Music?

LA Weekly