Zoe Helene on location at Nihue Rao Centro Espiritual, Peruvian Amazon—Photo by Tracey Eller

Empowering Women’s Voices of the Psychedelic Renaissance
Utne Reader MIND + BODY
by Lynne Woodward

As one of few women to pioneer the digital revolution, Zoe Helene experienced the frustrations of navigating a male-centric world. As one of few leading female voices in today’s psychedelic renaissance, she’s running up against that imbalance again—and this time, she’s determined to help right it.

“Imbalanced systems are inherently unhealthy, and this work is about wellness,” Helene says. “Sexism is a chronic, systemic problem and has no place in the psychedelic renaissance arena. This is our last chance to evolve ethically, so we’d better get it right.”

Since Helene—an artist, environmental activist and wildlife advocate—began participating in transformational ayahuasca ceremonies in the Amazon with her husband, ethnobotanist Chris Kilham, she’s found that la medicina moves her life forward in ways that matter. Ayahuasca has reconnected her with her deepest inner wisdom and helped her step up to the plate. “This is not recreational—it is hard if fascinating work with a big payoff,” Helene says.

Helene is concerned because she believes that women are grossly underrepresented in media and in public presentations within the psychedelic and cannabis reform community—“a subculture that aspires to be enlightened.”

“As talented, intelligent, ambitious women, we have dealt with this countless times before,” Helene adds. “As liberated women and as women on the path, we do not wish to step into roles or cultural behaviors that do not feel genuine, positive or healthy—such as aggression, hyper competitiveness, seducing, backstabbing or stepping on others to get to the top—just to be secure a position where we are sought out by the media so that we can be heard and share our work. That’s counter-productive to the work of the medicine.”

Through Cosmic Sister, the company Helene founded in 2009 to provide a higher self-selected and connected network and resource for progressive women, she financially supports communicative women so they can experience the healing, consciousness expansion, clarity and inspiration that she found through ayahuasca.

With funding from the Cosmic Sister Plant Spirit Grant, women can participate in authentic, traditional ayahuasca ceremonies at respected retreats and integrate the experience into their lives when they return home. Six women from diverse backgrounds, ranging in age from 26 to 62, have received the grant and returned from the Amazon inspired and ready to fly.

Interest in the grant is soaring, even without promotion, Helene says. “The first Cosmic Sister Plant Spirit Grant was profound and sweet, so I followed my intuition and continued to develop the program,” she adds. “Ayahuasca offers people an opportunity to help themselves. All of the women are thriving, and it’s a privilege to witness these transformational journeys and an honor to play a supportive role.”

Zoe Helene with and Cosmic Sister Plant Spirit Grant recipient Susan Sheldon in a sustainable medicinal plant nursery at Temple of the Way of Light, an ayahuasca retreat in the Peruvian Amazon. Listen to Zoe Helene and the Psychedelic Renaissance in Utne Reader's Abstract Notions Podcast with host Christian Williams.

A companion project, the Cosmic Sister Women of the Psychedelic Renaissance initiative, funds and supports these grant recipients—and other women—as they educate the public about the benefits and risks of psychedelics and responsible use of sacred plants, including ayahuasca, cannabis and psilocybin, through articles, presentations and public outreach projects.

“Many of us in the ‘full moon’ phase of our lives, or beyond, are compelled to step up to the plate for younger women and girls, as well as for men and boys, because we understand how they too are hurt by archaic gender clichés and cultural limitations,” Helene says.

For more information, visit cosmicsister.com

January 2015