Zoe Helene with Amazon Vine of the Soul. Photo by Tracey Eller
“My theory is that the medicine helps us communicate with the subconscious parts of our own psyche, and to our own deepest inner wisdom, which is a nature wisdom.” - Zoe Helene, AlterNet
The first words Zoe Helene ever said to her husband Chris Kilham, were in reference to a boar’s tusk bracelet clasped around his wrist. The tanned white man in the Hawaiian shirt had a “wild vibe about him.” He was fidgeting in his chair behind a booth at the bustling Natural Products Expo East trade show in 2005, which Helene, who worked in natural products communications, was attending for business.
She sat down next to him and said, “You’re not supposed to wear that if you’re not a chief.”
Helene, an artist and wildlife activist, had spent ages 9-19 living in New Zealand. She knew a thing or two about the region’s indigenous Maori culture, and recognized the bracelet as a traditional adornment. She also has an MFA in costume design and takes special note of what people wear and why. She thought the boar’s tusk bracelet was “a typical tourist’s fashion faux pas.”
As it turned out, Kilham was a chief. When Helene met him, he’d just returned from a medicine hunt working with the psychoactive plant Kava in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, east of northern Australia. He’d participated in an epic fire walk, and was an honorary chief on the island of Pentacost in the village of Baie Martellie.
“At the time, he was also Vanuatu’s Honorary Consul to the United States,” Helene says. “I didn’t know any of this. I just found his energy intriguing and I loved the way he moved....To this day I still don’t know where I got the chutzpah to just blurt that out, first thing,” Helene says.
But thanks to her chutzpah, the next time you need a tax write-off you can make a that will help women travel to the Amazon and sip the psychedelic concoction called ayahuasca, via Helene's financial backing program, the .
Helene created the program to support women she sees doing “outstanding” work in the name of feminism, wilderness, wildlife and psychedelics. Nine women have already traveled to Peru for previous plant spirit grant sessions, and this year Helene has awarded grants to six more. They are women from all over the world, including journalists, photographers, a medical doctor, a yoga teacher, mothers, grandmothers and others. The group will travel in December to a new ayahuasca retreat center called DreamGlade, located outside of Iquitos, Peru.