Iboga [cult in Kamerun & in Gabon]





"Iboga Culture : How This Psychedelic Plant Became a National Treasure and Therapeutic Trend". 



"Bwiti practitioners from ... Gabon ... consider the iboga plant central to their religion. Some say warthogs first led the Bwiti to the shrub. The animals could be seen digging holes at the foot of the iboga plants to get the root bark, and shortly after they would fall into a wild frenzy[1. The Religion of Iboga or the Bwiti of the Fangs    P. Barabe http://www.ibogaine.desk.nl/barabe.html]. The Bwiti experimented with the plant and soon learned that in small doses, iboga reduced the need for sleep and heightened awareness of one’s surroundings—particularly useful during hunting. In larger doses, they unlocked the plant’s psychedelic properties, experienced as a kind of sacrament that transported people to the spirit world to undergo a deeply reflective death and rebirth experience. Afterward, they would emerge into a more spiritual and harmonious life.

The Bwiti ceremonies developed around the iboga plant include ... rituals involving music and dancing that cement community bonds and align the participants with the wisdom and clarity of the unseen realms. Participants in these rituals report strong hallucinations and a powerful sense of being able to see into their life, habits, and past with unparalleled clarity. Over time, as some of these rituals were shared with foreigners, iboga became similarly beloved and renowned outside of the Bwiti peoples.

By the 1960s, the plant was such an honored and integral part of Gabon’s culture that the first President of Gabon fiercely defended its use and importance. In the year 2000, iboga was declared a national treasure by the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Gabon. Similar to ayahuasca in Peru, iboga enjoys protection and official recognition as a “cultural heritage strategic reserve” from the government of Gabon. ...  

... ibogaine advocate Howard Lotsof first championed iboga in 1962 as an addiction treatment for opiates after it allegedly cured him of his heroin habit[2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Lotsof]. Lotsof would go on to author research papers on the subject and pave the way for FDA clinical trials of ibogaine as an addiction remedy.

Today, iboga therapy centers are appearing around the globe as an alternative to traditional rehab and therapy programs, and they offer some huge advantages."





Agne`s Paicheler et al. (translated from the French by Jack Cain) : Iboga : the Visionary Root of African Shamanism. Park Street Pr, Rochester (VT), 2007.




pp. 14-21 – 2. Agne`s Paicheler : “The Holy Wood Story”.




“In the Ogonde` branch of the Missoko form of bwiti, it is said that animals such as gorillas, wild boar, birds, elephants, and porcupines ate the iboga root well before men thought of doing so.”


[Ogonde` legend of origin of Missoko iboga-cult] “A man named Dibenga ... a hunter ... noticed a porcupine gnawing a root at the foot of a shrub. He ... shot his lance ... through the animal and ... in the root. ...  He extracted the intestines from the animal since they were reputed to be a cure for intestinal parasites. He cooked them over a fire and ate the bitter meal. ...


The very next day he returned to the same spot in order to understand. There, he encountered “monkey-men,” the first Pygmies, who ... led him away to teach him all their knowledge of the forest ... and to administer iboga to him. Once he had mastered this knowledge, he returned to the village to transmit it to other men. This first man who ate iboga ... is called the nganga Mapenga.”


[Fang legend of origin of iboga-cult] “a Pygmy ... disappeared. His wife ... allows herself to be guided by the sounds of instruments and finds his bones in a hollow at the foot of an iboga bush. A voice invites her to eat “iboga by the root,” and she can then communicate with the spirit of her husband.”


[another Fang legend of origin of iboga-cult] “It is the [girl-]child Mosuma who was just born ... who ... falls into Mogobwe, ... the river of pain and of ghosts. She plunges into Mogobwe ... . Then she hears ... all the instruments, the ritual rattle, the [musical] bow, the harp being


played by the animals of the river. She then took all these instruments ... . Mosuma then uprooted the eboga; she ... swallowed a few pieces of it. ...  She ... came directly to the temple, ... remained seated, and here were her dreams : “... Descend into the Mogobwe like intestinal worms ..., descend into the falls ... up river.””


“Bwiti ... comes from the verb ebweta, which means “to arrive, ... to emerge from one spot to another.””


[bwiti] “In 1882, Father Neu wrote ... that initiates would make appear on demand, in the middle of a forest and in front of a crowd, any dead person you liked. Numerous European officers, having come to these ceremonies out of curiosity, saw with their own eyes dead people they had asked to see.”


“In 1889, ... Monseigneur Andre’ Raponda-Walker reported that bwiti was widespread not only among the Tsogo and the Pinji, but also among the Vili, the Ivea, the Masango, the Sira, the Barama, the Balumbu, the Ngowe, the Bavungu, and the Bakele.”

“Before adopting bwiti the Fang, famous for the statues and reliquaries used in their ancestor cult, byeri, would eat only ... alan leaves (Alchornea floribunda), having euphoric and slightly hallucinogenic properties and used in their rituals of magic in melan (initiation to byeri)”.



pp. 22-31 – 3. Agne`s Paicheler : “Iboga Rites”.




“The mbanza is the house of bwiti, the guardship quarters.


The musical instruments, the community’s sculptures, and the ritual articles are kept there. ...  It has no wall ... at the front, but at the center of this entranceway is a sculpted post”.

“The bwenze` is a much smaller hut attached to the mbanza, a ... room ... where the teaching of bwiti is imparted.”

“Finally, a little apart from the village is the nzimbe ... a small rectangular space cleared from the undergrowth”.


“In the hierarchy of Tsogo bwiti, one is born ... a noninitiate ... e`te`ma.

Then the novice, the candidate for initiation, is provisionally named mvon.

Once initiated, one becomes banzi ... .

The tsenghi is the one who is beginning his or her apprenticeship.

From there one becomes the makagha, the one who prepares the group for the ceremony ... .

Then one becomes n~ima, ... the apprentice initiator, and director of all-night sessions. ...

The kombwe is the one who can initiate others.”


“Ngoze, a term of Tsogo origin, is the name of the all-night sessions.”


“There is the mbomo dance of the “serpent slayer” : The dancers in single file from a line that undulates ... like the movement


of a serpent. One of them then “cuts off” the head of the serpent in order to grab the “packet” containing the iboga, the needle (symbol of speech), and the parrot feather (symbol of intelligence). Later on in the night, the mighonzi is ... the ceremony ... [wherein] the bwitists make the ancestors appear so that they can communicate with them. The mighonzi are the spirits of the dead. Each spirit is called by a particular song; the dancers entice the spirit while running through the village and juggling with lighted torches.”

“ ... the mogongo (mouth bow ...) ... is a simple arc of wood with a raffia cord stretched from one end of the arc to the other. The person who plays it wedges his cheek against


one end of the arch of wood and hits the cord, which he holds between his teeth, with a stick. He modulates the sound by moving a wooden baton across the cord with his other hand, while ... this sound is reminiscent of that of the Jew’s harp.”


There is worship of “Koumba, the first man, or

Dissumba, the first woman. Besides, there are ...

the sun (Kombe);

his wife, the moon (Ngonde);

 their children, the stars (Minanga); and

lightning (Ngadi).”


“Dissumba ... is ... practiced ... by the use of the eight-string ngombi harp decorated with a woman’s head representing the female ancestor Dissumba. The music of the ngombi is like the sobbing of the dead who are moving from the earthly world”.


“There are three main kinds of Missoko bwiti :

Myobe ... is a healing ritual, based on the stars (children of the sun and the moon).

Ogonde`, visionary ..., is based on the moon.

Finally, ... is Senghelia, based on the sun.”




pp. 61-70 – 6. Agne`s Paicheler : “Initiation – the Mechanics”.




“Whereas in Dissumba, initiation usually marks the passage to adulthood, in Missoko one can be initiated at any age.”


“Among the Fang, the iboga is taken in a drink made of ... palm juice ... . These drinks, which are called “automatic” or “express” (depending on whether or not slightly hallucinogenic alan leaves have been added to the mix), are prepared by women. ...


In Dissumba, there is also the harp that serves him as a guide and the little dugout canoe to cross the river of the dead.”

[initiation into bwiti, 1st day : symbolic birth] “The banzi is led into the forest to gather plants


... which permit the “opening” of “doorways” in the body; thus, among the Tsogo, the umbrella tree flower that the nganga opens above the bead of the banzi is to promote the symbolic opening of the fontanel ... . ...

Then the candidate is led ... to the river where the naked initiates wash themselves and rub themselves down with the plants they have gathered. A miniature dugout canoe made from a folded banana leaf and containing a lighted okoume’ resin torch ... is carried to the river by the Tsogo; it symbolizes ... the journey of the spirit downstream – to ... death. ...  Among the Tsogo, the candidate’s skull is struck three times with a hammer at the level of the fontanel to allow his spirit to leave by this doorway, and the tongue is pricked with a sewing needle to liberate speech. ...


The banzi are seated on the ground and the nganga gives them a first dose of iboga ... . Very soon, ... the banzi sees lights dancing around him, flashes and beams ... .

... the novices, whose faces are covered with white kaolin, are seated in front of a mirror where they must look at themselves in the face for a long time ... . ...


The nganga then helps initiates, ... he goes about ... to take their pulse ..., checking their temperature (... the extremities can cool down or become a little numb), ... to check their sensitivity. ...


[initiation into bwiti, 2nd day : symbolic death] The banzi is redressed in a red loincloth. His face is painted white and red. ...


His “bwiti father” has him eat a plantain that has been cooed over a fire and stuffed with a massive dose of iboga mixed with honey. ...  The candidates are once again positioned in front of their mirrors. They visualize with them, but also with the fire, then through the dark. In these waking dreams, the banzi sees ... : ... his parents, his grandparents, his ancestors, and spirits; he sees his birth, and sometimes his death. This is the time when he must find his initiation name. ...


During the evening of the second day, ... the candidates ... allow themselves to be transported by the melodious and strange sounds of the mouth bow and the ngombi harp (in the case of Dissumba) and the repetitive rhythm of the drums and the smell of the okoume` torches. ...


[initiation into bwiti, 3rd day : symbolic rebirth] “The ceremony is centered around a ritual dish – rooster cooked in a covering of banana leaves, accompanied by a sauce of special plants and plantain ... . First, three kinds of particular bark are necessary. No bark may be taken from a tree without permission having been asked from the spirit of the tree ... . The nganga breaks between his teeth a nut from the nzingo tree; he separates the two halves of the shell, shakes them in his hand, and throws them on the ground like dice. From the position of the pieces, he determines if the answer is positive or negative. After the bark is taken, the tree’s “wound” is cared for. ...


Finally, in the morning, the banzi is given the remainder of the meal, as well as the oil in which the plants for the sauce were cooked, as a medication to keep with great care. ...  Among the Tsogo, the new member must be isolated from the external world during a period of from one to three weeks. His meals will be prepared and served by a young woman who has recently given birth, because he is considered like a newborn.”




pp. 112-114 – 9. Agne`s Paicheler : “The Botany of Iboga”.




“Iboga is found from Cameroon to the Congo ... . It is the exterior surface of the root of the shrub Tabernanthe iboga ... . ... It grows five to eight feet high and has big leaves about six inches long with clusters of white flowers tinged with pink, which turn into golden yellow fruit that is sweet ... . And in the roots, concentrated in the exterior surface, the skin of the root, nature has assembled a whole palette of alkaloids, each one contributing a very precise effect. The main ones known to date are ibogaine, tabernanthine, ibogamine, coronaridine, iboquine, and gabonine.”


“In Western Africa, a very widespread shrub, Voacanga Africana, contains ibogaine in its bark. ...

A closely related species, Ervatamia orientalis, which produces ibogaine in its leaves, has been identified in Australia. ...

In Guyana, one also finds Peschiera, as well as two kinds of Tabernanthes very closely related to iboga, Tabernaemontana albiflora and Tabernaemontana angulata.  These shrubs are used by the Wayapi and Palikur Indians for shaman training rituals : thanks to the visions that they produce, they permit ... the revelation of the spirit. With the Wayapi, the bush is considered to harbor a tutelary spirit by the name of Yapulikiliwa. The ingesting of its milky fluid is done alone. ...


With the Palikur, the spirit has the same name as the bush itself, Abuki. Ingesting takes places under the supervision of an assistant. ...  The Palikur grind up the bark, drink some of it, and wash themselves with the rest.” [“Pharmacope’es traditionelles en Guyane : Cre’oles, Palikur, Wayap (Paris : ORSTOM, 1987), 569. Available ... at” (p. 214, n. 9:2) http://ird.fr]


“Finally, one finds ibogaine in small concentrations in a common species of jasmine : star jasmine or Trachelospermum jasminoides.” [J. A. C., “Ibogaine from Trachelospermum,” ... http://www.entheogen.com” (p. 214, n. 9:3)]




pp. 115-117 – 10. Agne`s Paicheler : “Other Gabonese rituals Using Iboga”.




Ombundi is the society of the Tsogo that uses possession, which plays a large role in medical diagnosis. The women who practice it use iboga in the course of public se’ances of divination. Under its influence the women healers see genies, who appear and reveal to them the nature of the illness in their patient(s). Ombundi has notably inspired the ombwiri of the Fang.”


“Then e’lombo spread among the Fang under the name of ombwiri  (genie or spirit), essentially through women ... . Ombwiri is essentially female, because traditionally women were the healers. They take iboga ... and reach ... a stage where they are guided by genies in their diagnosis and prescriptions.”




pp. 163-182 – 14. Agne`s Paicheler : “How Iboga Actually Works”.




“Ibogaine’s structure relates it to serotonin  ... . I has been posssible to confirm ... a greater sensitivity to ibogaine in women (and in female animals), a fact about iboga that is well known in Gabon.”


“Ibogaine follows the same pathways as acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter ... of REM sleep, the sleep of dreams.”


“metabolization of ibogaine is said to be carried out by a particular enzyme. [cytochrome P4502D6 (p. 216, n. 14:4)] As it turns out, 5 to 10 percent of Caucasian individuals do not have the gene that is necessary for its production”.


“Visions ... differentiate iboga ... from the hallucinogens. While he or she is visualizing, the subject ... perceives reality ... normally, without any distortion ..., without illusions ..., without depersonalization. ...

The visions resemble waking dreams, without the loss of consciousness that is part of sleep. That is why Naranjo, ... who studied ibogaine and harmaline, termed them oneirophrenics ... (from the Greek oneiros, dream, and phren, think) as opposed to hallucinogens. ...

The [brain]wave ... during these visions have been found to be the same as those in dreaming sleep, or REM sleep. ... The studies have confirmed a great similarity between the EEG readings recorded during the visions from ibogaine and those recorded


during REM sleep, characterized in both cases by many PGO (ponto-geniculo-occipital) waves, with a somewhat higher incidence in the case of ibogaine. [“PGO waves arise from a region of the brain called the pontine reticular formation (PRF), which is adjeacent to the bulbar reticular formation”. (p. 216, n. 14:8)]

... as with dreams, the images of the visions are also ... auditory – characters in the dream speak, and the subject may converse with them.”


“The Four Stages of Tsogo Initiate Vision” according to Otto Gollnhofer [“O. Gollnhofer and R. Sillans, “Usages rituels de l’iboga au Gabon,” Psychotropes 2 93) (1985) : 95-108.” (p. 216, n. 14:9)]

“The first vision consists of vague, incoherent, chaotic images ... .

The second stage is characterized by a series of apparitions of different kinds of menacing animals, which sometimes separate and sometimes come together again quickly.

In the third stage, the dream vision moves clearly toward a mythic stereotype. ...

The fourth stage of the vision (the one that ethnologists refer to as normative visions) is characterized by encounters with the most advanced spiritual beings.”


“At the beginning, there is mostly a series of unfamiliar images, which unfold and dissolve, one into the next.

Then the visions stabilize, the faces become clear, and often people see or speak with parents or loved one, living or dead.

They say they then meet more mysterious beings ... . Some see their birth and even other things that would have happened well before they came into the world ... . They tell about travel through scenes and countryside illuminated by blinding light, with rainbows and scepters.” [“Claudio Naranjo, “Psychotherapeutic Possibilities ...,” Clinical Toxicology 2 (209) (1969)  19. (p. 217, n. 14:10)] (Cited by R. Goutarel : “... applications the’rapeutiques de l’iboga.”  Psychotropes 3, no. 3 (1993) : 63-86 http://ibogaine.org/gourtarel.html )


In describing the effects of iboga, “Africans related that ... one undertakes a voyage ... – the same voyage that one takes when one dies. This experience has been compared to near-death experiences (NDE) ... . In both cases, people speak of scenes flooded with intense light ... and sometimes contact with “transcendent beings.””



pp. 210-213 “Resources”

pp. 210-1 internet websites



The Ibogaine Story & Bwiti http://erowid.org 






pp. 212-3 videos on the internet

“bwiti dance” http://youtube.com 

“Tribe Badonga Iboga” & “ibogaine valkommen” & “Ibogaine : a rite of passage” http://video.google.com (for DVD of the last, see   http://lunarproductions.com )