Love, Magic, and the Vine of the Soul - Interview With Javier Arevalo

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An interview titled 'Love, Magic, and the Vine of the Soul'. Amazonian shaman Javier Arevalo interviewed by Howard g Charing, and Peter Cloudsley. This article first appeared in Sacred Hoop Magazine issue 36 in 2002

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Love, Magic, and the Vine of the Soul - Interview With Javier Arevalo

  1. 1. LOVE AAAGIC Ayahuasca can be c o n s i d e r e d a gateway to another reality, a reality w h i c h co-exists w i t h o u r physical w o r l d . F r o m this other reality anVINE <*the SOUL experience o f the totality of inter- connectedness can be personally experienced. Ayahuasca is also k n o w n as La Purga {the Purge) due to its p o w e r f u l physical clearing effect, but its effects are more than just a physical clearing of the toxins i n the body, it also facilitates an energetic clearing of personal history as well. There is much discrepancy between shamans concerning the question of vomiting while under the effect o f Ayahuasca. Some say it is necessary for the body to r i d itself of whatever is necessary and that i f they are not sick they might get ill. Others say if y o u v o m i t y o u w i l l n o t have such good vision and o n no account should a shaman vomit. It is never to be taken lightly and o n l y u n d e r the s u p e r v i s i o n o f a shaman w h o is w e l l versed i n the ways of the plant. The m e d i c i n e is made f r o m a m i x t u r e o f t h e ayahuasca v i n e (Banisteriopsis Caapi) and the leaf of the Chacruna plant (Psychotria Viridis). The vine contains harmala and harmaline among other rs with an alkaloids, and the leaf contains vision inducing alkaloids. As with all natural medicines, it is a Amazonian Shaman mixture of many alkaloids that makes their unique properties. For example, Peyote, the cactus used by Howard G. Charing the North Native Americans, is said to contain 32 active alkaloids, so when S> Peter Cloudsley one o f those alkaloids, mescaline (LSD) is synthesised i n a laboratory, c o n t r a r y t o p o p u l a r o p i n i o n , the talk to Javier Arevalo result is not at all the same. about Peruvian Ayahuasca is a name derived from Shamanism t w o Q u e c h u a w o r d s : ay a means spirit, ancestor, deceased person, and huasca means v i n e o r r o p e , hence it is k n o w n as vine of the dead or vine of the soul. It plays a central After being virtually ignored by the West for role i n the spiritual, religious and cultural traditions of the Indigenous centuries, there has, recently been a huge surge and Mestizo (mixed blood) peoples of interest in Ayahuasca. There is a belief that it is of the u p p e r Amazon, O r i n o c o p l a i n s a n d t h e Pacific coast o f a kind of medicine for our times, giving hope to Colombia and Ecuador. people with incurable diseases like cancer and The plants are collected f r o m the rainforest i n a sacred way and it is HIV, as well as inspiring answers to the big said that a shaman can find plentiful ecological problems of modern civilisation. sources of the vine by listening forPAGE 12 SACRED HOOP ISSUE 36 2002
  2. 2. the drumbeat that emanates ten hours concoction andf r o m them. The m i x t u r e is the shaman should fast or beprepared by cutting the vines o n a special diet during thisto cookable lengths, scraping time. It is said that the spiritand cleaning them, of Ayahuasca is very jealousp o u n d i n g them into a p u l p , and that i f the rules o f itsand then adding the preparation are notchacruna leaves. The mixture respected it is resentful.is t h e n b o i l e d f o r a b o u tt w e l v e h o u r s u n t i l i t is a A fundamental principle ofthick b r o w n liquid. healing w i t h Ayahuasca is the visions it facilitates. It is the THE SPIRIT OF AYAHUASCA visions of the doctoring spiritThe spirit of Ayahuasca can of Ayahuasca w h i c h tells thebe contacted when a person shaman what is w r o n g w i t hd r i n k s the b r e w u n d e r the their patient, what medicineguidance of a skilled t h e y n e e d , o r w h o hasshaman. There is a chance to caused the illness or malaise.learn and trust the p l a n t .There is also the question as TALKING W I T Hto whether the plant trusts JAVIER AREVALOus, because it can be abused We watched the shaman Javierand used for g e t t i n g the Arevalo preparing the brew.w r o n g k i n d of personal His wife washed and shreddedpower. Without intention, the Ayahuasca, and after it hadvision, preparation, and a boiled for a while, Javier lit ashaman, i t is a d r u g n o t a large mapacho (hand rolledhealing medicine. jungle tobacco cigar) and blew In the Amazonian world W h e n i t is b e i n g p r e p a r e d , the smoke over the top of the concoction.Ayahuasca, like all plants, is seen as shaman has to watch over it at all The two of us were invited to do thishaving a spirit which is angelic but the time to prevent harmful spirits as well. When we d i d this we felt aalso has h u m a n e m o t i o n s l i k e b e i n g i n t r o d u c e d . The fire needs blast of hot steam and vapour f r o mjealousy, vengefulness, w r o t h etc. t e n d i n g regularly t h r o u g h o u t the the boiling Ayahuasca i n our faces.
  3. 3. During our visits in order to attract them. That means they w i t h h i m w e had should not eat salt, sugar or alcohol, and many discussions on they should abstain from sex". the r o l e o f the He c o n t i n u e d : "Every p l a n t has a Amazonian shaman spirit, the shaman goes into the forest as and the use o f part of his apprenticeship and spends Ayahuasca. Javier two years taking plants and roots. He comes from Nuevo takes Ayahuasca too and the spirit tells Progreso, a him what it cures. Then the shaman tries c o m m u n i t y o f 50 another plant, each time remembering families o n the Rio which ailment is cured by what. Napo river i n Peru. Several generations If you cant dominate the spirits of the of his family before jungle you are nobody, instead of curing him have been they r u n away or take no notice of you. shamans and Spirits are like angels. God withstood 40 already at the age of days of hunger and temptation by the 17, he k n e w this devil and was resurrected. Thats what would be his future. we have to do too. However it was You learn all this i n the wilderness. not until he was 20 The spirits there are the angels of each w h e n his f a t h e r plant to which you add your will to heal died f r o m a virote the client. This is the will of Christ". (a poisoned dart i n the spiritual world) We had h e a r d stories about h o w sent by a jealous Ayahuasca can sometimes cure HIV, brujo, (sorcerer) that he felt compelled and w e asked Javier about his o w n to f o l l o w the a r d u o u s five-year experiences of treating people. apprenticeship to be a shaman. " I h a d a p a t i e n t w h o was H I V We asked Javier what the role of a positive and had been i n h o s p i t a l a shaman was? He told us that a shaman fortnight. His mother said to me that learns everything about the rainforest he was really bad, his stomach h u r t and uses that knowledge to heal his and he was shitting constantly. people since they do not have money So I said w h y d o n t y o u take for Western style doctors. Shamans Ayahuasca. Tf i t l l cure me I l l try i t he also use Ayahuasca t o d i s c o v e r i n said. That night we drank and after he visions, which plants w i l l be effective felt a bit better, his fever had lowered. for which illnesses. He n e e d e d t o go less o f t e n t o the "As the spirits, or plant doctors who toilet. He wanted to take it again and tell us are pure, they are made happy after three times he was better and"A fundamental when we are too, so a shaman must diet when tested, proved HIV negative.principle of healinswith Ayahuasca isthe visions it facilitates.It is the visions ofthe doctoring spirit IHiof Ayahuasca whichtells the shamanwhat is wrong withtheir patient, whatmedicine they need,or who has causedthe illness or malaise,"PAGE 14 SACRED HOOP ISSUE 36 2002
  4. 4. We asked J a v i e r a b o u t h o w he desire to put the w o r l d to right, resolve"During a session a started off his shamanic training w i t h a planetary issues, and speak to the flowers.Senorita came to desire for revenge and asked h i m h o w It was as t h o u g h it were not alright to he put that d o w n and became a healer? wish for love.me in my vision "My grandfather saw that my heart was bitter and he told me that it w o u l d not We m u s e d , maybe i f p e o p l e i n o u rand said, you must get me anywhere. My heart was still hard culture had more love we wouldnt be so and wanted to k i l l . Bit by b i t t h r o u g h worried about the cosmos, maybe it wasalso learn what taking the very plants that I had intended because people dont have enough of it that to use for revenge, the spirits told me it they saw problems everywhere around.love is/ What is was wrong to kill and my heart softened." We speculated i t w o u l d be better i f people got w h a t they w a n t e d becauselove? I asked her. MIXING A LITTLE LOVE MAGIC that way we w o u l d n t be so destructive:You love me and We asked h i m about h o w he sees the d r i v i n g fast cars, t r y i n g t o s o r t o u t ethical questions concerning Pusanga, psychological issues and having fancyboth of us feel a magic used t o attract a l o v e r . The p r o f e s s i o n s . We w o u l d n e e d less magic takes away the persons w i l l and material goods. Javier agreed: "Theseattraction/ she we explained to h i m that i n the West t h o u g h t s t a n g l e u p t h e i r l i v e s . Love this was seen as a bad thing. solves problems."replied. Who was Javier l a u g h e d a n d s a i d : " I f i t h a p p e n e d t o m e , a n d l e t s say I Javier had some Pusanga to prepare for athe Senorita? She originally found her unpleasant and she client. Normally a shaman prepares it away d i d it to marry me I d be outraged! It f r o m o t h e r p e o p l e , so w e f e l t verywas a mermaid, w o u l d be awful if I only discovered after privileged to be invited to participate i n the having children and making a home w i t h preparation.thats how I can her! But w o u l d I ever know? I w o u l d betell you that hopelessly i n love w i t h her." "And," he "First o f a l l , " he t o l d us. " y o u must added, "everyone wants women!" purify y o u r hands w i t h lime, l e m o n ormermaids exist. Javier d i d not seem to see a problem, grapefruit juice, to get r i d o f the salt, i t was a massive c u l t u r a l d i v i d e w e condiments and sweat which interferes."She told me how could not cross. It seems his people feel T h e n each o f us p o u r e d t w o l i t t l e free the way they are and can have sex bottles of Tabu, into a larger bottle. Oneto prepare Pusanga, using magical means of attraction. of these bottles w o u l d be for m e n the O n an earlier occasion w h e n Javier o t h e r f o r w o m e n . Tabu is a p e r f u m eand she chanted asked the group we were travelling w i t h used specifically for this p u r p o s e . what they really wanted i n their lives, Powdered plants l i n e d the bottoms o fto me and taught many people gave cosmic and spiritual each of the larger bottles. After this weme the chant I sounding answers and were quite mute b r o k e u p some p l a n t roots before w h e n he spoke about Pusanga. adding them to the mixture.know today." After a w h i l e many admitted they Javier t o l d us they were Motelillo, w a n t e d love, apparently b e h i n d t h e i r Macoquinha, axidMashoshillo which looks a bit like a string of sausages. He e x p l a i n e d t h a t Mashoshillo made money grow and transform itself into new resources, projects and contacts. Then we added Mocura leaves w h i c h have a nice fragrance for w h e n y o u apply the resulting Pusanga i t t o yourself. Polvo de la buseta, a p o w d e r o b t a i n e d by grinding up a plant whose leaves resemble a female g e n i t a l was added next, then Congonita, a plant w i t h l i t t l e r o u n d leaves and long stalks which becomes t a n g l e d w i t h itself. "This is h o w thePAGE 16 SACRED HOOP ISSUE 36 2002
  5. 5. couples becomes i n v o l v e d w i t h Then I went back to dance w i t h "My grandfather saweach other," explained Javier. "Your her and she said whats the matterpartner w i l l never leave y o u . " w i t h y o u d a m n it? Y o u k n o w y o u that my heart was cant touch me! She got nasty and We asked Javier if he could tell us wanted to hit me at that moment so bitter and he told mewhat the Pusanga actually did? I left the fiesta to avoid problems and went home. that it would not get "When you pour it onto your skinit begins to penetrate y o u r spirit, The n e x t day I w e n t i n t o t h e me anywhere. Myand the spirit is what gives you the forest and h i d f o r three days. O n heart was still hardforce to p u l l the people. The spirit the forth day I came out and peopleis what pulls. told me Senorita Suzana is looking and wanted to kill for you. W h e n I was apprenticed t o m y Why is she looking for me if she Bit by bit throughgrandfather, he told me to practice hates me and threw me out of thewith the Pusanga to gain fiesta? They r e p l i e d N o , she has taking the very plantsexperience. I began by p r e p a r i n g b e e n r o u n d e v e r y h a l f an h o u r that I had intendedthe medicine without any particular asking after you.i n t e n t i o n , b u t d u r i n g a session a When she caught u p w i t h me she to use for revenge,Senorita came to me i n my vision said Javier, forgive me for insultingand said, y ° must also learn what u you i n the fiesta. I said No, you are the spirits told melove is. What is love? I asked her. very arrogant and I d o n t want toYou love me and b o t h o f us feel talk to y o u . I went home and it was wrong toattraction, she replied. w o u l d n t open the door. She waited Who was the Senorita? She was a o u t s i d e m y h o u s e c r y i n g a l l the kill and my heartmermaid, thats h o w I can tell you w h i l e I s l e p t . I k n e w i t was t h e softened /that mermaids exist. She t o l d me Pusanga that was working.h o w to prepare Pusanga, and shec h a n t e d t o me a n d The n e x t n i g h t I H o w a r d G. C h a r i n g is a p a r t n e r i n Eaglestaught me the said to W i n g Centre for Contemporary Shamanism.chant I k n o w h e r , His i n i t i a t i o n i n t o the w o r l d o f Shamanism was sudden, w h i c h was caused by a serioustoday. She sang y o u accident (a lift crash) w h i c h resulted i n severev e r y sadly, a n d want injuries and a near-death experience. Aftersaid t h a t s h o w I t o be many months of physical pain and disability, he had a transformational experience w h i c hyour partner w i t h started h i m o n the path to healing.w i l l come to me? Yes, P e t e r C l o u d s l e y has b e e n r e s e a r c h i n gyou, very sad, JM f r o m the P e r u v i a n fiesta m u s i c since 1980. H e has b u i l t u p a documented archive o f traditionalshe said. depth of music and interviews, and has collected for m y the British Museum. Throughout this time he has travelled extensively i n L a t i n America, T h e r e was heart. I especially Peru, studying the wealth o f musica fiesta one replied and diversity of popular religions. Peter has but you taught courses at the City Lit and elsewherenight in the (on music and p o p u l a r culture i n Latinpueblo because it are pretty and A m e r i c a ) a n d speaks f l u e n t Spanish &was someones I am ugly! No, Portuguese .birthday and I was I w a n t t o be Eagles W i n g f o u n d e d by Leo Rutherford i n w i t h you. 1983 is to help people connect their i n n e rinvited and I put and outer w o r l d s , to b r i n g dreams f r o m theo n m y clothes and That night we w o r l d o f Spirit i n t o Matter, and thus enjoy a made love and creative a n d f r u i t f u l l i f e - t o dance t h e i rtook a little bottle dreams awake.o f Pusanga i n m y she d i d n t w a n t Details of Eagles W i n g p r o g r a m m e s ,pocket. I was to go back to her workshops, journeys to meet indigenousdancing w i t h all * home any-more. I s h a m a n s . For m o r e i n f o r m a t i o n see www.shamanism.co.ukthe girls and I saw a g i r l w h o was went again i n t o the forest and she or call or writevery arrogant and w o u l d n o t let f o l l o w e d me. I w e n t t o bathe i n BCM Box 7475, the river and she j u m p e d i n too to L o n d o n WC1 3XXme get near. Tel: (01435) 810233 She had long finger nails. She said play w i t h me. I laughed because I PHOTOS:she wouldnt dance with me because knew it was the love spell. Page 13 - t o p : H o w a r d and Javier Arevalo.I was unattractive. Go and f i n d a B o t t o m : prepearing and b e r e w i n g the ayahuasca. page 14 t o p : B l o w i n g tobaccocholaV (lower class Indian) she said She became my girlfriend for six smoke on the brew. Drawing ofvirtually insulting me, and it hurt my months. Later w h e n the love passed Banisteriopsis Caapi. B o t t o m : The brew Page 15 - t o p : .Some of the plants used toheart. If you dont dance w i t h me, a n d the Pusanga w e a k e n e d , she m a k e a Pusanga. D r a w i n g o f p s y c h o t r i at o m o r r o w y o u l l sleep w i t h me, I w e n t b a c k as t h o u g h t h e w h o l e p s y c h o t r i a e f o l i a . B o t t o m J a v i e r a n d his t h i n g had been a d r e a m . I asked assistant. Page 16 : H o w a r d , Javier and hissaid, and I went to the toilet to have a eldest son. Page 17 : T r a d i t i o n a l p a i n t e dpee and rubbed myself with Pusanga, myself how d i d I actually live w i t h ayahuasca b r e w i n g p o t f r o m a tribe o n thedown my front, my arms and hands. this girl?" upper. Orinoco River.SACRED HOOP ISSUE 36 2002 PAGE 17

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