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Ayahuasca shamanism in the Peruvian Amazon
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Ayahuasca shamanism in the Peruvian Amazon



The talk I gave in November 2010 on my experiences in Peru

The talk I gave in November 2010 on my experiences in Peru



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  • IQT pop 500K, at confluence of Nanay, Itaya, Amazon; 125 mi downstream of Ucayali & Maranon, Amazon headwaters 630 mi NE Lima
  • Spent 8 weeks in jungle in 2007, drinking once a week, dieting 3 or 4 days a week. “Thoreau isolation”, family was within shouting distance the whole time
  • Levels of initiation: apprentice (about 3 yrs), 1st level curandero - crown (about 1 yr), 2nd level - sword (about 1 yr), Maestro (sprig of plant)
  • Mestizo = mixed Spanish & indigenous Shaman summons spirits, does not travel to them Not all shamans use aya – lots of other plants (tabaqueros, perfumeros, toeros, etc.) Longer diets for more serious illnesses Aya allows curandero to see inside body like medical scan Can then prescribe other plant remedies based on this information Root is curar & curioso - a scientific study of other realities Spirits do healing, not curandero All healing depends on relationship between curandero and plant Spends time alone in jungle communing with plants, learns the icaro to summon spirit
  • Highly syncretic tradition, mixing Catholic and indigenous components Power can come from any or all of these realms; master shaman controls all 3 Shamans using this system for healing = curanderos; to harm, brujos (sorcerors) – Juan says if not healing, brujo, because aya primarily medicine, but also used for divination, love spells, etc.
  • Brujos can’t access Science – must rely on spirits, who lie Science is strict taskmaster – sometimes punishes curandero pre-emptively
  • Types of aya: cielo (yellow), colorado (red), rayo (striped) - control the weather; blanco (white), trueno (thunder) - black Could also use Diplopterys cabrerana (Chagroponga / Chaliponga) as DMT source, or Jurema (mimosa hostilis) - more common in Brazil
  • Tobacco is Nicotiana rustica (Wild tobacco), known as Mapacho. It’s the most potent form of tobacco known, with three to nine times the nicotine content of common North American varieties (such as N. tabacum). Toe is Brugmansia spp. With common types being suaveolens and sanguinea. “Angels’ trumpets” - known as tree daturas.
  • Some say not to use aluminum or any metal in preparation; we did for practical reasons and it seemed to work fine 1 kg fresh vine/250-300 leaves
  • The harder it boils, the stronger it will be. Some say that if your intention is not pure, the brew won’t boil down. My teacher told the story of a disrespectful man who cooked his aya for 20 hours and it still was only a little lower in volume than when he started. Supposedly if a menstruating or pregnant woman not cooking the brew walks by while it’s boiling, the batch will be ruined.
  • First and foremost a medicine - a diagnostic tool, alterative (blood cleanser), purgative, anesthetic, antiparasitic, antibiotic cicatrisant (wound healer) Visions tend to have white outlines Nausea/vomiting and diarrhea common but not universal Buzzing often heard - electric current of life Allows release of deeply held emotional blockages
  • First and foremost a medicine - Visions tend to have white outlines Nausea/vomiting and diarrhea common but not universal Buzzing often heard - electric current of life Allows release of deeply held emotional blockages
  • First and foremost a medicine - Visions tend to have white outlines Nausea/vomiting and diarrhea common but not universal Buzzing often heard - electric current of life Allows release of deeply held emotional blockages
  • Stages of vision: geometric patterns give rise to images Note white outlines of spirits Snake very common vision - ayahuasca spirit
  • Incense beforehand: palo santo, rosemary, myrrh - mosquito repellent and discourages evil spirits Try not to move too much during the ceremony or spend lots of time outside the hut or room Don’t fall asleep!! Eyes open or closed.
  • Movie of Juan healing a patient
  • Mapacho smoke repels evil spirits; chakapa removes negative energy from patient’s body during healing & keeps it from bothering curandero
  • Fish boca chica (type of snapper), palometa (related to piranha), liza (related to mullet): all vegetarian, low-fat, not scavengers. Other meat OK if low fat and from animal living in the wild. Potato, cassava, broccoli, tapioca, farina Digestion very delicate after drinking Helps retain ayahuasca spirit in body
  • Intent is your intent, and those of the people who grow and harvest the aya, the curandero, of everyone else in the ceremony, etc. Yacupuma Project - get people to come down and see Juan

Ayahuasca shamanism in the Peruvian Amazon Ayahuasca shamanism in the Peruvian Amazon Presentation Transcript

  • Ayahuasca shamanism in the Peruvian Amazon Jolane Abrams 20 Nov 2010
  • Iquitos, Peru Iquitos
    • Maloca at jungle camp
    Bridge to camp
  • Don Juan Tangoa Paima
    • Born in Colombia in 1951
    • Vietnam veteran
    • Has travelled worldwide
    • 45 years’ experience
    • Runs school & healing
    • centre outside Iquitos
  • Mestizo shamanism
    • Problems = invasion by evil spirits, whether through random chance or deliberate attack
    • Ayahuasca = purgative & diagnostic tool; provides access to the Science
    • Icaros = songs that summon spirits to do healing or other work
  • Belief system ( curanderismo )
    • 3-part cosmology: air, water, earth (jungle)
    • Icaros can summon spirits of plants, animals (real or mythical), angels, saints, Catholic God
    • The Science = God = sum of all knowledge & wisdom
    • Ayahuasca = technology for accessing different realms and the Science
  • Curanderismo in practise
    • Primary medical care:
    • diagnosis & prescriptions, both herbal & Western
    • But deals with other kinds of problems as well:
    • Finding/keeping a partner
    • For luck in court cases
    • Finding lost objects, or the thief if stolen
    • Removing curses, hexes, etc.
    • Spiritual dilemmas
  • Brujo or Curandero?
    • Lots of competition between practitioners
    • Much time spent fighting magical attacks
    • Curanderos don’t harm others, undergo strict diets and sexual abstinence, don’t seek to bind spirits – takes about 3 years to become low-level curandero
    • Brujos will do harm for pay, don’t follow diets, seek to bind spirits – takes about 8 months to become brujo
  • Ayahuasca
    • From Quechua: Vine of the soul (“aya” = soul, spirit; “huasca” = vine)
    • Herbal brew comprising at least 2 plants
      • Chacruna leaf ( P. viridis ; source of hallucinogen DMT)
      • Ayahuasca vine ( B. caapi ; source of activators)
    • May also contain tobacco & other plants such as toé; varies widely
  • The leaf and the vine Banisteriopsis caapi
  • Tobacco and Toé Nicotiana rustica Brugmansia spp.
  • Preparing the vine
  • Cooking the brew
  • Effects of the brew
    • Medicinal properties
    • Perceptual distortions
    • Bodily sensations
    • Psychospiritual effects
  • Effects of the brew
    • Medicinal properties:
    • Diagnostic tool
    • Alterative (blood cleanser)
    • Anaesthetic
    • Antibiotic
    • Antiparasitic
    • Cicatrisant (wound healer)
    • Purgative
  • Effects of the brew
    • Perceptual distortions:
    • 3 stages of visions: geometrics, figures, full visions
    • Visions tend to have white outlines
    • Buzzing often heard
  • Effects of the brew
    • Body sensations:
    • Tingling of face or body at onset of effects
    • Nausea/vomiting and diarrhea common
    • Can be very relaxing - lots of variation
  • Effects of the brew
    • Psychospiritual effects:
    • Primary effect is healing
    • Allows release of energetic blockages
    • Allows curandero to investigate cause of patient’s problem and find solution
  • The Ceremony
    • Starts after sunset
    • Lasts 4 - 6 hours
    • Held in complete darkness
    • Preferably held outdoors, so only sounds are nature and songs (icaros)
    • Dose ranges from 20-50 mL
  • Icaros
    • “ Icaros” - from Quechua = “songs”
    • Icaros summon healing spirits
    • Aya adds depth and resonance to voice of the curandero
    • Singing during ceremony aids in healing of patient
  • Healing a patient
  • Tools of the Trade
    • Mapacho ( Nicotiana rustica )
    Chakapa (Palm leaf rattle)
  • The Diet
    • Kept for minimum 24h after ceremony
    • Essential for healing, apprenticeship, increasing curandero ’s power
    • Minimal fat, no seasoning, very bland
    • Overheating, exertion, sex also prohibited
  • Diet food after a ceremony
  • Dec 2008 Apr 2007 Aug 2006
    • 2005: 1 week in Peru
    • 2006: 6 weeks in Peru
    • 2007: 6 mos in Peru
    • 2008-2009: 4 mos in Peru
    • 2009-2010: 5 mos in Peru
    • Total so far: 16.5 months
    • 2011: (planned) 3 mos
  • Important considerations
    • Intent is of greatest importance
    • Not for casual use - drug interactions
    • Lots of ayahuasca tourism; choose carefully
  • Acknowledgements
    • Don Juan - healing and teaching
    • Bath Pagan Society – organisation
    • I. Vincent and K. Hall - moral & practical support
    • All of you - your attention