Shamanism in terms of Ayahusca in the Amazon Rainforest
Shamans are the spiritual leaders of their Amazon
tribes and clans. They communicate with Plant spirits, have visions of
the tribe future, and guide their people to God.
There are many local names for the visionary and healing brew that goes
under the common name of Ayahuasca. Yajé’ or Yage’ (Colombia), Hoasca
or Daime (among Brazilian religious groups), among the Shipibos it’s
Oni, among the “Amawaka” (Yora) Indians it’s Oni xuma, the Ashaninka
tribes call it Kamarampi, whilst the Jibaros tribe call it Natema.
Peru it is generally known as Ayahuasca. It is – at once – the
name given to the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and to the magic,
mysterious and visionary brew which has been used ritually – from
immemorial time – by the indigenous people of the Amazon basin,
specifically for divination, telepathy, shamanic shape-shifting, spirit
cleansing, diagnosis of an illness, and also for healing. A shaman
specialized in the use of Ayahuasca is widely known in Peru as an
Ayahuasquero (or Ayahuascero).
shall use word ”ayahuasca” (in lower cases) to refer to the actual vine
specimen-s, and the word ”Ayahuasca” (in upper cases) when referring to
the actual brew or concoction prepared by the shamans.
There are many different varieties of ayahuasca vine, over one hundred
have in fact been already identified, but the most commonly used in the
Northern Peruvian Amazon is the Cielo ayahuasca one, which is reputed
to be the most suitable for initiations, can deliver profound visions
and is more safe to use according to the shamans.
Among other varieties – which are for more specialized uses and
normally only for very experienced users altogether – we have:
- Yana ayahuasca (Quechua word for “Black ayahuasca”), or
ayahuasca negra, in Spanish;
- Trueno ayahuasca (Spanish translation for “Thunder ayahuasca”);
- Puka ayahuasca (Quechua word for “Red ayahuasca”);
Yura ayahuasca (Quechua word for “White ayahuasca”);- Allpa ayahuasca
(Quechua for “earth ayahuasca”), or “ayahuasca de la tierra” (in
- Rayo ayahuasca (Spanish name for “ray ayahuasca”, often another
name for the “Cielo ayahuasca” variety), and:
- Cascabel ayahuasca (Spanish name for “rattle ayahuasca”,
possibly the most potent variety known).
Cooking of the Ayahuasca brew in the Amazon, the traditional way
Ayahuasca brew – which has very powerful miracle consciousness-expanding
properties is prepared by boiling for several hours (from six-eight to
fourteen, depending on where and by whom it is made) the pounded,
scraped stems of the Cielo Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi) vine,
together with the leaves of the Chacruna (Psychotria viridis) fresh
green or dried green shrub.
Sometimes other plant ingredients too are added, the most common of
which are usually the black jungle tobacco called Mapacho (Nicotiana
tabacum/Nicotiana rustica), the leaves of the shrub Chagropanga
(Diplopterys cabrerana), along with few leaves of the powerful herb
Toe’ (Brugmansia suavolens) plant.
Chagropanga – also well known by the name of Ojo Yajé - and Huambisa
(Diplopterys sp.) may be combined with, as as well as being a
substitute of, the Chacruna plant in the making of the Ayahuasca brew.
Toe’: a plant of the Solanaceae family, somehow affiliated to the
Datura – has beautiful bell-shaped flowers and is always used very
sparingly by indigenous and mestizo shamans. It’s a very toxic plant
which demands extreme care in preparations. Don Alfredo – being also a
Toesero (i.e. a shaman specialized in healing with Toe’) – only add two
leaves of Toe’ in the Ayahuasca concoction he prepares, although actual
quantities employed may vary from shaman to shaman.
maestro shaman has his or her own (often jealously and secretly kept)
recipe, and hardly exist two which can be considered the same, for
ingredients used, and time and way of cooking and preparing the brew.
Banisteriopsis caapi vine and teas are a source of various harmala
alkaloids (like harmine, harmaline, and others) once called Telepathine
and Banisterine – and all of which are monoamine oxidase inhibitors
(MAOI). The low percentage (0.3% to 1.2%) of harmala alkaloids present
in the Banisteriopsis vine is usually not enough – taken on its own –
to trigger psychotropic effects, which may otherwise be slightly
experienced with the intake of an higher concentration.
all identified species of Banisteriopsis in the entire Amazon basin,
the most common one used by the shamans in Peru, is the Cielo ayahuasca
variety, believed to induce heavenly visions (cielo means “heaven” in
Spanish). It also goes under the common name of Ayahuasca amarilla
(“yellow ayahuasca”, in Spanish). There is also an immense variety of
recipes for the preparation of the brew, which have the purpose of
enhancing the experience of taking the Ayahuasca, boosting the power of
mareacion (inebriation and intoxication following the drinking of the
brew), in either length or quality/intensity, or both. Specifically,
theChagropanga (Diplopterys cabrerana), used more widely in the
Colombian part of the Amazon – is a powerful source of 5-MeO-DMT.
The most essential ingredients of the brew in the Peruvian Amazon
remain the ayahuasca vine and the leaves of the chacruna shrub.
Ayahuasca brew – as prepared by Shipibo master shaman contains these
two essential ingredients, with the addition of Toe’, Mapacho (black
jungle tobacco) and Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi) leaves.
Chagropanga and Huambisa may also be added at times as a substitute for
– or in addition to- the the Chacruna, to further enhance the potency
of the brew.
Some Shipibo shamans say that using too many plant
additives in the making of the concoction may not be the correct thing
to do, as one would first need to properly diet with each and every one
of these other plants, instead than taking them directly through the
Ayahuasca brew without previous meditation preparation. Doing otherwise
– i.e. taking the shortcut of adding too many plants without “knowing”
them first through a proper dieta - could only make the potential side
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