Category Archives: drumming

Shamanism and Divination

The Multi-dimensional Cosmos of the shaman

Shamanism and DivinationIn shamanism, there is another kind of time, not linear or sequential but a time which is one single moment. This vast ever moving moment has no boundaries which separate the past, present and future. This is a time in which anything which has ever happened to anybody anywhere, somewhere it is still happening. The shaman travels ‘outside’ of linear time into this vast unending ever-moving moment to seek the information at the place where this event is happening.

One of the main gateways to this vast moment of time or universal consciousness is our own powers of imagination coupled with the three fundamental principles of expanded perception;

1.Intention All actions begin with an intention, a desire for a specific outcome. The principle of intention operates on two levels, the obvious , ‘this is what I want to do’, and the subtle level , i.e. it is a signal or alert to energy to be prepared to move to a certain destination.

2.Trust Trust is an ineffable quality, it is experienced in the body, not the mind. Trust takes time, and to get trust we need feedback which either directly or indirectly validates our experience. With trust our experiences and confidence in our actions increase significantly.

3.Attention This is about the application and focus of energy and intention. Attention is not ‘hard-work’ yet it needs consistency, to place your awareness at the interface of events or places….. Energy flows where Attention goes.

Shamanism is not a system of belief or faith, it is a system of knowledge, and divination is one of the paths to gain direct knowledge. Direct knowledge can be defined as that which is experienced first hand by the senses. Divination is not ‘fortune telling’, it is a way to a deeper understanding of events and influences surrounding a situation or person. Divination has always been an integral part of shamanism. One of the most important roles of the shaman has been to seek revelatory knowledge from visionary sources, which may be for healing purposes, “why has this person become ill?” “what medicine does this person need?, or important communal needs “where are the herds of caribou?”, divination is also often used to get meaning from dreams and visions.

Divination is as old as humanity, but unfortunately in mainstream Western society it has been regarded as something primitive, irrational, and pandering to superstition. Divination is simply a way of revealing the truth. The diviner reveals or uncovers to their client hidden truths about themselves, or the circumstances surrounding them. In societies outside the West, divining continues to play an important role, revealing that which is hidden, easing anxiety, and helping in coming to terms with challenging circumstances that may demand the implementation of difficult decisions.

In divination, the role of the shaman is to act as a mediator or ‘middle-man’. The shaman by exploring and providing the initial reading and interpretation allows the seeker of this information to avoid projecting personal wants, desires, and wishes if the question or situation is emotionally charged.

Divinatory methods

The shamans used many diverse methods for divination, either ways seeking patterns in natural objects and events, or using techniques to directly obtain hidden knowledge. An example of the former could be the practice of divination with rocks.

Rock Divination To do this the traditional practice is for the seeker looks for a rock whilst holding the question in the mind, eventually there will be a rock which stands out or ‘metaphorically’ shouts out “me, me!”. Here is an opportunity to practice the principle of trust!. As a helpful tip the more faceted and inner forms the rock has the better as more facets and patterns mean more detail will be available to the reader. The seeker should then give the rock to the shaman or practitioner and state the question. The shaman (who knows as little as possible about the questioner or the circumstances regarding the question) will gently focus on the rock and allow patterns to form within the imagination. The shaman may ask the seeker to state the question a few times as this helps to deepen the trance state of awareness, to the place where the shapes and patterns in the rock become a ‘gateway’ directly into the universal field of energy, and images, pictures, words, feelings will start to form within the shaman’s being. Each rock face represents a different aspect of the question, and the initial response is generally “where the questioner is at this moment”, and this leads to other rock faces, each rock face exposing and presenting an expanded view of the answer. To me personally this work is awesome, mysterious and poetic, and I have found that is as if a person’s life story is contained in a rock.

Sunbeam Divination Journey An example of a specific technique to discover hidden knowledge is the Sunbeam divination journey of the Labrador Naskapi shamans. This journey has a single specific purpose to find out the physical location of a person, object, or place where an event will take place. In this practice no information will be given about the object, person etc only it’s location. One can see the usefulness and practicality of this technique, for example to help hunters locate game animals, or the to find out and rescue a lost member of the tribe and so on. I have used this practice many times often to locate lost keys or the wallet of a client!

An Exercise – Naskapi Sunbeam Divination Journey.

First meditate or reflect on what you want to locate or know the whereabouts of, remember the first principle of Intention. When ready, find a place where you will not be disturbed for half hour or so, darken the room, and lay down and relax. Note: It is best if you have tape for shamanic journeying drumming (which will smooth the transition into expanded states of awareness). In the imagination, the launch-pad into multi-dimensional perception, go to a place where you can visualise, perceive, or sense being in the open landscape. Sense being fully in this place, experience your feet on the ground and the ground pushing up against the soles of your feet, experience the air and the wind on your face, become fully present in this landscape, and when ready look up to the sky where the sun will be, with the question firmly in your mind, ask the sun to show you the location or whereabouts of what it is you are searching for. Typically a particular sunbeam will either shine brightly or capture your attention in one way or another, follow this beam of sunlight, you may even experience yourself flying over the landscape, and where this specific sunbeam touches the ground, that is where the location is. When you recognise the location, and can correlate it to an actual physical place, it is then time to return. So turn around and go back to the place where you started from, and when you have returned, gently feel yourself back in the physical world, and gently open your eyes.

Remembering the second principle of trust, check the information out, try and get verification of the validity of the journey, keep on doing this until you have developed trust and the confidence will then follow.

Shamanic Trance Postures.

Another form of specific techniques is the body of work known as Shamanic Trance Postures. They take the form of certain precise bodily postures. These postures are gateways to an altered state of consciousness, and visionary experiences. This body of knowledge originates from ancient civilisations and many indigenous cultures throughout the world. Rediscovered in the 1970’s by the renowned anthropologist Felicitas Goodman, these postures are a piece of living history from our heritage of spiritual tradition.

It involves holding non-strenuous, but precise physical positions together with an accompanying rhythmic sound eg. Shamanic drumming or rattling. There are a number of specific postures for divinatory purposes, for example the Nupe people in sub-Saharan Africa, use these ritual postures, and in the one that their divinatory shamans work with gives the experience of detachment and a dispassionate persepective of the question.

An Exercise – Nupe Divination Posture

Once again meditate or focus on your question, as with this work it really helps if the question is sharp, no ‘ifs’, ‘shoulds’ , ‘but’ and so on, get your question as razor honed as possible.

Sit on the floor, leaning toward your left and supported by your left arm. Hold your left arm rigid, with your hand at a right angle to your body. Place your left hand at a spot three to five inches to the left of your body and just behind a straight line drawn along the back of your buttocks. Bend both legs at the knees with both feet pointing to the right, positioned so that your left foot is resting just to the left of your right knee. Place your right hand on your lower left leg, where the muscle indents about halfway down your calf. Move your head slightly to the left, so you are looking over your left knee, and close your eyes.

If possible listen to a shamanic drumming or rattling tape, as this will enhance the visionary potential and makes the experience smoother, and more powerful. Allow the visionary imagery , or just simple ‘knowing’ to take place, when you have a sense of an answer (even if you do not understand it rationally) just gently release yourself from the posture, and come back fully into the present. If an answer is not immediately understood, incubate it, play with it, draw or paint it, this is important as the answer is not always addressed to the rational mind. Being with the imagery or vision will often lead to a deep and profound revelation.

To conclude there are many other ways of divination in shamanism many which underlie well known practices eg; divination with quartz crystals, casting of objects, Scrying.

As the Tungus shamans of Siberia say “we are all connected, we are all one”. So is it no wonder that we can discover ourselves through the natural world.

Howard G. Charing, is an accomplished international workshop leader on shamanism. He has worked some of the most respected and extraordinary shamans & healers in the Andes, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Philippines. He organises specialist retreats to the Amazon Rainforest at the dedicated centre located in the Mishana nature reserve. He is the author of the best selling book, Plant Spirit Shamanism (Destiny Books USA).
Visit our website

Tagged , , , , , ,

San Pedro the Cactus of Vision – Plant Spirit Shamanism of Northern Peru

Juan Navarro with MesaShamans from different cultures and traditions have been using psychoactive plants since the dawn of human emergence. These plants have been used traditionally for guidance, divination, healing, maintaining a balance with the spirit or consciousness of the living world.

Howard G. Charing and Peter Cloudsley talk with Maestro Juan Navarro

You can view the original article which first appeared in Sacred Hoop Magazine (Summer 2004 edition) on Howard’s website at; San Pedro Article & Interview with Juan Navarro

The hallucinogenic San Pedro cactus has been used since ancient times, and in Peru the tradition has been unbroken for over 3,000 years. The earliest depiction of the cactus is a carving showing a mythological being holding a San Pedro, and dates from about 1300 bc. It comes from the Chavín culture (c.1400-400 bce) and was found in a temple at Chavín de Huantar, in the northern highlands of Peru. Later, the Mochica culture, (c.500 ce) used the cactus in their iconography. Even in present day mythology, it is told that God hid the keys to heaven in a secret place and San Pedro used the magical powers of a cactus to discover this place; later the cactus was named after him.

La Mesa Norteña

Juan Navarro was born in the highland village of Somate, department of Piura. He is a descendant of a long lineage of healers and shamans working with the magical powers of the sacred lakes known as Las Huaringas which stand at 4,000 metres and have been revered since earliest Peruvian civilization. At the age of eight, Juan made his first pilgrimage to Las Huaringas, and took San Pedro for the first time. Every month or two it is necessary to return here to accumulate energy and protection to heal his people. As well as locals and Limeños (people from Lima), pilgrims also come from many parts of South America.

During the sessions Juan works untiringly, assisted by his two sons – as is common in this traditions – in an intricate sequence of processes, including invocation, diagnosis, divination, and healing with natural objects, or artes. The artes are initially placed on the maestro’s altar or mesa, and picked up when required during the ceremony. These artes are an astonishing and beautiful array of shells, swords, magnets, quartzes, objects resembling sexual organs, rocks which spark when struck together, and stones from animals’ stomachs which they have swallowed to aid digestion! The artes are collected from pre-Colombian tombs, and sacred energetic places, particularly Las Huaringas.They bring magical qualities to the ceremony where, under the visionary influence of San Pedro, their invisible powers may be experienced. The maestro’s mesa – a weaving placed on the ground on which all the artes are placed, (mesa also means ‘table’ in Spanish) – is a representation of the forces of nature and the cosmos.Through the mesa the shaman is able to work with and influence these forces to diagnose and heal disease.

The traditional mesa norteña has three areas: on the left is the campo ganadero or ‘field of the dark’; on the right is the campo justiciero or the ‘field of the light’ (justiciero means justice); and in the centre is the campo medio or ‘neutral field’, which is the place of balance between the forces of light and dark. It is important for us not to look at these forces as positive or negative – it is what we human beings do with these forces which is important. Although the contents and form of the artes varies from tradition to tradition, the mesa rituals serve to remind us that the use and power of symbols extends throughout all cultures.
San Pedro Cactus

San Pedro (trichocereus pachanoi) grows on the dry eastern slopes of the Andes, between 2,000 – 3,000 metres above sea level, and commonly reaches six metres or more in height. It is also grown by local shamans in their herb gardens. As can be imagined, early European missionaries held the native practices in considerable contempt, and indeed were very negative when reporting the use of the San Pedro. Yet a Spanish missionary, cited by Christian Rätsch, grudgingly admitted the cactus’ medicinal value in the midst of a tirade reviling it: “It is a plant with whose aid the devil is able to strengthen the Indians in their idolatry; those who drink its juice lose their senses and are as if dead; they are almost carried away by the drink and dream a thousand unusual things and believe that they are true. The juice is good against burning of the kidneys and, in small amounts, is also good against high fever, hepatitis, and burning in the bladder.” A shaman’s account of the cactus is in radical contrast:

“It first … produces … drowsiness or a dreamy state and a feeling of lethargy … a slight dizziness … then a great ‘vision’, a clearing of all the faculties … it produces a light numbness in the body and afterward a tranquillity. And then comes detachment, a type of visual force … inclusive of all the senses … including the sixth sense, the telepathic sense of transmitting oneself across time and matter … like a kind of removal of one’s thought to a distant dimension.”

San Pedro, considered the ‘maestro of the maestros’, enables the shaman to make a bridge between the visible and the invisible world for his people.The Quechua name for it is punku, which means ‘doorway’. The doorway connects the patient’s body to his spirit; to heal the body we must heal the spirit. San Pedro can show us the psychic causes of illness intuitively or in mythical dream language. The effects of San Pedro work through various stages, beginning with an expanded physical awareness in the body. Soon this is followed by euphoric feelings and then, after several hours, psychic and visionary effects become more noticeable.

******* ******* *******
Talking with Juan Navarro

What is the relationship of the maestro with San Pedro?

In the north of Peru the power of San Pedro works in combination with tobacco. Also the sacred lakes Las Huaringas are very important. This is where we go to find the most powerful healing herbs which we use to energize our people. For example we use dominio [linking one’s intent with the spirit power of the plants] to give strength and protection from supernatural forces such as sorcery and negative thoughts. It is also put into the seguros – amulet bottles filled with perfume, plants and seeds gathered from Las Huaringas. You keep them in your home for protection and to make your life go well. These plants do not have any secondary effects on the nervous system, nor do they provoke hallucinations. San Pedro has strength and is mildly hallucinatory, but you cannot become addicted. It doesn’t do any harm to your body, rather it helps the maestro to see what the problem is with his patient. Of course some people have this gift born in them – as our ancestors used to say, it is in the blood of a shaman.

Is San Pedro a ‘teacher plant’?

Of course, but it has a certain mystery.You have to be compatible with it because it doesn’t work for everybody.The shaman has a special relationship with it. It circulates in the body of the patient and where it finds abnormality it enables the shaman to detect it. It lets him know the pain they feel and whereabouts it is. So it is the link between patient and maestro. It also purifies the blood of the person who drinks it. It balances the nervous system so people lose their fears, frights and traumas, and it charges people with positive energy. Everyone must drink so that the maestro can connect with them. Only the dose may vary from person to person because not everyone is as strong.

What about the singado? (inhalation of tobacco juice through the nostrils)

The tobacco leaf is left for two to three months in contact with honey, and when required for the singado it is macerated with aguardiente, or alcohol. How it functions depends on which nostril is used; when taken in by the left side it is for liberating us of negative energy, including psychosomatic ills, pains in the body, bad influences of other people – or ‘envy’ as we call it here. As you take it in you must concentrate on the situation which is going badly, or the person which is giving out a negative energy.

When taken through the right nostril it is for rehabilitating and energizing, so that your projects go well. It’s not for getting high on. Afterwards you can spit the tobacco out or swallow it, it doesn t matter. It has an interrelation with the san pedro in the body, and intensifies the visionary effects.

Tobacco is an important plant in the ceremonies – can you smoke in the session? No, no, no. It may be the same plant but here another element comes into play, which is fire. As the session is carried out in darkness, the fire in the darkness can perturb, create a negative reflection or vision. It can cause trauma.

You use a chungana (rattle) during the san pedro sessions and I ‘see’ the sound as a beam of a light penetrating the darkness. Yes, sound and light are interrelated. Chunganas are used to invoke the spirits of the dead, whether of family or of great healers, so that they may feel comfortable with us. the chunganas are to give us ‘enchantment’ (protection and positive energy) and it has a relaxing effect when taking san pedro.

What is the power of the artes – the objects on the mesa?

They come from Las Huaringas, where a special energy is bestowed on everything, including the healing herbs which grow there and nowhere else. If you bathe in the lakes it takes away all your ills. You bathe with the intention of leaving everything negative behind. People go there to leave their enemies behind, so they can’t do them any harm. After bathing, the maestro cleanses you with these artes, swords, bars, chontas (bamboo staffs), saints, and even huacos (the powers from ancient sacred sites). They ‘flourish’ you – spraying you with agua florida (perfume) and herb macerations, and giving you sweet things like limes and honey, so your life flourishes. We maestros also need to go to Las Huaringas regularly because we make enemies from healing people, so we need to protect ourselves. The reason for this is that two forces exist: the good and the bad. The bad forces are from the pacts which the brujos (sorcerors with negative
intentions) make with the devil. The brujo is the rival of the curandero or healer. So when the curandero heals, he makes an enemy of the brujo. It’s not so much because he sends the bad magic back, as because he does the opposite thing to him, and they want supremacy in the battle. Not far from Las Huaringas is a place called Sondor, which has its own lakes. This is where evil magic is practiced and where they do harm in a variety of ways. I know because as a curandero I must know how sorcery is practiced, in order to defend myself and my patients.

Do people go there secretly?

Of course no one admits to going there, but they pass through Huancabamba just like the others who are going to Las Huaringas. I know various people who practice bad magic at a distance.They do it using physical means, concentrating, summoning up a person’s soul, knowing their characteristics etc. and can make them suffer an accident, or make an organ ill or whatever, or make their work go badly wrong.They have the power to get to their spirit. And people can even do harm to themselves. For example, if a person has bad intentions towards another and that person is well protected with an encanto, (amulet) then he will do himself harm.

How does the ‘rastreo’ (diagnosis through psychic means) work? Are you in an altered state?

No, I’m completely normal and lucid. What allows the reading of a person’s past, present or future, is the strength of the san pedro and tobacco. It is an innate capability -not everybody has the gift, you can’t learn it from someone, it is inherited. The perceptions come through any one of the senses – sound, vision, smell, or a feeling inside of what the person is feeling, a weakness, a pain or whatever. Sometimes, for instance, a bad taste in the mouth may indicate a bad liver. All the things on the mesa are perfectly normal, natural things: chontas, swords, stones etc. They have just received a treatment – like a radio tuned to a certain frequency – so they can heal particular things, weaknesses or whatever. But always it is necessary to concentrate on the sacred lakes, Las Huaringas.

Is it necessary for the maestro to take San Pedro to have vision?

Of course, he must take San Pedro and tobacco. But it is to protect himself from the person’s negativity and illness, not because he needs it to have the vision.

In conclusion, we must acknowledge that we, as humans, have realised from earliest times that knowledge goes beyond sensory awareness or the rational way of understanding the world. San pedro can take us directly to a telepathic communion and show us that there is no such thing as an inanimate object. Everything in the universe is alive and has a spirit. This is the gift of the plants which offer us a doorway into the infinite.

Juan Navarro was born in the highland village of Somate, department of Piura. He is a descendant of a long lineage of healers and shamans working with the magical powers of Las Huaringas.

For Details of Eagle’s Wing Andean and Amazonian Retreats, visit our website

Andean and Amazonian Retreat Programme

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Coca and the Sacred Plants of the Incas – The Timeless World of the Andes

The Incas regarded coca as ‘the divine plant’ mainly because of its property of imparting endurance, nevertheless its use was entwined with every aspect of life; the art, mythology, culture and economy of the Inca Empire.

Millions of Indians have chewed coca on a daily basis for many hundreds of years, yet never has a plant been so misrepresented and its use so controlled by prejudice and ignorance, including up to the present day. The Conquistadors considered it an idle and offensive habit to be prohibited, but it was soon seen that the Indians could not work without coca even when forced to do so.

Coca Diviner and Healer, Doris Rivera Lenz at an Oferenda CeremonyThe coca leaf has been sacred to Andean people since the dawn of pre-Colombian civilization. Doris Rivera Lenz, a renowned Andean Ceremonialist, healer, and Coca leaf Diviner, when asked about the source of the information she divines from them, she says:

They give me such a powerful awareness it is as though an energy comes into me from just touching them. I invoke Mother Nature and the spirit of the coca, and with just seven leaves, the answer comes, as though through an open doorway.

An ancient method of diagnosing illness, still common in Peru, is to rub an egg over the body of the patient. Doris is gifted in this tradition and prescribes remedies which include medicinal herbs.

Much Andean wisdom is based on observation of nature, noting for example, that if the ducks go round in circles, there will be long rains, etc… Involvement with nature prevents the mind from becoming mechanical, can see that it is constantly nurturing us and helping us to grow.

The ofrenda
An ‘ofrenda’ is the most important ceremony used by Andean Indians to relate with Mother Earth. The ofrenda is a symbol of reciprocity with nature and its purpose is to teach us to reproduce this attitude. Through it we speak back to nature saying we understand the message and concord.

The ofrenda which is also known in Spanish as a ‘pago’, is not
a ‘payment’ to nature as the Conquistadores saw it, implying a sinister pact with nature spirits. Additionally, they accused the Indians of being miserly because they preferred to pay symbolically rather than with real money!

An ofrenda is an expression of gratitude, not of debt or obligation.
Neither is it selfish to want things for ourselves as some people see it even today. It is true that urban people in Peru have started to make ofrendas for reasons such as wanting their businesses to flourish, but good business can equally imply good health, and harmony to the community and for the natural world.

In an Andean community realities are closer to earth than they are in the city, it is more important that the cattle do not die than to have more private possessions. Hence in the country there is a better understanding of the shamanic meaning of the ceremony, the re-establishing of relationship to nature. This is why we need a little preparation so that an ofrenda can work for us too.


We live in a time of the fulfilment of an ancient Inca prophecy. This is the time of the new Pachacuti, a great change bringing with it a new relating to the Earth (Pachamama). Each Pachacuti is a era of time about 500 years. The last Pachacuti occurred with the Conquest in the early 16th century, and the Q’ero (Inca) priests have been waiting ever since for the next era, when order would start to emerge from chaos. The current Pachacuti refers to the end of time as we understand it, the end or death of a way of thinking and a way of being. A new relationship with the living Earth, and an emergence into a golden age of peace. There are many indications that changes in human consciousness are taking place, yet there is still a long way to go. It is part of Doris’s vision to show us traditional ways that we can re-engage with the sacredness of life and the Earth so we too can more fully participate in the new Pachacuti.

Howard G. Charing, is an accomplished international workshop leader on shamanism. He has worked some of the most respected and extraordinary shamans & healers in the Andes, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Philippines. He organises specialist retreats to the Amazon Rainforest He is the author of the best selling book, Plant Spirit Shamanism (Destiny Books USA), and has published numerous articles about plant medicines.

Ayahuasca and Yoga Retreats in the Amazon Rainforest

Sunset at Mishana Private Retreat Centre

Ayahuasca & Yoga – Amazon Retreat: July 19th – August 2nd 2008

with optional extension week; August 3rd – 9th 2008

A dedicated programme in the Amazon rainforest, which is focussed on an inner and deep self-exploration and encounter with the power of the rainforest. This is an adventure into the magical world of the rainforest, and a transformative experience of the ancient mystical rituals of the plant spirit medicines. This programme will take place in the Mishana Private Retreat Centre. We have 57 Hectares (140 acres) of land with a lodge in the Allpahuayo Mishana Nature reserve.

Our lodge is located directly on the river which is part of a 58,070 hectare nature reserve. Due to a combination of geological factors and diverse soil types, the reserve supports a unique community of plant and animal species. It is the ‘jewel’ in the crown for bird-watchers and contains dozens of species which are unique to this area. The Reserve contains one of the highest biodiversities known in the Amazon basin. The Lodge is located directly on the Rio Nanay which is a tributary of the Amazon River. Our lodge is situated in-between two bends of the river giving an amazing panoramic view . We have our own boat so trips can be made to some interesting, and extraordinarily beautiful places along the river.

The lodge is a 2 hour river journey from Iquitos by power boat. We have the dedicated services of our maestro shaman. Included in the program are individual personal healing or consultative sessions based upon your personal needs by our shaman. The maestro will also provide experiential teachings about the fascinating medicinal and psycho-spiritual properties of the local plants. Participants can choose their plant medicine which will be made fresh for them. Our accommodation is in comfortable traditional cabins or tambos (dieting huts), a leaf roof supported by poles and with open sides (the most intimate way to sleep in the jungle). The beds benefit from a comfortable mattress and fly nets when necessary. The tambos are spread out to assure privacy and minimum disturbance from others.

Participants have a choice of using either the cabins in the ‘Casa Grande’ annex or tambos for their retreat. During the day when there are no activities, there will be hammocks to relax in, and you can read, or wander into the forest, or swim in the river (there is a small sandy beach). Our ceremonies and meeting will be held in either the Casa Grande with an open platform on stilts directly on the river with a magnificent view of the rainforest and star filled sky. or our maloca (ceremonial temple), a large circular tambo made of natural materials and shaped like a womb. We will eat our meals in the lodge, the traditional meeting place, where food is cooked on a wood fire.

Single Accommodation

One of the unique characteristics of this programme is that we offer single accommodation throughout both in the hotels in Lima, Iquitos, and at our Centre in Mishana. This ensures that participants can obtain the maximum benefit from their encounter with the plants. The Diet really needs to be taken in solitude and personal retreat without distractions. This is a defining characteristic of this programme. Typically other programmes do not offer this and dormitory / shared accommodation is usually the rule. Our Tambos (individual accommodation huts) are all different and are spread out, some with more isolation than others and we also have individual accommodation rooms in the wing of our Casa Grande for those who would prefer being close to the main facilities.

Our intention in this journey is to provide the conditions and orientation to enable participants to follow a proper diet, and for it to be as near as possible to what indigenous people have done for thousands of years, (although we can avoid unnecessary hardship, in any case a diet is not a trial of endurance). The diet is a journey of self-exploration and the maestro is there to give support, It is more important that the shaman is an evolved and impeccable person, who will guide us to learn for ourselves and benefit from our experiences in safety.

Participants will undertake to ‘diet’ a plant for a full six to eight days, selecting their plant from a range of options which will be explained by the maestro and depend on individual requirements. Some plants are good for specific ailments as, for example Chuchahuasi for arthritis and other bone conditions, although there is always a magical world opened up by the plant spirit. Other plants have specific spiritual benefits. Chirisanango and Ushpahuasanango, for example, open up the heart and are healing to emotions. Guayusa works very curiously on one’s dreams, affording an experience of being conscious while in fact asleep or dreaming.

The plants used will all be compatible with Ayahuasca so that we can benefit from the plant diet during Ayahuasca ceremonies. There will be a programme of talks, exercises, individual sessions and group meetings without prejudicing the spirit of the diet. This is a way to learn from observation and intimate contact with nature, practical artistic exercises using local materials. We will participate in the gathering and preparation of Ayahuasca, a prolonged ritual in which power is invoked from the planta maestra. We will learn about healing plants and how to find them.

The Shamans
We are very delighted to have secured the services of some of the most experienced shamans in the region, during our Retreats we will work with one of the following shamans; Enrique Lopez (Shipibo), Artidoro Aro Cardenas, and Leoncio Garcia (Shipibo).

Enrique Lopez

Is a Shipibo shaman, he is originally from the Shipibo community of Roaboya on the River Ucayali. He started his apprenticeship as a shaman with his grandfather when he was 10 years old. We worked with Enrique at our last retreat, and found his ayahuasca to be very potent. His chants are all in the native Shipibo language which adds another dimension to the ceremonies. Enrique is knowledgeable about plant medicines and diets. The Shipibo people are regarded as masters of Ayahuasca. Enrique has a gentle and caring quality in his work with our participants.

Artidoro Aro Cardenas
We have worked with Maestro Artidoro on many of our previous Amazon Retreats, and again we were greatly impressed with his knowledge of medicinal and power plants, and his compassion and support for the participants. Although Artidoro is Mestizo he has lived amongst the Ashaninka Indians for many years, and has learned their languages which result in that many of his chants come from a variety of indigenous groups including the Ashaninka, Cashibo, and Capanaua .He has started his own centre near Iquitos.

Leoncio Garcia
The Shipibo maestro is now in his mid 70’s with the appearance of a man in his 50’s. He was born in the Shipibo community of San Francisco by Yarina Cocha (an oxbow lake near Pucullpa). On a number of occasions he has worked with medical doctors in various cities in Peru. Don Leoncio also founded a healing centre near Nina Rumi on the Rio Nanay.

Yoga in the AmazonOver the last years we have included an ad-hoc yoga component on our retreats working with different teachers. Since we have been working closer with Eugene we have decided to integrate this fully into our Retreat programme. Our experience with yoga retreats has been very positive and there is definitely a synergy between the practices.

Ayahuasca and Yoga RetreatEugene Bersuker is a Yoga teacher, trained in India, Shivananda Saraswati School of Yoga. Traditional Hatha and Yoga for Healing. Yoga postures and meditations used to relieve tensions, purify mind/body, and raise vibrations. An instructor in Chi Gong, and Eugene is also a Licensed Massage Therapist – Swedish and Shiatsu.

Click for info on our Ayahuasca and Yoga Retreats

Click to View some of our Photo Galleries;

March 2008 Retreat – Photos

November 2007 Retreat

January 2007 Retreat Photos

January 2005 Retreat photos

Our Retreat Centre at Mishana – Photos

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ayahuasca and Visionary Plants – Companions to the Soul

The visionary plants and ancient traditions of the plant shamans reveal a hidden universe, in which the separation between the physical and the unseen universe is an illusion caused by our limited sensory perception. The body and soul permeates and infuses each other. The plant teachers show us a path to an expanded consciousness and communion with our sacred source, our soul companion.

Pablo Amaringo with Howard G Charing.Writing from my own personal perspective from my years of work and research in the Amazon Rainforest with the shamans and curanderos who drink the visionary plant brew called Ayahuasca. I use the term ‘shaman’ as a convenience as this title has only been ‘imported’ from the West into the Amazon quite recently in the past thirty years or so. A more appropriate general term could be ‘vegatilista’ or a seer and healer who work with plants from not only the physical or medicinal aspect but who are also in communion with the soul of the plant. in addition there are many ‘sub’ specialities, so a shaman who primarily works with chonta (a hard palm wood) is known as a chontero , a shaman who works with the aromas and scents of the plants is called a perfumero, and a shaman who works with ayahuasca is known as an ayahuasqero.

Ayahuasca is a combination of two plants (although other plants are added to elicit certain visionary experiences or healing purposes). This mixture of two plants the Ayahuasca vine and the Chacruna leaf, operate in a specific manner with our neuro-chemistry. The leaf contains the neuro transmitters of the tryptamine family (identical to those present in our brain) and the vine itself acts as an inhibitor to prevent our body’s enzymes from breaking the tryptamines down thereby making it inert. Science defines this as the MAOI effect (Monoamine Anti Oxide Inhibitor) and forms the basis for many of the widespread anti-depressant pharmaceutical medication such as Prozac and Seroxat. This MAOI principal was only discovered by Western Science in the 1950’s, yet interestingly this very principle has been known by the plant shamans for thousands of years, and when you ask the shamans how they knew this, the response is invariably “the plants told us”.

Ayahuasca has revealed to me more of the great dream of the Earth, and how disconnected we have become from our relationship with the living planet. I experienced the evolutionary process of DNA. Shown that many of the problems that we experience as a species is because we are primates, and even though humankind has done everything possible to dissociate ourselves from our animal origins, we remain driven by our animal glands and hormonal systems. Yet at the same time, we are in harmony with our higher state of consciousness that approaches that of dolphins, who are aware and in conscious communion as part of a soul mind.

This great question, the mystery of the communion of mind, soul, and body is a search that we humans have been on since we first raised our eyes to the night sky in wonder. Some of the ancient myths of the jungle from the Ashuar people of the Upper Amazon tell us of this separation, the myth of the ‘Moon Man’ as collected by Alonso Del Rio from Peru is such a one;

‘In the time of the ancestors there was a ladder, like a rope which connected the world of the Ashuar with the upper world. Here lived other beings just like the Ashuar but they were spirits. These beings were very powerful and could transform themselves into anything they wanted. One day Moon-man cut this ladder so that the people could no longer communicate with their spirits above, and thus they lost their power. ‘

In the Ashuar tradition the Moon Man is associated with the analytical mind and it is “rational thinking” therefore which has severed our sacred connection to the cosmic mind. This legend therefore speaks of humanity’s need to reunite with the consciousness of the universe, using the rope (ayahuasca) to climb our way back to the oneness we once knew. Only then can we re-enchant the world through imagination and inspiration. If we look deeply into our hearts can we say that we are any different from the indigenous peoples of the rainforest? The reflections of Carl Jung in his book, Modern Man in Search of a Soul point to the very same dilemma as the peoples of the Amazon;

<i>”If we are still caught by the old idea of an antithesis between mind and matter, the present state of affairs means an unbearable contradiction; it may even divide us against ourselves. But if we can reconcile ourselves with the mysterious truth that spirit is the living body seen from within, and the body the outer manifestation of the living spirit – the two really being one — then we can understand why it is that the attempt to transcend the present level of consciousness must give its due to the body. We shall also see that belief in the body cannot tolerate an outlook that denies the body in the name of the spirit.”</i>

The visionary plants and ancient traditions of the plant shamans reveal a hidden universe, in which the separation between the physical and the unseen universe is an illusion caused by our limited sensory perception. The body and soul permeates and infuses each other. The plant teachers show us a path to an expanded consciousness and communion with our sacred source, our soul companion.

;Howard G. Charing, is an accomplished international workshop leader on shamanism. He has worked some of the most respected and extraordinary shamans & healers in the Andes, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Philippines. He organises specialist retreats to the Amazon Rainforest at the dedicated centre located in the Mishana nature reserve. He is the author of the best selling book, Plant Spirit Shamanism (Destiny Books USA). His website:

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: