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Interview with Shipibo Ayahuasca Shaman Enrique Lopez in the Amazon Rainforest of Peru – Part 2


The second part of an interview with Shipibo Shaman Enrique Lopez. Interviewed at Mishana, Amazon Rainforest Peru, by Howard G Charing and Peter Cloudsley, November 2007. Enrique discusses his early years in the indigenous Shipibo community in the Ucayali region of the Amazon Rainforest in Peru. Enrique talks about the Shipibo views on Ayahuasca and medicinal plants.

Interview with Shipibo Ayahuasca Shaman Enrique Lopez in the Amazon Rainforest of PeruTell us about the use of Tobacco.

Tobacco is very necessary for a shaman’s work. Smoke protects against enemies and badness crossing your path. Before you light a mapacho you icaro it, then you blow the smoke onto your body before the session begins. You can also cure a child of susto (fright) by blowing smoke over it but babies are very sensitive and if very small, they can be made worse – cutipado – in which case you use agua florida. You can also chant to it and the mother’s milk.

What is your state of mind and vision when you go around to each person before the session, blowing tobacco (mapacho) smoke?

I am asking the ayahuasca to give every one a good mareacion, or vision. The tobacco makes a kind of bridge with the ayahuasca. We normally prefer the cashimbo (Shipibo pipe) in a ceremony not mapacho cigarettes. It has a strong effect, and also calms people when the effects are too strong.

Some shamans drink pure juice of tobacco macerated with alcohol instead of ayahusca. First he drinks and goes off into another world and has a green vision. That means patterns only.

Sometimes the animals and things you see, have patterns on their skin. It happens when you sing in Shipibo, how do explain this?

What I do when I chant is to call the animals for protection. Otorongos may come near to us but sometimes they get too near and are ferocious and out of control. This can be caused by an enemy who has found a way to harm me. The thick bark and seeds of the Ayauma tree is good to protect against this. You take a vapor bath in it before the session.

Camalonga (a seed) is good too, it returns the harm from where it came and the wrong doer becomes ill. Lupuna and Catauhua are also good against brujeria (bad magic). Huayruro is not so much used.

Ajo sacha can be used in protective baths, for illnesses like arthritis, and as a powerful teacher. It makes you hard working, turns around a run of bad luck – saladera, helps you in fishing and hunting. You can also pour the ajosacha up the nose of the dog to make a good hunting dog. Also loose women (pishcotas) can be cured with ajosacha.

I left Roaboya in 1998 and went to live in Trujillo to sell healing plants and ointments made from boa, otorongo, bufeo colorado etc. I found many charlatans there selling any old thing. I worked mainly with banos florales and didn’t use ayahuasca. I also felt a lot of envy from people there, and once it made me very ill. I couldn’t walk, and was urinating blood so I went to Lima by bus and from there to Tingo Maria where it got much worse, and I only just got to Pucullpa to return to my community. I was 24 then. Everyone said it was dano (envy and bad magic). I cured myself with Catahua, Lupuna and Ayahuma. At the bottom of the saucepan we placed crushed green bottles before adding the plants and barks. When I was well I returned to Lima for a few years, and then my wife got a job as a cook at a tourist lodge, so that’s how I came to live in Iquitos. My uncle Benjamin (who is from Pauyan) still works there occasionally. Authors note: Benjamin Ochavano a powerful Shipibo shaman, and an interview with him is also published on this blog.

How does a Shaman help people who have experienced harmful and negative sorcery?

Enemies can come from anywhere. If I heal someone, I undo someone’s dano – illness from black magic – and that makes me the enemy of the brujo who tried harm or kill the person.

What is it important for an Ayahuasca shaman to know?

A shaman must know how to do three things;
They should know how to bring about the vision.
Second, how to bring the effects down again when a patient is suffering.
Thirdly, they must know how to close the session.
These are the most important things, but there are shamans who take ayahuasca without knowing them.

Howard G. Charing, is an 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).

Visit the website for info about our Andean and Amazon Ayahuasca Retreats

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Interview with Shipibo Shaman Enrique Lopez – Part 1


An interview with Shipibo Shaman Enrique Lopez. Interviewed at Mishana November 2007, by Peter Cloudsley and Howard G Charing.

Interview with Shipibo Shaman Enrique Lopez - Part 1I was born in a Shipibo community called Roaboya which is on the River Ucayali about 10 hours downstream from Pucallpa. Roaboya means the place where the Koto monkey lives. In Shipibo this kind of monkey is call Ro, but Mestizos tend to lengthen words, so they called the place Roaboya. The first Mestizos to arrive in the area were loggers – Boya (Buoys in English) refer to the logs which they floated down to their saw mills.

Actually there are two places; Roaboya Nativa and Roaboya Mestiza a bit further down river. When I was young, Angel Sanchez Vargas was the local Curaca – who is both a chief as well as shaman – he was my grandfather and he knew all about plants for healing, for giving visions and increasing human intelligence.

They later named the school after him there. Roaboya was the first indigenous community to be officially recognized 114 years ago. Later the river changed its course and the banks crumbled and many Shipibo people moved to form communities elsewhere on the Upper and Lower Ucayali.

When the earliest missionaries came in the 1940s, at first the people didn’t want to know about their pharmaceutical medicines or clothes which they tried to give away. The Shipibo didn’t wear Western clothes at that time and even refused to meet with them. But the missionaries were clever and brought sweets and presents, and impressed them with their water-planes and eventually succeeded in introducing their evangelical religion. The effect was to threaten Shipibo customs and create divisions in the community.

Later in the 60s when I was in my infancy, my grandfather put up resistance to Western things and warned that his people should not forget their customs and ancestral knowledge. He forbade the use of Western clothes, and encouraged people to eat together from one central plate as a community. His four wives were also shamans and helped to revitalize their traditions.

Don Angel even learned Spanish through his plants, such was his faith! Nevertheless, today most of the Shipibo in Roaboya are nominally evangelicos.

After he died, his cousin took over as shaman and he wanted me, at the age of 10, to help at ayahuasca sessions by smoking mapacho for protection while he chanted. I told him I wanted to be a womanizer when I was grown up! And he made it happen by chanting a Huarmi Icaro. I also want to be a good fisherman and again he said yes, I could be, and so it was. By the time I was 14 it had come true, and I had women coming after me! However, I didn’t want to marry at that time.

At the age of 16 I started taking ayahuasca, but my Mother didn’t want it – a womanizer can’t be a good shaman she said. Only when you learn to follow a proper diet can a person serve. This is the test that the plants give us. It has happened to me twice, a woman comes just when you are working and wants to make love. You can’t, if you give in just once you will fall ill, go mad, fall into the water, or die – these are the tremendous problems of being a shaman. At the age of 16, I started my first diet for 3 months, without ayahuasca, only plants, no drink, women, salt etc. After that the shaman called me and said I could go further and he chanted for me.

Then I did another 3 months’ diet, again no ayahuasca, but the plants made me dream of what I should eat, how I should live, to not to go out etc. It is important to avoid women who are menstruating, or who have made love the previous night, that is bad with the plants. It clashes, like a mirror smashing; it makes you ill or goes against you.

Howard G. Charing, is an 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.


Visit the website for info about our Andean & Amazon Ayahuasca Retreats

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