Tag Archives: journeys

Shipibo Ayahuasca Shaman Leoncio Garcia


Shipibo Ayahuasca Shaman Leoncio GarciaThe Shipibo are one of the largest ethnic groups in the Peruvian Amazon. These ethnic groups each have their own languages, traditions and culture. The Shipibo which currently number about 20,000 are spread out in communities through the Pucallpa / Ucayali river region. They are highly regarded in the Amazon as being masters of Ayahuasca, and many aspiring shamans and Ayahuasqueros from the region study with the Shipibo to learn their language, chants, and plant medicine knowledge.

Interviewed at Mishana Private Retreat Centre, Amazon Rainforest with Peter Cloudsley and Howard G Charing August 2005.

We interviewed Shipibo maestro Leoncio Garcia, a man in his mid seventies but with the appearance of a man twenty years younger. Again a testimonial to the youth giving qualities of Ayahuasca and the plant medicines of the Amazon Rainforest.

Shipibo Ayahuasca Shaman Leoncio GarciaLeoncio Garcia
I didn’t become a shaman until I was 50, I am now 74. I was always so busy working in the chacra, or cutting wood, it was only when I began to get a bit older. Until then I had taken Ayahuasca for all the usual reasons of health, but that was all. After deciding to do the diet I drank Ayahuasca seriously but I didn’t see anything and didn’t think I would learn anything but still I kept on drinking every night and didn’t sleep. With just one day to go before completing three months’ diet, I had a tremendous vision and I began to chant and continued all night until dawn. I saw under the earth, under the water, and into the skies, everything. Probably I was learning from the sprits during the diet but I didn’t understand. After that I could see what the matter was with people. I dieted pinon Colorado and tobacco first and then tried all the other plants.

This was in San Francisco, a Shipibo community on Yarinacocha, Pucullpa where I was born. After this I went to Huancayo for six months to try my medicine. Then I went to Ayacucho and then a Senor took me to Lima to heal his wife. After two months I was taken to Trujillo and then Arequipa, Cusco, Juliaca, Puno. Everything worked out well and I worked with a doctor once who was not very successful and soon there were people queuing outside her consultancy. Eventually I came to Iquitos in 2000 and I haven’t had time to return to my family since then, I just send them money.

When I go round to people blowing tobacco smoke it is to give them arcanas, to protect them so that when things happen around them it doesn’t hurt them or make them ill.

Leoncio tells a Shipibo (cautionary) myth.
There was once a wise man called Oni who knew what each and every healing plant could be used for. He knew all their names and one day he saw a liana and recognized it as Ayahuasca and he learned to mix it with Chacruna. One night he tried it and learned so many things that he carried on drinking it. But because he went on drinking so long and often he stopped eating and drinking, and just chanted day and night. Now he had two sons and they said ‘come and have breakfast Papa’, but he carried on drinking Ayahuasca and when they tried to pick him up, he was stuck to the ground and couldn’t be moved. So they left him chanting to all the plants everyday and night and they noticed that Ayahuasca was growing out from his fingers. So the sons went back to their chacras and after a month came back again, to see their father. Everywhere Ayahuasca ropes had tangled around him and still he continued chanting day after day and the forest carried on growing around him. After a few more months, he had merged with the forest itself and that is why its called Ayahuasca, rope of the dead and in Shipibo Oni.

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Ayahuasca – Medicine for the Soul Part 5


Ayahuasca - Medicine for the SoulAyahuasca, is regarded as the ‘gateway’ to the Soul. The fifth and concluding part of this article explores this fascinating plant brew from the Amazon Rainforest. Ayahuasca is the jungle medicine of the upper Amazon.  It is made from the ayahuasca vine ( Banisteriopsis Caapi) and the leaf of the Chacruna plant (Psychotria Viridis). The two make a potent medicine, which takes one into the visionary world.  The vine is an inhibitor, which contains harmala and harmaline among other alkaloids, and the leaf contains vision-inducing alkaloids. As with all natural medicines, it is a mixture of many alkaloids that makes their unique properties.

In this context, the teacher plants can provide a doorway to great and meaningful insights in the adventure of personal growth and healing. The growth and healing has therefore to be also in the physical world, thereby offering the opportunity to reveal  our emotions, traumatic and turbulent experiences hidden or otherwise and so these can be released and ourselves restored. This access to our soul companion (our greater selves) , this flowing omni-present force guiding our life which presents with what are often called euphemistically “growth opportunities” for us to overcome. The plant teachers can show us these, where we can transcend linear time itself, and we journey within this eternal now at the very place in time where we experienced such a difficult event or suffered a troubled pervasive period in our life. We can re-experience this albeit from a different perspective, learn what happened, the reasons why it occurred and the subsequent impact and consequences on our life, and then to release any pain and trauma locked within our being. This release within the Ayahuasca experience is called ‘la purga’ our purge, when we literally purge this pain from our being, it is not only the contents of our stomach which are being released but also the deeply stored bile and sourness in our bodies generated from these difficult events. The plants offer us the potential for deep soul healing so we can become stronger and more able to engage fully in the precious gift of life.

Developing a personal relationship with Ayahuasca is within a background of an ancient body of practices. The oldest know object related to the use of ayahuasca is a ceremonial cup, hewn out of stone, with engraved ornamentation, which was found in the Pastaza culture of the Ecuadorian Amazon from 500 B.C. to 50 A.D. It is deposited in the collection of the Ethnological Museum of the Central University (Quito, Ecuador). This indicates that ayahuasca potions were known and used at least 2,500 years ago.

For example, there is a dietary regimen, and prohibitions regarding libidinous thoughts and activity. These considerations need to be respected and can not be ignored if one embarks on a path of communion with the plant. On observation and study (also called trial and error), this regime helps us to become more ‘plant like’, therefore increasing our receptivity to the plant-spirit-mind.

Many of my visionary experiences with Ayahuasca have led to a deeper understanding of my life and the role that various people had played in it. Sometimes I became those people, lived their lives, and came to understand why they did what they did, what decisions they had to make in their lives. These revelatory experiences invariably led to some form of closure with that person, like completing an open chapter, or a profound healing of my relationship with that person.

Medicines like ayahuasca can help us along our path but we still have to do the work ourselves.  My experience is that these kind of allies can help us open the doors of perception, but what we do when we get there is entirely our own challenge.

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Ayahuasca – Medicine for the Soul Part 4


Ayahuasca - Medicine for the Soul Part 4Ayahuasca, is regarded as the ‘gateway’ to the Soul. The fourth part of this article continues to explore this fascinating plant brew from the Amazon Rainforest. Ayahuasca is the jungle medicine of the upper Amazon. It is made from the ayahuasca vine ( Banisteriopsis Caapi) and the leaf of the Chacruna plant (Psychotria Viridis). The two make a potent medicine, which takes one into the visionary world. The vine is an inhibitor, which contains harmala and harmaline among other alkaloids, and the leaf contains vision-inducing alkaloids. As with all natural medicines, it is a mixture of many alkaloids that makes their unique properties.

I discovered that Ayahuasca is a medicine, so unlike the Western understanding, a medicine which works on every level, on the physical and non-physical beings, our consciousness, our emotions, and our spirit. It is as if you are drinking not just a liquid brew but imbibing an ‘other’ intelligence which knows exactly what is needed to help you. This is a communion in the true sense of the word, an intense experience of euphoria and ecstasy. A journey of deep and profoundly meaningful personal and trans-personal insights , a searchlight on the hidden thoughts and feelings in the sub-conscious mind, an erasing of the ego boundaries and a merging with the greater field of consciousness of creation.

The was more and more to experience, dieting some of the teacher plants such as Ajo Sacha and Guyasa, I felt my senses being altered , expanded in some ineffable way, and becoming aware of the song, the very rhythm of the rainforest. There was sound, smells, and sights around me, which I had not been aware of in my normal everyday waking state. I could zoom in on smells, and sound, I realised that the rainforest was one entity with the insects, birds, and animals being a part of the totality of the rainforest. I am in paradise when lying in my hammock; it is like floating within a living three-dimensional sensorial experience of sound, colour, smell, movement, and vibration all in harmony and great beauty.

The work with the visionary plants not only provides a philosophical frame of reference for my life so to speak, but is also a path for deep soul healing, and generates a desire to engage fully and with enthusiasm the world around me. Celestial visions are always very nice and pleasing but they must never cloud, disguise, or distract our real purpose to live in the full embodiment of being a human on this beautiful planet and striving to enrich that special and unique experience, our ‘earth walk’. I recall some years ago when I led a group to the Amazon Rainforest, our initial gathering with our shaman Javier Arevalo so we could all introduce ourselves. Javier was very curious about Westerners, and was interested in knowing what we were searching for with the visionary plants. One participant stood up and said she wanted a clear and definitive understanding of the male and female principles of the universe, the cosmic “ying and yang” as she put it. Well Javier was totally mystified by this question, as when I have attended his sessions with local people who visit him for a consultation or session they ask about everyday problems and concerns such as “is my boyfriend / husband / girlfriend cheating on me?”, or “why am I unlucky in finding a job?”, “I need help to overcome this disease”. Well we worked with our participant to explore what the real question was behind her initial enquiry, finally she said that she was really looking for love in her life, and of course, Javier could understand this deep desire completely, and was subsequently able to help her discover and reconcile the inner obstacles, which had been preventing this.

Visit our website for details on our Ayahuasca and Yoga Retreats in the Amazon

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Ayahuasca – Medicine for the Soul Part 3


Ayahuasca - Medicine for the Soul Part 3Ayahuasca, is regarded as the ‘gateway’ to the Soul. The third part of this article continues to explore this fascinating plant brew from the Amazon Rainforest. Ayahuasca is the jungle medicine of the upper Amazon.

My first real encounter with the plant world of the shamans was when I first arrived in the Amazon some fourteen years ago. The moment I stepped off the aeroplane in Iquitos it felt as if I had been hit by bolt of energy. I felt so energised that I didn’t sleep for two days, my senses were at a heightened state of awareness, and it felt as if I could hear the heartbeat of the rainforest itself.

Iquitos is a city in the Amazon rainforest, there are no roads (completed anyway) to it. The only way to get there is via aeroplane or by river boat. The city in the 19th century was the centre of the Rubber industry but by the early 20th century the rubber trade had moved to the Far East, and the city had fallen into neglect and disrepair. It is now a place without an apparent purpose resplendent in its post-colonial splendour literally in the middle of nowhere, a true frontier town.

I recall my first moments in Iquitos standing on the Malecon at the edge of the city overlooking the river and some 3000 miles of pure rainforest spread out in front of me, an exhilarating experience which still fills me with wonder and awe.

I had come to Iquitos out of a long-standing interest and desire to experience at first hand the living tradition of plant spirit medicines and of course, the magical brew of Ayahuasca of which I had heard so much about.

I was not to be disappointed; my first sessions with a shaman in an open jungle clearing changed my view and understanding of life, a spiritual epiphany. I experienced being in the very centre of creation. I had the realisation and experience that I was not separate but an intrinsic part, a discrete element in the vast cosmic mind or field of consciousness, and that we were all connected. All part of the one great mind, and our experience of ‘separateness’ was no more than an illusion, generated by our being in our bodily vehicle which housed our senses.

One of my most profound experiences in an Ayahuasca ceremony, when I found myself transported to what I felt as the centre of creation. I was in the cosmos witnessing totality, planets, stars, nebulas, and universes forming. Everywhere stretched vast patterns of intricate geometric and fluid complexity constantly changing size and form. The chanting of the shaman was filling every cell with an electric force, every port of my body was vibrating and it felt as if I was being bodily lifted into the air. I was in a temple of sound, vibration and bliss. Gathered around me were giants in ornate costumes of gold and multi-coloured feathers blowing smoke and fanning me, these were the spirits of Ayahuasca, and then this soft gentle and exquisitely soft and sensual voice spoke to me of creation and the universal mind.

To reinforce this poetic insight, the words appeared before me in bold neon like script. When I related this after the session to the maestro said, “Ayahuasca wanted you to understand”, and he continued; “Ayahuasca opens doors to different dimensions. Often the mind can be obstructed from accessing inner knowledge. Ayahuasca can open up the mind to abstract things that cannot be seen in the material world. If I hadn’t had the experience, I would not be able to believe that a tree could have its own world or have a spirit. But when you begin to discover these dimensions personally, little by little you begin to recognise and accept the mystery of it.”

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Ayahuasca Retreat Centre – Mishana, Amazon Rainforest Peru


Ayahuasca Retreat Centre - Mishana, Amazon Rainforest PeruImages from our Retreat Centre at Mishana in the Amazon Rainforest (Peru). Eagle’s Wing holds Ayahuasca and Plant Spirit Shamanism Retreats. Mishana is part of a protected region, with animals and plants endemic to that region. Our Retreat Centre is situated on the Rio Nanay with a panoramic vista of two river bends.

Visit our website www.shamanism.co.uk for details on our Retreats at Mishana

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Ayahuasca – Medicine for the Soul Part 2


Ayahuasca - Medicine for the Soul Part 2The second part of an article which explores this fascinating plant brew from the Amazon Rainforest. Ayahuasca is the jungle medicine of the upper Amazon. It is made from the ayahuasca vine ( Banisteriopsis Caapi) and the leaf of the Chacruna plant (Psychotria Viridis).

How can we enter into a communion (in the true sense of the word) with the plant consciousness or soul? This can indeed be difficult, as we in our culture have long forgotten this understanding and body of knowledge. However we can learn from those peoples who still live within a paradigm that our physical forms are illusions, and beyond that we are all connected and no different from all things. Modern physics which recognises the underlying nature of form and matter as an energy which pervades and informs the universe is saying the same as the ancient shamans, “reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one” Albert Einstein (Alice Calaprice. The Expanded Quotable Einstein. )

These are the peoples referred to by the Alberto Villoldo as those who were never ejected from the Garden of Eden (unlike us). It is clearly a good way to learn and study from the shamans of the Amazon rainforest where this knowledge is still alive and from those who still live in the mythological Garden of Eden. One of the great plant teachers is Ayahuasca, also called the ‘Vine of the Soul’.

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”.

The Sacred Doorways to the Soul

The plants have in my subjective experiences have been a doorway to my place in the great field of consciousness. I am aware that subjective experience is not regarded as scientific, but at the end of the day, all our experiences are subjective and reality is not always that consensual as we believe it to be. It is somewhat of a paradox that the leading edge of modern science, Quantum Mechanics has also arrived at this conclusion and describes a mind-bending reality in which we are all both alive and dead at the same time. Quantum particles (the very basis of matter) exhibit the properties of bi-locality i.e. exist at different locations in the universe at the very same time transcending vast distances of many thousands of light years.

With the visionary plant doorways opening to the wider field of consciousness my experience and personal revelation is, that I am a discrete element in this great field, a unique frequency or wavelength amongst infinite others and that all these are vibrating in a vast wavelength of ecstatic harmony. I understand the purpose of my human existence is to be just simply human, and embrace the unique experience of human emotions and feelings. I have learned that my soul is not separate and is integral to me. Expressed differently, I am part of this soul, which has the appearance of form. My soul is outside of physical time, space, and itself a component of an ineffable and indescribable existence in infinity.

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

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Ayahuasca – Medicine for the Soul Part 1


Ayahuasca - Medicine for the Soul Part 1Ayahuasca, is regarded as the ‘gateway’ to the Soul. This article explores this fascinating plant brew from the Amazon Rainforest. Ayahuasca is the jungle medicine of the upper Amazon. It is made from the ayahuasca vine ( Banisteriopsis Caapi) and the leaf of the Chacruna plant (Psychotria Viridis). The two make a potent medicine, which takes one into the visionary world. The vine is an inhibitor, which contains harmala and harmaline among other alkaloids, and the leaf contains vision-inducing alkaloids. As with all natural medicines, it is a mixture of many alkaloids that makes their unique properties.

After being virtually ignored by Western civilization for centuries, there has been a huge surge of interest in Ayahuasca recently. There is a growing belief that it is a kind of ‘medicine for our times’, giving hope to people with ‘incurable’ diseases like cancer and HIV, drug addictions and inspiring answers to the big ecological problems of modern civilization.

Spirituality is at the centre of the Ayahuasca experience. Purification and cleansing of body, mind, and spirit in a shamanic ceremony can be the beginning of a process of profound personal and spiritual discovery and transformation.

We humans have a special relationship and dependence on plants. Since our beginnings, they have been the source both directly and indirectly of our food, our shelter, our medicines, our fuel, our clothing, and of course the very oxygen that we breathe. This is common knowledge and in general we take if for granted. Yet we view plants in our Western culture as semi-inanimate, lacking the animating force labelled soul, mind, or spirit.

The biggest challenge for a Westerner undertaking this communion with the plants is to accept that there is another order of nonmaterial reality that a person can experience through his entrance into plant consciousness, and to do this requires a significant leap of the imagination. We are all born into the social paradigm that surrounds us, with all its beliefs, myths, and institutions that support its view of the world, and it is not within our worldview to accept the immaterial and irrational. Before we embark on this journey to the plant mind, then, we first need to examine some of our most deeply ingrained assumptions, assumptions still fostered by many of our religious and social institutions today. The starting place for this journey is we ourselves.

HomoSapien-centricity is a strange looking word but perhaps an appropriate one to describe the concept that many of us, consciously or not, carry within us: that we humans are the most important (and maybe even the only) conscious and self-aware, that is, ensouled beings in the universe. For shamans the world that we perceive through our senses is just one description of a vast and mysterious unseen, and not an absolute fact. Black Elk, In John G. Neihardt’s book, Black Elk Speaks , the Oglala Sioux medicine man, remarked, that beyond our perception is “the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. It is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that world.”

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Ayahuasca Mestizo Shaman Javier Arevalo in the Amazon – Part 3


Ayahuasca Mestizo Shaman Javier Arevalo in the AmazonIn the third and concluding part of the interview with Javier, we continue to explore the use of Healing plants and Ayahuasca. discusses his involvement with the shamanic Plant medicines of the Amazon, and Ayahuasca in particular. Javier was interviewed by Howard G Charing and Peter Cloudsley in the Peru, Amazon Rainforest 2000.

Howard tells story of his battle with one of Javier’s assistants 3 weeks earlier.
(Javier laughs a lot and explains.) Well because he was not really a shaman, he works as a guide, he drinks liquor. Then when he takes Ayahuasca and chants icaros he is not pure and his doctors don’t take any notice of him. The spirits start bothering (molesting) the people participating in the session. That is what happened to Howard. When I take Ayahuasca I talk to the doctors who give visions, I ask them to cure, I have dominion over them because I diet. If I don’t, they make you crazy or annoy you.

So if the shaman cannot control himself, then the spirits get out of hand?
If you can’t dominate the spirits of the jungle you are nobody, instead of curing they run away or take no notice of you.

So the control of the spirits is fundamental?
Spirits are like angels. God withstood 40 days of hunger and temptation by the devil and was resurrected. That’s what we have to do too.

This is Christianity, but your (Javier’s) people were practicing long before the missionaries came. Is it possible to separate the Christian from the wisdom of the jungle?

No, no, they work together. But it has nothing to do with going to a church. You learn all this in the wilderness. The spirits there are the angels of each plant to which you add your will to heal the client. This is the will of Christ.

Where does the power of the shaman end and the spirits begin?

The shaman receives the power from the jungle, he doesn’t have any power of his own that he doesn’t get from the forest.

When I look at you by day I see just a normal young man, when you wear your clothes and move into the ayahuasca space you become different, a different presence, you become larger…

(Javier laughs!) The medicine is not in the body, the body can wear clothes for example, and you see that by day. But at night you don’t see my body, you see my spirit which receives the medicine which transforms me through the vision. I have to be pure so as to be a receptacle of the spirit of the medicine. It is essential too for a shaman to be happy, the shaman laughs at everything, because a happy heart is what cures. He can’t have a long face or fight with his wife and children.

You started off with a desire for revenge, what changed you into a shaman?
My grandfather saw that my heart was bitter and he told me that it would not get me anywhere. My heart was still hard and wanted to kill! Bit by bit through taking the very plants that I had intended to use for revenge, the spirits told me it was wrong to kill and my heart softened.

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Ayahuasca Mestizo Shaman Javier Arevalo – Part 2


Interview with Ayahuasca Mestizo Shaman Javier Arevalo – Part 2In the second part of the interview with Javier, we continue to explore the use of Healing plants and Ayahuasca. discusses his involvement with the shamanic Plant medicines of the Amazon, and Ayahuasca in particular. Javier was interviewed by Howard G Charing and Peter Cloudsley in the Peru, Amazon Rainforest 2000.

 

Does each shaman have to find it all out for himself or is there a body of knowledge handed down?

The maestro goes with the apprentice into the wilderness and gives him the different plants and it is like a test or trial to overcome. The maestro is usually a member of family. In my case both my grandfather and my uncle were maestros. You go off deep into the forest with your maestro and make a very simple shelter or ‘tambo’. A shaman must not live in a big house, its just for sleeping and dieting.


How long do you have to diet the plant?

Just one day to know its process, the next day you move onto another. This is if you do not return to the city, you can get through a lot of plants. This is different from dieting a plant for a month say.


So does every condition or illness have a particular plant to remedy it or is it a spirit energy which comes through the plant which can cure many things?

 

One plant may cure lots of ailments. A particular plant has a spirit which can either heal or kill. As for example with another shaman (who we worked with earlier) , who had not dieted Ayahuasca correctly and poom! it caused fever and people caught colds.


So why would a plant kill or cure?

 

Because an hechicero (sorcerer) also learns from the plants. He may for example learn from dieting a plant which has spines or phlegm which could be good for certain things. But if he is bad no one can stop him and in the night ‘ffoooo’ he uses it for harm or to kill. These are the brujos who come back from the forest with eyes red like the huayruro (red beans with black spots). He is a bad shaman and we have to cure the people they harm.


Who would want to do such things?

 

There are some people who have a squabble with someone, and then they go off to see a brujo and say “this Senora talks too much and has insulted me, kill her and I’ll pay you”. They pay them and they do harm.


But the shaman who made us ill did not do it intentionally.

No, of ignorance. It was a shaman from the city not from the forest. He went away and left us to mop up the ill effects. He may have had a good teacher but does not diet, he is very fat! (People in the jungle are rarely fat.)

In addition he probably eats the day of the session and that is why he threw up himself!


How does this affect Westerners?

It doesn’t matter, they will probably throw up and not have any vision because when he blows he has condiments on his breath. However, it matters much less if the clients have eaten or not stuck rigorously to the diet. The important thing is that the shaman diets.

 

Note: There is much discrepancy between shamans concerning the question of vomiting. Some say it is necessary for the body to rid itself of what ever is necessary and that if they are not sick they might get ill. (Ayahusaca is often referred to as La Purga.) Others say if you vomit you will not have such good vision and on no account should a shaman vomit.


Why and how did you become a shaman?

I never thought of being a shaman. I took Ayahuasca from 14 years old just to clean my stomach. Later my father said I heard you chanting, you are going to be a shaman. I don’t want to I said. Later when I was 20 my father died from sorcery so then I wanted to learn in order to take vengeance. During my apprenticeship I had a change of heart and understood that God knew best in such situations.


Why did the brujo want to kill your father?

Because he was a curandero who had cured someone who had been harmed by the brujo. It happens because we curanderos undo the work of the brujos and they get angry with us. This is the famous spiritual battle between the brujos. When you cure you send the bad magic back to where it comes from and the brujos get their own dirty medicine back. This is why there is a fight between the good and the bad.

 

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