Tag Archives: sacred music

Shamans of Peru – CD


Shamans of Peru CD, Ceremonial Chants, Icaros, and Music

Shamans of Peru CD, Ceremonial Chants, Icaros, and Music

THE SHAMANS OF PERU CD

Ceremonial Chants, Icaros, and Music

Shamans of Peru – Recorded on Eagle’s Wing Journeys to Peru

Contains chants and dramatic effects of six different ceremonies with shamans who have worked with Eagle’s Wing Groups. Two ceremonies with San Pedro maestros working in the atmospheric ruins of Puruchucu; two ayahuasca shamans, a man and a woman, in separate sessions working in a jungle temple on the River Momon, outside Iquitos; a Shipibo shaman working in Yarinacocha, outside Pucullpa; and lastly, a despacho in the ruins of Pisaq, Cusco. In addition there are three tracks of atmospheric music played on pre-Colombian instruments.


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Ayahuasca Shaman and Peruvian Mystic, Alonso del Rio Interviewed


Alonso del Rio interviewed by Howard G. Charing and Peter Cloudsley.

Alonso del Rio is a powerful maestro who interweaves Shipibo and other icaros with sacred music of his own to lead you on your journey; he is both a talented musician and an inspiring communicator of the Amazonian shamanic world. He first came into contact with ayahuasca in 1979 after spending three years working with huachuma (San Pedro). This was when he met Don Benito Arevalo, a grand Shipibo shaman with whom he developed a long relationship, and who gave him his first teachings in ayahuasca and other medicinal plants.

View from Mishana from Eagle’s Wing Plant Spirit Shamanism Retreat

Later, taking ayahuasca alone as part of his traditional teaching, he says: “I didn’t feel comfortable reproducing the chants that I’d learned with my maestro, so one night I picked up my guitar and began to play what came to me and the result was surprising. From then on I was never without my guitar at ceremonies and over the years many songs came to me, set to different rhythms for ceremonies and incorporating teachings and revelations from the medicine itself.” He has published three CDs to date. Alonso lives in the sacred valley of Cusco where he runs a healing centre and a primary school for local children.

The potential and purpose of Ayahuasca

For most traditional shamans, ayahuasca is a tool for diagnosing illness, and as curanderos, (healers) they will mediate with plant spirits to heal their clients both physically and spiritually. More ‘popular’ urban shamans can also use their magical powers to change your luck, for example attracting money or a lover.
On this retreat we would like to develop another aspect, perhaps even more serious, and use the plants as powerful tools for self knowledge. Amongst all the spiritual paths that the world offers, Alonso believes that, at this time, teacher plants are the best way for people to gain a deep knowledge of themselves and at the same time this can solve some problems that other paths cannot.

During his 30 years experience with ayahuasca and San Pedro, Alonso never wanted to be a shaman or attain magical powers but rather gain self development through self knowledge. He will share his discoveries to help us ‘undo’ the mental programming and the cultural conditioning (family and ancestral) which models our minds. Ayahuasca is a powerful tool for being happy and free, says Alonso.

The retreat we are holding with Alonso, could equally suit a person who has some background in Buddhism, yoga or mysticism.

It is a space for having contact with divinity without intermediaries or interpretations. Ayahuasca allows you to be gently introspective, to see your fears, worries and everything that makes you suffer! It can take you back through your life to show you at what moment the suffering took hold in your body and in your memory, how it has made you live on a superficial level because underneath there is too much pain, and as we don’t want to feel pain, how we condemn ourselves to living on the surface. With ayahuasca we can enter the pain at the time when we were children, when we experienced the first traumas and agonies of life, and cleanse it by forgiving the whole chain of events and the people who made us suffer. Traumatic experiences are inevitable in life, but what we cannot afford to do is live with resentment and blame people, as this ruins our relationships.

Some people may not be satisfied with the life they lead. Ayahuasca enables them to see their priorities. Is it following a spiritual path that you want most, or making money? Do you want to start a family or do you want to pursue your career? Constantly doing what is expected of us we cause suffering. The answers are all inside us. We must live by what we profoundly want. Ayahuasca clarifies your priorities and feelings, which are neither good nor bad in and of them selves.
Conversation with Alonso

There are many myths about the origin of Ayahuasca and there is even one which has been growing fast in the West, that Ayahuasca is what we need to get us out of the mess we’re in! But can it work for Westerners the same way if they are outside the cultural context and all the associated beliefs that go with it?

I think it works but its different. The mind of a person brought up in the selva without much contact with the Western world, probably born about 50 or 70 years ago, as are the majority of traditional maestros, have lived without watching TV and other Western influences. His mind is very different from your or my mind. So to have access to the same visions, the same codes is difficult. But what I have found is that the expansion of the consciousness and the power that the plant gives you to understand many things is perfectly valid.

The magical space to which we are taken – call it the ‘unconscious’ or any term you want to use depending on your psychological model – is one where all the kingdoms of nature can communicate. That is people can talk to plants, and plants with minerals, minerals to animals and animals with humans… all in the same language. It is a very real communication and one of the greatest mysteries which exists. This is something which an English person, or a Peruvian born in Lima can experience just as an Amazonian person. Because you can do it without speaking in a native dialect, it doesn’t go through the mind but between one spirit and another.

Some Westerners have done themselves harm by not respecting the diet properly, and some have tried to make special exceptions for foreigners.

Yes its true, and the main point they have missed is respect, respect for a tradition. Its not that there is one diet for a native and another for a Westerner. There is one diet not two! Its more than what you eat, its sex and other things too. Otherwise anyone could come along and pretend that it was a bridge to a wonderful sexual experience! There is no limit to the imagination of some New Age gurus. If you follow these traditions which have been tried and tested for thousands of years and then you want to make modifications, then probably you can do it. But first you need the nobility to undergo the full rigors of the tradition, then you can have the authority to alter things for your people. But if you can’t hack doing a proper diet, then you are not in a position to underrate it.

There was a group of Germans who after sessions with Guillermo, would go to the disco, assuming they had come down from the effects of the ayahuasca. They would dance to the very loud music. It gives you an idea of how mistaken you can get from not respecting the tradition. You need to prepare your mind and body to receive all the information which comes to you, otherwise it might destroy you like lightening burns up a tree.

As you continue to work with plant diets, you have more intense experiences, and at the same time you develop a greater capacity to resist them, until you can take the strongest plants and live more in the other reality and to be able to return to your self, to your body.

Alonso relates an Ashuar Myth

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. Moon man refers to the way of relating to all things in everyday reality through the mind. This is what gives ‘everyday reality’ its often disempowering quality, ‘its out there and we cannot change it’. In other words the mind came between man and the spirit world. The Ayahuasca is the broken rope, but it is always there.

In all cultures there is a recollection of an era when people could talk with the spirits directly. Then civilization arrives, and holds reason as the highest human achievement. What is not rational, does not exist, and that is what has reigned until today. For 2000 years we have suffered this kind of tyranny of reason. If its not logical its not worthy of us. The next step in our evolution is the reconciliation of these two things, and will be the union of reason with intuition. It will generate a new development in humanity leading to other states of consciousness and knowledge.

So what are we to make of taboos, supposedly irrational, but they must have served some purpose because our ancestors were not stupid?

In some cases they may have become distorted in some way but generally they come from something real, so its best to respect them without rationalizing them. If we try to do that we are already on the wrong track.



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The Visual Music of the Shipibo tribe of the Amazon


The Magical Art of the Shipibo People of the Upper Amazon

By Howard G Charing

Underlying the intricate geometric patterns of great complexity displayed in the art of the Shipibo people is a concept of an all pervading magical reality which can challenge the Western linguistic heritage and rational mind.

Shipbo Embroidery and Painted Shipibo Textile

These patterns are more than an expression of the one-ness of creation, the inter-changeability of light and sound, the union or fusion of perceived opposites, it is an ongoing dialogue or communion with the spiritual world and powers of the Rainforest. The visionary art of the Shipibo brings this paradigm into a physical form. The Ethnologist Angelika Gebhart-Sayer, calls this “visual music”.

The 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.

All the textile painting, embroidery, and artisan craft is carried out by the women. From a young age the Shipibo females are initiated by their mothers and grandmothers into this practice. Teresa a Shipiba who works with us on our Amazon Retreats tells that “when I was a young girl, my mother squeezed drops of the Piripiri (a species of Cyperus sp.) berries into my eyes so that I would have the vision for the designs; this is only done once and lasts a lifetime”.

The intricate Shipibo designs have their origin in the non-manifest and ineffable world in the spirit of the Rainforest and all who live there. The designs are a representation of the Cosmic Serpent, the Anaconda, the great Mother, creator of the universe called Ronin Kene. For the Shipibo the skin of Ronin Kene has a radiating, electrifying vibration of light, colour, sound, movement and is the embodiment of all possible patterns and designs past, present, and future. The designs that the Shipibo paint are channels or conduits for this multi-sensorial vibrational fusion of form, light and sound. Although in our cultural paradigm we perceive that the geometric patterns are bound within the border of the textile or ceramic vessel, to the Shipibo the patterns extend far beyond these borders and permeate the entire world.

One of the challenges for the Western mind is to acknowledge the relationship between the Shipibo designs and music. For the Shipibo can “listen” to a song or chant by looking at the designs, and inversely paint a pattern by listening to a song or music.

As an astonishing demonstration of this I witnessed two Shipiba paint a large ceremonial ceramic pot known as a Mahuetá. The pot was nearly five feet high and had a diameter of about three feet, each of the Shipiba couldn’t see what the other was painting, yet both were whistling the same song, and when they had finished both sides of the complex geometric pattern were identical and matched each side perfectly.

The Shipibo designs are traditionally carried out on natural un-dyed cotton (which they often grow themselves) or on cotton dyed in mahogany bark (usually three or four times) which gives the distinctive brown colour. They paint either using a pointed piece of chonta (bamboo) or an iron nail with the juice of the crushed Huito (Genipa americana) berry fruits which turns into a blue- brown-black dye once exposed to air.

Each of the designs are unique, even the very small pieces, and they cannot be commercially or mass produced. In Lima I met with a woman who had set up a government funded community project which amongst other matters established a collective for the Shipibo to sell their artisan work and paintings. She tells that a major USA corporation (Pier 1 Imports), enamoured by these designs ordered via the project twenty thousand textiles with the same design, this order could never be fulfilled, the Shipibo could simply not comprehend the concept of replicating identical designs.

The Shipibo believe that our state of health (which includes physical and psychological) is dependent on the balanced union between mind, spirit and body. If an imbalance in this occurs such as through emotions of envy, hate, anger, this will generate a negative effect on the health of that person. The shaman will re-establish the balance by chanting the icaros which are the geometric patterns of harmony made manifest in sound into the body of the person. The shaman in effect transforms the visual code into an acoustic code.

A key element in this magical dialogue with the energy which permeates creation and is embedded in the Shipibo designs is the work with ayahuasca by the Shipibo shamans or muraya. In the deep ayahuasca trance, the ayahuasca reveals to the shaman the luminous geometric patterns of energy. These filaments drift towards the mouth of the shaman where it metamorphoses into a chant or icaro. The icaro is a conduit for the patterns of creation which then permeate the body of the shaman’s patient bringing harmony in the form of the geometric patterns which re-balances the patient’s body. The vocal range of the Shipibo shaman’s when they chant the icaros is astonishing, they can range from the highest falsetto one moment to a sound which resembles a thumping pile driver, and then to a gentle soothing melodic lullaby. Speaking personally of my experience with this, is a feeling that every cell in my body is floating and embraced in a nurturing all-encompassing vibration, even the air around me is vibrating in acoustic resonance with the icaro of the maestro. The shaman knows when the healing is complete as the design is clearly distinct in the patient’s body. It make take a few sessions to complete this, and when completed the geometric healing designs are embedded in the patient’s body, this is called an Arkana. This internal patterning is deemed to be permanent and to protect a person’s spirit.

Angelika Gebhart-Sayer, Professor of Ethnology, University of Marburg writes that “Essentially, Shipibo-Conibo therapy is a matter of visionary design application in connection with aura restoration, the shaman heals his patient through the application of a visionary design, every person feels spiritually permeated and saturated with designs. The shaman heals his patient through the application of the song-design, which saturates the patients’ body and is believed to untangle distorted physical and psycho-spiritual energies, restoring harmony to the somatic, psychic and spiritual systems of the patient. The designs are permanent and remain with a person’s spirit even after death.”.

Whilst it is not easy for Westerner’s to enter and engage with the world view of the Shipibo which has been developed far away from our linguistic structures and psychological models, there is an underlying sophisticated and complex symbolic language embedded in these geometric patterns. The main figures in the Shipibo designs are the square, the rhombus, the octagon, and the cross. The symmetry of the patterns emanating from the centre (which is our world) is a representation of the outer and inner worlds, a map of the cosmos. The cross represents the Southern Cross constellation which dominates the night sky and divides the cosmos into four quadrants, the intersection of the arms of the cross is the centre of the universe, and becomes the cosmic cross. The cosmic cross represents the eternal spirit of a person and the union of the masculine and feminine principles the very cycle of life and death which reminds us of the great act of procreation of not only the universe, but also of humanity, and our individual selves.

The smaller flowing patterns within the geometric forms are the radiating power of the Cosmic Serpent which turns this way and that, betwixt and between constantly creating the universe as it moves. The circles are often a direct representation of the Cosmic Anaconda, and within the circle itself is the central point of creation.

In the Western tradition, from the Pythagoreans, and Plato through the Renaissance music was used to heal the body and to elevate the soul. It was also believed that earthly music was no more than a faint echo of the universal ‘harmony of the spheres’. This view of the harmony of the universe was held both by artists and scientists until the mechanistic universe of Newton.

Joseph Campbell the foremost scholar of mythology suggests that there is a universe of harmonic vibrations which the human collective unconscious has always been in communion with. Our beings beat to the ancient rhythms of the cosmos. The traditional ways of the Shipibo and other indigenous peoples still reflect the primal rhythm, and their perception of the universal forces made physical is truly a communion with the infinite.

To View the original article (first published in Sacred Hoop Magazine)with detailed colour photographs, visit our website:Shipibo Article

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. With Peter Cloudsley 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:www.shamanism.co.uk

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