ayahuasca shaman - interview

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Encounter with an Amazonian Shaman @ Howard G. Charing & Peter Cloudsley. April 2001 1 Interview with an Amazonian Shaman By Howard G. Charing & Peter Cloudsley Originally published in Sacred Hoop Magazine Issue 36, 2002. Titled, Love Magic and the Vine of the Soul 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. Ayahuasca is not a drug, it is regarded as a gateway to another reality, a reality which co- exists with our physical world. From this reality an experience of the totality of inter- connectedness can be personally experienced. Ayahuasca is also known as La Purga (The Purge) due to it’s powerful physical ‘clearing’ effect, but it is more than just physical clearing it is also an energetic clearing of personal history as well. It is never to be taken lightly and only under the supervision of a shaman who is well versed in the ways of the plant. 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. This process can continue indefinitely even if one never drinks Ayahuasca again. One thing is sure, and that is that every person gets a unique experience. We believe that by seriously looking at the way Ayahuasca is used we can improve our life experience and benefit more from this medicine. 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 opens the doors to experiencing the energetic world which underlies the world of everyday. 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. For example, Peyote, the cactus used by the North Native Americans,

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Ayahuasca shaman Javier Arevalo interviewed by Howard G Charing, and Peter Cloudsley

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Page 1: Ayahuasca Shaman - Interview

Encounter with an Amazonian Shaman @ Howard G. Charing & Peter Cloudsley. April 2001

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Interview with an Amazonian Shaman By Howard G. Charing & Peter Cloudsley Originally published in Sacred Hoop Magazine Issue 36, 2002. Titled, Love Magic and the Vine of the Soul 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.

Ayahuasca is not a drug, it is regarded as a gateway to another reality, a reality which co-exists with our physical world. From this reality an experience of the totality of inter-connectedness can be personally experienced. Ayahuasca is also known as La Purga (The Purge) due to it’s powerful physical ‘clearing’ effect, but it is more than just physical clearing it is also

an energetic clearing of personal history as well. It is never to be taken lightly and only under the supervision of a shaman who is well versed in the ways of the plant. 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. This process can continue indefinitely even if one never drinks Ayahuasca again. One thing is sure, and that is that every person gets a unique experience. We believe that by seriously looking at the way Ayahuasca is used we can improve our life experience and benefit more from this medicine.

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 opens the doors to experiencing the energetic world which underlies the world of everyday. 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. For example, Peyote, the cactus used by the North Native Americans,

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is said to contain 32 active alkaloids, so when one of those alkaloids, mescaline (LSD) is synthesised in a laboratory, contrary to popular opinion, the result is not at all the same.

Ayahuasca is a name derived from two Quechua words: aya means spirit, ancestor, deceased person, and huasca means vine or rope, hence it is known as vine of the dead or vine of the soul. It is also known by many other local names including yaje, caapi, natema, pinde, daime, mihi, & dapa. It plays a central role in the spiritual, religious and cultural traditions of the Indigenous and Mestizo (mixed blood) poeples of the upper Amazon, Orinoco plains and the Pacific coast of Colombia and Equador.

The plants are collected from the rainforest in a sacred way and it is said that a shaman can find plentiful sources of the vine by listening for the 'drumbeat' that emanates from them. The mixture is prepared by cutting the vines to cookable

lengths, scraping and cleaning them, pounding them into a pulp, and then adding the chacruna leaves. The mixture is then boiled about twelve hours until it is a thick brown liquid. To understand ayahuasca in the local context, one cannot avoid taking a look at the ecological environment, such as the rainforest, cultural environment and indigenous cultures. This has structured the cultural content of ayahuasca.

One of the more romantic stories takes place amongst the Shipibo people who live up the river in the heart of the jungle in the Peruvian Amazon.

This tale is centered around women, more so than men, as they look after the children and their health, whilst the men are out hunting and fishing. Men are more interested in plants that aid their inner spirits when hunting , whilst women are more interested in plants that will allow their children to grow.

There was one particular woman who was very interested in plants, who liked to pick the leaves of different plants. She would then crush the leaves into a pot and soak them in water over night. She would then take a bath every morning before sunrise (the way to find out about various plants and their effects is to bathe in them). She bathed in them every morning until she had a dream. In her dream a woman came and said, “why are you bathing every day?” She answered “I am doing this as I want you to teach me.” The other woman said “You must seek out my uncle, his name is Kamarampi. I will show you where to find him”. The woman led the other woman to her uncle. The uncle showed her how to mix the leaves of the chacruna, which was a bush she had taken leaves from to bathe in. He showed her how to prepare the brew of Ayahuasca, he told her to go and tell the people the knowledge of how to use the brew.

One of the many mysteries surrounding Ayahuasca is how the vine became to be used with the Chacruna leaves as although they both come from the same soil but always

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grow apart otherwise the ayahuasca winds around the Chacruna and kills it. No one knows this but we get a clue from how the shamans interact with the plant. Javier Arevalo a shaman from the Peruvian Amazon told us “ that his grandfather and uncles used to sit around after taking ayahuasca and he said that ayahuasca was originally taken alone and in the visions they saw that chacruna was missing. Ayahuasca would say I am the doctor that gives the vision. His grandfather responded, how can we find this plant? The response in the vision was, you can find it by turning two corners. So they went around two corners and found a bush which attracted them which was chacruna i.e the ayahuasca showed them. This is a fundamental principle, in the visions it is the spirit doctor of ayahuasca which tells them what is wrong with their patient, what medicine they need, or who has caused the illness or malaise. Ayahuasca and the spirit of plants.

In the West there are lots of stories like ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ reminding us that plants have spirit power, Alice in Wonderland explored this world too. There is a large body of knowledge of power plants even if the form has been adapted to fairy tales and ‘domesticated’, not to under rate the richness of Grimms’ tales. All the plants used in medicine today were known by our ancestors. McKenna suggested that the evolution from primates to humans was achieved when we left the tropical rain forest to inhabit the savannah regions. We learned to stand on two legs and consumed psychotropic mushrooms. Interaction of plant and animal, change of diet meant a change of consciousness. Goats

have a habit of eating all kinds of herbs which is why in the Andes, you are not supposed to eat goat’s milk or meat if you are having mental problems. In Lapland the reindeer eat the hallucinogenic mushrooms and the shamans drink their urine which has been “processed”. When a person drinks Ayahuasca, especially with a trusted shaman, there is a chance to learn and trust the plant. You discover that it works in its own way. It is a great moment

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getting to this point. Then there is the question of whether the plant trusts us, because it can be abused and used for getting the wrong kind of personal power. Without intention, vision, preparation, and a shaman, it is a drug not a healing medicine.

In the Amazonian world Ayahuasca, as indeed all plants, has a spirit which is angelic but also has human emotions projected like jealousy, vengefulness, wroth etc. When it is being prepared, the shaman has to watch over it at all the time to prevent bad spirits being introduced. The fire needs tending regularly throughout the 10 hours concoction and the shaman should diet during this time. It is said that the spirit of Ayahuasca is very jealous and that if the rules of its preparation are not respected it is resentful. We wonder if this is a cultural thing or would it happen to us Westerners as well. During our interviews we constantly found that the general rules about the working of Ayahuasca did not always match up with our own experiences. For example the addition of toe (bella dona) and tobacco to induce vomiting is supposed to make

you have a clear head the next morning but we found sometimes it was the other way round. We found it hard to pin down which were the decisive factors. Sexual abstinence is another thing which is emphasised yet this seems to be a very individual thing. It would seem though, on reflection, that the purpose and intentions of the shaman are among the more important factors, that he follows the diet during preparation and for the session. At all times he is placing his energy where the Ayahuasca is. This also means that not anyone can be present to watch the brewing process, their quality as people as well as whether they had dieted, practised abstinence or had a period, all have an influence. When we watched the shaman Javier Arevalo preparing, his wife would do the washing and shredding of the Ayahuasca. After it had boiled for a while, Javier lit a large mapacho (hand rolled jungle tobacco) and blew smoke over the top of the concoction. The two of us were invited to do this as well. When this is done you can feel a blast from the boiling Ayahuasca in your face. Later in the session, the shaman or the person who has blown the smoke, feels the return of this blast and passes it on to his clients. It is also important that none of the clients watch the process of preparation. In particular, a woman passing by who was having her period, could leave a bad energy with the medicine. This is a vexed question, the origins of which seem to be traceable to Christian, Amazonian and countless other traditions.

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Anthropologists call it taboo for want of a rational explanation, but as with all things of the primordial world, there are reasons inherited from ancestral times, which may have been forgotten. At the dawn of time, realities were very different from what they are today. Mythology may shed some light on the matter, but one thing is sure we don’t really know! However it’s reasonable to make the assumption that our ancestors were not frivolous.

We worked extensively with Javier Arevalo and we had many discussions on the role of the Amazonian shaman and the use of ayahuasca. Javier comes from Nuevo Progreso, a community of 50 families on the Rio Napo, Department of Loreto, Peru. Several generations of his family before him have been shamans and already at the age of 17, he knew this would be his future.

However it was not until he was 20 when his father died from a ‘virote’ (a poisoned dart in the spiritual world) sent by a jealous brujo, (sorcerer) that he felt compelled to follow the arduous five-year apprenticeship to be a shaman. Javier, what is the role of a shaman? He learns everything about the rain forest and uses that knowledge to heal his people since they do not have money for Western style doctors. He uses Ayahuasca to discover in his visions, which plants will be effective for which illnesses. How do you perceive this? The sprits or plant doctors tell us. As they are pure, they are made happy when we are too, so we must diet in order to attract them. That means we should not eat salt, sugar or alcohol, and abstain from sex. The spirits come and say, for example they will cure in two months if the patient takes a particular plant. Then the shaman goes out to look for the plant. It is said that every environments has the necessary plants to heal the people?

Yes, every plant has a spirit, the shaman goes into the forest as part of his apprenticeship and spends two years taking plants and roots. He takes Ayahuasca too and the spirit tells him what it cures. Then the shaman tries another plant, each time remembering which ailment is cured by what.

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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

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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.

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?

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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. AMAZON LOVE POTION: THE PUSANGA Something we make a big problem out of in the West, is that a shaman might be a magician to one person and a sorcerer to another. Asking for the pusanga to attract a specific person takes away that person’s choice. We see it as bad. How do you see it?

Take the case of a woman who refuses when you offer her a Coca Cola because she thinks you are lower class and that she is better than you. She might want others to think that she is better than you. That makes you feel like rubbish so you go to a shaman and tell him the name of the girl. He prepares the pusanga. Three days go by without seeing her and she begins to think about you, dreaming about you and begins looking for you… Yes, we understand, but in our culture we think its wrong to counteract someone’s will.

But its only so that she will want you for the moment, so she’ll go to bed with you and then she can go.

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Ha ha ha. But if it happened to me, and let’s say I originally found her unpleasant and she did it to marry me I’d be outraged! It would be awful if I only discovered after having children and making a home with her! And would I ever know?

You would be hopelessly in love with her, you’d never know. That’s why it’s a secret. Can a jealous third party separate a couple or break a happy marriage? Yes, they can ruin a happy home. They come as if to greet the couple and soon after the couple are arguing and hating each other and the third party is secretly having sex with one of them. Is this why people from Lima are afraid of the girls from Iquitos? Yes it happens, they think they are dangerous and will break up their homes. Does anyone have freedom if everyone is using pusanga? Its normal you get used to it. We like to think we are free, this suggests that we are constantly subject to other peoples’ Pusanga.

Ha ha ha! But you all want to have women! We still could not get our question across. Javier did not see the problem. It was a massive cultural divide we could not cross. It seems his people feel free the way they are and can have extramarital sex using magical means of attraction. On an earlier occasion when Javier asked our group what they REALLY wanted in their lives, many people gave cosmic and spiritual sounding answers and were quite mute when he spoke about Pusanga. After a while many admitted they wanted love, apparently behind their desire to put the world to right, resolve planetary issues, and speak to the flowers. It was as though it were not alright to wish for love. We mused maybe If we had more love we wouldn’t be worried so much about the cosmos, its because people don’t have enough of it that they see problems everywhere around. It would be better if people got what they wanted because that way we wouldn’t be so destructive: driving fast cars, trying to sort out psychological issues and having fancy professions. We would need less material goods. Javier agreed: These thoughts tangle up their lives. Love solves problems. On one level the Pusanga contains plants and roots all mixed together, then breath is blown over it. What is happening on the magical level?

This is the way love comes, like a little puff of wind. That’s what goes into the bottle. Whoo! The same way when I give you Ayahuasca, so you get the vision I blow tobacco smoke Whoo! That is what gives the vision.

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The first night when I heard the chants, I saw their meanings in English being written in the air in front of me, they were beautiful. It was as though it was a Karaoke where the words come up. It was exquisite.

Javier begins to chant “mareaciones, mareaciones, ayahuasca…” (visions, visions, ayahuasca…) I am calling the visions. Without the chant, there is no vision.

Ah yes, that’s what Ayahuasca teaches you, the forest... You can’t get it from the record or cassette! Javier had never been to a Karaoke but we explained how a little ball on the screen tells you when to sing the words. That’s because you really wanted to know what my chants meant, so the medicine showed you. I also feel when I take Ayahuasca with you that the medicine is holding me and invisible beings around me are blowing on me, fanning me and taking care of me. They are big! The shaman controls the spirits and you can see them heal you. Some people become afraid but the spirits are friends. It is as though you are conducting a gigantic orchestra of healing spirits and you have to hold them all in tune for everything to work out fine.

When the ceremony ends, the lights go on and they disappear but they continue to look after you. Will the spirits be happy to work in England when we go there, will they come too?

They came here from my house, they will go back with me, so if I diet properly they always come when I blow. I can tell it depends always on the condition of the shaman. Are there shamans who become jealous when they see that a shaman is really good and well recognised and try to make him weaker?

Envy yes, because you heal, and they want to kill you, its very common. Has it happened to you? Javier’s assistant answered. I was brought down twice. The medicine came into my body but it didn’t penetrate, it burned. I told Javier and we took Ayahuasca together and we saw who was doing it to me, Javier removed the virote and healed me. But if I hadn’t found out I would have died. What happens to the virotes, are they sent back to where they come from?

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If that is what you want. You can send them where you wish. What is the best thing in this case? Javier answered. It is better to kill them once and for all because if you let them live, they carry on messing around with you. Its not because you want revenge, the doctors tell you this brujo has already killed so many people, he is bad, you kill him and rid the community. Does the bad brujo work with the same spirits as the good curandero? No, each works with his own spirits. There are good and bad. The bad don’t last forever, the good ones do. The good must triumph over the bad. Yes but a brujo is deliberately hateful, the angry person is just like that for a while, and it is from ignorance.

The brujo learns this magic to do harm, you can’t even call him an enemy because he is evil. He might ask you for a cigarette for instance, and if you refuse, he goes home and sends you a virote. A brujo is a very angry person. So the brujo is a person with unresolved anger and the power to do nasty things with it. Couldn’t you have been a brujo the way you felt after your father died?

Yes, but I was my grandfather’s apprentice and he gave me good medicine to heal me and so I learned. One thing was clear to us that “the law of the jungle” is no mere euphemism!

Preparation of Pusanga with Javier Normally a shaman prepares Pusanga away from his clients so we felt very privileged to be invited to participate in the preperation. . First of all you must purify your hands with lime/lemon (grapefruit also OK), to get rid of the salt, condiments and sweat

which interferes. Each of us poured two little bottles of Tabu, into a larger bottle. One of these bottles would be for men the other for women. Tabu is a perfume used specifically for this purpose whereas Agua Florida is used for many purposes by healers and shamans. Powdered plants lined the bottoms of each of the larger bottles. Then we broke up the following roots before adding to the mixture:

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Motelillo, a funny looking root. Macoquinha or open hand, which actually looks like an open hand. Mashoshillo looks a bit like a string of sausages. Javier explained that it made money grow and transform into other resources, projects and new contacts. ‘Just look at the form!’ he said. ‘It pulls in the people you need for your business to grow. All the plants come from under the

earth which is clean and pure. Above ground it could be contaminated by the air.’ Mocura are leaves which have a nice fragrance for when you apply the resulting Pusanga it to yourself. We just added the tips of the leaves. Mocura is also used for floral baths. Polvo de la buseta is a powder obtained by grinding up a plant whose leaves resemble a female genital. The male plant looks like the male sexual organ. Congonita is a plant with little round leaves and long stalks which becomes tangled with itself. ‘This is how the couples becomes involved with each other’, explained Javier. ‘Your partner will never leave you. You can also put it round your neck and diet for three days and it will work’. We sensed as we prepared our own Pusanga, that we were not interfering with the freedom of other individuals or putting a ‘number’ on them, we were altering something within ourselves, which was brought out by the ingredients, the sympathetic magic of the plants. Whatever it was that came out of us felt wholesome and good. It is what is in oneself… one’s own magic. We asked Javier what does the Pusanga actually do, is it inside us or outside of us? His response was “When you pour it onto your skin it begins to penetrate your spirit, and the spirit is what gives you the force to pull the people. The spirit is what pulls”. Then we blew into our bottles 3 times with tobacco smoke, salud, dinero y amor, or health, money and love. We were to think of giving softness like a woman who you would caress. He reminded us to diet for the rest of the day: lemonade without sugar, white rice, no salt, grilled fish and banana. JAVIER TELLS A STORY When Javier was apprenticed to his grandfather, he was told to practice with the Pusanga to gain experience. He began by preparing the medicine without any particular intention, but during a session a Senorita came to him in his vision and said, ‘you must also learn what love is’. ‘What is love?’ Javier had asked. ‘You love me and both of us feel attraction’, she replied.

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‘Who was the Senorita? She was a mermaid, that’s how I can tell you that mermaids exist. She told me how to prepare Pusanga, and she chanted to me and taught me the chant I know today. She sang very sadly, and said ‘that’s how your partner will come to you, very sad’, she said. Every shaman prepares Pusanga a different way. Some do it so that you have to drink a mixture of plants and in the night you dream.

There was a fiesta one night in the pueblo because it was some one’s birthday and I was invited and I put on my clothes and took a little bottle of Pusanga in my pocket. I was dancing with all the girls and I saw a girl who was very arrogant and wouldn’t let me get near. She had long finger nails. She said she wouldn’t dance with me because I was unattractive. ‘Go and find a chola!’ (lower class Indian) she said virtually insulting me, and it hurt my heart. ‘If you don’t dance with me, tomorrow you’ll sleep with me’, I said, and I went to the toilet to have a pee and rubbed myself with

Pusanga, down my front, my arms and hands. Then I went back to dance with her and she said ‘what’s the matter with you damn it? You know you can’t touch me!’ She got nasty and wanted to hit me at that moment so I left the fiesta to avoid problems and went home. The next day I went into the forest and hid for three days. On the forth day I came out and people told me ‘Senorita Suzana is looking for you’. ‘Why is she looking for me if she hates me and threw me out of the fiesta?’ They replied ‘No, she has been round every half an hour asking after you’. When she caught up with me she said ‘Javier, forgive me for insulting you in the fiesta’. I said ‘No, you are very arrogant and I don’t want to talk to you’. I went home and wouldn’t open the door. She waited out side my house all the while I slept, crying. But I knew it was the Pusanga that was working. The next night I said to her, ‘you want to be with me?’ ‘Yes, from the depth of my heart’. I replied ‘but you are pretty and I am ugly!’ ‘No, I want to be with you.’ That night we made love and she didn’t want to go back to her home anymore. I went again into the forest and she followed me. I went to bathe in the river and she jumped in too to play with me. I laughed because I knew it was Pusanga. She became my girlfriend for six months. Later when the love passed and the Pusanga weakened, she

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went back as though the whole thing had been a dream. I asked myself ‘how did I actually live with this girl? Tell us about curing HIV.

When in the initial phase it can be cured. I had a patient who was homosexual. He was HIV positive and had been in hospital a fortnight. His mother said to me that he was really bad, his stomach hurt and he was shitting constantly, phlegm and muck. So I said why don’t you take Ayahuasca. If it’ll cure me I’ll try it he said. That night we drank and after he felt a bit better, his fever had lowered. He needed to go less often to the toilet. He wanted to take it again and after three times he was better and when tested, proved HIV negative. I saw in my vision that HIV was like the devil destroying him and that he was getting worse. He stuck to the diet for 2 months, no spice, ice, pork or sweet food. He ate like an animal without salt.

He also took bitter tasting herbs which cure internal wounds. Ayahuasca is more powerful than the virus, even though no chemical medicine can cure it. The ayahuasca expels it from the body while the plants kill the virus. On the spiritual realm, the virus has a consciousness and the person must be strong because a fight is going on inside, like thunder and tremors. The Ayahuasca lifts the spirit of the person. Lots of people have the virus but don’t develop HIV, but when people have bad sex, it opens internal wounds constantly. Also when a woman has her period its bad to make love especially up to 7 days after the period has passed when small amounts of blood is still passing, bad blood. It also causes cancer. Conclusion One of the most important principles that we have found talking and working with shamans all over the world is the commitment, dedication, and sacrifices that they make in being of service to their community. Their discipline is formidable as their practice includes strict dieting or fasting for extended periods, also sexual abstinence plays a major role. In essence they have to control their basic natural drive and strive to total mastery of their body. Only in this way do they have the strength to work with the spirits and so help others. It is also difficult to separate the working of the ayahuasca and the involvement of the shaman and this healing spirits. One thing is clear and that it is the chanting or the icaros that the shaman sings influences the form and direction of

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the experience. Whether it is to be a healing ceremony, or for example a divination is dependent on the specific icaros that the shaman chants. To separate the shaman and the spirit from the drinking of ayahuasca has no purpose. The shaman may chant very specific icaros for a particular patient that in some way is communicating with the consciousness or energy of an illness or virus. Once again their can be no separation between the spirit of ayahuasca and the physical form of ayahuasca . It is also important not to take ayahuasca without considering and embracing the recommendations and traditions that accompany it. Always respect the ayahuasca and it will allow you to walk the path which will make you strong, happy, and healthy.

Howard G. Charing Howard G. Charing is a partner in Eagle’s Wing Centre for Contemporary Shamanism. His initiation into the world of Shamanism was sudden, which was caused by a serious accident (a lift crash) which resulted in severe injuries and a near-death experience. After many months of physical pain and disability, he had a transformational experience which started him on the path to healing. Peter Cloudsley: Since 1980, Peter has been researching Peruvian fiesta music. He has built up a documented archive of traditional music and interviews, and has collected for the British Museum. Throughout this time he has travelled extensively in Latin America, especially Peru, studying the wealth of music and diversity of popular religions. Peter has taught courses at the City Lit and elsewhere (on music and popular culture in Latin America) and speaks fluent Spanish & Portuguese . www.shamanism.co.uk

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