I lay down on the floor, on a comfortable mattress in the center of the room. And I waited. And waited. Eyes closed, I began to see things: patterns of light and energy moving in time with the music. This continued for about half hour, and then a thought came to my mind: “This is too much.” … nd then, something miraculous. I heard, as though from outside myself and within myself at once, a soft voice.
Two rhythmic instruments are used in shamanic performance in the Upper Amazon — the shacapa, the leaf-bundle rattle; and the maraca, the seed-filled gourd rattle. Whether shacapa or maraca, rattles are the most important shamanic tool in the Amazon — the equivalent of the shaman’s drum elsewhere.
This is an edited transcript of a series of conversations between Howard G. Charing, author of The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo, and Steve Beyer, author of Singing to the Plants: A Guide to Mestizo Shamanism in the Upper Amazon. These talks took place during the summer of 2010, at the kitchen table and on the front stoop of Steve’s house in Chicago. Some drinking and cigar smoking was involved. Howard: I read Singing to the Plants several times, and I found it not only an extremely well researched book but also inspirational; it came through to me as a true labor of love. I understand that you originally envisioned the book to address more of an academic, anthropological audience, which is the reason that you wanted it to be published by the University of New Mexico Press; but you have created much more than an academic work. When you talk about your teachers, doña María and don Roberto, your warmth, humanity, and respect for them shines through. You asked them to describe their history, …
In the words of Dennis McKenna; Peter Gorman has “been way, way beyond the chrysanthemum on many a dark jungle night.” Gorman’s long awaited book Ayahuasca in My Blood: 25 Years of Medicine Dreaming tells the story of his long, deep relationship with ayahuasca. This book review, and an interview with the author, sets up camp to explore the edges of an astonishing journey.
Steve Beyer’s Singing to the Plants, writes Morgan Maher, is “a wild ride out and across the jungles of mestizo shamanism. The book, and its wonderful cast of characters, curanderos, animals, plants, spirits and stories presents honest, accurate, respectful, levelheaded and, at times, outrageously marvelous descriptions of the environments and climates of mestizo shamanism in the Upper Amazon.” Morgan interviews the author.
What is mestizo shamanism? The Loreto province of northeastern Peru (and to a lesser extent to Ucayali province south of it) is virtually unique in Latin America in that indigenous shamanic practices have been adopted and adapted by the mestizo population, and become a part of the mestizo culture. While mestizo curanderismo is not unknown elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world, it is almost always found in isolated rural areas. Among most mestizo populations, there is strong social pressure to distance oneself from the scorned indigenous world and embrace the prestigious Spanish/western world, and only in the most isolated rural regions would mestizos continue indigenous practices. And in the modern world, with television and mass communication, such pockets of isolation are fast disappearing. Yet, in the province of Loreto in northeastern Peru, not only does an active mestizo shamanism thrive, but it thrives even in urban centers. Especially in the city of Iquitos – population about 400,000. (Iquitos resident Alan Shoemaker quoted the Iquitos police chief as estimating that on any given Friday, 10% of the …
By Peter Gorman
Among the flora of the world as we know it, several plants are not just allies, they are considered Master Plant Teachers. You might extend that to read: Master Plant Teachers of Man. These plants might be considered gate keepers. These plants are the plants that allow us, we humans, to slow down enough to communicate with the mountains; to speed up enough to communicate with a hummingbird, to visit the other realms past and present and simultaneous that are here but that we don’t ordinarily see or hear within the band widths of our senses.
‘Dieta’ describes dietary and behavioral regimens that allow one to move most safely and effectively into working relationships with such plants. These relationships can bring about profound transformations, and the dietas are designed to best facilitate them.
Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, releases a paper outlining a hypothesis that entheogenic plants including ayahuasca analogues formed an integral part of the religious rites of Israelites in biblical times.