The ancient and contemporary traditions and approaches of Ayahuasca medicine

Mestizo Shamanism and Vegetalistas

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 …

Plants and Spirits

By Steve Beyer
The plants, in addition to being real medicines, contain madres or genios, the beings who teach. A cure is not caused by the ingestion or topical application of an herbal medicine; rather it results from the benevolent intervention of the mother through the intermediation of the plant. Amazonian shamans sing to the plants, charge them, cure them, call the spirits that invest themselves in the healing process.

Shamanism primer, from my experience

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.

What Are Spirits?

By Steve Beyer
Each species of teaching plant has what mestizo shamans call a madre, mother, or genio, genius, or espíritu, spirit. Informally, we generally translate all these terms simply as the spirit of the plant, as if the meaning of the term “spirit” was perfectly clear. So: what do we know about these spirits?

What indigenous groups traditionally use Ayahuasca?

The region of traditional Ayahuasca use is the Upper Amazon, that is, the western part of the Amazon Basin, and the western part of the Guiana Shield. (The Guiana Shield, which encompasses much of Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, and French Guiana, is not technically part of the Amazon Basin, as its rivers do not drain to the Amazon River, but ecologically and culturally it is considered as part of the Amazon rainforest, and we will hereinafter use the terminology that includes the Guiana Shield as part of the “Amazon.”) “Ground zero” of Ayahuasca usage is the northwestern region of the Amazon Basin where Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil come together (see red-outlined area on map). Close to 100% of indigenous ethnic groups here traditionally use Ayahuasca (and this also contains the centers of mestizo traditional usage, Iquitos and Pucallpa in Peru). Beyond that (see fuschia-outlined area on map) Ayahuasca is used by a large majority of the indigenous peoples. Ayahuasca is also used by several indigenous groups outside of this area of traditional usage: the …