Doctoral dissertation for the doctor's degree in humanities at the University of Stockholm, to be publicly examined in English in room 7, house D, Frescati on Thursday, June 5, 1986 at 10 a.m. by Luis Eduardo Luna Department of Comparative Religion, Stockholm 1986 ISBN 91-22-00819-5 ABSTRACT In the Amazonian provinces of Peru indigenous shamanistic practices are preserved among the mestizo population. Practitioners who call themselves vegetalistas (from which the term Vegetalismo may be formed) believe that certain plants, which they call doctores (plant-teachers) have spirits from which knowledge about this and other worlds may be gained, if these plants are ingested under certain conditions involving sexual segregation and a diet that may extend from six months to several years. Several of these plants have pychotropic properties, or contain important biodynamic compounds. Two of these plants, Banisteriopsis caapi (Spruce ex Griseb.) Morton and Psychotria viridis Ruiz & Pavon, are used in the preparation of ayahuasca, a psychotropic brew with the aid of which vegetalistas contact the spirit world in order to diagnose and cure illnesses. Other plant-teachers may also be added to the basic ayahuasca preparation. This book presents information about shamanic initiation, and of the spirit world of vegetalistas. Shamanic knowledge and power transmitted to the neophytes have two principal manifestations: 1) magic melodies or icaros which are learned from the spirits and used to perform various shamanic tasks, and 2) a magic substance received from the spirits and carried by vegetalistas in their chests, and which is used in the extraction of magic darts or virotes, shot by evil sorcerers, and which are believed to be one of the causes of illness. This book also provides information about ayahuasca sessions and the ideas held in the Peruvian Amazon about illness and its treatment.






CONTENTS MAP PREFACE Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION 1.1. 1.2. 1.3. 1.4. 1.5. 1.6. 1.7. Scope Shamanism The term "mestizo" Ayahuasca and the plant-teachers Methodological considerations A survey of the scientific literature Organization of the material

5 8 9

13 13 15 15 16 18 23

Chapter 2. VEGETALISMO IN THE PERUVIAN AMAZON 2.1. The Peruvian Amazon area................................. 2.2. Iquitos and Pucallpa. Historical and socio-economic considerations 2.3. Religious background of the area 2.4. Tribal Amazonian shamanism: main characteristics 2.5. Vegetalismo and vegetalistas: Amazonian mestizo shamanism 2.6. The informants Chapter 3. SHAMANIC INITIATION AND THE PLANT-TEACHERS 3.1. Shamanic initiation 3.1.1. 3.1.2. 3.1.3. 3.1.4. Don Emilio's account Don Jose's account Learning from an ant spirit Commentaries on the accounts 43 44 46 47 50 25 27 29 30 31 36

3.2. The diet and sexual segregation 3.3. The use of psychotropic plants in the Americas 3.4. Ayahuasca: An overview 3.5. Tribal uses of ayahuasca 3.6. Learning from the plants 3.7. The plant-teachers Chapter 4. THE SUPERNATURAL REALM 4.1. Spirit world 4.1.01. 4.1.02. 4.1.03. 4.1.04. 4.1.05. 4.1.06. 4.1.07. 4.1.08. 4.1.09. 4.1.10. The Chullachaqui The Sachamama The Yakumama The Yakuruna The Sirena (mermaid) The Bufeo Colorado (pink river dolphin) Plants leading to the underwater world The Tunchi Christian elements The Inca motif

51 55 57 60 62 67

73 74 77 79 80 82 84 87 87 89 89 90 94

4.2. The concept of arkana 4.3. The helping spirits Chapter 5. THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRITS: THE MAGIC MELODIES AND THE MAGIC PHLEGM 5.1. The magic melodies or icaros 5.2. Icaros and plant-teachers 5.3. Function of the icaros 5.3.1. Icaros for calling the spirit of a person, plant or animal 5.3.2. Icaros to modify the effect of ayahuasca and other plant-teachers 5.3.3. Icaros arkana 5.3.4. Icaros for healing 5.3.5. Huarmi icaros 5.3.6. Other kinds of icaros 5.4. The magic phlegms 5.5. The dichotomy good vs vegetalista

97 101 104 104 105 107 107 108 108 110 116

Chapter 6. ILLNESS AND ITS TREATMENT 6.1. Etiology of illness 6.2. Diagnosis of illness 6.3. Illness as a magic dart: A case study 6.4. Extraction of the magic dart: Treatment 6.5. Doctor shopping: The case of Doña Rosa Teco 6.6. Soul-loss 6.7. Illness produced by spiritual beings 6.8. Love magic 6.9. Herbal baths Chapter 7. AYAHUASCA SESSIONS AND VISIONS 7.1. ayahuasca sessions 7.1.1. An ayahuasca session in the home of Don Emilio 7.2. The role of ayahuasca: visions vs. cleansing 7.3. Shamanic journeys CONCLUSIONS Appendix I Indian tribes that use or used Banisteriopsis based narcotic beverages Appendix II Vernacular names given to Banisteriopsis based narcotic beverages Appendix III Musical transcription of magic melodies or icaros REFERENCES 174 181 171 167 143 148 152 157 141 119 122 123 125 128 132 135 135 136

PREFACE "Pues la Ayahuasca encierra toda la ciencia y el arte del médico aborigen o del curandero popular que se sirve de aquélla. A ella acuden en demanda de sabiduría, sea por aliviar el dolor de sus semejantes o descubrir lo desconocido y alcanzar la esencia de las cosas. " (Gabriel del Castillo 1963: 88) There is no doubt that shamanism is quite the vogue today. The words shaman and shamanism are no longer obscure terms used only at scientific meetings by a handful of specialists. We are witnessing an explosion of literature on shamanism, both scientific and popular, in the West. These terms are, in fact, being used so much, and in such a broad sense, that they will probably soon lose all significance -there is already enough debate in scientific literature about the elements implied in these terms, the geographical location where "real" shamans exist -or existed-, and in what cases these terms can be applied. There has been a similar explosion of literature dealing with psychotropic plants and mind-altering compounds, partly a consequence of the discovery -some would rather say "rediscovery"of mind altering substances by the Western world, with all its economic, social, cultural, religious and political implications (cf. Grinspoon & Bakalar 1979: 56-88; Weil 1972: 39-72; Furst 1972:vii-xvi). In the past twenty years many books and articles have been published dealing with the ritual use of psychotropic plants by indigenous people. Because these plants are nearly always used in a sacred context, the connection between shamanism and the use of psychotropic plants is selfevident. I first became interested in the shamanic use of psychotropic plants in November 1971 when meeting the American ethnobotanist Terence McKenna in Florencia, the capital of Caquetá, my native province, in the Colombian Amazon area. McKenna was at that time searching for information about an indigenous psychotropic beverage best known in Colombia under the Tukano name of yagé, and in Ecuador and Peru under the Quechua denomination of ayahuasca, which is used by a number of tribes of the Western Amazon, the Orinoco Plains and the Pacific Lowlands from Panama to Ecuador. Although born in the Amazon area, I had had relatively little exposure to Amazonian life and way of thinking. I received most of my basic education in Bogotá. In 1965, when I was seventeen years of age, I moved to Spain, where I studied Spanish philology at the University of Madrid. In November 1971 I was having 9

holidays in Colombia after an absence of seven years. When I met Terence McKenna I had never heard about yagé. But I soon realized that many people in Florencia, including my father, knew about yagé, and about its association with the jaguar, which I later learned is an element in shamanism among several Amazonian tribes (cf. Reichel-Dolmatoff 1975). My father and several other people mentioned to me the name of Apolinar Yacanamijoy, an Ingano Indian I had vaguely heard about since my childhood, but without paying much attention to it -the nature of our educational system makes us much more interested in what is happening in Europe or in North America than in what is at our own door-step. Don Apolinar lived near Yurayacu, at that time a small settlement, which could be reached from Florencia only by walking about 12 hours along a jungle path from the town of Belén de los Andaquíes. I went several times to a house where Don Apolinar used to spend the night on the rare occasions he went to Florencia. In January 1972 I finally met him for the first time. He told me that if I wanted to learn about yagé, there was only one way: To stay with him some time and to follow a special diet he would prescribe me. Unfortunately, I had to return to Europe to finish my studies in Madrid and did not return to Colombia until seven years later. I spent the summer of 1973 at McKenna's home in Berkeley, where I was exposed to the bewildering Californian cultural and intellectual life. Among the books that came into my hands were two anthologies, edited by Peter Furst (1972) and Michael Harner (1973) on the role played by psychotropic plants in shamanism and Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff's book on Desana mythology (1971). I wrote to Dr. Reichel-Dolmatoff, who kindly replied to my letter. He wrote to me that if I really wanted to undertake any serious research on yagé in the future, I had to try to get some interdisciplinary education. Back to Europe -I had recently moved to Norway-, I took courses in chemistry, ecology and linguistics, while at the same time I was lecturing on Spanish and Latin American Literature at the Institute of Romanic Languages of Oslo University. In 1979 I got a teaching post at the Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration in Helsinki/Helsingfors, and for the first time I was able to afford to do field work. In the summer of 1980 I went to Yurayacu to see Don Apolinar. I simply took a bus, since Yurayacu was already connected through a road to Florencia. I found a very old man dismayed by the destruction of his garden of magic plants by ignorant colonists, who did not distinguish one plant from another. He agreed that I could spend the summer of 1981 with him, although he warned me that he thought he was going to die soon. I prepared myself for this trip consulting Prof. Åke Hultrantz, Head of the Institute of Comparative Religion of Stockholm University, who was generous with his time in instructing me about what things to look for when I would be with Don Apolinar.


In May 1981, when I was about to leave for Caquetá, I got news of Don Apolinar's death. I was advised by Terence McKenna to travel to Iquitos (3°50s 73°15w), a city of nearly 300, 000 inhabitants in the Peruvian Amazon, where I could study the use of ayahuasca among mestizo practitioners. He gave me the names of several practitioners he had heard about a year before, including the name of Don Emilio Andrade Gomez, whom he had never met. I arrived in Iquitos in June, 1981, where I met Don Emilio and other plant-specialists or vegetalistas, which is the main term by which these practitioners call themselves). After some hesitation I decided to concentrate on the person of Don Emilio, charmed by his eloquence, his humbleness and his wisdom. Don Emilio has ever since been my main informant and friend, and I owe him my deepest gratitude. So far, I have carried out five periods of field work, during the consecutives summers of 1981-1985. I have spent several weeks each summer with Don Emilio, documentating on tape and film his practice, attending ayahuasca ceremonies as a participant-observer, and collecting medicinal plants. I also spent considerable time with Don Jose Coral More, a friend of Don Emilio's, who lives in a small chacra (swidden garden) 18 kilometers from Iquitos and an hour and a half's walk from Don Emilio's house. I have also attended ayahuasca sessions and interviewed several other practitioners in Iquitos, in Pucallpa (the second city of importance in the Peruvian Amazon, on the river Ucayali), in Puerto Maldonado (Department of Madre de Dios, near the borders on Brazil and Bolivia), and along the river Maniti, between the cities of Iquitos and Leticia (Colombia). In July 1984, thanks to a kind invitation by Brazilian anthropologist Clodomir Monteiro da Silva, I was also able to spend a week in Rio Branco, State of Acre, Brazil, among members of the Colonia 5000, a rural-urban religious group which uses ayahuasca as a central sacrament. Monteiro da Silva wrote his M.A. thesis on this subject (1983). My five periods of field work yielded nearly 180 hours of recordings of interviews with vegetalistas, magic chants and ayahuasca sessions, material which I am still organizing. I also took several hundred slides and completed an ethnographical film (Don Emilio and His Little Doctors, 1982). When I began serious examination of scientific literature on Amazonian shamanism, I realized that many of my observations had long since been accurately reported. But I have also become aware of the fact that, with a few exceptions, little attention has been paid to shamanic practices among the mestizo population of the Amazon, simply because most scholars working on Amazonian shamanism have devoted their efforts to the study of Indian tribes. This work is an attempt on my part to summarize what I have learned about a subject that deserves more attention, and that, I hope, will occupy several years of my life. During these years I have had the privilege of meeting many scholars, whose work and advice have greatly helped me in my research. First of all, I wish to thank Prof. Åke Hultkrantz, 11

who from the very beginning has guided me in my studies on shamanism, and who finally accepted me as his student. I also wish to thank Dr. Richard Evans Schultes, of the Botanical Museum of Harvard University, and Dr. Bo Holmstedt, of Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, for their enthusiastic inspiration. Dr. Timothy Plowman and colleagues of the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, have helped me with the identification of botanical material, and Dr. Ilkka Kukkonen, Head Curator of the Botanical Museum of Helsinki University, has supported the transport and preservation of voucher and living specimens. I also wish to thank Drs. Stephen and Christine Hugh-Jones and Dr. Françoise Barbira-Freedman, for their hospitality and positive criticism during my visits to Cambridge. I am specially indebted to Terence and Dennis McKenna, who during years have helped me with good advice and intelligent conversation. I also wish to add the names of Jean Pierre Chaumeil, Anthony Henman, Jean Langdon, Elizabeth Kramer, Carlos Pinzón, Guillermo Arévalo, Sinforiano Rodríguez Doldán and Clodomir Monteiro da Silva, for the interesting conversations on shamanism and ayahuasca. Many people made my work in Peru possible. In Lima I wish to thank Dr. Alejandro Camino, Dr. Fernando Cabieses, Dr. Baldomero Cáceres, and the staff of CAAP (Centro Amazónico de Aplicación Práctica). In Iquitos I am indebted to Pedro Felipe Ayala, Dimitri Eftyvoulos, Armando and Germana Alba, and Gunther and Juanita Schaper for their hospitality and great generosity. Thanks also to Dr. Franklin Ayala and colleagues of the Herbarium Amazonense, who have always been most helpful to me, to Alfonso Padilla for transcribing into musical notation some of Don Emilio's icaros, to Pekka Hako for printing the music, and to Valericio Leppe for drawing the map. I am particularly indebted to Gurli Barck, who spent so much effort revising the manuscript. My greatest thanks are of course to my friends the vegetalistas of the Peruvian Amazon, who have been so patient with me, and who have accepted me with boundless generosity. Here my thanks go to Don Emilio, Don José, Don Celso, Don Alejandro, Don Fidel, Don Sergio, Don Miguel, Dona Dolores, Doña Rosa, Don Ruperto, and to Misha, Vichín, Alí, and Jorge. Thanks also to Pablo Amaringo Shuña, for allowing me to reproduce some of his paintings in this book. Field work during the summer of 1983 was partially financed by Norges almenvitenskapelige forskningsråd (NAVF), Oslo, and by Donnerska Institutet för Religionshistorisk och Kulturhistorisk forskning, Turku/Åbo, Finland. The latter institution also contributed to my travel expenses during the summer of 1984. I also received financial travel aid from The Welcome Trust, London, for spending one month of bibliographical research at the library of The Welcome Institute for the History of Medicine. I wish to thank The Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration of Helsinki/Helsingfors for providing me with institutional support and for allowing me to pursue my outlandish interests. Helsinki May, 1986 12


1.1. Scope In this book it is my intention to give an account of shamanism as it is practised by some individuals among the mestizo population of the Peruvian Amazon area. My work is based on the reports of a handful of practitioners, my deductions as a participant-observer during five periods of field-work, and the examination of the scientific literature available on this subject. I will present the ideas held by these practitioners about shamanic initiation, their use of psychotropic plants, which they considered their true "teachers", their rapport with plant and animal spirits, the way in which shamanic power is accumulated and used, the role of magic chants in shamanic tasks, and the view my informants have of health and illness. I will also provide some botanical information about the plants involved and describe healing sessions and ceremonies in which these practitioners ingest ayahuasca, a psychotropic beverage, the composition and distribution of which I will also briefly discuss. I will begin by establishing the way in which I am going to use such terms as shaman, mestizo and plant-teacher, and by outlining the special angle(s) from which I am going to tackle this study and the methodology I have applied. I will then proceed to give a survey of the scientific literature which already exists on this subject. I will finally present the disposition of the material I am going to discuss before entering into detail. 1.2 Shamanism. The focus of this book is on shamanism. The definition of such terms as shamanism and shaman have been the subject of considerable debate in scientific literature. In fact, many books and articles on shamanism begin with a discussion about the specific characteristics of shamans, and to what geographical areas these terms can be applied (cf. Eliade 1964: 3-6; Siikala 1978:11-17; Chaumeil 1983:10-21; Merkur 1985:10-40; etc.). I have purposely avoided a discussion which has already occupied the minds of so many researchers, simply by adhering 13

myself to the ideas of one particular scholar, Prof. Åke Hultkrantz, to whom shamanism is a religious configuration, which he defines as "a semiindependent segment of an ethnic religion in which all beliefs, rites and epic traditions correspond to each other and make up an integrated field, often with the exclusion of beliefs, rites and traditions which play a role in another segment of the same religion. A nuclear feature of the religious configuration is what social anthropologists call the "belief system", i.e. the coordinated, interrelated chain of religious beliefs that constitutes the basic motivation of the segmentation." (Hultkrantz 1978:

Accordingly, shamanism: Hultkrantz gives the following definition of

"The central idea of shamanism is to establish means of contact with the supernatural world by the ecstatic experience of a professional and inspired intermediary, the shaman. There are thus four important constituents of shamanism: the ideological premise, or the supernatural world and the contacts with it; the shaman as the actor on behalf of a human group; the inspiration granted him by his helping spirits; and the extraordinary, ecstatic experiences of the shaman." (Hultkrantz 1978:11). In this book I am going to refer to a supernatural world which is explicitly and implicitly presupposed in the practice of my informants. It will also become clear that it is by getting in contact with this spirit world that they acquire their knowledge, their power and the helping spirits which will assist them during their future practice. As for a human group on behalf of whom they contact the spirit world, this is not, of course, a perfectly defined community as is a tribe, or an ethnic group, but it is, nevertheless, quite concrete, and in this human group, practitioners, as the ones I am going to present here, play an important role. The fourth element, the "ecstatic experience of the shaman", is largely achieved by the use of psychotropic plants, which are ingested during the initiation and during special ceremonies, and which are an all important element in their normal practice. For the above reasons -and I hope that this will become clearer later on-, I believe that the use of the term shaman, when referring to these practitioners, is justified. In the following I will, however, use the term vegetalista, which is one of the most frequent autonominations of the shamans I have been working with. This term would mean to any person not familiar with the belief system of these practitioners an "expert in the use of plants" (vegetales). This term indicates, however, not so much the fact that they frequently use plants in their practice, but refers to the origin of their knowledge: it comes from the spirit of certain plants (vegetales), which are the 14

shaman's real teachers. The term vegetalista should not be confused with that of herbalist, which denotes a person knowledgeable in the use of medicinal plants. All vegetalistas are usually also herbalists, in that they know a great deal about medicinal plants and frequently use them. But not all herbalists may be called vegetalistas. 1.2. The term "mestizo" The term mestizo presents its difficulties. The Webster Dictionary (1981) gives two acceptations of this word: 1) a person of mixed European and non-Caucasian stock, and specifically, one of European (as Spanish and Portuguese) and American Indian ancestry. 2) A completely acculturated Central or So. Indian. According to the first acceptation, the term is relative, because it covers a spectrum: practically every Peruvian would be a mestizo, and the term would therefore be too general. The second acceptation, on the other hand, is too specific, and does not reflect any longer the actual situation of the Amazon, where there have been several generations of racial intermixture. A similar confusion is found in Brazil with the term caboclo. Originally this term was applied to deculturated Indians living in villages. This term is now applied to people with a racial mixture of white and Indian, who have a generalized Indian culture rather than specific ethnic groupings. In the following I am going to use the term mestizo as a social and cultural, rather than as a racial term. Among vegetalistas there are people who could, probably, pass as Europeans (Spanish, Portuguese or Italian), and also those that would racially be indistinguishable from people belonging to some ethnic groups. But they all have the fact in common that Spanish is their mother tongue, while ideologically they operate, naturally, in various degrees, within the large and diffuse Upper Amazon cultural complex1. All my informants are born in the Amazon area, and are of considerable age (all over 60 years old). They represent perhaps "old" mestizo traditions, with a closer proximity to an Amerindian Amazonian body of ideas, in contradistinction to traditions brought to the area by more recent immigrants from the highlands and from other parts of Peru. In her study of ayahuasca use in Iquitos Dobkin de Rios (1972: 54, 141) has used the term cholo, meaning a "civilized Indian, a term of derogation used to described dark-skinned jungle transitional population". In my experience this term is used in this area to denote somebody of Amazonian physignomy who lives like a mestizo. The term cholo or cholita (referring to women) is used in an affectionate way among equals, but can be insulting if used by a socially superior person about an inferior. I am going to avoid to use this term as a social category. 15

Although, of course, I have limited my work to a handful of informants, they do not represent an isolated or marginal phenomenon. Practitioners like those I deal with in this book are probably to be found in the whole of the Amazon area, not only in Peru, but also in the Amazonian territories of Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and Bolivia. They play a very important role in these societies and contribute substantially to the medical care of both the rural and urban population. 1.3. Ayahuasca and the plant teachers. All my informants have in common the use, either occasional or regular, of ayahuasca, with the purpose of diagnosing and/or curing illnesses, or of performing other shamanic tasks such as communicating with the spirits of plants, animals and human beings -dead or alive-, travelling to distant places, finding lost objects, divining, etc. This beverage, whose use has been reported under different names in many parts of the Orinoco plains, Pacific lowlands and Amazonian rain forest, both among native and mestizo populations, is in this area made by concocting a malpighiaceous jungle vine, Banisteriopsis caapi (Spruce ex Griseb.) Morton, and the leaves of a small tree, Psychotria viridis Ruiz & Pavon (Rubiaceae). Other plants are also used as additives, and, as we will see, are of considerable importance in the process of shamanic apprenticeship. The plants involved in the preparation of Ayahuasca belong to a class which vegetalistas call doctores, because it is their belief that these plants possess spirits from which they learn medicine, and from which they receive the magic phlegm and the magic chants or melodies, which, as we will see in chapter 5, are the principal tools in the shamanic practices of vegetalistas. Many of these plant-teachers are used as additives of ayahuasca, because it is through ayahuasca that the spirits of these plants can be contacted and manifest their curative properties. 1.5. Methodological considerations From the very onset of my research, my attitude during the gathering of the material has been that of a participant-observer. I presented myself as somebody who was interested in ayahuasca, but not only concerned, as other gringos2, with taking the beverage for having the experience, but as a potential apprentice. I am aware of the dangers of such an approach. Stuln the Peruvian Amazon this term not only applies to North Americans or Europeans, but even to people coming from Lima, who through their clothes and behaviour reveal that they do not belong to the Amazon area. Although physiognomically I am a mestizo, I am considerable taller than the people of that area (I am 182 cm.), and that alone makes me quite often also a gringo. 16

dying a subject such as shamanism, one becomes extremely involved, and it happened to me that I found myself many times identified with the shamanic quest, while at the same time I tried to keep an objective look by the systematic gathering of data through notes, recordings, photos and collection of voucher specimens. I know that there are colleagues who look with suspicion at such an approach. Jean Pierre Chaumeil (1980: 9) points out that there is the danger of having an incomplete and static view of the phenomenon (I do not pretend, of course, now to possess a "complete" view of Amazonian mestizo shamanism). The fact that I was not able to spend more than between 5 and 8 weeks every year doing fieldwork, and that during the long and cold winters in Finland I could keep a certain distance to the concrete events and dedicate my time to the structuration of the data and to the examination of scientific literature, has, I hope, contributed towards a balanced view of the subject of my study. During my first period of field work I concentrated on one single informant, Don Emilio Andrade Gómez, whom I visited very often, sometimes every day, during a six-week period. I showed a genuine interest in his work, and progressively gained his confidence and even affection. I observed healing sessions, participated in ayahuasca ceremonies, and even took the beverage several times. I did not hide from him the fact that I was systematically gathering information. I worked with a tape recorder, and photo and film cameras. Don Emilio was all the time aware of my work, and he was extremely cooperative. During the second, third and fourth periods of field work, I expanded my examination to other practitioners, some of whom were introduced to me by Don Emilio himself. During the third period, I literally lived one month with one vegetalista, Don José Coral, following the prescribed diet for shamanic initiation. During the fifth field work I had the occasion to interview practitioners living in Pucallpa, and was lucky to meet Pablo Amaringo, a painter and ex-vegetalista, whose work has opened to me new roads for future research, as he is able to present in a plastic way visions which my other informants can only describe in words. Because the focus of my work is on shamanism, I have found that participating in ayahuasca sessions and taking the brew -which, as anyone who has ever taken it knows, is a far from pleasant experience-, and following all the prescriptions all this has been a very effective and not very intrusive way of establishing an easy working relationship with vegetalistas. Quite often the most interesting information was conveyed to me just after an ayahuasca session. I also had the opportunity of having long talks with some of the patients, in which I learned about their religious ideas, about their concept of illness and health, and of course about the social and economic conditions in which they live. Altogether, I collected about 180 hours of recordings, which can basically be divided into three categories (cf. Hultkrantz 1973:15-16): a) tape recording of ayahuasca ceremonies, b) tape 17

recording interviews with the shamans and their patients, c) tape recording of stories and talks between the informants. For gathering the latter material, I often left the microphone open while going away, so that I could later analyse the content of those conversations, and prepare new inquiries. I am dealing with a religious phenomenon which has no written texts or epic oral tradition which would preserve the fidelity to a body of ideas. My work is based on individual formulations of religious ideas. As Hultkrantz (1973: 18) has pointed out, the formulation of the belief system of any culture varies from individual to individual, and it is often vaguely formulated and has contradictions. This is particularly so, when dealing with shamanism, in which there is no dogma nor doctrine, but is a matter of practice, interpretation and inspiration -we will have the occasion to elaborate on this problem-. On the other hand I wish to point out that I found vegetalistas to be especially articulate when describing religious phenomena, a gift which is perhaps true of shamans in general, because one of their tasks is precisely to memorize large bodies of ideas, and to transmit to their community information acquired in supernatural realms. By working with several informants I was able to compare the information conveyed to me. Quite often their ideas were in perfect agreement. Sometimes not completely: This was especially true in the descriptions of their visions and their helping spirits, which often were highly individualistic. In the following I will sometimes indicate which of my informants said what. Most often, however, the picture I am presenting is a composite of their collective views. I will use mainly a monographic perspective. In some cases, however, I will draw comparative material from other sources, especially from studies of Amazonian shamanism. This information will be provided mainly in the footnotes. My approach will be synchronic, as I do not yet possess reliable historical data on the development of the phenomenon of vegetalismo among the mestizo population of the Amazon area. 1.6. A survey of the scientific literature Although there is a comparatively large bibliography dealing with the botany, chemistry and pharmacology of ayahuasca -and, to a lesser extent, with that of other Amazonian psychotropic plants-, the literature on the use of these plants by mestizo practitioners in a shamanic context is scarce. Most of the literature dealing with shamanism in the Upper Amazon area has its focus on particular ethnic groups. Very little systematic work has been done on the religious ideas of the mestizo population in general, and even less on mestizo shamanism. Several Peruvian scholars have touched upon this subject in investigations on folk medicine and folk psychiatry. In 1962 Oscar Ríos wrote a 70-page- monography on ayahuasca. After a historical survey of the first Westerners who reported the use of ayahuasca among Indian tribes, the first chemical investigations of the active principles of ayahuasca, and some of the 18

local names given to these beverages among various tribes, Ríos reproduces part of Spruce's account of the use of this beverage among a tribe of the Vaupés (1908: 413-425), and of Reinberg's observations among the Zaparo, and others. Ríos adds only one page about the use of ayahuasca among the mestizo population, emphasizing the idea that it is through the brujo's (wizard's) suggestion that patients visualize, when taking ayahuasca, the persons they believe have caused their illness. Ríos summarizes then Villavicencio (1858), Reinburg (1921), and Koch-Grunberg's (1908: 952-982) reports on their self-experimentation with the beverage, and Pennes & Hoch (1957) and Naranjo's (1965) description of the clinical effects of harmine, one of the alkaloids present in Banisteriopsis caapi (see 3. 3. ). The rest of the monography is dedicated to the botany and pharmacology of ayahuasca. The emphasis of Rios's work is on experimental psychiatry, and more concretely, on the possibilities of using the pure active compounds present in ayahuasca in the study of possible biochemical mechanisms underlying psychical disorders and their application in psychotherapy. In 1962 Gabriel del Castillo wrote his Bachelor's thesis on the effects of intoxication with ayahuasca using samples of the beverage gathered in Iquitos. Unfortunately, until this moment, I have been unable to get a copy of his work, and therefore I cannot comment on it. In 1963 the same author published an interesting paper which, to my knowledge, is the first dealing directly with the use of ayahuasca among the mestizo population of the Peruvian Amazon. Del Castillo gives a brief botanical description of Banisteria caapi (the name given to this plant by Spruce, later assigned to the genus Banisteriopsis), and a detailed account of the preparation of the beverage by an ayahuasquero of Iquitos. He correctly observes the importance of the diet during the shamanic training, the different "kinds" of ayahuasca (see 3. 3. ) the ayahuasqueros distinguish, according to the content of the visions elicited by the beverage, and then gives an excellent summary of the main functions of the use of the beverage among the mestizos (p.94), together with a brief description of the ceremonies in which it is ingested. He then makes observations about the physiological and psychological effects produced. Castillo also indicates that it is for reasons of health that people take ayahuasca. I do not know whether Castillo continued his investigation on this subject. So far, I have not come across any other of Castillo's publications. In 1965 Oscar Ríos, together with M. Hernandez, M. Lemlij and F. León, published a paper reporting a pharmacological and clinical study on harmine, extracted from Cabi paraensis, and ayahuasca, prepared by a curandero from Iquitos, which they administrated to 32 individuals in a very controlled situation. They carefully registered the physiological and psychological effects -such as alteration in perception, in consciousness, in the thought process and in emotions-, and applied Rorschach tests to some of the individuals before and after the ingestion of the preparations. 19

Psychologists and psychiatrists, such as Carlos Alberto Seguín, Moisés Lemlij and Mario Chiappe became interested in what has been labelled as Psiquiatría Folklórica (Seguín 1979: 13), and since 1965 they have produced a series of articles (some of which have been republished recently: cf. Seguín 1979; Chiappe et al. 1985), about local healers in several areas of Peru and their use of psychotropic plants, including ayahuasca. They present both valuable descriptive and analytical material. Their emphasis seems to be mostly on healing, and especially from the point of view of psychotherapy. There are interesting observations about the conceptions and local nomenclature of culture-bond illnesses, and about cultural determinants of the hallucinatory experience. As sources for the study of more esoteric aspects of mestizo shamanism, such as initiation and transmission of shamanic power, their work is limited by the fact that they deal comparatively little with the religious aspects, and there is no attempt to study the vegetalistas' worldview from a wider Amazonian perspective. The ethnobotanical information is scarce, and unfortunately, sometimes inaccurate. The American anthropologist Marlene Dobkin de Ríos collaborated with Seguín and Chiappe, and did field work first on practitioners using the San Pedro cactus in the coastal area of Northern Peru, and then in Iquitos, among ayahuasca practitioners, mainly in the community of Belén, an urban slum in the southern section of the city. Dobkin de Ríos published a number of articles on ayahuasca healers (1969a, 1969b, 1969c, 1970a, 1970b, 1971a, 1971b), and in 1972 a monography, in which she condenses most of the ideas on the subject she had expressed in earlier publications. In her book Dobkin de Rios presents historical data about Iquitos, and a sociological analysis of Belén. She describes ayahuasca sessions, discusses concepts of illness and witchcraft among her informants, presents several case studies of patients suffering from one misfortune or other, and finally discusses the role of ayahuasca in healing, especially in psychotherapy. There is a great deal of valuable information in her work. From the point of view of the study on shamanism, however, there are serious gaps. There is no mention, for example, of the yachay or mariri, a magic substance which is essential both in upper Amazonian tribal shamanism, and among mestizo practitioners (at least I have not yet met any vegetalistas who does not claim to possess this magic phlegm), and which is underlying the concepts of healing and witchcraft. The pervasive role of magic chants or icaros, not only during ayahuasca sessions, but in all aspects of shamanic practices, is not sufficiently stressed, and there is no profound enquiry about shamanic initiation, the importance of the diet and the acquisition of shamanic knowledge. From the ethnobotanical point of view, there is very little information about plant use. Dobkin de Rios does not mention collecting plant material, or, in case she did collect, the herbariums where voucher specimens are deposited. Since the publication of her book on ayahuasca, Dobkin de 20

Rios has made other contributions to the subject of folk healing in the Peruvian Amazon area (1977, 1981a, 1981b). Particularly interesting is a paper (1984) in which she shows the development of Don Hilde, a practitioner living in Pucallpa, who has put aside much of his ayahuasca practice to enter a mystical organization called Septrionismo de la Amazonía, formed in 1968 by an urban middle class mestizo. The aim of the organization is to achieve coherence and unity between religious and moral values and science. This paper shows the religious dynamism which exists in the Amazon area, and presents a very good example of the spiritual development of some vegetalistas towards new practices through the incorporation of new religious elements. F. Bruce Lamb, an American forester, who arrived in Peru in 1962 to undertake a forest survey in the Amazon area, met in Iquitos Don Manuel Córdoba-Ríos, a vegetalista of great reputation for his knowledge of medicinal plants and for his success as a healer. In 1971 Lamb published Wizard of the Upper Amazon. The Story of Manuel Córdoba-Ríos, an embellished account of how Cordoba Ríos had been captured by a group of Huni Kui (Amahuaca) Indians when he was 15 years old, how he had been initiated to ayahuasca and was groomed by the old chief to succeed him. For seven years he lived with the Indians and acquired his knowledge of jungle lore. He finally escaped, and eventually went to live in Iquitos, where he put his knowledge of the jungle to good use. Lamb's book was severely criticized by the anthropologist Carneiro (1980), an Amahuaca specialist, on the grounds that the tribe described by Córdoba Ríos presented many traits, including the role of the chief, population patterns, clothes, utensils, hunting techniques and a method of disposing of the dead, which could not possibly be Amahuaca. Carneiro concluded that Cordoba Ríos' story was probably not true. César Calvo, a Peruvian writer, in a novel I will comment upon in a moment (1981:216-219), presents another version of Manuel Cordoba Ríos' abduction by the Amahuaca, at the age of 13; This book is also partially based on talks with Cordoba Ríos. In Iquitos I heard a completely different story about Don Manuel from Dr. Gunther Schaper, who has lived in Iquitos for more than 50 years, and who also knew Don Manuel personally. I think that it is important to differentiate between the knowledge a vegetalista possesses, and the way he claims to have acquired it. Cordoba Ríos' story is not unique. I have met vegetalistas who tell similar -although less dramatic- stories. Most practitioners are perfectly aware of the fact that their knowledge has Indian sources, and it is part of their status to claim direct access to these sources. The most important is, however, that the knowledge which is reflected in Don Manuel's story seems to be genuine. Lamb's book has for me corroborated many of the ideas I have learned from my informants, and in some instances, has contributed to my understanding of several phenomena. 21

In the summer of 1985 a second book by F. Bruce Lamb was published, Rio Tigre and Beyond. The Amazon Jungle Medicine of Manuel Cordoba, a continuation of Wizard of the Upper Amazon, which is, in my opinion, an important contribution to our knowledge of Amazonian shamanism. Although Lamb's book is not an ethnographical work, as he himself points out, it presents very interesting material, especially about the use of chants in the modulation of ayahuasca visions. In this second book there is also a large appendix, in which Don Manuel's Materia Medica is reported. 81 species, many of them with tentative identifications, and their uses are mentioned. For me this was particularly valuable, since I have also gathered ethnobotanical information about many of these plants. It has also been very rewarding to examine the work of several Peruvian writers, whose work is based on a deep knowledge of the folklore and the life of the people of the Amazon area. I want to mention the collections of short stories by César Huamán Ramirez (1983) and Ulyses Reátegui (1983, 1984). César Calvo's novel, Las Tres Mitades de Ino Moxo, based, as I just mentioned, on the person of Don Manuel Cordoba Ríos, a vegetalista of Iquitos, and other practitioners of the Peruvian Amazon, deserves particular attention: Apart from its literary beauty, this book is very rich in information about the practice of the shamanism of that area. César Calvo was born in Iquitos, and seems to reveal a reliable knowledge of the folklore of the Peruvian Amazon. As a point of comparison, it has been very interesting for me to examine Charles Wagley's book Amazon Town. A Study of Man in the Tropics (1953, 1976), and particularly its companion book by Eduardo Galvao Santos e Visagens. Um estudo da vida religiosa de Itá, Baixo Amazonas (1976), a simplified Portuguese version of his Ph.D. dissertation presented at Columbia University) under the title The Religion of an Amazon Community: A Study in Culture Change, which was not available to me when I was writing the central chapters of this book. Both Wagleys and Galvao's monographies are based on field work carried out in 1948 in a little Brazilian Amazonian town of the Lower Amazon. Galvao's object of study is the function of the religious life of the town within the social structure of the community as a whole. He presents a historical account of the various demographic components of the population of the Amazon area, and the various elements present in the religion of the caboclos (cf. 1.2., p.15) (Iberian popular Catholicism, Amerindian and even African beliefs). He also presents descriptive material about religious fraternities, local beliefs in supernatural beings inhabiting the forest, lakes and rivers, shamanic practices (pajelança), and the impact threat various social and economic changes which have occurred in the last decades -such as urbanization- have on the religious life of the people. Although my study is more specific than Galvaos, in that I concentrate on shamanism, not on the religious life of the population as a whole, I noticed, with surprise, how much there 22

still is in common between the religious life of the little Brazilian town he studied almost forty years ago, and that of comparatively large contemporary urban centers such as Iquitos and Pucallpa. In this book it has not been my intention to make a systematic comparative study between Upper Amazon Amerindian and mestizo shamanism. However, I have often referred, mostly in the footnotes, to scientific literature on shamanism among ethnic groups of the cultural area in question. I interpolate information on shamanism from the work of Jean Pierre Chaumeil (1982a, 1982b, 1983) among the Yagua, Chevalier (1982) among the Campa, Whitten (1985) among the Quichua of Ecuador, Françoise Barbira-Freedman (former Barbira-Scazzochio)(1979) on the Lamisto, Harner (1973) and Karsten (1964) among the Jívaro, Roe (1982), Gebhart-Sayer (1982, 1986) and Guillermo Arévalo (1986) among the Shipibo, Baer (1979, 1984) among the Matsigenka, and Bellier (1986) among the Maihuna. Many of my informants' ideas are clearly a reflection of ideas present among these groups. It has also been valuable for me to examine the work of Reichel-Dolmatoff on the Desana, Stephen and Christine Hugh-Jones on the Barasana, Irving Goldman on the Cubeo, and Jean Langdon on the Siona. All these Tukano groups use yagé, and have common cultural elements with the groups mentioned above, who live closer to the area where I have been carrying out my field work. In 1983 Jaime Regan, an American Jesuit and anthropologist, published a two-volume book on the religion of the farmers and the poor workers of the Peruvian Amazon area, sharing Catholicism as an element of their culture. This work presents a large amount of first-hand information gathered by a hundred interviewers in virtually all the areas of the Peruvian Amazon. The material, arranged according to themes, is perfectly localized geographically and is followed by commentaries by the author. Regan's work is certainly an important contribution to the understanding of religious ideas and attitudes among a great part of the population of the Amazon, and it gives a rich source material for future investigations. In the interviews reproduced, I was glad to find confirmation about the widespreading of many of my informants' religious ideas. There are several features in common between the practices of the vegetalistas of the Amazon region, and those of other areas of Peru, most notably those using the San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi). I have decided, however, to leave such a comparison outside the scope of this book. 1.7. Organization of the material In the next chapter I will present a general background of the Peruvian Amazon area considering Iquitos and Pucallpa, the two major urban nuclei of this region, from a historical and socioeconomic point of view. I will then make brief comments about the religious background of the area, and present the main characteristics of Amazonian shamanism, based on Métraux's stu23

dies. I will discuss the role of vegetalistas in general and present my informants. Chapter 3, 4 and 5 deal with various aspects of shamanic initiation. In chapter 3 I will present some accounts of initiation and discuss the conditions in which it takes place, in particular the diet and sexual segregation, which are considered necessary in order to become a vegetalista. Before discussing the concept of "plant-teacher", which is crucial in the practice of shamanism in the Amazon area, and providing information about the main plant-teachers, I will present a brief survey of the botany, chemistry and uses of ayahuasca, the main psychotropic preparation used by the vegetalistas of that area. Chapter 4 deals with the spiritual world of vegetalistas. I will present the most important spirits which still play an important role in their cosmovision. I will also discuss the concept of arkana, which includes all the defences needed by the vegetalista when dealing with healing and the supernatural world, and the helping spirits with the aid of which vegetalistas diagnose and cure illness. Chapter 5 deals with the magic chants or melodies (icaros), and the transmission and use of the yachay, a magic substance which the vegetalistas have in their chest and which has an important function both in healing and in causing harm. Icaros and yachay are the two most important gifts of the spirits, which allow the vegetalista to carry out his practice. In chapter 6 I will discuss the concepts of health and illness held in this area. I will present case studies in which the two main causes of illness, illness as an intrusion of a magical dart, and illness as soul-loss are discussed. I will also deal with various forms of love magic, which are an important part of the tasks of some vegetalistas. In the final chapter I will present a detailed information about an ayahuasca session, and discuss the double role of ayahuasca as a hallucinogen and as an agent for cleansing body and soul.


CHAPTER 2. VEGETALISMO IN THE PERUVIAN AMAZON 2.1 The Peruvian Amazon area In this chapter I am going to present a brief survey of the setting where I conducted my research, the Peruvian Amazon, and introduce my informants. I will begin by giving some general data about the Amazon, and some historical and socio-economic considerations about Iquitos, where I have gathered most of my material, and to a lesser extent about Pucallpa, where I also did some field work. Peru, a country of 1 285 215 Km 2 , has 54% of its territory in the Amazon area. This area is located within a larger geographical unity, the Upper Amazon Basin, which comprehends the network of rivers that drain the tropical forest east of the Andes and flow into the Amazon River until the mouth of the Rio Madeira (Lathrap 1970:22-23). There is a geographical and ecological differentiation between the forest on the steep eastern slopes of the Andes, between 400 and 1000 meters above sea level, with heavy rainfalls, and a great contrast in the temperatures between day and night (between 14° and 32° centigrates), and the tropical forest on the floor of the Amazon Basin, situated between 80 and 400 meters above sea level, with hot temperatures (between 24° and 40° centigrates), high humidity and violent rains (cf. Rumrill 1984:33). Four departments of Peru (Loreto, San Martín, Ucayali, and Madre de Dios) lie completely within the Amazon area, while eleven other departments have part of their territories covered by tropical rain forest. Numerous Indian tribes belonging to various linguistic families, lived -and several still live- in this area. Lowie (1948: 1) points out that their cultural complex contrasted markedly from that of the Andean civilizations by lacking architectural and metallurgical refinements, their diagnostic features being the cultivation of tropical root crops, the construction of effective river craft, the use of hammocks as beds and the manufacture of pottery. The second feature, the effective use of canoeing among certain tribes, which allowed them to spread their art and customs over enormous distances, combined with natural conditions, pro25

duced, according to the same author, the remarkable levelling of culture in this area. Other factors, such as the generalized custom of taking a bride from another settlement, irrespective of linguistic affinity (Lowie 1948:29), and the necessity of trading among distant tribes or villages for the purpose of obtaining essential raw materials (Lathrap 1970:32) contributed to this levelling of culture. We may even say that syncretism was thus built into the system. The arrival of the Europeans considerably accelerated the process of interchange, by breaking down the integrity of particular tribal or ethnic groups. The missionaries forced Indian groups of different traditions to settle in large villages (reducciones), where they could be evangelized and controlled more easily 3 . During the rubber epoch (1880-1914), Indian tribes, simply considered as labour force, were enslaved, forced to migrate and compelled to work together, irrespective of their cultural differences. Later, with the advent of urbanization, the process of interchange continued in the urban slums of Iquitos, Pucallpa and other Amazonian towns. The economic frontier created by the exploitation of rubber had disastrous results for indigenous population, as entire ethnic groups disappeared as a result of disease, malnutrition, slave-raids, forced labour and the unwarranted cruelty of the rubber collectors (Chirif 1983: 187). Today ethnic groups represent only about 20% of the jungle population, and about 2.5% of the total population of the country, which amounts to approximately 20 million people. According to Wise (1983), there are still 63 surviving ethnic groups. Only a little more than 10% of the country's population live in Amazonian territories. Many of these people live along the flood plains of the Amazon and its major tributaries, where recent alluvial layers of soil are rich in nutritive materials. They go in for subsistence farming, and exploit the rich fishing resources, or have their chacras (swidden gardens) along the roads recently opened in various parts of the Amazon. During the last few decades the Amazon area has witnessed a great demographic expansion due to various colonization programs as an effort from the part of Lima to integrate these territories with "the nation". Two cities, which until not many years ago were small towns, have experienced enormous growth: Iquitos and Pucallpa.

The Jesuits, for instance, between 1640 and 1768 established 152 reducciones gathering along the Ucayali and Huallaga rivers 56. 000 christianized Indians, and in the upper Napo 66. 000 (Costales & Costales 1983: 191). 26


2.2. Iquitos and Pucallpa. Historical and socio-economic considerations The city of Iquitos (3. 45s 79. 11w) is located on the left bank of the Amazon, between the mouths of the Nanay and Itaya rivers. It has its origin in Jesuit missionary activities in the territories between the rivers Tigre and Napo, in the first half of the 18th century, particularly those that were carried out on the river Itaya by the Jesuit Maroni in 1729. The original population belonged to the Yameos. After the independence of Peru in 1821, the settlement was consolidated with native Christian people of several other tribes, among them Mayoruna, Pebas and Omaguas. In a census carried out in 1847, Iquitos had 150 inhabitants. The introduction of steam boats in the Amazon was to change the destiny of many Amazonian settlements. Iquitos became the principal river harbour in the Peruvian Amazon area. In 1864 a commercial line went upstream to Yurimaguas, in the Huallaga, and downstream to Tabatinga, in Brazilian territory (see Barcia García 1983:9-23). One of the consequences of the great demand for rubber in Europe and the United States after the discovery of the vulcanization by Goodyear in 1839 was that the Amazonian territories were soon the object of foreign capitalist interests. When F. W. Up de Graff, an American adventurer, arrived at Iquitos in 1899, it was already a small town of about 2 000 inhabitants: "Iquitos sprang from the necessity for a receiving and distributing center for rubber and merchandise respectively for the Upper Amazon system, corresponding to Manaus and Para for the Lower." (Up de Graff 1923:126). Iquitos became a cosmopolitan center of trade, where English pounds of gold circulated along with the national currency. Communication with Lima, the capital, was however very difficult, due to the distance and topography. During the so called "rubber boom period", from 1880 to 1914 (San Roman 1975:124), thousands of tons of rubber left Iquitos, and at the same time the area was inundated with Western products, especially from England and the United States. In 1910 the export of rubber exceeded 4 thousand tons. But the development of large rubber plantations in Malaysia, Burma, India, Indochina and Africa, first by Great Britain, and then by Holland, Belgium, France, Germany and the United States (Barcia García 1983:63), and the First World War (1914-1918), caused the collapse of the Amazonian rubber industry. Thousands of workers returned from the jungle, increasing the population of Iquitos, Yurimaguas, Requena, Nauta, Contamana and other urban nuclei (Barcia García 1983:65). In the twenties other Amazonian products, such as balata (Manilkara bidentata), leche caspi (Couma macrocarpa Barb. Rodr.), precious wood and resins, and live animals (especially ornamental fish) became the object of intense exploitation. Many people were engaged in this kind of jobs, usually through 27

a debt-peonage labour system or habilitación. The export of skins of wild animals, such as caymans, boas, peccari, sajino (Tayassu tajacu), jaguars and otters was carried out almost to the point of the near extinction of some animals, such as the white cayman (Caiman sclerops) and the otter (Ptenorura brasiliensis)(cf. Villarejo 1979:173-176; Chirif 1980:188). In the thirties gold and oil were found in the area of Pachitea. In September 1932 a group of Peruvian civilians took the Colombian town of Leticia by force. A war with Colombia was the result of this action, which was supported by the government in Lima. A consequence of this event was the militarization of the zone, and the forced recruitment of soldiers among the Amazonian population. In the military camps people from distant areas of all the Amazonian territories and other parts of Peru met. Local healers forced to join the army met each other, and were able to exchange ideas. Through my informants I have come to realize that shamanic practices continued even within military camps in Amazonian territories. The Second World War was again to bring changes to the Amazon. In 1941 Japan rapidly advanced through South East Asia, from where most of the rubber used in the Western world came from. Old Amazonian jungle tracks were reopened in search of rubber and jebe fino, attracting immigrants from the rest of the Peruvian territory. In November 1971 oil was discovered in the Río Tigre, and a new period of expansion occurred, bringing about a demographic explosion. Iquitos plays a central role in the administrative, economic and cultural life of northeast Peru. It continues to attract immigrants, not only from jungle settlements in Amazonian territories, but also from other areas of the country. With them have come their traditional beliefs and practices, and this city and its vicinity are a rich field for gathering ethnological and folkloristic information. Pucallpa, the second largest city of the Peruvian Amazon (about 170. 000 inhabitants), is the capital of the newly created department of Ucayali (detached from the department of Loreto in 1980). It is connected with Lima by the Federico Basadre road (843 Km), allowing active trade with the rest of the country. Pucallpa was also built as a post of rubber distribution. It is situated 148 meters above sea level. In spite of its size, it has poorly developed public services and almost no industry, except for lumbering, and a very successful beer factory. Due to its location, however, it may well happen that in the future Pucallpa will play a more important socio-economic role than Iquitos. On the lake of Yarinacocha, near Pucallpa, there is the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), an American institute connected with the Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT), which has played an active -and controversial- missionary role among Indian groups of the Peruvian Amazon. The economy of the region is extractive in nature, and mainly 28

oriented to the supply of external markets (Chirif 1980: 185). There is nearly no reinvestment of capital in the area. Wages are low, and there is great mobility among the population, who follow the ups and downs of the demand for given products, and it is dispersed after their exhaustion. All my informants, for example, have had many different jobs in various areas of the Amazon. This great mobility is yet another factor which contributes to the legalization of cultural traits that exists in the whole of the Peruvian Amazon area (cf Hvalkof & Aaby 1981). In Iquitos and Pucallpa 50% and 25% of the population respectively live in shanty-towns, many of them landless peasants who have migrated from other areas of the country encouraged by the dominant sectors which in this way avoid modifying the national structure on which their power is based. Many of these peasants have very little knowledge of the Amazonian environment (Chirif 1980: 189). The prices of food and other goods are very high, compared with those of other cities of Peru. Also the price of the transport of agricultural products from the chacras to the city, either by river or by road, is high. It seems to me that there is a progressive pauperization of the population. The demographic pressure on the Amazon is causing great changes. 5. 7% of the forest of the Peruvian Amazon has been destroyed, and the prognosis is that by the year 2000 15. 2% of the jungle (ca. 12 million ha.) will have been cleared out, with unimaginable climatic, ecological and social consequences. Both Pucallpa and Iquitos have airports. There are daily regular flights connecting Lima-Tingo María-Pucallpa and Iquitos. Three times a week there are flights that connect Iquitos with Leticia (Colombia)/Tabatinga (Brazil) and Manaus, Brazil. 2.3. Religious background of the cultural area The population of the Peruvian Amazon has been subject to an active missionary activity since the arrival of the Spaniards. During the 17th and 18th centuries several religious orders, most notably the Jesuits and Franciscans were very active. I already mentioned the reducciones (nucleated settlements) established by religious orders, which had dire consequences for the Indian population in terms of epidemics, forced labour, and the disruption of their traditional way of life. The evangelization was, nevertheless, very effective, and Christian elements penetrated deeply into the Amazonian population. Various admixtures of folk Catholicism, which came primarily from the missionaries themselves, were transmitted by people who lived in missions, and who assimilated Catholic ideas and interpreted them according to their own traditions. According to Stephen Hugh-Jones (personal communication), the Barasana of Vaupés (Colombia), although their missionization is very recent, knew a lot about Christianity when the missionaries arrived. Their knowledge did not come directly from the missionaries, but from people of other Indian groups who had told them. This can be applied, with all probability, to Indian tribes all over the Amazonian territories. 29

Regan, in his study of the religion of Amazonian people (1983: II: 165-166), recognizes the uniformity in the religious beliefs of the whole population of the Amazon area, and the juxtaposition and re-interpretation of elements due to the mutual influence of popular Catholicism and autochthonous Amazonian religious ideas. Most of the mestizo population are still nominally Catholic. However, there is an increasing influence of various Protestant sects, such as Adventists, Pentecostals, Evangelists, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc., and the Catholic Church is progressively losing the power it once held. Dozens of syncretic cults are appearing, including messianic-millenarian movements which incorporate Tupi-Guarani, Catholic and Protestant religious elements (cf. Regan 1983:II:129 ss; Clastres 1978). Popular Catholicism still remains an important religious element among many of the practitioners of these new groups, as also among vegetalistas (all my informants declare themselves Catholics, but none of them go to church). Catholic elements are not always syncretically amalgamated, but coexist hand in hand with Amerindian ideas. As Galvao observes, beliefs and Catholic institutions and those of Amerindian origin serve different objectives and complement each other as parts of a religious system (Galvao 1976:5). As we will see later, when I describe an ayahuasca ceremony conducted by Don Emilio, the Christian element is the main frame within which the ceremony is conducted. But once the invocations to Christ and the Virgin end, the vegetalista is dealing solely with the traditional Amazonian spirit world. 2.4. Tribal Amazonian Shamanism: main characteristics. In order to discuss what vegetalismo is, I have, obviously first to refer to an indigenous shamanic tradition and also to acculturation factors. Let us first see what the principal characteristics of tribal Amazonian shamanism are. I will try to summarize Alfred Métraux's ideas (1967) on this subject. Métraux begins by noticing how the functions, techniques and attributes of the shaman (he also uses the French term magicien, and the term piai, of Tupi and Carib origin) are remarkably uniform among all the forest tribes of Guayana and the Amazon Basin. Métraux remarks how in this area shamanism is a profession almost exclusively masculine. Female shamans play an important role only among few tribes. Shamanic powers are acquired either by a personal vocation, by supernatural election or sometimes it is inherited. In some cases the neophyte is elected by the spirit of his dead father, or by that of another relative -which also may be classified as inheritance-. The circumstances of the shamanic vocation may vary, including the sudden apparition of an ancestor or an animal spirit, or the occurrence of some sort of psychosomatic crisis. The piai derives his supernatural powers from his contact 30

with the spirits, which may happen directly as a result of inspiration, or after a period of initiation under the direction of a teacher. During the period of initiation the neophyte has to be in isolation, follow certain food prescriptions and live in celibacy. He must take infusion of the bark of certain trees, drink tobacco juice and vomit, in order to get in touch with the spirits. Under the effects of tobacco his spirit can fly in order to see and discover things. The neophyte has to obey the instructions of a spirit, and listen to the chants that the spirit whispers to him, so as to master all the secrets of magic (among the Indians the poetic and musical inspiration is often interpreted as the product of communication with the supernatural world). The power of the piai is often conceived either as an invisible, though concrete, magic substance, or as a series of objects, such as thorns, arrows, fragments of quartz, which he carries about him. He possesses helping spirits, which are sometimes identical with his magic weapons. His influence depends on the number of spirits under his control. His principal function is to cure illness in sessions that include massages, blowing smoke, and suctions in order to extract the illness, which takes the form of various pathogenic objects. Among his tasks are the prediction of future events, the interpretation of omens, preventing the elements harming people, the procuring of good hunting, the distribution of magic force among those that need it, and the organization and presiding over religious ceremonies and dances. The piai has an ambivalent personality in that he is able to cure, but also to harm. But above of all he is the person who uses, for the benefit of his community, the superior power of the spirits and diverts their wrongdoings (Métraux 1967: 82-86, 100-101). 2.5. Vegetalismo and vegetalistas: Amazonian mestizo shamanism Mestizo shamanism is a direct continuation of shamanism as it is found among ethnic groups. It is still an integral part of peasant religion. As we will see in detail in chapters 4-6, many of the traits of indigenous shamanism persist, essentially unchanged, among the mestizos. One may wonder at the mechanism of the transmission of this body of ideas from the ethnic groups to mestizos. When I questioned Don Emilio about the origin of his tradition of ayahuasca use, he told me that the caucheros (rubber collectors) had discovered it. He is probably right, because during the rubber epoch -and in subsequent years, when other Amazonian products were extracted-, mestizo people, often working in remote areas far from any medical facilities, had to resort to Indian shamans in case of illness or accident, and curious mestizos actually learned directly from Indian sources. We must remember, though, how vague the term mestizo is, in that it covers anything from acculturated Indians to various mixtures of white and Indian, including people coming from other regions of the country. Shamanism has probably always been practised more or less openly among Amazonian peasants depending on the external pressure exercised by the local authorities and the Church. 31

The emphasis of mestizo shamanism is on healing. We must bear in mind, though (see 6. 6. ), that the idea of healing also includes the manipulation of spiritual forces in the alleviation of financial and emotional problems. A similar emphasis in shamanic activities on healing has been observed among acculturated tribes. Angelika Gebhart-Sayer (1986) writes the following on the Shipibo-Conibo of the Ucayali, which may also be applied to other Amazonian ethnic groups: "As a result of their impetuous acculturation, the shamanic activity of the Shipibo/Conibo Indians was robbed of the bulk of its public functions and reduced to the therapeutic sessions in which ayahuasca serves as a diagnostic and inspirative vehicle. " Several types of practitioners are found among the mestizo population, denominated collectively as curanderos (healers) or empíricos. A Vegetalista, as we saw in the introduction, is the person who has acquired his knowledge from a plant, and who normally uses this plant in his diagnosis and sometimes also in healing his patients. Among vegetalistas there are several specializations, according to the main plant used. Camalonguero is the person who uses camalonga (unidentified)4, tabaquero the one who uses mainly tobacco, toero the person who uses toé (Brugmansia suaveolens), a powerful psychotropic plant, palero, the practitioner who has learned from palos (big trees), catahuero the person who uses catahua (Hura crepitans), and ayahuasquero the person who uses ayahuasca. Of course, the same person may master several of these plants5 A vegetalista may also be called maestro, doctor, médico, and often simply viejito (old man) or abuelito (which perhaps can be translated as dear grandfather). The term banco is also often heard. It seems that this term is applied to vegetalistas of great knowledge, but I have not been able to establish what his distinctive features are. It seems to me that it is applied in various ways by
4 The seeds of this plant are widely used not only in the Amazon area, but also in other areas of at least Peru, Colombia and Ecuador. None of the people I have questioned about this plant has even seen it. They all agree that it comes from the sierra (the montaneous area) of Peru.

Carneiro (1982:349), who worked with a Campa toero, writes that "the ayahuasquero is the mortal enemy of a toero and is in constant conflict with him". This seems to be contradicted, however, some pages later (372), where we learn that also Zeballos use ayahuasca for the diagnosis of illness. I have never heard of enmities of this kind between different types of vegetalistas. In fact, quite often toé is added to the ayahuasca brew.



different people. According to Don Emilio and other people, banco is a practitioner who lies down facing the floor, enters into trance, and the spirits descend upon him. Banco in Spanish means "bench". Banco would then be a "seat of power for the spirits" (Barbira Scazzochio 1979: 180; Whitten 1985: 15). I have never witnessed such a practice, but it seems to me to be related to some sort of spirit possession similar to that which I am going to describe in Don José's practice. The term brujo (wizard) is often used to refer to vegetalistas in general, and it has a despective connotation. My informants use this term only to refer to practitioners who do harm. The word hechicero is also often used as a synonym of brujo. We will see later (cf.... ) that these terms are relative, because there is no sharp distinction between good and evil vegetalistas. Besides vegetalistas there are other types of practitioners of whom, at the moment, I have only vague ideas. As far as I know, there are no studies which clearly differentiate the practices of vegetalistas from those called oracionistas (who mainly use prayers and encantations in their practice), perfumeros (who practise a sophisticated sort of "aroma therapy"), espiritualistas (who deal with spirits) and seem to follow an amalgam of European and African traditions, etc. The Peruvian psychiatrist Carlos Alberto Seguín (1979:27-31) (see 1.6), writing about local healers under the label Psiquiatría Folklórica, distinguishes between medicine-man, curandero, charlatán and curioso. It would carry too far to enter into a detailed discussion about all his distinctions. Charlatán is defined as the practitioner who does not believe in what he is doing and is only interested in material gains exploiting the credulity and the needs of the people. Curioso is reserved for the person who has some limited knowledge of traditional therapeutical recipes. But it is the distinction between medicineman and curandero which I would like to discuss briefly. According to Seguín the medicine-man operates within his own culture, while the curandero operates in Westernized societies, far from the original, popular culture; the medicine-man has an official status, while the curandero lacks, and, besides, he is despised by the established society; legally the former contributes to the creation and obedience of the laws, while the latter is persecuted; the medicine-man is integrated, the curandero is marginated; the motives of the medicine-man are religious, social and vocational, while the curandero's motives are vocational and humanitarian. This distinction between medicine-man and curandero is not always so drastic in societies like those of the upper Amazon, where there is a continuum between the medicine-men of tribal groups and the acculturated Indians, and the curandero of the mestizo population. In this book we will see that the techniques used in the healing practices of mestizo curanderos (I believe that Seguín would place the vegetalistas I have been studying in this category) are nearly identical with some of the techniques used by tribal shamans. The distinction is, 33

thus, social. But even social categories are relative. For instance vegetalistas are perhaps despised by established society, but some of them enjoy high social status within their immediate operational environment, and I think they care very little for what the distant authorities and rich minority think of them. They are marginated from the point of view of the dominant society, but are often very much integrated in their communities, often more than the medical doctor of rural areas or urban slums, who has little idea of the practical problems of everyday life among the people they are supposed to attend. Finally, I do not see why Seguín disregard the curandero's religious religious motives. I think that more subtle distinctions have to be worked out in order to account for the variety of practitioners operating in Peru -and for that matter in many other countries with similar conditions6. As I indicated above (see 1.3.), all my informants have the use of ayahuasca in common. I am not going to use the term ayahuasquero when referring to them, because they all say that have also learned from other plants. They usually use the term vegetalista when referring to one another (I will deal specifically with ayahuasca and other plant teachers in the next chapter). I would like to make a few more observations before I present my informants. Something that has always struck me when meeting vegetalistas is their physical strength, good health and sound minds. In fact, I have sometimes thought that they are perhaps among the brightest individuals in their community. I have always been very impressed by their general knowledge, not only of their particular practice, but also of many other things. They are often great story tellers, have artistic talents and possess an extraordinary memory. This is in agreement with similar observations about shamans in other parts of the world (cf. Eliade 1964: 30), and do not reinforce the idea of the shaman as a psychotic and unbalanced person, which is still
6 Seguín also distinguishes between medicine-man and shaman. According to him, two characteristics differentiate a medicineman from a shaman: 1) The shaman usually performs his healing activities out in the open or where he is needed, while the medicine-man does so only in the place where he lives and where he receives his patients. 2) the shaman is possessed by spirits, while the medicine-man has to recur to "magic techniques" and to the use of plants, minerals or animals in his therapeutic treatment. I find this distinction unnecessary. Shamans/ medicine-men operate out in the open, in their homes, or wherever they are needed. It all depends on the circumstances. Secondly, a shaman may be possessed by a spirit and still, as part of the treatment of his patients, use medicinal plants or other preparations (in fact this is the case of one of my informants). Seguín does not explain in what way the "magical techniques" of the medicine-man differ from those of the shaman. I think that it is more useful to adhere to a more general definition of shaman as that of Hultkrantz (see 1.2.).


occasionally found in literature7. The people's attitude towards vegetalistas varies. Many people, especially the well-to-do, regard them with a mixture of curiosity, fear and scorn. Among the poor there is often great respect. However, among the clients the vegetalistas one may find people belonging to all social classes, including the rich. Although vegetalistas are often highly individualistic, there is, nevertheless, an informal network of relationships between them, which may include the transmission of new information or knowledge. Vegetalistas often know others who live either in the immediate vicinity or at times even many kilometers away. Most probably there is a large network of communication linking vegetalistas living in the city with those living in remote areas in the forest. The nature of their endeavour make vegetalistas subject to supernatural attacks or rivalries from those responsible for the illness they are intending to cure. As a result of these struggles, they may also become the subject of magic illnesses, which in turn need magic treatment by more powerful shamans7. It even seems that there are large networks of healers across region boundaries, and even frontiers. The Peruvian anthropologist Elizabeth Kramer kindly invited me to a San Pedro cactus session in Lima conducted by one of her informants. He showed us a sack of perhaps 100 different plants collected from various parts of Peru and Bolivia, including the highlands and the jungle. It shows that there is an extensive interchange of information across geographical areas and cultural traditions. This is in accordance with the spirit of shamanism. The shaman is the man who transcends the boundaries of society and goes outside, where there is power. The most powerful shamans are often those that get some secret weapon from a distant group. This, of course, encourages syncretism.

7 A lengthy and interesting discussion on the psychology of shamans is found in Merkur 1985:10-40. 7 In a study of folk healing in southeast Colombia, Michel Taussig (1980:237) makes the following observation, which may also be applied to the vegetalistas of Iquitos:

"All folk healers require the services of a healer more powerful than themselves, because a healer is always likely to be stricken with sorcery as part of the profession of magical medicine. In attempting to heal victims of sorcery, a healer is liable to become attacked from the same source that afflicted the patient, usually another medicine man, and this may prove more than the healer can cope with alone. This is one of the leading reasons why a network exists among practitioners, and why it has a subtle hierarchical form extending from less to more powerful healers" 35

All my informants are men. This does not mean that there are no female vegetalistas. I heard about a few, but I had no occasion to meet them. I have always had very limited time for doing field work, and I preferred to concentrate on few informants. It is usually considered that a women will not be ready for shamanic initiation during her fertile age. It is after the menopause that a woman may pursue the shamanic quest. I believe that my informants represent a case of transitional shamanism, located half-way between indigenous shamanism and the new practitioners that are now emerging in the urban centers, and who incorporate more "modern" elements (European esoteric traditions introduced in the Amazon during the 19th and 20th centuries). Also from an economic point of view they are between two different economic systems: a subsistence economy (they all have their chacras) and market economy. Vegetalistas are to be found among the mestizo population, practically the only reliable repositories of the Amazonian worldview. The Christian churches, and particularly the various newly arrived Protestant sects present in the Amazon, take good care to suppress their converts' animistic ideas and prohibit them to take part in ayahuasca sessions. 2.6. The informants Don Emilio Andrade Gómez Don Emilio was born in Iquitos in 1918. His father, D. Antonio Andrade, was born in Pucallpa and worked as second machinist on board one of the steam boats which connected various Amazonian towns of Brazil, Colombia and Peru and transported people working in the extraction of balata and jebe fino. He describes his father as a stout bewhiskered gentleman wearing a beard, and his mother as being a cholita (of Amazonian physiognomy)8, whose features he inherited. During his childhood his parents lived in various settlements along the river, following the ups and downs of the economy of the area, which in turn followed the prices of Amazonian raw materials in Europe and the United States. When Don Emilio was ten, his parents separated. He stayed with his mother in Iquitos where he went to school for the first time. When he was twelve or fourteen, his father took him to the Upper Ucayali, where he learned the behaviour of many animals, how to fish with harpoon and with bow and arrow, and how to hunt. After some time (several months, perhaps a year), they returned to Iquitos, where Don Emilio could complete four years of basic education (Don Emilio reads and writes very well).
8 The term cholo is used in several ways in the Amazon area. As a sociological term, cholo is a non-Indian. But in the way it is used by many people in the rural areas, it means just having Amazonian features, and is often used in an affectionate way.


When he was 14 years old, and while working by the Amazon river, near the mouth of the Napo river, he was given ayahuasca for the first time. He followed, as he was told to do, the rigorous diet and sexual abstinence which are prescribed for an optimal effect of the medicinal properties of the brew, and which vegetalistas follow when they want to "learn" from the plant. It was not Don Emilio's intention to become a vegetalista. But this time he was "chosen" by the plant, who taught him magical chants and the use of medicinal plants. During the time he was in the army, he was sent to the Güepi, the northernmost outpost of the Peruvian Amazon by the Putumayo river. Even there he continued taking ayahuasca in sessions attended by commissioned officers and soldiers from other parts of the Peruvian tropical rain forest. After the completion of his military service he moved to Quistococha, a small settlement of perhaps 300 persons, about 12 kilometers south-west of the city of Iquitos, where he married Dona Lucía Gálvez. They got eleven children. For years he worked in the exploitation of various jungle products, such as barbasco, rubber, balata, gold, and the extraction of wood. In Quistococha he held for some years the office of teniente gobernador (a local government representative responsible to the sub-prefects of provinces). He still lives near Quistococha. A busy road that will eventually connect Iquitos with Nauta passes in front of his home. Patients and clients from Iquitos can get to his home by using a truck service five or six times a day. His wife died in December 1982. He has a small swidden garden, where he grows yuca, pineapple and other fruits, but not enough to sustain himself. Two days a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, he devotes himself to the treatment of patients and the preparation of herbal baths for good luck in work and love. Don José Coral I met Don José Coral through Don Emilio in May 1983. I had decided that in order to learn about shamanic initiation, I myself would follow the diet prescribed for one month, which was all the time I had available. Don Emilio told me that it was not convenient for me to stay at his home during that period as his house was situated by the road, with a lot of noise and people coming and going -his many patients or clients. He told me then that he knew a good ayahuasquero, Don José Coral, who lived about four kilometers away, near a locality called Pena Negra. There Don José had his chacra (swidden garden) and he was sure to accept me as his apprentice. We went to see him. I found a man very different in complexion from Don Emilio. He was rather tall, of a very strong constitution, but less articulate in the expression of his ideas. He told me that he was seventy-five years old, but he looked no more than sixty. He had a piece of land where he cultivated maize, plantains, bananas, sweet manioc, pineapple, peanuts and other plants. Don Emilio presented my case to Don José, who agreed that I could stay with him during the month of July of that year. 37

Don Emilio Andrade and Don José Coral Don José was born in a small settlement in Yurimaguas on the left bank of the Huallaga river in 1909. When he was seventeen he took ayahuasca for the first time, because of a great pain he had in his stomach. The twentieth time he took the brew, spirits, which he calls murrayas, appeared in his visions. They told him that they live "at the end of the world", using as their only food the flower of tobacco. They removed a magic dart he had in his stomach. After working as a collector of several jungle products such as leche caspi, rubber, ornamental fish, etc., he made his chacra near Pena Negra, 18 kilometers from Iquitos. He was married twice. Both of his wives and his five children died, according to Don José, due to the attack of evil sorcerers. Today he lives with Dona Dolores Vásquez Balbarán, 52 years old. They have no common children. He supports himself primarily by his work on his plantation. Occasionally sick people are brought to him. His patients are allowed to stay at his home for as long as several months, or until they are fully recovered. On the first of July I moved to Don José's chacra. I was accompanied by two young men, Jorge, aged 20, Don Emilio's youngest son, and Alí, aged 21, a good friend of Jorge, living with his parents and brothers very close to Don Emilio's land. They both wanted to follow the diet with me, after I offered to pay any expenses we might have during that period. Don José 38

accepted me without any reserve. His humble house, consisting of only two rooms, very primitively built, even by the region standards, was soon overcrowded. Jorge, Alí and I occupied the front room. Don José and his wife occupied the little back room, separated by a door from our room. That very same day two more persons came to enlarge the community: an old couple in need of treatment was accepted by Don José. The woman showed a very bad infection in her face with several abscesses both outside and inside her mouth. She was sixty years old and very weak. She was hardly able to talk or eat. Her husband had a less serious infection in his nose, which was very swollen and had been like that for many months. They had both been treated, without improvement, in one of the hospitals of Iquitos. Another woman, Dona Rosa Teco, arrived some days later. She was in great pain, and could hardly move, suffering of what appeared to me as a severe rheumatic disease. We all lived in one room during the month I spent with Don José. During that time I was able to learn a great deal about Don José's practice, and about his patient's worldviews. Don Santiago Murayari I met Don Santiago on Don José's plantation. Apparently they have known each other for a long time. He came to participate in one of our ayahuasca sessions during the time I was following the diet. I didn't pay much attention to him at- first. He talked in a very soft voice, and he was difficult to approach in the beginning. But during the ceremony he underwent such a change that I realized he was a very different person from what I thought. According to Don José, Don Santiago's father, now dead, had been a great ayahuasquero. Don Santiago did not become a vegetalista until he was fifty years old. I don't know why he did not practise medicine earlier. It seems that ayahuasca did not affect him. But then he followed six months of diet. Then suddenly the spirits appeared in his visions and took possession of him. They were the spirits of vegetalistas who had gone to the underwater world. In fact, they were the product of the union of a man and a mermaid (see later 4.1.5.). It is with the help of these spirits that he now performed shamanic tasks. Don Santiago came to visit Don José when we had already been there for over two weeks. The woman with the infection had not shown any signs of improvement, and Don Santiago asked Don José's permission to cure her. The next ten days it was Don Santiago who treated the lady, and twice he prepared the ayahuasca brew. Don Celso Rojas I met Don Celso in May 1983 through Don Pedro Felipe Ayala, an Argentinian resident of Iquitos for many years and very interested in ayahuasca. Don Celso received me in his home in the city of Iquitos, where he lives with his second wife and several of their children. He allowed me to ask him questions and to tape his answers. 39

Don Celso was born in a small settlement on the upper Tapiche river in 1905. When he was thirty he suffered a serious lesion in his left leg, which developed a suppurating abscess resistant to treatment. After nearly three months of suffering he was forced to travel to Iquitos in order to find medical assistance. After four months in hospital, the doctor told him that his leg should be amputated. He refused to permit this and went back to his home. He had previously heard about the curative power of ayahuasca, and decided to try it. During the next three years he did not eat any salt, sugar or pork, nor did he approach his first wife or any woman. After six months of ingesting ayahuasca once a week, a little bird appeared in his visions. It looked at his leg, and saw that it was covered by maggots. The little bird carried them away and ate them, and when it had finished it disappeared in the ayahuasca pot. From that moment he noticed a considerable improvement in his leg. The spirits of the plants started to appear in his visions and taught him medicine, but prohibited him to practice during a two-year period. His wife died during that time. He started to practise medicine actively in 1941. He now lives in Iquitos and has a second house where two days a week -Tuesdays and Fridayshe drinks ayahuasca and cures sick people. This is his main source of income. He is a man of strong constitution and great vigour. I visited him five times and gathered from him very interesting information. I never participated in any of his curing sessions, though. Don Alejandro Vásquez Zarate I also met Don Alejandro also through Pedro Felipe Ayala, in May 1983. He was born in 1920 near Santa Clotilde by the Yavarí river, a tributary of the Amazon. When he was ten years old his family moved to Puca Barranca on the Napo river, where he was introduced to ayahuasca at the age of seventeen by an Indian -he did not know the tribe-. He followed a diet for two years, and learned medicine from the spirits of the plants. After working for years as a collector of various jungle products, he moved to Iquitos in 1973, wishing to give his children the opportunity of a better education. Today he drinks ayahuasca only occasionally when sick people are brought to him. He works in a hardware store and has never supported himself by the practice of medicine, in spite of considering himself a good doctor. Don Sergio Freitas I met don Sergio, aged 42, through a taxi driver, who gave me his address. He invited me to participate in an ayahuasca ceremony. He is the youngest of all the vegetalistas I have met. Don Sergio represents another type of practitioner, a transitional case between a rural and an urban practitioner. I visited him only twice, but was able to interview him for several hours. He says he belongs to the Rosacrucian Temple. His ideas differed much from those of Don José, Don Emilio and Don Santiago, and were more in accord with those of other practitio40

ners I met in Iquitos. I decided to leave this other type of practitioners for a future work. In the summer of 1985, and through phytochemist Dennis McKenna, I met other practitioners in Pucallpa. I gathered considerable material, but I have not yet had the time to analyse it thoroughly. The general ideas are very similar, but they also represent a variety of practitioners more linked with urban life, which is reflected in the forms their helping spirits take and their shamanic journeys. Among the people I met in Pucallpa was the painter Pablo Amaringo, who opened to me new roads of future research. He practised as a vegetalista for five years, but then stopped for fear of the spirits. "Los espíritus se me pegan muy fácilmente" (the spirits get attached to me too easily), he says. He has an remarkable photographic memory and is able to paint not only very beautiful jungle landscapes in which every plant and animal can be identified, but is also able to recall his visions during the time he took ayahuasca and practised medicine. I have illustrated this book with a few of his paintings. I am now planning a book in which several of his paintings of ayahuasca visions will be analysed in detail, and which will show the extraordinary complexity and heterogeneity which is found in the spiritual world of some modern practitioners. I do not claim that the informants I have been working with are unique or special. There are probably dozens of practitioners like Don Emilio and Don José. I find it very dangerous to elevate one practitioner to a pedestal and pretend that he represents something more legitimate that the others. I made the choice to remain a longer time with Don Emilio because of his humility, the affection he showed for me and the clarity of his thoughts. Visiting him year after year has been most rewarding. I had the opportunity to go through my notes and interviews, and reformulate my questions in order to illuminate aspects of his practice that I had not understood previously. Shorter visits to many other practitioners have shown to me that there is enough common ground to make certain generalizations. However, mestizo shamanism is the product of the syncretism of the shamanism found among several Indian tribes and European religious traditions. Each practitioner is in a way unique, in that he has integrated those elements that he found valid in his practice. There are notable differences between practitioners living in the rural areas, those that have moved recently to the cities, and younger practitioners who have developed their skills with a greater impact of urban life. All my informants have had an intimate contact with the jungle. They all claim to have been very good mitayeros (hunters), they know the flora and fauna of the Amazonian environment and are very much influenced by this setting. When they were young the Amazonian environment was more intact than it is today. Many of the plants and animals they were familiar with have now disappeared from the vicinity of the cities. The process of deforestation cannot be stopped. But they still have their chacras, and remain to a certain extent linked with the forest. But they all also have a prolonged exposure to city 41

life with all that it involves.

Don Emilio crushing the stems of Banisteriopsis caapi

Don José Coral blowing tobacco on the ayahuasca pot 42

CHAPTER 3 SHAMANIC INITIATION AND THE PLANT-TEACHERS 3.1. Shamanic initiation In this and in the next two chapters I am going to deal with shamanic initiation. In this chapter I will consider the conditions that must be fulfilled in order to become a vegetalista, the diet and sexual segregation. I am also going to discuss the concept of plant-teachers, and to present general information about ayahuasca and about some of the plants that are considered plant-teachers. In chapter 4 I will deal with the spirit world of the vegetalistas, and in chapter 5 with the transmission of shamanic power in the form of magic chants or melodies, and magic phlegm. Although culturally vegetalistas have a very strong influence of Amazonian cosmology, and the prescriptions they follow in order to become vegetalistas conform closely to those found among some Indian tribes of the upper Amazon, they do not identify themselves nor their ancestors with any specific tribal group. There is no concrete community or social group backing and supporting their initiation, nor is there any public ritual in which they are officially recognized as vegetalistas. Their initiation is a matter of personal choice or individual vocation. It seems that there is a gradual recognition on the part of the community -and on the part of the vegetalista himselfthat he is endowed with shamanic powers. In the end of the preceding chapter I mentioned some of the circumstances in which some of my informants took ayahuasca for the first time. Both Don José Coral and Don Celso Rojas did it in order to find a cure for an illness they had. In the case of Don José, it was a magical illness, a magic dart shot by an evil practitioner. Don Celso did it to cure himself of a bad infection in his leg, which the doctors wanted to amputate. These examples correspond to a certain pattern apparently common in the Amazon, of how one becomes a vegetalista. One gets a terrible illness. The Western doctors are not able to cure it. The person either goes to an experienced vegetalista, or takes ayahuasca by himself and gets cured. In the process of being cured the person acquires certain powers and becomes a healer. I have heard stories nearly identical with those of Don José and Don Celso from the mouths of several vegetalistas. A similar story is presented by Regan (1983:2:20): A man had an in43

fection in his ear. In the hospital they gave him injections and tablets without any effect. The doctor said that he had to remove his ear. He went to a vegetalista, who gave him ayahuasca, catahua and lupuna colorada (all plant-teachers). He followed a diet for a certain time. In his visions he saw the person responsible for his illness. He was cured, and at the same time learnt how to heal others. 3.1.1. Don Emilio's account. The following is an abbreviated account of how Don Emilio began to take ayahuasca, and how he gradually began to practise. This information was gathered during several interviews. Don Emilio is an eager narrator and story-teller. Instead of interrupting him all the time in order to get precise information on the questions I had prepared, I let him talk. This was often rewarding. Many interesting details about his socio-economic circumstances emerged in his free narration, which in turn have helped me to understand the particulars I was primarily interested in. "I had a neighbour whose name was Juan Hidalgo Nina. He was a corporal of the security guard. He suffered badly from asthma. Not even in Lima could the doctors cure him. He only got "calmantes" (analgesics), and was getting worse all the time. But then his sister, Eloisa Rios, told him to ask for two or three months of leave in order to visit a vegetalista called José Benavides Sánchez, who lived somewhere down the river. In fact he got leave, bought all that he would need -rice, soup, kerosene, salt, tobacco and other things-, hired a canoe, and left. I went with him on his second visit to that man. I was fourteen and worked building palma houses and gathering wood for construction work. I earned 15 soles a month. One afternoon, at about half past four, I saw several people arriving from the bank of the Amazon river. I asked Esteban, a nephew of the patient: "What are those people going to do?" "Hush!. They are going to take ayahuasca", he said. "Don't they get tired sitting there for hours with so many mosquitos buzzing around them?", I asked. "They are used to it. Besides, they don't feel any discomfort, because it is as if they were watching a film", he said. "And what about this ayahuasca", I asked. "It is a little bitter, like beer", he said. Two or three times they gathered to take ayahuasca. I watched everything without uttering a word. Among these people there was an old woman called Veneranda Vásquez. She knew very much, not only about ayahuasca but about other plants as well. She had followed the diet prescribed. One night she asked me: "Emilio, when you were living in Iquitos, didn't you ever go to the cinema?" "Yes, I did", I answered. 44

"It your ther your

is just the same thing. Besides, you will cure body. And if you want to see your father or moor girlfriend, you can see them in mareación (in visions)".

I approached the circle formed by the people. In the center was the ayahuasca pot. The maestros asked me whether I was going to take the purga. "Yes", I said. "The woman here has invited me." "Very good. Take your chance. You won't have to pay anything. If you take this brew and follow a diet, you will cleanse your tubería (intestines), and you will learn many a thing.", they said. I received a little bowl with the brew and gulped it down. I waited about ten minutes. Then Don Juan Nina asked me: "Are you mareado" "No, I don't see anything", I said. I drank another bowl of the concoction, and ten minutes later yet another. I did not see anything. Meanwhile the others were singing or throwing up. One of those present, Don Salvador, an old man, said: "Do you want to know why this young man does not see anything?". "Why?", asked Dona Veneranda Vásquez. "It is because his stomach is very dirty: it is full of the essence of all sorts of species, like garlic, and pepper, and also of pork and other things. Only by following the diet will he be able to see something." The first three times I took ayahuasca I did not see anything, but I continued being on a diet. The fourth time I saw something. That made me believe that it was indeed true what they said. The fifth time I took the brew I really had a vision. I saw luxurious cars, huge boats, helicopters, airplanes, trains and people of all kinds. I liked it. But in the beginning I felt that my face was turned backwards. I felt that all my body had changed. I wanted to scream. But the maestro told me to remain silent: "It is worse if you scream", he said. Then he took his cachimbo (a large pipe), told me to lie down, and blew smoke over me. He then sucked the pit of my stomach three times, and again blew smoke over me. Then I calmed down. I saw an old woman coming to sing near me. At times she waved a handkerchief. She told me: "You have to listen carefully, my son. This is an icaro. You can heal with it. You have to follow a diet: You must not eat pork, sweets, salt, pepper. And you must not sleep with a woman. Ayahuasca likes you. You are going to learn from it." Don Emilio told me that he stayed in that place for four months, following the diet. It was during this time that he learned his icaros or magic melodies. In other interviews Don Emilio affirms that he followed the diet for three years. He told me that in the beginning he very seldom treated patients. Only after he settled down in Quistococha, and because people insisted that he was an effective healer, did he decide to dedicate two days a week to his patients. 45

I have been reconstructing Don Emilio's autobiography, and there is no room, really, for three consecutive years in total isolation, which he considers the ideal length of time to become a good vegetalista. I think that a factor that has to be taken into account is that my informants are not always presenting me with their own experiences. I have a distinct feeling that some of the episodes they told me happened to them, do not, in fact, correspond to personal experiences. They rather correspond to ideal models that are implicit in the cosmology of that cultural area, a body of knowledge that is tacitly accepted as plausible, and which is repeated again and again. This is also reflected in their stories. In a collection of tales about the Quichua-speaking communities of the Napo river, edited by Mercier (1979), I found several of the stories Don José Coral had told me had happened to him or to somebody he knew personally. Vegetalistas are often great story tellers. I later understood that references to neighbours or to "a woman or a man I met in such and such a place" are simply narrative devices probably used in the entire cultural area 9 . 3.1.2. Don Josefs account When I questioned Don José about how he became a vegetalista, he told me that he did not get his knowledge from a vegetalista, but from spirits. For several months he prepared and took ayahuasca alone. Then spirits, which he calls muerrayas, came into his visions to teach him 1 0 . He said that one of these spirits was a yakumama (mother of the water) (cf.4.1.3.), a huge boa living in a cocha (ox-bow lake) called Achual, which was able to adopt human form. Two more spirits, he says, belong to the underwater world. Their names are José Manuel Murayari and José Arirúa, and they are the offspring of a human being and a mermaid (cf. 4.1.5.). Three others, Antonio Keroseres, and José Ichipuruna, and Manuel Arirama he characterized as "just spirits". The latter, he told me, was an old man who lived in the Upper Maranón. He discovered that he could cure when a very sick woman asked him to heal her. He tried. Only twice did he suck the place where the illness was, and the virote (magical dart) came out. After that he began to practise medicine.

After listening to so many stories, I have come to realize that among the devices used to make a story credible there are indications about the location -such and such a river-, at a certain hour, a certain type of dialogues. A study of the structure of oral narrative in this area would probably yield interesting results. The term muerraya is found among certain Indian tribes (cf.Steward & Métraux 1948:542; Chevalier 1982:354).



During ayahuasca and healing sessions Don José calls through icaros his various spirits, one after the other. They come and sit on the top of his head, and take possession of him (cf.4.3.).
3.1.3. Learning from a n a n t s p i r i t

During my visits to the Peruvian Amazon I have talked about ayahuasca not only with vegetalistas but with many other people who have had direct experience of the brew. I could not resist the temptation of summarizing here an account of a sort of shamanic initiation of a person whose name I am not allowed to disclose. He is a well-educated man of about 35 born in the highlands. I find his story not only fascinating, but also illuminating because it is a good contribution towards understanding what is experienced by neophites when they follow the rules associated with shamanic initiation in this cultural area. His story: When what I am going to tell you happened, I had already taken ayahuasca many times. I did it with an old man in the area of the Yavarí River and then in Pucallpa and other places by the Ucayali and the Putumayo rivers. I was 22 years old. I was like you. I was always asking here and there where there were people who knew about plants. Usually the best vegetalistas are those who live far from the cities, because they like the solitude. I used to go fishing and hunting along the Nanay River and its tributaries. In a little town called San Antonio, where the last of the Iquitos Aucas still live, I met an old woman who was said to know very much about plants. She had married a man, who soon after had become the best hunter among the Iquitos Aucas, because this woman taught him how to take herbal baths before hunting, so that his body might acquire the smell of the jungle, and the animals would not run away. I arrived in that town during the carnival. Just after the carnival, the old woman died. The people there followed the traditions. They danced around an aguaje palm, and then put fire to it, and cut it down. There I learnt a legend. They said that in the beginning the earth was a desert. There was only one little oasis with a palm tree of aguaje ll . One of Mauritia flexuosa L.f., an arborescent palm which grows in swampy areas of the forest. The flesh around the seeds is edible, and highly appreciated by Amazonian people (cf.Vickers & Plowman 1984:25).


the warriors of the tribe had a dream in which he saw how ayahuasca should be prepared. He took ayahuasca, and in his visions he understood that he should cut down the aguaje palm. He painted his body, and danced around the palm tree. As the palm was falling down, it became bigger and bigger. The main trunk became the Amazon, and the branches its tributaries. The people around the body of the old woman were telling stories. From time to time they mourned her with icaros. Somebody told me that in that area there lived an old man who was a great banco (a very good vegetalista). I listened to the stories. Then I decided together with other people to take a boat to the River Chambira, which is located in a highland forest, which is the reason why the level of the river fluctuates very easily. It is enough if it rains heavily for one day, then the river grows forming lakes here and there. We left the boat in the main river, and took small canoes to fish, each person for himself. When the night comes, one usually sleeps in a canoe. It is safer because of the animals that are out there. I did not tie up the canoe well enough, and when I woke up early in the morning, I realized that the canoe had been taken by the river. I was concerned, of course, but I knew that I was not far from the main river, and besides, I had my fishing rod, and I could manage. I tried to find my way out. But hours passed, and I could not find my way back, I was lost in the labyrinth of small lakes. Suddenly, in one of the lakes, I saw a man fishing. I came closer, and asked him where the main river was. He indicated the way to me. When I was paddling away, the man called me by my name. I became very frightened. Many thoughts crossed my mind. I wanted to flee, but I calmed down and returned to the man. I asked him: "Do we know each other?" "Yes, I know you." And then the old man told me many things about my life, and that he knew that I was interested in ayahuasca. He invited me to come back to the same place to meet him some days later. I accepted. I returned to San Antonio and told the people there about my encounter with the old man in the river. They said that this man was the person they had told me about, that he was a great vegetalista. He was called by the people El Profeta Daniel. They said that he had great knowledge. I sold all the fish I had, bought a lot of food, and went with all that to the appointment. Don Daniel said that we did not need any of those things I had bought. We paddled for one whole day. After that we hid the canoes and walked three days in the jungle until we arrived at a very beautiful place, one of those called supay chacra, which is a very powerful 48

place (cf.note in 4.1.1.). We made a thatched shelter, and we stayed there for days. I was a little impatient. I asked him: "When are we going to drink ayahuasca?" "The moment will come", he said. A month passed. During that time he taught me many things about the jungle and about his ideas about life and death. During all that time I had many dreams, and I used to tell them to Don Daniel. About three months later he said that it was time to take ayahuasca. We collected the vine and the leaves of chacruna. He boiled the two plants for 24 hours, until the extract from the plants became a paste. He then asked me: "What animal has impressed you most during all this time we have been here?" "The isula", I said (isula is a large ant). We took ayahuasca. He began to dance and to perform magnificent jumps, which were completely disproportional for his age. I began to feel the effects of ayahuasca. I felt a pain in my back, like something cold advancing through my spinal cord until it arrived at my head. Then I felt something like an explosion, and saw myriads of colours. Then I felt an itching descending down to my feet. Suddenly I saw myself sitting in front of me. I became afraid, but then Don Daniel shook his schacapa (the rattle) on top of my head, and I felt that I was travelling very fast in the dark, until I arrived at a place which was illuminated. I looked around. Then I saw a circle of snakes around me. I took up a posture of defense as Don Daniel had taught me. Then I saw an isula behind the circle of snakes. I then realized that the isula was not bigger than the snakes, and that they were in reality earthworms, and that I had become small. From the ant came a sort of energy that calmed me down, and I also saw that something was irradiating out of me. We communicated in some sort of visual threedimentional language. The ant invited me to ride and to visit its home. When the ant was ascending to the tree where it lived, a sticky substance came out of it, which helped it to climb. I later learned that to this substance dust and pollen are adhered, and with time it becomes an ayahuasca vine, if the ant is an ant of knowledge. If it is a common ant, it becomes a támishi vine, which is very resistant, and widely used in the jungle in the construction of houses. The ant told me many stories in this three-dimensional language. It told me that thousands of years ago the ants were intelligent beings. Then there were big catastrophes, colliding asteroids that destroyed their cities. The ants became smaller and smaller and lost all their intellectual qualities and their imagination and became like robots.


For three months I lived between two realities. Sometimes I was with the ant, and sometimes with Don Daniel. But it became quite normal for me to shift between these two worlds. For me they were equally real. To be with the ant was like being with a friend. One day the ant told me: "Let us fly". I said: "But neither you nor I have wings". It said: "Not only with wings can you fly". I climbed on its back and the ant jumped from the tree, and we glided down and landed softly on the ground. The ant gave me a last look, and its abdomen opened, and from there a tiny chacruna plant emerged. Don Daniel told me that it was time for me to go back to my world. He said that we would meet one day in the future. So I came out from the jungle after six months. There are several interesting elements in this story. First, the idea of an animal-teacher, which we also have in Don Jose's account of his initiation. During my first field work I met a young man who had been dieting, and asked who his teacher was. "A hawk", he said. Unfortunately at that time I was not aware of the importance of his answer, and I did not question him at length. We will see later (cf 4. 1. 9. ) that certain animals may become helping spirits of the vegetalistas. Another interesting element in A. A. story is the idea that the ants were once intelligent. This is in agreement with indigenous Amazonian ideas, according to which in primordial times animals "were people". A third interesting element is the long preparation before ingesting ayahuasca. The idea is that the body has to acquire olor a monte (the smell of the jungle), so that a human being is able to approach animals without danger, and in this way learn from nature (one must bear in mind that the spirit world of Amazonian people is intimately tied up with the flora and fauna of the environment in which they are living). It belongs to the story that A. A. had a motorcycle accident some years later in which he fractured his leg badly. The doctors told him that he had to be in plaster for at least six months. When a month had passed, the old man came to his home, took the plaster away, and cured him with medicinal plants. A. A. has never practiced medicine. He is now married and lives in the vicinity of Iquitos. 3.1.4. Commentaries on the shamanic initiation As I mentioned earlier, I have heard several cases of persons who have become vegetalistas during the process of being cured of an illness. As far as I have understood, these illnesses have always been of physiological character. Even in the case of magical illness -for instance the intrusion of a magical dart-, the physiological consequences of the illness were stressed: great pain, swollen limbs, etc., not psychological disturbances. With this limitation in mind, Eliade's observa50

tion (1964:31) that shamans "if they have cured themselves and are able to cure others, it is, among other things, because they know the mechanism, or rather, the theory of illness" could be applied to these cases. A second observation is that learning from the plants does not imply that the person will become a healer. It seems to me that what has moved some vegetalistas to follow the prescriptions associated with the ingestions of plant-teachers was more a philosophical quest -the desire to learn, to understand- than a humanitarian vocation. Learning how to heal is part of the knowledge acquired during initiation, not the primary goal. The vegetalistas learn directly from spirits. The function of the senior shaman, when present, is to protect the novice during his apprenticeship from evil spirits and sorcerers, and to instruct him about the diet and prescriptions to be observed. However, the spirits of the plants are those who teach him the magic melodies and the use of medicinal plants. These ideas are in accordance with those of certain Amazonian tribes such as Apinaye, Conibo, Yaruro, etc., as has been observed by Métraux (1944:203205).12 3.2. The diet and Sexual Segregation Food restrictions or fasting and sexual segregation are common elements in shamanic initiation, both in the Old and in the New Worlds. Fasting is found among the Tungus, the Buryat and other Siberian people (Eliade 1964:43), among the Caribou (Rasmussen 1930) and Netsilik Eskimos (Balikci 1970:225), the Kwakiutl of Northern Vancouver Island (Trueblood et al. 1977:62), the Ojibwa (Trueblood et al. 1977:108), the Carib (Eliade 1964:129), etc. Food restrictions and sexual segregation are also found among many Amazonian tribes such as the Cubeo (Goldman 1963:264), the Campa (Chevalier 1982:346), the Yanomamo (Donner 1984:200), the Panobo (Tessman 1930:116), the Lamisto (Tessman 1930:229), the Shipibo (Karsten 1964:202), etc. All my informants stress the necessity of following a strict diet, sexual segregation and sexual abstinence during the period of apprenticeship, because only by following these pres12 "Among the Apinaye shamans are appointed by the soul of a relative, which puts them in relation with the spirits; but it is the latter that impart shamanic knowledge and techniques to them. " (Eliade 1964: 83). "The apprentice shaman of the Conibo of the Ucayali receives his medical knowledge from a spirit. To enter into relations with the spirit the shaman drinks a decoction of tobacco and smokes as much as possible in a hermetically closed hut." (Métraux 1944:204) (Quoted by Eliade 1964:83). "In the Apapocuva Guaraní tribe, the prerequisite for becoming a shaman is learning magical songs, which are taught by a dead relative in dreams." (Métraux 1944:205).


criptions will the spirits of the plants reveal themselves to the neophyte, either in visions or in dreams, and he will then be able to "learn" from the plants. In some cases the spirits themselves appear to the neophyte and prescribe the duration and character of the diet. A minimum duration of six months is generally recognized as necessary, but it may be prolonged to several years. My informants have told me that they have known vegetalistas who have followed the diet for twelve years (the Spanish term "dietar" refers not only to the diet, but to all the conditions prescribed for "learning from the plants"). The diet can be broken after a certain period of time -for instance after six months- and re-assumed later. In fact, learning from the plants, once a person has been initiated, is an open process which can be reinitiated at will. From time to time vegetalistas renew their energies and expand their knowledge by following the diet during shorter periods. During the diet, Don Emilio explains, different plants present themselves to the initiate, "a querer ensenar", (willing to teach). The length of the diet determines the knowledge and power of a shaman. During this time the novitiate gets to know different plants which will be symbolically incorporated in his body, giving him such properties as strength to resist heavy rain, wind and floods. The ideal diet consists of cooked plantains, smoked fish and sometimes carne de monte (the meat of certain jungle animals). Rice and manioc seem to be accepted by some ayahuasqueros. No salt, sugar or any other condiments, fats, alcohol, pork, chicken, fruit, vegetables or cold beverages may be ingested (cf. Dobkin de Rios 1973:70; Chevalier 1982:346; Luna 1984b:145 etc.). The most important food prohibition, repeatedly stressed by all the shamans I have met, is the avoidance of pork. Sexual abstinence, isolation -in the case of men, total separation from fertile women-, and certain requirements of ritualistic character are also necessary. The food must be prepared either by a premenstrual girl or a postmenopausal woman. All other contact with women should be avoided. I have not found clear reasons for the prohibition of certain animals as food. No doubt it must have its origin in native food taboos whose context has been forgotten. According to my informants the following fish can be eaten: Sábalo (Brycon melanoptherum, B. erythopterum), boquichico (Prochilodus nigricans), bujurqui (Mesonauta insignis; Heros appendiculatus), anashúa (Crenicichla johanna), tucunaré (Cichla monoculus), sardina (Triportheus angulatus, T. elongatus), paco (Colossoma bidens), gamitana (Piaractus brachypomus), corvina (Plagioscion auratus, P. squamosissimum), paiche (Arapaima gigas), palometa (subfamily Myleinae, including Mylossoma sp.), carahuasú (Astronotus ocellatus) and fasaco (Hoplias malabaricus). Certain birds such as panguana (Crypturellus untulatus), pucacunga (Penelope jacquacu), perdiz and pava may be eaten, and certain reptiles such as lagarto blanco (Caiman sclerops) and several species of boa (Boidae Fam.). On the other hand, the following 52

animals must not be eaten during the diet: mammals, such as sajino (Tayassu tajacu), huangana (Tayassu pecari), sachavaca (Tapirus terrestris), motelo (Testudo tabulata), huapo negro (Pitheca monachus), huapo colorado (Cacajao calvus rubicundus), coto (Alouata seniculus), choro (Lagothrix lagothricha), maquisapa (Ateles paniscus chameck, Ateles paniscus belzebuth), mono negro and mono bianco; certain birds such as guacamayo rojo (Ara macao), paujil (Mitu mitu) and trompetero (Psophia leucoptera); certain reptiles such as shushupi (Crotalidae Fam.) and jergón (Bothrops atrox); finally certain species of fish, such as pana (Serrasalmus sp., including S. natterei, S. rhombeus) and zúngaro (collective term for large catfishes of the Pimelodidae) family (Kullander, personal communication)13. A complete list would imply such knowledge of the fauna of the region as I have not yet acquired. I believe that the maintenance of some sort of altered state of consciousness seems to be part of the learning process. A minute study of the diet might be relevant. Don Emilio says: "Sobre esa dieta entra una sabiduría que se puede curar por intermedio de los icaros, se llama la fuerza del vegetal que nosotros llamamos al doctor. Otros le dicen al papatúa" (I:112). Food restrictions are also followed used during the preparation of important remedies, love potions, and other shamanic tasks, and before and after the ingestion of ayahuasca and other plant-teachers 1 4 . The patients, when using certain plants, also have to follow a diet. The idea is that certain food, such as pig, farm chicken, certain species of fish, cold beverages, etc. espantan a los vegetales (make the plants escape). The action of plants is thought to last a certain period of time. If the diet is followed, the action of the plants persists. If the diet is broken, the action of the plants is dimished until there is no effect at all. All these food restrictions must be seen in connection with similar practices among Indian tribes. For example among the Shipibo of the Ucayali young girls have to go through initia-

13 I am indebted to Dr. Sven Kullander, of the Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet, Stockholm, for the identification of the various species of fish, based on their common names. Dr. Kullander has been doing field work in the same area in which I have conducted my research. 14 Similar practices have been widely reported among Indian tribes. For example among the Jivaro, fasting and sexual abstinence is part of the preparation of arrow-poison (Karsten 1964:102-103).


tion ceremonies that also imply food restrictions (Karsten 1964: 186) 1 5 . According to Stephen Hugh-Jones (1979: 90) among the Barasana, a Tukano group of the Vaupés, coca, tobacco, tobacco snuff, yagé (ayahuasca) and beer are treated as "anti-food", i. e. substances which must not be consumed at the same time as ordinary food. The same author adds: "All of these substances, except beer are produced and consumed only by men (and old women) and all except beer are associated with nighttime, the sacred time where men do not consume normal food. " 1 6 . Some of the plant-teachers are extremely "jealous". If the diet is broken, they may punish the offender by causing an illness or even by killing him. This is expressed by saying that the plants cutipan. The verb cutipar comes from the Quechua verb kutichiy, which means "to return", "to give back" (cf. Park et al. 1976: 58). According to Regan (1983: 1: 114) the verb cutipar among the Lamista is used in several contexts. For instance when a man marries the sister of his brother-in-law, it is said that the latter le ha cutipado (has given him back a sister). Cutipa is also the practice of planting a manioc plant immediately after another plant has been extracted. Finally, when the father of a new-born child eats the meat of certain animals, or kills them, the animals may cutipar the baby, by causing him an illness, or causing the baby to acquire one of the animal's characteristics. There are similar ideas among the vegetalistas. A lupuna tree may cutipar a person by making his stomach swell up, to become like certain protuberances that these trees often have on their trunks. It is said that people that "break the diet" (quiebran la dieta, an expression which also includes sexual abstinence), are sometime covered by stains. These ideas, in fact, correspond to the same paradigm by which, when a vegetalista takes a certain plant and follows the diet, he acquires certain positive characteristics of these plants. Several times I have heard from various vegetalistas stories in which a person breaks the prescribed continence one or two
15 The young girl, confined to a hut called púshuba, "a house of silence", has to observe not only silence but also a strict diet: "She is forbidden to eat meat, especially that of swine, and big fish like the gamitana and paichi, but she is allowed to eat small fish of the kind most frequently caught in the river or in the Lake Yarinacocha. She is also forbidden to eat Indian pepper, salt, and sweet things, but is allowed to drink masato (manioc beer)" (Karsten 1964:186). 16 Similar diets are also observed by practitioners and their patients of the Coast of Peru (cf. Chiappe et al. 1985:634) Eduardo, a curandero who uses San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi) recommends the following food restrictions after ingesting the San Pedro beverage: "not to eat any food that contains hot pepper, salt, animal fat, or grease, or anything that 'entangles'; for example, foods that grow on climbing vines, such as beans, peas, lentils, etc. " (Sharon 1978:44).


days before he should complete the period of diet and segregation, which correspond to a certain plant-teacher. It is said that women are particularly attracted by men following the diet. Again, all these stories seem to follow a pattern which is repeated again and again, as if it were true. 3.3. The use of psychotropic plants in the Americas Before entering into a discussion on ayahuasca, it is convenient to give a brief survey of the psychotropic plants used ritually in the Americas. The number of plants known to be used as inebriants by human beings is about 150, 90 to 100 species of which are hallucinogens; most of them are found, and many of them still in use, in the New World (Schultes 1 9 6 7 : 3 6 ; S c h u l t e s & H o f m a n n 1980:19-21). This uneven distribution of the use of psychotropic plants in favour of the New World has been intepreted by La Barra (1970) as a possible survival in America of an essentially Paleo-Mesolithic Eurasian shamanism connected with fly agaric cults which survived in Siberia until the present century, and which was carried out of Northeastern Asia by early big-game hunters (cf. Furst 1976: 2-3; Wasson 1968). Whatever the reason may be (and it is probably a very complex one) it is certainly intriguing that the people of the Americas should show such exploratory sophistication in discovering, within a vast flora, plants that produce profound changes of consciousness. Even more intriguing is the fact that these plants seem to have been always used in a sacred, not in a recreational context, with the purpose of communicating with the spirit world so as to obtain supernatural powers. As Furst (1976: 16) has remarked, "the magic plants act to validate and reify the culture, not to some temporary means of escape from it. " The attitude towards these plants of the Europeans who arrived in the New World was, however, very different. For the Spanish missionaries who arrived since the beginning of the discovery and colonization of the Americas these plants were used by the natives as a means of communication with the devil. No wonder the Spaniards put all their efforts in eradicating such pagan customs. Reichel-Dolmatoff (1975:5) writes: "The early missionaries were, of course, well acquainted with demon worship and animal familiars. No matter how strange and fantastic the New World and its inhabitants might have appeared to them, these men coming from devil-ridden Europe immediately recognized the old pattern of summoning of spirits by sorcerers, of diabolic possession and strange voices, of uncouth visions of ghostly beings." 17
17 For a collection of testimonies on psychotropic plants mentioned in the Spanish chronicles, see Guerra 1971.


It is not my intention to make a detailed survey of the plants used in a shamanic context in the Americas, nor to speculate why these plants should fascinate the people in the New World so much. There is already a vast bibliography on this subject18. If we focus our attention for a moment on the Orinoco and Amazon basins, we shall find that among many perhaps even most of the tribes inhabiting these regions preparations made of one or several psychotropic plants played -and still play- a central part in their religion, and in their cultural life. We may recall the use of various kinds of snuffs: in open savannah country, snuffs were prepared of Anadenanthera peregrina (L) Speg, A. colubrina (Veil) Brenan (cf. Wassén and Holmstedt; Wassén 1965, 1967; von Reis 1967; Schultes & Hofmann 1980:140-152); in the rain forest, several species -with various admixture plants- of Virola (V. calophylla, V. calophylloidea, V. theidora, V. elongata, V. cuspidata, V. rufula) snuffed by Bora, Witoto, Puinave, Kuripako, Guayabero, Cubeo and many Tukano groups of the Vaupés (Cf.Schultes 1969, 1979; Schultes & Hofmann 1980: 122- Reichel- Dolmatoff 1975: 21-24; McKenna & Towers 1985: 36); some groups (Witoto, Tukano, Mirana, Rossigaro) use the powdered leaves of coca (Erythroxylon coca) (cf. Uscategui 1954: 280-86; Plowman 1984: 90; Hugh-Jones 1979:201-204; etc.) 19 . Infusions -or other preparations- made of various plants have also been reported to be used by some Indian groups: Tetrapteris methystica R. E. Schultes, is used by the Makú on the Rio Tikié, in northwesternmost Brazil (Schultes & Hofmann 1980:183); Brugmansia suaveolens (H. et B. ex Willd) Bercht. et Presl is used among several tribes of the Amazon, along the Pacific coastal area of Colombia and Ecuador, and in other areas. Other plants of this genus (B. aurea, B. sanguinea, B. arborea, B. versicolor), all cultigens, are used in the Andean region (Schultes & Hofmann 1980: 264-278). Various species of Brunfelsia (B. grandiflora, B. chiricaspi, etc.) are also widely used in the westernmost Amazon area of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru as hallucinogens (Schultes & Hofmann 1980: 279; Plowman 1973). In the section dedicated to the plant-teachers (cf.3.7.) I will present other plants which may be proved to contain psychotropic compounds.

I want simply to refer to some of the basic books on the subject, which have vast bibliographies: Schultes & Hofmann 1980; Furst 1972, 1976; Harner 1973; Efron, Holmstedt & Kline 1979; Emboden 1979; Ott 1976; Reichel-Dolmatoff 1975; Völger & Welck 1982, etc. A recent study on ritual enemas and snuffs in the Americas (De Smet 1985), contains a comprenhensive bibliography. 56


3.4. Ayahuasca: An overview Perhaps no psychotropic preparation is as complex etnographically, botanically and pharmacologycally as ayahuasca, a brew made of a malpighiaceous woody liana of the genus Banisteriopsis, usually with the addition of one or more additives. Ayahuasca (from Quichua aya = dead person, spirit; waska = vine), is used and plays a central role in the religious and cultural lives of numerous tribes in the Northwest Amazon, the Orinoco Plains and the Pacific Lowlands of Panama, Colombia and Ecuador. In appendix 1 I have listed 72 ethnic groups belonging to 20 different linguistic families, who use Banisteriopsis based preparations. Ayahuasca is known under many different common names, such as yajé or yagé, caapi, natem and Santo Daime (in recent cults in Brazil). In appendix 2 I have listed alphabetically about 40 different common names. These two lists are not exhaustive. They are, nevertheless, indicative of the wide spreadning of the use of psychotropic preparations based on Banisteriopsis species. There has been confusion in the identity of the Malpighiaceae which are used in the preparation of ayahuasca. Three species of the genus Banisteriopsis, Banisteriopsis caapi, Banisteriopsis quitensis, and Banisteriopsis inebrians has been reported as being used in the preparation of the brew, usually depending on the country of collection. Bronwen Gates, in her monography on the genus Banisteriopsis (1982:112-114) has concluded that biologically the variation represented by B. caapi, B. inebrians and B. quitensis is best treated as one species, known by the oldest name, Banisteriopsis caapi (Spruce ex Griseb.) Morton. According to Davis & Yost (1983:190-191), the Waorani shamans of Eastern Ecuador prepare a drink of Banisteriopsis muricata (Cav. ) Cuatrecasas, which they call mii. This is the first record of the use of this species. Gates (1986) has examined collections of B. muricata in Peru, and has found that the local name ayahuasca is sometimes cited. The same author indicates that B. muricata (synonymous with B. argentea) is closely related to B. caapi and may contain, as this species, harmala alkaloids. Among the additives reported to be added to Banisteriopsis caapi in the preparation of ayahuasca there is another malpighiaceous vine, long identified as Banisteriopsis rusbyana. Bronwen Gates (1979) has shown that this ayahuasca additive, used by the Kofán under the name ocó yagé (Naranjo 1983: 184) and by the Ingano and Kamsá of Sibundoy Valley as chagrupanga (Bristol 1965:211, 1966:126-130), is correctly known as Diplopterys cabrerana (Cuatrecasas) Gates. Richard Evans Schultes (1954) reported the use in Amazonian Brazil of a new species of the malpighiaceous genus Tetrapteris -Tetrapterys methystica R. E. Schultes- in the preparation, without admixture, of the drink called caapi, possessing biodynamic effects. According to Anderson (cf. Gates 1986) this plant is best included within the variation represented by the widespread variable species Tetrapterys styloptera Adr. Jussieu. Another malpighiaceae, known under the name of Cabi para57

ensis (Ducke 1943), and now Callaeum antifebrile, was used in Brazil for healing and divinatory purposes under the name of cabi. Bronwen Gates (1986) has done a careful taxonomic comparative study of all these plants which will be very useful for anthropologists and ethnobotanists working in the field. Banisteriopsis caapi contains the beta-Carboline alkaloids harmine, harmaline and tetrahydroharmine (Hochstein & Paradise 1957; Deulofeu 1967). Harmaline has been reported to be hallucinogenic (Naranjo 1967, 1973) at oral doses of 4 mg/kg. Six new alkaloids were later isolated from B. caapi by Hashimoto & Kawanishi (1974, 1976), but in such low concentrations (0.0070.0001%) that it is unlikely that these compounds contribute significantly to the pharmacological activity of ayahuasca (McKenna et al. 1984:196). Diplopterys cabrerana, the plant used as an additive in Sibundoy Valley, the Kofán of Ecuador and Colombia, the Huambiza of Peru, and other areas of the Upper Amazon, contains N, N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT)(Poisson 1965; Pinkley 1969a:535; Der Marderosian, Pinkley & Dobbins 1968). The same alkaloid is present in Psychotria viridis Ruiz & Pavón, a Rubiaceae used as an additive by the Kofán, by the Cashinahua and other tribes of eastern Peru and Brazil (Der Marderosian et al. 1970; Prance 1970), by members of Colonia 5000 and UDV in Acre, Brazil (Monteiro 1983), and by vegetalistas all over Peru (Del Castillo 1962: 73-74; Ayala 1978; Luna 1984a, 1984b). Another Psychotria, P. carthaginensis, has been reported to be used as an additive (cf. Ayala 1978) and has proved to contain even larger quantities of DMT (Rivier & Lindgren 1972: 121). The reason given everywhere for adding either D. cabrerana or P. viridis to B. caapi is to enhance and sustain the visions. The vegetalistas I have been working with insist that without the chacruna (the local name of P. viridis) ayahuasca does not work. The same has been reported by Rivier & Lindgren (1972: 103) to be said in the Purus area, where this plant is used by the Culina and by several groups of the Panoan family. In Colonia 5000 it is said that the uasca (B. caapi) gives a força (strength) to the beverage, while the chacrona (P. viridis) gives a luz (light). Chemical analyses of B. caapi and P. viridis and of the brew made with these plants in the Purus area were carried out by Rivier & Lindgren (1972), showing the presence of harmine, harmaline, tetrahydroharmine and DMT. Similar work was done by McKenna, Towers & Abbott (1984) with eight ayahuasca samples gathered among vegetalistas in Iquitos, Pucallpa and Tarapoto, showing the same alkaloids, but an order of magnitude greater than in the previous work. These authors found little variation in the constitutents of brews made by different ayahuasqueros. DMT has been shown to be orally inactive in doses exceeding 1,000 mg, presumably due to its deamination by monoamine oxidase (MA0)(cf. McKenna & Towers 1984:351). The chemical analyses carried out on ayahuasca show that the amounts of betaCarbolines present in a normal dosage of ayahuasca are well below the levels required for hallucinogenic activity. On the other hand it has been confirmed that ayahuasca is an extremely effective inhibitor of MAO in vitro, and the degree of inhibi58

tion was directly correlated with the concentration of betaCarbolines. These experiments give support to the mechanism that has been proposed to underlie the activity of ayahuasca: The beta-Carbolines would protect the DMT from deamination by MAO and render it orally active (McKenna, Towers & Abbot 1984: 195). The fact, however, that there are several reports of the use of Banisteriopsis caapi without any admixtures complicates the picture considerably20 The pharmacological interest in ayahuasca is not limited to its action on the Central Nervous System. In the next section we will see that among several Indian tribes ayahuasca is considered a medicine per se. Harmine, the alkaloid which is found in larger concentrations in Banisteriopsis caapi, in the twenties attracted the attention of several German medical doctors. In a historical survey of the ethnopharmacology of intoxicating compounds, Bo Holmstedt (1979:3-32) made an account of Beringer's experiments, which showed that the action of harmine was not limited to the extrapyramidal system, and also of the use of harmine by Beringer, Lewin and Schuster (1929) and Halpern in the treatment of patients suffering from postencephalitic Parkinsonism. Rodríguez and Cavin (1982) observed that tropical plants used by South American natives produce an array of isoquinoline and tryptamine-related alkaloids that are not only hallucinogens, but powerful emetics with a wide range of other biological activities, including antimicrobial and anthelmintic properties. They propose the hypothesis that psychoactive indole and isoquinoline alkaloids are effective antagonists of the neurotransmitters of the neuromuscular system of helminths, inhibit protozoan parasites and were selected by indigenous plant doctors for their medicinal value. In fact, antihelmintic action on parasitic ascarid worms by harmine and harmaline has been observed, and various harman derivatives are also active against Protozoa (trypanosomes, amoebae)(Pletscher et al. 1960) This is in accord with the emetic and purgative properties of ayahuasca, which is also used for cleansing the organism of all sorts of "impurities". I have also heard vegetalistas insistently say that ayahuasca is effective against paludismo (malaria).

Spruce (1908:415) wrote, for example, that as far as he could make out Banisteria (previous name of Banisteriopsis) without admixture was used among the Guahibos, Zaparos, and other tribes, of the Uaupés. The same author reports that the Guahibos, on the savannas of Maypures, not only drink the infusion but chew the dried stem, and it is used in the same way by all native dwellers on the rivers Meta, Vichada, Guaviare, Sisapo, and the intervening smaller rivers (Spruce 1908:423). Richard Evans Schultes (personal communication) was told by Indians living in the vicinity of Araracuara, in Colombia that they smoked the leaves of a plant that he identified as Banisteriopsis caapi. 59


Ayahuasca has attracted the attention of ethnologists, ethnobotanists, anthropologists, pharmacologists, neorophysiologists, psychologists, artists and travellers21. But it still presents many unresolved problems, both from the point of view of the social sciences as from that of natural sciences. In spite of the fact that the bibliography connected which ayahuasca runs well into 200 references (cf. Luna 1986), there are, so far, very few monographic studies. 3.5. Tribal uses of ayahuasca If we now turn to the use of ayahuasca among ethnic groups, we shall find that its importance is paramount among many tribes. Ayahuasca is one of the plants used for getting in contact with the spirit world (which among several tribes is equivalent to getting in touch with the primordial world, the world of the ancestors). Ayahuasca is itself considered a powerful spirit being, by means of which knowledge and power may be acquired. Knowledge of this and other worlds, of past and future events. It is believed that ayahuasca helps to explore the natural environment, its geography, flora and fauna. It allows shamans to diagnose illness, to find its cause-natural or supernatural-, and to find a remedy for it. With the help of ayahuasca they can find game, discover the plans of enemies, find lost objects, communicate with distant relatives, travel in time and space. Ayahuasca is among several tribes considered to be responsible for the artistic skills of the people. It dictates the ornamental designs of their habitation, utensils and body painting, it helps to visualize and memorize their myths, chants and dances. Ayahuasca is for many tribes a great teacher and a spiritual being. Richard Evans Schultes (1982: 206) summarizes in the following way the importance of caapi (ayahuasca) among Indian tribes: "Probably no other New World hallucinogen -even peyote- alters consciousness in ways that have been so deeply and completely evaluated and interpreted. Caapi truly enters into every aspect of living. It reaches into prenatal life, influences life after death, operates during earthly existence, plays roles There are numerous reports of Westerners who have taken ayahuasca and described its effects (Villavicencio 1858; Spruce 1908:420; Koch-Grünberg 1909:318; Reinburg 1925:25-42; Brüzzi 1962:230-2; Burroughs & Ginsberg 1963; Turner 1963; Bristol 1966:133; Reichel-Dolmatoff 1972:89-93; Dobkin de Rios 1972: 126-128; Rivier & Lindgren 1972:111; McKenna & McKenna 1975:8598; Ayala & Lewin 1978; Deltgen 1978/79: 77-78; Harner 1980:124, etc.). Summarizations of the use of Banisteriopsis based beverages among various tribes, the botanical distribution of plants used and the pharmacology of ayahuasca are to be found in Reinburg 1925:17-32; Maxwell 1937; Ríos 1962; Friedberg 1965; Deulofeu 1967; Reichel-Dolmatoff 1980:25-42; Schultes 1982; Naranjo 1983:47-92; etc. 60

not only in health and sickness, but in relations between individuals, villages and tribes, in peace and war, at home and in travel, in hunting and in agriculture. In fact, one can name hardly any aspect of living or dying, wakefulness or sleep, where caapi hallucinogens do not play a vital, nay, overwhleming, role." A detailed survey of the role tribes would be a large enterprise. quotations from scholars who have this matter, before I enter into a of plant-teachers. of ayahuasca among Indian I will simply present some given special attention to more general concept, that

Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff, who has done extensive research about hallucinogenic plant use among several ethnic groups of Colombia writes the following about the function of caapi among Tukano of Vaupés: Recognizing that the individual must pass from one dimension of existence -or cosmic plane- to another to communicate with the spiritual or invisible world, the Tukanos take caapi to effect this transport. The trip represents to them the process of birth and breaking through the wall that separates the two cosmic planes and signifies, according to anthropological studies, the rupture of the placenta. Drinking caapi is often interpreted as returning to the "cosmic uterus". Since they insist that they sometimes come to know death while under the influence of the drug, the Tukanos consider the return to the cosmic uterus as an anticipation of death which permits contact with the divinity or visitation with the source and origin of all things (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1975). According to Jean Langdon (1979b:78), "?uko (ayahuasca) activates the Siona's power to see into the other realm in order to understand the real reality behind events and to influence forces to help maintain a state of well-being." Melvin L. Bristol summarizes as follows the reason why the Sibundoy of Colombia take biaxii (ayahuasca): "Biaxii intoxication is sought for a variety of reasons outside the medical sphere. A Sibundoy separated from his family while travelling may take it to relieve his loneliness and, as he says, transport himself to their midst. Or he may be anxious to know who is gossiping about him during his absence. The location of a lost object, he believes, can be revealed by intoxication. It would appear that anxiety states can be better defined, or 'para conocer', 'to perceive, to experience, to know through familiarity, to learn', the native's way of expressing in Spanish the drug's ability to "expand consciousness", especially 61

in the visual realm. In this connection, and perhaps in others ways as well, biaxii helps the Sibundoy "to learn how to live" (Bristol, 1966:123-124). Angelika Gebhart-Sayer (1986), in a study on the role of ayahuasca visionary designs of the Shipibo-Conibo in therapy, writes the following: Under ayahuasca influence, the shaman perceives, from the spirit world, incomprehensible, often chaotic, information in the form of luminous designs. He then "domesticates" this information by converting it into various aesthetic notions: geometric patterns, melodies/rythm and fragrance which play a key psychological and spiritual role for both the patient and society. Only through this mediating step the awesome and incomprehensible become an applicable corpues of shamanic cognition suitable for the mundane village." According to Kensinger (1973:13) the Cashinahua "drink ayahuasca in order to learn about things, persons, and events removed from them by time and/or space which could affect either the society as a whole or its individual members." According to Plutarco Naranjo (1983:108), the Jívaro women take natem at a special ce lebratón called nua tsankuo in order to contact Nunkui, the goddess of fecundity, who instructs them how to sew and harvest, how to domesticate animals -especially hens and pigs-, how to make objects of clay and how to take care of children. Many more examples could be given to show the paramount importance of ayahuasca among Indian tribes. Ayahuasca reveals "the real world", which is the word of spirits, from where all knowledge derives. Let us now go back to the vegetalistas, and their idea of ayahuasca and the relation of ayahuasca with other plants with similar qualities. 3.6. Learning from the plants Among the vegetalistas of the Peruvian Amazon there are ideas similar to those of the various ethnic groups concerning ayahuasca and other plants. They say that ayahuasca is a doctor. It possesses a strong spirit and it is considered an intelligent beings with which it is possible to establish rapport, and from which it is possible to acquire knowledge and power if the diet and other prescriptions are carefully followed. Ayahuasca belongs to the class of plants with madres (mothers), a term also found among the Shipibo (1964:82), the Lamista (Barbira-Scazocchio 1979), the Campa (Chevalier 1982: 346), the Yagua (Chaumeil 1983:74-90), etc. Chaumeil (1983:33), for example, writes that Alberto Prohano, a Yagua shaman living by the Marichin river, told him that the spirits of the plants are the only teachers ("l'unique chemin de la connaissance"). 62

Among ethnic groups plants possessing special properties, such as narcotic, poisonous (for killing fish or for the use as arrow poison), medicinal plants, or very important food, are particularly endowed with spirits. I tried to find the criteria among the vegetalistas to determine which plants were considered as doctores. I found that in the vegetalistas' reports plants they call doctores or "vegetales que enseñan" (plants that teach) either 1) produce hallucinations if taken alone, 2) in some way modify the effects of the ayahuasca brew, 3) produce dizziness, 4) possess strong emetic and/or cathartic properties, or 5) bring on especially vivid dreams. Quite often a plant has all these characteristics or some of them. I was somehow perplexed about how to find the right way of questioning my informants about the plant teachers. If I use, for instance, the Spanish verb marear (to make you dizzy), for example: Don Celso, marea esta planta? (Don Celso, does this plant -when taking it- make you dizzy?) The answer could be: "Yes, it is a good medicine", or "Yes, in your dreams the spirit of the plants presents itself to you", or "Yes, it makes you throw up everything", or "Yes, it teaches you", or "Yes, it makes you see beautiful things", or finally "Yes, if you combine it with ayahuasca". Similar answers were given to me when I put the questions differently, like, Don Emilio, es esta planta doctor? (Is this a plant teacher?) or Don Alejandro, tiene madre esta planta? (Does this plant have a "mother"?). This set of associations is interesting indeed. As we saw earlier (3.4.), the association of psychoactive plants with emetics and vermifuges has been pointed out by Rodriguez and Cavin (1982). The association between dreams and hallucinations is a common theme in shamanic literature. As far as I understand, all psychoactive plants are considered potential teachers. I once asked Don Emilio if he had ever taken the mushroom Psilocybe cubensis, which is common throughout the region on cow dung. He answered positively: Bonito se ve. Dietándole debe enseñar medicina (You see beautiful things. If you follow the diet it might teach you medicine). Similarly, Don Santiago wanted to know whether he could use the same mushroom in medicine. He told me that he intended to mix it with ayahuasca in order to study it. The informants I worked with do not agree as to whether all plant teachers produce visions. According to Don Alejandro, all the plants that have "mothers" marean (make you dizzy). This implies that there are plants without "mother", with which Don Celso and Don Emilio do not agree. Don Celso says: "The mother of the plant is its existence, its life". Don Emilio affirms that all plants, even the smallest, have their "mother". Some of the plant teachers produce visions only when associated with ayahuasca. Others produce only una mareación ciega (a blind


dizzyness), in which you do not see anything22. other plants teach only in dreams. During the period of apprenticeship the vegetalista is confronted with the task of memorizing a large body of information concerning plants, animals, medicinal recipes, magic chants and melodies, etc. The vegetalistas attribute to ayahuasca and the plant-teachers not only their ability to recall such information, but insist that the plants themselves teach them about the flora -which, as it is well known, is particularly rich in the Amazon- and fauna. Also the magic chants, as we will see in chapter 5, are learned from the plants. Some of these chants are in Quechua, Cocama, Omagua or other Indian languages, and they claim that ayahuasca teaches them the languages23. The idea that ayahuasca has the effect of increasing the intellectual and artistic skills is quite common among vegetalistas. When I questioned Pablo Amaringo, the painter, about how he had learnt his art, he referred to ayahuasca. A similar answer I got from Agustín Rivas, a well known sculptor of Pucallpa, who is also a practising vegetalista. During my visit to Colonia 5000, near Rio Branco, in the Brazilian state of Acre, they told me that some of the people there had been According to Chiappe et al. (1985:72), the curanderos of Iquitos distinguish between plants that produce mareación (dizziness) and visión (hallucinations). It is possible that some vegetalistas make this distinction. In my experience, however, mareación includes both, dizziness, like that produced by drinking tobacco, and hallucinations, like those produced by ayahuasca.
23 In Lamb's account on Don Manuel Cordoba Ríos, Don Manuel tells how he had been given Nixi honi (ayahuasca) for the first time by the Indians that had captured him. He said: 22

"After spending the night in the forest sharing strange visions with my captors, it became noticebly easier for me to understand the meaning of their previously unintelligible language. It was still many months before I learned to speak with any fluency, but I began to understand most of what was said to me after our first seance in the forest." (Lamb 1971:28-29). On another occasion (p.32), Don Manuel says that the chant was sung by the old man who prepared the brew: following

Nixi honi, vision vine / boding spirit of the forest origin of our understanding / give up your magic power / to our potion / illuminate our mind bring us foresight / show us the designs / of our enemies / expand our knowledge / expand our understanding / of our forest.

taught to play musical instruments by Santo Daime (ayahuasca). In Iquitos I met several practitioners who, during ayahuasca ceremonies, recite long prayers they know by heart. They also claim that it was due to ayahuasca that they were able to memorize whole books of prayers. The knowledge the vegetalistas have of medicinal plants is also attributed to ayahuasca and the plant teachers. This is also in accord with the beliefs of some ethnic groups. Among the Campa, for example, "Healing practices require more than the absorption or application of a herbal remedy: the individual must also comply with a series of precisely defined prescriptions and proscriptions. Herbal recipes do not suffice in bringing about improvements in health, and it is only in so far as they are part of a list of instructions revealed by the plant-mother that they have effects on the patient's condition. Medical information is not transmitted soley from parents to children, or from knowledgeable healers to less informed laymen; it also originates from the mother of the plant, and is communicated through dreams and hallucinations produced by the absorption of the appropiate herbal potion. Patterns emerge within these varying directives and many recipes are commonly used, but this does not entail any rigid uniformity in the preparation or application of medicinal concoctions (Métraux 1967:83)." (Chevalier 1982:346).

Don Emilio pouring the finished ayahuasca brew into a bottle 65

Ayahuasca is a tool for studying the properties of other plants. If a vegetalista wants, for instance, to see what effects certain plant has, he will add a few leaves of this plant to the brew during its concoction. By perceiving the changes caused by the additive to the basic preparation, and especially by interpreting the information conveyed during the visions, the properties and application of the plants are studied. This information is also conveyed during the dreams during the following nights 24 . In this way, they say, they have recognized the medicinal properties of many plants. Knowledge of the great plant-teachers and of many medicinal plants comes, of course, from los antiguos (the ancestors). I have been surprised that among the medicinal plants they use there are also plants introduced by the Europeans. There are, I suppose, only two explanations. Either knowledge of these plants derives from herbal knowledge that the Spaniards and Portuguese might have brought with them to the Amazon and other areas, or the vegetalistas found the medicinal properties of these plants by themselves, either by using a method like the one I just presented -if it works-, or through other kinds of experimentation. Nothing can be said, of course, until a comparative study of herbal knowledge of Old World plants introduced into America has been carried out on both sides of the Atlantic, and, especially, until we have some kind of understanding as to what these people are really talking about, when they say that the plants themselves reveal their properties. A very good example of how perties of an unknown plant vided by Bristol (1966) in bia. Bristol's conclusion is

ethnic groups learn about the prowith the help of ayahuasca is proa paper on the Sibundoy of Colomas follows:

"In this determination through Banisteriopsis intoxication of the medicinal uses of a previously unknown plant, we see a most interesting mechanism for the expansion of the Sibundoy materia medica. Not only are new plant drugs thus introduced, but there can be little certainty that the use of new drugs will be restricted to situations for which drugs are already available. Through chance, operating within the supertitious nature of Sibundoy beliefs, it is entirely possible that a new drug would become associated with disease symptoms previously untreatable. This role of narcosis expanding the native pharmacopoeia neither leads to the conclusion that most of the Sibundoy drugs were discovered in this way, nor does it suggest that any drugs so discovered are likely to have a less therapeutic value than drugs discovered in other ways by primitive peoples. Nevertheless, it would seem that a substantial increase in the number of medicinal plants available to a culture implies at least a slight increase in that small number which are therapeutically effective. The use of Banisteriopsis by Sibundoy medicine-men, not only as an emetic and purge, but even more generally to investigate medicine and disease, may be seen as leading ultimately to an improvement of tribal health." (p.135-6). 66

3.7. The plant-teachers Don Emilio told me that because ayahuasca is a vine, it needs strong trees where to climb. That is why other plants such as chullachaqui-caspi, huairacaspi, ayahuman, are added to ayahuasca, so that one becomes as strong as these trees. A vegetalista who has only taken tobacco and ayahuasca is, in fact, only an ayahuasquerito (a poor little ayahuasquero), subject to many dangers. I will name some of the plant-teachers. I consider this information highly provisional, as I still have many local names to collect, and I still have plants which have not been identified. Most of these plant teachers have also medicinal properties. I do not add this information here, as I hope to include it in a future publication. Many of the plant-teachers contain important biodynamic compounds (cf. McKenna, Luna & Towers 1986). Some of them have never been studied. Many of the plantteachers are added to ayahuasca. Some are taken by themselves. I have not yet been able to carry out long periods of field work, so I have not been able to search systematically for all the ayahuasca additives, nor to collect more specimens of plant-teachers. Information about the spirits associated with each plant specifically is very scarce. There is an enormous task which I believe has to be carried rather soon, as much of this knowledge is being lost. Here a list of some of the plant-teachers which have been botanically identified (cf. Luna 1984b): 1. Abuta (Abuta grandifolia (Mart.) Sandwith. Used as a p l a n t — teacher and as a medicinal plant for pulmonary illness, for gastric cancer and for malaria (tercianas) by Don Manuel Pacherras, in Puerto Maldonado. 2. Amaciza (Erythrina poeppigiana (Walp.) O. F. Cook (amaciza) 3. Ayahuman (Couroupita guianensis Aubl. )(Det. T.Plowman, 1983). From Quechua aya = spirit, dead person, and huma = head. This tree has large round fruits attached directly to the trunk of the tree, which is the reasons why it is called ayahuman. Its spirit has no head, because it is left there on the trunk. The bark is cooked together with the ayahuasca beverage. It is also used to fortify the b o d y . It r e q u i r e s 30 days of diet. According to Don Emilio it teaches both medicine and hechiceria (witchcraft). The fruits are given to hens for food and as a remedy for plague. 3. Bellaco caspi (Himantanthus sucuuba (Spruce) Woods (Soukup 1970: 153). Used in the extraction of the magic dart or virote. 4. Bobinzana (Calliandra angustifolia Spruce Used in love magic (cf.5.2.). (Soukup 1970: 56).

5. Capirona Negra (Capirona decorticans Spruce (Williams 1936). 6. Catahua (Hura crepitans L. (catahua) (det. T.Plowman, 1982)


According to Don Emilio it is a very strong doctor and a dangerous one. If the diet is not followed perfectly, it might kill you. It is a strong purgative (cf.5.2.). 7. Caupuri (Virola surinamensis (Rol) Warb. guez, 1982). (det. W.A. Rodri-

8. Chacruna (Psychotria viridis). The most important additive used by vegetalistas. They recognize several types of chacruna, according to the location of the dolmatiae, small glands that are located at the back of the leaves. If the dolmatiae are along the central spine, then they are good for mixing with ayahuasca. If they are located near the edges of the leaves, they are used in witchcraft: the dolmatiae are then used as virotes or magic darts to cause harm 2 5 . Vegetalistas believe that an strong ayahuasca is prepared with chacruna having exclusively four dolmatiae or five dolmatiae. 9. Chiricsanango (Brunfelsia grandiflora) D. don ssp. schultesii Plowman (det. T. Plowman, 1983), used as an additive to ayahuasca among practitioners of Iquitos (Schultes & Hofmann 1980: 279). 30 days of diet are compulsory. A psychotropic plant used by several Amazonian tribes. 10. Chuchuhuasi (Maytenus ebenifolia) Reiss (det. T.Plowman, 1983). Taken by the Lamisto shaman apprentices of Peru a few weeks after having ingested ayahuasca (Tessman 1933:289). 11. Chullachaqui-caspi (Tovomita sp.)(det. T. Plowman, 1983) Four pieces of bark are cooked together with the ayahuasca brew. 30 days of diet are compulsory. Then the body becomes as strong as "the wheel of a car". 12. Clavohuasca (Tynanthas panurensis (Bur.) Sandwith)(personal communication, Herbarium Amazonense, Iquitos). 13. Cumala (Virola sp. Aubl. 14. Ficus insipida Willd. (Doctor ojé) (Encarnacion 1983:59). It is considered a powerful plant-teachers (cf.5.2.). 15. Hiporuru (Alchornea castaneifolia (Willd. ) Juss (det. T.Plowman, 1983). The bark may be added to the ayahuasca brew. 16. H u a c a p ú ( V o u a c a p o u a a m e r i c a n a ( A u b l . ) (Soukup 1970:368). The bark of this tree may be added to the ayahuasca brew. 17. Huairacaspi (Cedrelinga catanaeformis Ducke (Soukup 1970:74). It is a big tree about 80-90 meters tall and two meters of diameter. It is a tree able to withstand violent One informant told Chiappe (1979:105) that the "little spears" (the dolmatiae) are there to protect the person against the bad effects of ayahuasca. 68

stormss, lightning, and strong winds without snapping. It is a strong arkana (defense)(cf.4.2.). May be added to the ayahuasca brew. 30 days of diet are compulsory. 18. Huancavisacha (unidentified). It is used as an ayahuasca admixture. Two drops of the juice which results from grinding this vine are added to the ayahuasca preparation. According to Don José Vasquez Hidalgo, a vegetalista living in Pucallpa, it produces strong mareación. It is considered a doctor able to teach about the underworld. Eight months of diet are required. 19. Lupuna (Chrorisia speciosa. Before: Ceiba pentandra L. (personal communication, Herbarium Amazonense, Iquitos. Before: Troclilia tucacheana. A very strong doctor. If one does not follow the diet, it is like catahua: it might kill you. Some vegetalistas consider this spirit of this tree an evil sorcerer. It is also associated with rain. 20. Mucura (Petiveria alliacea L.) (det. T. Plowman, 1982). 21. Ñuc-ñuc pichana (Scoparia dulcis L.)(det. T.Plowman, 1982) 22. Raya-Balsa (Montrichardia arborecens (det. T.Plowman, 1982). For visiting the underewater world (cf.4.1.07.) 23. Remo caspi (Pithecelobium laetum (Poepp. & Endl.)(According to Williams 1936 as P.laetum Benth.). This is a large tree from which oars are made (that is the reason for its name: remo in Spanish means oar). This is, according to Pablo Amaringo, the way one takes remo caspi: A piece of the bark is removed, and a hole is made in the trunk of this tree. A little bowl of tobacco juice is placed in the hole, and the bark is put back to cover the hole. Some mud is used as cement in order to keep the hole sealed. Eight days later, the person who is going to take the beverage will go alone to the tree very early in the morning. He will open the hole and take out the bowl with the brew, which by then will have changed its consistence looking like some kind of corn pap. When looking into the bowl, he will see all sorts of animals: anacondas, dolphins, monkeys, insects, worms... If he is afraid of drinking it and does not do so, he will surely die. The beverage is so strong that he will lose consciousness for twelve hours. During that time the plant will teach him many things. Pablo Amaringo told me that his grandfather had taken remo caspi in this way. The idea is very interesting, because it implies that the properties of the plant will be transferred to the tobacco juice left in its interior. This information was given to me at the end of my last period of field work, and I have not been able to check this information with other vegetalistas. However, something was reported by Rafael Karsten among the Shipibo of


the Ucayali,26 but 1964: 202-203)




lupuna tree


24. Renaco (Ficus sp.(renaco). For visiting the underwater world (cf.4.1.07.). 25. Sacha-Ajos (Mansoa alliacea (Lam) A. Gentry (det.T.Plowman, 983). Used, among other things, for herbal baths for good luck (cf.6.8.). 26. Suelda con Suelda T. Plow man, 1982) (Phtirusa pyrifolia HBK Eichler)(det.

27. Tahuarí (Tabebuia heteropoda (DC) Sandwith. It is a tree strong like iron ("es un palo como fierro"). A diet is required. 28. Tangarana (Triplaris surinamensis var. chamissoana Meisn.) (det. T.Plowman, 1983). According to Don Alejandro, the shoots of this tree may be added to ayahuasca when chacruna (Psychotria viridis is not available. The mother of tangarana is the ant which lives symbiotically with this tree. 29. Toé (Brugmansia suaveolens) (Willd. ) Brechtold & Presl. Used as an admixture to Banisteriopsis (Schultes 1980:270). Two or three leaves of toe are required to see the witch who has caused harm to a patient. 30. Uchu-Sanango (Tabernaemontana sp.)(det. T.Plowman, 1982) Other plant-based preparations The concept of "doctor" is also extended to certain preparations commercially available throughout the Amazonian provinces

Rafael Karsten writes:

"A special role in the magical art of the wizard is played by the lupuna tree mentioned above. The evil demon (joshín) animating this tree, and particularly active in its poisonous sap, acts as his most important assistant spirit in working evil. For this purpose, the wizard first prepares some tobacco medicine by crushing some tobacco leaves and thoroughly mixing them with saliva. This is put into the small ornamented clay pot called the ronkon, which, together with the ceremonial tobacco pipe, forms his most important equipment. Then, during the evening, he makes a deep cavity in the stem of the lupuna tree, so that the poisonous sap begins to flow. The clay pot containing tobacci juice is fastened in the cavity in the stem of the tree, covered with bark, and left for the night. During the night the demon of the tree will allow its poison to run down into the clay pot, and when the wizard arrives in the morning the poisonous medicine is ready to be used for magical purposes." 70

of Peru. These are: 1) Alcanfor (camphor), a cristallized organic compound extracted from Cinnamomum camphora, and widely used in folk medicine all over Latin America. 2) Timolina, a substance, apparently made of plants, which is used as a perfume. 3) Creolina, a strong disinfecting substance easily available. Steel and flintstone (pedernal) may also teach. A piece of one of these minerals -or both together- are placed in water, sealed, and left there for eight days. After this time the water is drunk, and the diet is followed. It is believed that the spirit of these minerals appear in dreams to teach magic melodies. 40 days of diet. The flintstone is used by to witches in order to kill. In order to defend oneself against pedernal one has to take "la purga, el acero y cinco gotas de caucho" (ayahuasca, steal and five drops of rubber) In the next chapter we will deal with the spirit world which is accesible to vegetalistas by ingesting ayahuasca and some of the plant-teachers mentioned.



Ayahuasca visions On the left an electric eel and a jaguar protecting the session In the center the Yakumama and other spirits of the underwater world. In the sky a UFO, and near the participants in the session extraterrestial medical doctors.

CHAPTER 4. THE SUPERNATURAL REALM 4.1. Spirit world The spiritual worlds of the vegetalistas seem as complex and heterogeneous as is indeed the society in which they are living, with its various cultural traditions. The cosmology of the vegetalistas is immersed in the general animistic Amazonian religious background of the various Indian tribes that existed, and still exist, in the Amazonian territories. Nature is animated by spiritual powers which assume theriomorphic and anthropomorphic nature when communicating with human beings. Most of the population of the Peruvian Amazon live in small settlements along the rivers in close contact with nature. Even people living in large cities such as Iquitos and Pucallpa, are still in communication with rural life. Many people have their chacra (swidden garden) not far from the city, or have relatives living in rural settlements. Many alternate the rural with the urban life, or have only recently moved to the city. Only the thin layer of the upper middle class and upper class, many of them coming from the coast or the sierra, lead a life which is almost entirely dissociated from natural surroundings. The belief in spiritual beings living in the jungle, in the water, and to a lesser extent, in the air, and which interfere with the lives of human beings, often in a negative way, is still firmly established. Amazonian people were -and still aresubject, often in a violent way, to new social and economic institutions, to new religious ideas, and to new technology. These changes certainly have made a great impact on the spiritual world of Amazonian people, who, with great plasticity, have incorporated into their world view a host of spirits of various appearance, depending on the degree of assimilation of foreign influence. Spirits may adopt the form of various animals -often of extraordinary proportions-, Indian or mestizo shamans, black men, foreign entrepeneurs, rubber bosses, princesses from Western fairy tales, angels with swords from Christian iconography, armed officials, famous deceased Western doctors, etc. or even, as can be seen in some of Pablo Amaringo's paintings (see photo on opposite page), extraterrestial beings from distant planets and solar systems.


No doubt, when studying the cosmology of the vegetalistas one is often confronted by seemingly unconnected elements, the ruins of buildings that must have had a degree of coherency. Reading the anthropological literature I have had moments in which I have envied colleagues working with Indian groups, because there the elements seem to fit -or at least they make them fit so nicely. I am here going to present some of the most important spiritual beings which today are of importance in the cosmology of the area, and which the vegetalistas may contact during their initiation, and, in their later practice, during their visions and dreams. 4.1.1. Chullachaki The most important spirit of the jungle, known to nearly every one in the Amazon, and still the subject of many stories, which are often told in a nervous humoristic way, is Chullachaki. Chullachaki is a male spirit which is also known under several other names: Yashingo, Sacharuna (from Quechua sacha = jungle, and runa = person), Curupira, Shapingo, Shapshico or simply

The Chullachaqui and a lonely hunter he has led astray (painting by Pablo Amaringo) 74

Supay (devil in Quechua) 27 . Don Emilio described him as an evil spirit that lives in the jungle, often in places where chullachaki-caspi (Tovomita sp., Guttiferae), a stilt-rooted tree abounds. According to Calvo (1981:37), he likes to be under lupuna trees. Valdizán & Maldonado (1922:11-12) writes that he is said to live in the center of the huge renacales -inundated forest where the predomiant plant is renaco (Ficus sp.)-, where he sleeps in a hammock made of alligator skin, suspended to the trees by cords made of snakes. He is said to have a chacra in which he cultivates only sacha caymito (Deroia hirsuta, tentative identification), a small tree, the fruits of which are his food (cf. Reátegui 1984:65) 28 .

27 Rafael Karsten (1964:197) has reported this being among the Napo and Bobonaza Indians of eastern Ecuador, and among the Shipibo of the Ucayali, under the Quechua name Sacharuna. He writes that it may be an idea common to all forest tribes in western South America. Otto Zerries, in his comprehensive monography on the spirits of the wild and the spirits of the forest (Wild-und Buschgeister) among South American Indians, summarizes Koch-Grünberg's (1920:323-4) characterization of the Corupira as follows:

"Demnach ist der Corupira sowohl der Schutzgeist des Wildes als auch der Wälder, der diejenigen straft, die das Wild vernichten wollen und solche belohnt, die ihm gehorchen oder deren er sich erbarmt. Er ist es, der dem Jäger das Wild verbirgt oder es ihm in den Schuss führt, der die Geheimnisse der Wälder bewahrt, die Heilkräfte der Pflanzen zeigt und die Erzeugnisse der Waldes spendet. Er erscheint als geheimnisvoller und mächtiger Geist in verschiedenen Gestalten und Stimmungen, bald fantastisch sonderbar, gebieterisch, bald böse, grob, dreist, oft zuvorkommend und freundlich, ja sogar gutmütig, mitleidig, schwach, dumm und leicht zu täuschen. Auch kann er dankbar sein für das Gute, das man ihm tut, legt aber immer Bedigungen auf, deren Nichterfüllung verhängnisvoll sein kann. Meist tritt er als kleiner Mann auf, von drei Fuss Höhe, kahlköpfig, aber am ganzen übrigen Körper mit langen Haaren bedeckt, mit nur einem AUge, mit blauen oder grünen Zähnen, grossen Ohren, mit Beinen ohne Gelenke, die Füsse immer nach rückwärts gebogen und von aussergewöhnlicher Körperkraft. Er wohnt in der Tiefe des Waldes in hohlen Bäumen. Er ladet die Leute ein, im Walde zu wohnen, ahmt alle Vierfüssler und Vögel nach und täuscht so den Jäger, der glaubt, das Wild zu verfolgen, währen er dem Waldgeist nachläuft. (... )" (Zerries 1967:9-10).
28 This plant produces what seems to be a natural herbicide, so that nothing grows within a radius of one meter around its trunk. Where there are several of these small trees near each other, it looks as if they were purposely being taken care of, because no vegetation grows between them. Local people call these places supay chacra (the plantation of the devil), and they are associated with Chullachaki.


This being has one or both of his feet turned backwards, often resembling that of a goat, a dog, a deer, a tiger or some other animal (Chullachaki in Quechua means "uneven foot") (cf. Valdizán & Maldonado 1922:12; Kuckynski Godard 1947: xxii; Wagley 1976:225; Huamán Ramirez 1985:349). He may adopt human form (often that of a close relative of the person he encounters), or that of certain animals in order to lead astray a lonely hunter (cf. Kuczynski Godard 1947: xxii; Calvo 1981: 47; Regan 1983: 1: 90; Huamán Ramírez 1985:345- 362). When people walk alone in the jungle, they sometimes hear the Chullachaki thudding against the trunks of the trees with his strange foot. Sometimes he makes sounds that resemble shots, indicating that you have entered his territory 29 . He has also control over metereological phenomena. If the person insults the Chullachaki aloud a storm will gather within few hours, endangering the life of the imprudent person. Sometimes the person will become very ill: he will begin to tremble, to vomit, to foam at the mouth, and he will have convulsions. An encounter with this being may also cause madness (cf. Valdizán & Maldonado 1922: 11-12; Kuczynski 1947: XXII). According to Don Emilio, singing the icaro del flautero pishcu, a magic melody inspired by a bird that makes a long and beautiful nest in which it enters when there are heavy rains, is the best way of protecting oneself against this being. By following the appropiate diet, the friend of Chullachaki, which can will punish those who hunt too many testimonies about this being is found it is possible to become give hunters luck. But he animals (a collection of in Regan 1983: 189-197).

César Calvo (1981:34-35), in his novel on Manuel Cordoba Ríos and other brujos (witches) of the Amazon area, writes that there are two types of chullachaki: the evil ones, which have a tiger or deer foot, and the good ones, which exactly resemble a human being, and are "created" by powerful shamans. Shamans that are not able to create a chullachaki abduct children and enchant them to put them at their service. The children forget their own personality and become chullachakis. If shamans use them for causing harm, the right foot of these children is gradually deformed until it becomes like that of a deer or tiger. If the enchanted chullachaki appears like an animal, the right foot leaves the footprints of a boy, a woman or a man, depending on the size of the animal. The Chullachaki seeks the friendship of human beings, but first it is necessary to defeat him in combat. He will then give the person good land, large families, happiness and wisdom. The first time he is seen without the help of ayahuasca he appears as a small man wearing huge red shoes, red trousers, a shirt, scarf and hat. But later

Richard Spruce, the English botanist, was for years puzzeled by solitary shots in the jungle, attributed by the Indians to Yamadu, Munyia or Curupira, until he found that this noise was caused by the sudden fall of a palm-trunk, the soft interior of which had been eaten away by termites (Spruce 1908:438-444). 76


he may take the form of any animal (Calvo 1981:37-38)30. 4.1.2. Sachamama

Sachamama (Painting by Pablo Amaringo)
30 This being has also been reported from the Amazonian towns of Brazil. Wagley (1976: 235) writes the following:

"The most famous of the forest spirits, however, is the Curupira, a small man-like creature whose feet are turned backward. Curupiras live deep in the forest, from which their long shrill cries are often heard. They are said to be especially fond of rum and tobacco. They attract hunters deeper and deeper into the forest, until they are lost and never return. The Curupira can imitate a man's voice. They call out a rubber gatherer or a hunter who believes the voice to be that of a companion and thus is drawn off his path." See also Galvao 1976: 72-74. For an historical survey of this belief in the Brazilian Amazonas, see Camara Cascudo (1983: 84-91). 77

Another animal spirit which is also the subject of many stories, is the Sachamama. The sachamama (mother of the jungle) is supposed to be a huge boa of 50 meters or more that is believed to stay in the same place for many years. Vegetation grows on its body, so that it may easily be taken for a fallen tree. It is believed that it is able to hypnotize and devour any animal or human being that crosses a clearance that it makes in front of its head (cf. Huamán Ramirez 1985:61-66). According to Pablo Amaringo, the Sachamama can be invoked by a vegetalista through the appropiate icaro, and used as arkana or defense against an evil witch (cf.4.2.). The vegetalista calls her in such a way that it comes from behind his enemy. When the vegetalista attacks from the front, the witch, when backing, falls into the open fauces of the animal and will be devoured by it. In order to be able to use the Sachamama in this way, the vegetalista has to abstain from salt and follow a rigurous diet in an isolated place for three years. During this time he will learn the icaro of the three stones: the flintstone, the magnet and the piedra de encantar (stone of enchantment), which I have not identified.

The hypnotic power of the S a c h a m a m a is thought to be like a rainbow that attracts a n i m a l s and h u m a n b e i n g s towards the mouth of the animal and protects it from approaching dangers. The vegetalista, when able to master the spirit of the Sachamama through the above mentioned icaros, acquires some of its powers, which are manifested during the visions and dreams as flames that are suspended on the top of the head of the vegetalista.

Pablo Amaringo says that the icaro de la Sachamama is also used for curing snake bites, because the Sachamama is the "mother" of all snakes. Nobody should leave the house while the vegetalista is healing with the help of this icaro: snakes are attracted by the icaro and may attack. 78

4.1.3. Yakumama The underwater world presents an special fascination to Amazonian people, which is not strange, considering the climatic and geographical situation of the area, and the paramount importance of rivers and their adjacent ox-bow lakes as a means of transportation, for food, and the tremendous changes that occur in the jungle during the rainy season. At least among the mestizos I have been working with, the underwater world seems to have more importance than the jungle, and much more than the world of the air, which is practically devoid of spirits, except for the tunchis or spirits of the dead (cf.4.1.08.), which, in fact, are to be considered more as spirits of the night than of the air. Heaven is, of course, where Jesus, Mary and the saints dwell but has little practical connexion with the jungle and the underwater world, except as the supreme protection in cases of great danger, in which the traditional arkana does not work. The counterpart of the Sachamama is the Yakumama, the great anaconda. The Yakumama (Quechua = mother of the water), also known under the Cocama name of Pirahua, and the Shipibo name of Acorón, is a huge water boa which is believed to live on the bottom of rivers and lakes. It has eyes like the headlights of a truck. When it moves it forms enormous whirlpools that can engulf a boat. It attacks people who navigate during the night in solitary places. It is believed that it can transform itself into a large steam boat full of people singing and screaming, and which people take for a real boat, until it suddenly dissapears (cf. Reagan 1983:I:174-175). This belief has also been documented in the Brazilian Amazonas (cf. Moraes 1926: 84-85). According to Luis da Camara Cascudo (1983:129), it may come from the first contacts the Indians had with white people. Every river and lake has its "mother", which is believed to be a great snake. When the Indians saw the first boats, they perhaps thought that it was one of the metamorphoses of the Great Snake. On the other hand, the association of the anaconda with a boat is found in ancient myths among several Amerindian tribes. Among the Desana, a subgroup of Tukano Indians that live in the rain forest of Vaupés, in the Colombian Northwest Amazon, the anaconda is compared with pamurí-gahsíru, the canoe in which mankind arrived (Reichel Dolmatoff 1971:63). Similar associations are found among the Canelos Quichua of Ecuador where amarun cánue (anaconda canoe) is the term for this being (see photo in Whitten 1985:67). Among the Napo Indians, a similar being is called by the name of Yaku-lancha (from Quechua


yaku = w a t e r , 1979: 282) 31 .






The Yakumama, like the Sachamama of the jungle, has power over the elements, and may produce rain, floods and tempests 32 . 4.1.4. Yakuruna The yakuruna (from Quechua yaku = water, and runa = people) are believed to be inhabitants of the water. They are sometimes described as hairy people that abduct human beings and take them to their underwater world. Other people say that they look exactly like normal human beings, except that their faces look towards their backs (Huamán Ramirez (1985:21), or they may have deformed feet (Regan 1983:176). They live in beautiful cities often located in the mouth of the rivers. Yakuruna are associated and sometimes even identified with other inhabitants of the water, such as bufeos (river dolphins), mermaids and yakumamas (see below). The world of the yakuruna is described in beautiful metaphoric ways. Entering the water is like entering a mosquito net. Small dolphins are the police of that world; large dolphins are the authorities. The hammock of the yakuruna is a boa, its bench a charapa (a turtle), the alligators are their canoes, and pink dolphins their horses and messengers, etc. (cf. Galvao 1976 (1952): 6667; Dobkin de Rios 1972:81; Regan 1983:176; Huamán Ramírez 1985:27-28). This is also the world where the mermaids dwell (see later), ready to seduce the voyagers, who have to avoid their enchantments, otherwise they will never return to earth. Being able to travel under the surface of the water and remaining there for days is considered to be one of the characteristics of a great shaman (cf. Wagley 1953:227). Many vegetalistas report that they are able to travel in the water world (cf. Calvo 1981:263-264), and are said to be able to bring back people abducted by the yakuruna. They have to do it as soon as possible, because when a person is taken to the underwater world, he gradually changes into a yakuruna. None of my inforUpp de Graff (1923:217), in his account of his travel through Jivaro territory, writes the following: "Yacu-mámam possesses the power of changing from a tapir to an anaconda, from an anaconda to a frog. His haunts are the rivers and streams, and he brings on destructive floods or beneficial showers at will. Thus these three animals are never molested by the Jívaros, for fear of the anger of Yacu-mámam." The water boa plays a central role in pluvial rituals perfomed by numerous tribes of the upper Amazon, such as the Yagua, Huitoto, Bora, Omagua, Cashibo, etc. (Girard 1958: 46, 99, 180, 273). According to a myth, the boa Noi mura had the virtue to transform itself into human being to copulate with an Ocaina girl called Amena Kog(oe)n (ibid. 133). 80
32 31

mants claim to be able to bring back people stolen by the yakuruna, or even travelling with their bodies in the underwater world, but maintain to have known practitioners who were able to do so. The underwater world is not very different from ours. In their descriptions of that world vegetalistas stress not the jungle environment, as one would expect, but objects from Western civilization: such as buses, taxis, airplanes, etc. 33 Don Emilio told me that when a man has been abducted by the yakuruna, ayahuasca is prepared, adding to the preparation two leaves of campana toé (Brugmansia suaveolens). Under the effects of the brew, the shaman sings the icaro del ninacuru. Ninacuru is, according to Don Emilio, an insect whose eyes look like the headlights of a car. The shaman becomes like one of

A vegetalista forcing two yakuruna to bring back an abducted child while people are watching. Dolphins and water boas form a circle around the yakuruna (Painting by Pablo Amaringo)
33 In a healing session described by Gebhar-Sayer (1986) the Shipibo shamans descend to the bottom of a lake to recover the woman's caya (spirit), using an airplane densely covered with designs. See also Regan 1983:I:144.


these insects, penetrates the underwater world, and searches until he finds the man, who is embracing a yakuruna, a woman of the water world. Once the shaman knows where the man is, he returns to earth. He begins to follow a diet for several days, and invites a shaman friend to take ayahuasca with him, adding once more two leaves of toe and a few drops of perfume. They travel together to the underwater world. While the friend is singing the icaro de la sirena (icaro of the mermaid), to call the attention of the yakuruna, the shaman calls the man. By blowing smoke on the yakuruna she is unable to see or hear anything. The man is taken out of the water. He cries, and wants to go back to the underwater world. The shaman takes a crucifix and puts it on the chest of the patient. He wakes up, looks around, sees his family, and then slowly regains his senses. In order to be sure that he will not go back to the underwater world, ten pieces of the bark of ayahúman (Couroupita guianensis Aubl.) are crushed, water and a little camphor and perfume are added. The shaman sings the icaro del ayahúman on the preparation, and the man is rubbed down with it. The spirit of renaco came (Ficus sp.) is also called, and the spirit of the man is firmly tied with the spirit of the tree. The icaro del caucho (rubber tree) is also sung, in order to be sure that the man will not run away again. The icaro of huaira caspi, another tree, is sung on the top of the head of the man, to prevent an evil wind from throwing the man into the water. After a month, the man fully recovers his senses. He does not remember anything of what happened to him. He will not be allowed to go fishing again, in order to prevent him from being taken by the yakuruna. 4.1.5. La sirena (the mermaid) When the Spanish and Portuguese arrived in the Amazon area in the 17th and 18th centuries, along with many other mythological beings, they took with them the belief in beautiful females living in the sea, half-women, half-fish, who enchanted and seduced men with their sweet songs. This idea is still found among the Amazonian mestizo population of today, where it is firmly established 3 4 . But it has merged with Indian beliefs in female beings living in the water, and who may fall in love and seek intercourse with human beings. In order to find a partner they are able to transform themselves into human beings, but at night they turn into boas, thus revealing their true nature (cf. Mercier 1979:94; Naranjo 1983:186)35. The Spanish term Sirena (mermaid) then came to cover both the European
34 On the relationship between sirenas, love magic and string instruments in the Andean region of southern Peru, see Torino 1983.

The power of mermaids to transform themselves into full women is also found in European folklore, which records marriages between mermaids and human beings (cf. Encyclopedia Britannica VI:808 (1982 edition). 82


and the Amazonian female water being 36 . During my field work I heard many stories of mermaids both from vegetalistas and from the mouths of fishermen who claimed to have seen them. This is, in fact, one of the favourite subjects touched upon by vegetalistas during the hours of talks that usually preceed -or follow- ayahuasca sessions in the rural rural areas (see later, Cap.6). According to Don Emilio, among the mermaids there are both fair and blue-eyed creatures and cholitas (of Indian physiognomy), all of them very beautiful. They are keen on good-looking males from our world, and often fall in love with them. The chosen ones have to take good care when they travel by boat, or when fishing, because they are in constant danger of being kidnapped by a mermaid. Mermaids, however, are often invoked in ayahuasca sessions. They appear singing beautiful icaros, sometimes accompanied by string instruments. They are the key of mastering the underwater world with its various beings, because through their icaros or magic chants, they have power over the Yakumama, the Yakuruna, and the Bufeo Colorado (pink river dolphin)(cf.4.1.6.). If the sirenas teach a vegetalista their icaros, he will also be able to have power over the underwater world. The offspring of a mermaid and a human being may become a powerful vegetalista. Both Don José Coral (cf.3.1.2.) and Don Santiago Murayari told me that when they take ayahuasca and cure, among the spirits they call there are vegetalistas who live under the water and whose mothers were mermaids. During ayahuasca sessions I have often heard a wish to see sirenas during the visions, a suggestion greeted by some amuse36 I do not share Dobkin de Rios's opinion (1972:82) when she writes that "No doubt belief in the siren dates from European contact during the rubber epoch". Torino (1983:111) has indicated that the idea of a being -part human and part fish- did exist at least in the early coastal culture of Paracas. The same author, basing his opinions on Andean colonial art and the musical lore suggests that "a pre-Columbian mythical or religious figure predisposed the indigenous people to the rapid and widespread acceptance of the Greco-Roman mermaid" (id. p.113). Concerning the Amazon, I believe that the role the mermaids play in the underwater world suggests an amalgamation of Amazonian and European traditions. But even if we accept the exclusive European origin of this belief, it had to occur before the rubber epoch between 1880 and 1914 (San Román 1975:124).

As Wagley has pointed out (1953:225), European colonists and missionaries of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries believed in werewolves, witches and demons, and their own view of the supernatural world was in many respects similar to that of the natives. At the time of colonization, the Spanish term sirena was probably the closest word found to denote Amazonian female magic beings living in the water. 83

ment from the other people present. Mermaids are sometimes invoked by the vegetalista when performing love magic (cf.5.6.). The rapport of Amazonian people with the mermaids is ambivalent: they are extremely seductive, but also dangerous. 4.1.6. Bufeo Colorado (pink river dolphin) There are two species of river dolphins in the Amazon river and its tributaries: the black (Inia geoffroyensis), and the pink dolphin (Stheno tucuri). The black dolphin is considered a harmless, or even benevolent animal. The pink dolphin, on the other hand, is the subject of many tales. It is at the same time considered as an animal and as a spirit very much feared by Amazonian people 37 . The bufeo colorado or pink river dolphin is believed to seek sexual intercourse with human beings. It can transform itself into a human being, often a fair and handsome man who looks like a gringo (a white foreigner), and who attends parties in order to seduce women and take them to his underwater world (cf.Camara Cascudo 1983:139; Huamán Ramírez 1983:37-43; Reátegui 1983:40-43; Regan 1983:I:145, 178-182) 38 . It is especially attracted by menstruating women. Sometimes pregnant women attribute their pregnancy to the pink dolphin. The offspring of a dolphin and a woman is sometimes said to be a monstruous creature (cf. Karsten 1964: 198; Reagan 1983). There are also many stories of people who claim they have made love to female dolphins, either transformed into women, or in their animal shape (cf. Calvo (1981: 25; Huamán Ramírez 1985: 167-171; Regan

37 According to Regan (1983:I:184), the dichotomy black dolphin/ pink dolphin is interpreted by some people as a bad gringo or foreigner vs. a good cholo (person with Amazonian physiognomy. See footnote 1 on page 15).

According to Irene Bellier (1985), among the Maikuna (Orejones) the world of the water is divided into two areas, one of them dominated by the dolphin, which is identified with the white man, while the other is the area of a Maikuna spirit.
38 The belief that pink dolphins may abduct women is firmly established in the Amazon area. For an illustrative example, see Dr. Ulises Reategui's interesting short story Cushushca Yushin. Bufeo Colorado (1983), based on a case that is supposed to have happened in Pucallpa, where he has his surgery. On the last page this book has a photograph of the document that one of the persons involved in the story presented to a notary public so as to certify its veridity.


1983:I:180-181) 3 9 . people who have sexual relationships with dolphins are said to become slowly ill. They may also have an irresistible desire to throw themselves into the river or lake to seek their partners. Rafael Karsten (1964: 197) writes that the dolphin is regarded both by the Indians and the mestizos of the western Amazon area as a powerful sorcerer, and it is therefore feared 40 . Among the Omaguas and other tribes the pink dolphin is believed to be a shaman which, when out of the water, is able to kill people like a black shaman (Tessman 1930:58). According to Wagley (1976:238-239), almost the entire body of the dolphin may be used for some magical or medicinal purpose: the skin is used to treat snake bites or the wound of a sting ray; a tooth of the dolphin hung around an infant's neck will cure diarrhea; the dolphin's ear made into a charm to be tied around the wrist of a child will guarantee good hearing; the fat is used in a preparation for rheumatism, and the meat is thought to be a specific cure for leprosy, etc. (cf. Karsten 1964: 196). Out of the external lips of the genitals of female dolphins shirimpiare (shamans) make bracelets for good luck in

Huamán Ramirez, in fact, writes that he had to remove a fainted comrade from a sleeping female dolphin with which the man had had sexual intercourse. It is believed that men feel an intense pleasure and are sometimes unable to separate their bodies from the dolphin. Karsten writes: "The origin of this belief, which is likewise common to all tribes in western South America, is to be sought in the peculiar puffing sound which this animal produces when it comes to the surface of the water to take a breath." (id.). Roe (1982:168) adds the following commentary: "Among groups like the Jívaro and the Shipibo, where sorcery consists of witch doctors blowing magical 'darts', sometimes over great distances, into the body of his victim, it seems perfectly logical to fancy that the dolphin is also bewitching people when it surfaces. This is because, when it opens its blowhole to expel old air and take in new, the dolphin makes the same blowing and whistling sound that sorcerers make when they bewitch their victims. When the dolphin's well-known propensity for deliberately following close to canoes paddled by people is taken into account, it is easy to see how such a harmless animal could have acquired such an evil reputation. Subjectively there is no sound more haunting than the humanlike booming cough of dolphins when they breath at night in the moon-bathed waters of a tropical forest lake." 85


love 41 (cf. Dobkin de Rios 1979:113). Don Alejandro told me that there are vegetalistas who are able to harm a woman with the spirit of the pink dolphin. By removing the penis of a dolphin it is possible to call its spirit during a special session. The spirit of the dolphin is attached to the spirit of the woman. The victim is seized by insatiable sexual appetite, which she will try to mitigate by making love with any man she can get hold of (cf.Karsten 1964: 197-198; see also Dobkin de Ríos 1972:81, for a similar report). Another informant told me that something similar happens when a person is given to eat the fat of a dolphin (cf. Huamán Ramírez 1985:224-227). According to Don Alejandro, only through an appropriate icaro is it possible to neutralize the evil effect of the spirit of the dolphin. Don Emilio says that the illness produced by the fat of the dolphin is cured by soaking 125 grams of tobacco in water for some hours, and giving it to the patient to drink. The tobacco drink produces intense vomiting and diarrhea which will cleanse the organism and eliminate the cause of the illness. Angelika Gebhart-Sayer (1986) writes that the "nutria (Pteronura brasiliensis Zimmermann), the dolphin and the dog are despised by the Shipibo-Conibo because they do not have definite rutting seasons. They can be seen mating relatively frequently -a repulsive behavior also said to cause the bad smell of these animals." Neino, the nutria, "is driven by insatiable longing to seek sexual intercourse with human beings in their dreams", which is extremely harmful if not fatal for humans. Children resulting from the respective union have white skin and white hair (id.). OBSERVATIONS All these beings mentioned above present common characteristics, and it is obvious that they are not perfectly delineated. Quite the opposite, there is confusion as to their distinctive features. As we saw, the theme of transformation is common: dolphins, mermaids, chullachaki, yakuruna, they may all suffer metamorphoses, and may become human beings at will. Mermaids are sometimes identified with the yakuruna. The physical characteristics of chullachaki and yakuruna are often mixed: they may both have their feet turned backwards. The same happens with people kidnapped by these beings: they gradually become
4l The bones of a bird called tanrilla (unidentified) are also used in making love charms. If somebody looks through one of these bones, as if it were a telescope, at the person he/she loves, and follows a certain diet, this person will fall in love with the one who looks through the bone. But if he/she is discovered by the person whom he is looking at, the magic will return against the user of the charm (Dobkin de Rios 1979:112; Chevalier 1982:385).


like their kidnappers. The relationship with the underwater world seems to have an erotic quality. Angelika Gebhart-Sayer (1986), in a study on the Shipibo-Conibo, writes that "it is often the ultimate goal of a malignant spirit to live permanently as man and woman with the afflicted person's soul, rather than to devour or destroy it.". The great danger consists in forgetting this world, and never being able to come back. Perhaps this is reflected in the belief that the feet and/or face of the people will look backward: the person is changed, so that he will no longer care for this world 42 . I have noticed that this idea of one's face looking backwards is also found in the descriptions of some of the vegetalistas' patients, when they describe situations in which they were afraid of becoming mad. This idea is also found in Don Emilio's descriptions of his first real mareación with ayahuasca. He was terrified, because he felt that his head was turning and looking backwards. Don Emilio told me of a case in which a witch transformed a person into a demonio (a devil), whose face looked backwards. Feeling that the head and/or feet pointed in the opposite direction may be a way of indicating that the person is attracted towards the "other" world, incurring the danger of definitively forgetting this world (which would be the same as becoming mad). 4.1.7. Plants leading to the underwater world Certain aquatic plants are believed to be the means by which it is possible to visit the underwater world. One of them is raya -balsa (Montrichardia arborecens Schott), which grows on lake shores. It is believed that if the shoots of these plants are ingested and a six month diet is followed, this plant will teach the person how to travel under the surface of the water. Don Emilio says that a teacher and two disciples are required, because there is always the danger of being seduced by mermaids and of never returning. Another plant that it is ingested with the same purpose is renaco (Ficus sp.), a plant that grows on inundated soil sometimes occupying miles and miles where nearly no other plant grows. Don Emilio mentioned to me a third plant, called punga (unidentified), the bark of which is also used for visiting the underwater world. 4.1.8. The tunchi When a person dies, his spirit is believed to wander about at night here on earth. It emits a characteristic bird whistle, and roams about in the jungle and near cementeries, frightening people. It may also cause illness (cf. Dobkin de Rios 1973: 79-81; Burga Freitas 1980:69; Chevalier 1982:389; Regan 1983: 1: This brings to mind an experience which is often reported by people who have taken psychedelics: The fear of not being able to "come back", of becoming mad. 87

173-204, etc.). It may take a human-like or birdlike form. The most common name given to such a spirit in the Peruvian Amazonas is tunchi 43 . similar ideas are found among some of the ethnic groups of the area. For example when a Campa dies his soul may join the god spirits if he was sufficiently good in his life time, or may become a malevolent qhost (shirétsi, "unpossessed soul"), revisiting the settlement where it had lived and attacking the living there (Weiss 1972:168-169). Similar ideas are held among the Matsigenka (cf. Baer 1979:105)(cf. Karsten 1926:183, 477f.; see also discussion on soul-loss in 6.4.) There seems to be, as we saw in the relation between the human and the underwater worlds, also an erotic element in the relationship with other spirits. Don José Coral told me how he had his spiritual wife. On one occasion I was able to tape a conversation between him and a patient -who often took ayahuasca and was also a good story teller-. The patient told him how, one night, when he was fishing in the river, he first heard the whistle of a bird associated with the tunchi or spirit of dead people. He blew tobacco, so as to frighten away the spirit. He then felt tired, and slept lightly while still in his canoe. In his dreams he suddenly saw a beautiful woman at the opposite end of his row boat. She told him: "Why are you frightening me? I saw that you were alone and came here to accompany you". At this point Don José interrupted his story and asked him: "Did you make love to her?" "No", said the patient. Don José added: "If I had been in your place, I would have made her function, until I had broken her bones." 4 4 And then both had a good laugh. Vegetalistas often say that the mothers of the plants are
43 According to Rafael Karsten, tunchi is the term used among Jivaro (Shuar) Indians to refer to the magic arrow (also known by the name of tsinsaca), which the sorcerers throw at their enemies. Although it appears in the form of some material object, such as a chonta thorn, a worm or an insect, it is at the same time regarded as a living demonical being. If no other medicine-man extracts the tunchi, the persons dies:

"After his death, the demon remains in the body and tries to lay hold of his soul as well, the latter being then identified with the demon that caused death. This is the reason why the departed are so often feared as revengeful spirits, even when they were, perhaps, respected and loved in life: it is the spirit of disease and death that the Indians fear, the demon being supposed to look for fresh victims a m o n g the s u r v i v i n g r e l a t i v e s . " (Karsten 1964:179-180).
44 Sexual relationship between a shaman and his tutelar spirits have been reported among the Goldi, the Buryat and the Yakt in Siberia. A Goldi shaman told Sternberg how he slept with a tutelar spirit as if she were his wife (see Eliade 1964: 72-76).


celosas (jealous), as if they were spiritual wives of the shaman. They will punish the person who ingest the plants and do not follow the prescriptions. So far I have not been able to learn much about this hidden erotic rapport vegetalistas have with the spiritual world. 4.1.09. Christian elements There is no doubt that the religious world of the vegetalistas is deeply immersed in Christian traditions, as the whole area has been subject to intensive missionary activity since the 16th century. The degree of importance of the Christian element in the actual practice varies with individual vegetalistas. Don Emilio always begins his ayahuasca sessions with invocations to Jesus and Mary (cf. 7.1.1.). In his privat life he is a very religious person. Althoug he does not go to church, he has respect for Catholic priests. In some of his visions of travelling to distant places (see 7. 4. ) his guide is a priest. In the healing sessions of younger vegetalistas I have briefly met a large cross is presiding over the ayahuasca sessions, and prayers from the book La Santa Cruz de Caravaca (see footnote first page of chapter 7) and other Catholic prayers are recited. There are also frequent allusions to the Saints of folk Catholicism. Some of these younger vegetalistas are said to belong to the Orden of Rosacruz. In Don Jose's practice the Christian element invoked during ayahuasca and healing sessions is practically negligible, and that is also the case of Don Santiago. They represent a type of practitioners more linked to the traditional Amazonian world. It is generally agreed, nevertheless, that Jesus is the Suprem Being, and that all evil things in the world are the work of Satan. As I pointed out earlier (cf 1.3.), in the practice of my informants Catholic elements are not always syncretically amalgamated, but coexist with Amazonian religious ideas. Galvao, in his work on the religious beliefs of a Brazilian Amazonian town pointed out that curupiras, bufeos, tunchis, and the "mothers" of plants and animals, do not receive any cult: the attitude of the people is simply to avoid an encounter with them, and certain techniques of protection or neutralization of their evil powers are employed, while saints of Popular Catholicism receive a considerable cult through prayers, promises and festivities (Galvao 1976: 4). The same principles may be applied to the religious life of the Peruvian Amazon. 4.1.10. The Inca motif I have recently become aware of the importance of the Inca in the imaginery of vegetalistas. Don Emilio told me that he has seen the Inca in some of his visions. The Inca showed him his city, under a huge mountain called El Angaíce, near Moyobamba. Don Emilio believes that the Incas built huge tunnels under the Andes thus linking various cities. At the beginning of an ayahuasca session Don Emilio invokes four angels to protect the 89

circle where ayahuasca is going to be taken (cf.7.1.1.). He asks the angels to throw into those mountain tunnels any evil spirits that may approach the circle and block the entrance with a black stone. During a ceremony in Iquitos in August 1985 held by a school of ayahuasqueros, I witnessed how the master shaman endowed one of his disciples with poderes incaicos (Inca powers). In César Calvo's novel on Manuel Cordoba Ríos and other Amazonian shamans (Calvo 1981: 102-103) the Inka Manko Kalli appears in the visions of Don Hildebrando, a shaman of Pucallpa. The Inca element seems to be present even among some tribes of the Amazonian rain forest. Guillermo Arévalo, a Shipibo shaman and selfmade scholar, told me that according to one tradition, it was the Incas who taught the Shipibo how to use ayahuasca. In Pablo Amaringo's paintings of ayahuasca visions, the Inca appears, along with spirits of nature, oriental kings, fairies and UFOs 4 5 . The Inca motif among both Indian and mestizo practitioners is certainly something that deserves future attention. 4.2. The concept of "arkana" The term arkana is probably a loan word from the Quichua arkay, which means "to block", "to bar" (Park et al. 1976:27) 46 . It is used as something that protects the individual, so that nothing evil may penetrate him. The concept of arkana has to be understood in connexion with the "intrusion" theory of illness, which coexists, in this area, with the "soul-loss" theory (cf. 6.1.) 47 . It has also to be seen in relationship with a threfold state in which the body of a person may be: cuerpo sencillo (indicating that the body is in a normal state, without any protection), cuerpo cerrado or preparado (the body is armed with various defenses) and cuerpo danado (the body is ill as a consequence of the evil doings of a spirit or a witch). Once the vegetalista begins to ingest ayahuasca or other plant-teachers and to follow the diet, he enters a dimension full of dangers. He will run the constant risk of supernatural attacks. Evil spirits, or vegetalistas who mistrust the newcomer, will try to harm him by shooting virotes (magic darts) at him, or by sending snakes or other dangerous animals against him. It is then all-important that the neophyte should acquire defenses against these dangers. These defences are given to him by the spirits of the plant and animal teachers he Pablo's paintings would be the delight of Jacques Vallee, who has shown (1975) that many UFO reports often present the same structural elements as certain fairy tales and legends.
46 45

The entry in the dictionary is as follows: "Arkay: tr. Impedir, bloquear, cerrar del todo."

For a discussion about the age of these two conceptions of illness among the American Indians, see Hultkrantz 1953:448-451.



encounters. One of these defenses is an invisible shirt which covers the person and protects him from incoming magical darts. Don Emilio describes it in these terms: "Arkana is a defense of the body. It is like apliable steel shirt. It is not like a suit of armour, which makes you feel ill at ease. So nothing penetrates you. Neither the sun, nor the rain, nor the air will harm you, because you are well-protected."48. This invisible garment is created with tobacco smoke. The vegetalista creates it around his patients after he has extracted their magical darts, so as to prevent them from being a t t a c k e d a g a i n by the sorcerers who first sent them (cf.6.4.)49. We will see later (cf.5.4.) that there is a direct relationship between the magic garment, the magic phlegm or yachay, the magic dart or virote and some of the vegetalistas' helping spirits. The term arkana is also applied to the animal spirits which protect the vegetalista, particularly when he enters the spiritual world through the ingestion of ayahuasca or any of the plant-teachers, when he is healing a person, and during sleep, which are the situations in which he is more vulnerable to supernatural attacks. These spirits may include not only Amazonian animals such as anacondas, jaguars, electric eels or several species of birds, but also animals from other parts of the world, known from Western iconography, such as lions, tigers and elephants. Don Celso, for example, told me that when he is curing serious cases of witchcraft he surrounds himself with his defenders. These are animals representing the air, the water and the earth; the condorpishcu, a little white bird with a red neck, will fly around his head warning him of any attack. A lion will be on his right shoulder, a black panther on his left shoulder and an elephant in front of him. To defend him

These are Don Emilio's words: "Arkana es como una camisa de acero, pero que se mueve por todas partes. No es como un casco, que no te deja ya tranquilidad. Es una camisa bien acerada. Entonces nada te entra ahí. Te da el sol, nada. La lluvia, nada. Aire, nada, porque estás bien asegurado"

Similar invisible magic garments have been described by Chaumeil (1983:125-127) among Yagua Indians, and by Harner (1973: 24) among the Jivaro. According to Gebhart-Sayer (1985: 9), among the Shipibo-Conibo of the Ucayali each individual carries in himself one or several spiritual body patterns. "Before releasing his patient, the shaman covers the pattern with a so-called pana, a fixing coat protecting both the pattern and the individual himself. This protection becomes effective especially when the person is exposed to the multitude of dangers outside the tribal sphere." (1985:9). 91


against enemies of the water he is surrounded by a mermaid, a naca-naca (Micrurus sp., a poisonous snake), a white eel and a lobo marino or nutria. A shushupi (bushmaster), another very poisonous snake, will be around his neck with its head beside his mouth. His last defence, if he is in great danger, is a school of piranhas, small voracious fish that will devour his enemies. Don Emilio has also in his defence a little bird that he calls with an icaro or magic melody, and a black bull. The spirits may also adopt anthropomorphic shapes. One of Don Emilio's arkana is a huge winged Brazilian black man with daggers in his hands and his belt, who will, like the angels with swords he invokes in ayahuasca sessions (cf.4.1.10. and 7.1.1.), follow the bad spirits and shut them into dark tunnels in the Andean mountains. Don José Coral told me that he has four types of arkana: huairamanda arkana (from Quichua vayra = wind), a hurricane which will blow away his enemies; yakumanda arkana (from Quichua yaku = water), which protects him from water spirits; llaktamanda arkana and meolinamanda arkana. I do not know yet the function of the last two types of arkana. Llakta in Quichua means "village", which could perhaps indicate that it is a defence against spirits dwelling in settlements, perhaps disembodied souls. I have not foud the word meolina in Quichua dictionaries, which makes me suspect that the spelling is not correct. Some of the animals defending a vegetalista may be given to him by the spirits and embedded in his chest suspended in the magic phlegm (cf.5.4.). Don José Coral told me how his muerrayas vomited into the ayahuasca pot several snakes, which he ingested. These were a naca-naca, a rattle snake, a provinciana, a bush master and an eel, considered by local people to be a snake. During the summer of 1983 I spent one month in the home of Don José Coral, while following the prescribed diet. The second week, during an ayahuasca ceremony, he asked me to get close to him. He then vomited symbolically several snakes, one by one, into the ayahuasca pot, and asked me to ingest them. I made a noise as if I were sucking the snakes from the pot, and swallowing them. He was pleased, and told me that these snakes were going to be my defense against enemies coming from the air, the earth and the water. He repeated this operation several times during the following weeks. This took place in the dark. Jorge, one of the two young men who was following the diet with me during the time I spent with Don José, was puzzled by the noises both Don José and I made, and he asked me one day quite frankly if Don José really put snakes into the pot and I ingested them. I told him the truth, that it was a theatrical performance, because I had not seen any snakes at all. Then he confessed to me that he did not believe in Don José. Although he had been invoking spirits, he never saw any. He said something like this: "Don Santiago knows more, because I saw clearly that a spirit came in and sat down near me when Don Santiago called him. He was there for a long 92

time, so that I could watch him very well." At this point I the one who was puzzled, as I had not seen any spirit at coming into the house during the session. Jorge was not kind of person to invent stories. I questioned him about appearance of the spirit. He said that the spirit was a wearing a hat and carrying a gun (cf. next section).

was all the the man

During ayahuasca sessions various arkana spirits may be invoked to impede evil spirits or sorcerers, who are always attracted to places where ayahuasca is ingested. Don Emilio calls forth angels with swords. Don Alejandro calls forth soldiers with guns protecting the four corners of the house where the session takes place. In cases of great danger, he may even call forth fighter aircraft to defend him against his enemies. An electric eel and other animals may be invoked to protect the participants from supernatural attacks (see Pablo Amaringo's painting on page 7 2 ) . All these arkana are call forth by singing the appropriate icaro or magic melody. Icaros to invoke defenders are called icaros arkana (cf. 5.3.3.). Don Emilio says that the supreme arkana is, in any case, Our Lord Jesus Christ. There are further means of defense against magic illness. Don Emilio prepares desiccated toads which he fills with a mixture of tobacco, patuquina (Dieffenbachia sp.) and camphor and endows them with power through magic melodies. The frog is placed in the house of a person who is often persecuted by brujos. The toads are supposed to catch magic darts or virotes thrown against the owner of the house. Sorcerers, on the other hand, may send animal spirits or they may transform themselves into animals in order to harm a person. The following anecdote may be illustrative: One evening I was about to get into one of the trucks that was going to take me to Don Emilio's house. A woman was carried into the truck crying loudly. Her husband and two children formed a ring around her trying to help her. It was a moving scene. When the truck was passing in front of Don Emilio's house and I gave the signal to the driver to stop, the family also got out, as they had been informed by somebody that a vegetalista lived there. I helped them to carry the woman inside the house. Don Emilio took everything calmly. He examined her and diagnosed witchcraft. She had been hit by a virote in her stomach. He prepared several plants for the curing session that took place after sunset (the exact procedure of a curing session of this type is described later, in 6.4.). After the session the woman felt much better and slept soundly. The woman, her family and I stayed overnight. That night Don Emilio, the woman's husband and I took ayahuasca. After the effects had faded away, we all slept there on the floor. I remember that during the night I was roused by the noise of what appeared to be a large bird, which had landed on the roof screaming loudly. After a while it flew away. I continued sleeping. The next morning I interviewed the woman about her illness. She told me that she had been ill for several months, ever since one day, when she was in the market selling fruits, a flying vulture 93

passed and soiled her on her shoulder. For days before she came to Don Emilio's house she felt worse, and she thought she was going to die. But now she felt fine, although she had been very much afraid during the night, as the witch who had caused her illness had come disguised as a bird to frighten her 5 0 . 4.3. Helping spirits It is obvious that the spirits known by the general term of arkana may also be considered helping spirits, which defend the vegetalista in case of attack. In this section I will deal briefly with those spirits which are invoked by the vegetalista through icaros in order to help him to diagnose and treat illness. As far as I know the spirits are always anthropomorphic. They are either the spirits of the plant teachers (anthropomorphically) or maestros de la medicina (masters of medicine), which include Indian and mestizo shamans (often venerable old men or women), famous deceased Western doctors, wise men from distant countries, and even beings from other planets, solar systems and galaxies, all this depending, of course, on the degree of their knowledge of the world beyond their Amazonian milieu. Don José Coral and Don Santiago Murayari, who seem to represent a different tradition than that of Don Emilio and Don Alejandro, call upon the spirits of dead shamans who live "at the end of the world", or shamans who live in the underwater world. These enter their bodies during ayahuasca and healing sessions and are supposed actually to effectuate the healing. During the sessions they carry on long dialogues with their spirits. They speak Spanish in a soft voice. When the spirits answer, they adopt a very different voice, loud and nervous, and speak in an Indian language, which the vegetalistas told me was either Cocama or Omagua, both languages of the Tupi-Guarani family (Mason 1950). These types of sessions have a theatrical character. Several spirits may enter the body of the vegetalista, one after the other, each with his distinct personality. In the dialogues with their spirits difficult questions which the vegetalista does not want to deal with in a normal state, are discussed, such as the price of the treatment, or any problem that may have arisen with his patients during the often long periods they are staying at his home. The morning after an ayahuasca session they sometimes asked me whether I "saw" the spirits performing the cure. Don Emilio calls the spirits he invokes during ayahuasca sesRafael Karsten (1964:59) writes that among the birds that may carry the arrows of sorcerers and thus inflict disease - are, for instance, the black vulture, the toucan, the great macaw, the ordinary green parrot, and nearly all nocturnal birds, especially such as arouse superstitious fear in the Indians by their strange cries. 94

sions doctores, or he may use the diminutive doctorcitos. Often he uses the term abuelo or abuelito (dear grand father). These spirits may be Indian shamans (Yagua, Jibaro, Campa) or the spirits of doctors that come from other parts of the world, such as France, England, USA, China, Japan, Spain, Chile, etc. I found the idea that the spirits may be doctors from other parts of the world among several other practitioners, both in Iquitos and Pucallpa. They are called collectively maestros de la medicina (cf. Castillo 1963:88).



CHAPTER 5. THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRITS: THE MAGIC MELODIES AND THE MAGIC PHLEGM 5.1. The magic melodies or "icaros" During the initation period, in which the novice is purified by the special diet and isolated from people, he is open to the manifestation of the spiritual world. He receives from the spiritis the tools of his future practice, in particular the magic chants or melodies (icaros) and the magic phlegm (yachay, yausa or mariri). He may also receive magic darts (virotes) to defend himself or to cause harm. In this chapter I am going to deal with the gifts of the spirits, and I will present some ideas about the distinction that is often made between good and evil vegetalistas. The magic chants or icaros the vegetalistas learn during their initiation deserve special attention. To a great extent the power of a vegetalista is embodied in his icaros. Don Alejandro puts it thus: "A man is like a tree. Under the appropriate conditions he grows branches. These branches are the icaros." The acquisition of magic chants or melodies and the memorization of myths during shamanic initiation seem to be a widely reported phenomenon (cf. Halifax 1979:29-33). Rouget (1980:187) has gone so far as to say that "chamaniser et musiquer sont deux aspects d'une seule et méme activité." The association of the learning of magic chants or melodies with the absorption of psychotropic plants is quite common (see Dobkin de Ríos 1976:69-70). It is found among the Huichol (Juan Negrín, personal communication; Myerhoff 1974:97, 1975:425; La Barre 1970: 49-52), who ingest peyote (Lophophora williamsii) and other psychotropic plants; among the Mazatec (Wasson, Cowan & Rhodes 1974; Estrada 1977: 79-83, 124-129), who take mushrooms of the genus Psilocybe; among mestizo practitioners using San Pedro (Trichocereus pachanoi) (Sharon 1978; Gonzalez Viana 1979:55-62); among the Yanomamo of southern Venezuela and northern Brazil, who use epena (Virola theidora)(Schultes & Hofmann 1980:122-3; Donner 1984:171-4, 187); (Virola callophylloidea) (Seitz 1979:329-335), and among numerous tribes using tobacco and Banisteriopsis (cf. Goldman 1963:210-11; Elick 1 9 6 9 : 2 0 6 - 7 , cited by W i l b e r t 1979:21; Reichel-Dolmatoff 1972:104; 1980:35; Kensinger 1973:11; Siskind 1973:24; etc.)


If we concentrate on Banisteriopsis beverages, we find frequent allusions in scientific literature to music and dancing in the visions produced by ayahuasca. In 1906 Zerda Bayón, in his description of the yagé use among the Indians of the Caquetá region, wrote: "They also tried repeatedly to give expression to their feelings about the wonderful, loud, intoxicating music which they were hearing and which sounded strange to them, but nevertheless entrancing so that they could compare it with nothing earthly and by which they were transported. " (Quoted by Perrot and R. Hamet 1927). Goldman (1963:210-211), when describing the yagé ceremonies among the Cubeo of the Vaupés, writes: "There are moments of euphoria as well, when one hears music, the sound of people singing, and the sound of flowing water" Father Plácido de Calella (1935: 51-52; 1940-1949. Quoted by Reichel Dolmatoff 1980:34-35), a missionary, wrote the following, when describing the visions seen by the Siona, a Western Tukano group that lives in the upper reaches of the Caquetá: "During the hallucinations the shaman and the other participants claim to see large crowds of people, Indian like themselves, all well adorned and painted, who are called "yajé people" (yagé-paí) and who sing and play musical instruments" According to Bellier (1986), yagé is taken by the Mai Huna, a Western Tukano group living between the Napo and Putumayo rivers, in the Peruvian Amazon, "in order to stimulate the singing" (estimular el canto), and "it is inconceivable to take yaje, to penetrate the primordial world /mina/, and be silent." The association between ayahuasca consumption and music is also found among the mestizo population. Dobkin de Ríos (1972:120), for instance, reports that patients under the effect of ayahuasca see a very large snake entering the circle where they are sitting. If they are not frightened, the snake begins to teach the person his song 51 .
51 I have often heard similar ideas from Westerners who have taken ayahuasca. Michael Harner (1980:4) writes that during his first experience with ayahuasca among the Conibo of the Ucayali, "he heard a rhythmic sound and saw that it was a giant galley with several hundred oars moving back and forth in cadence with the sound". Then he added: "I became conscious, too, of the most beautiful singing I have ever heard in my life, high-pitched and ethereal, emanating from myriad voices on board the galley."


I have found the idea that ayahuasca teaches magic melodies among Indian (Ingano) and mestizo populations of Cagueté, Colombia, and in the provinces of Loreto, Ucayali and Madre de Dios in Peru. In the state of Acre, in Brazil, communities ingesting the preparation Banisteriopsis caapi + Psychotria viridis under the name of Santo Daime possess himnarios, collections of songs inspired by Santo Daime and given to certain privileged members. Some of these communities claim to have memorized up to 3000 himnos (see Monteiro da Silva 1983). Learning icaros -magic songs or melodies- is an essential element in becoming a vegetalista. In fact, being a vegetalista is almost synonymous with being capable of mastering an often large repertoire of icaros. They maintain to have learned their icaros during the period in which they ingested plantteachers and followed the diet. The spirits of each plant have their icaros, so that the repertoire of the shaman apprentice expands as he keeps adding other plants to the basic ayahuasca preparation (Banisteriopsis caapi + Psychotria viridis), or when ingesting other plant-teachers that are taken by themselves. Occasionally vegetalistas may also learn certain icaros from each other.

Don José Coral singing an icaro on mapacho cigarettes 99

The word icaro seems to be a loan word from the Quichua verb ikaray, which means "to blow smoke" in order to heal (Parker et al. 1976:45). This term is used in various parts of the Peruvian Amazon, among the mestizo as well as among ethnic groups of the Ucayali (cf. Karsten 1964:204-205)52. The vegetalistas of Iquitos and other areas of the Peruvian Amazon also use the verb icarar, which means to sing or whistle an icaro over a person, an object or a preparation to give them power 53 . The icaros are used ritually, but not only in ayahuasca sessions, as has been stated (Katz & Dobkin de Ríos 1971:325; Dobkin de Ríos 1972:131). They are also used during the preparation of certain remedies, during curing sessions, which take place independently of ayahuasca ceremonies, and even during activities such as the fishing of certain species. Upon special
52 Guillermo Arévalo, a Shipibo, son of Don Benito, a well known shaman of that area, a practitioner himself and seriously engaged in the study of the medicinal flora of his ethnic group, told me that he considered the word icaro as a loan from Quichua: the Shipibo terms for the magic melodies are taquina, masha and cusho (to work by blowing)

In a recent article (1986) Angelika Gebhart-Sayer distinguishes between six classes of songs used in therapy among the ShipiboConibo. Icaro songs serve for diagnosis; huehua songs feature the content of the visions and the actual treatment; masha songs enhance the patient's shina (mind, awareness); shirohuehua (fun songs) animate the patient, induce joy and hope; manchari (sometimes thought identical with masha) is sung to lead an abducted soul back to its owner; muchay songs were usually sung during the eclipses of the moon.
53 In Cesar Calvo's novel on Manuel Cordoba Ríos and other shamans of the Peruvian Amazon the following literary definition of icarar is given:

"Icarar es devolverle a las cosas los poderes que no les vinieron de natural en esta su vida. Icarar es magnetizarlas con fuerzas que las cosas no aprendieron, no saben..." (Calvo 1981:104) ("Icarar means to give back to the things those powers they did not naturally get in this life. Icarar is to magnetize them with forces the things did not possess") Rafael Karsten, in the section of his book on the religion of South American Indians dedicated to the Shipibo of the Ucayali, writes: Icaro is also the name of a special formula of incantation which the demon teaches those who have taken the narcotic nishí. There is a special icaro for every animal or, more correctly speaking, every animal demon conjured." (Karsten 1964:205) 100

request my informants were even willing to perform numerous icaros during interviews, thus enabling me to record them. The comparison of several versions of the same icaro taped under such circumstances and during a ritual, should be of interest to ethnomusicologists. Most of Don Emilio's repertoire was, in fact, taped during interviews, not in the actual context in which they are used 54 . Don Emilio told me how, during his initiation to ayahuasca, an old man appeared both in the visions produced by the beverage and in his dreams, in order to teach him icaros (cf. appendix III, icaro 1). When he took other plants he learned more icaros. On one occasion, he dreamt of being taught an icaro in his dreams, which he brought back and memorized perfectly during ayahuasca visions. I have heard similar descriptions from other informants. It should be observed, however, that learning icaros is not synonymous with being a shaman. I have met several persons who have learned a few icaros from ayahuasca, but who do not consider themselves qualified for curing or performing other shamanic tasks. 5.2. Icaros and Plant-Teachers Don Emilio gave me a long list of plants that "teach" icaros. I will here give some examples. There is a clear association between the qualities or properties of certain plants and the icaros they inspire. Icaro de la Bobinzana Bobinzana is a beautiful tree (Swartzia arborecens (Aubl.) Pittier (Leguminosae) (Soukup 1970:332) which is considered a plant-teacher by the vegetalistas of Loreto. According to Don Emilio the smell of the flowers of this tree has healing properties. Birds, monkeys and insects use it as "their medicine", and it has the virtue of "clarifying" the mind of human beings. The spirit of this tree is a prince, who presents himself dressed in beautiful garments and carrying a sword. The tree is
54 To my knowledge only two papers have been written on the magic melodies sung by the vegetalistas of the Amazonian provinces of Peru. Both analyse only the icaros taped during one ayahuasca session (Katz & Dobkin de Rios 1971; Stocks 1979)

I learned recently that in 1965 Rosa Alarco published a brief article "Análisis musical de las canciones del ayahuasca usadas por los brujos de la tribu de los orejones del río Napo y por los curanderos de Iquitos. Informe.". This article is to be found in Chiappe et al. (1985:135-136). Until now no attempt has been made to make a systematic survey of the whole repertoire of a mestizo shaman. A. Padilla (1984), wrote a paper on the melody, harmony, rhythm and expressive features of seven of Don Emilio's icaros based on the material I gathered during my first period of field work. 101

his palace, and this is the reason why it is always blossoming. Emilio says that the icaro of this tree is used both for curing and as a melody to win the love of a woman. Icaro de la Catahua Catahua (Hura crepitans L.) (Euphorbiaceae) is considered to be a very strong and even dangerous plant-teacher. It is possible to "gain knowledge" from this tree, if a few milliliters of its latex are consumed, after a good vegetalista has brought it to boil carefully and sung a powerful icaro during the preparation. A strict diet of several months is required, otherwise the tree "may kill the person". Don Emilio explained to me that a mixture of the latex of this tree, together with patiquina (Dieffenbachia sp.), a genus containing very toxic constituents (Arditti & Rodriguez 1982) and pucunucho (capsicum pepper) is used to destroy lakes where there are yacuruna or evil inhabitants of the water (see Valdizán & Maldonado 1922:11; Karsten 1964:197; Dobkin de Ríos 1972:80), often identified as huge boas, bufeos (fresh water dolphins) and mermaids (Regan 1983: 176-185). As a matter of fact this plant contains strong piscicidal (Sakata & Kawasu 1971) and other biodynamic compounds (Evans & Soper 1978; Pere, Pere & Rouge 1981). According to Don Emilio the icaro de la catahua is whistled before one approaches dangerous cochas (ox-bow lakes). Some cochas (also called colpas) are considered especially powerful places, the dwelling of spirits, which one cannot enter without special protection. If this is not done, diabolic spirits may produce heavy winds and rain, and the person runs the risk of being devoured by a boa (cf. Reátegui 1984). Icaro del Doctor Ojé Ojé (Ficus anthelmintica Mart.; F. insipida Willd.; F. glabrata HBK) (Moraceae) is a large tree, whose latex is widely used in the Peruvian Amazon as antihelmintic. Scientific study of its properties as a medicinal plant is in progress (Hansson 1984). Species of this genus are rich in biodynamic compounds (Eidler, Genkina & Shakirov 1975; Elgamal; El-Tawil & Fayez 1975; Venkatachalam & Mulchandani 1982). Don Emilio considers Ojé a powerful plant-teacher. The spirit of this tree is supposed to be a big, fat, elegant white man, wearing a hat and a walking stick, who instructs the shaman who calls him how to cure certain illnesses. The icaro of this tree is a powerful defence against evil shamans. By whistling this melody, a dense fog will be created around the witch, rendering him incapable of seeing where he is and unable to cause any harm (cf. appendix III, icaro 2). Don Emilio's repertoire includes the icaros of several other plant-teachers such as the icaro del Clavohuasca (Tynnanthus panurensis (Bur.) Sandwith) (Bignoniaceae), icaro de la rayabalsa (Montrichardia arborecens Schott) (Araceae), icaro del ayahuman (Couroupita guianensis Aubl.) (Lecythidaceae), etc. 102

Don Emilio explained to me that it is also possible to "dietar", a term that means to follow the diet and gain knowledge learn from perfumes, certain minerals like pedernal (flintstone), and even metals such as steel, so that one will be able to learn their icaros. By adding some drops of a perfume to the ayahuasca beverage during its preparation it is possible to learn huarmi icaros to attract women. By putting a piece of flintstone or of steel in a glass of water for several days, drinking the water and following the diet, it is possible to assimilate certain qualities of these objects. The icaro del pedernal is used by witches to cause destruction by fire. The icaro del acero (icaro of steel) makes the body strong enough to resist rains and heavy winds. In Yarinacocha, near Pucallpa, by the Ucayali river, Guillermo Arévalo told me that he believes that it is also possible to learn from gasoline and certain acids, not by ingestion, but by inhaling them, and following the prescribed diet. The spirits of the plant-teachers, in their turn, teach the shaman apprentice during his initiation other icaros by which some qualities of certain animals can be incorporated. Here are some examples: Icaro del Pelejo The pelejo (sloth) (Bradypus tridactylus) is, according to Don Emilio, a very clean and strong animal. It is not disturbed by rain or heavy winds. It never eats meat or fruit, only the sprouts of certain trees. The icaro of this animal is used for curing children with digestive disturbances or affected by illnesses "produced by water." (cf. appendix III, icaro 3). Icaro de la Pinsha The pinsha (toucan), according to Don Emilio, is a bird that sings in the evening to attract females. Its song is sad and beautiful. By singing the icaro of this bird one can make a woman cry and win her love. Icaro del Flautero-Pinsha The flautero-pinsha is another bird (unidentified) whose icaro is used as a defence against the Chullachaqui (cf.4.1.1.), and against illness produced by other jungle spirits. By singing this icaro the vegetalista is able to "enter" the beautiful and well built nest made by this bird. Icaro del ninacuru According to Don Emilio, the ninacuru is an insect whose eyes look like the headlights of a car. By singing this icaro one is able to look for a person that has been abducted by the yakuruna (water people). The shaman, projecting light out of his eyes, will become like one of those insects and will easily find the person in the underwater world. 103

Invocations of other animals are frequent. Animals such as the eagle, the condor, the boa, the eel and the jaguar are called upon for healing, for protection, or even, in the case of evil shamans, to cause harm. Each of these animals is able to transport the vegetalista to its particular domains in the underwater world, the forest or the sky. All my informants claim to be good hunters, and are extremely good at imitating animals. Don Emilio says that he "understands" the language of certain animals. As I wrote earlier, during the period in which the novice is following the diet one of his tasks is to watch carefully the animals and plants of the jungle in order to learn from them. According to Calvo (1981:232) and Lamb (1985:24?), Don Manuel Cordoba Ríos, when taking ayahuasca, was able to convey to people the visions of birds and animals by imitating them. The person is then able to study their behaviour. Through the icaros the shaman is able to "identify himself" with the animal and see the world accordingly. This idea is admirably expressed in Lamb's (1985: 24) narration based on interviews with Cordoba Ríos, a vegetalista from Iquitos (cf.1.6., on Lamb's work). It seems to me that the central idea is that certain qualities or properties of plants, animals, minerals or metals can be incorporated by the ingestion of some part of them. The icaro, which is the result of this absorption, is like the quintessence of the corresponding object, and can be used by the shaman for curing, to cause harm, to protect himself against evil shamans or spirits, etc. 5.3. Function of the icaros Icaros may serve all the functions that we associate with shamanic endevour: They may be used for evoking the spirits of a plant-teacher or a dead shaman, for travelling to other realms and dealing with the beings of those worlds, for modifying and tuning one's visions during ayahuasca sessions, for healing, for hunting certain animals or for fishing a certain species, etc. I here present a rough classification, highly provisional, which should be revised when more material has been collected and studied. 5.3.1. Icaros for calling the spirit of a person, plant or animal It seems that the way of communication par excellence between the shaman and the spirits is through magic chants or melodies. The spirits often present themselves to the shaman singing or whistling a particular icaro. When the shaman learns these icaros, he can use them to call upon the spirits. So, by singing or whistling the icaro of the plant-teachers, the shaman invites the spirits to come forth. The guardian spirits that all my informants claim to possess, and which may be anthropomorphic or zoomorphic, are also called through icaros (cf.4.3.) (cf. appendix III, icaro 4). 104

By calling through an icaro the spirits of two persons, a man and a woman, they may be attached emotionally. Don Emilio told me how a man in love with a woman who does not return his love will go to visit him to ask for his help. In an ayahuasca session Don Emilio whistles the icaro de la piedra, by which he can call the spirits of the man and the woman. A black stone rotating very rapidly on an axis also made of stone then appears. He will then attach the spirits of both the man and the woman to the stone so that the woman will feel dizzy and afraid and will embrace the man who stands at her side. The icaro will unite them for ever. Through the icaro de la arañita, Don Emilio says, a similar effect can be accomplished. By whistling this icaro a little spider appears to spin its web around the spirit of the man and the woman, uniting them for eternity. These sessions always take place at night. The woman, who at this time is supposed to be sleeping in her home, dreams of the man. When she wakes up she feels sad and thinks of him. She ends up by trying to get into touch with him. As we have seen (4.1.6.) through the aproppriate icaro it is possible to neutralize love magic caused by the bufeo colorado (pink river dolphin). 5.3.2. Icaros to modify the effect of ayahuasca and other plant-teachers By using icaros my informants claim to be able to modify the hallucinations produced by ayahuasca and other psychotropic plants. There are icaros for increasing or diminishing the intensity of the visions produced by the plants, for changing the colours perceived, for directing the emotional contents of the hallucinations, etc. (cf. appendix III, icaro 5). The icaros are very important in structuring the visions. In fact, one can say that it is during the effects of ayahuasca that the special quality of icaros can be perceived. The conditions in which the beverage is taken -darkness, perhaps the jungle surroundings, the smell of camphor water, fasting during the day when it is taken, etc.-, and the effects that the plant itself has on the body, both hallucinatory and parasympathetic, all this contributes to an extremely influenceable state of consciousness in the participants. Through often very poetic associations with the texts of the icaros, and sometimes using most interesting acoustic effects by whistling or singing, a good vegetalista should even be able to produce a collective vision to those present (see later 6.1.3.). We could even say


that vegetalistas are masters of synesthesia55. This is one of the most admired qualities in a good vegetalista: Being able to "show" to people beautiful or impressive visions. Competitions and tacit rivalries may sometimes arise during sessions in which several vegetalistas are present, when two or more, so to say, try to "monopolize" the quality of the visions. During the ceremony the first icaros sung or whistled are usually for subir mareación (for increasing the hallucinations) (see appendix III, icaro No. 5). When several maestros or persons that know icaros are present at a ceremony, they often sing their icaros at the same time -I have not yet heard two persons sing exactly the same icaro. The effect is highly suggestive, and indeed it contributes to enhance the emotional state of the participants and may even alter or intensify the contents of their visions. I would like to point out that a trance state can be achieved without the consumption of psychotropic plants only by singing or whistling certain icaros. During the summer of 1982 I spent one month in the home of Don José Coral, who at that time was treating two very sick women. He took ayahuasca aproximately once a week, but conducted healing sessions three or four times a week. On those occasions he entered into a trance state merely by singing and smoking one or two cigarettes of mapacho (a local variety of tobacco normally employed by shamans). The trance state cannot be attributed to the tobacco, as he did not inhale large quantities. I would rather say that it was autoinduced through concentration and the whistling of magic melodies. He thereafter engaged in long talks with the spirits in a language he told me was Cocama. Similar observations were made by Olsen (1975) who worked among the Warao Indians, and certainly reinforce his hypothesis that an altered state of consciousness may also be reached through music alone.

Angelika Gebhart-Sayer (1986) has studied the correlation between music and geometric designs among the Shipibo-Conibo. According to her, the shaman engages in synaesthetic awareness. She writes: "His songs can, so to speak, be heard in a visual way, and the geometric designs may be seen acoustically. This phenomenon is often referred to in the texts of the shamanic songs. For example, a medicine may be called "my painted song", "my voice, my little painted vessel", "my words with those designs" or "my ringing pattern". Synesthetic experiences are a commonly reported phenomenon under the effects of other psycotropic plants or substances. Ríos et al. (1965: 9) reported audio-optical-cenestesic synesthesia among some of the subjects to whom they administered harmine and ayahuasca in a controlled situation.



5.3.3. Icaros arkana As we saw in the previous chapter (cf.4.2.), once the vegetalista has entered into that "other reality", he needs defences. Through the icaros arkana the vegetalista protects himself against attacks by witches or the evil spirits of the air, the water or the earth. When a vegetalista is healing, or when he enters that other dimensions through the ingestion of psychotropic plants, he is particularly vulnerable and exposed to the attacks of the agents that cause illness 56 . If the vegetalista does not possess stronger icaros than those of the witch that caused the illness, he may run the risk of being killed by him (cf. appendix III, icaro 6). One of the ways in which a witch attacks a rival shaman is by darkening his visions through an icaro. But there are also icaros to counteract this effect and to recover the clarity of the visions produced by ayahuasca or other plant teachers. 5.3.4. Icaros for Healing Some examples have already been described above. According to Don Alejandro icaros are especially effective for curing illnesses caused by witchcraft or due to the action of evil spirits. But there are also icaros to cure other illnesses, for example snake bites. I want to stress the following point: It is believed that it is the melody itself that has curative powers. One example may illustrate this idea. During my field work in August 1984 I met Don Manuel Ahuanari, an eighty-yearold man who lives with his second wife near the city of Iquitos. He was a vegetalista, but did not practise any more, since he had become seriously ill. I met him in an ayahuasca session at the home of Don José Coral. He told me that when he was 12 years old he was bitten by a jergón (Bothrops atrox), a dangerous snake. When he was close to death, a young man happened to visit the plantation on which he lived with his family. The young man heard about his case, and said that he was going to try an icaro he had learned against snake bites. By singing and blowing smoke over Don Manuel he managed to cure him. Don Manuel learned this icaro during the healing process, and said he had cured many cases of snake bites during his long life with the help of this magic chant.


In Cesar Calvo's novel on Manuel Cordoba Rios and other "brujos" of the Amazon, there is the following paragraph: "When one takes ayawashka, one becomes like a crystal, said Ino Moxo. One becomes like a crystal exposed to all spirits that live in the air, both evil and good ones. It is for this reason we have icaros, icaros to protect ourselves, icaros to heal, songs that call forth a certain spirit to counteract others..."(Calvo 1981:208)(My translation). 107

Don Emilio once told me a significant thing. He said: "If you have learned from ayahúman (one of the plant-teachers, also used in the extraction of the virote or magic dart shot by evil shamans), you do not need to go out to the forest to bring back its bark, because you already know its icaro." This shows that at least in certain cases the very essence of the tree is thought of being part of the magic melody, and therefore it can be used instead of the tree itself. In other cases the icaros are used to reinforce the effect of medicinal plants. All the shamans I have been working with always sing or whistle an icaro during the preparation or application of medicinal plants 57 . 5.3.5. Huarmi-icaros Warmi means "woman" in Quechua. These are icaros for winning the love of a woman. One of the most important tasks the shaman has is to solve emotional conflicts in his community. Iquitos and its vicinity, as probably many other Amazonian settlements, is characterized by a very unstable emotional life. Couples easily break apart. Many women with large families are abandoned by their husbands, or, conversely, men coming back from work in the jungle find that their wives have left their homes. Many of the clients of Den Emilio and other vegetalistas are men and women looking for advice or help to recover or retain their partners. Love icaros are extremely important in this context. Some of these icaros are sung or whistled in association with ritual baths with sacha-ajos (Mansoa alliacea (Lam) A. Gentry), a plant. These baths, very popular in Iquitos, are believed to bring good luck in work and love. 5.3.6. Other kinds of icaros In the repertoire of my informants there are other kinds of icaros which are not easily classified. Don Emilio has for instance a beautiful icaro to wish farewell to a "good person" (Icaro para despedir a un personaje bueno). There is one icaro by which he is able to attract a pauche (Arapaima gigas), a
57 In the healing sessions in which I participated in the area of Iquitos the vegetalistas usually combined several elements: icaros, tobacco blowing, sucking the afflicted parts and the use of plants, both for healing and for returning the illness to the person who caused it. In Yarinacocha, however, I participated in an ayahuasca session conducted by Don Benito Arevalo, a Shipibo shaman, and his son Guillermo. They were treating a young man suffering from paludismo (malaria). During the whole session they never approached their patient, who was lying under his mosquito net. At a distance of two meters they sang their icaros in his direction. They told me that he had been near death a few days earlier, but was now recovering. A similar practice has been reported by Siskind (1973: 31) among the Sharanahua, who use ayahuasca only to diagnose the illness, but who cure it with magic chants.


huge fish which is much appreciated for its delicious taste. Through the Icaro del alcanfor (icaro of camphor) Don Emilio is able to make a witch fall asleep, so that he can try to convince the witch in his dreams of the necessity to stop doing harm to people. Camphor, an organic compound extracted from Cinnamomum camphora is widely used in the Peruvian Amazon by shamans and curanderos. It is normally always present both in healing sessions and in ayahuasca ceremonies. Like tobacco, it is used for helping the shaman to regurgitate the magic phlegm which is used as an aid for substracting magic darts or virotes from the body of a victim. Lewis (1980, 1927: 303-305) pointed out that camphor has some psychotropic properties, which is perhaps one of the reasons of its use among the vegetalistas of the Peruvian Amazon. Don Emilio also knows an icaro (icaro para llamar a un indio Yagua), by which he calls forth a Yagua Indian, who presents himself playing the llupana (a pan flute). Singing the icaro del Jívaro he is able to cure illnesses caused en idioma, that is, caused by chants or recitations in native languages. There is a certain hierarchy among the icaros of a shaman. Each shaman possesses a principal icaro, which represents the essence of his power. Don Alejandro says that if a vegetalista manages to learn the main icaro of another practitioner, he will inherit his knowledge upon the latter's death. There is also a hierchy among the shamans, depending on the icaros they know. Both Don Alejandro and Don José Coral seem to value the fact that their icaros are difficult to memorize. Icaros in Indian languages, compared with icaros in Spanish, are considered especially powerful. The language most frequently used is jungle Quichua, a Quechua dialect, which is the mother tongue of several tribes of the Ecuadorian, Peruvian and Colombian Amazon areas (see Whitten 1981:125). Don José also sings in Cocama and Omagua, and sometimes in a mixture of all three languages with the purpose of impressing and confusing rival shamans. Don Manuel Ahuanari, on the other hand, states that the icaros should be clearly intelligible, so that everybody is aware of the animal spirits being invoked. Summarizing, one may say that icaros are the quintessence of shamanic power and wisdom. These magic chants or melodies are what a person who takes ayahuasca is hoping to learn. It is through the magic chants that a good vegetalista is revealed to other shamans. The quantity and quality of his magic melodies place a vegetalista within the hierarchy that is tacitly recognized among them. It is through the icaros that the vegetalistas heal many an illness, that they defend themselves against evil spirits or shamans, that they protect themselves in their shamanic journeys, that they call the spirits of men and women to perform love magic.


5.4. The magic phlegm and the magic dart or "virote" At some point during the initiation, either the spirits or the senior shaman gives the neophyte a magic phlegm called yachay, yausa or mariri, and other objects, which are ingested and hidden "in the chest". The yachay is described as a thick phlegm which the vegetalista is able to regurgitate, and with the help of which he extracts the magic darts or virotes sent by evil sorcerers which may produce illness or even death. All the vegetalistas I have met claim to have it (cf. Chiappe et al. 1985: 72). Don Celso told me that the yachay are always two, one male and one female, about 12 and 8 cm long. He told me that the spirits presented him with his yachay, which was of four colours: white, yellow, blue and green. He could have accepted, but refused, phlegm of red colour, bones, thorns and razors, which would have turned him into an evil sorcerer (cf. 5.5.). Don Alejandro told me how after 3 months of diet his Indian teacher told him he was going to "plant" the yachay in him. With the help of a beak of a toucan he blew tobacco smoke and tobacco juice through each of his nostrils. He then regurgitated phlegm in a little bowl and gave it to him to drink, together with tobacco juice 5 8 . Don Emilio considers this an erroneous procedure. He got his phlegm directly from the spirits, and he would never dream of taking yachay from anyone or passing them to another person. Don José Coral told me that it is very dangerous to give phlegm to anyone, because the vegetalista is running the risk of the novice breaking the rules imposed on him (a special diet and sexual abstinence) and the phlegm returning to himself with great violence producing illness or death. Don Emilio described his yachay as a sort of magnet, which will attract the virote when he sucks the place where it is located. The illness is then separated from the yachay in the mouth, and thrown up outside the house. Wen the magic darts are extracted from the body of a patient, they are believed to return to the shaman who sent them. If he is not aware of the incoming projectiles, he may be killed by them. According to This practice is found in the shamanic initiation of several Amazonian tribes. Among the Shuar, for example, the senior shaman gives the novice five different kinds of babas (phlegm) during initiation, or if the novice is a relative or close friend, ten types of phlegm Pellizaro S/A:6). According to Harner (1972:155) among the Jívaro of Ecuador "the practising shaman regurgitates what appears to be -to those who have taken natemä- a brilliant substance in which the spirit helpers are contained. He cuts part of it off with a machete and gives it to the novice to swallow. The recipient experiences pain upon taking into his stomach and stays on his bed for ten days, repeatedly drinking natemä. The Jívaro believe they can keep magical darts in their stomachs indefinitively and regurgitate them at will.". Natemä is the name given by the Jívaro to ayahuasca.


Don Emilio, the yachay can also be used to extract the poison of a wound after a snake bite.

Don Jose ingesting tobacco smoke to bring forth his yachay In order to bring the yachay to his mouth, the vegetalista takes a little camphor, and then ingests tobacco smoke. He makes impressive sounds while trying to regurgitate the yachay and gather it in his mouth. After this procedure he is ready


to begin the extraction of the magic dart 59 . This substance has been reported from many Amazonian tribes (cf. Karsten 1964:178; Nimuendaju 1939:150; 1919-1920:10021037; 1921-22:367-406; Tessman 1930:229, 406, 520. 472; Langdon 1979b). Tessman, in his study on the ethnic groups of Northeastern Peru, calls it Zaubermasse. Among the Jibaro it is called tsentsak, "a brilliant substance in which the spirit helpers are contained" (Harner 1973:17-20), and which has functions both offensive (like a dart) and defensive (like a shield against incoming darts). Among the Lamista Quechua the term yachay is used. According to Franpoise Barbira-Scazzocchio, the Quechua term yachay may be glossed as ritual knowledge giving rise to spiritual power. It is derived from the root yacha ("to know"). Yachay, one of the few nominalized verbal roots used in Lamas Quechua, refers specifically to ritual knowledge. It is conceived of as materialized in a thick white phlegm believed to lie in the top part of the stomach (Quechua shungu), the most vital part of the body for the Lamista Quechua. This phlegm contains spiritdarts and spirit-helpers, which Lamista shamans call upon to cure and to harm. The generic term for shaman is yachak, owner of a yachay (Barbira-Scazzochio 1979:178-179). We can see that the concept of yachay is rather complex. The yachay is at the same time a visible manifestation of shamanic knowledge, the place where the spirits are contained, and even the spirits themselves. These spirits may protect a person, and in this respect are defenders and related to the arkana spirits and magic garment we dealt with earlier (cf.4.2.). As pathogenic agents these spirits may be identified with the virotes or magic darts, which are their material manifestations. As helpers to extract the virote they may be considered helping spirits. Before I elaborate further on these identifications, let us for a moment consider the idea the vegetalistas have of the magic darts. Among the mestizo population the magic dart or pathogenic agent is called virote, which is the Spanish name of a very strong arrow, usually shot with a crossbow, which was used in the Middle Ages. This arrow was capable of penetrating a knight's armour. Although it became obsolete in Europe due to the introduction of firearms, it was still used during the conquest of America. The term virote was later applied to the darts shot by the Indians with a blowgun, and by extension, to the magic darts shot by shamans.

Among the Jívaro, green tobacco juice is used for regurgitating the magic substance, which they call tsentsak (Harner 1973:20). 112


The virote is described either as a kind of phlegm which sorcerers are able to shoot through their mouths and which penetrates the body, or as thorns, small pieces of bone, and sometimes even small insects, which are believed to be suspended in the yachay being the projectiles that penetrate the patient's body. In other words, the virote is either a substance of the same nature as the yachay, or it is some material object suspended in it, which can be manipulated by the vegetalista. Perhaps both views coexist. In the first instance the virote and the yachay appear to be two aspects of the same thing: the first denotes the magic substance as a weapon, and the second as healing aid. Both the magic darts and the magic phlegm share the characteristic of returning to the person who either shot or donated them 60 . They are in a sense living creatures at the command of the vegetalista, and can therefore be assimilated into the more general concept of helping spirits, which dwell in the body of the shaman and are at his command. All this is in perfect agreement with what Métraux (1967:91-92) writes in his general study of Amazonian shamanism: "... the magical substance, the pathogenic objects and the helping spirits constitute three aspects of the same magic power" 61 . In another work (1944:215, quoted by Eliade 1964:52), Métraux expresses the same idea in the following way: "Between the magical substance, an invisible but tangible mass, and the arrows, thorns, rock crystals with which the shaman is stuffed there is no difference in nature. These objects materialize the sha60 Among the Omagua and other tribes (cf.Tessman 1930:60) the magic darts return to the shaman after the death of his victims. If the shaman possesses darts in his body that belong to other shamans, they will return to them after his death. 6l

My translation. This is the whole paragraph: "Entre cette substance, masse invisible mais tangible, et les fleches, épines, cristaux de roche, dont le chaman en quelque sort est lardé, il n'y a pas différence de nature. Ces objects matérialisent la force du chaman qui, dans de nombreuses tribus, est conpue sous la forme plus vague et tant soit peu abstraite de 'substance magique'. Nous pouvons même aller plus loin. L'esprit auxiliare du chaman est une personnification de ce pouvoir et non pas une création distincte coexitant avec la notion de force invisible. A notre avis, la substance magique, les objects pathogène et les esprits auxiliaires incarnent trois aspects du même pouvoir magique. " (Métraux 1967: 91-92). 113

man's power, which, among numerous tribes, is conceived in the vaguer and rather abstract form of a magical substance." Rafael Karsten also noticed the ambivalent nature of the "magical arrows". He wrote in his unfinished book on the religion of South-American Indians east of the Andes: "The Indian "arrow" or "splinter" is half inanimate object, half living being, half material, half spiritual, half natural, half supernatural. Whatever it is, it is to the primitive mind the most real thing possible, because its existence is manifested by its dreadful effects." (Karsten 1964:178). A little later Karsten adds the following: "Although the tunchi, when let off against a person by a sorcerer, or extracted from the body of a patient by a medicine-man, always appears in the shape of some material object, yet it is at the same time regarded as a living demoniacal being."

A vegetalista has regurgitated his yachay and is adding several virotes or darts to those already suspended in it. The virotes here include a piranha, the famous carnivorous fish, which is also used in witchcraft. 114

Let us we now return for a moment to the idea expressed in chapter 3, dealing with the plant-teachers, in which we saw (cf.3.6.) that the novice when he takes these plants is, in fact, incorporating some of their qualities, becoming like them. We saw also that by means of the magic melodies or icaro the shaman is able to become like the animals he invokes in order to visit various places of this or other worlds. We saw also that Don Emilio expressed the idea that if ayahúman was not available, the icaro of this plant would do the same job. We have, on the other hand, the belief among certain tribes that each plant and animal have their own magic substance, and that the magic susbstance adopts zoomorphic qualities 62 . All t h e s e identifications show us that the yachay is the quintessence of the spirit of the various plant-teachers. This substance shares material and immaterial qualities and represents a transference of the spirits of each tree, with all their theriomorphic and anthropomorphic manifestations, and all their knowledge, into the body of the shaman. I have even come to the conclusion that the icaro is another manifestation of the yachay. The same metaphores are used: The icaros, as the yachay grows inside the body. They are both subtle manifesta-

For example, according to Stirling (1938:115, quoted by Métraux 1967:90), this substance is called tsaruma among the Jivaro, and is possessed by all the spirits, plants and animals enumerated in the myths of origin. Michael Harner (1973: 15) begins as follows his article on Jívaro shamanism: "He had drunk, and now he softly sang. Gradually, faint lines and forms began to appear in the darkness, and the shrill music of the tsentsak, the spirit helpers, arose around him. The power of the drink fed them. He called, and they came. First pangi, the anaconda, coiled about his head, transmuted into a crown of gold. Then wampang, the gigant butterfly, hovered above his shoulder and sang to him with its wings. Snakes, spiders, birds and bats danced in the air above him. On his arms appeared a thousand eyes as his demon helpers emerged to search the night for enemies."



tions of the spirits 63 . I believe that these ideas may throw light on the problem of the dichotomy good versus evil shaman, which I will deal with in the next section. 5.5. The dichotomy good vs evil vegetalista All my informants told me that when they were following the diet, the spirits of the plants appeared to offer them presents. Some plants offered the novice magic songs for various purposes, others presented them with perfumes for love magic, others with phlegm of various kinds that would grow inside their bodies as if they were living plants, others with bones, thorns, razors, and other sharp objects for causing harm, others with snakes and other animals that they would be able to use for defending themselves or for attacking. This idea of accepting different gifts from the spirits is essential for understanding the dychotomy good versus evil vegetalistas. It is the neophyte who decides what to accept from the spirits. I have repeatedly heard among my informants the idea that it is easier to become a witch than a curing shaman. La hechicería pega más rápido que la medicina (one learns more quickly how to cause harm than how to heal). Don Emilio says that the spirits of the plants first offer the neophyte great powers and gifts with which he may cause harm. If the apprentice is weak and accepts them, he will become a witch. Only later the spirits present other kinds of gifts, for healing or for performing love magic 64 . Some trees such as lupuna and caupuri are considered evil by themselves, and the people who take these trees will automati63 similar ideas are found among the Siona. The magic substance is called dau. Jean Langdon (1979:69-72) has discussed this concept throroughly. She explores three different meanings of the term dau: "1. dau as the shaman's knowledge and power which may be embodied as a substance that grows within the shaman's body; 2. dau as a concrete witchcraft substance; and 3. dau as a sickness substance, causing a bodily ailment similar to our own colloquial meaning of "illness". In each of these cases, dau is a concrete thing existing independently of the individual rather than as an inherent quality or function of the individual."

A similar idea is found among the Jibaro (Harner 1973:18-19): "At the end of the first month, a tsentsak emerges from his mouth. With this magical dart at his disposal, the new shaman experiences a tremendous desire to bewitch. If he casts his tsentsak to fulfill this desire, he will become a bewitching shaman. If, on the other hand, the novice can control his impulse and reswallow this first tsentsak, he will become a curing shaman." 116


cally become brujos (evil sorcerers). Trees with big thorns are generally considered to teach witchcraft 65 . other trees, such as ayahúman may teach both how to heal and how to do harm. Don José Coral compares some of these gifts to injections which can be used either for healing or for causing harm. I have also repeteadly heard the idea that objects of red colour are for causing harm, while those of white colour are medicine. Don Emilio told me that he did not want to receive from the spirits anything with which to harm others. Don Celso said that sometimes he regrets that he did not learn how to do harm, because there are situations in which he would have had good use for a virote. Don José admits that he can do harm, but he seldom does. I have also heard the idea that in order to heal one must also understand how harm is done. A vegetalista from Pucallpa told me that from the spirits one must not receive and put inside one's body thorns, needless and objects of that kind, because if one does, one becomes evil. On the other hand his genios (one of the denominations for the spirits of the plants) may have the virotes, and in case of need they can be sent to attack. In other words, when taking ayahuasca and following the diet, the neophyte enters the spiritual world in which he meets the plant-teachers (and also the spirits of dead shamans). Some of the plant-teachers possess only positive qualities, and by absorbing their essence, the person becomes like them. If they are evil, the vegetalista also becomes like them, and only desires to do harm. Some of these plants have both good and evil qualities, and it is the vegetalista who decides what to incorporate inside his body. There is, therefore, no sharp distinction between good and evil vegetalistas. It is also possible to become evil after having practised medicine for a long time. For example, it is often said that a vegetalista who drinks a lot of alcohol will finally become an evil sorcerer, even if he was good in the beginning. It seems that there are self imposed limits to the knowledge they want to acquire, spi65 According to Karsten (1964:80), certain trees, such as chonta palms, both the kind cultivated for the sake of its fruit (Guilielma sp.) and the wild species (Bactris and Iriartea sps.), are considered demoniac trees on account of their large thorns used as magic darts by Ecuadorian tribes, both east and west of the Andes.

Karsten (1964:181), in turn refers to Nimuendajú (1952:102, 104), who reports that among the Ticuna on the rio Solimoes in western Brazil, "a new shaman, if he has not received the magic substance called tacáca of evil effect, asks one of the spirit trees which possesses thorns, especially the pupunha palm and the açacu, for them. At the foot of one of these trees he clears a spot, and on it he places a small gourd with a cigarette rolled in the inner bark of tauari (Cariniana sp.) lying across the top. The following morning he finds in the pot the tacáca which contains the thorns requested." 117

ritual dimensions they do not want to trespass. Don Emilio has told me "uno no debe ambicionar demasiado" (one should not be too eager). The more knowledge and power one acquires, the greater the temptation to use it incorrectly.


Chapter 6. ILLNESS AND ITS TREATMENT 6.1. Etiology of illness Among the mestizo population of the Peruvian Amazon, like in any other complex society, several alternating conceptions of health and illness coexist, even within the same person. Besides Western doctors and health personnel, there are many different types of practitioners. No attempt has ever been made, as far as I know, to make an inventory or classification of such practitioners. In the few studies that have been published by Peruvian scholars (cf.Seguín 1979; Chiappe et al. 1985), all such practitioners are grouped together under the label curanderos. But this is an oversimplification. Although I have concentrated my attention exclusively on vegetalistas, and among them, on ayahuasqueros, or specialists in the use of ayahuasca, in the interviews with my informants I have become aware of the existence of practitioners called oracionistas (who cure mainly through prayers and spells), perfumeros (who have an elaborate use of many different kinds of perfumes in order to cure), and espiritualistas (who work through spirits, but without consuming psychotropic plants), apparently also of several types. Jean Pierre Chaumeil, in his study of Yagua shamanism, wrote that capital questions such as illness, death, vengeance, -and even to a large extent the hostility between different tribal groups- are interpreted by the Yagua in reference to shamanism (Chaumeil 1983:7). These ideas, that can probably be applied to any tribal Amazonian community, are still also prevalent among the mestizo population of the Peruvian Amazon. No doubt one may find ideas about illness that have their source in Spanish concepts from the time of the conquest and colonization of America, as for example the dichotomy hot/cold, the imbalance of which may produce illness. Other European traditions -of later introduction- are also present, including gnosticism and Rosicrucianism66. Many of the religious groups now present in the Amazon -and there is nowadays an explosion of cults- are in one way or other also connected with healing. There also seem to be elements of African origin. Wagley pointed out (1976: 217) that in spite of the relatively small number In fact I briefly met several youngish ayahuasqueros who live in Iquitos and call themselves Rosacrucians. I have not yet devoted my attention to this type of practitioners. 119

of black slaves that were brought to the Amazon area by the Spaniards and Portuguese, African custom also influenced Amazonian folk belief. It would be very interesting, indeed, to devote attention to the ideas about illness and healing embraced by all the various religious cults. So far I have concentrated only on the practices of vegetalistas of rural extract and of considerable age (all my main informants are over 60 years old). This fact restricts the application of the concepts that I am going to present to the totality of mestizo Amazonian people. However, I believe that the concepts of illness found among the mestizo practitioners I have been working with reflect the beliefs of a large part of the population of the Peruvian Amazon. An examination of scientific literature on the religion and ideas about health and illness held by Amazonian tribes shows that the ideas which are prevalent among the mestizo population still derive very closely from those found among the native population of the area. As we saw in chapter 4, for the mestizo population of the Peruvian Amazon, especially in the rural areas, the universe is inhabited by a host of spirits dwelling in the air, the water and the jungle, which together with the world occupied by human beings, constitute the four worlds of which the universe is composed (cf. Regan 1983:I:146). The spiritual world is seen basically as hostile to human beings. Only experienced vegetalistas are able to relate to these spirits in such a way as to derive benefits from them. Some of these spirits are identified with certain plants and animals, such as the lupuna (Ceiba pentandra), a big tree which is believed to harm those approaching it without the correct protection (cf.Karsten 1964:199-200; Calvo 1981:274; Huamán Ramírez 1985:325-330) 67 , and the bufeo colorado (fresh water pink dolphin). In other instances they are spiritual beings such as the Chullachaqui, and the Yakuruna (see 4.1.1. ss.). The wind, the water and the jungle, which are thought to possess spirits, may also harm a person. In addition, the spirits of deceased people are believed to wander about frightening those still alive. An encounter with the spirit world may result in illness, madness or even death. But human beings may also harm other people either directly, by using witchcraft, or through a specialist, who usually works for a fee. Illness caused by people is often called mal de gente.
67 According to Rafael Karsten, from the sap of this tree, (called shono by the Shipibo), which is said to be very poisonous, the Indian sorcerers obtain the mysterious bewitching matter, virote, which they use when they want to harm their enemies (Karsten 1964: 82) (On the virote and the magic substance, see below 4.3.). According to Girard (1958:255) the spirit of this tree is, among the Shipibo, the supreme spirit or chief of the forest and of the spirits of other trees. It is considered to be the rain tree, and rituals are held near it to beg for rain.


In this animistic context it is not easy no make a sharp distinction between natural and magical illness. Certain illnesses, for example those that are the result of parasitic invasion or infections, may be more readily considered natural 68 . Accidents, such as falls, or snake bites, may be considered to be the result of the action of evil people or spirits. In most cases of natural illness the patient or his/her relatives will try to rely on their own knowledge, or will seek the assistance of a healer. Healers, in their turn, if they consider that Western medicine is more effective, often refer the patients to a medical doctor. If an illness fails to respond to treatment by Western medicine, it is often suspected of being caused by witchcraft. When illness is thought to have been produced by a supernatural cause, a vegetalista must be consulted. The two most common causes of magical illness found in this area are the intrusion of a magic dart into the patient's body and soul-loss. The term hacer daño, which is widely used to indicate witchcraft being used against somebody, may include the two forms mentioned above, as well as others of more difficult categorization: for example doing harm to somebody by using preparations extracted from plants or animals 6 9 , by throwing salt into the entrance of a home, by burying infected clothes or personal objects that belonged to dead persons, etc. (Cf. Dobkin de Rios 1972:84-87)70. It is also possible to cause illness through prayers or spells. It is believed that if an illness is produced by spells in Indian languages, only a vegetalista knowing the language in which the spell was cast
68 I do not possess reliable epidemiological data about disease in the Peruvian Amazon. Several epidemic diseases, such as measles, whooping cough and tuberculosis, seem to be particularly severe. Diseases of the respirarory system, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, and various infectious diseases are very common, especially among children. Malaria is also very widespread, and there are many cases of furuncles, conjunctivitis and various rheumatic disorders. Alcoholism is also a serious problem in the Amazon. 69 In certain cases I believe that powerful toxic preparations are in fact given to people in their food or a drink (cf. Chiappe 1979: 86). In other instances, however, the idea of illness seems to rely more heavily on the mythological world predominant in the area. So far I have not come across any study of the organic compounds used in witchcraft in the Amazonas. 70 Don Emilio told me of a case in which a woman oracionista (one type of practitioner who does harm through oraciones -prayers or spells-) had caused harm to another woman by stealing pieces of her underwear, defecating on it, and burying it. The victim began to bleed as if she were menstruating. For two weeks she was treated by medical doctors without success. Don Emilio cured her with the bark of ubos (unidentified), and by using magic melodies.


will be able to cure it 7 l . Illness is a broad concept, which may include somatic and psychic disturbances, emotional and economic problems. Not being loved, difficulties in relation with other people, bad luck in business, laziness, sexual excesses, alcoholism may all be considered illnesses, and therefore subject to the healing action of a vegetalista (cf. Chiappe 1979:76). 6.2. Diagnosis of illness One of the most important tasks of a vegetalista is to establish the cause of an illness. The first thing that the shamans want to determine is whether an illness is "natural", or whether it has a magical origin. If the illness is caused by people, it is important to discover the motives for such an action. The vegetalista questions the patient about his/her symptoms, the duration of the illness, and the patient's own diagnosis. Quite often he also asks for details of the patient's family and his financial and emotional situation. Examination of the body and pulse is also current procedure. According to Don Emilio Andrade, an irregular pulse indicates that an illness is caused by witchcraft. When a vegetalista is unable to diagnose an illness, or does not know how to cure it, he -and sometimes also his patientstake ayahuasca in order to consult the doctores, a term which is used to refer both to the plant-teachers, and to the spirits which may be contacted through these plants 72 . The identification of the cause of illness, the assurance that the vegetalista is able to cure, and sometimes the patient's visualization of the reasons of his illness, and even of the illness itself -autoscopy-, probably release endogenous mechanisms which contribute to the recovery of the person. I have witnessed how some of the patients treated by the vegetalistas are sometimes forced to self-reflection about their lives as a whole, and the emotional and social tensions to which they are subject. Some sort of "family therapy" is not uncommon, in which a patient is treated together with his/her partner, and even According to Pablo Amaringo, a former vegetalista, and nowadays a painter, great murayas and bancos (types of shamans) know the lengua mística (mystical language) of the spirits, which is different from any human language. These shamans are able to cure illnesses produced by spells in any language.
72 One of the most common functions of ayahuasca among Indian tribes is to diagnose illness (Cf. Tessman 1930:217; Friedberg 1965:83-84; Kensinger 1973: 13, etc.). 71


children or other relatives. Financial or emotional problems, alcoholism and even laziness are also considered illnesses to be treated by vegetalistas. Many vegetalistas stress the idea that illness will return to the person who caused it. This also contributes to the re-establishment of the patient's internal peace as he feels that justice has been done without resorting to any external violence. Even more effective, I think, are the methods of Don Emilio and people who like him chose to forgive, and let the Lord decide the fate of those that are weak enough to harm other people. As to why people cause harm to others, either directly or through a vegetalista, the most common reason given is envidia (envy). To be sucessful, either in business or in any other area of human endevour -and this applies to the vegetalistas themselves-, is full of risks: Weak people, may try to do some harm. Different techniques are found among other vegetalistas. Don Sergio Freitas told me that he is able to identify the type of illness by the smell of the patient. It is often said that good maestros can diagnose an illness only by looking at the patients. Others say that they only need the name and address of patients, and they are able to visit them in their visions or dreams (visions and dreams are often considered equivalent). The shaman's soul leaves his body and he "visits" patient after patient to treat them. Don Emilio says that if a vegetalista has followed the diet long enough, he is able to call the spirit of a patient and heal the person acting only on his spirit. 6.3. Illness as a magic dart: A case study In both North America and South America, illness may result either from the introduction a pathogenic object, which may be a thorn, a piece of wood, an insect, some phlegm, or from "soul loss" (cf. Eliade 1964: 300; Honko 1968: 49-55). Magic darts are widely reported among Indian tribes of South America (cf. Karsten 1964:178). As we saw earlier (cf.5.4.) among the mestizo, the magic dart is known under the name virote, and is intimately related with the concept of yachay, yausa or mariri. During my field work I have had several occasions to discuss at length with the patients the cause and development of their illness, and I have tape recorded numerous interviews. Here is the account of one of Don Emilio's patients, who was hit by a virote. I will not try to make any assertions about the effectiveness of the treatment, as I do not possess any reliable medical data on the pre-treatment and post-treatment condition of the patient. One evening during the summer of 1981 a man went with his 25-year-old son to see Don Emilio. His name was Don Lucas, a man about fifty years of age, whose main occupation was being a preacher. His voice was hardly audible. Whispering, and helped by his son, he explained his case to Don Emilio and agreed on 123

a healing session for the next evening. I witnessed how Don Emilio gathered some plants for the treatment (see later 5.3. 2.), and was also present the next evening to document the healing procedure. After the healing session Don Lucas recovered his voice, and I was able to tape an interview in which he told me how he had lost his voice. Here is his story: "On the first of November I went to the cemetery of Muniche together with my wife and children to sing a responsory for my dead children and a grandchild. When I was doing this, some men and women who were also there, approached me and asked me whether I would also sing a responsory for their dear ones. I refused. I told them: "You have already got a responsero". But they said: "Yes, but he only prays, and he charges us five pounds (500 soles) per child. But you can both pray and sing." I then agreed and began to sing the responsory. I already knew that the man was evil, in other words, a witch. When I finished, one of the men there invited me to his home to sing a responsory there, too. When we were going out of the cemetery, the other responsero looked at me and laughed as he passed me. I told him: "Laugh at your own life, not at me". I had walked about twenty meters when I felt as if I had been struck by a blow on my throat. I felt as if I had swallowed a leaf, and I began to cough and was about to choke. I went to the harbour, where I had my canoe, and drank a little water, but I did not feel any relief. We arrived at the place where the man who wanted the responsories lived, and I told him: "Friend, prepare the candles at once and I will recite the responsory. I do not feel well." I recited the responsories, and then I told him: "I am leaving". It was already quite late. I arrived home, and took a little camphor water. But I did not feel any relief. Finally, I lost my voice. I have been like this for eight months. I have been to several vegetalistas, but they have not been able to cure me. One day my sister went to my house and told my son: "Why don't you take your father to Don Emilio. This man knows how to heal." Then my son told me: "Father, tomorrow we go to Don Emilio." I could not talk. I told him by gestures that I did not know Don Emilio. But I agreed. We came here on Wednesday. He told us to come today. And we did. He began to suck the illness away and to heal me. I felt that my voice was coming back. When he had finished, I was able to talk just as I am talking to you now." Don Emilio explained that Don Lucas suffered from cungatuya, which is a phlegm that will slowly close the throat of the victim, until the person is unable to talk, to eat or drink. If


the patient is not taken to a good vegetalista, he will die73. The idea of illness as phlegm is extended to natural illnesses. First of all, illness is thought of as an impurity, a cochinada (hoggishness), which penetrates the organism. When a person does not follow a proper diet, these impurities accumulate in the organism and are the cause of illness. Ayahuasca and other plants which have emetic and/or cathartic properties, expel the phlegm from the organism. Vegetalistas say that ayahuasca is needed for cleansing all the flemosidades (phlegm formations) that accumulate in the intestines. Rheumatism, which is treated with the bark of several species of Ficus, and also with sacha-ajos (Mansoa alliaceae (Lam) A. Gentry), is conceived as phlegm that penetrates the joints and obstructs their movements. Common colds are also conceived as phlegm that accumulates in the bronchi and lungs. According to Don Emilio, fermented phlegm in the stomach produces heat that ascends to the head and from there disperses to the rest of the body producing fever. By sucking from the top of the head, the pit of the stomach and the temples the heat is extracted. The juice of grape fruit together with six leaves of malva (unidentified), after a magical song has been sung on the preparation, cools the organism restoring the proper temperature, and produces vomit that expels the phlegm. Tumours are also considered the product of esencias flemáticas that accumulate and cause irritation in the tissues. One may wonder whether this idea is of European origin and related to the four humours of classical humoral theory of illness. 6.4. Extraction of the Magic Dart: Treatment After inquiring after the symptoms and circumstances of the illness and taking the pulse of the patient, Don Emilio proceeds to locate the virote or magic dart in the body of the patient. In order to find the virote, Don Emilio rubs a little camphor water in his hands and on the area where he suspects the magic dart is located. He blows smoke on the part affected, and feels by touching the exact location of the virote. Don Emilio determines then whether it is a matter of "simple" witchcraft, which can be sucked directly, or whether it is something more complicated, which demands the use of medicinal plants. When Don Emilio understands that the witch who caused the illness is stronger than he is, he refuses to treat the patient, and advises him to find another vegetalista. In cases of serious witchcraft, as in that of Don Lucas, three plants are used: the tuberous roots of chicuru piripiri (Cyperaceae sp.), the leaves of piñón rojo (Jatropha gossiphy73 This magic illness is also known among the Shipibo of Ucayali under the name cungatuccha. A plant called ushado (unidentified) is used for extracting this illness (Guillermo Arévalo, personal communication)


folia), and the resin of bellaco caspi (Himatanthus sucuuba). Two or three roots of chicuru piripiri are pounded and placed on four or five leaves of piñón rojo. To this the resin of bellaco caspi. is added, enough nearly to cover the chicuru piripiri. According to Don Emilio these three plants "know each other very well, and together they are a unique remedy against witchcraft" The function of these plants is to loosen the virote, so that it can be extracted more easily. The mixture is then placed on a clean handkerchief. Then Don Emilio takes four cigarettes of mapacho (a strong tobacco) which are usually brought by the patient, and sings an icaro over them to reinforce the healing properties of the tobacco smoke. Thereafter he lights one of the cigarettes and blows the smoke several times on the plant mixture. Tobacco is believed to cleanse the plants, and to endow them with healing power.

Don Emilio placing the crushed seeds of chicuru piri-piri on the patient's stomach The next step is to bring forth the yachay, yausa, or mariri that Don Emilio has in his stomach. He puts a little camphor water in his mouth, lights a cigarette, and swallows the smoke several times. He then begins to contract his stomach as if he was trying to vomit and regurgitates the magic substance. When the yachay is in his mouth, he begins to suck the place where 126

the virote is located. He does this for several minutes producing very impressive sounds. After some minutes of sucking he extracts part of the virote and goes outside to spit it out. He blows several times in the direction where the illness is supposed to have flown. He repeats this whole operation from four to six times. The entire sequence takes about one hour. When all this is done, Don Emilio blows smoke on the patient: on the top of his head, on the place where the illness is located, all over his body. The patient has to stretch his arms in front of him with the palms together. Smoke is blown from the top of the fingers horizontally along the arms. In this way the patient is covered by the arkana, which according to Don Emilio is like an invisible armour that covers the person, and protects him from illness (cf.4.2.). The next thing is to apply the plants he had prepared in the place where the illness is supposed to be. On the throat, in the case of Don Lucas, in the pit of the stomach, in the case of the woman. The function of these plants is to act upon witchcraft, so that it will be easier to remove the rest of it in the next healing session. The number of healing sessions depends on the seriousness of the case. Usually from three to six healing sessions are required. In even more serious cases Don Emilio extracts the latex of catahua (Hura crepitans), boils it for a short time, and gives a spoonful to the patient after having sung an icaro over the preparation 7 4 . Some latex is also applied externally in the place where the virote is located. The catahua has very strong emetic and cathartic effects on the patient. Don Emilio says that in this way the virote is destroyed 75 . The patient has to follow a very strict diet during a period of time which depends on the gravity of the witchcraft. This diet is similar to that required of the apprentice during the initiation to ayahuasca and other plant teachers: no salt, sugar, spices, cold beverages, pork, peccary, chicken, eggs or certain species of fish should be ingested. Sexual abstinence is also compulsory (cf. Dobkin de Rios 1973:70; Chevalier 1982:346; Luna 1984b:145).
74 The catahua has to be at least fifteen years old and has to grow far from places where people usually go. The vegetalista goes to the jungle before sunrise with an empty stomach. Before taking the resin, the vegetalista addresses the catahua tree with the appelative "grandfather", and asks permission to take some of its "blood". Thereafter he makes a cut in the trunk, and collects some of the resin in a bowl or a bottle.

Don Emilio told me (Dieffenbachia sp.), the bark of ayahúman extract the virote. dures that follow.


that other plants such as patuquina negra the resin of lupuna (Ceiba pentandra) and (Couroupita guianensis Aubl.) are used to I have not yet enquired about the proce-


6.5. Doctor shopping: The case of Doña Rosa Teco." Doña Rosa Teco, a 62 year-old woman, arrived at Don Jose's chacra (small plantation) a few days after I had decided to stay with him for a month, following the special diet prescribed for "learning" from ayahuasca. She was brought in great pain by her family, with swollen knees and ankles. Don Emilio had seen her some days before, but he thought that he would not be able to cure her and sent her to Don José. She remained in Don José's home for three weeks. During this time I was able to observe and take notes on the whole process of treatment, which included massages, the use of various medicinal plants, healing sessions similar to those held by Don Emilio, and sometimes even careful analyses of the dreams she had during the healing process. It also happened several times that during his sleep Don José engaged in magical fights with the witches responsible for her illness. I learned that before she went to Don Emilio, she had been treated by Don Sergio Freitas, a vegetalista I had interviewed in Iquitos the year before. After three weeks she partially recovered and went home. One year later, during the summer of 1984, I went to visit her in Iquitos. I was able to tape a retrospective view of her illness, the time she spent in Don Jose's home, and the later development of her situation. Here is Dona Rosa's story: This happened to me on a Sunday. When I was going to visit Don José Torres, a vegetalista, I fell down, but I was not seriously injured. I scraped my knees. I returned home and my daughter cured me. Then I went to see Don José. After visiting him I went home and slept a little. I woke up and did not feel very well, but I did not pay much attention to it. I began to make a shirt for my son using a sewing machine. Suddenly I felt pain in my foot and noticed that it was swollen. My daughter said: "It must be the result of the fall you had this morning". But I replied that I had walked all the way to the old man and had not felt any discomfort. I continued working, but at about six p. m. the pain was so great that I was not even able to walk. I began to cry. My daughter became worried and went to look for a sobadora (from Spanish sobar = to knead. A woman specialist in giving massages). She said she could not do anything, because the ankle was too swollen. I asked Walter, one of my sons, to go to look for his elder brother to tell him that I was very ill. He came and immediately went to bring an old man who examined me and said: "We are going to put all the bones back in place". He began to knead my ankle. I screamed with pain. After a while he said: "The bone is now in place". They put bandages all the way to half my leg, putting there a medicine that was recommended in the pharmacy. The result was that in all the area touched by this medicine my leg became 128

terribly swollen. At about ten o'clock that night, I could not stand it any longer, and took off the bandages. The swelling was enormous. I called my daughter and told her: "Nobody is going to fool me any longer. This is dano (witchcraft). Tomorrow I am going to see the abuelito (literally, grandfather, meaning the vegetalista). The next morning we went to see Don Vicente Torres. Don Vicente said: "Did I not tell you, when you told me that you fell in the street, that I should have examined you? You said that it was nothing and went back home. But you should have stayed here." I told him: "Abuelito, please, help me. It is very swollen. " He treated me for a while and then said: "Tomorrow you should come here. Bring a bed with you, so that you can stay here for a while. I will cure you." When I got home, I could hardly move. My leg turned greyish. I told my daughter: "My leg is going to rot." At about five in the evening my daughter said: "Let us go to the doctor, to Clínica Loreto. The specialists will see what is wrong. " They convinced me. She called a taxi, and we went to the clinic. There were no doctors in the clinic. All of them were in another clinic, called Lourdes. We went there. At last we found a doctor. He said: "The lady has to stay here. The leg has become gangrenous. We have to amputate it." I said: "No, I do not want that. Tell me what medicines are necessary. I will buy them, whatever they cost." The doctor said: "No. You have to stay here. We will see what we can do. We will give you the correct medicines. If you go back home, you will die." At last I accepted to stay. The next day I felt I was going to die. I started to have visions. They gave me a liter of serum. On the fourth day the doctor operated on me. He opened the leg. It was full of rotten blood. At least half a liter. In the hospital they served me farm chicken. It seems that this was affecting me negatively. After six days in the clinic, I told my son that I wanted to go back home. He talked to the doctor. He said that I could go back home, but I had to take the medicine he would prescribe me. We bought all the medicines. My daughter knew how to give injections. But the more injections I got, the more weight I lost. When I had taken all the medicines, I could hardly move. Then my daughter said: "Perhaps it is true what you said. Even though you have taken all these medicines and vitamins, you don't get well. We'd better go to see the abuelito (the vegetalista). But my son said: "No. We have to 129

take Mother to the clinic" I stayed at the clinic nine more days. Dr. Rojas treated me. They made a lot of analyses, but they did not show that anything was wrong. The doctor wanted to give me a blood transfusion. I did not want it. I told the doctor: "I do not want a blood transfusion, because I shall die" The doctor said: "How do you know?" I said: "I know that you are a religious person, so I am going to tell you. I wish you could understand me. I had a dream. I saw a white man with a beard. He said: "Do not let them give you a blood transfusion, because you will die. You had better go home and try to find another type of medicine." The doctor said: "I see your point. It was our Lord who made you dream. Your body will not stand the transfusion. I will let you go home." We paid the clinic and went home. I felt that I was getting weaker every day. But I did not say anything. One day my daughter, who is married to a soldier, told me that her husband wanted her to go to Pingo, to the garrison. I told her to go and said that I was feeling better, even though it was not true. But I did not want her to stay in Iquitos because of me. She left. Six days later I became very ill again. They gave me injection after injection. One night I thought I was going to die. In the morning, I told my son: "Bring a taxi, and take me to the abuelito. I should have gone to see him days before. If I die, I hope the neighbours will bury me." He brought a taxi. I could hardly move. But in a matter of three days with the abuelo, I felt much better. I could cook for the abuelito, and I could wash myself without help. I stayed with him for two weeks, and I recovered almost completely. In those days my daughter returned from Pingo. Her husband told her that he had had very bad dreams about her mother's situation. He called the garrison, and put her on a military plane back to Iquitos. About one week later I became very ill again. I could move neither my arms nor my legs. Then I was taken to Don Sergio Freitas. Don Sergio said to my daughter: "Your mother is not going to live much longer. If I do not manage to make her react before two in the morning, she will die." He gave me camalonga (unidentified) and tobacco juice. I became very mareada (dizzy). In my visions I saw the two women that caused my illness. Don Sergio treated me very effectively. He used suction, massage, several sorts of medicinal plants, such as garlic, white onions, ajos macho, patiquina (Dieffenbachia sp.), etc. I stayed with him for 26 days. In the end I recovered completely. I paid him and went back home. 130

One month later I became ill again. I went back to Don Sergio. But at this time Don Sergio was very busy, going from one place to another. He did not stay at home, so I decided to go back home. When I became worse, I was taken to Don Emilio Andrade. Don Emilio took me to see Don José Coral. I stayed there with Don José. He is a very kind person, and I am very thankful to him. He said that it was daño. He also used suction, massage, and he whipped me with ortigas (nettles). You witnessed how I recovered, and was able to walk again. After a while I went to Pucallpa to get medicines, so as to recover completely, because I was tired of being ill. My daughter took me there. In Pucallpa I met another old man, a vegetalista called Don Ezequiel. He just touched my head and looked at me, and immediately said that the illness was a revenge, because I did not want to lend money to a woman. Two women hired a witch to make you ill. But now you have only some phlegm from the animal which was used for causing you daňo. But just by taking some plants, purgatives, and following the diet it will be extracted. After some time in Pucallpa I returned here to Iquitos. I took again some of the medicine that the doctor told me to take. And now I feel much better, I can walk almost perfectly, and can sleep in peace, and do not disturb my neighbours screaming in pain. The various vegetalistas told me the reason for my illness. But I was able to verify myself, by taking strong purgatives, who were the persons who induced this illness." COMMENTARIES Doña Rosa's case is quite typical in regard to what is known by the term "doctor shopping". She goes from one practitioner to another and from one medical system to another, with great ease. She even travelled from Iquitos to Pucallpa, the second major city of the Peruvian Amazon, to find a cure for her illness. This is another example of the great mobility that exists among the mestizo population of this area. People sometimes travel great distances in order to find work, to find a partner, or, as in this case, to find a cure. It is also interesting that she is perfectly convinced of the etiology of her illness, not only by the words of the various vegetalistas she visited, but also because she was able "to see" with her own eyes the persons who induced her illness.
During the time I spent in Don José's home while she was treated, one important topic of conversation in the mornings were the dreams, because in them, according to Don José, the development of the illness was sometimes revealed.


Don Jose Coral extracting a magic dart from a patient

6.6. Soul-loss The idea that illness is produced due to the soul (or one of the souls) leaving the body of a person is prevalent in both North and South America. Hultkrantz (1979: 90) has pointed out that the soul-loss diagnosis, in accordance with historical traditions and trends of various cultures, has been less emphasized in parts of South America, and more pronounced in the parts of arctic and northwest North America exposed to Asiatic cultural influences. The idea that the soul may leave the body is found among numerous tribes of the Upper Amazon. For example according to Baer (1979:103), the Matsigenka believe that the soul (i'nsure) leaves the body during sleep, during ecstasy, and due to illness and death. The Yagua distinguish five different souls. Two of them (hunítu/hunisétu) are active during the life of the invidual, and may temporarily leave the body during sleep or during the shamanic trance. The other three, collectively called ndenu mbayátu (souls of the dead) become active after death, and may be dangerous to the living (Chaumeil 1983:89-96). The idea that a human being has two souls exists among Amerindian tribes of both North and South America (cf. Hultkrantz 1953:51-114; 1979:131-132;). My informants have never explicitly made the assertion that human beings have several souls. However, the insistence on the idea that during sleep, a state in which one is particularly vulnerable, the soul of a person leaves his body and may be abducted by an evil sorcerer or by a spirit, and that a person may also lose his soul 132

because of a frightening experience, is firmly established76. This gives ground to a possible implicit distinction between a body soul, responsible for the continuation of bodily functions, and a free soul that may wander around independent of the body. In Reagan's interviews of Amazonian people (1983:1: 207-210), several informants recognize the existence of two souls, one that goes to heaven after death, and another, called sometimes la sombra (the shadow), which stays on earth, becoming a tunchi (cf. 4.1.08). Some of his informants say that the soul that goes to heaven is good, while the other is bad. It is also believed that when the soul leaves the body during sleep, it takes care of the body from the distance. But if the soul is unable to return, the body dies. Losing the soul due to a frightening experience happens most frequently to small children, and is often called susto (fright) or manchare, an ethnospecific illness which has parallels in other areas of Latin America (Sal y Rosas 1957; Rubel 1964). The term manchare is a loan from Quichua (the verb manchay in Quichua means "to be afraid") 77 . The usual symptoms of susto among children are vomits, diarrhea, constant crying, and insomnia. It may be caused by an accident, for example a fall, or may be due to the action of a spirit. Vegetalistas treat this illness by blowing tobacco ritually over the body of the children, thus restoring their spirits. Evil spirits may also abduct the soul of a person during ayahuasca ceremonies. The vegetalista may be able to bring the soul back. If he does not succeed, the person will die. The shaman brings back the soul of a person either by blowing smoke from a pipe or mapacho (a strong tobacco) cigarettes previously endowed with power through icaros, or by sucking, also with the help of tobacco, or both. He sucks from three places: the top of the head, the pit of the stomach and the temples. The soul is believed to re-enter the body through the fontanelle. I will here give an example of soul loss, as related by Don Emilio. This case happened when he was in the army. Here is his story: A soldier called Octavio García Torres had taken his wife with him when we were about to take ayahuasca. Her name was Matilde Mosombite. She was very pale. "Listen, Andrade," he told me: "My wife has been ill for six months. The health officer has given her all sorts of medicine, but she does not get well, nor do I see any amelioration." "Where is the woman?" "Here
76 See examples of soul loss among North American Indians, in Hultkrantz 1953:44 ss). 77 As we saw in chapter 5 (see footnote 52) Angelika Gebhart-Sayer (1986) distinguishes between six classes of songs used in therapy among the Shipibo-Conibo. The class called manchari is sung to lead an abducted soul back to its owner.


she is. Matilde, come here i My friend is going to take your pulse". She came. "How long have you been ill, Senora Matilde, I asked her" "Six months, young man. " "How do you feel?" "I feel tired. I eat very little, because I have no appetite. Sometimes I feel very dizzy. " "Give me your left hand. " She did so. I took her pulse. "Very well. Have you ever taken ayahuasca?", I asked her. "Yes, I have. I am from Alto Ucayali. My uncle gave me the brew when I was twelve years old. I am now forty-five. I have not taken it since then, and the effect of the medicine surely has grown weak after all this time, especially because I have eaten all sorts of things during these years." "Yes, it is so, Dona Matilde. I will give you ayahuasca, but not very much." Then I took a little bowl, measured her dose very carefully, and sang an icaro (magic song) over the beverage. She drank it. I told her: "Sit there. If you have strong visions, do not be afraid." "I shan't", she said. We continued singing. About ten minutes later, the woman began to say: "Very well! Good i Like that i Like thati Corporal, sergeant, all of you must dance alsoi" She was already mareada (under the effects of ayahuasca). Some minutes later, she said: "Oh, how good that my daughter is coming to see me in this boat. We will travel together to Iquitos in January. " She was talking in her visions. After that she remained silent. After some time we realized that she was not sitting any longer. She was lying on the floor. "Octavio I Come and look at your wife i You should be more careful!" He came and began to call her: "Matilde, Matilde! Get up i" She did not react. She did not breathe. Her body was becoming hard, her jawbone, all her body. I took her pulse. Nothing. I took the pulse again above the elbow. Her heart was beating. The soldier shouted: "Andrade, she is dying!" We all got up and came near her to study this case. What happened was that while she had strong visions, a huge spirit, a huge black man took her soul, and was taking it to a prison to kill it. We tried to give her water. No reaction. Sergeant Zarate said: "Listen, everybody. If this woman dies here, nobody is going to say that she did it while taking ayahuasca, otherwise the captain is going to send all of us to prison. Is she going to die?", he asked me. "Yes, she is dying", I said. Then I said: "We have to call the mareación (the ayahuasca visions)!". Irarica, one of the soldiers, tried to bring her back. No reaction. Portocarrero also tried. No reaction either. Zarate sang an icaro. She did not react. I had a cachimbo (a large pipe). I put tobacco in it, lighted the pipe, and I took six large puffs. I took my schacapa (a rattle), and began to blow smoke over her. Then I sucked three times from the top of her head, six times from the pit of her 134

stomach, three times from her temples, and twice from her lungs. Then I began to sing, to sing, to sing for a long while. Then I heard her sighing and moaning. "You see, Andrade? Continue!", somebody told me. I continued singing, calling her soul. Suddenly I saw a road, and in the center a little shadow. It was like a match. As I was calling the soul by singing, the shadow became bigger. When it was only six or seven meters away I saw Matilde. Her soul entered the body through the top of her head. At that moment she woke up. Everybody surrounded her. "Matilde, what happened?", asked her husband. In the meantime I continued blowing smoke over her. "I saw a huge black man who was taking me to an immense dark cave. When I was about to fall into it, I felt the hand of the soldier Andrade. He took me by the waist and pulled me back. Then my heart felt great joy, and I returned. I am very tired. Let me rest a little, and I will tell you everything later. " I continued blowing tobacco over her, until she was perfectly well. I took from her all the mareación (hallucinations), and she calmed down and sat there listening to what the soldiers were saying. " In this example there is no proper shamanic journey into the spirit world to bring back the soul of a person. The vegetalista is in this world calling the soul of the patient. Don Emilio is, in fact, applying to soul loss the same principle of cure that he uses in cases of intrusion of pathogenic objects: blowing and sucking. He may have visions, but he is not undertaking any spectacular shamanic journey, like those of the Siberian shamans. However, I do have reports of journeys into the underwater world to recover a person kidnapped by beings living in the water (cf.4.1.4.). 4.5. Illness produced by spiritual beings Spiritual beings, such as the Chullachaki, the river dolphin, the Yakumama and the tunchi may produce illness (cf. 4. 1. ). However, it must be noticed that due to the change in habitat, there seems to be a gradual change in the cities: an illness thought to have been caused by human beings (mal de gente), either directly, or through a specialist, happens more often than illnesses produced by spirits dwelling in the jungle, lakes or rivers (cf. Seguín 1979: 41). 4.6. Love magic One of the main tasks of vegetalistas is to deal with emotional conflicts, because these conflicts are often considered to be intimately linked with the spirit world. Iquitos and its vicinity, as probably many other Amazonian settlements, is characterized by a very unstable emotional life. Couples easily break apart. Many women with large families are abandoned by their husbands, or, conversely, men coming back from work in the 135

jungle may find that their wives have left their homes 78 . Many of the clients of Don Emilio and other vegetalistas are men and women looking for advice or help to recover or retain their partners. Mothers sometimes require help from a vegetalista to make their daughters "aborrecer" (to hate) an undesired lover, or to make their husbands' lovers reject them. These conflicts are very often intimately tied up with economic problems: Women sometimes depend entirely on their husbands' incomes to make a living, or husbands need their wives to take care of their property while they are away working in the extraction of Amazonian products. As we saw earlier, stealing a sexual partner is a common theme in Amazonian mythology. Love among humans is to be seen within this context. To a great extent to fall in love means one is somehow losing one's spirit, which becomes the possession of the person one loves. That is why love is within the realm of the activities of the shaman, who can separate and unite the spirits. As we saw earlier (cf.5.3.), these tasks are often carried out with the help of icaros or magic melodies. If, for example, a woman goes to a vegetalista and asks him for help because her husband does not want to sleep with her, does not eat the food she prepares, and looks at her with indifference, the vegetalista gives her baths of sacha ajos (see below) to make her attractive. If the husband has left the home because of another woman, the vegetalista may act upon the spirit of the man. During ayahuasca sessions the vegetalista calls the spirit of the man, and unites it with that of the woman. The effects are manifested in the dreams. The man dreams of the woman, and feels sad about having left her. After several sessions, he will return to his wife. People often turn to a vegetalista to seek revenge. A jealous woman may ask a vegetalista to make her husband impotent, or mad, or even kill him through witchcraft. Conversely, people seek vegetalistas to counteract the effects of the doings of other practitioners. 4.7. Herbal baths One of the functions of the shaman among Indian tribes is the maintenance of ecological equilibrium and the control of the fertility of game and soil, often through an exchange with the spirit world. Unsucessful hunters may recur to the shaman for a remedy against their bad luck, or special ceremonies may be

78 I here use the terms husband and wife. Most couples are, in fact, not legally married. Living together with the concensus of the woman's family is common practice.


held for procuring the fertility of a newly planted field 79 . These ideas have not totally disappeared with the advent of urban or semiurban life. Vegetalistas are often visited by people who complain of having little success in business life -taxi drivers or shopkeepers with few clients, farmers with unproductive soil, mitayeros (hunters of wild animals) with no luck-, or men and women with little success in love. In fact, one of Don Emilio's specialities is just the administration of ritual herbal baths of sacha ajos (Mansoa alliacea (Lam) A. Gentry) for saladera (from Spanish sal = salt), a culture-bound illness which is believe to produce bad luck in love and business (cf. Dobkin de Rios 1981a). Tuesdays and Fridays between 8 and 10 people come to Don Emilio from Iquitos, mostly young men and women, to get a ritual bath of this plant. They have to bring with them some cigarettes of mapacho and a little bottle of perfume. Ahead of time Don Emilio prepares the plant solution. The leaves of sacha ajos are cut very carefully into tiny little pieces. Water is added and the essence is strained and collected in an aluminium pot. When a client comes, Don Emilio takes a bowl containing about one and a half liters of the solution. He adds a little perfume, sings an icaro over the liquid, and drops a little magnet inside the bowl. The client is given the bowl with the liquid, together with a little calabash for pouring the liquid over the body. He/she goes outside the house, and in a little chamber constructed for this purpose takes off his clothes. The client rinses the mouth with the liquid contained in the smaller bowl, and spits it out. Then the rest of the liquid is carefully poured all over the body, taking good care that all the body is rubbed down

79 In Lamb's narration about Cordoba Ríos (1971:33-36), we find that herbal baths are part of the preparation hunters received before going out into the forest to find game. In this passage, an Indian hunter with bad luck is carefully questioned about "his use of herbal baths to bring good luck and to remove body odors; special diets for getting ready to hunt certain animals; the use of charms for finding favorite game animals."


with the solution 80 . Once this is done, he returns to Don Emilio. Men keep only their trousers on. Women keep all their clothes on. Both men and women have to be barefoot during the ritual bath. Don Emilio then asks the client whether he wants the bath to be effective for love or for work. He then whistles the appropriate icaro, while "painting" the person with the liquid. First he draws a cross with some of it on the top of the head. He continues drawing crosses on the forehead, on both temples, a great cross on the back and on the chest, small crosses in the armpits, and the arm joints, on the feet and the back of the knees. Don Emilio sometimes interrupts his whistling to ask the client about his problems, family life, financial problems, etc. He advises him, prescribes him special diets, etc. When this is done, he takes one of the cigarettes the client has brought with him, and blows smoke on top of the patient's head, along his arms, on his feet, on his back and chest. The whole process takes about half an hour. According to Don Emilio, people will always show good-will towards people who take baths with sacha ajos. The magnet gives strength to the preparation (da fuerza al líquido) and makes people attractive. The perfume gives joy (alegra). The icaro puts all these elements together (reúne). According to Don Emilio, sacha ajos cleanses the body of the evil action of witches and keeps the body in good health. Don Emilio also makes preparations of the same plant, which are always carried about the person. The leaves of the sacha ajos plant are reduced to powder and placed in a little bottle, to which perfume is added. A little of this preparation should be put daily on the forehand, the chest and the wrists, as if it were normal perfume. This will protect the person and will give him good luck in his work and in love. Sacha-ajos is, in fact, considered by Don Emilio one of the most important plants. It is a plant-teacher, it is good for botar los resfríos del cuerpo (literally, "to throw away the colds of your body". A cold being considered as phlegm accumulated in the organism). Sacha80 The explanation of rinsing the mouth with sacha ajos is that in this way the plant will act both from the inside and the outside, and will be more effective. This is a principle that also applies to a number of medicinal plants. The resine of millo renaco (ficus sp.), for instance, which is used in the treatment of fractures, is both applied externally and ingested. The same happens with the leaves of suelda con suelda, also used in the treatment of fractures: the pounded leaves are applied externally on the fractured limb; aguardiente (alcohol distilled from sugar cane) is added to a few leaves of the same plant and the mixture is ingested. This may be seen in relationship with the idea that there must be a balance with what is inside and outside the organism. Don Emilio has advised me to drink a little cold water before taking a cold bath or shower, because the imbalance may produce illness.


ajos makes the body strong and flexible, is good for the eyes (te aclara la vista), and the juice of its roots is used in the treatment of proud flesh in the eyelids. Steam baths of this plant are used for the treatment of rheumatism. Sacha-ajos is amansador, which means that people and wild animals will not harm the person that uses this plants81. Other plants are also used in ritual baths, but so far I have not been able to identified them botanically.

81 Among the Shipibo of the Ucayali, the house where a deceased person has lived is burnt down together with his belongings. The site of the house is purified by burning leaves of "sachaaho" (Karsten 1964:206-207).



CHAPTER 7. AYAHUASCA SESSIONS AND VISIONS 7.1. Ayahuasca sessions Ayahuasca sessions among the mestizo have been described several times in literature, both scientific (Castillo 1963: 94-5; Dobkin de Rios 1972:72-76; Ayala 1978; Lamb 1985; Chiappe et al. 1985:97-101, 103-105) and fictional (Burroughs & Ginsberg 1963:53-60; Huamán Ramírez 1983:75-78; Calvo 1981:261). The ritual procedure followed by each particular vegetalista has a high degree of variation. In general, I have noticed a great difference between healing sessions carried out in the cities of Iquitos and Pucallpa, and those taking place near small jungle settlements, or in chacras in the country. In the cities, ayahuasca sessions are conducted by professional or semiprofessional vegetalistas. They take place several times a week, even daily, and attract comparatively big crowds -about twenty in most cases I have witnessed-, many of whom often do not know each other -nor are they introduced to each other during the session-. They often have a marked ritualistic Christian character including the reading of prayers from books such as La Santa Cruz de Caravaca. Tesoro de Oraciones 82 , a prayer collection, and others that I have not yet been able to identify. Healing sessions carried out in rural surroundings usually gather fewer participants -six to ten-, who often know each other or have kindred ties of compadrazgo (the reciprocal relationship existing between a godparent or godparents and the child and its parents). The meetings usually have a more infor-

One finds this book all over Latin America and apparently also in Spain. According to Atienza (1983:34) it was first published in Valencia, Spain, in the middle of the 19th century and consists of a collection of short prayers gravitating around the Cruz de Caravaca, a double-armed cross, whose origin, according to a legend, goes back to a visit by St. Helen, Emperor Constantine's mother, to the Holy Land in 326 (on the cross, and the relationship between this tradition and the Templer Knights, see Atienza 1983:23-48.



mal character than those held in the cities 83 . Naturally, this is only a generalization. Vegetalistas who have moved relatively recently to the cities carry with them their ritual peculiarities. Conversely, vegetalistas living in the cities and having been subject to Christian esoteric traditions will continue their practices if they move to the forest. Patients from the cities often go to a rural area to find a cure for their illness. There is also ample contact between vegetalistas in rural and urban areas, and, as far as I can tell, great tolerance and even curiosity about the rituals followed by other practitioners. Here we have an unexplored field of research that needs clarification. Ayahuasca sessions are not, necessarily, associated with healing sessions. Vegetalistas often invite each other to drink ayahuasca. It is not uncommon that vegetalistas living in the cities will visit colleagues living in rural settings, or viceversa. Besides, in Iquitos I know of at least two schools of ayahuasqueros meeting regularly (twice to four times a month). They meet to learn from visions and renew their strength. But, of course, when people know that an ayahuasca session is going to take place, the news spreads quickly, and patients may get in touch with vegetalistas so as to be treated. People get together at sunset, two to four hours before the ceremony begins. These hours should be considered an essential part of a session. During this time the vegetalistas tell stories of hunting, forest spirits, magical illnesses, cases they have treated, medicinal plants, etc. Ayahuasca sessions in general, and particularly these preparatory hours, are extremely important as a social and cultural cohesive device. Usually only the vegetalistas speak. The patients and people invited to take the brew only listen, or make brief comments. Ideas about religion, illness, health, death, fortune and misfortune are thus perpetuated. Vegetalistas, as shamans in general, are often remarkable story tellers 8 4 . It is with this background that people are prepared for the visionary experience that occurs under the effects of ayahuasca, in which
83 A l l the sessions I have attended have been in the homes of the vegetalistas. There are, however, reports of vegetalistas collecting groups of patients and taking them to a jungle clearance on the outskirts of the city of Iquitos (Dobkin de Rios 1972:69; Chiappe et al. 1985:103). 84 I think that this, in fact, is a fundamental aspect of shamanic practice: The shaman is not only the one who "sees", but also the one who knows how to tell what he has seen, and to do it in such as a way that people will also "see it". In this context we may also understand the often reported abilities of shamans to imitate animals -Don Emilio is extremely good at it-, and to suggest to their audience, through chants, poetry and sometimes theatrical performances, the mystical worlds they are familiar with.


they will often have confirmation of the worldviews presented to them by the vegetalistas. An ayahuasca session will gather several kinds of participants: patients who might or might not take the brew, according to their wishes and/or the decision of the shaman, persons who are not specifically ill, but who wish to take ayahuasca simply to cleanse their organism or just "to see the visions", finally persons who accompany the patients and usually keep a very low profile in a corner only as passive observers. Sometimes vegetalistas take ayahuasca together when treating a difficult case in order to "see more clearly". Bad visions or not having visions at all are sometimes attributed to the wicked doings of evil spirits, rival vegetalistas, or even sometimes to one of the participants in the session. In the ceremonies vegetalistas sometimes are in tacit competition when they sing their magic songs. To drink ayahuasca with unknown people is considered dangerous. It is believed that several vegetalistas are able to ally themselves in order to cause magic illness to someone else. I have heard many stories of this kind. When boasting about their powers vegetalistas often say that not even a hundred people would be able to dominate them. My informants have told me that during the time they were working extracting rubber or other products they sometimes took ayahuasca together with people belonging to ethnic groups, such as Campa, Yagua, Huambiza or Shipibo. 7.1.1. An Ayahuasca session in the home of Don Emilio During the time I spent with Don Emilio I participated in several ayahuasca sessions. On a few occasions he organized them at my request, and once he did it only for myself, so that only the two of us took the beverage. Once Don Emilio has decided to have a session, the news will spread fast in the neighborhood. The date of the session is set, usually several days in advance. 10 to 12 people will participate each time. Last time I was there (in the summer of 1985), Don Emilio charged 2 000 soles (about $1) for the participation. Sometimes he left to each one to decide the amount of his fee. Don Emilio, like many other vegetalistas, cultivates the lia-


na on his land 8 5 . At dawn the day before ayahuasca is to be prepared, he climbs the tree where the vine grows. He blows smoke several times on the branches to be cut, and addresses the spirit of the plant, explaining that he is in need of its wisdom. The plant has to be at least three or four years old. The stem is stripped of secondary branches and leaves, and cut into pieces of about 30 to 40 cm. He makes bundles of about 30 pieces. Those to be used later are placed under fallen leaves in a shady place so that they are protected from the sun. Victor, one of his nephews, who lives some 200 meters from Don Emilio's house, picks up about 200 leaves of chacruna (Psychotria viridis), the main additive, which grows naturally about 86 twenty minutes' walk from his home in the forest

nearby .

Nowadays Don Emilio rarely prepares the beverage himself. This is usually done by Dona Rosa (aged 60), the sister of his late wife (deceased in December 1983), in a separate place ex85 Plants found in the jungle are believed to be more potent and are preferred, whenever this is possible. I have often heard conversations in which a vegetalista tells, with great joy, how on such and such an occasion he has found a very old abuelo (granpa) referring to a liana. There are vegetalistas who are very secret concerning the whereabouts of a particular ayahuasca plant, from which they make the beverage on special occasions. I heard similar stories during a short visit to the Colonia 5000, in Rio Branco (Brazil), where ayahuasca is taken under the name of Santo Daime (cf. Monteiro 1983). In Pucallpa I was told that somewhere in the upper Urubamba there is one great ayahuasca plant from which cuttings are taken from time to time by Shipibo shamans.

Dobkin de Rios has insistently written, even in one of her latest publication (Dobkin de Rios 1984: 178), that in the area of Iquitos and Pucallpa Banisteriopsis rusbyana (now called Diplopterys cabrerana Gates) is used as an admixture. She does not mention where she has deposited voucher specimens or who made the identification of the plants she mentions, or if she collected the plant at all. On only one occasion I have seen this plant used, and it was brought from Rio Santiago, where it is indeed used by several Indian tribes as is also the case among the Siona, Kofan, Ingano, and other tribes of the Colombian and Ecuadorian Amazon. In Loreto, Ucayali and Madre de Dios the principal admixture is, in my experience, always Psychotria viridis. Among the Sharanahua of the upper Purus a Psychotris sp., under the local name of Kawa is always added to ayahuasca (Rivier & Lindgren 1972: 103) as is the case among the Cashinahua (Der Marderosian et al. 1970). P. viridis is also used as the admixture plant in Taraucá, in the state of Acre, Brazil (Prance & Prance 1970: 106) and among members of Colonia 5000 and the UDV (Uniao do Vegetal) in Acre and in cities of other areas of Brazil (cf. Monteiro 1983). 144


clusively devoted to preparing ayahuasca, near the home of Victor, one of her children, or it is prepared by Don Ruperto, Dona Rosa's brother, who lives in a house nearby. The preparation of the beverage begins at about six in the morning. The stems of one bundle of Banisteriopsis caapi are crushed with a stone or a piece of hard wood. Alternate layers of the liana and the leaves of P. viridis are placed in an aluminum pot (although Don Emilio told me that ideally an earthen pot should be used, nowadays difficult to obtain). After each layer, Don Emilio blows smoke over the pot. Between 12 and 15 liters of water are added, and the mixture is allowed to boil until it is reduced to about one liter, which is poured into another pot. The operation is repeated seven times, and the extract collected is allowed to boil again until aprox. 500 ml of a syrup-like liquid is left, enough for about 12 doses, which is placed in a bottle and sealed with a cork. The whole process takes 12 hours. Don Emilio often complains that in spite of his indications, the beverage is not always properly prepared by Dona Rosa or Don Ruperto. In 1984 Don Emilio paid 10 000 soles for the preparation. Considering that about twelve doses are prepared, and that each participant usually pays between 1000 and 2000 soles for taking ayahuasca, it is obvious that no financial reasons are behind these ceremonies. The ceremony usually takes place at about 9 to 10 in the evening. Moonless nights are preferred 87 . People get together even one or two hours earlier. Before the ceremony Don Emilio usually tells stories, often of a piquante character, or questions the participants about the whereabouts of their neighbours and family. The house is lit by kerosene lamps, which Don Emilio himself has made out of deodorant tin cans. When the time comes, Don Emilio carefully covers the whole floor with empty sacks. The people sit on the floor or on a big bench that runs along one of the walls forming an imaginary circle around Don Emilio. The ritual paraphernalia used during the ayahuasca ceremonies has only a few elements. They are placed in front of the place Don Emilio is going to occupy during the ceremony. The essential ritual instrument is the schacapa, a rattle made of the leaves of a Gramineae (Pariana sp.), which is used for accompanying some of the icaros, and which is sometimes shaken all over the body of each participant for "cleansing" them of illness and evil spirits. The other elements, besides the bottle or pot containing the ayahuasca brew, are usually a bottle of camphor crystals suspended in alcohol, several mapacho cigaret87 Don Emilio says, however, that on some occasions he took the beverage out-of-doors with his teacher during moonlit nights If the beverage is well prepared, then the landscape seems to be very beautiful. Everything looks as if it were made of gold, and the trees seem to acquire beautiful and brilliant colours.


tes to be smoked during the ceremony, and a small bottle of perfumer88, If one of the persons present gets frightened by hallucinations, the smell of the perfume helps to calm him down. He also places there a flashlight and some pages of newspaper to be used as toilet paper in case of diarrhoea. When the vegetalista is going to evoke the spirits of some patients, their pictures or names and addresses may also be present among the objects the shaman places in front of him during the ceremony. There is no special shamanic costume or cap. The vegetalistas use their normal clothes during both healing sessions and ayahuasca ceremonies. Don Emilio usually puts a kerchief around his neck, but when I questioned him about the meaning of this item, he simply told me that he uses it for cleansing his face in case he vomits. Don Emilio invariably begins the ceremony with the following prayer, which may have a few variations, as I have been able to observe during ceremonies carried out in various years: "Divine Christ, Celestial Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth. With Your permission we are going to take this plant that You have put on Earth. We, Your earthly children, have discovered it, and we use it as a remedy in order to understand our bodies and the problems we might have among us. Father, let no evil spirit enter this circle. If any of those bad spirits come, throw them into the dark, squeeze them down with the Black Stone. The four angels will take care of the circle. Father, in this circle of Yours there is no jealousy, revenge, witchcraft, nothing evil. Everything is according to Your laws. We cure ailing people as best we can. We obey Your command, Father." Immediately afterwards he recites the Credo, exactly as in Catholic catechism. Thereafter there is the following invocation to the Virgin Mary: Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, miraculous Virgin, cover us with Your blessed mantle. Do not let any evil object enter this circle of Yours. Make the four guardian angels cast it away. Take care of us, powerful Virgin Mary." Don Emilio then takes the ayahuasca bottle, uncorks it, blows smoke on the bottle, and addresses the spirit of ayahuasca in these terms: The most common perfume used, both as an element in ayahuasca paraphernalia and in ritual baths and other love preparations, is the commercially ubiquitous Tabú trademark, which along with agua florida (a lightly colored scented water) is also used among curanderos of other areas, for instance practitioners using the San Pedro cactus in coastal Peru (cf. Sharon 1978:37). 146

"Grandfather, let us see beautiful visions. Let us see good things. Let the doctors come, so that we can ask t h e m a b o u t our p r o b l e m s , about our illnesses." Sometimes he asks the spirit of ayahuasca to convey specific visions to some of the people present. On the tapes I made during ceremonies Don Emilio sometimes asked the spirit of ayahuasca to make a patient see the person who caused his magic illness. He asked a person to see his future, or to envision a certain bird, for example a humming bird, or to see the roots of the trees from below, to see how they absorb nourishment, etc. After the invocations, Don Emilio begins to serve the brew in a small bowl made of a calabash. About 50 ml of ayahuasca is given to those that take the beverage. Although both men and women are present at the ceremony, usually more men than women will take the b e v e r a g e 8 9 . Women often say that they get frightened by the visions. However, they often accompany their husbands to the sessions but do not take ayahuasca. The dosage may vary a little, according to the person. Women and people who take the beverage for the first time usually get a little less. Often each of the participants blows a little smoke on the bowl, and says a silent prayer. After the last person has taken the beverage, Don Emilio orders all the kerosene lamps to be blown out, except the one iluminating the altar with an image of Jesus on the Cross and two sculptures of San Martin de Porres. For twenty to thirty minutes people remain in the dark awaiting the hallucinations. When Don Emilio begins to feel the effect he starts shaking his schacapa and whistling an icaro in order to increase the effects of the visions (icaro para llamar mareación (see icaro 1 in appendix 3). From time to time he will ask some of the participants whether they are mareados (have hallucinations), but without enquiring what they see.
89 Among some Indian tribes only men take ayahuasca. For instance among the Sharanahua and Culina (Rivier & Lindgren 1972:102), women are not allowed to take the drug, since it is supposed to hurt them. Among the Colorado and Secoya, women may also take the beverage, but relatively seldom they do so (Naranjo 1983:181, 187). According to Bellier (1986) among the Maikuna, a Western Tukano group of the Peruvian Amazon, yagé is a masculine plant to be taken by men only. Women do not take yagé "due to inhibition rather than prohibition". However, the same author affirms, young women may take the beverage with the permission of the shaman so as not to ruin the effect of their husband's shamanic apprenticeship. Postmenopausal women take the beverage freely.

In the communities of Acre, Brazil, where Santo Daime (ayahuasca) is taken as a sacrament, men, women and even children and pregnant women take the brew. 147

From time to time people will leave the house in order to vomit or defecate. They won't talk. Everybody is silently having his visions. At intervals that I have calculated between 40 minutes and an hour, no icaros are sung, and for a few minutes there might be small talks, brief comments on the beauty of ayahuasca visions, and even jokes. But when the hallucinations, which come in waves, again affect the participants, the chants begin again. Don Emilio encourages those who know icaros to sing. If there are other vegetalistas invited to participate in the session, each will sing his icaros without any attempt of coordinating the different melodies. In the peak minutes of each hallucinatory wave the voices rise, sometimes several schacapas (rattles) are shaken simultaneously, and the scene is really remarkable for anybody who happens to be witnessing it. Vegetalistas often call their patients, one by one, blow smoke over them to expelí the bad spirits and illnesses from their bodies. If Don Emilio has clients seeking his assistance in emotional problems, they are also are called one by one. As the session occurs in total darkness, I do not know the details of the procedures. Don Emilio has allowed me to take photos with a flash, something that I have done very seldom, for obvious reasons. In one of the photos I took a young man was holding the photo of his beloved against his chest, while Don Emilio was blowing smoke on top of his head. Having a photo, or even just the name and address of a person on a piece of paper is believed to be enough to influence the spirit of the person. When the effects of the brew fade out, sporadic talks and commentaries again emerge. Some of the patients and participants return to their homes. Others lie down on the floor, smoke a mapacho cigarette or tell stories until they all fall sleep. When the morning comes, there is often an exhilarated and relaxed atmosphere. In the sessions conducted by Don José there is no invocation to Jesus and Mary. He sings several icaros on the ayahuasca, and invokes his ayaruna (from Quechua aya = dead people, spirits, and runa = people), asking them to bring upon him powerful icaros to heal his patients. He then calls his defenders: Huairamanta arkana, llaktamanta arkana, yakumanda arkana and meolinamanta arkana (cf.4.2.), which will form a circle around the place where ayahuasca is taken, so that nothing evil can penetrate. The difference between Don Emilio's healing sessions and those of Don José is that the latter engages in long dialogues with the spirits of vegetalistas living in the underwater world, who are, in fact, believed to do the curing. Otherwise, the essential elements are the same. 7.2. The role of ayahuasca: cleansing vs. visions. Joralemon (1984) has pointed out how, in the scientific literature dealing with shamanism and the use of psychotropic plants, there has been an emphasis on the effect of hallucinogens on the central nervous system (CNS), while their effect on 148

the autonomic nervous system (ANS) has been neglected to a great extent. As it is well known, ayahuasca, besides being a hallucinogic, has strong emetic and cathartic properties. It is often called la purga, the purgative, to indicate this effect. Joralemon's observations have made me reflect about how the shaman and the participants interpret this double action of the beverage -as a purgative and as a hallucinogen-, and whether one of these two aspects has the priority. I have many times participated in ayahuasca sessions, and I have often taken the brew. I understood through the talks of the participants that they expected to hallucinate. If ayahuasca is well prepared, they said, then "marea", a term which means "it causes dizziness". In fact, a good ayahuasquero is a person who prepares ayahuasca very well, meaning that the brew will produce psychotropic effects. When ayahuasca is very good, they say that se ve clarito, meaning that the visions are clear, that they look real. Many of the observances which have to be followed in the ayahuasca preparation -the phase of the moon and the hour of the preparation of the beverage, the exclusion of women of fertile age from the place where ayahuasca is being prepared 9 0 , the necessity to blow smoke and be constantly present so that the beverage will not boil over- are intended to make a strong brew. It is said that when ayahuasca is well prepared it is very thick and sweet. The worst thing that can be said about an ayahuasquero is that his ayahuasca does not produce visions. I have also understood, however, that even if the beverage does not produce visions but causes vomiting and diarrhoea, it is also considered good, because it cleanses the organism. Besides, as I experienced myself, these two effects usually appear together: the hallucinations are usually stronger just before and after vomiting -one usually goes through four or five periods of heavy vomiting in a session (cf. Dobkin de Rios 1984: 63, 66). The shamans often ask those who have taken ayahuasca whether they are mareados. If they are not, they sometimes blow smoke or shake the rattle over the person in order to fill him with visions. If, in spite of repeated doses of ayahuasca, a person does not see anything, this is attributed to the person's organism being heavily contaminated. Several sessions are necessary in order to cleanse the body and to open it to the visions. One









These prescriptions may be seen in connection with similar ones involving the preparation of other remedies or magical potions. For instance, a clear parallelism is found among some Indian tribes, such as the Canelos, Achuaras, Jivaros and Yanomamö, etc. when preparing arrow poisons. The men in charge of the preparation observe sexual abstinence, fast, and no woman is allowed to come near the shelter where the poison is being prepared, otherwise it will be entirely ruined (cf. Karsten 1964: 106-107; Donner 1982:131-133). 149

consciousness is indeed expected and desired by those that already have some experience of ayahuasca. Naturally, the expectations are very different among those that take ayahuasca for the first time, or rarely do so. The idea of cleansing may in some cases be more relevant. I indicated above that participants in ayahuasca ceremonies may or may not suffer from illness. It is common among patients to claim that they are able to visualize the person or persons responsible for their illnesses. I certainly agree with Joralemon (1984: 406) when he observes that "hallucinatory imagery, structured and interpreted by the shaman, may provide psychologically persuasive confirmation of the diagnosis and thus intensify the effect of suggestion in the cure." But in many cases people take ayahuasca specifically to seek visions, as for instance to see the whereabouts of distant dear ones. One often hears when someone is under the effects of the beverage the exclamation: "How beautiful. This is like a movie!". Visions of an erotic character are frequently reported. Male participants often report seeing beautiful naked women or mermaids. However, any sexual intercourse during or immediately before or after the ingestion of ayahuasca is strictly forbidden: It is believed that the beverage will then harm the personal91. It is firmly believed that a good vegetalista is able to control the visions of other people. This is perfectly exemplified in some passages of the story of Manuel Cordoba Ríos (see Lamb 1985:21), in which he deliberately conveys to other people visions of birds and jaguars. The same idea is found in Calvo (1981:232): Manuel Cordoba Ríos tells how Ximu, his mentor, imitated the call of certain birds, and they appear in Don Manuel's visions.

According to Córdoba Ríos, Bruce Lamb's informant (Lamb 1985: 21), the physical condition and mental control being inadequate when taking ayahuasca, some people "have violent abdominal convulsion, others experience intense nausea, and still others erotic stimulation of the whole glandular system involved with sexual response." I have, indeed, witnessed, and myself experienced, intense nausea when drinking ayahuasca, and visions of erotic character are frequently reported. But I have never witnessed any situation similar to the one described by Cordoba Ríos, in which people would display uninhibited and with amazement "their tremendous hard-ons". Visions of an erotic character have been reported among several Indians tribes. Reichel-Dolmatoff (1980: 32-33) cites two authors' remarks about this. According to Koch-Grunberg (1909-1910, 1:299), among the Tukano of the Tiquié River, an erotic element seems to play a principal role in "yajé intoxication". In Rocha's account of yagé visions among the Ingano the erotic element is particularly stressed (Rocha 1905:43-46). 150


Vegetalistas often say that a complete concentration is necessary in order to see, with the help of ayahuasca, what one wishes to see. In Pucallpa I noticed that vegetalistas use the expression "tener buenas concentraciones" (literally, "to have good concentrations"), when the visions are exceptionally clear. It seems obvious to me that vegetalistas train to achieve control of the visions so as to obtain information. This is a rich field that should be explored by psychologists. Among the mestizo vegetalistas, as among several Indian tribes, several types of ayahuasca are recognized. They are called cielo ayahuasca (heaven ayahuasca), lucero ayahuasca (star ayahuasca), trueno ayahuasca (thunder ayahuasca), etc. These "kinds" of ayahuasca do not seem to correspond to various species of Banisteriopsis. The distinction is based on the hallucinations they produce 92 . Vegetalistas have also a sophisticated taxonomy that includes the color of the resine of the vine, the smell, the form of the stem, the age of the plant, etc. Dona Aurora Mosombite, who lives in Santa Clara, a small village near Iquitos, has in her garden the only specimen of Diplopterys cabrerana I have seen so far in the area of Iquitos. It is used as the main additive, instead of Psychotria viridis. She told me that the ayahuasca prepared with the addition of the leaves of this plant produces hallucinations in which Huambiza Indians singing in their language appear in visions. She attributes this phenomenon to the fact that she bought this plant from these Indians when she was living in Rio Santiago near the Ecuadorian border. When several vegetalistas participate in an ayahuasca session, how they group around the master shaman is partially determined by their rank. But it seems that there are other factors as well. On one occasion, during a ceremony I attended in Iquitos, one of the vegetalistas told another: "I will sit here beside you, because you have beautiful visions". If there is harmony between all the people present, the magic songs of each vegetalista reinforce the visions of the others. Several vegetalistas may "join their visions" (juntar sus mareaciones) so as to see better and perform a shamanic task (cf.Calvo 1948:48). Knowing each other is important. That is the reason why the same people often take ayahuasca together. It is also believed that under the effects of ayahuasca shamans living in different places are able to communicate and exchange knowledge (cf.Calvo 1981:72). Besides being used in the diagnosis of illness as a means of contact with the supernatural world, and as a visionary beverage, ayahuasca is used as a general prophylactic against all
92 In a conversation Dr. Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff made me notice how the Indian taxonomy seems to put more emphasis on the effect rather than on the form of the plants.


kinds of diseases. Don Emilio told me that when he was in the army, the sergeant in command of his company took ayahuasca with his soldiers in order to keep them in good shape and free from disease. I have several accounts of patients claiming to have been cured only by taking ayahuasca and following the diet prescribed. It is well known in the Amazon area that vegetalistas have long lives. I have met several of them who are over 75 years old, and who still lead quite normal lives. Don José Coral, born in 1909, still cultivates his plantation and does all sorts of heavy work. Don Celso Rojas, born in 1905, is a man of very strong constitution and still very active, attending numerous patients at least twice a week. Don Emilio, born in 1918, can still climb a tree with extraordinary speed and grace. 7.3. Shamanic journeys Ayahuasca, like the other plant teachers, are used to explore both this world and other worlds which are not normally accesible to people. By ingesting plant-teachers (either in the visions they may cause, or in the dreams these plants may elicit) the vegetalista frees himself from his normal physical boundaries and is able to move freely across levels of reality. Visions of travelling to distant places are common. The length of the diet during the initiation determines how far the vegetalista will be able to travel. In some of these visions of travelling the profound impact of Western civilization is revealed. In one of Don Emilio's visions, to give an example, he saw the shadow of man "dressed like a priest", who took him to visit, in a beautiful boat, towns and cities along the Amazon river. They went together all the way to Para, where the priest showed him "a palace for poor people". They entered the house, which was completely empty. But the priest pressed a button, a mechanism was suddenly released, and all sorts of elegant furniture appeared. After a while the priest told Don Emilio that they had to return, but that this time they were not going back by boat. He phoned, and an elegant car arrived to take them to the airport. When they were flying, Don Emilio was trembling with fear and prayed to Jesus Christ. Then the vision dissapeared, and he then realized that it had all been produced by ayahuasca. The Western idea of a "bad trip" finds a parallel among the vegetalistas. Sometimes they attribute it to the plant itself: they say that it is a purga brava. On other occasions bad visions are attributed to the breaking of the dietary or sexual prescriptions, or to other misbehavior of the person who takes the beverage. Sometimes having bad visions, or not having any visions at all, is attributed to the evil doings of rival shamans. It is also believed that some people have "weak souls", and should not take the beverage. If they do, they may do crazy things, such as taking off their clothes and running into the jungle, quarreling or biting the other parti152

cipants in the ceremony, etc. Vegetalistas stress the idea that it is necessary to be calm and not be afraid of the visions, however terrible they might be. Sometimes evil spirits appear in the visions, and try to harm the person, but if he is not afraid, nothing can harm him. Visions of being transformed into an animal, often a jaguar or a snake, are relatively frequent. Also being devoured by a huge boa, or conversely, a boa penetrating through the mouth into the person. On one occasion Don Fidel Mosombite, who lives in Pucallpa, on the Ucayali, reported the existence of a vine called huairacaspi ayahuasca ("wind" ayahuasca), which is not to be taken because it produces terrible visions that may even cause death. Don Emilio told me that on one occasion, when he was in the army, he and other soldiers prepared ayahuasca. In their visions they saw that they were in a hole. Several Indians were pointing at them with spears and arrows. Some were throwing at them snakes, insects, excrements, and other dirty things. They understood that they had taken the wrong kind of ayahuasca. Don Emilio told me that when one plants ayahuasca, it is important to place three or four cigarrettes of mapacho (strong tobacco) at the root of the plant, so that it might not be a purga brava (literally, a "furious purgative") that will produce bad visions. Vegetalistas do not hide the fact that taking ayahuasca involves certain risks. Don Emilio told me the following story as an example of the dangers of taking the beverage without the appropiate respect and lacking the surveillance of a maestro: These events happened in Río Tigre, about forty years ago. As you know, along the rivers you see houses here and there, on either bank of the river. Sometimes they form small settlements. In one of these places there was a maestro who, as I do now, used to invite some of his neighbours to take ayahuasca, and sometimes he also invited people who lived in the vicinity. He had a beautiful new house, where he had lived with his wife for about five years. The place where they took ayahuasca was in front of the house. One day a young man about 20 years old came to take ayahuasca. When the maestro was preparing the brew the young man asked him: "Maestro, is it ready?" "Of course not", he replied. "It has to be kept boiling until seven or eight in the evening". The young man then said: "Maestro, remember well what I now tell you. Tonight I will be the first to take ayahuasca. Don't forget. " "Very well", said the maestro. He went home, returned one hour later and asked again: "Is it ready?" The maestro said: "I already told you at what time it'll be ready". The young man said: "Don't forget. I will be the first to take the brew. " He returned some time later and asked again: "Is it ready?" "Almost", said the maestro. "We'll take it in about 153

twenty minutes". "But I first".

"Very well",

said the young man.

All the people that were going to take the brew got together. The maestro sang an icaro over the ayahuasca bottle, and gave a dose to the young man, who gulped it down at once. He then gave the beverage to all those others present. When he had finished, he began to blow smoke over all the participants, so that they might all be protected during the ceremony. This is what some maestros do after everybody has taken ayahuasca. After twelve, fourteen minutes the visions appeared. Some people began to vomit, others to defecate, others to sing. The young man went up to the maestro and told him: "I don't see anything". "You have to wait", said the maestro. Sometimes it takes time. Sometimes, when the mareación comes later, it is very strong." "Very well", the young man said. The maestro continued singing. Some time later the young man went to the maestro and said: "I don't see anything. Give me some more." The maestro gave him another dose, and continued singing and blowing smoke over one of his patients. When the young man saw that the maestro was busy attending his patients, he took the bottle of ayahuasca and took two more doses. About ten minutes later a terrible mareación came over him. He saw that everybody present had horns and tails and their teeth were chattering. A little later a spirit, a huge doctor, appeared. The spirit said: "I will give you great powers for the rest of your life if you do what I will you. You will be able to travel everywhere, under the earth, through the air, under the water, both during the day and at night. And you will get whatever you desire. " "And what do I have to do", asked the young man. "Listen attentively. As you can see, there is a pregnant woman sleeping over there in a bed inside the house. She has been pregnant for seven months. You go there with a machete, kill her, open her womb and take out the baby. You will break the baby's head and suck its brain. If you do this, I will give you all the powers I told you about." The young man left the group and went to the house. He climbed the stairs. He found a machete, went to the bed and lifted the mosquito net which hang over the bed where the poor woman was sleeping. He killed her, and did what the spirit had told him to do. People began to scream and tried to get hold of the criminal, who did not let anybody get close to him, swinging the machete with one hand and the baby with the other. Some people went to look for the authorities. At about midnight several policemen 154

came and surrounded him. While some of them were menacing him in front, others came from behind with ropes. They knocked him down and tied him to a tree. The lieutenant said: "Stay where you are, everybody. Noboby leaves this place". The criminal was there, all tied up, vomiting and defecating, still under the effects of ayahuasca. The next morning many people went to that place when they heard about this terrible crime. The lieutenant wrote a report and ordered the construction of a big raft and good oars. All those attending the ceremony were sent to the city on this raft, guarded by eight policemen with guns. Everybody was sent to jail. The criminal was sentenced to 45 years in prison. The maestro to 15 years. All those attending the ceremony were condemned to 5 years in prison. All this happened in Rio Tigre many years ago. If continence is not observed, a person may have misleading visions. Don Emilio told me of another case. A man had sexual intercourse with his wife shortly after taking ayahuasca. He saw in his vision a beautiful road where pretty young women invited him to follow them, which he did. The people attending the ceremony thought that he had gone home. His wife, when she noticed that her husband was not at home any longer, thought that he had returned to the ceremony. The next morning they all realized that he was missing. For several days they looked for him in the jungle which surrounded that place, without result. In the end they gave up looking for him, and his clothes were veiled and buried, as it is customary in the Amazon in these cases. Several more days passed. One morning a man who was hunting noticed that there was something up in a tree. He was about to shoot when he realized that it was a human being. He returned in a hurry to report to the police. An expedition was organized at once, and they found the missing man almost naked, full of wounds, covered by worms and insect bites. They took him back to his home, and several women gathered around him for several hours, washing and curing him. When he recovered, he was able to tell what had happened to him, and the visions he had had.



CONCLUSION In this book I have made a relatively detailed description of shamanism as it is practised among the mestizo population of the Peruvian Amazon. There is a clear continuity with respect to shamanism among ethnic groups of the Upper Amazon area. Several essential elements are preserved: the idea that some plants and animals have powerful spirits from which knowledge and power can be derived; the idea that in order to learn from these plants it is necessary to follow rigorous dietary prescriptions and sexual segregation, and that these plants can be used as tools for exploring the natural and supernatural realms; the idea that the exploration of these realms entail certain dangers, and that the novice needs spirits to protect him from supernatural attacks; the idea that dreams and hallucinations may be manipulated; the idea that knowledge and power are concentrated in a magic substance that vegetalistas have in their chests and in the magic chants and melodies they learn from the spirits; the idea that illness is due to the action of spirits or evil sorcerers and that it is a pathogenic spirit with a material manifestation (an insect, a piece of bone, a needle or a razor) which can be diverted by means of magic plants and melodies, by purifying the patients with tobacco smoke, and by extracting the maleficent spirit inside the patient with the beneficent spirits dwelling in the vegetalista's magic substance. One of the basic ideas is that various plant spirits are received by the vegetalista enabling him to incorporate certain of their characteristics, both those corresponding to their material manifestations, such as strength to withstand rains and floods, and those corresponding to all their transformations both anthropomorphic and theriomorphic. They will be able to take the novice to various realms, depending on their shapes -bird, insect, fish etc, An aquatic plant will hell the novice who ingests it to enter the underwater world. A tree with thorns will give him weapons to defend himself or to do harm. This is a manifestation of the principle similia similibus which permeates Amazonian thought 93 . The incorporation of the characteristics of the plants take two basic materializations: a magic phlegm, which the vegetalista has embedded in his chest, and magic melodies, which are The shape of certain plants or objects determines their use. For example a plant which resembles an ear will cure ear diseases. 157

also symbolically in his chest, because from there they emerge, and there are they believed to grow like the branches of a tree. Under the influence of ayahuasca and other psychotropic plants the various kinds of phlegm are visible in their "real" form. The magic chants are also visualized under the effect of ayahuasca (synesthesia). The magic darts or virotes are yet another manifestation of the spirits, the reason why we can, in fact, talk about illness as spirit intrusion. The Amazonian spirit world seems to be a world of constant transformation, like its material shape of rapid metabolic change. The tradition is there. But it is not a static phenomenon, a mere relic from the past. Shamanism among the mestizos is highly dynamic. It is constantly adjusting itself to the circumstances, borrowing from the new cultural items introduced into the area. The guardian spirits may be electric eels, huge anacondas, birds, black bulls, angels with swords, mermaids, soldiers with guns, fighters, extraterrestial beings... In their visions they may travel on the back of an ant, or become an insect to explore the bottom of lakes and rivers. But they might also take a taxi or a boat, or even, as described by Pablo Amaringo, a flying saucer to visit other worlds. I wish to stress the fact that the descriptions of shamanism I made in this book correspond to a certain type of vegetalistas still very much linked to rural life. They all worked in the jungle during their youth, learnt the flora and fauna of the forest and had contact with people belonging to Amazonian ethnic groups. Other types of practitioners are emerging in the cities. In their practice other elements are being absorbed -rosicrucism, gnosticism, even eastern traditions-, and some of the Amazonian elements are being transformed or forgotten. In the practice of the vegetalistas I have been studying I see somehow the spirit of the lonely forest hunter, each man for himself. They are highly individualistic, but still connected through inconspicuous networks which link them across geographical regions and even frontiers to practitioners of various heritages. This individualistic quality is reflected in their icaros or magic chants and melodies. They all have their "own" icaros, and encourage other to learn directly from the spirits of the plants. When there are several vegetalistas at a session, each one of them sings his icaros. If a person has not learned any, he remains silent, without trying to follow the icaro of one of the maestros. I remember how remarkable it was to participate in a session at which several of my main informants were present. While Don Emilio whistled his icaros in a soft voice, Don Manuel Ahuanari sang a slow and sad chant in Quichua, and Don Alejandro and Don José Coral sang energetically their icaros in a mixture of languages, all at the same time. This seems to be in contrast with what I have seen the few times I have participated in ayahuasca ceremonies with younger people in the cities. Don Sergio, for example, acts during ceremonies as the director of a choir. Everybody sang the same melody. This also happens among the Brazilian cults in which Santo Daime (ayahuasca) is ingested collectively by a large number of people. They sing in unison the himnos selected 158

members are inspired with. Among members of the UDV (Uniao do Vegetal), also in Brazil, they sometimes put on a record, instead of singing (!). I wonder whether the destruction of the forest environment and the process of urbanization brings about among people attracted by spiritual quests the temptation of adopting forms of power manipulation, and a shift towards institutional, rather than inspirational practitioners. At the beginning of my research I was concerned in making a contribution towards the solution of a problem that Richard Evans Schultes (1967:51) pointed out years ago: the botanical identification of ayahuasca additives. I have come to the conclusion that the number of additives is unlimited, simply because ayahuasca is a means of exploring the properties of new plants and substances by studying the changes they cause on the hallucinatory experience, and by examining the content of the visions. This is done among the mestizos in exactly the same way as it is done, for example, among the Sibundoy studied by Melvin L. Bristol (1966). The exploratory curiosity of some of the v e g e t a l i s t a s makes them try new plants, even new substances. Don Fidel, a practitioner from Pucallpa, told me that he had taken a mejoral (an aspirin) to study it under the effects of ayahuasca, and he discovered that it also contains an "essence of plants", which is the reason why it works. This is, indeed, a radically different idea of how one goes about in finding out about plants and substances with biological -and psychical- activity. Although in this book I emphasized the use and role of ayahuasca, it is important to realize that this plant is one among others which belong to the category of plant-teachers. Tobacco, one of them, is, in a way, even more important than ayahuasca, because it is considered to be a mediator between the vegetalista and the other plant spirits. Sin el tabaco no se puede usar ningún vegetal (without tobacco no other plant can be used), says Don Emilio. Tobacco purifies the body and expels the illness. As Johannes Wilbert wrote (1979:31), referring to the shaman, "it makes his breath visible, and with it the benevolent, or, as the case may be, malevolent, charges that emanate from the shaman". Tobacco is also the food of spirits (Don José's muerrayas, who live at the end of the world, have as their only food the nectar of tobacco flowers). Mastering the use of tobacco, either smoked, or ingested orally or through the nostrils, is part of the shamanic initiation of all my informants. Tobacco is always present at ayahuasca sessions. The plants which are used as plant-teachers have a double function. They may be used as medicinal plants for various illnesses, or as plant-teachers if they are used under the special conditions of diet and segregation. Unfortunately, little is known about the shamanic use of most of these other plants. Although I collected -and identified- about two and a half dozens of them, I never witnessed ayahuasca being prepared with any other additives than Psychotria viridis, Diplopterys cabrerana, tobacco and toé (Brugmansia suaveolens). The other plants, as plant-teachers, seem to belong to the sphere of shamanic initiation, not to everyday practice. In the market of 159

Iquitos I saw a stall where about ten of the plant-teachers were sold as medicines. The woman who attended the place did not know anything about their shamanic use as plant-teachers. Some of these plants are no longer easily available, due to deforestation. Some of the big trees which are considered plant-teachers have economic value, and have been chopped down in the areas near the cities and along the main rivers. The knowledge of the flora and fauna is seriously diminishing among the new generation of vegetalistas, due to the constant destructive process of the natural environment. Many of the birds and other animals my informants have told me about are now rarely seen. They always tell me that if one really wants to learn, one has to find a place untouched by human hands. It is appropiate here to cite Whitten (1985:33), who referring to the knowledge of indigenous people about their ecosystem writes: "The knowledge of this general system exists in specific cosmological structures of master symbols that allow native peoples with requisite vision and knowledge to communicate widely and freely about ecosystem dynamics by reference to focal spirit beings." I suspect that knowledge about the ecosystem is partially encoded in some of the magic chants sung by vegetalistas, unfortunately in languages that I do not understand, and will be lost if no efforts are made in time to preserve at least some of it. Shamanism will most probably persist, but it will lose one descriptive dimension, one that is permanently tied up with the Amazonian environment. If we now think of the therapeutical aspects of vegetalismo, I wish to make some observations. Let us remember the distinction vegetalistas make between cuerpo sencillo, which is the body of a person leading a normal life, subject to supernatural attacks, and therefore to illness, and cuerpo preparado, which is the body of a person who has made his body strong through the use of plants, and cuerpo dañado, the body of a sick person, hit by a magic dart, by the encounter with an evil spirit, or by witchcraft. First of all, we find the idea of preventive medicine. The best way of fighting illness is not to fall ill. Ayahuasca and the other plant teachers may be ingested with this purpose -or to recover health, as we saw in the case of some of my informants-. But if one is "chosen" by the plants and follows the prescriptions, these will give knowledge. Wisdom and health walk hand in hand. Trying to acquire either of them -health or wisdom- leads automatically to the other. The idea of following a particular diet is seen as a sine qua non both for becoming a vegetalista -i. e. for acquiring wisdom and strength- and for restoring one's health. Only by purifying oneself by following the diet is one able to contact the spirit world, learn from the plants, and regain physical health. All vegetalistas insist that following the diet is the way of wisdom. They all say that while they followed their diets their minds worked differently, they could observe and memorize more 160

easily, even their bodies changed their smell, allowing them to study nature in a more direct way, and they had lucid dreams, in-which the process of learning continued. They all stressed that they did not become weak from this diet. Quite the opposite, although they lost weight, their bodies became stronger and were able to stand the difficult conditions of life in the forest and the diet prevented them from becoming ill. I believe that these are clues for future investigations to be made by ethnopharmacologists, psychologists and neurophysiologists. Practically the same diet is always prescribed to their patients in cases of serious illness, particularly if the cause is believed to be supernatural. The diet is seen as a natural way of restoring balance, because it helps to expel the pathogenic spirits or substance by allowing the person to be open to the action of benefical plant and animal spirits. Several times during my field work I heard stories of people who told me that during the period in which they were following the diet, either in their dreams or in the visions elicited by ayahuasca or other plant-teachers, an old man or woman coming to take away the illness in various ways, either symbolically, by sweeping their bodies with a broom, or by operating on them like a Western doctor. Such a dream would mean that curing was imminent. The idea that with ayahuasca the vegetalista is able to see the cause of an illness, and even see inside the body of his patients -X ray vision- is also prevalent. Patients are also sometimes able to visualize the cause of their illness, or even the illness itself -autoscopy-. These cases are certainly of interest to those studying the relationship between the immune system and the psyche. Jeanne Achterberg, in a recent study (1985) writes: "Very current studies have shown that the immune system itself is under the direct control of the central nervous system, particularly those areas of the brain implicated in the transmission of the image of the body." It is important to consider the effect of knowing about the cause of an illness may have over a patient, in terms of alleviating his tension, and therefore perhaps allowing his own organism to take mesures towards the elimination of the illness. A vegetalista often offers to the poor patients -which represent the majority of the people of this area- more psychological support than a Western doctor, who has usually very little time, charges large sums, and who attends his patients in clinics and offices which are totally foreign and even sometimes terrifyingly alien to them. The vegetalista often opens his home to the patients, even for long periods of time, provides counseling, shows interest in the financial and emotional problems of his patients, amuses them with his stories, even offers them what we would call forms of family therapy. All these elements must have an effect in the curing process. When the patients take ayahuasca under the supervision of a vegetalista, they often turn to an introspection about their life in general, about the kind of life they are leading. One 161

must remember that it is part of their idea about health and illness to ask why a person is ill, including the question why just me. Ayahuasca sessions seem to have a therapeutical value for many people, even if they do not suffer from any particular illness or psychical disorder. The idea of cleansing the body and the mind with ayahuasca exists among many people. Vegetalistas resort to ayahuasca sessions even in the treatment of alcoholism, often also treated as an illness caused by somebody. Alcoholism is one of the great problems of Amazonian people, both among ethnic groups and among the mestizo population. It seems paradoxical that the use of ayahuasca, which is always done under a strictly controlled situation, has been persecuted in the past, and is still seen with the greatest suspicion by the establishment, while the beer industry, which is florishing in the Amazon area, and causing so much harm, is considered in the official tourist brochures as a sign of the progress of this region. In the last chapter I discussed the dichotomy visions vs cleansing in the consumption of ayahuasca among the vegetalistas. If one compares the ayahuasca sessions described among certain groups, involving prolonged dancing, repeated dosis of the brew, and loud manifestations of encounters with spirits, the ceremonies carried out among the mestizos are certainly modest. Vegetalistas are very cautious people. The dose is carefully calculated. The complaint that the ayahuasca was not well prepared, and therefore did not produce any visions is often heard. I wonder whether we shall gradually witness something similar to what is happening with the use of the San Pedro cactus in costal Peru. Joralemon (1984) reported that he interviewed forty of his informants's patients, and only ten reported having had hallucinations. Elizabeth Kremer (personal communication) has told me that among her informants the San Pedro potions are diluted to such an extent that they do not produce any psychoactive effects. The patients undergo, however, a strong stimulation of the sympathetic division of the Autonomic Nervous System due to an array of sensory stimuli (Joralemon 1984:407). It may well happen that among at least some practitioners ayahuasca might lose its hallucinatory effect, while the idea of cleansing, implicit in its emetic and cathartic properties, might be more strongly stressed. Among Amazonian ethnic groups shamanism is a specialization that only particularly gifted individuals pursue. It demands long training under carefully controlled conditions. It is like learning to navigate, only that the space in which they travel is interior, and they may encounter more stormy waters and treacherous air currents than in the external world. When the conditions do not allow such a careful training, it is no wonder that new practitioners should be extremely cautious when entering the geography of the spirit world. Among ethnic groups subject to acculturation it seems that some of the most potent psychotropic plants are very seldom used. Bellier 1986) has pointed out that among the Mai Huna, a Tukano group living in the Peruvian Amazon area, between the Putumayo and Napo rivers, only a few shamans acknowledge having taken toé (pei, in Tukano) (Brugmansia sp.), a 162

plant containing atropine alkaloids. They say they are afraid of it. Also among the vegetalistas very few had taken this plant. Only occasionally they add a few leaves to the pot when preparing ayahuasca. Even though many of the inhabitants of both Iquitos and Pucallpa still have chacras, and therefore keep in touch with the jungle environment, there is a clear shift of the emphasis of the various spirits. As plants and animals become increasingly scarce due to intense deforestation, the spirit pantheon is also being empoverished. In the cosmology of younger practitioners, new elements are filling the cultural void left by the vanishing plant and animal spirits. These new elements may come from European esoteric traditions of recent implantation in the Amazon, which are integrated with elements of popular Catholicism, new mesianistic cults, and even, in rare cases, with the belief in extraterrestial intervention (in Pablo Amaringo's painting of ayahuasca visions the motive of the UFO is almost always present, along with jungle spirits, fairies, and oriental kings). The spirits of famous "Western" doctors as helping spirits, are taking the place of the spirits of Indian shamans. As the cause of illness, jungle and water spirits are slowly being forgotten and replaced by the spirits of deceased people, and by the evil doings of evil witches. Living in often crowded cities, people, not plants and animals, are the cause of misfortune. However, it seems to me that still the "old" vegetalistas, enjoy more prestige among the majority of the population than younger practitioners. I have asked myself many times whether I am witnessing a dying tradition. On one hand, I am aware of the fact that none of my informants, who represent a type of vegetalismo linked to the traditional Amazonian cultural complex, has any successor. The ideal conditions of apprenticeship seem to discourage young peasants, more and more interested in the commodities offered to them by the external world: watches, leather boots, transistor radios, motorcycles, etc. If they have strong religious disposition, there are plenty of religious groups, some of which offer a certain social promotion, which are ready to absorbe their spiritual enthusiasm. The social pressure is on drinking alcohol, the drug of the colonists. To participate in ayahuasca session, an Indian custom, has no social prestige. On the other hand I have also noticed that in nearly every session I have attended in Iquitos and Pucallpa, there was somebody -usually an adult- taking ayahuasca for the first time94. I cannot deny that my work has had certain shortcomings. First of all, my ignorance of Indian languages, particularly of Quichua, which is the language par excellence of the magic chants. My knowledge of the Amazonian flora and fauna is also deficient. I am sure that I have missed important implications due to that deficiency. I have always carried out my field work Rios (1962:28) observed that the use of ayahuasca was increasing in Northeastern Peru. 163

from June to August. I have not been able to follow cases for a long time, nor travel to areas where I could collect plants I have only heard about. More field work should be carried out among several types of practitioners, and in more areas of the Peruvian Amazon. In my future work I will try to amend, as far as I can, some of these shortcomings. Of utmost importance is the collaboration of scholars studying shamanism among ethnic groups and among the mestizo population, even across cultural areas. Interdisciplinary studies are also needed. Several areas of the social and natural sciences may benefit from such an approach. The historian may also learn from comparative studies in areas subject to such rapid cultural change. A better understanding of vegetalismo may be also benefitial to public health personnel preocuppied with improving the conditions of Amazonian people. Vegetalistas are authentic repositories of Amazonian lore. Some of them are conscious of being part of an indigenous tradition. One little anecdote may illustrate this idea. Don Emilio had never asked me for anything. We exchanged gifts, naturally, always as friends. That is why I was a little surprised when, shy like a little boy, he asked me to give him a picture of Apolinar, the Ingano shaman, who had given me ayahuasca for the first time. "Joven Educo, podría ser que usted me quisiera dar la foto del gran maestro vegetalista de allá de su tierra" ("perhaps you could hand me the picture of the great vegetalista of your town"). Of course I gave him the photo. One year later, the picture of Don Apolinar was on one of the walls of the room in his house where ayahuasca sessions take place. With this little gesture, Don Emilio made me realize that he has great respect for his Indian ancestors, from whom a great part of his knowledge comes. The Peruvian Amazon area, like the Amazon regions of all the other countries, is experiencing great changes. The impact of modern technology is very marked. The noise of cars, motorcycles and electric drills disturb the Amazonian spiritual world. "A los espíritus los aflige el ruido" (the spirits dislike the noise), Don Sergio told me once. Although at times drowned by the roar of jet planes crossing the night sky the magic chants of vegetalistas still travel to places Western technology will never reach -to the realm of spirits, a world accepting modern wonders but encompassing the past and the future as well.





APPENDIXES During the examination of the scientific literature on the use of psychotropic preparations made of Banisteriopsis, I kept a record of the Indian tribes that use them, and the local names given to them. I am sure these lists are far from exhaustive, and should be considered only as indicative. In the first appendix, I list the various tribes and groups in alphabetical order, indicating in parentheses the linguistic family to which each tribe or group belongs. I have used Loukotka's (1968) classification of language families. For a map of the use of ayahuasca among the Indians of Northeastern Peru, see Tesman 1930, kartogramm 18). In the second appendix, there is an alphabetical list of local names given to the Banisteriopsis preparation. APPENDIX I INDIAN TRIBES THAT USE OR USED BANISTERIOPSIS (alphabetic) 01 Achual (Jívaro)(Tessmann 1930) 02 Aguaruna (Jívaro)(Brown 1978: 121) 03 Amahuaca (syn. Sayaco, Impetineri) of Varadero (Pano) (Tessmann 1930; Huxley & Capa 1965; Carneiro 1970:341; Friedberg 1965:112; Calvo 1981:217). 04 Anguteros (syn. Ancutere, Pioje)(Western Tukano) of Ecuador (Villavicencio 1858; Spruce 1908:11:424; P. Naranjo 1983:78). 05 Aucas (syn. Sabelas, Huaranis)(Sabela) of Ecuador (P. Naranjo 1983:187-188), and Tihuacuna River, Loreto, Peru (Tessman 1930:301). 06 Awisiri (Auishiri)(Reinberg 1925:53; Tessmann 1930) 07 Banivas (Arawak)(Lewin 1927:169) 08 Barasana (Eastern Tukano)(Friedberg 1965: 51; Hugh-Jones 1979). 09 Bares (Arawak)(Lewin 1928: 169) 10 Campa (Arawak) of Peru (Tessmann 1930; Weiss 1972; Chevalier 1982; Friedberg 1965: 108)


11 Canelos Quichua of Ecuador (Quichua)(Tessmann 1930; Whitten 1976: 153-159; 1985: 136-142). 12 Carijonas (syn. Karihona (Karaib), at present two isolated groups, one at the headwaters of the Vaupés River, and other in and near La Pedrera on the Brazilian border of Caquetá River (Uscategui 1959: 298; Friedberg 1965: 64; Reinburg 1925: 22; Domville-Fife 1924: 228-231). 13 Cashinahua of Peru (Pano)(Friedberg 1965: 113; Der Marderosian et al. 1970; Rivier & Lindgren 1972; Kensinger 1973). 14 Cayapa (Chibcha) of coast of Ecuador (Karsten 1964: 95; P. Naranjo 1983: 172-3). 15 Chamicura (Arawak)(Friedberg 1965: 110). 16 Chasutinos (Munichi)(San Martin, Alto Huallaga) (Arévalo, per. commun.) 17 Chayavita (Tschhuito, Tsaawí)(Kahuapana)(Tessmann 1930) 18 Chebero (Jebero) (Kahuapana)(Tessmann 1930; Friedberg 1965:107). 19 Chocó of Colombia (Choco)(P. Naranjo 1983:96). 20 Colorados of Ecuador (Chibcha)(Karsten 1964:95; P.Naranjo 1983:96). 21 Conibo (Pano)(Friedberg 1965:112) 22 Coreguaje (Western Tukano)(Lewin 1928:169). 23 Cubeo of the Cuduyari River (Eastern Tukano)(Goldman 1923; Reichel-Dolmatoff 1972:88; Friedberg 1965:59). 24 Culina (syn. Kulina) (Aráwa) of Ecuador (Rivier & Lindgren 1972; P. Naranjo 1983:97). 25 Desana of Vaupés, Colombia (Eastern Tukano)(Reichel-Dolmatoff 1971: 150; Friedberg 1965: 53). 26 Emberá (syn. Emperá) (Chocó) of Chocó (Colombia) (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1960:130-132; 1980:35) 27 Guahibo, upper Orinoco in Colombia and Venezuela (Arawak) (Spruce 1908:11:415) (Friedberg 1965:38-39) (Lewin 1928:169)(Reichel-Dolmatoff 1980:35) 28 Guanano (Tukano)(García Barriga 1975:55) 29 Hianakota-Umana (Karaib)(Koch-Grünberg 1908) 30 Huambiza (Jívaro)(Tessmann 1930) 31 Huitoto (syn. Uitoto) (Uitoto)(P. Naranjo 1983:96)(Friedberg 168

1965: 70) 32 Iquito (Záparo)(Tessmann 1930) 33 Ingano (Quechua)(Bristol 1966:120; Uscategui 1959:290; Taussig 1980: 237; Luna 1984a) 34 Isconahua (Pano)(Arevalo, personal communication) 35 Jivaro (syn. Shuar) (Jívaro)(Harner 1973)(Villavicencio 1858; P. Naranjo 1983:78; Karsten 1935, 1964:95; Lewin 1928:169). 36 Kabuvari (syn. Cauyari, Cabuyari)(Arawak)(Friedberg 1965:51) 37 Kandoshi (Murato, Roamaina)(Murato)(Tessmann 1930) 38 Kofán (syn. Cofán)(Cofán), of Ecuador and Colombia (Schultes 1982:206; Robinson 1976) 39 Lama (syn. Lamista)(Quechua) of Peru (Steward & Metraux 1948: 605; Friedberg 1965: 105; Tessman 1930: 289; Scazzochio 1979: 183) 40 Macuna (syn. Makuna) (Eastern Tukano)(Naranjo 1983:97)(Friedberg 1965:56)(García Barriga 1975:55)(Arhem 1981:108) 41 Mai huna (syn. Orejón, Coto)(Western Tukano) (Tessmann 1930; Friedberg 1965: 70; Bellier 1986) 42 Maku (Maku) (Schultes (1957; Uscategui 1959: 29; Friedberg 1965:53). 43 Mandavaka (Arawak)(Lewin 1928:169). 44 Marinahua (Pano)(P. Naranjo 1983:97). 45 Matsigenka (syn. Machiguenga, Machiganga) of East Peru (Arawak) (Baer 1984: 499). 46 Mayoruna (syn. Moríque)(Arawak)(Río Blanco, Peru) (Arévalo, personal communication) 47 Mazán (syn. Masamae, Parara)(Yagua)(Villavicencio 1858; Spruce 1908:II:424; (P. Naranjo 1983:78). 48 Menimehe (Western Tukano)(Reinburg 1925:53) 49 Noanamá of Choco (Chocó)(Colombia) (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1960:130-132;1980:35) 50 Omagua (Tupi), near San Joaquin and San Salvador, Peru (Tessmann 1930; Friedberg 1965: 70; Girard 1958: 183). 51 Panobo (Pano) (Tessmann 1930; Friedberg 1965:111). 52 Piapoko (Arawak)(Friedberg 1965:40)(Reichel-Dolmatoff 169

1980:35) 53 Pioché (syn. Pioje, Cionis)(Tukano)(Reinburg 1925:20; Lewin 1928:169; Tessman 1930:214, 217). 54 Piro (Arawak)(Santa Clara, Low Urubamba, Peru)(Peter Gow, personal communication. They learn from Cocama shamans, and have a comptemt for Campa shamans). 55 Puinabe (Makú)(Friedberg 1965:41). 56 Quijos (Quechua) of the river Quijos, tributary of Napo river (Tessmann 1930; Oberem 1958; P. Naranjo 1983:85). 57 Remos (Pano)(Rio Pichalla, between Peru and Brazil) (Arévalo, personal communication) 58 Santa Maria (?) (Ecuador)(Villavicencio 1858:371-3). 59 Santiagueno (Quechua) Valley of Sibundoy, Colombia (Bristol 1966: 120) 60 Secoya (Western Tukano) of Eastern Ecuador (Vickers & Plowman 1984: 18-20; Vickers 1981: 710). 61 Sharanahua (Pano)(Siskind 1973: 130-147). 62 Shipibo (Pano) of Ucayali river, Peru (Karsten 1964: 95; P. Naranjo 1983:97; Friedberg 1965:111). 63 Sibundoy (Kamsá)(Chibcha), south Colombia (Bristol 1966) 64 Siona (Western Tukano)(Mallol de Recasens 1965) (Langdon 1974; Vickers & Plowman 1984: 18-20; Vickers 1981:710). 65 Taiwano (syn. Teiuana)(Eastern Tukano)(Friedberg 1965:51). 66 Tamas (Western Tukano)(Lewin 1928:169). 67 Tanimuka (Eastern Tukano) of Popeyaca River, affluent of the Apaporis, near Yucuna country in Comisaria del Amazonas (Uscategui 1959: 296)(Friedberg 1965: 52). 68 Tarianas (Karaib)(Spruce 1908:423; Lewin 1928:169; Friedberg 1965:64). 69 Tatuyo (Eastern Tukano), upper Pira-parana)(Bidou....). 70 Tikuna (syn. Tucuna)(Tucuna) (Tessmann 1930; Lamb 1985: 44) 71 Yagua (Yagua)(Chaumeil 1983:38) 72 Zaparo (Záparo)(Northeastern Peru)(Spruce 1908:423; Reinburg 1925:10; Tessmann 1930).


APPENDIX 2 VERNACULAR NAMES GIVEN TO THE BANISTERIOPSIS HALLUCINOGENIC BEVERAGES 01 Ayahuasca (Quechua) Etymology: Aya = dead person, soul, spirit. Waska = cord, liana, vine (Carvahlo-Neto 1964)(Andrade Marín 1969)(P. Naranjo 1983:93). The latter author considers the name ayahuasca a Quechua neologism, difussed first in the 18th and 19th centuries. Záparo, Anguteros, Mazanes (Spruce 1908:II:424; Villavicencio 1858:373); Ucayali River (Rios 1962)(Quoted by Bristol 1966: 114) Quijos of Napo (Reinburg 1925:55). Ecuador: Spruce 1908:II:415; Karsten 1926: 324). 02 Biaxii (Kamsá language)(Sibundoy) (Bristol 1966: 120). In his article Bristol has a table with the terms employed by the Sibundoy, including amaron waska, ambiwaska, ayawaska, biaxa, biaxii, bichemia, chagrupanga, el remedio, sacawaska and yax'. Chagrupanga refers to Banisteriopsis rusbyana (now Diplopterys cabrerana); biaxa to Banisteriopsis caapi. 03 Caapi, capi, cabi, Caji, Gahpi, Kahi, (Tupi language) (Para, Brazil) (Ducke 1943; 1957)(Reichel-Dolmatoff 1971:150;1980). According to Von Hagen (1957)(Quoted by P. Naranjo 1983:95) it means hacer valiente (to make one courageous). Naranjo presents another interpretation: It means hoja para exhalar (leave to make you like a spirit). This name is also used in other parts of the Amazonas (Venezuela, Guiana...) (See Deulofeu 1967). According to Koch-Grünberg 1917:1:500) (Cited by Friedberg 1965:55) there are two kinds of Caapi among the Tukanoan: Kapi and Kulikapio. Caji (Yebasama)(Deltgen 1978/79; Deltgen is uncertain of the precise plant or plants used). Caji-idirecaji (Makuna)(P. Naranjo 1983:97) (García Barriga 1975: 55). Used also by the Yecuana (Koch-Grünberg 1917:111:386-388)(Cited by Friedberg 1965: 43)(Lewin 1928:169). Kahi ide (Makuna) (Arhem 1981:108). 04 Caapi-pinima (coloured caapi). Among the Macu of Tiquie river (Brazil), a tributary of Vaupés, Schultes (1954) observed a hallucinogenic brew made of Tetrapteris methystica, of a yellow colour -different from the brown Banisteriopsis beverage. Schultes suggests that this "coloured" caapi might refer to this preparation. 05 Cadána, Cadana-pira (Tukano Indians of the Uaupés) (Spruce 1908:11:415). 06 Cauupuri mariri (Brazil) (Gates 1982:113). 07 Cipo caapi (Tikuna)(Lamb 1985:44). 08 Cofa, Oofa (Kofán)(García Barriga 1975:55; P. Naranjo 1983:180-184) 09 Dapa (Noanamá)(Pacific Lowlands)(Reichel-Dolmatoff 1980:35) 10 Hananeroca (which roughly means "vine of the river of


celestial youth), among the Campa (also Kamárampi. See below) (Weiss 1969: 440-7) (Chevalier 1982: 406). 11 ?±ko, among the Siona (which signifies "remedy") (Langdon 1974: 65). 12 Iyona (Zaparo) (Reinburg 1965: 10). 13 Jagubi, in the community called Luz Universal, of Rio Branco (Anibal Beça, personal communication). 14 Jauma (Indians of Guarani origin, Amazonas medio) (Karsten 1964: 95; P. Naranjo 1983: 97) 15 Kamárampi, among the Campa. From the verb root -kamarank-, which means "to vomit" (Weiss 1973: 43-4). Also among the Matsigenka: ka´maranpi, or kama´ranpi (Baer 1984: 499). 16 Mariri (UDV -Uniao do Vegetal-) (Monteiro 1983:49). Mariri is also the local name of a concoction of unknown plants used by Mojo Indians of eastern Bolivia (Schultes 1977:266), perhaps also a Banisteriopsis drink. 17 Mao de onça (Brazil) (Gates 1982:113). 18 Mihi, mii (Aucas, Ecuador)(P. Naranjo 1983:188) (Goldman 1963:210-11)(Reichel-Dolmatoff 1972:62). 19 Nape, nepe, nepi (Chocó of Colombia, Cayapas and Colorados of Equadorian coast)(P. Naranjo 1983:176; Lewin 1928:169). 20 Natema, natem (Jívaro) (Karsten 1935)(Harner 1973:15-27)(Naranjo 1983:95) 21 Natja (pronounced natha)(mother's milk)(Piro, of Peru) (Gow, personal communication). 22 Njaxe (Coto)(Friedberg 1965:71). 23 Nishi (Shipibo, Ucayali river)(Karsten 1964:95; P. Naranjo 1983:97). 24 Nixi pae (Cashinahua, of Peru. It means "vine drunkenness") (Der Marderosian et al. 1970)(Kensinger 1973:10). 25 Oni xuma (Amawaca)(Calvo 1981:217) 26 Pindé, pildé (Colorados and Cayapas of Equatorian coast, Emberá and black population of the Pacific Lowlands of Colombia and Ecuador) (Lewin 1928:169; Karsten 1964:95; Reichel-Dolmatoff 1980:35; P. Naranjo 1983:172-180; Taussig 1980:235). 27 Pitujiracu (in Iquitos, according to P. Naranjo 1983:97)(?). 28 Purga-huasca (Peru)(Gates 1982:113), purga (Loreto). 29 Ramanujú (Yaguas, Peru) (Chaumeil 1983: 38) 172

30 Santo Dai-me. "Colonia 5. 000". Rio Branco, Brazil (Monteiro 1983) 31 Shuri, rambi, undi (among tribes of Pando language, Purus river, Peru) (Rivier & Lindgren 1972)(Quoted by P.Naranjo 1983:97). Shori (Yaminahua), ondi (Sharanahua), rami (Siskind 1973:130). Shuri-fisopa (in Peru)(Gates 1982:113). 32 Sipo, Cipo (Yecuana, who also use the term Kahi, according to Reinburg. Friedberg (1965: 43) correctly points out that the term sipo is a more general term for all kinds of lianas). 33 Timbó branco (Río Tapajos) (Le Cointe 1947:84). ?(reference!) 34 Tiwaco-mariri (Brazil)(Gates 1982:113). 35 Totsha (aguita de la soga:juice of her vine) (Piro, of Peru) (Gow, personal communication). 36 Tucondi (Marinahuas)(P.Naranjo 1983:97). 37 Vegetal (o vegetal) (UDV, Brazil). 38 Uipa (Guahibo)(Friedberg 1965:40). 39 Uní (Conibo) (Guillermo Arévalo, Yarinacocha, personal communication). 40 Wampu, wampi (a type of ayahuasca used by Matsigenka and Piro. It is associated with a strong wind) (Peter Gow, personal communication). 41 Yagé, yajé (Tukano) (Spruce 1858) (Reinberg 1921)(Vickers 1981: 710), Kofan (Robinson 1976), Siona (Langdon 1979: 63), Ingano, Hianakota-Umana (Koch-Grünberg 1908). 42 Yaja (Guanano)(García Barriga 1975: 55)



Icaro No. 5 Icaro to increase the ayahuasca visions


Icaro No. 2 Icaro of Doctor Oje, against evil sorcerers

177 175

Icaro No. 6 Icaro of the pelejo (sloth)


Icaro No. 4 Icaro to call a spirit


Icaro No. 6 Icaro against evil sorcerers



Icaro No. 7 Icaro of the Brazilian


Icaro No. 8 Introductory icaro of ayahuasca sessions


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