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Shamanic healing In The Amazon Jungle
This shaman still practices a south american form of shamanism passed down through generations
Shamanism - the link between the physical world and the spirit world
This article is about my visit to a Shaman in the Amazon jungle in 2012, where I witnessed a shamanic healing ritual and discovered an ancient way of shamanism. In the Cuyabeno reserve in the Amazon jungle in Ecuador, is a village of the Siona people who still live a fairly traditional lifestyle despite the influence of outsiders. The Siona Tribe's Shaman is said to represent a link between the physical world and the spirit world through his lifelong training, and his use of extremely powerful hallucinogenic drugs such as Ayawaska (Ayuasca). To this day he maintains a revered place in the community, and is respected by his people as being their physical and spiritual doctor. He does not live in the village, but has his own house further up the river.
The Cuyabeno reserve in the Amazon Basin
The Shaman's house
The Shaman's house is much larger than the others in the nearby village. It was hard to tell how many people lived there, but certainly he had a partner and several children. Constructed from wood, it had been his family home for a very long time, and he himself was a 5th generation Shaman - with traditional training in shamanism passed on from father to son over the years. Indeed his necklace of jaguar teeth is said to contain some teeth that are over 100 years old.
The Shaman's garden of natural medicine and hallucinogenic plants
The Shaman relies on Hallucinogenic plants to access the spirit world to seek information about a person's illness to be able to practice shamanic healing, and as part of his on-going spiritual practice and development. As such, his house was built near to where an Ayawaska vine grows, and he has cultivated a garden full of medicinal plants and other Hallucinogens.
Golden Angel's Trumpet - another powerful hallucinogenic in the Shaman's garden
Lifelong training in shamanism
The Shaman was taught from childhood skills such as shamanic healing that he would later need to lead his community and to communicate with the spirit world. At the age of 14 he was given his first hallucinogenic experience by his father. He says that his father tied him to a tree before giving him a strong dose of a drink prepared from Angel's trumpet as in the past some people had run off into the jungle when on their spiritual journey, never to be seen again. When he enters the spirit world he says he can communicate with spirits in animal form, and this altered state of consciousness can last for many hours. This truly is dedicated shamanism!
The Ayawaska vine
The word Ayawaska, Latin name Banisteriopsis caapi, comes from the Quechua language, meaning 'spirit vine'. In preparation it is actually mixed with one of several other possible herbs to activate it's hallucinogenic properties when taken orally. The indigenous people claim the plants themselves told them how to create this mixture.
A shamanic healing ritual
The Shaman of this Siona tribe is well versed with welcoming tourists into his home. He, and his village, have an affiliation with the local lodges and tour operators and they show groups of tourists their traditions on a daily basis - for a small fee. The Shaman typically has a group shown around his garden for a short while, and then brings them into his house. On bare wooden floors and in equally minimal surroundings, he talks about his life and ancestry as a practitioner of shamanism. He then demonstrates a cleansing ritual on a volunteer, and finally takes questions. He is even willing to pose for photos with tourists.
The Shamanic healing ritual - a cleansing technique to remove bad energy from a person and cure minor ailments
This video shows one of the Shaman's typical healing rituals.
How to get there and experience shamanism first hand
Visiting the Siona village and their Shaman in the Cuyabeno nature reserve is a major part of most jungle trips in this part of Ecuador. There are several lodges, all near to one another along the river. You can book a trip of several days from most cities around Ecuador or online. There is a long journey from Quito to Lago Agria in the north of the country where the guides meet you. It is a 9 hour bus ride from Quito, which is quite uncomfortable and fairly harrowing as most bus rides are in Ecuador. If you want to pay extra, you can fly there instead and be picked up by the tour guides from the airport rather than the center of the town. From there you will be taken by minibus on a 2.5 hour trip to the river. Then it's 2-3 hours by kayak down the river to the lodge. Finally it is another 1-2 hours by kayak to reach the Shaman. He truly does live in a remote part of the world.