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Shamanic healing In The Amazon Jungle

Updated on August 16, 2012

This shaman still practices a south american form of shamanism passed down through generations

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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

A
cuyabeno reserve:
Cuyabeno National Park, Ecuador

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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.

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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

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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

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Ayawaska

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.

The Siona community

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The Shaman's children playing in the garden after a downpour

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The Siona village

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    • Ethan Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethan Green 

      6 years ago from England

      Hi Dayle

      Thanks for your comments. I'm sure you won't regret a trip to Ecuador. It is a truly stunning country. However, I cannot guarantee you would be able to participate in a spiritual ritual with the Shaman if you followed a similar path as this article describes. The tour I went on only included a visit to the Shaman's house, a talk and a demonstration of the cleansing ritual. There was no inclusion of any hallucinogenic drugs. An Ayawaska experience from my understanding would require many hours, and not everyone in the group would want to stay for that. I did meet people from another group in a nearby lodge that convinced one of the tour guides to take them back to the Shaman and they paid $30 each for a proper Ayawaska experience. But it did not sound to me like it was well prepared, supervised or even spiritual. More a case of he just gave them the Ayawaska and then let them run around his garden enjoying themselves. I think if you are interested in a full and rich spiritual experience you would need to look elsewhere. Sorry if my article misled you into thinking this was a good way to achieve your goal. That said, don't let it put you off going to Ecuador, or even the lodge. It is the experience of a lifetime:-)

      Ethan

    • profile image

      Dayle 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for this Ethan, you inspired me enough to book a flight to Ecuador this coming July. Question though, it is important that I have the full experience, as I have been planning this for many years. I would like to book at siona lodge, but I want to be sure I also can participate in a spiritual ritual.. Which of course includes ayawaska. do you know the custom or respectful way to ensure I get the full experience?

      Advise is appreciated!

      Dayle

    • Ethan Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethan Green 

      6 years ago from England

      Thanks snowdrops. I'd like to know more about the particular shamans you mention!

    • snowdrops profile image

      snowdrops 

      6 years ago from The Second Star to the Right

      Very interesting Ethan. We also do have Shamans here living in towns. Long time ago, they're just living on the mountains and very secluded places but now, the've learn how to live in towns and still do their rituals at home.

    • Ethan Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethan Green 

      6 years ago from England

      Thanks Alur for your comment:-)

      Ethan

    • Ethan Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethan Green 

      6 years ago from England

      Thanks bdegiulio. Glad you found it interesting, and I'm happy to be the one to introduce you to the concept of a shaman:-)

      Ethan

    • Ethan Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethan Green 

      6 years ago from England

      Thanks pandula - it definitely is. Something I won't forget in a hurry:-)

      Ethan

    • Ethan Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethan Green 

      6 years ago from England

      Don't worry - it's definitely a trek and a half to get to this particular village! It is a shame that they pander slightly to tourists, but apparently the only tribe in the area that has no contact with people do have a habit of killing people, so there's still an untouched culture left.

      Ethan

    • ALUR profile image

      ALUR 

      6 years ago from USA

      My own experience with a Shaman in Arizona inspired my entire romantic book called "Confessions" on amazon.com.

      Thanks for letting people share in the healing powers of good leaders:)

    • pandula77 profile image

      Dr Pandula 

      6 years ago from Norway

      This is an exciting read! Thanks for sharing Ethan. Its an adventure to relish for a lifetime.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Wow!!! such an adventure, I love reading about other people's intrepid adventures from the comfort of my armchair, I get to see all the good bits without the discomfort, just watched Freddie Flintoff goes wild, he is a brave man.

      The Amazon is an amazing place, it would sadden me to see it turned into just another tourist destination, with the shaman performing to tourist. On the other hand I guess like the rest of us they must make a living.

      Still,I'm happy to know that getting there is still a bit of a challenge. Brilliant love the pics

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Ethan, very interesting. I was not familiar with a Shaman before reading this, not sure I've ever heard the term. What a great adventure just to get to this remote village. The video and photos are wonderful. Thank you for educating and sharing. Well done.

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