Ayahuasca Protected In Peru

Taken from an article on www.realitysandwich.com

Posted By Ina Woolcott

This past week in Peru marks the end of a year long debate and a major victory regarding Ayahuasca shamanism and Ayahuasca medicine practices. For the past year the Peruvian government was deciding whether or not to regulate the medicinal use of Ayahuasca and the practices of the curanderos and Ayahuasqueros.

The bill that was finally passed this past week declared Ayahuasca shamanism and Ayahuasca medicine practices to be a culturally protected “patrimony.”

The number of world travelers migrating to Peru for healing has grown exponentially over the past two decades, and it marks a major cultural victory not only for the indigenous Peruvian tradition but for the entire planet.

The Peruvian government was moved by hundreds of letters from world citizens and visitors testifying to the miraculous healing properties of Ayahuasca and to the tremendous sensitivity and expertise of Peru’s indigenous Ayahuasca shamans.

WA-HEY! EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT!!! 🙂 Im glad the Peruvian government seems to have wise people in it, unlike other countries where they would rather keep peoples minds and souls captive. Even if one of the reasons the bill was passed is to maintain tourism to boost the economy, so what! Also, amongst all the darkness on earth, new light is always shed… Well done Peru.

Making Healing Allies In Nature

PLANT SPIRIT SHAMANISM – Making Healing Allies In Nature

By Ross Heaven

Since the beginning of human experience, plants have played a role in the evolution of our species, not only in the provision of food and medicine but in our deepest spiritual experience and the development of consciousness. Their form, beauty, enchanting scents, their healing and emotional qualities, have all provided a gateway to the Great Mystery of Nature, which our Celtic forebears called “The visible face of Spirit”. Though our lands are no longer forested as they were, we try to recreate a sense of their beauty and tranquillity in our gardens, parks, and the green spaces in our cities, giving us at least a taste of Nature with which we can sustain ourselves against the soulless backdrop of the steel and concrete jungles that are our homes today. For many people, plants are still the messengers of divinity, harmony, and beauty. They are also the source of our health and wellbeing, not just as medicines but in their ability to relax, refresh, or excite us. Some deep part of us knows that the healing power of plants is inherent in what they are as much as what they do. Flowers have a role to play, for example, in all of our most primal celebrations of life and death – birth and birthdays, comings-of-age, marriages, illnesses, funerals and deaths. They are there at the first ‘I love you’, and they are there for our endings too. Even after death our connection to the natural world continues and our spiritual destination in many religious myths is some form of paradise which is often symbolised as the “Heavenly Garden”, or the Garden of Eden.

Archaeology shows that plant spirit shamanism has been part of our healing experience for thousands of years, predating other practices by millennia and going back to a time when healers worked in harmony with Nature.

Plant shamanism is – and always has been – a person-centred approach and incorporates, in a holistic way, practices such as herbalism, energy work, aromatherapy, and counselling to provide a unique blend of therapies that is most needed by each individual client, based on the healer’s attunement to the state of balance or otherwise of that client’s soul. But it is also fundamentally spirit-centred, and all traditional healers – from the Curanderos of the Amazon to the ‘folk magicians’ of Ireland – regard plants as sentient, aware, intelligent, alive, and as ‘doctors’ in their own right.

Plant shamanism involves practices for meeting these spirits, such as shamanic journeying, soul retrieval, rituals using flowers and fragrances, offerings to Nature, floral baths for protection, and the use of visionary plants to find purpose, clarity, and new directions in life. All of these, to the shaman, are implied by the term ‘healing’.

WAYS OF HEALING

As a young boy, I was apprenticed to a Welsh sin eater – a ‘cunning man’, as they were called in Wales – who used plants and flowers in his healing work. One of his methods was to bury the name of a patient, etched on a piece of bone, in a corner of his garden, next to a patch of ‘sun flowers’. Each day he would say his prayers to the flowers, consulting with them on the condition of his patient, then squeeze a few petals so their aroma was released. As the scent drifted upwards, he said, a little more of his patient’s illness was carried away until he or she was healed.

This may seem like a strange approach in our culture today, but when I grew up and went travelling I found the same essential methods used in Haiti, Peru, Africa, Greece, America, Turkey… so it is not an eccentricity or even unique to Wales.

The world over, in fact, wherever shamans work with plant spirits rather than extracts and compounds as Western doctors do, it is understood that plants are alive, aware, and willing to teach their healing secrets. Plant spirit shamanism is therefore learned practically – by getting out into the fields and making contact with natural forces, not by reading about plants in some dusty library.

The sin eater communicated with plants in this way and knew several magical uses for them that they had told him of. For example, the ‘sun flowers’ he used were actually marigolds, but he called them sun flowers because they are “Bright like the sun” and warmed the soul with protection. It is interesting, then, that we find the same belief in Andean Peru, where rosa sisa (African marigolds) are also used for protection. Here, they are often planted by the door of a house, so if someone should pass by and give the ‘evil eye’, the flowers will catch these negative energies and protect the soul of the house from disease. The petals turn black when this happens, but revert to their bright colour when the energy is discharged through their roots to the soil. The sin eater I knew had never visited Peru and yet the message from the plant was the same: marigolds – “sun flowers” – protect.

WORKING WITH PLANTS

The key thing with plant spirit shamanism is to establish a connection with the plant. Once that is done, the plant spirits themselves teach you everything you need to know and reveal the many ways of using them in healing, most of which are very unlike the Western medical notion of ingesting them in a tablet or even a herbal form.

In Haiti, Peru, Brazil, Indonesia, and in our own Celtic past, there is a practice, for example, of taking floral baths, where flowers and herbs are added to blessed water. The sick person then bathes to wash away his ailments. These baths are not restricted to physical healing, but can be used to draw good fortune and change your luck (which is regarded as a real and tangible force), by making you more ‘open’ to the receipt of money, love, or spiritual power.

Other ways of working with plants include the making of pakets, ‘power pouches’ containing herbs that remove negative energies, while returning life force to the patient as the pouch is brushed over his body. The paket has similarities to the Amazonian chacapa, a bundle of dried leaves which has medicine powers to rebalance the patient’s energy field, and is rubbed over the body in the same way.

The seguro of the Andes, a bottle which contains a mixture of plants and herbs in Holy water and perfume, uses the same principles of spiritual connection with the plants. Here the shapes, colours, or qualities of the plants invoke various powers that the client wishes to draw in to his life. Round, golden, seeds attract money, for example, while cactus spines embody protection. The seguro, according to Andean shamans, becomes a “Friend”, you can consult with. Every time you speak out your problems to this friend, they are removed, while the powers of the plants draw good energies in.

One rule that comes up consistently in this work is that we must treat our plant allies with respect. In Haiti, healers literally pay the plants for their work by dropping coins at the base of the tree they’re collecting leaves from. They are then ‘fed’ and there is a fair exchange: we charge the plants with energy so they have the power to help us.

We must also treat plants kindly. Research shows that they have feelings, intelligence, language – even the ability to count and make music! – and they can sense our intentions and respond to our actions. If we treat them with love, they flourish and grow; if not, then their spirits die and we don’t have the healers we need.

GETTING OUT OF OUR MINDS

One of the biggest challenges for the Western mind in learning how to work with plant spirits is our cultural fascination with science and measurement. This socialisation into ‘scientific thinking’ is hard to overcome because, as part of it, we have been taught to stifle our dreaming and imaginative selves. Luckily, however, there are also plants which have a spiritual intention to re-establish our connection with the spirit-universe and open us up to the true nature of reality.

One of these is guayusa. In the Amazon it is known as “The night watchman’s plant” because of its ability to bring lucid dreams and dissolve the boundaries between wakefulness and sleep. Thus, the night watchman can take guayusa and nap, while remaining alert to the sounds and sights around him as he watches over the tribe.

The shamans say that in every country we have plants to cater for our own needs; thus, in Europe, it may be difficult to find guayusa, but a tea made of vervain, valerian, and chamomile will achieve similar affects.

Another way of getting ‘out of our minds’ is through a special state of trance consciousness known as shamanic journeying.

To take any shamanic journey, find a time and a place where you can be alone and undisturbed for 20 minutes or so, then dim the lights or cover your eyes, lie down and make yourself comfortable.

Most journeys are taken to the sound of drumming, which encourages ‘dreaming’ patterns to emerge in the brain, taking the shaman deeper into a more holistic experience of the world in its fullness. You can drum for yourself, have a friend drum for you, or use a drumming tape to guide your journey.

Expressing your intention and keeping this in focus is again important. Intention is the energy that guides the journey and enables you to engage with the mind of the universe so it can work with you.

You can try this yourself by setting your intention to meet with a plant ally – the consciousness of a plant that will guide you into the world of the collective plant mind. You do not need to have a specific plant in mind. Stay open instead to whatever comes.

As soon as the drumming begins, imagine yourself entering a place which connects you to the Earth in a way that is meaningful to you, then allow your imagination to take you where it will. All you need do is receive.

When your plant ally appears to you, spend some time in conversation with him or her (in the imaginative world, most plants take human form). Enquire about its healing gifts and the way these properties manifest in the plants themselves. Ask how you can work with this ally and the plants that embody him or her.

Visit your ally often in this way and you will learn more about the world of the plants, the nature of reality and, indeed, about yourself, as part of this vast and beautiful universe.

Further recommended reading of Ross Heaven:

Ross Heaven is the director of The Four Gates Foundation and the author of books on shamanism and healing. His latest is Plant Spirit Shamanism: Traditional Techniques for Healing the Soul. Ross also teaches Plant Spirit Shamanism workshops and trips to the Amazon to work with indigenous healers and plant shamans. Details of these are available at The Four Gates

Ayahuasca Sacred Medicine For The Soul

The below is taken from Part 1 of Ayahuasca – Sacred Medicine for the Soul
Author Howard G Charring

We humans have a special relationship and dependence on plants. Since our beginnings, they have been the source both directly and indirectly of our food, our shelter, our medicines, our fuel, our clothing, and of course the very oxygen that we breathe. This is common knowledge and in general we take if for granted. Yet we view plants in our Western culture as semi-inanimate, lacking the animating force labelled soul, mind, or spirit. Many people ridicule and regard as eccentric those who speak up and say they communicate with plants. You only have to recall the popular reaction to Prince Charles’s comments saying that he often did just that.

The biggest challenge for a Westerner undertaking this communion with the plants is to accept that there is another order of nonmaterial reality that a person can experience through his entrance into plant consciousness, and to do this requires a significant leap of the imagination. We are all born into the social paradigm that surrounds us, with all its beliefs, myths, and institutions that support its view of the world, and it is not within our worldview to accept the immaterial and irrational. Before we embark on this journey to the plant mind, then, we first need to examine some of our most deeply ingrained assumptions, assumptions still fostered by many of our religious and social institutions today. The starting place for this journey is we ourselves.

Enjoy reading these well written articles for yourselves!

For the full Part 1 of 5 articles: Ayahuasca Sacred Medicine for the Soul Part I

Part 2: Ayahuasca Sacred Medicine for the Soul Part II

Part 3: Ayahuasca Sacred Medicine for the Soul Part III

Part 4: Ayahuasca Sacred Medicine for the Soul Part IV

Part 4: Ayahuasca Sacred Medicine for the Soul Part V

Making Your Own Pusanga

By Ross Heaven

If you want more love in your life (and who doesn’t!) and would like to make pusanga of your own, just follow these instructions and romance will come your way!

The Doctrine of Signatures is your guide to collecting the plants you need. Pusanga plants for love all have certain characteristics. Their names are often significant, such as passionflower or honeysuckle (“honey” for sweetness and “suckle” for nurturing). Their colours are bright and attractive. The way they grow may also be important (ivy, for example, winds itself around other plants so the two intertwine and are drawn closer together). Their archetypal qualities may also call you (rose, for example, is nowadays practically synonymous with love). Where the plants grow can also have meaning (two plants standing together in sunlight within an otherwise dark forest signify a bright future, for example) – and so on. Look for plants that mean something to you and the desires you have.

When you locate each plant spend a little time with it, explaining your need and asking it to offer itself to you before you pick it (you don’t need to take the whole plant; a single leaf, a flower, or a piece of bark will do as this contains the energy of the whole. Try to avoid taking roots if you can). Then, when you take a piece, offer your thanks and perhaps a gift of your own, such as corn or tobacco, as they do in the Amazon. All of this is important in helping you connect with nature and develop the right attitude of respect.

When you have the plants you want, take them home and put them in a clear bottle. If you intend to use the pusanga over a few days, you can fill the bottle with water taken from ‘power places’, such as Holy water from a church or a place of spiritual power like the Chalice Well at Glastonbury, or you can use spring or mineral water. If you want to keep the pusanga a while, though, it is better to use alcohol instead of water as this will preserve the plants.

You can also add aromatherapy oils to your blend, which, in traditional magic, also have helpful qualities. To attract a new lover, for example, add a few drops of rose, jasmine, and bergamot. For a ‘deepening love’ add rose, vanilla, and a sprinkling of gold glitter. For passion during love-making once you have found your mate, add ginger, patchouli, and sandalwood.

Finally, add your prayers to the mixture, too, as the shamans do, by blowing three times into the pusanga bottle while you tell the perfume what you want it to do for you. Then wear it as a scent and expect more love in your life!

Related link: Pusanga, The Perfume of Love

Further recommended reading of Ross Heaven:

Ross Heaven is the director of The Four Gates Foundation and the author of books on shamanism and healing. His latest is Plant Spirit Shamanism: Traditional Techniques for Healing the Soul. Ross also teaches Plant Spirit Shamanism workshops and trips to the Amazon to work with indigenous healers and plant shamans.
Details of these are available at The Four Gates

Ayahuasca Neurogenesis And Depression

Posted By Ina Woolcott

A recent article published in New Scientist magazine suggests that neurogenesis – the growth of new brain cells – is a key to curing depression. The article discusses how depressed people have an enlarged amygdala, which causes an imbalance of cortizol a fight or flight stress hormone that ‘whittles away neural structures’ – especially in the hypocampus which is the cortizol shut off valve. In depressed people, this structure can be 15% smaller than the statistical average.

Banisteriopsis caapi, the Ayahuaca vine, is regarded by many that use it as an antidepressant. The MAOI beta-carbolines in the vine reduce the clearing of serotonin from the synaptic cleft : i.e MAOI another angle from which serotonin can be boosted, which qualifies the use of MAOI in the treatment of depression back in the mid twentieth century.

The additional power of Ayahuasca over commonly prescribed SSRI’s is that it allows people to experientially approach the early causal factors to their depression and work to symbolically resolve them, and cathart the primal pain and energies bound up in those repressed early experiences. Ayahuasca allows conscious realisation of how those experiences effect ones constitution and patterns of behaviour, giving beneficial insights into how the effects of the damaging influences on ones life can be greatly negated by changes of attitude and lifestyle.

For the full article click HERE

Peyote Visions And Alternate Reality

By Ina Woolcott

Peyote is a spineless cactus that is dome shaped and soft with button-like nodules. It is blue green in colour and grows to about 5cm tall and 8cm wide. There are 2 species, Mescal (Lophophora williamsii) which has flowers white or pink in colour, and Lophophora Diffusa which is more primitive with yellow to white flowers and a yellowy green body. These plants are native throughout the Chihuahuan Desert from central Mexico to southern Texas and are also known as Mescal. Peyote is an entheogen containing mescaline as its primary active chemical, well known for its hallucinogenic effect after chewing the dried out or fresh nodules found on the cactus. They can also be boiled and drunk as a bitter tea. A ‘trip’ last around 6-12 hours depending on the individual. Unfortunately, Peyote takes 30 years to mature and flower and due to over-cultivation is in danger of being extinct in the wild.

The usage of Peyote

The Peyote Cactus has a history of traditional use amongst Native American tribes as a shamanic teacher plant that can give visions of an alternate reality or the spirit world. It has been used by indigenous tribes, shamans and medicine men such as the Navajos of South West USA and the Huichol of northern Mexico for the psychedelic effects when ingested, to communicate with the spirit world and as a medicine. Huichol Indians rub the juices of fresh peyote into wounds to prevent infection and to promote healing. Peyote’s known history dates back to pre-Columbian times; possibly as early as 300 B.C. This is a part of traditional rituals and ceremony. Peyote has many uses in folkloric medicine, e.g. influenza, intestinal disorders, diabetes, the treatment of arthritis, consumption, snake and scorpion bites and datura poisoning.

The sad thing is that ever since the first Europeans arrived in the New World, Peyote has provoked controversy, suppression, and persecution. The Spanish conquerors condemned its usage for its “satanic trickery”, and it more recently came under attack by local governments and religious groups. Nevertheless, this amazing plant continued to play a major sacramental role among the Indians of Mexico, whilst its use has spread northward into the United States and Canada among many of the Plains Indian Tribes such as the Navajo, Comanche, Sioux, and Kiowa in the last two centuries.

The Native American Church movement was started in the late 1800’s when Native spirituality was revived. The church was officially ‘opened’ in 1918. This is one of the official organisations that use Peyote in their spiritual practises. The ‘Peyotero’ leads the ceremony and is similar to a shaman or medicine man. The use of Peyote has faced many legal challenges for non-Native Americans. In the USA, federal law currently restricts peyote use in religious ceremonies to members of Federally Recognized Tribal groups.

Interest in this plant was renewed after Carlos Castaneda documented his uses of it under the tutelage of Don Juan Matus, who gave the plant the name Mescalito, the name given to the spirit of the plant which is supposed to be sensed by those using peyote to gain insight and wisdom in to their lives. Once ingested, an initial feeling of nausea can be experienced, then a shift in consciousness with visions and changes in perception, sense of time and mood. There are no uncomfortable after effects and it is not addictive. Peyote is said to initiate states of deep contemplation of one’s own thoughts, feelings, and sensations and profound insights that are of a metaphysical or spiritual nature. Feelings of inner tranquillity, oneness with life, heightened awareness, and rapid thought flow may be experienced. Everyone has their own unique experience. This can be accompanied with abounding visual or auditory effects. A mental state is also produced that allows users to feel closer to their ancestors and the Universe/All That Is/God. Peyote is also still used as a medicine to battle things such as alcoholism, drug abuse or other social ills.

Peyote is a controlled substance and illegal in all states of America, apart from use by Native Americans in their ceremonies. A federal law was passed in 1995 to confirm this protection of rights.

In Canada the compound Mescaline is illegal but peyote is specifically exempt. So it is legal to possess the cactus, but not to use it.

Internationally Article 32 of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances allows nations to exempt certain traditional uses of peyote from prohibition:

A State on whose territory there are plants growing wild which contain psychotropic substances from among those in Schedule I and which are traditionally used by certain small, clearly determined groups in magical or religious rites, may, at the time of signature, ratification or accession, make reservations concerning these plants, in respect of the provisions of article 7, except for the provisions relating to international trade.

Ayahuasca The Medicine Of Love

By Ross Heaven

Shamanic healing often employs plants to good effect, though it is rarely about herbalism, per se. Indeed, most shamans are explicit that the pharmacological properties of the plants they employ are of far less importance than the spirit which is held by the plant. It is the spirit which heals, while the plant itself is secondary, acting only as the home of the plant-spirit.

The point is illustrated by Amazonian shaman, Javier Arevalo, who serves the community of Nuevo Progreso, on the Rio Napo river of Peru, working with the visionary jungle vine, ayahuasca.

Ayahuasca is a powerful purgative and curative mixture which is used by the shamans of the Amazon to commune with the spirits, who then oversee the healing of the person who drinks the ayahuasca brew, while the shaman guides the healing session and appeals to the spirits on behalf of his client.

The mixture itself, blended in careful measure, contains ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) and leaves of the chacruna plant (Psychotria viridis), often with datura and pure jungle tobacco, which cause the purging qualities that ayahuasca is famous for. The final mixture is also known as ayahuasca, from the Quechua words, aya meaning ‘spirit’ or ‘dead’, and huasca meaning ‘rope’ or ‘vine’. Hence, the brew is often referred to as the ‘vine of souls’ or the ‘rope of the dead’.

It is prepared by cutting the vines into short lengths which are then scraped, cleaned and pounded to a brown pulp. The vines, along with chacruna leaves and other ingredients are then placed in a cauldron, water is added, and the entire mixture is boiled for 10-12 hours, overseen at all stages by the shaman who will continuously blow sacred tobacco smoke into and over the brew. When ready, the mix becomes a muddy, pungent liquid with a foul, acrid taste.

Once ingested, the mixture produces initial feelings of warmth which spread up from the stomach, creating a sense of well-being and a sensation of skin elasticity, almost as if the skin has become rubber-like and pliable and no longer separate from the air around it. After this first phase, which may last 30-60 minutes, the visionary effects begin, which are often dramatic. Harvard ethnobotanist, Wade Davis, in his book, One River1, described the sensation as akin to being “shot out of a gun barrel lined with Baroque paintings, and landing in a sea of electricity”. Visions of snakes and vines in bright primary colours are very common but, for the trained shamanic eye, information on the illnesses and diseases which inhabit his client’s bodies are also expected. It is these visions which enable him, and the spirit of ayahuasca, to heal his clients.

During the visionary phase, purging may also take place through vomiting or diarrhoea. This is often emotionally uncomfortable for Westerners who are brought up to control their bodily functions and not to ‘let go’ of themselves, but it is welcomed by the people of the Amazon since it is this purge which removes the ‘poison’ that can lead to illness, and clears the system both physically and spiritually. Of course, the shaman must never purge since he is a master of (or partner to) the vine and must control the healing ceremony.

Javier is a Maestro (master) of ayahuasca (also known as an ayahuascero) and has spent 14 years understanding the ways and the spirit of this and other plants, which he refers to as “the jungle doctors”. The training of an ayahuascero is arduous, involving abstention from certain foodstuffs, from alcohol and from sex, since the spirit of ayahuasca, while angelic and protective, can also express very human emotions, such as jealousy and anger, and can turn vengeful, with unpleasant consequences for those who approach it in an impure manner.

Training as an ayahuascero also involves long periods of time spent in jungle isolation, “dieting” the plants, which means regular (often nightly) ingestion of ayahuasca, along with many others which are considered healers. He must also follow a special diet which denies him sugar, salt, alcohol, pork and other foods. In fact, the diet consists largely of rice, fish and rice water – and even that might be considered lavish since all of the food must be found locally or carried into the jungle, where the shaman must remain for months at a time. The harshness of this training regime is exemplified by one Amazonian shaman whose mentor once gave him tobacco to diet, in a mix so strong that it bordered on toxic. After consuming the fermented tobacco drink, the shaman retired to a jungle cabin where he lay in a coma-like state for three days. “When you take this drink, you’ll either live or you’ll die”, his mentor told him. “If you live, you will know tobacco”2.

“Every plant has a spirit”, says Javier. “The shaman goes into the forest as part of his apprenticeship and spends years taking plants and roots. He takes ayahuasca too and the spirit tells him what it cures. Then the shaman tries another plant, each time remembering which ailment is cured by that.

“As the spirits, or plant doctors, who teach us are pure, they are made happy when we are pure too. So a shaman must diet in order to attract them. That means they should not eat salt, sugar or alcohol, and they should abstain from sex.

“You learn all this in the wilderness. The spirits there are the angels of each plant, to which you add your own will to heal the client. This is the will of Christ”3.

Javier’s own training has taken place under the tutelage of his grandfather, a Banco (master shaman), who, under the protection of ayahuasca, is able to spend up to eight hours beneath the waters of the Amazon rivers, communicating “with the biggest fish of the river”, according to Javier. Once, he also saw a mermaid there, who is now a guardian and tutor to the old shaman. Soon Javier will begin his own “river training” on his own path to becoming a Banco.

The use of ayahuasca is completely egalitarian, according to Javier; its healing spirit being available to anyone who partakes of the drink, though it is often the shaman who carries out the healing, per se, once the spirit of ayahuasca has revealed the nature of the illness to him.

Laboratory tests reveal no significant healing properties for ayahuasca, only hallucinogenic qualities, so it is surprising to Western scientists and clinicians that such results are possible. For Javier, the explanation is simple: the spirit of the plant is a healer and it has, he says, had similar remarkable results in curing Western visitors with ailments including cancers and HIV, as well as alcoholism, drug addictions and other more emotional problems.

“I had a patient who was HIV positive and had been in hospital a fortnight”, said Javier. “That night we drank [ayahuasca, and] I saw in my vision that HIV was like the devil destroying him and that he was getting worse.

“He stuck to the [ayahuasca] diet for two months [and] he also took bitter tasting herbs which cure internal wounds. After three times [three ayahuasca sessions] he was better and, when tested, proved HIV negative”3.

The Pulitzer Price-nominated author, John Perkins, who has written extensively about ayahuasca usage among the Shuar Indians of Ecuador, has confirmed other ‘miraculous’ healings. “During the ten years we have been taking people to meet the shamans, there have been a number of remarkable stories”, he says4 – among them, cures for deafness, depression, weight loss, as well as endless accounts of life changes and new visions for a different personal and social future.

Against this backdrop of radical and positive change, it is depressing for Javier to reflect that the rainforest, home to so many healing plants – millions of them still unknown to Western medicine – is being destroyed so quickly by the ‘developed’ nations, with so little consideration of the consequences of this action. Every three seconds in the Amazon rainforest, one entire species is wiped out forever as a result of this development in order that Westerners might eat more burgers and drive more cars – the very things (pollution and fast food) which are, in many cases, causing disease in the first place.

People create such ‘madness’ as a result of confusion and to be noticed, says Javier. Ultimately, they are searching for love and belonging but, in the West, they believe this comes through status, rather than the more direct route of loving intent.

Javier’s point was underlined a few years ago, when he worked with a group of Westerners of which I was a member. Immediately prior to the ayahuasca ceremonies, Javier asked the group what they really wanted from their lives.

Most answered with spiritual or ‘cosmic’ answers and spoke of world peace and saving the planet, etc. Javier looked bemused and confused. He asked again and this time, after a little more thought and a good deal more honesty, people said what they really wanted was love. This Javier could understand. The requests were real and immediate – but it was as if people had not felt entitled to ask for these personal things.

Yet, paradoxically, these honest desires are where true healing begins, said Javier, since, if more people in the West were able to experience love, there would be no need for the madness of developed society, the search for more status and material gain and the destruction this leads to – and, consequently, no need to save the planet, which would never be in danger. “Love solves problems”, say Javier, simply. “Ayahuasca cures through love”.

Ross Heaven is the director of The Four Gates Foundation and the author of books on shamanism and healing. His latest is Plant Spirit Shamanism: Traditional Techniques for Healing the Soul. Ross also teaches Plant Spirit Shamanism workshops and trips to the Amazon to work with indigenous healers and plant shamans. Details of these are available at The Four Gates

REFERENCES

1. Davis, W. One River: Science, Adventure and Hallucinogenics in the Amazon Basin. Touchstone Books, 1998

2. In Heaven, R. Spirit in the City: The Search for the Sacred in Everyday Life. Bantam Books, 2002

3. Cloudsley P, Love Magic and the Vine of the Soul, Sacred Hoop magazine, Issue 36, Spring 2002

4. In Heaven, R. The Journey To You: A Shaman’s Path to Empowerment. Bantam Books, 2001

Plant Spirit Shamanism And The Medicinal Plants Of The Amazon Rainforest

Plant Spirit Shamanism and the Medicinal Plants of the Amazon Rainforest

Submitted by Howard G. Charing

Working with teacher plants is known as the ‘shaman’s diet’. The purpose of the diet is to prepare the body and nervous system for the powerful knowledge and expansion of consciousness given by teacher plants.

In everyday life, the mind creates the illusion that we are separate from reality, and thus protects us, like a veil, from experiencing the vastness of the universe. Access to the truth without preparation could be a radical shock to the system.

It offers a significant challenge for the rational Western mind to come to terms with the teacher plants, and a leap of imagination is required to incorporate the ‘other’ consciousness of the plant. The magical world to which we are transported by plants is not accessible through the verbal rational mind but through dream language or an expansion of the imagination. Thus dreams & our imaginative powers act like doorways during a plant diet and connect us with the plant spirit.

Some of the Medicinal Plants of the Amazon Rainforest

Mocura; taken orally or used in floral baths to raise energy, or take you out of a saladera (a run of bad luck, inertia, sense of not living to the full). This plant gives mental strength and you can feel its effects as also with ajosacha, both are varieties of garlic and have a penetrating aroma. Mental strength means it could be good to counter shyness, find one’s personal value or authority. Medicinal properties include asthma, bronchitis, reduction of fat and cholesterol. Another of its properties is that it burns of excess fat.

Piñon Colorado; this plant has short lived effect after drinking but helps dreaming later on when you go to sleep. Piñon Colorado can also be worked with as a planta maestra (teacher plant). Medicinal properties include dealing with Insect bites and stings, vaginal infections, and bronchitis. It is possible to take the resin, which is much stronger, but toxic if too much ingested. The resin can be applied directly to the skin.

Chirisanango; this plant is good for colds and arthritis and has the effect of heating up the body, so much so that the maestro advises a cold shower after each dose! This plant can be used in baths for good luck, and bring success to fishing, hunting etc. This planta maestra also makes possible for people to open up their heart to feel love for people and animals, and identify with other people as though brothers and sisters.

It grows mainly in the Upper Amazon and only a few restingas (high ground which never floods) in the Lower Amazon. The shamans say that plants connect us with nature because they take their nourishment directly from the earth, as well as the sun’s rays, the air. They allow us to know and recognize ourselves. A shaman must know this and must love his people to heal them. The gift of Chirisanango is self esteem i.e the ability to recognise ourselves.

The shamans say that this plant opens up the shamanic path, assuming that we are prepared to live under the rules of shamanism, to do this we need courage and no fear of extremes or negative & challenging circumstances. We need to understand what role we will play in society and have the heart of a warrior.

Guayusa; It is good for excessive acidity and other problems in the stomach and bile. Also it is both energizing and relaxing at the same time and develops mental strength. This also has the most interesting effect of giving lucid dreams i.e when you are dreaming you are aware that you are dreaming. The plant is also known as the “watchman’s plant”, as even when sleeping you are aware of the outer physical surroundings.

On another personal note, I found the experience with this plant also to be quite incredible. I found that the usual boundary between sleeping and being awake to be more fluid than I had anticipated. Even now, sometime after taking the plant my dreams are more colourful, richer, and lucid than before. For those interested in ‘dreaming’ this is certainly the plant to explore.

Ajo Sacha; An important planta maestra in the initiation of Amazonian shamans. Mental strength, acuity of mind, saladera (explained above), for ridding spells, self-healing. Originally used to enhance hunting skills by covering up human smell with the garlic smell of Ajosacha.

On another personal note, I found my senses being altered and enhanced with this plant. I could zoom in and focus on sounds emanating from the rainforest, my sense of smell became sharper, and in some ineffable way I could tune into the breathing or rhythm of the rainforest. The sound of insects and birds was no longer a random phenomenon, these sounds became a rhythmic breath, rising and falling. No wonder that it is used for hunting as one’s sense are heightened in an incredible way.

Icoja; A bark used for malaria, fever, an astringent, disinfectant for healing septic wounds. Used against Uta – a kind of leprosy found in the Amazon. Wounds are washed directly with this plant, and it is also used for an infectious disease (Pilagra) in children.

Chanca piedra; Used for Kidney problems especially kidney stones (hence the name ‘stone crusher’), gall bladder, disinfectant. This is recognised as a gall bladder and liver tonic. It is also used for cleansing the urinary system and for dealing with intestinal parasites. This plant is only used for its many pharmaceutical properties, not a planta maestra per se.

Sachamangua; This is a large single seeded fruit, which when you crush the fruit and squeeze the juice into the nose, it warms the area locally (it can sting a bit), and it is effective for curing sinusitis. It also helps the eyesight and restores visual acuity by relieving the pressure from the sinuses. You eliminate a lot of mucus and this gives relief. The fruit when ripe is normally eaten peeled or roasted, and is a little like the aguaje fruit, but for medicinal uses it must be green. It is also good for tired feet in a poultice. Taken orally it is useful for the liver when struggling with the digestion of fat, it is also a treatment for gases. Fungal spores in the nose can cause itching, rhinitis or allergy and Sachamangua is effective for this too. Athlete’s foot can also be treated with the dry powder, like talcum powder, prepared from this fruit.

Cat’s Claw (una de gato); Cat’s Claw is a tropical vine that grows in rainforest. This vine gets its name from the small thorns at the base of the leaves, which looks like a cat’s claw. These claws enable the vine to attach itself around trees climbing to a height up to 150 feet. The inner bark of this vine has been used for generations to treat inflammations, colds, viral infections, arthritis, and tumours.

Cat’s Claw can be used as tonic to boost the body’s immune system. And is considered by many as a ‘balancer’ returning the body’s functions to a healthy equilibrium. Its has anti-inflammatory and blood cleansing properties as well as being able to clean out the entire intestinal tract and therefore helps treat a wide array of digestive problems such as gastric ulcers, parasites, and dysentery.

From a psycho-spiritual, plant spirit, or shamanic perspective in which disease and illness can be initiated by a spiritual imbalance within a person causing the person to become de-spirited, or losing heart (in the West we would call this depression), it can restore this inner sacred union of spirit and physical body.

The medicinal properties of this plant are officially recognized by the Peruvian government and it is a protected (for export) plant. It is available widely in the west in capsule form. In the markets in Iquitos it is available in bark form, and many indigenous communities are increasingly cultivating this plant.

Boahuasca; Used to heal Cancer of the stomach and intestines and prolapses. Also used against Uta, and cancerous, malignant wounds. The shaman’s make an ointment from the ash and apply directly.

The underlying truth that is revealed in working with the plant spirit or consciousness is that we are not separate from the natural world. We perceive ourselves to be separate beings with our minds firmly embedded within our being (typically our head). The plants can show you that this way of being is an illusion and that we are all connected, all of us and everything else is a discrete element in the great universal field of consciousness. This is an area where the ancient knowledge of the peoples of the rainforest and modern quantum physics point in the very same direction, “Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one’ Albert Einstein.

Another way of seeing the shaman’s diet is that like the platitude ‘all roads lead to Rome’, all plants lead through different paths of experiences to the same place, i.e a deep and expanded understanding of one’s place in the world around us and a recognition of self as an intrinsic element of this.

The indigenous people of the Amazon see life as having enough purpose just as it is. Fulfilment comes from being in tune with the spirits so there is an abundance of fish, bananas, yucca for making masato (alcoholic beverage), and plenty of healthy children, in short, life is for being happy!

Howard has also authored the book Plant Spirit Shamanism published by Destiny Books (USA) with a Forword of Pablo Amaringo.

Howard G. Charing is a partner in Eagle’s Wing Centre for Contemporary Shamanism. His initiation into the world of Shamanism was sudden, which was caused by a serious accident, which resulted in severe injuries and a near-death experience. After many months of physical pain and disability, he had a transformational experience, which started him on a path to healing. If you like to know more about his work, Howard conducts “Plant Spirit Medicine” journeys to the Amazon Rainforest.

Ayahuasca Yaj Yag Caapi Vine Of The Soul Visionary Effects

By Ina Woolcott

What is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a powerful teacher and healer with frequently strong visionary effects. It is a combination of 2 plants found in the Amazon rainforests, the Banisteriopsis Caapi vine and thePsychotria Viridis (Chacruna) shrub. The vine stems are pounded and scraped and then boiled for hours, sometimes even days, along with the Chacruna leaves by shamans called ayahuasqueros (makers of Ayahuasca) or medicine men. Banisteriopsis Caapi contains various harmala alkaloids which are actually monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI’s). Taken alone, the B. Caapi would not trigger psychotropic effects, unless an extremely high concentration were taken and even then would only have a moderate effect. This is where Psychotria Viridis comes into play, a botanical source of dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Dimethyltryptamine is present in small quantities in our brains. The psychoactive tryptamines contained in DMT are inactive when administered orally, without the intervention of the MAOI in the form of B. Caapi vine. When this second ingredient is added, the DMT’s psychoactive molecules are not destroyed in the stomach. This allows them to cross the blood/brain barrier and bestow the legendary effects associated with Ayahuasca.

It is speculated that an excess of DMT opens up the pineal gland, providing extraordinary visions and a feeling of transcendence. DMT affects the pineal gland that resides deep within the brain and is the only unpaired organ in the body. At the time of birth, death and near death experiences as well as other peak experiences significant amounts of DMT are released. In large doses DMT produces visions and profound insights. Some say this is crucial for the brain to function properly and that we are DMT deficient due to the pineal shrinking and going rigid in ‘modern’ man. According to some researchers one of the main culprits of this is the use of fluoride in tap/drinking water.

The two plants compliment each and work in perfect synergy, one maximizing the benefit of the other. The resulting brew, or tea, is a magical and visionary formula which has powerful consciousness expanding properties.

Sometimes other plants and herbs are added to the Ayahuasca brew such as mapacho (a tobacco used by shamans) and brugmansia, or toé. These are the 2 most common added extras, which are used to enhance the visionary effects of the tea. There are circa 100 identified species of B. caapi to be found in the Amazon. The most common one used in Peru is Cielo Ayahuasca, as it is oftentimes called. Shamans have their own recipes; oftentimes these are secret.

Known as a teacher and healing plant, Ayahuasca works synergistically on many levels, not just biochemical, but also spiritually with many feeling an intelligent presence while under its influence. Some interpret this as a grandfather or grandmother plant spirit, or even feel this presence is reptilian or alien. Others say this is your higher self guiding you.

Related Link: Ayahuasca, Sacred Teacher Plant used by Indigenous Tribes

Plant Spirit Shamanism Pusanga The Perfume Of Love

By Ross Heaven

The quest for love unites us all. What if you could find it – and a simple perfume could help? That would be magic, wouldn’t it? Read on!

In the spiritual traditions of the Amazon in Peru, this magical perfume is called pusanga. It is a made from flowers and plants which have the power to attract to the people who wear it the things they really want. For that reason, pusanga has developed an impressive reputation as “the love medicine of the Amazon”’ because love, of course, is the thing most people do want!

HOW PERFUME ATTRACTS AND HEALS

Beautiful smells derived from flowers and herbs have always been used for healing and attracting love. Even the word ‘perfume’ comes from per fumer (Latin, ‘through smoke’), and is a reference to its ritual use in ceremonies for the gods who offer love’s blessings.

The ancient Greeks, for example, believed that sweet aromas were how the deities made their presence known. The oracle priestesses of Delphi would sit in the smoke of bay leaf incense to allow these gods to speak through them during divinations to help people in their search for love. In India, too, seers called dainyals would surround themselves with smoke – this time of cedarwood – which would send them into trance and give them prophetic visions. Fragrance has also long been associated with the arts of love. In Japan, Geisha girls priced their services according to the number of incense sticks consumed during love-making, while in Indian tantric rituals, men were anointed with sandalwood, and women with jasmine, patchouli, amber, and musk. Saffron was crushed and smeared beneath their feet.

The reason for these rituals is that smell is the most powerful of our senses and is able to stimulate desire, longing, and lust, stir our memories, and carry associations of love and happiness. Scientists have found that even a year after we meet a new person, their aroma stays in our minds, whereas visual memory drops to 50% after just three months, so we may not even remember their faces. The sense of smell is handled by the limbic system, which controls our emotions, so perfumes evoke feelings as well as memories, and we experience not just an odour but a mood.

This is the secret of pusanga. By mixing plants and flowers to create particular aromas which affect the moods of those who smell them, the shamans of the Amazon say that pusanga can cause anyone to fall hopelessly in love with the wearer. One of these shamans, Javier Aravelo, puts it this way: “When you pour pusanga onto your skin it penetrates your spirit and gives you the power to draw in love”.

How you find the right plants to do this is another secret, known as the Doctrine of Signatures. This is the idea that the Creator has left a mark or “signature” on every plant in the world to show what it is used for. The discoverer of this phenomenon was Paracelsus, a 6th century alchemist who noticed how the appearance of plants so often reflects their qualities – that the seeds of skullcap, for example, resemble small skulls and, it turns out, are effective at curing headache, or that willow, which grows in damp places, heals rheumatic conditions, which are caused by damp and the build-up of fluid on the joints.

In fact, as Thomas Bartram, a modern herbalist, remarks in his Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, “Examples are numerous. It is a curiosity that many liver remedies have yellow flowers, those for the nerves (blue), for the spleen (orange), for the bones (white). Serpentaria (Rauwolfia) resembles a snake and is an old traditional remedy for snake-bite. Herbalism confirms the Doctrine of Signatures”.

AMAZON PUSANGA Following this Doctrine, the basis for pusanga in the Amazon is agua de colpa. This is water collected from clay pools deep in the rainforest, where there are no people, only thousands of brightly-coloured animals who gather to drink from the water. Some of these animals are natural enemies, but at the clay pools they stand peacefully together to drink from water which is rich in mineral content and needed for their well-being. This water, in other words, has the power to attract some of the most beautiful creatures on the planet to a place where they exist harmoniously together.

Added to this magical water are special herbs, plants, barks, roots or leaves, which also have the quality of attraction due to their colours, names, or where and how they grow. In the rainforest, for example, there are vines called sogas, which are recognised as pusanga plants because they wrap themselves around trees and draw close to them so they grow together.

Special scented liquids, such as agua florida (which means “water for flourishing”), are also added to the mixture, which is then blessed by the shaman to empower it. This is done by blowing or singing into the pusanga, sometimes with the breath, sometimes with sacred tobacco smoke. The traditional blessing whispered to the pusanga is “salud, dinero y amor” (“health, money and love”).

Once it is made, pusanga is used like a perfume, with a few drops rubbed on the pulse points of the wrists and neck, or a capful or two can be added to bath water.

Related link for further reading: Making Your Own Pusanga

Further recommended reading of Ross Heaven:
Ross Heaven is the director of The Four Gates Foundation and the author of books on shamanism and healing. His latest is Plant Spirit Shamanism: Traditional Techniques for Healing the Soul. Ross also teaches Plant Spirit Shamanism workshops and trips to the Amazon to work with indigenous healers and plant shamans.
Details of these are available at The Four Gates