Dee Finney's blog
start date July 20, 2011
Today's date March, 1  2012


page 153



3-1-12 -  I was in a house somewhere and there was a tiny little baby girl there we were taking care of.  I put her down to sleep and let one of the other people watch her for a bit.  When I looked at her again, it looked like she might be dead, but I looked at her again, and her eyes were open so I picked her up and held her in front of me.  All of a sudden, she changed into an old man about three feet tall.

I hate it when things shape-shift in dreams so I was going to wake myself up, but the old man said, "I am a Shaman and I appreciate you for the way you treat people."  and he started making mouth movements like  he was chanting but I couldn't hear anything, so I told him, "I can't hear what you are saying,?  so his mouth stopped moving and he just sat there like a stone faced man.

I eventually woke up after staring at his unmoving ancient face for a bit.



On Shamans

(Compiled by Dee Finney)

The most distinctive spiritual specialists among indigenous peoples are the shamans. They are called by many names, but the Siberian word "shaman" is used as a generic term by scholars for those who offer themselves as mystical intermediaries between the physical and the non-physical world for specific purposes, such as healing. According to archaeological research, shamanic methods are extremely ancient- at least twenty to thirty thousand years old.

Ways of becoming a shaman and practicing shamanic arts are remarkably similar around the globe. Shamans may be helpers to society, using their skills to benefit others. (very very important). Spiritual power is neutral; its use depends on the practitioner. A shaman may thus be either a causer or healer of sickness. In either case, what Native Americans call "medicine power" does not originate in the medicine person. Shamanism is not Native American at all. The word derived from Siberia, and was used by Carlos Castenada to explain what Mexican magical people did because they had no word for magic.

Black Elk explains.......

"Of course it was not I who cured. It was the power from the outer world, and the visions and ceremonies had only made me like a hole through which the power could come to the two-legged. If I thought that I was doing it myself, the hole would close up and no power could come through"

There are many kinds of medicine. One is the ability to heal physical, psychological and spiritual problems. Techniques used include physical approaches to illness such as therapeutic herbs, dietary recommendations, sweatbathing, massage, cauterization and sucking out of toxins. But the treatments are given to the whole person --body, mind and spirit, with special emphasis on healing relationships within the group - so there may also be metaphysical divination, prayer, chanting, and ceremonies in which group power is built up and spirit helpers are called in. If an intrusion of harmful power, such as angry energy or another person, seems to be causing the problem, the medicine person may attempt to suck it out with the aid of spirit helpers, and then dry vomit the invisible intrusion into a receptacle.

These shamanic healing methods, once dismissed as quackery, are now beginning to earn respect from the scientific medical establishment. Medicine people are permitted to attend indigenous patients in some hospitals.

In addition to healing, certain shamans are thought to have gifts such as talking with plants and animals, controlling weather, seeing and communicating with the spirit world and prophesying. A gift highly developed in Africa is that of divination, using techniques such as reading patterns revealed by a casting of cowrie shells.

The role of shaman may be hereditary or it may be recognized as a special gift. Either way, training is rigorous. In order to work in a mystical state of ecstasy, moving between ordinary and non-ordinary realities, shamans may experience physical death and rebirth. Some have spontaneous near-death experiences. Uvavnuk, an Inuit shaman, was spiritually initiated when she was struck by a lightning ball. After she revived, she had great power, which she dedicated to serving her people.

"The great sea has set me in motion set me adrift,
Moving me as a the weed moves in a river
the arch of sky and mightiness of storms
have moved the spirit within me till I am carried away
trembling with joy"

Uvavnuk, Netsilik Inuit shaman

Other potential shamans undergo rituals of purification, isolation and bodily torment until they make contact with the spirit world. Igjugarjuk from northern Hudson Bay chose to suffer from cold, starvation, and thirst for a month in a tiny snow hut in order to draw the attention of Pinga, a helping female spirit.

"My novitiate took place in the middle of the coldest winter, and I, who never got anything to warm me, and must not move, was very cold, and it was so tiring having to sit without daring to lie down, that sometimes it was as if I died a little. Only towards the end of the thirty days did a helping spirit come to me, a lovely and beautiful helping spirit, whom I had never thought of; it was a white woman; she came to me whilst I had collapsed, exhausted, and was sleeping. But still I saw her lifelike, hovering over me, and from that day I could not close my eyes or dream without seeing her.... She came to me from Pinga and was a sign that Pinga had now noticed me and would give me powers that would make me a shaman."

The helping spirits that contact would-be shamans during the death and re-birth crisis become essential partners in the shamans' sacred work. Often it is a spirit animal who becomes the shaman's guardian spirit, giving him or her special powers. The shaman may even take on the persona of the animal while working. Many tribes feel that healing shamans need the power of the bear; Lapp shamans metamorphosed into wolves, reindeer, bears, or fish.

Not only do shamans often posses a power animal as an alter-ego, they also have the ability to enter parallel, spiritual realities at will in order to bring back knowledge, power or help for those who need it. An altered state of consciousness is needed. Techniques for entering this state are the same around the world: drumming, rattling, singing, dancing and in some cases hallucinogenic drugs. The effect of these influences is to open what the Huichol shamans of Mexico call the Narieka- the doorway of the heart, the channel for divine power, the point where human and spirit worlds meet. It is often experienced and represented artistically as a pattern of concentric circles.

The "journey" then experienced by shamans is typically into the Upperworld or the Lowerworld. To enter the latter, they descend mentally through an actual hole in the ground, such as a spring, a hollow tree, cave, animal burrow, or a special ceremonial hole regarded as a navel of the earth. These entrances typically lead into tunnels which if followed open into bright landscapes. Reports of such experiences include not only what the journeyer saw but also realistic physical sensations, such as how the walls of the tunnel felt during the descent.

The shaman enters into the Lowerworld landscape, encounters beings there, and may bring something back if it is needed by the client. This may be a lost guardian spirit or a lost soul, brought back to revive a person in a coma. The shaman may be temporarily possessed by the spirits of departed relatives so that an afflicted patient may finally clear up unresolved tensions with them that are seen as causing illness. Often a river must be crossed as the boundary between the of the living and the world of the dead. In West African tradition, there are three rivers separating these worlds and one must cross them by canoe. In another common variant, the journeyer crosses the underworld river on a bridge guarded by some anima. Often a kindly old man or woman appears to assist this passage through the underworld. This global shamanic process is retained only in myths, such as the Orpheus story, in cultures that have subdued the indigenous ways.


Freud believed that all dreams are significant. The less remembered or less significant the dream may seem, the more repressed the material that initiated the dream must be. All dreams use only the material from the life experiences of the dreamer. Jung, however, believed that some dreams are much more significant than others. These significant dreams may be important, not only to the dreamer, but for all human beings. And, these dreams express ideas that seem to be beyond the experience of the dreamer. They tie into what Jung called the "collective unconscious." Ideas from the collective unconscious are the materials by which myths are made and believed in. The idea that the myths come from the collective unconscious would imply the reasons for the similarities of myths in different cultures. The characters of these myths are called "archetypes."

The Archetype of the Magician

by John Granrose, Ph.D.

Diploma Thesis - C.G. Jung Institute, Zürich 1996 Thesis Advisor: Mario Jacoby Shaman

A standard definition of "shaman" begins: "among tribal peoples, a magician, medium, or healer who owes his powers to mystical communion with the spirit world." The term has been used by generations of anthropologists, especially in their descriptions of certain Siberian and native American tribes. More recently, the use of shamanistic techniques for self-discovery, personal growth and healing has been popularized by Michael Harner and others.

Clearly, a better understanding of the shaman will aid us in understanding the magician. But the exact relationship between the two is not always clear. Mircea Eliade, for example, begins his classic study of shamanism as follows:

Since the beginning of the century, ethnologists have fallen into the habit of using the terms "shaman," "medicine man," "sorcerer," and "magician" interchangeably to designate certain individuals possessing magico-religious powers and found in all "primitive" societies. ...

[But] If the word "shaman" is taken to mean any magician, sorcerer, medicine man, or ecstatic found throughout the history of religions and religious ethnology, we arrive at a notion at once extremely complex and extremely vague; it seems, furthermore, to serve no purpose, for we already have the terms "magician" or "sorcerer" ....

So it seems that the shaman is one type of magician. Or, to put in another way, the shaman expresses one aspect of the magician. How so?

Eliade continues:

Magic and magicians are to be found more or less all over the world, whereas shamanism exhibits a particular magical specialty, on which we shall later dwell at length: "mastery over fire," "magical flight," and so on. By virtue of this fact, though the shaman is, among other things, a magician, not every magician can properly be termed a shaman.

Central to shamanism as such is a belief in spirits who can help or harm human beings. The shaman typically has a special relationship to one or more such spirits (which may have singled him out in some manner which he could not refuse, usually involving an illness or psychic crisis of some kind). With the aid of his spirit "guide" or "helper," the shaman is able heal other members of his tribe by removing destructive spirits or rendering them harmless. This process usually involves the shaman

entering a trance, a special form of the abasement du novae mental which Jung so often mentioned. Trance as such is important in many forms of magic and is currently the subject of investigation in many branches of science.

In its simplest form, the world view of shamanistic tribes is one of a universe with three levels or "layers" our "middle-world" of ordinary reality plus an "upper-world" and an "under-world" of divinities and spirits. The shaman is one who has learned the techniques for journeying between these different worlds and his power to help and to heal is based on this.

But most important of all, the shaman has not learned about the spiritual world from books but through his own experience, through his own body. So when he acts or speaks he is one who "speaks with authority. As Marie-Louise von Franz writes,

In civilized societies the priest is primarily the guardian of existing collective ritual and tradition; among primitive peoples, however, the figure of the shaman is characterized by individual experience of the world of spirits (which today we call the unconscious) ...

And here we find our first intimation that this world of "spirits" and "powers" which the shaman (and magician) know and use is what we also call "the unconscious. This insight is the basis for the parallel between shaman and analyst. The magician in general is a person of power in the spiritual world (as contrasted with the power of the king or tribal chief in secular affairs). The special features of the shamanic magician is that he has undergone a certain kind of initiation into the multi-layered world of

spirits, has learned the methods of trance and soul retrieval, and has thus become, in Eliade's recurring phrase, a "technician of the sacred. Many shamanistic techniques are very widespread, for example, the shaman's use of the drum to create the rhythmic beat conducive to trance or the practice of dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex to foster contrasexual powers. While not all magicians are of this shamanistic type, we clearly see one aspect of the magician here. Moreover, the special characteristics of the shaman are related to the approach which Jung took to his own analytic work:

... the main interest of my work is not concerned with the treatment of neurosis, but rather with the approach to the numinous. But the fact is that the approach to the numinous is the real therapy, and inasmuch as you attain to the numinous experience, you are released from the curse of pathology. Even the very disease takes on a numinous character.

Jung himself has been described as "a modern shaman if I have ever met one. And another writer on shamanism said of Jung: "All he lacked was the drum." Finally, there is a story that when Marie-Louise von Franz once remarked to Jung that he was like a shaman, he replied, "Well, that's nothing to be ashamed of. It is an honour."

I quote from Shamanic Voices by Joan Halifax, PH.D

Shamans are healers, seers, and visionaries who have mastered death. They are in communication with the world of gods and spirits. Their bodes are left behind while they fly to unearthly realms. They are poets and singers. They dance and create works of art. They are not only spiritual leaders but also judges and politicians, the repositories of the knowledge of the culture's history, both sacred and secular. They are familiar with cosmic as well as physical geography, the ways of plants, animals, and the elements are known to them. They are psychologists, entertainers, and food finders. Above all, however, shamans are technicians of the sacred and masters of ecstasy.

The shaman's voice, whether raised in song or chant, echoing the ancient stories of a mythological past, or narrating a personal account of trance, initiation, or healing, is the carrying frequency for the timeless symbols that characterize this most archaic of sacred manifestations. In the voice of the shaman-narrator, other voices can frequently be heard, the voices of gods and ancestors or the shadowy spirits of the dead, the voice of the mushrooms, the songs of creatures and the elements, the numinous sounds of the far-off stars, or echoes of the underworld. It is only these visionaries who can transmit to us the totality of their ecstatic lifeway.

Ultimately, to understand shamanism in even the most rudimentary way, it is necessary to listen closely to shamans as they communicate about their lives. It is the shaman who weaves together the ordinary world that is lived in and the philosophical image of the cosmos that is thought of. Human existence, suffering, and death are rendered by shamans into a system of philosophical, psychological, spiritual, and sociological symbols that institutes a moral order by resolving ontological paradoxes and dissolving existential barriers, thus eliminating the most painful and unpleasant aspects of human life. The perfection of the timeless past, the paradise of a mythological era, is an existential potential in the present. And the shaman, through sacred action, communicates this potential to all.

Links to Other Shamanic Sites

Dance of the Deer Foundation

Joseph Bearwalker Wilson's Shamanic Homepage
Shamanic how to articles, advice, information, and links to other sites.

Shamanism Working With Animal Spirits
Learn the wisdom of over 75 animal spirits. The only site with an Orca as webmaster and a Peacock as award giver.

Trance - Action Consultants
A Training Center offering courses in Personal & Spiritual growth, NLP, Hypnotherapy, Hawaiian Shamanic Traditions. Transformation Through Personal Growth.

Welcome To The Celtic Shaman Homepage!

Howard Rheingold's Tomorrow: Shaman Pharmaceuticals

The Sound of Rushing Water

Wisdom of White Apache the Shaman

Why Study Plants?


Francesca's Wiccan & Faerie Grimoire

Paper Ships - Native American / Indigenous Cultures

DreamThread InterActive ~ Personalized Dream Interpretation...

Welcome to Thunder Medicine

School of Wisdom: Home Page

Tibet Maps & Images

Wild Earth -- Testimonials

Shamanism General-Overview Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Faerie Tradition and the 3rd Road

Shamanism (play /ˈʃɑːmən/ SHAH-mən or /ˈʃmən/ SHAY-mən) is an anthropological term for a range of beliefs and practices relating to communication with the spirit world.[2] A shaman is a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits, who typically enters a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing.[3]

Mircea Eliade writes, "A first definition of this complex phenomenon, and perhaps the least hazardous, will be: shamanism = "technique of religious ecstasy".[4] Shamanism encompasses the belief that shamans are intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds. Shamans are said to treat ailments/illness by mending the soul. Alleviating traumas affecting the soul/spirit restores the physical body of the individual to balance and wholeness.

The shaman also enters supernatural realms or dimensions to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community. Shamans may visit other worlds/dimensions to bring guidance to misguided souls and to ameliorate illnesses of the human soul caused by foreign elements. The shaman operates primarily within the spiritual world, which in turn affects the human world. The restoration of balance results in the elimination of the ailment.[4]

The term "shaman" is a loan from the Turkic word šamán, the term for such a practitioner,,which also gained currency in the wider Turko-Mongol and Tungusic cultures in ancient Siberia.[5] Shamans were known as "priests" in the region of where Uralic languages, Turkic, or Mongolic languages are spoken.[6]

[edit] Initiation and learning

Shamans are normally "called" by dreams or signs which require lengthy training, however, shamanic powers maybe be inherited.

Turner and colleagues[7] mention a phenomenon called shamanistic initiatory crisis. A rite of passage for shamans-to-be, commonly involving physical illness and/or psychological crisis. The significant role of initiatory illnesses in the calling of a shaman can be found in the detailed case history of Chuonnasuan, the last master shaman among the Tungus peoples in Northeast China.[8]

The wounded healer is an archetype for a shamanizing journey. This process is important to the young shaman. S/he undergoes a type of sickness that pushes her or him to the brink of death. This happens for two reasons:

  1. The shaman crosses over to the under world. This happens so the shaman can venture to its depths to bring back vital information for the sick, and the tribe.
  2. The shaman must become sick to understand sickness. When the shaman overcomes her or his own sickness s/he will hold the cure to heal all that suffer. This is the uncanny mark of the wounded healer.[9]

The shaman's social role is usually defined by the obligations, actions and responsibilities expected of them within their individual cultures.

South Moluccan Shaman exorcising evil spirits occupying children, Buru. 1920.

Shamans gain knowledge and the power to heal by entering into the spiritual world or dimension. Most shamans have dreams or visions that tell them certain things. The shaman may have or acquire many spirit guides, who often guide and direct the shaman in his/her travels in the spirit world. These spirit guides are always present within the shaman though others only encounter them when the shaman is in a trance. The spirit guide energizes the shaman, enabling him/her to enter the spiritual dimension. The shaman heals within the spiritual dimension by returning 'lost' parts of the human soul from wherever they have gone. The shaman also cleanses excess negative energies which confuse or pollute the soul.[citation needed]

Shamans act as mediators in their culture.[10][11] The shaman communicates with the spirits on behalf of the community, including the spirits of the deceased. The shaman communicates with both living and dead to alleviate unrest, unsettled issues, and to deliver gifts to the spirits. Shamans assist in soul retrieval. In shamanism it is believed that part of the human soul is free to leave the body. The soul is the axis mundi, the center of the shamanic healing arts. Shamans change their state of consciousness allowing their free soul to travel and retrieve ancient wisdom and lost power.

Because a portion of the soul is free to leave the body it will do so when dreaming, or it will leave the body to protect itself from potentially damaging situations, be they emotional or physical. In situations of trauma the soul piece may not return to the body on its own, and a shaman must intervene and return the soul essence.

Among the Selkups, the sea duck is a spirit animal because ducks fly in the air and dive in the water. Thus ducks belong to both the upper world and the world below.[12] Among other Siberian peoples these characteristics are attributed to water fowl in general.[13] Among many Native Americans, the jaguar is a spirit animal because jaguars walk on earth, swim in water, and climb in trees. Thus jaguars belong to all three worlds, Sky, Earth, and Underworld.

Shamans perform a variety of functions depending upon their respective cultures;[14] healing,[15][16] leading a sacrifice,[17] preserving the tradition by storytelling and songs,[18] fortune-telling,[19] and acting as a psychopomp (literal meaning, "guide of souls").[20] A single shaman may fulfill several of these functions.[14]

The functions of a shaman may include either guiding to their proper abode the souls of the dead (which may be guided either one-at-a-time or in a cumulative group, depending on culture), and/or curing (healing) of ailments. The ailments may be either purely physical afflictions—such as disease, which may be cured by gifting, flattering, threatening, or wrestling the disease-spirit (sometimes trying all these, sequentially), and which may be completed by displaying a supposedly extracted token of the disease-spirit (displaying this, even if "fraudulent", is supposed to impress the disease-spirit that it has been, or is in the process of being, defeated, so that it will retreat and stay out of the patient's body) --, or else mental (including psychosomatic) afflictions—such as persistent terror (on account of a frightening experience), which may be likewise cured by similar methods. Usually in most languages a different term other than the one translated "shaman" is applied to a religious official leading sacrificial rites ("priest"), or to a raconteur ("sage") of traditional lore; there may be more of an overlap in functions (with that of a shaman), however, in the case of an interpreter of omens or of dreams.

There are distinct types of shaman who perform more specialized functions. For example, among the Nani people, a distinct kind of shaman acts as a psychopomp.[21] Other specialized shamans may be distinguished according to the type of spirits, or realms of the spirit world, with which the shaman most commonly interacts. These roles vary among the Nenets, Enets, and Selkup shaman (paper;[22] online[23]). Among the Huichol,[24] there are two categories of shaman. This demonstrates the differences among shamans within a single tribe.

Among the Hmong people, the shaman or the Ntxiv Neej (Tee-Neng), acts as healer. The Ntxiv Neej also performs rituals/ceremonies designed to call the soul back from its many travels to the physical human body. A Ntxiv Neej may use several shamanistic tools such as swords, divinity horns, a gong (drum), or finger bells/jingles. All tools serve to protect the spirits from the eyes of the unknown, thus enabling the Ntxiv Neej to deliver souls back to their proper owner. The Ntxiv Neej may wear a white, red, or black veil to disguise the soul from its attackers in the spiritual dimension.

Boundaries between the shaman and laity are not always clearly defined. Among the Barasana of Brazil, there is no absolute difference between those men recognized as shamans and those who are not. At the lowest level, most adult men have abilities as shamans and will carry out the same functions as those men who have a widespread reputation for their powers and knowledge. The Barasana shaman knows more myths and understands their meaning better, nonetheless the majority of adult men also know many myths.[25]

Among Eskimo peoples the laity have experiences which are commonly attributed to the shamans of those Eskimo groups. Daydream, reverie, and trance are not restricted to shamans.[26] Control over helping spirits is the primary characteristic attributed to shamans. The laity usually employ amulets, spells, formulas, songs.[26][27] Among the Greenland Inuit, the laity have greater capacity to relate with spiritual beings. These people are often apprentice shamans who failed to complete their initiations.[28]

The assistant of an Oroqen shaman (called jardalanin, or "second spirit") knows many things about the associated beliefs. He or she accompanies the rituals and interprets the behavior of the shaman.[29] Despite these functions, the jardalanin is not a shaman. For this interpretative assistant, it would be unwelcome to fall into trance.[30]

[edit] Gender and sexuality

Recent archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest known shamans—dating to the Upper Paleolithic era in what is now the Czech Republic—were women.[31]

Shamans may exhibit a two-spirit identity, assuming the dress, attributes, role or function of the opposite sex, gender fluidity and/or same-sex sexual orientation. This practice is common, and found among the Chukchi, Sea Dayak, Patagonians, Araucanians, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Navajo, Pawnee, Lakota, and Ute, as well as many other Native American tribes. Indeed, these two-spirited shamans were so widespread as to suggest a very ancient origin of the practice. See, for example, Joseph Campbell's map in his The Historical Atlas of World Mythology [Vol I: The Way of the Animal Powers: Part 2: p. 174] Such two-spirit shamans are thought to be especially powerful, and Shamanism so important to ancestral populations that it may have contributed to the maintenance of genes for transgendered individuals in breeding populations over evolutionary time through the mechanism of "kin selection". [see final chapter of E.O. Wilson's "Sociobiology: The New Synthesis] They are highly respected and sought out in their tribes, as they will bring high status to their mates.

Duality and bisexuality are also found in the shamans of Burkina Faso (Africa). References to this can be found in several works of Malidoma Somé, a writer who was born and initiated there.

[edit] Ecological aspect

Resources for human consumption are easily depletable in tropical rainforests. Among the Tucano people, a sophisticated system exists for environmental resources management and for avoiding resource depletion through overhunting. This system is conceptualized mythologically and symbolically by the belief that breaking hunting restrictions may cause illness. As the primary teacher of tribal symbolism, the shaman may have a leading role in this ecological management, actively restricting hunting and fishing. The shaman is able to "release" game animals, or their souls, from their hidden abodes.[32][33] The Piaroa people have ecological concerns related to shamanism.[34] Among the Eskimo, shamans fetch the souls of game from remote places,[35][36] or soul travel to ask for game from mythological beings like the Sea Woman.[37]

[edit] Economics

The way shamans get sustenance and take part in everyday life varies among cultures. In many Inuit groups, they provide services for the community and get a "due payment" (cultures[who?] believe the payment is given to the helping spirits[38]), but these goods are only "welcome addenda." They are not enough to enable shamanizing as a full-time activity. Shamans live like any other member of the group, as hunter or housewife.[38][28]

[edit] Beliefs

There are many variations of shamanism throughout the world, but several common beliefs are shared by all forms of shamanism. Common beliefs identified by Eliade (1972)[4] are the following:

Shamanism is based on the premise that the visible world is pervaded by invisible forces or spirits which affect the lives of the living.[39] Although the causes of disease lie in the spiritual realm, inspired by malicious spirits or witchcraft, both spiritual and physical methods are used to heal. Commonly, a shaman "enters the body" of the patient to confront the spiritual infirmity and heals by banishing the infectious spirit.

Many shamans have expert knowledge of medicinal plants native to their area, and an herbal treatment is often prescribed. In many places shamans learn directly from the plants, harnessing their effects and healing properties, after obtaining permission from the indwelling or patron spirits. In the Peruvian Amazon Basin, shamans and curanderos use medicine songs called icaros to evoke spirits. Before a spirit can be summoned it must teach the shaman its song.[39] The use of totemic items such as rocks with special powers and an animating spirit is common.

Such practices are presumably very ancient. Plato wrote in his Phaedrus that the "first prophecies were the words of an oak", and that those who lived at that time found it rewarding enough to "listen to an oak or a stone, so long as it was telling the truth".

Belief in witchcraft and sorcery, known as brujería in Latin America, exists in many societies. These distinguish shamans who cure from sorcerers who harm. Other societies assert all shamans have the power to both cure and kill. Shamanic knowledge usually enjoys great power and prestige in the community,[citation needed] but it may also be regarded suspiciously or fearfully as potentially harmful to others.

By engaging in their work, a shaman is exposed to significant personal risk, from the spirit world, from enemy shamans, or from the means employed to alter the shaman's state of consciousness. Shamanic plant materials can be toxic or fatal if misused. Failure to return from an out-of-body journey can lead to death. Spells are commonly used to protect against these dangers, and the use of more dangerous plants is often very highly ritualized.

[edit] Soul and spirit concepts

The variety of functions described above may seem like distinct tasks, but they may be united by underlying soul and spirit concepts.

This concept can generally explain more, seemingly unassociated phenomena in shamanism:[40][41][42]
This concept may be based closely on the soul concepts of the belief system of the people served by the shaman (online[15]). It may consist of retrieving the lost soul of the ill person.[43] See also the soul dualism concept.
Scarcity of hunted game
This problem can be solved by "releasing" the souls of the animals from their hidden abodes. Besides that, many taboos may prescribe the behavior of people towards game, so that the souls of the animals do not feel angry or hurt, or the pleased soul of the already killed prey can tell the other, still living animals, that they can allow themselves to be caught and killed.[44][45] For the ecological aspects of shamanistic practice, and related beliefs, see below.
Infertility of women
This problem can be cured by obtaining the soul of the expected child.
Beliefs related to spirits can explain many different phenomena.[46] For example, the importance of storytelling, or acting as a singer, can be understood better if we examine the whole belief system. A person who can memorize long texts or songs, and play an instrument, may be regarded as the beneficiary of contact with the spirits (eg. Khanty people).[47]

[edit] Practice

Generally, the shaman traverses the axis mundi and enters the spirit world by effecting a transition of consciousness, entering into an ecstatic trance, either autohypnotically or through the use of entheogens. The methods employed are diverse, and are often used together. Methods for effecting such trances are


NOTE FROM DEE:  in the above article, it states that the shaman goes to the underworld to get his information.  Perhaps that's what they did in the ancient times, and certain drug users still do that, but I don't ever advise anyone to go to an underworld place to get god advice.  There are too many spiritual world's above the physical that are more benevolent toward humanity and thats where one should go for advbice.



COLEUS PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawrence Young
Thursday, 11 March 2010 00:00


When psilocybin mushrooms are in short supply, and users are willing to settle for a milder but similar mind excursion, they sometimes turn to the coleus plant, particularly the species Coleus blumei and Coleus pumila. The Mazatec Indians of southern Mexico have been tripping on this psychedelic mint for years:

It takes about fifty to seventy large, colorful leaves of the coleus plant to get someone going. They can be chewed thoroughly and swallowed. If one prefers, the leaves can also be smoked and steeped in lukewarm water for about an hour, after which the liquid is strained and drunk.

No one is exactly sure what gives coleus its psychoactive kick, but we do know that only fresh leaves will work. Dried leaves have virtually no effect.

While the drug has no really unpleasant or dangerous side effects, some people do feel a degree of nausea about a half hour after. getting it down. But the nausea goes away quickly and' is soon replaced by a trippy, psilocybin-like state, colorful 'visual hallucinations and patterns, and -telepathic and clairvoyant insights. The entire trip lasts for about two hours.

Coleus plants can be purchased legally at most garden centers. Those with green thumbs, who aren't too stoned to exercise them, might purchase some seeds to grow their own.

Last Updated on Monday, 03 January 2011 22:35



Ayahuasca Visions

Excerpted from Visionary Vine: Hallucinogenic healing in the Peruvian Amazon, by Marlene Dobkin de Rios. 1972, Waveland Press

In the year that I worked in Belén, I spoke to many people about ayahuasca and its effects. Listening to scores of informants talk about their experience while taking the hallucinogen was very informative, but after a couple of months this became somewhat repetitious. The same kinds of visions kept occurring time after time, as former patients would describe jungle creatures such as boa constrictors and viperous snakes that appeared before them under ayahuasca. For the most part, after a certain confidence had been established among informants, details of illnesses suffered and their magical origin would be related as the reason for seeking a healer's help.

Under the effects of the drug, a screen full of visions would appear to the person, often much more exciting than the occasional movie he might attend in the city. Although some claimed not to have received any visions under their particular ayahuasca experience, most did have things to relate. Both river and jungle animals would fill the mind's eye. Many people would claim to see the person or persons who were responsible for bewitching them.

Some would report a panorama of activity, in which a person would express his innermost thoughts toward the patient, such as sexual desire, vengeance or hate, and then proceed to manufacture some medicine to throw over their threshold or perhaps slip unnoticed into a drink. Sometimes symbols would be reported, rather than panoramic action. One woman spoke of a church and a white veil that she saw in a sort of staccato vision, which represented to her how a rejected suitor wanted her to leave her husband and children to run off and get married. At times, a person would report seeing someone sneak up to their house at night to slip an evil potion across the threshold. At other times, someone might appear in a vision laughing sardonically at the man or woman whom they were causing to be bewitched. In other cases, a totally unknown man or woman would appear before a person in an ayahuasca vision. However, in all cases it was the job of the experienced ayahuasquero to interpret his patients' visions so as to clarify the cause of their illness. Quite often, people would say that their healer, while under the effects of the drug, would tell them he saw the person responsible for their misfortune, but would not say who it was. It was left for their own drug experience to bring forth this information. Through this kind of suggestion, the patient would be brought to a pitch of expectation. It is not difficult to imagine how affective need would be expressed by a particular vision or illusion stimulated by the drug.

When an unknown person appears before a patient, it becomes the healer's job to decide his identity. Many people, however, see members of their family or else people with whom they may be having personal difficulties appear before them, including neighbors, ex-spouses, in-laws, a rejected lover, and so on. If only part of a person is seen in profile, or a turned back or shoulder view, the healer once again is called upon to interpret this vision. The type of vision that is reported by a person may at times depend upon the rhythm of the songs the healer sings. A stacatto beat may bring forth many fleeting momentary visions, while slower songs may be used for more prolonged visionary experiences, such as the ones used to identify evildoers.

The many visions of snakes and boas reported by patients are used by healers to effect cures. It is widely believed that a snake (called in Spanish, culebra) is the mother spirit of the drug. Many herbs and medicines found in nature are believed to have protective spirits which watch over their plant's use and are jealous guardians. Such spirits on occasion must be propitiated when their plant is cut down or removed by man from the jungle confines.

Some fishermen and hunters in Belén who regularly bring psychedelics back from the heart of the jungle to supply some of the ayahuasca healers in Iquitos leave offerings of tobacco and food under the tree when they cut off the woody vine. People often talk about the spirits of these plants as jealous guardians who must be given special attention. Ayahuasca is no exception here, and dietary prescriptions stressed again and again are justified by the jealous nature of the plant. It is for this reason that salt, sweets, and lard must be avoided by ayahuasca users for at least a twenty-four hour period preceding and following the use of the purge. At times, sexual abstinence may also be requested by the healer.

The mother spirit of ayahuasca may transform herself into an animate creature such as a princess, a queen, or any one of many different fantasy forms. This is done to find out if the person who takes the purge is strong or fearful. Strength is generally thought of in terms of self-domination, of not losing control of oneself under the effects of ayahuasca, nor screaming in fear as jungle creatures fill one's visions. For example, a commonly reported vision is that a very large snake enters the circle around which a person is seated in the jungle or else enters a room where one is taking ayahuasca. If the patient is not frightened by this creature, the snake begins to teach the person his song.

In a good session, a certain moment will arrive when everyone who is under the effects of the drug begins to sing a series of songs at the same time as they are visited by the snake in their visions. A frightening vision is often described in which a boa enters the patient's mouth. Often identified as the Yacumama of folklore, these boa constrictors in everyday jungle life are enough to cause horror to the most stout-hearted person. Although poisonless, such a creature measures over twenty-five feet long and one foot wide. Its force is prodigious, and people say it can eat animals of great size. If a person is able to remain cool and not panic, this is a sign that he will be cured. As the boa enters one's body, it is a further omen to the man or woman with such expectations that he will be protected by the ayahuasca spirit. As with don Federico, many healers prepare their patients for the drug experience by discussing such common visions. Expectation among the Cholos, at least, is great that such snakes will appear before them.

In the West, when we read reports of hallucinogenic drug experiences, we don't generally find similar kinds of visionary experience reported as we do in the rain forest. Cultural expectations connected with the use of a hallucinogen such as ayahuasca must be seen as the explanation for the recurrence of the similarity in types of visions. Although I spoke to many people who had never taken ayahuasca, most adults would comment in great detail about points of information concerning the vine, which could later be verified with healers or former patients. The presence of beliefs and expectations of these people vis-a-vis the drug's action must be seen as influencing the similarities reported in the actual drug experience.

This occurs not only among the urban poor, but with primitive use of ayahuasca as well. One recent study of the use of the psychedelic vine among the Cashinahua Indians of Peru by Kensinger (1970), found a certain frequency of occurrence and a high degree of similarity in the content of particular hallucinations. Kensinger's informants reported brightly colored large snakes, jaguars, and ocelots, spirits of ayahuasca, large trees often falling, lakes often filled with anacondas and alligators, traders and their goods, and gardens. All quite frequently were reported with a sense of motion. Certainly, other factors of interest to most drug researchers enter the picture here, such as the personality and past experience of the person taking the substance, the setting in which the drug is taken, the dosage level and so on. However, cultural variables must be stressed once again as a primary aspect of drug use.

When reports made my Europeans and Americans who have taken ayahuasca are compared to jungle populations, some interesting contrasts emerge. The following are some brief descriptions of experiences under ayahuasca tat Westerners, lacking a cultural tradition of drug use have described for ayahuasca or its alkaloids. My own experience with the vine has been included in these accounts.

Richard Spruce: A British botanist from Yorkshire, Spruce traveled throughout the Amazon and its tributaries from 1849 to 1864. He made extensive collections of South American flora and was the first modern investigator to identify ayahuasca in 1851, although his materials were published posthumously. Actually, the geographer Villavicencio wrote of the vine in his Geography of Ecuador, which appeared in 1858. Spruce observed the used of the liana among the Tukanoan tribes of the Uaupes River in the Brazilian Amazon. He wrote of the caapi-drinking ceremony as follows:

I had gone with the full intention of experimenting the caapi myself, but I had scarcely dispatched one cup of the nauseous beverage, which is but half the dose, when the ruler of the feast . . . came up with a woman bearing a large calabash of caxiri (mandioca beer), of which I must need take a copious draught, and as I know the mode of its preparation, it was gulped down with secret loathing. Scarcely had I accomplished this feat, when a large cigar 2 feet long and as thick as the wrist was put lighted into my hand, and etiquette demanded that I should take a few whiffs of it--I who had never in my life smoked a cigar or a pipe of tobacco. Above all this, I must drink a large cup of palm wine, and it will readily be understood that the effect of such a complex dose was a strong inclination to vomit, which was only overcome by lying down in a hammock and drinking a cup of coffee. (Cited in Schultes 1970, p. 26).
We can see from the above that Spruce did not describe very many details of his own experience, except of course, some interesting side comments on his disgust with native alcoholic intoxicants.

Michael J. Harner: An American anthropologist trained at the University of California at Berkeley, Dr. Harner is now a professor of anthropology at the New School for Social Research in New York. He went to study the Jivaro Indians of the Ecuadorian Amazon in 1956-1957. During the first year that Dr. Harner worked among the Jivaro, he didn't appreciate the psychological impact of the natema or ayahuasca drink upon the native view of reality. The drink itself has many names in different parts of the Amazon-called yagé or yajé in Colombia, ayahuasca in Peru and parts of Ecuador, and caapi in Brazil. The Jivaro are among the best known Amazonian group to use this preparation in crossing over to the supernatural world at will to deal with the forces they believe influence and even determine the events of waking life. In 1961 Dr. Harner returned to the Ecuadorian Amazon and was able to drink the hallucinogenic brew in the course of fieldwork with another Upper Amazon Basin tribe.

For several hours after drinking the brew, Harner found himself, although awake, in a world literally beyond his wildest dreams. He met bird-headed people as well as dragon-like creatures who explained that they were the true gods of this world. He enlisted the services of other spirit helpers in attempting to fly through the far reaches of the Galaxy. He found himself transported into a trance where the supernatural seemed natural and realized that anthropologists, including himself, had profoundly underestimated the importance of the drug in affecting native ideology.

In 1964, Dr. Harner returned to the Jivaro and studied the shamanistic use of the plant. An article he published in 1968 in Natural History reproduces drawings of one Jivaro shaman, who drew figures of what he saw while under the influence of the powerful natema. Snakes, devils of the Christian religion and jaguars were some of the things he saw.

Chilean Psychiatric Patients: The Chilean psychiatrist, Claudio Naranjo, administered one of the three major alkaloids of ayahuasca, called harmaline, to a population of thirty volunteers in Santiago under controlled conditions. The reactions of these persons are interesting to examine. Physical sensations accompanied the drug experience, with a sense of numbness of the hands or feet generally present. Distortions of body image were only rarely encountered, while subjects indicated isolated physical symptoms such as pressure in the head, discomfort in the chest or enhancement of sensations such as breathing or blinking. Eighteen of the volunteers reported dizziness or general malaise, which tended to appear or disappear throughout the session.

As far as perception was concerned, rarely were distortions of forms, alterations in the sense of depth or changes in the expression of faces part of the drug's effect. Naranjo found that with harmaline, the environment remains essentially unchanged, both in regard to its formal and aesthetic qualities. With eyes open, the most often reported phenomenon was the superposition of images on surfaces such as walls or ceiling. Or else imaginary scenes would be viewed simultaneously along with an undistorted perception of surrounding objects. Such imagery, however, was not usually taken to be "reality." Some people described lightning-like flashes.

When the subject's eyes were closed, colors were predominantly red-green or blue-orange contrasts. Among his middle-class urban Chilean volunteers, Naranjo reported the occurrence of certain themes such as felines, Negroes, and flying. More than half the subjects reported buzzing sounds in their heads.

When he gave his patients mescaline at a later date and compared the two sets of reports, he found that harmaline effected emotional activity less than mescaline. Thinking, too, was affected only in subtle ways, if at all. Naranjo found visions his patients concerned with religious or philosophical problems under harmaline's effects. The typical reaction could be said to be a closed-eye contemplation of vivid imagery without further effect than wonder and interest in its significance. The psychiatrist concluded that this was quite in contrast to the ecstatic heavens or dreadful hells of other hallucinogens. Interestingly enough, although harmaline had a lesser effect on the intensity of feelings, it did cause qualitative changes in emotions. In Naranjo's opinion, this may have accounted for the pronounced amelioration of neurotic symptoms which eight of the thirty subjects evidenced.

Desire to communicate was found to be slight under the effects of harmaline. Other persons were felt to be part of the external world and such contact was avoided. Some of Naranjo's subjects felt that certain scenes which they saw had really happened, with their own disembodied presence bearing witness to them in a different time and place. He saw this to match the experience reported for South American shamans who take ayahuasca for purposes of divination. In further animal experimentations Naranjo did with harmaline, he found complex brain modification which permitted him to conclude that the neurophysiological picture matches that of the traditional ayahuasca dreaming often reported, in that the states he described involved lethargy, immobility, closed eyes and generalized withdrawal from the environment. At the same time there was an alertness to mental processes and an activation of fantasy.

Alien Ginsberg: The well-known poet Alien Ginsberg and the writer William S. Burroughs corresponded about the powerful psychedelic vine. Burroughs' early letters to Ginsberg in 1951 described his picaresque search for the mind-expanding drug, known in Colombia as yagé. Some seven years later, Ginsberg wrote to Burroughs about his own experience with ayahuasca in Pucallpa, Peru. Excerpts from the following letter published in Yagé Letters, is dated June 10, 1960:

... the first time, much stronger than the drink I had in Lima, Ayahuasca, can be bottled and transported and stay strong, as long as it does not ferment--needs well closed bottle. Drank a cup-slightly fermented also--lay back and after an hour . . . began seeing or feeling what I thought was the Great Being, or some sense of It, approaching my mind like a big wet vagina--lay back in that for a while--only image I can come up with is of a big black hole of God-Nose through which I peered into a mystery--and the black hole surrounded by all creation particularly colored snakes--all real.

I felt somewhat like what this image represents, the sense of it so real. The eye is imaginary image, to give life to the picture. Also a great feeling of pleasantness in my body, no nausea. Lasted in different phases about 2 hours--the effects wore off after 3-the phantasy itself lasted from 3/4 of hour after I drink to 21 hours later more or less.

Ginsberg also describes a second experience as follows:
... then lay down expecting God knows what other pleasant vision and then I began to get high--and then the whole fucking Cosmos broke loose around me, I think the strongest and worst I've ever had it nearly (I still reserve the Harlem experiences, being Natural, in abeyance. The LSD was Perfection but didn't get me so deep in nor so horribly in)--First I began to realize my worry about the mosquitoes or vomiting was silly as there was the great stake of life and Death--I felt faced by Death, my skull in my beard on pallet and porch rolling back and forth and settling finally as if in reproduction of the last physical move I make before settling into real death--got nauseous, rushed out and began vomiting, all covered with snakes, like a Snake Seraph, colored serpents in aureole all around my body, I felt like a snake vomiting out the universe ...
Ginsberg's visions continued with spectral rays around the hut in which he was taking ayahuasca. Although the crooning of the maestro was comforting, he was frightened and lay there with waves of fear rolling over him. He resigned himself to whatever fate was in store, after a thorough examination of his soul. He feared he would go mad, he wrote, if he took yagé again, although he had plans to go upriver on a six-hour journey to take ayahuasca again with an Indian group.

Richard Evans Schultes: An eminent American botanist and world authority on narcotic and stimulating plants, Dr. Schultes is now director of the Harvard Botanical Museum. He spent fourteen years from 1941 to 1954 living with various Indian groups of the South American Amazon, and has identified many little-known hallucinogenic plants. He became interested in Spruce's work on South America and retraced most of his itinerary, re-collecting many of the plants that Spruce originally found in that area. Schultes' list of publications is enormous: he has worked in areas from Mexico to Brazil. Editor of the prestigious journal, Economic Botany, Dr. Schultes has spent much of his botanical career in helping to clarify taxonomic problems connected with the ayahuasca vine. Like other scientists in the field of botany, psychiatry and medicine, Schultes prefers not to take anyone's word that a particular plant can cause a particular effect. Whenever possible, he has taken preparations in ritual settings along with his informants.

In discussing his own Banisteriopsis experience, he mentions that it is often difficult to describe an ayahuasca intoxication since the effects of the alkaloid harmine, apparently the prime psychoactive agent, does react variably from one person to another. Moreover, methods of preparing the plant differ from area to area and admixtures can alter the effects of the drink's principal ingredient.

Dr. Schultes summarizes his own experiences as follows:

"... The intoxication began with a feeling of giddiness and nervousness, soon followed by nausea, occasional vomiting and profuse perspiration. Occasionally, the vision was disturbed by flashes of light and upon closing the eyes, a bluish haze sometimes appeared. A period of abnormal lassitude then set in during which colors increased in intensity. Sooner or later a deep sleep interrupted by dream-like sequence began. The only after-effect noticed was intestinal upset and diarrhea on the following day".
Marlene Dobkin de Rios: When I spent three months in 1967 studying mescaline healing in the Peruvian coast, I observed several ritual sessions where I was invited to drink the hallucinogenic potion. Yet, although it was readily available to me, I must admit that I was frightened, in fact horrified to imagine all the terrible things that self-knowledge might bring me. Sure as I was that I was harboring all sorts of incurable neuroses within, I hesitated and decided not to try the San Pedro brew. Many rationalizations sprung to mind--time was short and I might have bad side-effects. What would I do if the after effects were so severe that I couldn't continue my work? I felt alone, and what would happen if my self-protective shield was knocked over? And so, despite the kindly offers of my informants and the healers I visited, I resolved not to try the mescaline cactus.

When I returned home and wrote up my field experiences about San Pedro use, it seemed as though I had somehow missed the point. In October 1967, I was invited to participate in a conference sponsored by the R. Bucke Society in Montreal, Canada. Bucke was a Canadian psychiatrist who coined the term cosmic consciousness. The society which bore his name was concerned with religious and mystical states in which Bucke showed much interest, despite the general disdain and scorn such matters still hold for many serious scientists.

At the meeting, after listening to various participants discuss some aspect of the question, "Do Psychedelic Drugs have Religious Significance?", I realized that the reality I reported on was quite a different one than that of people who used such substances for mystical or religious purposes. By the time I returned to Peru in June of 1968 to begin my ayahuasca study, I sensed that if I were ever to go beyond the detachment that I had so carefully cultivated, I would have to take ayahuasca myself.

Yet, as the months passed and opportunities presented themselves to try ayahuasca, I still managed to avoid the experience. Finally, the time approached for me to leave Iquitos to participate in a symposium on "Hallucinogens and Shamanism" which was to be held at the American Anthropological Association's annual meeting in Seattle, Washington. I knew that I would be addressing a large group of my colleagues about a substance which in truth, I had to admit I knew very little. Although I had been collecting data for almost five months on ayahuasca, it was really just hearsay evidence. I often had the smug feeling that I was the only sane person in an insane world.

Resolved then finally to take the purge, I decided first to take advantage of the availability of a small dose of 100 micrograms of LSD, which my colleague and I originally planned to give to the healers we worked with at the end of our study. Unfortunately, this plan did not materialize, as legal production of such substances was terminated. Nonetheless, I was able to take the LSD at home under medical supervision, albeit in the comfort of my Iquitos house, surrounded by the music I liked, with a friend as company and in the presence of paintings, folk art, and flowers. Two weeks later I took an unknown dose of ayahuasca mixed with chacruna (probably containing DMT) under the supervision of don Antonio. My experience with LSD was simply one of the most aesthetically rewarding experiences I have ever had in my life. Accompanied by eighteenth century harp music which seemed endless in its reception, I could not really describe the aesthetic dimensions of the fast-moving kaleideoscopic visions, although many medieval images probably invoked by the quality of the music filled my vision. As the height of these pseudo-illusions lessened, I found myself discussing who I was, what I was doing, what I wanted from life, what life meant to me, and a series of questions that I hadn't been concerned with since I was a teenager. I might point out that at the beginning of the session, upon the advice of a friend, I decided to ponerme en bianco--or simply, to flow with the force of the experience. From my readings about drug experiments, I knew that a common feature of the "bad trip" was the resistance that a person might offer in attempting to hold back or try to control the drug's effects.

When I took ayahuasca, the previous LSD experience stood me in good stead in that my book-learned expectations had been replaced by the real thing. It was with enthusiastic expectation that I met don Antonio one Monday night, along with my colleague, to take the ayahuasca brew that had been prepared for me.

That evening in Belén, Antonio was even busier than usual, attending to the many patients who came to him to be exorcised or treated for assorted ailments. I sat patiently for over an hour, chatting with my colleague, Dr. Rios, who had just returned from a brief trip to Lima. He was full of details about the people we knew. Finally, Antonio led us through a maze of houses to a distant reach of Venecia. where a friend of his allowed him to use his floating balsa house for our session. Two other people were present, but I paid very little attention to them in my nervousness. We got comfortably seated on the floor of the house, and Antonio passed the potion around. I noticed as I drank that Antonio, to be sure that the "gringa" got her full share of visions, gave me a cup brim-full of the not so pleasant-smelling liquid. Others who drank that night, in retrospect, seemed to have been given a much smaller amount.

The following is an account of what happened:

About ten minutes later, feelings of strangeness came over my body and I had difficulty in coordinating extremities. Quick-arriving visual forms and movements hit before my eyes some twenty minutes after taking the drink, and a certain amount of anxiety that was not difficult to handle was felt, especially when Halloween-type demons in primary reds, greens and blues loomed large and then receded before me. Very fast-moving imagery almost like Bosch's paintings appeared, which at times were difficult to focus upon. At one point after I touched the arm of my friend for reassurance, the primary colors changed to flaming yellows and pinks, as a cornucopia full of warmth filled the visions before my eyes and gave me a sort of peripheral vision extending toward the person I had touched. Then in harmony with the healer's schacapa, a series of leaf-faced visions appeared, while my eyes remained open. They were followed by a full-length colored vision of a Peruvian woman, unknown to me but sneering in my direction, which appeared before me. Then more visions arrived, followed by heavy vomiting and diarrhea which lasted for about three hours.

In New York, where I grew up, vomiting was hardly anything to celebrate, and I remember my concern at the terrible noises I made with the "dry heaves" that afflicted me. Yet, later on, when chatting with others, I realized that in the rain forest, people periodically induced vomiting in their children so as to purge them of the various parasitical illnesses which are rampant in the region.

My colleague told me later on that don Antonio in his subsequent healing sessions would often refer to the gringa who had vomited heavily with ayahuasca and the terrible noises she made. He even imitated me to the great amusement of his audience.

Throughout the experience, any light was painful to my eyes. Time was experienced as very slow-moving. After-effects included physical weakness for a day or two, but a general sense of well-being and looseness in dealing with others.

At this point, it might be interesting to examine some of my experiences under ayahuasca, since my own lack of a cultural expectation toward the use of such a substance gave me differing responses than those reported by the informants with whom I worked, despite the fact that I had been collecting data on informants' visions. No jungle creatures filled my vision, nor did I experience the often-reported floating sensation. The visions I had contained symbols of my own culture. The unknown woman who appeared to me in my vision was dressed very much like the urban poor among whom I worked, but she somehow looked more opulent and well-off than many of the near-starving friends I had made in Belén. I remember my curiosity at her apparent dislike of me and that she should behave in that manner, but I didn't pay much attention to the vision nor did it change my mood at all. Later on, when telling of my experiences to friends in Belén, some ventured that this woman who appeared to me may have been responsible for a parasitic illness I developed during the course of my work. I could see how people appearing before a sick person might easily be linked to malice regardless of whether or not they are known to the patient. Had I grown up in this society and received continual conditioning toward a belief in magical source of sickness, it is quite probable that I would have interpreted this vision as a revelation of who it was that caused me to become ill.

When I took ayahuasca, I was unaware of the unwritten rule about not touching another person. I was later told by the healer who guided my ayahuasca session that I had received a double dose of the potion by touching another person and magically had the experience of two doses. The vomiting and diarrhea that afflicted me, thus, were my own fault for not following precepts that were unknown to me. The Peruvian painter, Yando, whose arm I touched during the session has prepared a series of drawings portraying the visions he has had under the influence of ayahuasca. In addition, he has made some ink drawings of the sessions which are difficult to photograph because of the problem of pupilary dilation and painful light. That evening, he had no visions from the purge.

The feelings of well-being that dodged my steps for several months after the ayahuasca experience were one area, however, that did overlap with my informants' reports. Many people agree that the ayahuasca experience stays with them for a long time, relaxing them and making their dealings with others somewhat more easy and fruitful.




Some Important Iconographical Motifs


The spaceship motif has an important place in Pablo's visions. As we saw
earlier, when the curandera who cured his sister gave him ayahuasca, Pablo
saw a huge flying saucer making a tremendous noise that made him panic
(Vision 7). Don Manuel Amaringo, Pablo's older brother, has a similar story.
He told me - with tears in his eyes - that the main icaro he employed to cure
many people he learned from a fairy called Altos Cielos Nieves Tenebrosas,
who came in a blue spaceship:

She asked me: "Do you want to listen to my song?"
She sang and that song I have always kept in my heart.

  In spite of the frequency with which Pablo depicts spaceships, he is sparse
in his commentary about them. Pablo says that these vehicles may take many
shapes, are able to attain infinite speed, and can travel underwater or under
the earth. The beings travelling in them are like spirits, having bodies more
subtle than ours, appearing and disappearing at will. They belong to advanced
extraterrestrial civilizations that live in perfect harmony. Great Amerindian
civilizations like the Maya, Tiahuanaco, and Inca had contact with these
beings. Pablo says that he saw in his journeys with ayahuasca that the Maya
knew about this brew, and that they left for other worlds at some point in
their history, but are about to return to this planet. In fact he says that
some of the flying saucers seen by people today are piloted by Maya wise

[footnote #48]
  A similar idea has been reported by German anthropologist Angelika
Gebhart-Sayer. In 1981 while doing fieldwork in Caimito, a small Shipibo
settlement by the Ucayali River, her indian friends were worried about
strange light phenomena they had witnessed for months, and which they
interpreted as a new tactic of white people to penetrate their tribal
territories. When they approached the lights they disappeared. On several
occasions Gebhart-Sayer herself saw soundless yellowish lights about the size
of a football, moving about 400 meters away, and about one meter above the
ground. She could not find any logical explaination for what she saw. Jose
Santos, the shaman, calmed the people, explaining that in an ayahuasca vision
he understood what it was: a golden airplane with big lamps and beautifully
decorated seats. "The pilot, a distinguished Inca, steps out. Sometimes he
wears the modern clothes of white people, sometimes a precious Inca cushma
{traditional men's garment}. We bow to each other, but don't speak, because
we know each other's thoughts. Then he withdraws. The time has not yet
arrived for him to speak. The Incas want to ally themselves with us, so as to
defeat the white and mestizo, and establish a great empire in which we will
live our traditional life, and will possess both the commodities of the Incas
and the white. The time will come soon in which he will bring presents and
give guidance. (Gebhart-Sayer 1987:141-2)
  Finnish historian Martti Parssinen kindly indicated to me a text written by
Father Francisco de San Jose on a phenomenon the missionary witnessed at the
confluence of the Pozuzo and Ucayali rivers on August 8, 1767. Father
Francisco and other missionaries had been surrounded at night by a group of
hostile Conibos, who were shooting their arrows at them, which they answered
with gunfire. He writes:
    We were in the midst of this battle when something happened well worth
    remembering. We saw, as much Christians as gentiles, a globe of light
    brighter than the moon that flew over the lines of the Conibos and
    lighted the while field. I don't know whether the Indians saw any
    mystery in the event, but I only know they abandoned their arrows...
    (San Jose 1767:364)

  Extraterrestrials are in contact with the nina-runas (fire people) that
live in the interior of volcanoes. They communicate telepathically with each
other. Under the effects of ayahuasca one can see these beings and their
vehicles, but few vegetalistas actually have contact with them, only chosen
ones, to whom extraterrestrials teach power songs and give useful information
to help cure their patients.

  French anthropologist Francoise Barbira-Freedman, who did extensive work
among the Lamista of San Martin province, told me that among her shaman
informants spaceship sightings in ayahuasca were common. When I visited Don
Manuel Shuna, Pablo's uncle, a vegetalista more than 90 years old, I showed
his several photographs of Pablo's paintings. Pointing to the flying saucer
in one of the photographs he told me with excitement, almost with stress,
that the last two years he had been haunted by people coming out of machines
like that. He said that these people fly standing slightly above the surface
of the water. Don Manuel describes their machines as being about 50 meters
long, with lights that make the night as bright as the day. When at rest they
never touch the ground or the water, but remain suspended in the air.
Sometimes the beings on board these machines knock down and take whole trees
with them. Don Manuel said:

    They know when I am taking ayahuasca. They come and sing all sorts of
    songs, and the icaros I sing. They also know how to pray. They want to
    be friends with me, becuase there are things these people don't know.
    They want to take me with them, but I don't want to go because these
    people eat each other. They tried to frighten me by moving the earth,
    or felling large trees. They almost made me crazy. But they no longer
    come close because I blew tobacco on them.

  It is of course very difficult to know what to make of this kind of report.
It seems that shamans are constantly appropriating symbolically whatever
innovations they see or hear about, using them in their visions as vivid
metaphors to further explore the spirit realms, to increase their knowledge,
or to defend themselves from supernatural attack. Shipibo shamans receive
books in which they can read the condition of patients, have spirit
pharmacies, or travel on airplanes covered with meaningful geometric designs
to the bottom of lakes to recover the caya (soul) of their patients
(Gebhart-Sayer 1985:168,172;1986:205;1987:240); Canelos Quichua receive from
the spirits X-ray machines, blood pressure apparatuses, stethoscopes, and
large bright surgical lights (Whitten 1985:147); an acculturated Campa shaman
uses in his healing songs radio frequencies to communicate with water spirits
(Chevalier 1982:352-3); Shuar shamans, who acquire from various plants,
animals, stones, or other objects magical arrows (tsentsak) to cure or defend
themselves, also get them from a witrur (from Spanish vitrola, phonograph)
(Pellizzaro 1976:23,249); Don Alejandro Vazquez, a vegetalista living in
Iquitos, told me that besides angels with swords and soldiers with guns, he
has a jet fighter which he uses when he is attacked by strong sorcerers (Luna
1986:93; see also Pellizzaro 1976:47); Don Fidel Mosombite, an ayahuasquero
of Pucallpa, told me that in his visions he was given magical keys, so that
he was able to drive beautiful cars and airplanes of many kinds.

  Flying is one of the most common themes of shamanism anywhere. The shaman
may transform himself into a bird, insect, or a winged being, or be taken by
an animal or being into other realms. Contemporary shamans sometimes use
metaphors based on modern innovations to express the idea of flying. Thus it
is not strange that the UFO motif, which is part of modern imagery - perhaps,
as proposed by Jung (1959), even an archetypal expression of our times - is
used by shamans as a device for spiritual transportation into other worlds.
The flying saucers, extraterrestrial beings, and intergalactic civilizations
that appear in Pablo's paintings should not necessarily be considered unusual
or extraneous to Amazonian shamanism; they may be manifestations of old
motifs. Descriptions of shamanic journeys under the influence of ayahuasca
and other psychotropic plants, even among culturally isolated Amazonian
tribes, frequently include the idea of a shaman ascending to heaven to mingle
with heavenly people or, conversely, celestial beings descending to the place
of the ceremony. (cf. Gomez 1969; Reichel-Dolmatoff 1971:43,173; Vickers &
Plowman 1984:19; Ramirez de Jara & Pinzon 1986:173-4; Chaumeil 1982:40;

[footnote #50]
  An interesting example from Cuna cosmology has been reported by Gomez:
    The stars are the lights of a dwelling group of a nature which is
    intermediate between solid bodies and air. Those dwellings are
    inhabited by beautiful women who in the night spin cotton lighted
    by lamps similar to those of white people.
      They reproduce themselves by the will of Paptummatti {literally,
    the Great Father} without the intervention of men, always giving
    birth to females. They move from one house to the other by means of
    golden saucers with which they also travel to other worlds,
    occasionally descending to any of them to transport in their vehicles
    those persons who are worthy of divine favor.
  The author then adds the following footnote:
    In Cuna mythology, there are numerous references to these flying saucers
    in their narrations about cultural heroes. This notion has gone over
    to the folklore, and descriptions of these saucers occur in daily life.
    (Gomez 1969:67)

Both Valle (1979) and Meheust (1988) have noticed the parallelism that can be
found between folkloristic motifs, shamanic journeys, and flying saucer
abductions. As in other parts of the world today, the Amazon is constantly
being bombarded by exotic new images and symbols that rapidly intermingle
with traditional beliefs.

  On the other hand, the connection between UFOs and tryptamine hallucinogens
has been pointed out by Terence McKenna, who has ascertained by questionaire
that UFO contact is the motif most frequently mentioned by people who take
psilocybin recreationally, using 15-milligram-range doses sufficient to
elicit the full spectrum of psychedelic effects (cf. McKenna 1984,1989). I
have heard of such stories by Westerners who have taken ayahuasca, Psilocybin
cubensis, or pure dimethyltryptamine. As Valle (1979:209-10) has pointed out,
the UFOs are physical manifestations that cannot be understood apart from
their psychic and symbolic reality. The UFO motif is a subject that should
not be neglected by cognitive anthropologists, depth psychologists, and
people interested in the mythologies of modern man.

What follows are excerpts from the descriptions of the visions which contain
extraterrestrial themes including entities, vehicles, cities, abduction, etc.



  [..] To the left we see the giant Liborim with a magical flying dagger he
uses against his enemies. Behind him there are three flying saucers coming
from Andromeda to influence those learning magical sciences with their
enigmatic vibrations.
  In front of the flying saucer is the house where several curanderos are in
the midst of these beautiful ayahuasca visions.


  [..] Further in the background a great garden stretches back to an
enchanted castle on the outskirts of the dense city Ankord. Ankord is a
mysterious city that lies in some unknown part of the earth. Over the city
circles a strange spaceship.


  This is a very strong vision in which we see that a great vegetalista
curandera has become a beautiful queen wearing a golden crown, with the body
of a blue serpent with disc-shaped marks.
  Some of her companions are frightened and haven't the courage to look at
her and withstand the aura she makes sprout from their heads. She unfolds in
their midst, showing them the power she possesses. She makes them see and
listen to a great roaring machine in the form of a disc of very complicated
structure and a flashing luminescence. Violet, orange, and yellow lights
emanate from this machine. It is a large cosmic ship capable of moving at
fantastic speeds, built by beings with an intelligence superior to humans.


  [..] Above the queen appear the killo-caranchi {the yellow skins}, whose
hair takes the form of the cobra. The killo-caranchi are engaged in a magical
tambourine dance. Behind them flying saucers appear from the most distant
reaches of the universe. Some day, far in the future, mankind will be able
to comprehend these unfathomable beings.


  A shaman has taken ayahuasca in solitude. [..] In the background we see
several giants from Antares, a distant galaxy; they have come to visit the
Earth in their flying saucer. To the right several guardians prevent the
uninitiated from entering their esoteric city.


  [..] To the right we see a creature with wings and an eagle's head, always
travelling through the universe. [..] In the background are three spaceships
from Andromeda, just arriving from a visit to the subaquatic city. We also
see two celestial beings controlling the solar rays to benefit the earth.


  This is a mareacion [120] produced by cielo ayahuasca [sky ayahuasca].

[footnote #120]
  Mareacion is the term used in the Peruvian Amazon to designate the
  hallucinatory effect of psychtropic plants.

We see shamans from different parts of the world, all practicing vegetal and
spiritual medicine. [...] Also present are two women called cuayacunas or
caressing women. At their side is an extraterrestrial ship from Ganymede with
a magic ladder by which the crew may disembark.

  [..] Below are two ships that have come from Venus; their crews approach
the house of the shaman in haste. In front of the house is the supay-tuyuyo
{tuyuyo, a large bird}, which the master uses as a vehicle when leaving for
the outer world and space regions. Below are the callampas {mushrooms} and
the callampa machaco {mushroom snake}. [..]

  At the bottom is an Inca priest or Varayok, guardian of the temples of the
occult sciences of this culture. He has had direct contact with
extraterrestrial beings from Andromeda, whose vision is very much superior to
ours and who gave specialized knowledge to the Tahuantinsuyo shamans.[122]

[footnote #122]
  Tahuantinsuyo (Tawantin-soyo): the empire of the Four Querters,
  the Inca empire.

To the extreme right we see a lama, illustrious master of healing by means of
the plants of the mystical mountains of the Himalaya, surrounded by very wise
men who are well-versed in the knowledge of the vegetal world.


** Vision 14: THE THREE POWERS

  [..] Four flying objects always accompany the sylphs as guardians wherever
they go.


  [..] In the upper left corner is the chirapa {rainbow} and two dazzling
spaceships that hasten to make contact with human beings. They come from the
  In the pond, on top of two ivory towers, the yanahuarmis twins {black
women} are sitting with nets to catch the spaceships. They wish to take them
to the bottom and make the crew members live with them in luxurious aquatic
  On the right there is another extraterrestrial spaceship with a melodious
icaro that has come from the Kima constellation. It emanates wisdom in the
form of heavenly light.



  [..] In the middle is seen an airport for extraterrestrial spaceships from
various places. A ship from Jupiter descends to land in this airport at the
bottom of the river. The ship in the center of the airport is from Ganymede.
The one at the right is from Venus, the one at the left is from Saturn, and
the one in the back from mars.


  In the center we see an opening to the subaquatic worlds. [..]
  Through this hole the great characters of that world send a sumiruna to
space with the help of the ancash silfos {blue sylphs} who transport him in a
glass tube, which is the lupuna colorada {red lupina, Cavallinesia sp.}.
There we see him now, the sumiruna, standing on a ball of high-pressure gas,
ready for levitation. [137]

[footnote #137]
  Pablo's description of a lupuna colorada tree connecting the underwater
world with space has a striking parallelism in the mythology of the Shipibo
as presented by Roe (1982:118-9). According to this author, the central
pillar supporting the multiple worlds of the Shipibo cosmos is a gigantic
World Tree, often a lupuna tree, which is usually hollow and contains fish,
the water of its interior communicating with the waters of the subaquatic
region. A lupina with a stairway leading to the tree canopy is found in
Vision 5. See Chaumeil (1983:154,213) on the lupina as an axis mundi among
the Yagua.



  In the vision we also see a spaceship coming from Mars, one of the planets
shown, which is comprised of four different regions - that of the great
volcanoes, the region of deep canyons, the region of great craters, and the
region of the terraces, full of deep caves.
  A little beyond is Jupiter and even farther out is Guibori, a fairy, with
her magic blue star. Two comets are travelling very fast. Vegetalistas are
able to call them to travel to distant places in the universe.
  In the center we see the other planets: Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
Vegetalistas may visit all these planets rather easily, because they are not
very far away.
  In the background we see Nina-runa with her horses of fire. She is called
upon by shamans as a powerful defense.
  To the left we see Venus, from which a spaceship is coming.


  In the center of the painting we see two people from the Tiahuanaco culture
of Lake Titicaca. The man is called Papamtua (father that takes care of
everybody) and the woman Mamamtua (mother of all human beings). They are in
contact with huaira-cuchas, beings from distant galaxies with skin as white as
  Here there are also several ruiro-piramides {round pyramids}, also called
allpahuichcan {round tombs}, from a mystical city called Persivann, located
in the magical esoteric triangle of the radiant Pleiades. People of great
wisdom are coming out of the pyramids, expert in cryptesthesia.
  [..] Behind is the vine of the lucero ayahuasca {star ayahuasca}. Its
leaves are like boats, and also like hummingbirds, carrying people from
Antares. With their songs these people teach new medicinal techniques.
  In the lower right corner there is a being whose body is made of triangles.
He is a Manchay Barayuc, a giant soldier of a city in the Pleiades.


  To the left there is a Sachamama with a rainbow coming from her eyes. Near
her is a medicinal plant called maramara {unidentified}. Above is a flying
saucer that comes from one of Saturn's satellites, and two angels armed with
swords and spherical sheilds.



  This happened when I arrived in Tamanco in 1959. My father took me to a
settlement called Brazil. In a house on one end of town lived a woman called
Maria Pacaya. My father had to cure several patients, and there he took
ayahuasca. He also gave me the brew after blowing on it with the purpose of
helping me, as I was suffering from a heart disease.
  The brew was so strong that I was at the edge of screaming. The visions
were so vivid that I thought what I saw was not just imagination, but a
contact with something physical and real. I saw sphinxes; I was in Africa,
Europe, and the Americas; suddenly I saw a doctor dressed in a grey-violet
suit. He was an American. His wife was wearing an emerald-green dress. Their
daughter had a dress of the same color. They seemed to be nurses, and had
with them scalpels, scissors, pincers, hooks, cotton, needles and thread, and
medicine of various kinds.
  The doctor asked me to take off my shirt. He took a large, broad knife and
opened me from the clavicle to the last rib of the left side. With a hammer
he broke the ribs and opened my chest. He put my heart on a dish, where he
operated on its arteries and joined them with some sort of soft plastic
tubes. The doctor showed me the location of the damage in my arteries.
  In the meantime the daughter of the doctor had already prepared the needle
and threaded needle to sew the wound. They put my heart back in its place,
closed my chest, and cleansed and sewed up the wound. They told me that I had
to fast for a week. I did so, and since then I have felt perfect.[149]

[footnote #149]
  In the course of interviews with vegetalistas and their patients I have
encountered several narrations in which healing takes place through imagery,
either in the visions or in dreams. [..] Clodomir Monteiro da Silva reports
that Sebastiao Costa, a disciple of Irineu Serra, the founder of the Santo
Daime (ayahuasca) church in Brazil, was "operated on" under the effects of
the brew. He saw his body lying in front of him, and two men arrived with
instruments, removed his bones and put them back into his body, opened his
body, and took a square piece out from which three small animals came that
were the cause of the illness (Monteiro 1985:104-5).
  This seems to suggest that in the visions the patients or the shaman
metaphorically enacts the healing process, and it is this visualization which
carries out the healing (cf. Achterberg 1985).


  Here we see King Kundal, the master of the Huairamama {the great snake
mother of the air}. [..] He has an umbrella made of meteors. It is said that
those meteors are special ships with a psychomagnetic nucleus.
  [..] In front of the city we see a flying object that approaches the house
where ayahuasca is taken. It comes from the planet Mars, and in it come
goblins, experts in surgical operations. They come from the area of the
inpenetrable craters.
  [..] Further down we see another extraterrestrial ship, which comes from
the galaxy Antares with beings of elastic body who do not walk upon the
ground, as they have strong levitation powers which can suspend even the
heaviest body.


  In the background, we see a big spaceship from the Kima constellation, with
powerful knowledge about meditation and levitation.


  [..] The spaceship behind her is seeing to it that the boa is not stronger
than vegetalista and thus cannot harm him. It comes from a galaxy where there
is a city called Aponia, where the people live in peace without knowing
money, only love; where people don't fight against each other, but work in


  We see a flying object coming from the North with blue beings from Venus.
Half the body of these beings is like that of humans, the other half is made
only of energy. They come to teach the vegetalistas medicine. [..]
  In the center is a spaceship that travels at great speeds, [..]


  [..] The helpers of the vegetalistas are genies of ancient cultures. [..]
Further up is the great pythonic Lui Ce Fu with his sparkling radiant power,
smoking his visionary pipe that takes him to faraway places, where he gets
to know different masters of the occult sciences. [..]


  [..] Below, glowing with green, red, and yellow lights, is a spaceship of
the elves who live on terraces of the planet Mars, and who from time to time
visit the Earth.


  [..] On the left we see a powerful cosmic ship that moves through the
different galaxies bringing auras of great wisdom.


  [..] In the upper right corner we see a spaceship coming from a distant
place, near the edge of the universe, where darkness becomes solid and
inpenetrable. It has come here by travelling through trillions of galaxies of
the unfathomable universe one can visit by means of the sacred plant
ayahuasca. The people of the world from which this spaceship comes live in
perfect harmony, love, and wisdom, without egoism and wars.


  This is a vision produced by one of the varieties of ayahuasca. [..]
  There is also an extraterrestrial spaceship with standards pointing towards
the four cardinal points. In this ship come being from the constellation
Kima. They resemble humans and speak very slowly.
  In the lower part of the painting there are several giants that come from
the center of the galaxy Antares. They have great power and teach icaros that
many vegetalistas use to cure snake bites or the bites of other poisonous

              FROM A SORCERER.

  In this painting we see a sumi, or great sorcerer, trying to cause harm to
a group of people peacefully taking ayahuasca. He is wearing a sword the
color of fire. As he moves, lightning and thunder are produced.

    NOTE: This painting shows a sorcerer flying through the air. He is
          roughly saucer shaped, with colorful lights and markings.


  This vision is called sepultura tonduri {Spanish sepultura=grave, funeral},
which is a very sad and frightening icaro, sung by a sorcerer to kill a
person or his enemy. [..]
  But this muraya is stronger than the three vegetalistas. We see to the far
right how he summons his powers, the nina-rumis volcanoes {nina=fire,
rumis=stone}, which are mighty with their lava flows and earthquakes and
their large spaceships , which come to attack making circles with laser nets,
ready to catch in their traps everything the sorcerer uses.


  [..] The icaros of the curandero pull the black boa towards a hole in the
ground, where it will be closed with circling discs, charged with
radioactivity, which were brought by the great acrobats called
yura-pachacama, white souls who take care of the universe.


  A splendid vision in which the sublime powers of the invisible world are
seen as luminous rays, with qualities or grades that go beyond all human
knowledge. [..] Then there is a turqueise-blue ray representing the sapphire.
There we see angels or messengers who roam the vast universe, dwelling in
different galaxies for some time. The have extrasensory wisdom and move with
the speed of thought. They are the guardians appointed to the immense

Bibliography of references cited in this excerpt compilation::

Chaumeil, Jean-Pierre
1982 Representation du Monde d'un Chaman Yagua. L'Ethnographie

Chevalier, Jacques M.
1982 Civilization and the Stolen Gift: Capital, Kin, and Cult in Eastern
     Peru. University of Toronto Press.

Cipoletti, Maria Susana
1987 El Ascenso al Cielo en la Tradicion Oral Secoya (Noroeste Amazonico).
     Indiana 11190, Berlin.

Gebhart-Sayer, Angelika
1985 The Geometric Designs of the Shipibo-Conibo in ritual context.
     Journal of Latin American Lore 11(2)143-75
1986 Una Terapia Estetica. Los Disenos Visionarios del Ayahuasca entre
     lose Shipibo-Conibo. America Indigena 46(1)189-218. Mexico.
1987 Die Spitze des Bewusstseins. Untersuchungen zu Weltbild und Kunst der
     Shipibo-Conibo. Hohen scaftlarn, Klaus Renner Verlag.

Gomez, Antonio
1969 El Cosmos, Religion y Creencias de los Indios Cuna. In Boletin de
     Antropologia 3(11)55-98. Medelllin, Universidad de Antioquia.

Jung, Carl G.
1959 Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky.
     London & Henley, Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Luna, Luis Eduardo
1986a Vegetalismo Shamanism Among the Mestizo Population of the Peruvian
      Amazon. Stockholm, Almqvist & Wiksell International.

Meheust, B
1988 Transeapatride. Pensees Mythique et Pensees Delirantes. Synapse 4458-75.

Pellizzaro, Siro
1976 Iniciacion, Ritos y Cantos de los Chamanes. Mitologia Shuar. Sucua,
     Ecuador, Mundo Shuar.

Ramirez De Jara, Maria Clemencia & Pinzon, Carlos Ernesto
1986 Los Hijos del Bejuco Solar y la Campana Celeste. El Yaje en la Cultura
Popular Urbana. America Indigena 46(1)163-88. Mexico.

Reichel-Dolmatoff, Gerardo
1971 Amazonian Cosmos: The Sexual and Religious Symbolism of the Tukano
     Indians. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

San Jose, Francisco de
1767 Relacion del padre fray Francisco de San Jose. Guardian de Ocopa. In B.
     Izaguirre, Historia de las Misiones Franciscanas y Narracion de los
     Progresos de la Geografia en el Oriente del Peru, 1619-1921, tomo II,
     Apendices VII. Lima 1922.

Valle, Jacques
1979 Messengers of Deception: UFO Contacts and Cults. Berkely, And/Or Press.

Vickers, William T. & Plowman, Timothy
1984 Useful Plants of the Siona and Secoya Indians of Eastern Ecuador.
     Fieldiana. Chicago, Field Museum of Natural History. Publication 1351.

Whitten, Norman E.
1985 Sicuanga Runa: The Other Side of Development in Amazonian Ecuador.
     Urbana and Chicago, University of Illinois Press.

Originally in Hyperreal Drug Archives. Hosted by Erowid as of Oct, 1999.
Last Mod - Mar 5 2008

Death and the plastic shamans

By Krystalline Kraus
| July 18, 2011

First, I'd like to pass some virtual tobacco to Robert Animikii Horton for his words of wisdom in an earlier article for concerning the appropriation of Indigenous culture: On the theft and appropriation of Indigenous cultures.

There is no need for me to, in turn, appropriate the ideas of Horton in an attempt to re-write his wisdom for context on why theft and cultural appropriation of Indigenous cultures is so harmful, but I would like to use his article as context to the "Sweat Lodge Deaths" in 2009 in Sedona, California. Award-winning author James Arthur Ray who facilitated the sweat lodge was found guilty on June 22 of causing the death of three people. It is unsure what will happen to Ray's "spiritual career" now.

James Arthur Ray is the self-help guru. He is also a Plastic Shaman.

A plastic shaman is defined by Horton as someone who performs First Nations spiritual "services for profit, as well as personal opportunism and ego taking advantage of others due to inadequacy, a lack of moral compass, or the vain wish to be reborn within an objectifying obsession and fascination...This is to appropriate, to exploit, to steal, to acquire, to minimize, and to capture a sacred culture."

Thus is the idiocy of trying to jam too many people into a First Nations "traditional" sweat lodge in the Sedona heat and bullying them to stay inside the lodge, causing the death of three participants on Oct. 8, 2009. Ray was found guilty of negligent homicide in the deaths of James Shore, Kirby Brown and Liz Neuman.

On that day at Ray's New Age "Spiritual Warrior" retreat at his Angel Valley Retreat Center near Sedona, Arizona, other than the three deaths, 18 others were hospitalized after suffering burns, dehydration, breathing problems, kidney failure or elevated body temperature from attending his sweat lodge ceremony.

Another red flag is that Ray is making people pay for a Vision Quest. The attendees of the "Spiritual Warrior" retreat paid $10,000 each to participate in the retreat, had fasted for 36 hours during a vision quest exercise before the next day's sweat lodge.


In case you want to try and wrangle up some sympathy for Ray as newbie to all this, know that in 2005, at the same ranch during a similar "Spiritual Warrior" retreat led by him, a 42-year-old man was seriously injured after reportedly falling unconscious after exercises inside the sweat lodge.

In response to the sweat lodge deaths, on Nov. 12, 2009, the Lakota Nation (located in North and South Dakota) launched a lawsuit against the United States, the state of Arizona, Ray, and the Angel Valley site owners under the Sioux Treaty of 1868 between the United States and the Lakota Nation.

"The Lakota Nation alleges that Ray and the Retreat Center have (1) Violated Article 1 of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 by violating the peace between the United States and the Lakota Nation, (2) Desecrated the Onikig'a (sweat lodge ceremony) by causing the three deaths, (3) Violated the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Arts. 29 & 36, and (4) that Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center committed fraud by impersonating an Indian and should be held accountable for the deaths to the survivors."

Ray's spirituality seems to revolve around wealth attainment. Consider the titles of his books: The Science of Success, Practical Spirituality: How to Use Spiritual Power to Create Tangible Results, Harmonic Wealth: The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want and The Seven Laws of True Wealth: Create the Life You Desire and Deserve.

I honestly don't know how spirituality and wealth can be mashed together, as new-agers often mash up different cultures, religions and concepts of spirituality into a mush palpable to the eager but often timid white tongue. But I don't believe it's very spiritual to take advantage of -- to the tune of $10,000 each -- people who are perhaps so spiritually bankrupted from capitalism themselves that they think they can throw more money at the problem.

Money to buy a Vision Quest Experience. Money to buy entrance into a Sweat Lodge Ceremony. Maybe get a "proper Indian name" or dodem which will have to include references to Thunder Horses or High Flying Eagles or other cool, white-people-like animals.

I can only speak from my white-skinned perspective, but this whole situation -- the selling of appropriated Indigenous culture for profit by someone non-Indigenous -- surely required a white-person-to-white-person intervention since I think it's important that we stand up to this kind of cultural abuse by others of our kind. Enough is enough.

We need to make a public stand against this appropriation by first seeking advice and guidance from the aggrieved culture -- not simply acting on their behalf. I know First Nations have had enough of us white knights, rushing into a situation and asking questions later.

In an Angel Valley press release dated Oct. 13, 2009, it states its "sympathy".

Regarding the cultural appropriation of First Nations traditions (such as the sweat lodge), it claims, "We want to express our sincerest feelings towards the Native American Community for this having taken place on the sacred land that we are the stewards of. We have been offered assistance by Native American friends to heal the land, which we have accepted with gratitude. We also know that an initiative has been taken among those who lead sweat lodges in the authentic way, to get together and review how incidents like this can be avoided in the future. We feel the pain of the Native American Community".

The lack of understanding is clear in how the letter is signed off, with "Michael and Amayra Hamilton, the co-founders of Angel Valley Spiritual Retreat Center", claiming they are the "owners of the land". I point out: no-one can own the land.

So where does that leave us, with the "owners of the land" claiming they "understand the pain of the Native American Community"?

Let me again return to the words of Robert Animikii Horton, "The above-described thieves, whether they realize it or not, have assumed the duty to finish what many, such as; residential school priests and administrators, assimilationists in the halls of government fuelling the fires in the engines of colonialism, and those who sought to exploit resources; have sought to do in the past. This is to appropriate, to exploit, to steal, to acquire, to minimize, and to capture a sacred culture."

Do they, can they, really feel this pain?

Krystalline Kraus writes the Activist Communiqué blog for

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