Ayahuasca opens the mind to a different state of consciousness and cleans the impurities, while the chacruna opens the visions.
According to Amazonian shamanism, the Ayahuasca is the mother of all the plants of the forest and of our planet. The spirit of this vine is considered by the Shipibo tradition as one of the main spirits of the spiritual dimensions of the plants.
This vine is brewed in water for several hours with another plant called Chacruna until it becomes a dark brown, thick and sour decoction. This drink is then used by the healer to open his mind so that he can access the spiritual realms from which he will be able to “see” his patient, make a diagnosis and perform the healing work.
According to the healers of the amazon, the curanderos or ayahuasqueros, the Ayahuasca opens the mind to a different state of consciousness and cleans the impurities, while the chacruna opens the visions. Western ethnobotanists and chemists have a different explanation. They say that the Ayahuasca inhibits an enzyme in the stomach, which allows the existing DMT in the chacruna to access the brain and trigger a psychoactive effect.
The fact is that the Ayahuasca transports the healer into a different dimension of reality. It is like a vehicle which enables him to access other worlds. He enters what we call the World of the Medicine or Rao Nete, which actually is made of an infinity of universes. With a specific training, the shaman can then travel into these worlds, explore them. He can access the spiritual dimensions of the underworlds, the worlds of the plants, the past as well as the future, the cosmos, travel to other parts of our planet… and by doing so he can gather knowledge and understanding about all kinds of topics. This knowledge is what he uses to cure diseases and also to help and guide the members of his community.
In the old times, shipibo shamans used many different plants and techniques to access these states. Now the ayahuasca is the most common plant used by amazonian shamans. The advantage of the Ayahuasca over other psychoactive substances is that it does not create any kind of addiction and the effects of the plant, even when strong, never lead to a loss of consciousness about what is happening in this dimension. Nothing is forgotten. During a ceremony, we are always conscious of this dimension, while other substances can make us lose the sense of where we are and feel lost in other realms.
An Ayahuasca ceremony is quite a special event to experience. Through ayahuasca ceremony the Shaman is connected with the powers of medicinal plants and spiritual forces. The Ayahuasca being the tool they use to open their minds to the spiritual dimension so that they can “see” the condition of their patient, establish a diagnosis, and treat the person.
In an ayahuasca ceremony the shaman sing different chants called “Icaros”, blows with the tobacco smoke, uses different fragrances, clean with master plants branches, performs massage and extract the malignant darts sucking. Listen these melodious chants in the middle of the night delights the heart.
At the beginning of the ceremony you are invited to take a glass of Ayahuasca if you want to. After everyone has taken the plant, we wait in silence for the effect of the trance to start, which can take from 20 minutes to one hour. Then the healers start to chant to open the ceremony, opening the World of the Medicine.
This first part might be a bit challenging. While our mind is opening to new perceptions, it can react and get a bit confused by this unexplored territory, just as we can feel a bit disoriented when we arrive in some unknown country. If we stay in trust, keep our focus on our intention and breathe calmly, we can cross this doorway in a few moments.
The plants can then show us the answers to what we are searching for. The visions can take many unexpected forms and each ceremony is different. We can see beautiful landscapes, be filled with love and joy or experience more difficult feelings such as fear, confusion, doubts, dark visions… whatever happens it is always wise to remember that this is the effect of the plant, nothing less, nothing more.
When we go through difficult feelings or experiences we can always come back to our intention, look for a quiet space inside us and stay calm. It is also always possible to ask for help during our ceremonies: you will be taken care of by our healers and helpers.
During the entire ceremony the healers are guiding the progress of the work and chanting to call positive energies. They also perform individual work on the people attending, chanting to bring healing, free unwanted energies, clear the mind, open the heart, reinforce the connection with the plant you diet, bring pleasant feelings and visions…
The visions are an answer to your intention. They are given to you by the Ayahuasca and your diet plant so that you can achieve your intention; get more understanding and deeper levels of healing. Nevertheless the plant does not always bring visions, it can interact with you in many different ways. The plants have their own way to help us which is often not so simple to grasp with our human intelligence, at least during the process.
Once the healers have performed their work, they close the ceremony. Even then you still may continue to feel some effect from the ayahuasca, although usually the effect will be reduced and you will feel a deep sense of well being or fall asleep.
The icaros are the chants used by the healer during the ceremony. The icaros are the vehicle of the intention of the healer. They are the main tool used during the work.
The healing happens through the power of the mind. It is the development of his spirit which gives the shaman the ability to heal a patient or move into other realms.
In the Shipibo tradition, the icaros are used to manifest the intention of the shaman. He therefore sings what he wants to achieve or what he is doing.
There exist many kinds of icaros according to the work that needs to be done. Some are used to open the ceremony and the visions, some to bring love and good luck, some to free unwanted energies, others to enter different worlds and to heal specific diseases. When a shaman is trained, he can access the spirit of a specific plant and learn chants directly from that spirit. It can seem a bit abstract for our western minds, but the process is actually quite simple and becomes the most natural experience when it happens.
The Shipibo medicine can actually be seen as a spiritual technology and the chants are one of its most refined and poetic tools. The icaros are one of the manifestations of the beauty and creativity which are such a fundamental part of this work. A master healer is also a master singer and often a master poet.