Some people have been interested in my shamanic training, so I will write a little about it. I have being dieting in the shamanic tradition for one year and a half year and I have trained for three years drinking Ayahuasca four times a week in the deep jungle of Iquitos. But the training never ends.
Before coming to Europe and before cooking my Ayahuasca I did diets alone in the mountains of the high jungle of my town Tarapoto, drinking Ayahuasca every night for 15 days to prepare myself. My teachers were two indigenous shamans; a Witoto man named Luis and his wife, a Yahuar woman. When you train as a shaman much of the knowledge is not talked about. It is up to the student to find the right questions and then the answers come.
My teachers were mostly silent and most of what I learnt was by observing and in our communication during ceremonies, where I could see and understand and then ask my teacher if my understanding was correct. The knowledge that you understand from the inside never leaves you. When you understand and you are able to explain it in your own words, then you have mastered the subject. All the information I share comes from the knowledge I got during my training and has been confirmed by my teachers.
During this time I also understood that the process of understanding is what transforms the student into a teacher. The process of waking the teacher inside of you takes time and the first part of the training to become a shaman is about self exploration and self destruction (we experience many small deaths during this process). Then we are reborn. We clean our lives before the training, our families heritages and our past life karmas.
After that you are ready to learn how to heal and help others, because you had done it with yourself. Because you had understood pain and mastered love, compassion and humbleness. Then you can help others.
Everyone has a calling to become a shaman, but few are ready to do the work.
But everything about my path with Ayahuasca started long before I found my teachers, which you can read about in my earlier article Ayahuasca brought me home.
1. It’s a really good medicine for treating gastritis, and organ inflammations in general.
2. It’s good for fertilizing other plants.
3. The cactus grows more with sunlight than water, which it almost doesn’t need at all.
4. The flower is very beautiful and likes to bloom during the night.
5. The ceremonies are much better if you have been doing a couple of Ayahuasca ceremonies before, because your energy will be cleaner and you will be able to process your Ayahuasca experience better. You will also feel much more comfortable in the San Pedro energy. While Ayahuasca is a very strong female energy, like a mother that loves you but also corrects you, the San Pedro is more like a grandfather who will teach you with patience, laughing and loving you.
6. If you are planning to visit Peru, go to the archaeological site of Chavin. There you can find one of the oldest San Pedro cactuses still growing. Some people call it the father of San Pedro.
7. San Pedro cactus with 4 lines are very difficult to find. It is like trying to find a four-leaf clover.
The original name for this cactus in the Peruvian tradition is Wuachuma or Huachuma. In Peru the shamanic use has been tracked back to at least 1500 B.C. When the Spanish came to conquer the Incas the people started to use the name of San Pedro, because it is a plant that can open the doors to heaven for you, just like San Pedro (Saint Peter) from the bible.
Kinds of San Pedro
There are several kinds of San Pedro cactus, and I won’t name them because that is a classification that scientists love to do. In the shamanic tradition the following differences are noted:
The female and male San Pedro. The first one doesn’t have many spines around it, while the male San Pedro has a lot of spines. The male San Pedro is stronger and the shamans or curanderos often prefer them.
The lines. The cactus has a numbers of lines, or columns, which also indicate the power of the cactus. Shamans prefer to use cactus with more than four lines. San Pedro with four lines are used for exorcisms.
Better connection with nature. You might for example perceive the aura of trees, animals, rivers, lakes and people. For San Pedro ceremonies the ceremonial place is therefore very important, since it is the most important part of the ceremony. The shaman knows this.
Healing. The energy of San Pedro harmonizes the chakras and helps us to get more benefits from practices such as reiki, reflexiology, kinesiology, massage, taichi, yoga, etcetera. The San Pedro shaman is one of the first practitioners to work with hands on healing of the body.
Opens our creativity. It is very good for artists, painters, musicians and dancers, because it opens our eyes to the beauty of our mother earth.
Visions. The San Pedro spirit shares visions and knowledge, which are really vivid experiences.
Have you ever wondered why all people living in the Amazon aren’t shamans? Or why all aren’t working with sacred visionary plants such Ayahuasca or San Pedro? The simple answer is that you don’t become a shaman by just taking Ayahuasca or San Pedro. As I wrote in the first part, the way of the shaman isn’t an easy one. Shamans in the Amazon put a lot of effort into such things as diets.
Sacred visionary plants are just tools for the shaman. It is through the plants that shamans CAN SEE and CAN GET INFORMATION. But see what? What information are you talking about? Ayahuasca can show where in the body the root of the problem is. In case of a disease it also works like a x-ray machine. The shaman is helped to better understand the patient’s situation, their problems and necessary treatments by canalizing information from the spirits, from the plants, animals, etc.
When you start learning about plants, spirits and shamanism, your teacher will normally tell you which plant you should diet with. Why? Because s/he knows the plant spirits, what they look like in the Ayahuasca world and their functions. There are for example plants that are better than others to clean energies. The most common diet in the Peruvian Amazon is with the Ajosacha plant, which smells like garlic. It is normally the first diet that you do in your training. This is reasonable because when you will start a new spiritual path you need to clean your energies from the past. I began my training at the age of 22, so at that point I was cleaning 22 years of energies. This cleaning probably never ends, because we interact with people and this means an exchange of energy, both good and bad. So during your life you will need to repeat this diets as many times as you need. You are cleaning karmic energies from your family, mothers and fathers side as well. You need to be as clean as possible to work with people as a shaman.
What’s a diet?
Diets are temporary retreats in nature, usually for period in isolation, with ritualized ingestion of plant teachers and very strict management of the physical (food restrictions and more that I will be explain) and the psychological. A space in contact with nature dedicated to the physical and energetic purification, will help remove that which blocks sensitivity and will help you find your inner teacher. We open an inner door that allows us to contact our being at the deepest level, but at the same time that makes us vulnerable, which is why it is important that the place where we do the diets is isolated from cities or towns. When we do diets we are OPEN.
Two kinds of diets
In my experience there are two kinds of diets:
Learning diets. All diets are about learning, but the degree of learning depends on the effort we put into each diet. It also depends on the connection you get to the spirit of what you are dieting, whether it be plants, crystals, or whatever. The more restrictions you have in your diet, the more benefits you will get from it.
Healing diets. All diets are for healing also, but there are specific diets to cure specific diseases or problems. A person who performs a healing diet can vary the level of restrictions depending on the severity of the illness. The restrictions will depend on what the shaman recommends, but the basic general rules do not change. The only thing that varies in this case is the food, depending of the body. A person who is old and physically weak may have a little more elaborate meal, but always WITHOUT SALT.
How to start a diet
For the following reasons the shaman will often do an Ayahuasca ceremony with the person previous to the diet:
To clean the energies and the body of the person who will diet, so the first obstacles of working with the spirit of the plant are removed.
To identify the plant that the person will diet. The shaman in the ceremony calls the spirits of different plants to see which is best suited to the diet for that person.
The shaman also sets the time the person must make in their diet. Diets generally have an average minimum duration of three days, which are usually fasting (just with water). Seven days, 10 and 15 day is the normal time of diets, but if you want to specialize in the use of a plant then diets are longer or repeated several times, can be 30 days, three months or a year. After you have done several diets, you will feel how long to make your diets in advance.
The day after the ceremony the diet starts very early in the morning by taking prepared tea or macerated bark, roots, flowers or leaves of the plant that the shaman saw during Ayahuasca ceremony. You drink the tea for the first three days of the diet. After that you might continue drinking it, but it depends on the shaman and whether the diet is learning or healing. In diets for learning it’s enough to drink the tea the first three days. For healing diets, the tea plant is taken during all the diet, either 7, 15, 30 or more days, which also depends on the disease severity.
It is important to mention that diets are usually performed by just taking one plant at the time. No two plants are mixed in a diet unless they are for the sake of healing body, or to heal a disease. I know that in some Ayahuasca centers, there are diets up to 100 plants in one diet, but this is outright crazy. The only thing you get from these diets is CONFUSION. As I mentioned before, plants are not compatible with all energies, and also some plants are not compatible with each other, either for chemical or energetic reasons. Please, if someone offers you such diets – RUN.
Beginning this week it is my great pleasure and honour to publish texts from the Peruvian shaman woman Naysha Silva Romero. She will be writing on shamanism, sacred plants and related topics. I thought it would be nice to introduce her with the story of her first ayahuasca experience.
Thank you for sharing, Naysha.
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My first ayahuasca experience
My first Ayahuasca experience started before I was born. My mother was 33 years old, married and although she wanted a baby girl, she could not have kids. She tried everything in modern medicine, but nothing worked. Like many Peruvians that are disconnected from their spiritual roots, she went to the shamans first after everybody else had said that there is no solution.
My father was at that time working with some San Pedro curanderos from the north of Peru, but they decided to go to Iquitos, which was the last town in Peru that I wanted to go before I went there.
In Iquitos my parents met several shamans before they found someone that could heal my mom. After diets and ayahuasca ceremonies they left. On their way back to my town of Tarapoto they stopped in the capital Lima where my mom went to a statue of the Virgin Mary. There she prayed again to be a mother and said once more that she trusted in the plants. One month later my mother was pregnant with me.
My mother never told me this story until I returned from my shamanic training in Iquitos. She somehow knew that my path was already chosen.
When I was 16 I began studying to become a lawyer. I didn’t understand why at the time, but I knew that I needed to go to Trujillo because something important was waiting for me there. On the day that I left I remember my mother saying:
– Now your life is yours, my child. I know you won’t come back to live with us again.
I just laughed and told her that I would be back. But she was right. After that I have never spent more than a month living with my mother.
The last year at university I was working for the Peruvian government when I began to lose faith in my intuition. The corruption I saw every day made me so sad and I understood that we cannot change society with laws that do not understand the laws of nature. I realized that the problem in society was deeper and that the change we need must come from within each individual. Ayahuasca was calling me but I could not find the right person to begin. I always had a lot of respect for these plants. These medicines are sacred for us in the Amazon.
I prayed for guidance, and the man who was to become one of my greatest teachers appeared in my life. How that happened is another story, but he was finished with his shamanic training with ayahuasca in Iquitos and we fell in love. So I quit everything – my profession, my future life as lawyer, and everything that in that moment was trying to stop me. And I ended in Iquitos, the town that I never wanted to go to, where I was once again introduced to ayahuasca. I spent three years of my life living with indigenous shamans, doing diets and working with ceremonies in Iquitos.
When I returned to my mother in our home town and told her that I was planning to move to Europe, she just said:
– The plants gave you to me and now they took you from me.
Then she shared her story about how ayahuasca help her have me, and on that day my whole life finally made sense to me.
The truth is that I love my mother and we have a good relationship, but I never felt like she was my mother. I was more like a friend, but also a mother to her, but I never felt like a daughter. My mother was somewhere else and it was ayahuasca, and my father is the sun, San Pedro.
I am no longer with my husband, but I am on a journey of sharing in Europe. Sharing and working for the planet I have seen so many times in the ceremonies.
This is a statement by the sami shaman Jungle Svonni that was recently given at a human rights conference in Warsawa.
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My name is Jungle Svonni, and I am a Sami shaman. We Sami are the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia and the Kola Peninsula. Currently our land is occupied by Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. My family migrates with our reindeers between Sweden in winter and Norway in summer.
Our ancestral culture and religion is shamanic. However, the colonizing countries, like Sweden and Norway, have for centuries acted to exterminate our religion. By cutting our spiritual connection to nature through shamanism, the connection of all our culture is lost.
Practicing shamanism has been illegal for centuries. Any cultural expressions related to shamanism, such as joik (the sami way of singing) or having a shamanic drum was severely punished, even by death. The heavy persecution resulted in the near extinction of shamanism among us. The persecutions of our roots have created social marginalization, a high rate of suicides and environmental problems, due to a decreased understanding for nature.
My grandfather and great grandfather were all shamans, but without any possibility to know or practice it fully. As a child I realized that this destructive situation must be fixed, if we Sami people are going to have any future. About ten years ago I left on a journey to the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Amazon, to rediscover my shamanic roots. I stayed with the native people for eight years, learning my own culture. In the end I worked as a shaman on a large healing center, where we among other things were curing drug addictions with great success.
Two years ago I moved back, to share the shaman knowledge with my people. Swedish authorities arrested and jailed me for 18 days. They confiscated my sacred plant medicine, the San Pedro cactus, and I was accused of smuggling narcotics – mescaline. The San Pedro plant is completely legal and can be bought in any Swedish flower shop. It was only the shamanic context that triggered the judicial to actions and imprisonment.
Media portrayed me as a criminal, fuelled by ignorant and false statements from the prosecutor. Surprisingly it took the judge one and a half year to find that the legal San Pedro has nothing to do with mescaline or the drug market. I became the first Sami shaman ever to win against the Swedish authorities, without denying being a shaman. But the core problem remains. One of the most important shamanic and natural sacraments Ayahuasca, is still not fully legalized.
Today shamanism is supposed to be legal in Sweden and Norway, protected by the fundamental rights. In reality shamanism is still persecuted. It is only accepted as a “play” for eccentric adults. If it is serious, if you gather knowledge from the nature as our forefathers did and use the natural plants sacraments, you can still today get arrested and imprisoned. The Swedish authorities would use the excuse that you allegedly have violated their narcotic law. But the shamanic ceremonies of Sami people have no connection to the drug problems of Swedish society. What about our human rights to search our roots and practice our religion, shamanism?
Today, the Sami people are prevented by law to educate us directly from nature through natural medicine. Plant medicine is a fundamental part of shamanism and to prevent people to practice their traditional religion is a serious violation of human rights and minority rights.
The wounds on my people are so deep after centuries of persecution that we must turn to our shaman brothers in the Amazon for our cultural survival. For centuries we were forced to practice a foreign religion, and speak a foreign language, our own being forbidden. Our mountains are destroyed by foreign mining companies, the lichen necessary for our reindeers are polluted by a foreign society. Our forests are cut down by foreign companies with foreign technology. But WE are NOT allowed to share the shamanic plant knowledge from our shaman brothers and sisters, which we so badly need to recover our own culture.
I was imprisoned and prosecuted. The reason was not the fully legal San Pedro itself. The prosecutor tried to incriminate me because it would be used in my Sami shaman practice. The human rights violations in my case show the arrogance and ignorance of Swedish authorities. Sami shamanism is finally reawakening after centuries of oppression. Sweden and Norway must reconsider how to deal with it, in order to hinder further violations of our fundamental rights!
Main photo: A Sami Lapp family in Norway around 1900 by tonynetone on Flickr