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Many of the most ancient Shipibo rituals have fallen into disuse due to the loss of knowledge following the disappearance of the Merayas”, a title which denotes no ordinary shaman. Merayas are those who have reached the very peak of shamanic achievement; they can travel, fully aware, in each of the four worlds known to the Shipibo culture and they have achieved the ability to harmonize fully their auras with the beings of nature, and see these supernatural creatures who live in the interior of the forest and the great aquatic and cosmic realms. The Merayas practised special rituals since time immemorial – or for at least 5,000 years, according to the best historical estimates.

Heberto’s grandfather, Don Guillermo Ramirez (or Yosi Ocha, to give him his Shipibo name), is widely believed to have been the last of the MerayasThe historical record describes Yosi Ocha as a prolific writer and defender of the Shipibo-Conibo culture. Upon his death, Don Guillermo entrusted his grandson Heberto with a precious gift – his handwritten records meticulously describing hidden treasures of the Shipibo-Conibo tradition carefully guarded through countless generations. This startling gift came along with the enormous responsibility of preserving this ancestral tradition in its pure original essence.

It is thanks to Don Guillermo’s writings and training that his grandson Heberto, has been able to establish The Peruvian Institute for Shamanism and Natural Medicine and revive some exceptional shamanic practices and Shipibo rituals, such as the Special Ritual of Spiritual Purification, the Ritual of Remocaspi, the Ritual of Chullchaki Caspi, the Fire Ritual, the Smoke Ritual, the Ritual of Yacumama (a tribute to Mother Water), the Ritual of Sachamama (a tribute to Mother Earth) and the Ritual of the Meraya. To our knowledge, Yosi Ocha is the only centre that has been able to preserve and still practices today a great variety of traditional rituals following the authentic Meraya tradition.


Shipibo Rituals – Spiritual Purification RitualIn the old days, traditional shamans practised these Shipibo rituals frequently to clean and purify the spiritual body and to help it to flourish. There are two types of spiritual purification: normal and special. A wide variety of colognes of different medicinal plants and palo maestros (teacher trees) are used for the ritual of normal spiritual purification.

The special ritual requires the use of Agua de Florida (a cologne made with a combination of flowers), mapacho cigarettes, the essence of the Ayahuasca vine, the toé plant, chacruna leaves, candles and sacred stones known as “charms”. In the special ritual, both the shaman and the participants drink small amounts of Agua de Florida and smoke mapacho cigarettes, thus promoting a state of trance. Smoking and the intake of plant medicines are, of course, optional at all times, but they greatly facilitate the therapeutic value of the ceremonies, specifically, the mapacho, which has been used medicinally for millennia in this area of the Amazon and does not present known risks for health. Read More...

The shaman then invokes the spirit of different palos maestros and other aromatic medicinal, or teacher plants to heal, cleanse and purify the spirits of those taking part. Participants in a ritual of special spiritual purification sometimes experience visions and may hear spirit voices. Powerful emotions are often felt, ranging from joy to rage, great peace to anguish. These rituals may be undertaken for many different reasons: calming the emotional state of the recently bereaved, or of those deceived in love – among others.

The Shipibo rituals of spiritual purification that are performed in Yosi Ocha, both normal and special, complement and reinforce the healing, cleansing and purifying treatment delivered by the principal ceremonies of Ayahuasca, tobacco and San Pedro.


The Shipibo ritual of special possession by the spirit of Teacher Tree (or Palo Maestro) may only be carried out by a highly adept shaman: tabaquerotoecero (shaman specialised in the use of toé), palero (specialist in any of the palos maestros – Chullachaki Caspi, Remocaspi, Tamamuri, Lupuna, and many others), or by Merayas in general. One must have a strong enough body and robust energy to be able to withstand the state of possession during the entire time of the ritual.

Through prayer and incantation, and the ingestion of mapacho by the shaman, the spirit of the Teacher Tree is entreated to enter and take possession of the body of the shaman. Each patient can then communicate directly with the spirit of the tree, receiving its health-giving and healing energies and its protection, as well as answers to his or her questions.

This ritual is an unforgettably powerful experience. In our center, it is conducted by Maestro Heberto, who may be assisted by his late grandfather, Maestro Guillermo, or Yosi Ocha, who interprets the responses of the palo maestro’s spirit, speaking through Heberto in the Shipibo language. Question and answer sessions are therefore recorded so that Heberto can translate the replies once he comes out of trance. Whilst there may be other, equally adept shamans working deep in the Amazon rainforest, we are not aware of any other centres able to offer the special possession ritual.


The Chullachaki Caspi is a very important teacher, tree, which is recognised as the guardian, or gate-keeper, of the jungle. The Chullachaki Caspi ritual is carried out both to seek the protective energies provided by the spirit of the tree, and also to ask permission to enter – and stay overnight – in the jungle. Whenever one intends to enter a virgin rainforest area, it is vital to ask Chullachaki Caspi for permission and explaining one’s intentions. This teacher tree has the power to manifest its spirit in human shapes, a resource it has used for millennia to make scare explorers with evil purposes and make them lose their way into the jungle.

Shamans diet the bark of this tree to receive its medicine, its protective energies and arcanas. In shamanic terms, arcana’ means spiritual defence or protection, and is considered to be an actual spirit being. Generally, in the course of an Ayahuasca ceremony, but it may also be done in ceremonies of San Pedro or tobacco, the shaman will confer on each participant a spiritual protector. These protectors, or arcanas, may appear in the form of animals, plants, or objects. Thus a shaman might provide an eagle to one participant and an anaconda to another, to protect them from all evil spirits. The criteria by which the medicine chooses one or another arcana is not known, the choice of arcana is dictated by the spirits, and channelled by the shaman. During this ceremony, the shaman will create an energy field around the patient and many arcanas will gather and walk around him in a circle; but only one will cross the line and approach the patient, thus becoming his arcana.

The energy of the Chullachaki Caspi reinforces the strength of the arcana, and for this reason it is important for retreat particpants and shamans alike to undertake Chullachaki Caspi rituals frequently.


Remocaspi is the teacher tree (palo maestro) which, in the Shipibo culture, is known as the medicine tree. Its bark is used to cure various illnesses, such as all types of hepatitis and skin cancer, amongst others. Apprentice shamans learn from this tree, drinking the pure juice of its bark as part of a strict diet to receive its healing powers. The spirit of this tree is quite demanding; ‘dieteros’ receive its medicinal, or healing, energy through a special ritual before which it is necessary to leave a mapacho cigarette or some tobacco at the foot of the tree as an offering.

As an interesting aside, ‘remo’ means oar, the Remocaspi tree being so named because it’s timber lends itself particularly well to the manufacture of oars, or rowing paddles, essential propulsion for the traditional canoes which – until recently – were the only form of vital river transport. However, in a typical reflection of the Amazonian insight into plant properties, the wood of the Remocaspi contains a rare chemical compound which is released in the water from the oars, and actually repels the aquatic version of woodworm which would otherwise make quick work of the wooden canoes. Another example that helps us to better understand the wisdom of indigenous Amazonian peoples.

Ancient Shipibo Rituals – Sachamama RitualSACHAMAMA RITUAL – OFFERING TO MOTHER EARTH

The ritual of Sachamama is carried out in the trance state induced traditionally by drinking an infusion of the mapacho (jungle tobacco), or a preparation of huachuma (San Pedro). The ritual of Sachamama was, generally, only practised by the Merayas, very rarely by ordinary shamans. This is one of the most ancient Shipibo rituals, but it has fallen into disuse due to the disappearance of the Merayas and it is one amongst many vital rituals that our centre seeks to preserve and revive. As far as we know, Yosi Ocha is the only shamanic centre where this very special ritual – amongst others – is still practised thanks to the written records bequeathed by Don Guillermo to his grandson, our founder Maestro Heberto.

The ritual of Sachamama is celebrated around the Tamamuri tree, a very special palo maestro (teacher tree), whose loving energy is generally felt even by the most sceptical participants. Typically, two very special vines are entwined around the Tamamuri: quite different in appearance, and a rarity in the plant kingdom, they are the male and the female Sachaboa. The female Sachaboa is considered – quite literally – as a ‘stairway to heaven’, or a connection between the physical earth and higher spiritual planes, because of its remarkable resemblance to a stairway, or rope ladder. The Tamamuri tree represents the gateway or portal to Sachamama, whilst the male and female Sachaboa vines together represent Sachamama – the mother of the earth – herself.

As a prelude to the ritual proper, mapacho smoke is blown around the Tamamuri and the vines, and tribute of a mapacho tobacco is dropped by each participant at the foot of the tree. Additionally, any kind of personal item, or article of clothing, can be left by the tree, and collected at the end of the ritual having absorbed some of the loving energy.


The fire ritual is one of the most ancient of the Shipibo-Conibo culture, and also one of the very many rituals which is almost extinct, as knowledge of the traditional procedures has all but died out. This ritual was practised particularly by the Merayas to receive the energy of fire, so that the spiritual body of the Meraya would be ‘lit up’ – or enlightened – both by burning the negative energies of the physical body and by purifying the spiritual body.

The fire ritual would be carried out before attempting a major shamanic feat, such as a competition with other Merayas, shapeshifting into animals (a jaguar, perhaps, or a bat) or some other object – such as a stone, or a piece of wood – or demonstrating to one’s fellow Merayas one’s capacity to become invisible. It was also appropriate, for example, to assist a patient on the verge of death, or to help a dietero who had broken his diet to get back on track.

In Yosi Ocha, the fire ritual is used to expunge everything negative from each participant, who is asked to write down all the negative aspects of his/her life and personality on a piece of paper which is thrown into the fire, with intention, to destroy the negative.


These ago-old Shipibo rituals are performed to give payment to Yacumama, or Mother Water, to receive her energies which promotes long and healthy life. Formerly they were often carried out by the Merayas in recognition of the services of water creatures, such as the ‘yacaruna’, the black crocodile, the river, the ‘pink’ dolphins, the electric eels and the mermaids.

The ‘yacaruna’ – literally ‘watermen’ – are man-like creatures, hairy, with the head pointing backwards and deformed feet. They are the ultimate bosses of all aquatic creatures, living in beautiful under-water cities; their palaces of crystal are panelled with fish-scales and pearls; at home, giant turtles provide their seating and they travel the waterways astride black crocodiles. By night they like to roam the rainforest sporting a giant anaconda around their neck, but they have the power to assume seductive human forms, abducting their victims, men and nubile girls alike, the latter returning mysteriously pregnant if they are lucky enough to escape the clutches of the ‘yacaruna’. Read More...

At the same time, the ‘watermen’ have powerful healing abilities and can be a mighty force for good: like the mermaids, they are mythical beings – on the physical plane; but shamans recognise them as very real entities in another, non-physical, dimension. It is the shaman’s job to establish contact and trust with the ‘yacaruna’ both to harness their power to heal the sick and to ensure the safe return of their victims. In the same way, all of these creatures of the water have the powers to heal physically and to protect spiritually – to function as arcanas – once tamed and ‘broken’ by the Merayas, rather as a horse must be ‘broken’ before it can have a mutually beneficial relationship with mankind.

Also, payment to Mother Water was traditionally performed before embarking on a lengthy diet – be it a programme of healing or of shamanic apprenticeship – to help ensure the successful outcome of the diet. This ritual takes place around either the Leche Caspi or the Yacu Caspi tree, both palos maestros that represent the gateway to Mother Water, around which is entwined the Yacu Boa, an exceptionally long vine that represents Mother Water herself. The ritual is most effective – a trance state is achieved either by ingesting the jungle tobacco mapacho or huachuma (San Pedro). In addition to the payment of a mapacho cigarette, each participant may deposit a personal item or article of clothing at the foot of the tree for the duration of the ceremony to absorb the healing and life-giving energy of Yacumama.


Maestro Heberto Garcia with Huito Tattos – YOSI OCHA – Ayahuasca Retreat Centre

Huito (Genipa Americana) is a medicinal teacher plant  –its fruit, when ripe, is particularly efficacious as a cure for asthma and other bronchial problems, colds and also sexual impotence.  When green, or unripe, the juice of the fruit is almost black and is used as a dye in Shipibo rituals for painting traditional designs on cloth and wooden sculptures – and also on the face or body. It is also effective as a hair dye.

At Yosi Ocha, we use huito juice to create huito tattoos for those taking part in the ceremonies, which are depictions of the arcana or spiritual protector that has been conferred on each individual generally during his or her first or second Ayahuasca ceremony – although the arcana, which is channelled but not chosen by the shaman, may also present itself during ceremonies of San Pedro or tobacco.  The tattoos symbolise and reinforce the transmission of the arcana’s energy to the recipient;  when finished, the shaman ‘icaro’s’ a mapacho cigarette and blows smoke over the area of the body where the tattoo has been painted. To icaro is to bless, in shamanic terms, invoking the spirits – of mapacho, in this case – with the very specific intention regarding both the individual concerned and the particular objective of the ritual.

The tattoo may be painted wherever on the body the guest chooses. The huito dye is not permanent, but fades to a most attractive sepia-like brown and generally disappears after a week or so.


Marriage is a sacred agreement between two souls, through which they recognize and accept the commitment to travel together along the path of life. Usually, that decision comes after months or years of living together. But sometimes, the bond between two souls can go way beyond this lifetime and the couple may have shared previous lives.

However strong the love that unites two people may be, the life of a couple is not always easy. It is disheartening to see how many homes get destroyed without any ‘logical’ explanation, and sometimes, a special force may be necessary to face the challenges that arise. Shamans know that behind many broken homes there are often dark energies at play, affecting different areas of family life and hindering the spiritual growth of the souls.

At Yosi Ocha, we perform different Shipibo rituals to help people resolve their love problems. Spiritual marriage is a ritual that forges a true spiritual union between two people, blessed by Renaco (the great ‘teacher tree’ of love and protection) as well as other spirits from higher dimensions. Guided by the spirits of his ancestors and the plants of love, Maestro Heberto performs rituals that enable love to flow freely, reinforcing the natural magnetism of the couple. At the same time, both partners receive special protections to prevent negative energies from penetrating their auras. They get connected to a higher power, to which they can reach out when they face challenges that could put their relationship in crisis.

If you would like to perform one of our favourite Shipibo rituals and celebrate a spiritual wedding at Yosi Ocha, please contact us and we will email you back with all the information you need.