SHIPIBO SHAMANISM & INDIGENOUS WISDOM
The term ‘shaman’ was first popularised by Dutch explorer Nicolaes Witsen. Illustrating an account of his Siberian travels in 1692, in the ‘Priest of the Devil’ he has given the figure cloven feet, reflecting what was often perceived as the demonic quality of shamanism.
Shamanism exists in many varied forms all over the globe from Australia to the Americas, from Siberia to the Polar regions and has its roots in prehistory. The shaman is a spiritual leader who in a ritualised, ceremonial context enters a trance state and communes with the spirits of animals, trees and the deceased, as well as spirits who inhabit planes or parallel realities quite unlike our physical universe. If he is to have a long life expectancy, the shaman must be very skilled in enlisting the aid of benevolent entities and defending himself against evil ones – not to mention being able to tell the difference. These entities have access to information about the human condition that we do not – at least, not directly. The spirits may be able to diagnose a patient’s illness and prescribe natural, earthly treatments. They can also help the shaman by carrying out spiritual healing on the patient, restoring harmony between the spiritual body and the physical body. Mircea Eliade (1907-1986), one of the foremost researchers of comparative shamanism, describes the shaman’s trance state as ‘ecstasy’: he or she is literally travelling through ecstasy, co-opting the assistance of its more amenable inhabitants often as part of the healing process of individual human sufferers, or perhaps to resolve difficulties facing the community at large. It is almost always the case that the shaman will ingest some psychoactive substance to help enter the ‘ecstatic’ trance state although there are many examples of people with the ability to enter such a state at will. (A well-known example is Edgar Cayce, who never claimed any shamanic status but seemed to be tapping into similar energies). It is less usual for the participants in shamanic ceremonies to ingest the same psychoactive substances as the shaman. Read more...
Throughout history, it has been demonstrated that Shamanic practice in combination with traditional, natural medicine has, for millennia, been the only health-care system available to past generations. The role of the shaman, as well as the medicinal plants, has been of vital importance in maintaining the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the population. It is very clear that much of the vegetation thriving in the rain forest, and particularly the medicinal plants, contain a wealth of complex bioenergetic substances whose active ingredients constitute excellent treatments for a wide range of diseases.
Over thousands of years, shamanism in the Amazonian rain forest has developed an unparalleled sophistication owing to the incredibly rich bio-diversity of the jungle: the Amazon contains over half of all plant species on earth, an estimated 98% yet to be fully analyzed in the laboratory. Nobody knows how many plant species there are in the world: biologists’ best guesses vary from 3 to 30 million. And yet the ancestral wisdom of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon equips the genuine shaman to perform apparently miraculous feats of healing and transformation routinely.