SHUAR SHAMANIC HEALING CEREMONY la versíon española la version française

Bathing at the sacred waterfall

The different steps in a healing ceremony are as follows:
a) Preparation. The shaman drinks natem (Banisteriopsis sp.), rests, and chats with the patient and his family as he waits for the visions which come 15 to 30 minutes after taking the hallucinogen. He also inhales tobacco juice through his nose.
b) The trance begins. The shaman starts chanting as he rhythmically shakes a shishink, a fan made of forest leaves, illustrated in the photo, over the patient. For minor healings, the fan is made of the leaves of manioc, guava, or annatto; the important point is that they make a rattling sound as they are shaken. The chanting and the rhythm of the fan are extremely important to the healing process because, among other things, they call to the helper spirits and open the way to the non-ordinary world where the shamanic forces can be worked with.
c) A "vision" of evil. The shaman, aided by his helper spirits, has a "vision" of the evil located in the body of the patient; he identifies what kind of darts are causing the illness, learns who has sent them, and how serious the sickness is.
d) The evil is extracted. The shaman begins to "suck" the evil from the affected part of the patient's body, and then he spits it out so that it doesn't remain in his body. Healing is done at night, an ideal moment for the effective practice of shamanic healings. Note the "blowing of the crown," another technique for "cleaning" the patient.

Courtesy of E. Patzelt, 1972


Luis Vargas, a shaman from Curaray, has taken ayahuasca and is waving a fan of chiripanga (Caphaelis sp.) leaves over the patient. The rhythmic sound of the fan induces the shamanic trance, while, at the same time, the circulating air lowers the patient's body temperature. It is known that shamanic practices can take place only in a fresh environment. Catalina, Luis' wife, usually prepares cigarettes and these Luis smokes in large quantities during the shamanic sessions since tobacco smoke has a number of important functions, including clearing the air of evil spirits, cleaning the patient, "nourishing" the helper spirits, and helping the shaman see his visions clearly. It is important to note the function of "seats of power," which are used by the shaman during healing sessions, and by heads of families and warriors as a symbol of authority or power.

The shamanic bench is made of wood, and its principal characteristic is its zoomorphous shape, generally that of an animal thought to he the shaman's alter-ego.

Recorded 1991 in Curaray.

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