In the Upper Amazon, mestizos are the Spanish-speaking descendants of Hispanic colonizers and the indigenous peoples of the jungle. Some mestizos have migrated to Amazon towns and cities, such as Iquitos and Pucallpa; most remain in small villages, their houses perched on stilts on the shores of the rivers that are their primary means of travel. Here in the jungle, they have retained features of the Hispanic tradition, including a folk Catholicism and traditional Hispanic medicine. And they have incorporated much of the religious tradition of the Amazon, especially its healing, sorcery, shamanism, and the use of potent plant hallucinogens, including ayahuasca.
The result is a uniquely eclectic shamanist culture that continues not only to fascinate outsiders with its brilliant visionary art but also to attract thousands of seekers each year with the promise of visionary experiences of their own.
Singing to the Plants sets forth, in accessible form, just what this shamanism is about — what happens at an ayahuasca healing ceremony, how the apprentice shaman forms a spiritual relationship with the healing plant spirits, how sorcerers inflict the harm that the shaman heals, and the ways that plants are used in healing, love magic, and sorcery.
Ever wanted to know how to deal with wounds in the jungle? Or what Green Power means in Amazonian art and music? How about the latest news on the legal status of ayahuasca? Check out the Singing to the Plants Blog, featuring a wealth of information and opinion on ayahuasca, plant medicine, indigenous culture, and life in the Upper Amazon. Don't forget to join the discussion! Visit the blog now!
Don Howard Lawler is an ayahuasquero and huachumero with more than forty years of background and experience in shamanic studies and practice. He generously shared with me his remarkable knowledge of Amazonian plants and culture, arranged my contacts with mestizo healers, and was my cultural and linguistic translator, friend, confidant, unstinting resource, patient explainer, trusted guide and adviser, and elder brother on the medicine path.
Don Roberto Acho Jurama, my maestro ayahuasquero, my guide on the medicine path, began his apprenticeship as a shaman at the age of fourteen, drawn to the work by a profound curiosity about the spiritual world. He has been a healer for more than forty-five years. It was don Roberto who taught me about the spirit world, the ayahuasca ceremony, and what it means to be a true curandero: Don't set a price, he said; never turn away the poor. Do your healing. Trust the medicine.
Doña María Tuesta Flores was my guide to the sacred and healing plants. Her knowledge was encyclopedic. She was familiar with hundreds of plants -- what sicknesses they could heal, how to prepare them, how to apply them. She knew their names like friends. She was genuinely warm, giving of her knowledge, open-hearted, earthy, demanding, motherly. She lived her life as a healer in the landscape of the soul; and now -- sadly for us all -- she gives her healing flower baths to the children of the angels.
Singing to the Plants is your guide to Amazonian shamanism. Below you’ll find some articles to help get you started:
The author is a consummate scholar, a compelling and elegant writer, an authority on hallucinogens... His rare combination of qualities gives multiple dimensions to the story he tells—spiritual, anthropological, and political.
A rare mixture of exhaustive scholarship and gripping first person account... Find room in your backpack. You’ll want to return to this one again and again as your journey unfolds.
Encyclopedic in scope, theoretically nuanced, eminently readable and thoroughly spellbinding. A tour de force, soon to be recognized as the definitive work on this topic.
A classic volume that provides its readers with an unsurpassed understanding of the healing power of shamanism, its use of spiritual rituals and visionary plants such as ayahuasca, and both its light and its dark sides, its sophistication and its humor.
The real deal — scholarly and quite compellingly written... Treated as an apprentice, the author was able to gain insights into the rituals, beliefs, and practices that form the social context and the inner world of shamanism.
Elegantly written ... incorporating thoughtful analyses of psychological, cultural, and spiritual perspectives. A very valuable contribution to the literature.