In the second part of the interview with Javier, we continue to explore the use of Healing plants and Ayahuasca. discusses his involvement with the shamanic Plant medicines of the Amazon, and Ayahuasca in particular. Javier was interviewed by Howard G Charing and Peter Cloudsley in the Peru, Amazon Rainforest 2000.
Does each shaman have to find it all out for himself or is there a body of knowledge handed down?
The maestro goes with the apprentice into the wilderness and gives him the different plants and it is like a test or trial to overcome. The maestro is usually a member of family. In my case both my grandfather and my uncle were maestros. You go off deep into the forest with your maestro and make a very simple shelter or ‘tambo’. A shaman must not live in a big house, its just for sleeping and dieting.
How long do you have to diet the plant?
Just one day to know its process, the next day you move onto another. This is if you do not return to the city, you can get through a lot of plants. This is different from dieting a plant for a month say.
So does every condition or illness have a particular plant to remedy it or is it a spirit energy which comes through the plant which can cure many things?
One plant may cure lots of ailments. A particular plant has a spirit which can either heal or kill. As for example with another shaman (who we worked with earlier) , who had not dieted Ayahuasca correctly and poom! it caused fever and people caught colds.
So why would a plant kill or cure?
Because an hechicero (sorcerer) also learns from the plants. He may for example learn from dieting a plant which has spines or phlegm which could be good for certain things. But if he is bad no one can stop him and in the night ‘ffoooo’ he uses it for harm or to kill. These are the brujos who come back from the forest with eyes red like the huayruro (red beans with black spots). He is a bad shaman and we have to cure the people they harm.
Who would want to do such things?
There are some people who have a squabble with someone, and then they go off to see a brujo and say “this Senora talks too much and has insulted me, kill her and I’ll pay you”. They pay them and they do harm.
But the shaman who made us ill did not do it intentionally.
No, of ignorance. It was a shaman from the city not from the forest. He went away and left us to mop up the ill effects. He may have had a good teacher but does not diet, he is very fat! (People in the jungle are rarely fat.)
In addition he probably eats the day of the session and that is why he threw up himself!
How does this affect Westerners?
It doesn’t matter, they will probably throw up and not have any vision because when he blows he has condiments on his breath. However, it matters much less if the clients have eaten or not stuck rigorously to the diet. The important thing is that the shaman diets.
Note: There is much discrepancy between shamans concerning the question of vomiting. Some say it is necessary for the body to rid itself of what ever is necessary and that if they are not sick they might get ill. (Ayahusaca is often referred to as La Purga.) Others say if you vomit you will not have such good vision and on no account should a shaman vomit.
Why and how did you become a shaman?
I never thought of being a shaman. I took Ayahuasca from 14 years old just to clean my stomach. Later my father said I heard you chanting, you are going to be a shaman. I don’t want to I said. Later when I was 20 my father died from sorcery so then I wanted to learn in order to take vengeance. During my apprenticeship I had a change of heart and understood that God knew best in such situations.
Why did the brujo want to kill your father?
Because he was a curandero who had cured someone who had been harmed by the brujo. It happens because we curanderos undo the work of the brujos and they get angry with us. This is the famous spiritual battle between the brujos. When you cure you send the bad magic back to where it comes from and the brujos get their own dirty medicine back. This is why there is a fight between the good and the bad.