Whole Life Magazine

August/September 2013

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Page 35 of 51

JOURNEY WITH A SHAMAN In indigenous regions of the Amazon, ayahuasca offers a deeply spiritual pathway to a new vision STORY & PHOTOS BY ROGELIO MARTELL P ucallpa, Peru is a wild city with dusty, busy streets and hot sun, but it must be navigated to arrive at the Ucayali River, a tributary of the Amazon. Arriving at the riverbank I boarded a long narrow boat called a pequepeque—the sound made by its motor—and set out for San Francisco, an Indian Shipibo community in the Peruvian jungle where I would be meeting with a shaman. My guide, rail thin and missing several teeth, entertained me along the way with river stories of people who had drowned, their bodies never found, believed to be trapped by mysterious plants with long treacherous tendrils growing in the bottom of the river. he trip lasted two hours, and as we approached San Francisco, we could see small, brightly colored wooden houses and women washing clothes in the river. Upon landing, we were warmly received and escorted through the three uneven streets that form the town. Two solar lampposts stood sentry; the village's only streetlights, they store ive hours of sunshine to light the way ater dark. My lodging was a small cabin owned by Jacinto, a nephew of the shaman, who was ready to take me 36 wholelifetimesmagazine.com to his uncle. En route, Jacinto told me that to be a shaman one had to go deep into the jungle for two years, where the tree spirits prepare the shaman. Not all were strong enough to endure the training, which involves putting a snake in your mouth, he said, but ater it, one could kill anyone with a single expression. When Don Pedro appeared, I was relieved to see his expression was smiling. A small, thin man of indeinite age with slanted eyes, he asked me how it was that I had arrived on a Friday, the day marked for ayahuasca. I hardly knew how to respond, since having arrived in Pucallpa I'd felt as if a strange force were guiding me. he shaman laughed and told me to be prepared that night around 10pm. He told me not to be afraid as he would protect me from bad spirits, and showed me an imposing bottle of brown liquid—ayahuasca—which literally translates to "vine of death." Brewed from boiled tree roots, it induces Castaneda-like "sacred visions." Our session that night in the shaman's cabin included three other people: Don Pedro's son, a friend, and a 12-year-old boy said to have been bewitched and in need of a healing. he shaman began to speak, telling us that beauty

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