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Monday, September 02, 2013

Soul Searching in the Shack of a Shaman

Above my head billowed smoke from black tobacco that the shaman was smoking while he was chanting and waving a dried plant to spread the smoke. I kept my eyes closed and relaxed like I was supposed to, taking in every moment here in the hut of the local village Shaman. One month ago the last place I would have ever imagined ending up was in the home of a medicine man having him sing and chant over me while wearing the head band. I wasn't the only one going through the ritual, another family had come with me. The organisation has a good relationships with the village people and can arrange groups to have a session with the village shaman if they wanted.

For me, the amazon isn't just about the animals, it was about the people. And I wouldn't have felt my trip was complete unless I come away with greater understanding of native life. The shaman had greeted us and welcome us into his humble home. When we were settled, he disappeared into the back room for a moment and reappeared wearing a headband and plastic bottles that seemed to contain herbs, liquid, plants. He also brought along some other utensils as well. He greeted us in his native language of Quechua to let us know we are welcome guests in his home. Then he proceeded to introduce more of himself in spanish and talked about what he does and becoming a Shaman.

With the help of the guides translating, we all soon got a firm understanding of his background and work. His father had been the village Shaman and at one point he decided that he wanted to become a medicine man to help others. It was not an easy process and only few people want to become Shamans because of the rigorous training that is needed. At one point they have to isolate themselves in the jungle and abstain from many things, sugar, sexual relations, meat, rich foods. Their friends and family cannot be in contact with them during this period of isolation.

The Shaman proceeded to show all of us what was in the various plastic bottles. It was concoctions made up of things like tree bark, plants, various elements from the earth. Whenever someone had an ailment they would come to him and he would prescribe a concoction to them to cure them. There were concoctions even for people who wanted to stop having children. In his case he had a few kids and when he and his wife wanted to quit being fertile, she drank the concoction and they never had another child after that. No artificial contraceptives needed, nature knew best.

After we became acquainted with his life and work the ceremony began. The other family went first and I went second, that is how I knew exactly what was going on even though I had my eyes closed. When he finished billowing black tobacco smoke over me and got seated again, he asked each one of us what concoction we would like to take to help us with our lives. Whatever got selected, he poured it into a small wooden cup, sang a song in Quechua over it and then handed the cup to us to drink the concoction made for us. I ended up with a concoction made of electric eel and garlic that was to bring protection and luck.

After the session with the Shaman the guide and I hung out in the village for abit where I got to meet the locals, one of them being the Shaman's daughter and her husband.  At one point the husband disappeared and reappeared with a cute cuddly creature and handed it to me. It is called a Paca, a species of tapir.  They found it all alone during flood season so they brought it back home.  As little as it may have seemed it gobbled down piles of bread like there was no tomorrow.....

Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas