Drinking Ayahuasca in Ceremony with a Curandero is Better
Posted by: Carlos Tanner
The traditional use of Ayahuasca is difficult to trace, but it has been estimated to be hundreds, if not thousands, of years old, although the addition of admixture plants like chacruna was probably more recent. Over a hundred indigenous tribes, spreading a vast territory of the western Amazon rainforest, developed healing traditions that employed the use of Ayahuasca. It is unlikely that these tribes were in contact with each other, at least through physical means of communication, yet particular themes within their traditions emerged. The most common theme was the ritual of ceremony led by a shaman, or curandero. These ceremonies formed the roots of their science of plant medicine, and curanderos were the scientists who constantly improved their knowledge of plants and how best to use them, including Ayahuasca.
Curanderos could be found in nearly every indigenous culture. They were unique members of communities who devoted their lives to developing relationships with plants and other beings in nature, learning natural remedies and methods for treating illnesses and health issues. They spent their lives understanding how to help their communities maintain health and harmony and their communication with spirits was the core of their practice of shamanism. In the Amazon rainforest, among other places, curanderos still exist, still communicate with spirits, and still provide healing. One of the most important tools they still employ to achieve these goals is the Ayahuasca ceremony.
While the ingestion of the medicine Ayahuasca is obviously a central component to the Ayahuasca ceremony, there are a variety of other aspects that contribute to the effectiveness of the ceremony. The majority of these aspects involves the work of the curandero to form deep relationships with spirits, learning from these plant teachers as well as from their ancestral teachers, and utilizing this body of wisdom to enhance the healing power of the ceremony experience. The curandero and ceremony are as inseparable as the concert and performer, as the surgery and surgeon, which is why drinking Ayahuasca in a ceremony led by a curandero is better than drinking without a ceremony.
CONNECTIONS AND DIETAS
The medicine Ayahuasca has very unique effects and in the last two decades these effects have become well known by an international community spanning every corner of the globe. It has been demonstrated and described as an amplifier of the senses, allowing partakers to see beyond the visible spectrum, hear beyond the audible spectrum, and feel beyond various sensory spectrums that typically limit our perceptive abilities. The complexities of the mind and its interpretative associations to perception are thus also amplified, allowing us to think beyond the normal limits of conscious thought. What is done in this amplified inner environment is the key to the effectiveness of the healing potential of the ayahuasca ceremony. Just being in this state has great potential for deepening awareness, self-reflection, and understanding. Curanderos take this potential to much higher levels through their connections to spirits, achieved through personal experience and dietas, a central part of the study of Amazonian plant medicine.
Dietas are what help curanderos form deep friendships and partnerships with plant spirits. Essentially, dietas are what make curanderos, who work together with these spirits to heal patients and ceremony participants. While typically in an ayahuasca ceremony only the medicine ayahuasca is ingested, the spirits of all of the curanderos’ plant teachers or allies are present to assist and perform much deeper levels of healing. Curanderos call these spirits to the ceremony and direct them to achieve specific or general healing acts. This is one important aspect of the work of a curandero that makes an ayahuasca ceremony a collaborative effort with dozens of plant spirits working together. Curanderos’ connections with these plant spirits, formed through dietas, makes this possible.
There are some truly incredible and amazing plants in the Amazon. The dietas done with these plants are often what define a curandero’s abilities, because the dietas become a part of the curandero, merging the spirits of the plants with the spirit of the curandero. Each plant has its own qualities, its own spiritual gifts and abilities, its own power. To drink ayahuasca in a ceremony led by a curandero is to share in a healing experience with a multitude of plant spirits all working to achieve the highest level of benefit possible. The curandero is the connection to these plant spirits, and the ceremony is the concert that brings them together in performance.
RAISING, LOWERING, AND LEVELING
Simply being connected to powerful plants enhances one’s healing ability, but curanderos are also constantly developing their skills and abilities to manage the powerful energies that are present when deep healing takes place in ceremonies. They understand specific methods for raising the amplifying effects of the medicine to increase the penetration of the healing energy of the ceremony. They also lower the vibrations if the negative energies being released by the ceremony participants is too much for them to handle, leveling off the vibrations at the optimal level for participants to experience deep healing without losing control in the process.
Sometimes a ceremony participant can experience particularly troubling moments, perhaps when intense traumas are coming to the surface, or when heart wrenching emotional pain is being released, or fear and anxiety are flooding a participants mind. In these moments, a curandero employs traditional procedures to calm a person down and to soothe them through a difficult process. When profound healing is taking place, it is common that a participant pass through arduous moments of release and purification. A curandero, like a surgeon, assists in the removal of detrimental material while working to minimize the potential for negative reactions during this process. Also like surgeons, most curanderos use tools to better achieve these extractions or purifications, and part of their work involves the mastery of these tools. But, unlike a surgeon, the curandero removes material that does not exist in the physical body, but rather in the energetic realms of the mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies.
A well trained curandero possesses the tools and abilities to create and maintain the set and setting for profound healing in a ceremony, assisted by a team of plant spirit doctors, ancestral advisors, and the participants themselves. It is an elaborate and mystifying art form that goes well beyond the material paradigm of the western science of old, into the ancient and newly revived cutting edge understandings of quantum science and consciousness. Each curandero is an artist whose performance is an intimate and exquisite dance of spirit, emotion, and thought. An ayahuasca ceremony is an event designed to set the stage for this artistry to take place in the optimal environment, with the highest level of healing its intention.
Of course, like any art form, the artist matters and so do the dynamics of the performance. Curanderos are not the same, nor do they share the same abilities or relationships with spirit. Ceremonies are not the same, even when led by the same curandero, with the same people attending and drinking the same medicine. It is obviously impossible to avoid generalizations when trying to describe something so complex and personalized, and without a doubt there are people who may call themselves curanderos while many others, including myself, might not feel is accurate. I think the same can be said about artists in every form of art, including western medical doctors. But to open the door for a discussion on what is an artist, or in this case what is a curandero, would most likely need to be more of a dissertation than a simple article.
What I have tried to present is what I feel is a general concept of a curandero-led ceremony, based on my personal experiences with curanderos and ceremonies in Peru over the last fifteen years, my own research and study with numerous sources of literature and film, and a consensus among countless members of the ayahuasca community. There will always be, understandably, exceptions to this general concept and if anyone wants to elaborate on those exceptions it will benefit the overall discussion and understanding of the points made in this article, so I encourage the presentation of ideas and anecdotes of all manner of resonance with my own. But, provided the ceremony will be properly led by a true curandero, I definitely feel that drinking ayahuasca in ceremony with a curandero is better.