Ayahuasca - Doctor / Teacher Spirit
Ancient Medicine in a Modern World
The name Ayahuasca comes from Quechua, a widely spoken South American language found throughout the Amazon: aya means "soul" or "spirits" and huasca means "vine", therefore translating to "vine of the soul" or "vine of the spirits" – a powerful plant based medicine that can open a doorway to communication with the spirit realm.
However, in the Shipibo language the name for ayahuasca is Oni (pronounced Ooni) which means 'knowledge' or Oni Kobin which means 'cooked / prepared knowledge'. In addition, the Shipibo name for a healer working with ayahuasca is Onanya which means 'one who has knowledge'.
"Look deep into Nature then you will understand everything better" – Albert Einstein
Traditionally, the Shipibo have used ayahuasca to diagnose and treat illnesses and imbalances, to take important decisions, to ask the spirits for advice, to solve personal conflicts – between families and communities, to resolve the energetic damage due to jealousy and envy, to communicate with the spirits of nature, to exercise one's divine capacities and to elucidate mysteries, thefts, disappearances, to know if we have enemies, and to see if a spouse is being disloyal.
The use of ayahuasca in Amazonian healing practices has historically been limited to the healers, using it as diagnostic tool for identifying the cause of illness, bad luck, witchcraft, etc. and to then prescribe treatments to the patients – through ikaros and plant remedies – of which guidance on what plants & remedies to use is shown to the healer by the spirit of ayahuasca. Ayahuasca works with the healer and in combination with a plethora of other plant spirit doctors to treat the patients – ayahuasca has not traditionally been the only plant spirit doctor involved in the treatment (more info to follow). Ayahuasca was not taken by the patients who would simply come to ceremony in order to receive the diagnosis and subsequent treatments from the healer.
However, in more modern times, ayahuasca is now being used as a medicine by the patients themselves. There is an evolution in the use of ayahuasca now clearly being worked with as a medicine in itself. Western use of ayahuasca over the past 20 years has now resulted in many foreigners working with the medicine in ceremonies, led by Amazonian healers, in order to personally face the causes of their conditions, illnesses, issues, etc. personally and to "take part" in the healing equation – moving healing into a co-creative relationship between the healer, the plant spirits, ayahuasca and the patient. By imbibing the medicine, the drinker is then able to face issues hidden unconsciously within themselves from their past that have resulted in energetic imbalances – often the cause of the dis-ease, psychological and/or emotional imbalance that they are focused on healing.
However, solely drinking ayahuasca without the presence, protection and work of an experienced healer is not advised. Drinking on your own, with no training or experience, will not provide the level of safety and healing achieved when combining the medicine, the healer and a multitude of plant spirit doctors (called in by the healer) in ceremony. Ayahuasca on its own will in some circumstances (although serious caution is required in terms of the set, setting, etc) provide superficial healing although will not enable the drinker to reach and heal to the root of the issue needing to be addressed.
History of Ayahuasca
Although there are many different stories amongst indigenous tribes of the Amazon, the history of ayahuasca is relatively unknown as there are no written records from the Amazon until the Spanish conquistadors invaded in the 16th Century. However, there is evidence of a ceremonial cup that was found in Ecuador that contains traces of ayahuasca which is believed to be well over 2,500 years old.
The use of ayahuasca is widespread and represents the basis of traditional medicine practice for at least seventy five different indigenous tribes across the Lower and Upper Amazon. The Shipibo tribe seems to have an unusually strong relationship with ayahuasca and many would consider the Shipibo to be the "masters of ayahuasca". Certainly the use of Shipibo imagery related to ayahuasca is widespread and the well-recognized Shipibo patterns of ikaro are synonymous with ayahuasca and its practice throughout Peru. Many mestizo curanderos (mixed Spanish and Peruvian blood ancestry that have moved away from indigenous traditions and identity), not coming from Shipibo lineage, will still wear Shipibo cushmas (robes) in ceremony!
The origins of the shamanic use of ayahuasca are lost in the mists of history and there are many stories surrounding the how the natives initially came to work with this sacred medicine. In an indigenous context, ayahuasca was used by the shamans of the Amazon region (ayahuasqueros) for healing and divinatory purposes. Complex rituals surround the preparation and use of ayahuasca which have been passed down through generations of healers.
Medicine and Teacher
Ayahuasca is an incredible cleansing and purifying medicine; a doctor spirit who can rid the body of physical impurities, help bring integration to deep rooted emotional problems, guide you towards releasing patterns and programs and fundamentally, cleanse negative energies from your system (which lie at the root of most physical, emotional and psychological issues).
Ayahuasca is also a teacher who can lead you into a lifelong journey of deep personal transformation, and re-connection to the Divine within each one of us. Striving towards realization of one's "spiritual self" is a crucial element when partaking of ayahuasca. It is essential to set out your intention clearly, and to approach the work with commitment, determination and respect for the spirit of the medicine.
You will need courage as you will often face parts of yourself that you have previously shied away from. We must be clear that ayahuasca workshops have nothing whatsoever to do with so-called "recreational drug use," even the use of other entheogens in less traditional contexts – the workshops are offered as an opportunity for you to do serious work: rebalancing, cleansing and learning about your true self.
If you approach the work with focus, sincerity and dedication, then the results can be highly beneficial. Needless to say the reverse can also be true – the recommendations here are the product of many generations of experience with ayahuasca gained by our healers, and are essential to a safe and productive healing journey.