The Temple Healers
The Temple’s extraordinary team of Shipibo healers represent thousands of years of Amazonian healing tradition and share their uniquely intimate connection with the mother medicine, ayahuasca, with integrity, love and compassion. Unfortunately, few young people are following in the footsteps of their forefathers to continue the line of Shipibo curanderismo.
It is the Temple’s mission to not only legitimize ayahuasca healing in the West but also to reinvigorate local respect for indigenous healing traditions. By providing an income stream for experienced, authentic healers, and a place for young healers to be supported by their older colleagues, we hope to do our part to help maintain the integrity of the Shipibo medicine tradition.
Ynes Sanchez Gonzales
Now in her early seventies, Maestra Ynes has been working with ayahuasca and medicinal plants of the Amazon for more than 50 years.
Ynes was one of the original Shipibo healers who joined us at the Temple in Feb 2009, and has over the years continued to carry out plant dietas. After a break of 4 years not working at the Temple, we are very fortunate to be welcoming Ynes back to join us.
Ynes has now reached a level of mastery in her healing ability that exemplifies the very best of traditional Shipibo healing. She is well known to be blessed with an incredible visionary ability in her ceremonies, as well as working with a tremendous amount of care and compassion. Ynes is a traditional ayahuasquera (specializing with ayahuasca), palera (specializing with medicinal trees) and tabaquera (specializing with tobacco), and is also an expert in treating gynecological issues.
Ynes has trained all of her children in plant spirit healing and often works closely with her two daughters Laura and Lila, as well as her son Jose.
Lila Lopez Sanchez
Lila’s life has featured three of the classic plots of curanderismo: a traditional medicine family, a sudden injury or illness, and resistance to the path. All three have galvanized Lila to become a skillful and respected healer.
Lila is Laura’s younger sister and is 43 years old. She was also born in Roa Bo Ya, but grew up with her grandparents on her father’s side, also respected Onayas. At the age of 13, she was the victim of a serious dano, or damaging energetic attack, which was sent by a jealous neighbour who had wanted to buy a pot for carrying water that was being made for her and had been denied. A tree fell on her right leg and an excruciatingly painful, chronic infection set in that had her bed-ridden for over a year.
By this time, she had moved to live with and be cared for by her mother, Ynes, who started her on a dieta with an extremely powerful tree, catawa. The dieta succeeded in curing her leg, and was the gateway for her path as a curandera to open. Being the rebel that she is, Lila resisted the path on occasion, in favour of leading a ‘normal’ life, but two children later, the plants persisted in ‘calling her back’ to work with them.
Since then, she has worked with her mother and other extremely respected maestros all over Peru, and is also a specialist in warme ikaros. She works with an amazing amount of love and care, and is an absolute joy to have on the team.
Laura Lopez Sanchez
Raised in a medicine family, Laura was born to the life of a curandera. She is a ‘specialist’ in ‘warme’ ikaros, used for unblocking and healing emotions and relationships.
Laura is 53 years old and was born in the community of Roaboya. Her village was named after a legendarily powerful Muraya, the most powerful shamans in the Shipibo world of ayahuasca. Both her parents and grandparents were well respected Onaya, working as healers for the local villages, and from a young age, she was deeply immersed in the world of plant medicine. As with many young Shipibo born of curandero families, Laura was given small dietas by her grandparents from the age of 10, and by the age of 16 her apprenticeship started in earnest when she started to work with ayahuasca.
By the age of 20, she was travelling all over Peru with her aunt, administering plant medicines and ayahuasca ceremonies for local Peruvians, wherever their aid was requested. She has also worked extensively with her incredibly knowledgeable mother and teacher, Ynes, both in Peru and abroad.
She brings with her an incredible wealth of knowledge that has been passed down for many generations in her family line. With her contagious laughter, and passion for helping and healing from a pure space of love, she is an absolute gem!
Bio coming soon
Rojelia Valera Gonzalez
Rojelia is 60 years old and was born in the Shipibo community of Santa Anna. She has three daughters, one of whom is a teacher in school, and one son, who is practicing as a healer.
Rojelia was drawn into the world of plants through her own need to heal. At the age of 12, she was struck down by a mystery illness that no western medicine could cure. Her uncle and brother, both healers, treated her for three years with a variety of different plant remedies to help her return back to health.
From the age of 15, she began to learn in earnest, but continued to battle with bouts of the mystery illness until the age of 50. She has been working as a healer in her community for many years, and has travelled to the coast and other outlying communities when called to help.
She works with a lot of love and from a motivation of understanding how difficult it is to deal with pain and illness and really wanting to help people heal. Her work at the Temple is her first experience of working with foreigners, and she deeply grateful to be able to share her knowledge of the plants as well as support her large family with the income she earns working with us.
Elisia Ochabano Lopez
Maestra Elisia is 49 years old and was born into a highly respected healing family – both her grandparents were at the level of the Meraya, or healers of the highest level of ability.
Having lost her mother during her birth, Elisia grew up with her grandparents and from a very young age wanted to be able to heal as she had seen her grandfather do. At the age of nine, her grandfather bathed her in a flower bath of the legendary Noya Rao tree, and she drank the medicine for the first time. Soon after the ceremony, she was taken into the forest to start a rigorous process of diets with her grandfather.
She cured her first patient, a baby with serious colic and fright or susto, at the age of 10, by singing and performing a chupar on the child’s swollen stomach. By the age of 12, her grandfather had passed on his power or ‘Don’ to her, his parting gift before he died. Elisia set the medicine aside for a period of three years, grieving the loss of her mentor and guide, and then at the age of 15 began to diet again in earnest. It wasn’t long before members of the community sought her out, and her reputation as an incredible healer spread amongst many communities. She has been working and dieting non-stop ever since.
Elisia is delightful. She has an infectious laugh, and the spirit of a warrior of light! All of her five children are either in the process of learning, or are practicing medicine work. Her specialty is the chupar; to suck particularly dense energy blocks from her patient’s body. Her work is incredibly deep and skillful. She is an absolute gem!
Lucinda Mahua Campos
Lucinda is 55 years old and was born in the community of Pauyan. She has three children and is the daughter of highly respected healer and teacher, Pasqual Mahua.
She grew up in the world of medicine and at the age of 16 decided that she wanted to help people and learn to become a healer. Her father taught her according to the old Shipibo tradition, which meant that Lucinda dieted with plants for four solid years before drinking the medicine for the first time, aged 20. During this time, she worked with a number of powerful plants including Chiric Sanango, Marosa, Bobinsana, Catawa, Toe, Ayahuma and Mucura.
The first time she drank medicine, she says the spirits of the plants that she had been dieting greeted her joyously and opened a marvelous world of the cosmos. She knew that she had chosen her profession well. She continued dieting with the legendary flying tree or Noya Rau, and has become well loved and respected as a healer in her community. Her favorite part of her work is singing ikaros and seeing the positive results of her cleaning and clearing of people’s heavy energies. She is a shy yet charming maestra with a delightful disposition an amazing range and depth to her work.
Elena Valeria Vasquez
Elena has a unique background and skill set that she uses to great effect in her medicine work. As a visionary artist and curandera, she is able to express her healing gifts across modalities and mediums.
Elena is 45 years old and was born in Roya, Alto Ucayali. She always wanted to be able to heal and started dieting plants at the age of 16. She went on to attend nursing school for three years before running out of funds. Soon after, she went back to working with plants and studied under various maestros and maestras. This is the first time that she has had the opportunity to work with Westerners, and is loving it!
She is also an extremely talented artist, working with acrylic and natural paint, and produces artworks depicting her ayahuasca visions as well as traditional stories and legends. She has had exhibitions in Germany, Spain, Brazil and Denmark.
Elena is very happy at the Temple fulfilling her dream of helping and healing people. Her ikaros are beautifully melodic and colourful in nature and her shining smile and loving heart are a great addition to our team.
Maria Beltran Odisio
Maria was inspired to become a curandera by the good works of her uncle and is fondly known as our Anaconda Woman, the translation of her Shipibo name, Runin Siwe.
Maria is 53 years old and was born in the community of Nuevo Sucre on the Ucayali River. She comes from a family of healers and at the age of 25 she decided to follow the path of a curandera. Maria had watched her uncle, a powerful curandero working with the local villagers, and admired his ability to provide cures and relieve people from their suffering, and she wanted to be able to help. She learned from him for a number of years, dieting with various plants including marosa, pinon colorado, zapote renaco and nihue rao.
Maria’s tiny frame belies her incredibly powerful ikaros, which are also complemented by her specialism in chupars and massage.Maria is one of the first Shipibo maestras who came to work with us at the Temple in 2009.
Mariciella Rios Inuma
Maricella, steeped in the heritage of plant-spirit medicine, healed herself and learned from the plants for two decades before working with ayahuasca.
Maricella is 45 years old and was born in the beautiful village of Roya, Alto Ucayali. She comes from a long line of healers and was taught by her father and grandfather, both of whom were reputedly incredibly powerful curanderos.
At the age of 13, she started her first plant dieta to cure severe internal haemorrhaging. She was grateful for the healing and learning that the plants gave her, and continued to diet with many master plants including “toè” and wayra caspi, until the age of 33, when she drank ayahuasca for the first time. Since then she has been working as a healer both in her community and in other centres and now at the Temple.
Her incredible ikaros typically start with soft and gentle tones rising into strong and powerful crescendos, often inducing purging during ceremony for whoever she is working on at the time of singing. She is a highly skilled healer and much respected by all staff around the Temple.
Anita Fernandez Tananta
Anita comes from a family of healers and spent a decade dieting plants to bring to fruition her father’s vision of her as a medicine woman.
Anita is 53 years old and the mother of nine children, two of whom are currently apprenticing with the medicine. She is originally from San Pedro in the district of Contamana on the lower Ucayali River. Her father was a curandero as are her two sisters and she was around 15 years old when she drank for the first time. In this ceremony, her father saw that Anita “had a lot of medicine inside her”, and encouraged her to learn. She wasn’t ready at this stage, and unfortunately, her father died soon after.
At the age of 20, Anita’s interest in learning medicine was awakened as she watched her husband, a practicing curandero, working to heal patients with the medicine and plant remedies. She initially worked with the medicine on her own, and soon after, her husband took her under his wing and she spent 10 years under his guidance, dieting and learning until she was ready to work with patients.
Her favorite plant is noma-noma, a vine that is said to be a great teacher with a speciality in helping heal broken hearts and relationships. Her ikaros are beautifully melodic, and with her warm smile and open heart, Anita is a delightful member of the team.
Wilma Vasquez Ochavano
Wilma is another maestra who began the healing path early in life and is now delighted to use her beguiling ikaros as precise instruments for Western guests.
Wilma is 44 years old and was born in the Shipibo village of San Francisco. Both her mother and father were healers, so naturally she started working with plants at a very young age. For many years she dieted and worked as a vegetalista, preparing plant remedies and healing-plant baths before deciding to deepen her connection with the plants by starting to work with ayahuasca.
Wilma has worked with many plants, her favourites being the masters “toè” and wayra caspi. This is her first experience working with Westerners and she is loving the opportunity to share her knowledge and help heal people. Her ikaros are delicate and extremely penetrative. Her energy is delightful, and it is a pleasure to have Wilma working with us.
Pedro Sinuiri Bartra
Pedro is a a true master of plant spirit shamanism. He is 69 years old and is the epitome of a committed, heart-based and highly qualified traditional Shipibo healer.
His Shipibo name is Xanin-Wuni, which means, ‘A bird that wakes you up’! And that is indeed what he dedicates his life to: Supporting the awakening of all people he works, through healing, connection and opening their path to realizing their highest potential.
He was born in the community of Sucre on the lower Ucayali River, and comes from a long line of Meráyas, the most revered and powerful level of healer in the Shipibo tradition. He was trained by his father and grandfather, both of whom were legendary Meráyas in their time. His grandfather gave him his ‘Don’, or energetic power, through various transmissions passed on to him from the age of one years old.
Pedro drank ayahuasca for the first time at eight years old, and has been working as a healer from the age of fifteen. He has carried out plant dietas (plant-spirit medicine training) for decades and works with a huge variety of medicinal plants and trees. He believes that well-being begins with a healthy and happy mind, and is a firm believer in the need to consciously keep all emotions and thoughts about one’s self and others positive and clean. He walks his talk, and has a delightfully positive and joy-filled personality.
He is deeply connected to nature, to the jungle, and is filled with reverence and love for the world of plants. He is as comfortable hunting in the forest as he is working with the many maladies of the members of his local community, or simply passionately tending his vast garden of medicinal plants.
Julio Cesar Urquia Rojas
Julio is 39 years old and was born in the Shipibo community of Poayan. His Shipibo name is Metsamano, which means Beautiful Earth.
In his youth, he learned of his ancestors having worked with the medicine known as Oni (ayahuasca), but had little interest at that time. His initial motivation for working with plants was not to be a healer, but to learn how to hunt animals. He dieted various plants to sharpen and heighten his sensitivity and ability to understand and blend into the jungle. The plants taught him well, and he became a well-respected hunter in his community.
In his early twenties he decided to study to become an intercultural, bilingual teacher. During his studies, he learnt some Shipibo icaros, which called him then to learn more about the healing traditions of his ancestors. He decided to diet plants again, but this time to learn specifically about how to heal others. He began to have insightful conversations with his older family members, many of whom were healers, and it was an uncle who encouraged him to drink ayahuasca for the first time. This uncle noticed the strong presence of the plants that he had previously dieted to develop his hunting ability, and said that he could be a good healer. He then guided Julio through his first series of dietas initially withrao ininti, or pusangas (perfumes) before moving onto other plants.
In 1993 he graduated as a teacher and took up a position in Contamana, Upper Ucayali, and for many years, lived a double life: teacher by day and healer by night. He was sought after for his healing prowess, and eventually decided to focus entirely on his path with the plants in working as a full time healer.
2012 marked an important point in his development as a healer, when he was introduced to a renowned sananguero, a healer specializing in working with sanaga medicinal plants. This sananguero taught him an enormous amount about working with chirisanago a well-known master plant throughout the Amazon. To this day, Julio’s work is strongly guided by his connection and love for this powerful medicinal plant. The Shipibo have much respect for chirisanango that is viewed as a plant that is able to cure almost any illness, often rapidly, and some would say, is almost as powerful as ayahuasca itself.
Julio has a warrior spirit, a strong, compassionate heart and a determined will to heal all who come to him. He has worked in many local communities as well as with foreigners and is extremely passionate about his work as a healer. He brings a great deal of strength and experience to the team, and is a delight to work with.
Genaro Bardales Castro
Maestro Genaro is 61 years old and was born in the small community of Situria in the district of Inahuaya. He is the proud father of three children and six grandchildren.
As a young boy, he moved with his family to the community of Paoyan and was fascinated and excited by the work and world of the powerful healing lineage working in the village, the Mahua family.
At the age of 14, Genaro drank his first cup of ayahuasca, and it was in this ceremony that the legendary healer, Manuel Mahua, took him under his wing. Genero began a long apprenticeship of dieting for many months with master plants including Chiric Sanango, Mariri and finally the legendary flying tree, Noya Rao or Palo Voladora. At the age of 19, he succeeded in curing his first patient, and began working as a bona-fide healer.
While working as a healer in his community, Genaro continued to study and learn more about the plants, guided by renowned healers, including Pascual Mahua and Jose Castro. He is a talented huesero, or bonesetter, and works with an incredible amount of care in his healing practice. His vast wealth of experience, deep wisdom and gentle heart make him a treasured senior member of our team.
Jose Lopez Sanchez
Jose is 33 years old and was born in the native community of Roya Boya. He has three children, one of whom he is training in the Shipibo plant medicine tradition.
Son of Ynes, Jose’s journey with the medicine started at the age of seven when his grandfather took on his tutorship.
Jose’s grandfather taught in the traditional way, which meant that he started with drinking ayahuasca very intermittently, and dieting many different plants varying in length from three months to one year. His first dieta was one year of dieting ikaros, specifically arkanas (protection songs), and two more years of various plants. Jose started to drink regularly at the age of 10, whereupon his grandfather started to ‘open and direct’ the medicine of the many plants he had dieted. Between the ages of 11 and 15, he moved onto dieting big trees for many months at a time.
At 15, Jose received his first patient, but was unable to cure him, so his grandfather set him on a year-long diet with Ayahuma (Couroupita guianensis). His grandfather died when he was 17, and just before he passed, he transferred his ‘Don’, or ancestral knowledge, power and wisdom, to Jose. Devastated by his grandfather’s death, Jose changed paths for one of study in marketing. This lasted eight months and was brought to an end by a mystery illness that he believed was the result of the plants calling him back to the world of natural medicine. Jose went home to his mother, who helped to heal him and then Ynes herself fell sick. Jose watched his mother growing weaker, and felt helpless as he didn’t have the strength to cure her and she didn’t have the money to pay for Western treatment. This was huge motivation for him to start dieting again in earnest, and within a few months he was able to cure Ynes.
He has since continued learning from the plants both on his own and with some incredibly powerful teachers, including his mother and Benito Arevallo. He has spent periods of time travelling, working in various communities and ayahuasca centers around Peru, as well as working and learning with another native tribe, the Ashaninkas.
Jose carries an immense amount of knowledge, power and wisdom with his medicine. One of his favorite trees is Shihuahuaco (Dipteryx micrantha) for the strength that the plant provides in diagnosing and curing serious disease. And Noya Rao, the magical flying tree, that is full of light, opens energies and vision and is a great teacher and healer of mind, body and spirit. More recently, he has felt the call to work more and more in support of his mother, Ynes. Together they make a phenomenal team.
Jorge Ochavano Vazquez
Fondly known as Soi, Jorge showed a precocious instinct for plant medicine as a youngster and has since developed an incredibly strong healing presence as a curandero, one that belies his age.
Jorge is 34 years old and was born in the small community of Betania. He learned plant medicine from his grandfather from a very young age and first drank ayahuasca aged 12. By 13 he had started dieting with the plants and by age 15 he was singing ikaros and assisting his grandfather in ceremony.
At 17, he officially cured his first patient ‒ an Ashaninka man from a neighboring village ‒ of brujeria, or witchcraft. Since then, Soi has traveled throughout Peru, being invited to work as a healer in various indigenous communities. He has worked with and learned from the ayahuasca healers and traditions of the Quechua, Achuar, Huni Kui and Ashaninka.
Soi has a deep respect for the plants and all they have to teach, an immense pride in his culture and tradition, and a deep passion for helping people. He is young in years but wise in spirit, and brings an amazingly powerful, youthful energy that delights all with whom he works.
Damian Pacaya Rodriguez
Like many other healers, Damian’s path to the medicine began with a personal health crisis. He then overcame a crisis of faith to honor his deep calling to be a curandero.
Damian is 40 years old, the father of six children, and was born in the community of Iparia. He studied and taught as a teacher in schools in the Iparia district for a time before falling gravely ill from a dano sent by a jealous co-worker. His curandero uncle took him under his wing in another community, and along with his curandero grandfather worked together to heal him. It took four to five years of serious dietas to eventually heal his illness, during which time he learnt an incredible amount from the plants about his own healing process, and consequently, how to heal others.
He started to work as an ‘assistant’ curandero with his uncle, and when he died, with his grandfather for some years, until the local pastor convinced him that working with the plants was against his religion. As a result, he parted ways with the plants for around four years, got married and had his first children. During this time, the plants kept calling him back to work with them, which he ignored, and as a result, he fell ill once more. His grandfather helped him heal with the plants once again, and after making peace about his heart’s calling to heal people with plants, he began working again as a curandero. With his pure heart and sincere calling to heal others, Damian is a real gift to our team.