Icaros & Plant Spirit Shamanism: The Songs of the Shaman

February 17, 2008

pennantfire-ayahuasca.jpg

Integral to any ayahausca ceremony are sacred chants sung by the shamans to call the protective jungle spirits, summon the essence of nature, and to provoke the mareacion or effects of the ayahuasca by making a plea to the spirit of the vine. In the words of Javier Aravelo, quoted in my book, Plant Spirit Shamanism, icaros “render the mind susceptible for visions; then the curtains can open for the start of the theatre”.

 Icaros may be magical chants or a melody that is whistled, sung, or whispered into the ayahuasca brew. They may also be sung directly into the energy field of a person who is to be healed during a ceremony.  An icaro can be regarded as an energetic force charged with positive or healing intent that the shaman stores inside his body and is able to transmit to another person or to the brew itself so that this positive energy is ingested when the mixture is drunk. These songs are taught to the shaman by the spirit of the plant allies he has an affinity with, and the longer his relationship with the plants, the more icaros he may learn and the more potent they will be.  The power and knowledge of an ayahuascero (ayahuasca shaman) is therefore measured in part by the number of icaros he possesses. Javier, for example, has worked with many different plants for 15 years and now knows the spirit songs of some 1,500 ‘jungle doctors’, including the icaro del tabaco (the song of tobacco – one of the most sacred of Amazonian plants), the icaro del ajo sacha (the song of ajo sacha) and the icaro del chiric sanango, amongst many others.   

There are precise and specific icaros for many different purposes – to cure snake bites, for example, or to clarify the vision during ayahuasca ceremonies, to communicate with the spirit world, or even to win the love of a woman. Huarmi icaros – from the Quechua word ‘huarmi’ (which, loosely, means “woman”) are of this latter category. 

 There are also icaros (called icaros de la piedra) which are taught to the shaman by encantos (special healing stones which offer spiritual protection), and icaros to the spirits of the elements, such as icaro del viento, which calls upon the spirit of the wind.  Other icaros, such as the ayaruna – from the Quechua words ‘aya’ (“spirit” or “dead”) and ‘runa’ (“people”) – are sung to invoke the “spirit people” – the souls of dead shamans who live in the underwater world – so they may help during a healing or an ayahuasca ceremony.   Icaros can also be transmitted from a master shaman to his disciple but, once again, it is nature that is regarded as the greatest teacher and the most powerful songs are those learnt directly from the plants themselves. To learn these songs the shaman must fast or follow a special diet for many weeks as he treks deep into the rainforest to find the appropriate plants and places of power where the magical music of nature can be heard. 

The words of the chants he then learns are symbolic stories telling of the ability of nature to heal itself: how the crystalline waters from a stream will wash clean and purify a person who is unwell, for example; or how bright-coloured flowers attract hummingbirds whose delicate wings fan healing energies. You might also see such things in your ayahuasca visions as a response to these icaros, but what actually heals you is more likely to be the insights that arise from the experience and which allow inner feelings to unblock so that bitterness and anger can change to ecstasy and love.

 A few verses from the icaro madre naturaleza (‘song of mother nature’), which was taught by the jungle to Javier Arevalo, demonstrate the deep bond between the shaman and the natural world, and the healing that is available to us all. 

In English:

Don’t leave me, don’t leave me
My mother nature
Don’t leave me, don’t leave me
My mother nature
For if you will leave me
I would die or of the pain
My tears of desperation
My mother nature
Yes you have the gift of life
Sacred purification in you hands
Blessed mother nature

Don’t leave me don’t leave me
My mother nature
Don’t leave me, don’t leave me
My mother nature
For if you will leave me
I would die or of the pain
Tears of desperation
The white veil that your you have
As it covers this child
Clean my body and spirit
With the breath or of your lips
Dearest miraculous Mother.

Don’t leave me, don’t leave me
My mother nature
Don’t leave me, don’t leave me
My mother nature
For if you will leave me
I will die of the sorrow
My tears of desperation
In the mountains or upper jungle
Where you give me peace and prosperity
Without regrets neither bitterness
Dearest pure Mother

Don’t leave me , don’t leave me
My mother nature
Don’t leave me , don’t leave me
My mother nature
For if you will leave me
I would die or of the pain
My tears of desperation
Where you Take a bath with the plants
Blessed Child put onto me
Your crown of health
Eternally in my heart

In Spanish:

No me dejes no me dejes
Madre mia naturaleza
No me dejes no me dejes
Madre mia naturaleza
Por que vas i ti me dejares
Moriria o de las penas
Llantos y desesperaciones
Madre mia naturaleza
Si tu tienes el don de la
Santa purificacion en ti manos
Benditas madre naturaleza

No me dejes no me dejes
Madre mia naturaleza
No me dejes no me dejes
Madre mia naturaleza
Por que vas i ti me dejares
Moriria o de las penas
Llantos y desesperaciones
El velo blanco que tu tienes
Como cubre a esta criatura
Limpia mi cuerpo y espirutu
Con el soplo o de tus labios
Madre cita milagrosa

No me dejes no me dejes
Madre mia naturaleza
No me dejes no me dejes
Madre mia naturaleza
Por que vas i ti me dejares
Moriria o de las penas
Llantos y desesperaciones
En las altas o montanas
Donde pone paz y prosperaciones
Sin remordimentos ni rencores
Madre cita la pura

No me dejes no me dejes
Madre mia naturaleza
No me dejes no me dejes
Madre mia naturaleza
Por que vas i ti me dejares
Moriria o de las penas
Llantos y desesperaciones
Donde Banas con las plantas
Obendita criatura ponme ya
La corona de la sanidad
Muy eternal en mi Corazon

  Join us for an authentic experience of ayahuasca, San Pedro, and plant spirit shamanism in the beautiful rainforests and mountains of Peru. Email ross@thefourgates.com for a FREE Information Pack or visit the website http://www.thefourgates.com and look under the Sacred Journeys section.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: