ayahuasca retreat

ayahuasca retreat

Ayahuasca is a magical rainforest medicine made from ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) and the leaves of the chacruna plant (Psychotria viridis).

The mixture is prepared by cleaning specially-chosen vines and adding them and the leaves to water. This is then boiled and reduced for several hours, attended by shamans who blow their intentions and good wishes (soplada) into it, make prayers to their spirits for good healings and singing icaros (sacred healing songs) into the brew during its preparation and in ceremony.

When ayahuasca is drunk it can open up a new world that is extraordinary, amazing and healing – and yet it is the same world we are part of every day; ayahuasca simply opens our eyes to what is really before us.

The experience normally begins soon after drinking with a feeling of warm presence in the stomach which spreads throughout the body. Most people describe this as very pleasant, like being in a warm, body-temperature bath.

Approximately 40 minutes later visions begin, which may be of “other worlds” or new perspectives on “this” world and/or recollections in words, sights, sounds or feelings of episodes and events from your life which need to be healed and which you can now approach from a position of knowledge and strength, aided by the spirit of ayahuasca.

Healing comes through a subtle shift in awareness, a deepened understanding of your place in the world or an increase in personal power.

 

Icaros, healing songs of the shaman, are integral to the ayahuasca experience and direct the ceremony and the visions which may arise. The shaman has songs for each person’s needs, the vibrations of which summon healing energies with words that tell of Nature’s ability to heal.

As the shaman sings you might even see these things in your visions (ayahuasca was once known by the scientific name telepathine because of its ability to work in this way). Another common experience is to see rainbows streaming from the shaman’s mouth as he sings to you, becoming white light or healing colours as they enter your energy field.

Healing takes place as the vibrations of these songs rearrange the patterns, waveforms and frequency of your energy system, also empowering and directing the ayahuasca you have drunk so it can act with greater intensity and focus on your behalf.

As a result of this shift in energy you become, in a sense, a new person who can see and understand life from a new perspective and sadness, illness, anger or other unhelpful energies can be transmuted into ecstasy, well-being and love.

THE HUMMINGBIRD RETREAT CENTRE PERU

At The Hummingbird Retreat Centre near Iquitos in Peru, healing with ayahuasca is also part of a process which involves other aspects of traditional purification and energy work.

The Centre is run by two Westerners – British author Ross Heaven who has written several books on plant medicines including Plant Spirit Shamanism, about ayahuasca healing, and The Hummingbird’s Journey to God, about healing with San Pedro, and Tracie Thornberry, an Australian addictions  release therapist – but works with indigenous rainforest healers. During your stay at The Hummingbird the shamans and staff act on your behalf as a therapeutic team and may also prescribe healings for you which might include the following.

 

TRADITIONAL CLEANSING SAUNA

Traditional jungle “saunas” help to cleanse, detoxify and “leave the outside world behind”. Participants are wrapped in blankets and absorb hot steam from a pot containing herbs which rid the body of toxins. The Centre is

 

also constructing a sweatlodge (not a traditional Amazonian method but nonetheless effective) and when this is complete purification ceremonies in the lodge will also be offered.

FLORAL BATHS

Herbal and floral baths are also part of the treatments. Special plants and flowers for cleansing and empowerment are added to cooling water from the Centre’s lagoon and the mixture is poured over the body to restore balance and harmony to the soul. By “flourishing” the person in this way the baths also prepare them for the deeper healing of ayahuasca. A series of floral baths are normally taken as directed by the shamans and people normally bathe after every ayahuasca ceremony.

HEALING CONSULTATIONS

Individual consultations with the shamans typically take place each day as an opportunity to discuss your ayahuasca visions and healing needs. Translation services are provided.

As a result of these meetings additional treatments and plant medicines may sometimes be prescribed which the shamans will freshly prepare for you. Occasionally there is a small extra charge for this (for example if you wish to have larger quantities of medicines made up for you to take home) but normally these treatments are included as part of your programme.

CIRCLE MEETINGS

In the morning following every ayahuasca ceremony there is a circle meeting led by one of the Centre’s counsellors so you can discuss your experiences and clarify your visions and insights. Participants usually find this very helpful but attendance at them is not compulsory and they may choose to rest or do their own integration work instead.

PLANT WALKS

The Hummingbird Retreat Centre is in the rainforest so the jungle is your playground and you are free to explore it every day. Some of retreats also include guided walks with the shamans however to introduce you to the medicine plants of the forest and explain their uses in healing.

The rainforest is home to many rare species which cannot be found outside this region and it is estimated that 60-70% of all pharmaceutical medicines are derived from its plants – yet Western science has still only explored about 3% of its healing potential. Shamans know thousands of plants and are experts in their uses.

SHAMANIC WORKSHOPS AND SEMINARS

On some of courses at The Hummingbird (for example, The Magical Earth and Plant Spirit Shamanism programmes) shamanic healing techniques are also taught and explanatory seminars and workshops are offered so you can put your experiences into context and learn more about the rainforest, its myths, legends and the approach of its shamans to healing. Previous subjects have included:

  • Soul retrieval and ‘spirit extraction’
  • The doctrine of signatures in rainforest healing
  • Ayahuasca, icaros and spirit songs
  • Making your own pusanga, the “love medicine of the Amazon”
  • Exploring ayahuasca visions
  • Ancestral healing and symbols of power
  • The journey of the spirit canoe
  • Shipibo art and the nature of reality
  • And, during one event, a special spirit journey and baby-naming ceremony for a participant mother-to-be

 

If you would like to know more about ayahuasca or the healing work of The Hummingbird Centre with this powerful jungle medicine visit the website at http://www.ayahuascaretreats.org or email ross@thefourgates.com for a copy of its brochure.

Tags: ayahuasca, healing, ayahuasca retreats, ayahuasca ceremonies, shamanism, ross heaven, peru, the amazon, shamans, curanderismo, pusanga

ayahuasca retreats

Ayahuasca retreats

 

If you are thinking of going on an ayahuasca retreat in the Amazon please check out the Hummingbird Retreat Centre. The Hummingbird is one of the most comfortable and best-equipped Centres in the Iquitos area. It’s run by Tracie Thornberry and Ross Heaven. Combined, their knowledge of ayahuasca is second to none. The Centre is well-connected and they know all the local shamans so know where to get the best ayahuasca medicine for you. The visions and their rewards of love and the feelings of deep interconnectedness and everything ayahuasca teaches amazed me. My last journey with the vine was so mind-blowingly beautiful that I laughed danced and cried tears of sheer joy. It really let me see the beauty and magic of the spirit world and I just laughed and sang to the shaman’s icaros. If you want to know more please feel free to ask me any questions. I’m putting a group together to visit the Centre next year and if you’re interested in joining me I’d love to hear from you.

Ross, Scotland

 

Just sending a big thank you for the beautiful experience of the ayahuasca workshop and the tour of the Iquitos market. I especially notice the effects of the healing work now that I’m in Cusco and have been around lots of people here. I am much more calm and grounded than I would probably normally feel.

The retreat was unique from the one I was at in 2002 and from ones I’ve read or heard about and this is a nice positive. For one thing, having strongly grounded female energy guiding the participants and someone who has done years of work with healing before, that seems to be missing in many of the aya retreats. From my perspective, feminine energy in leadership particularly in this kind of healing retreat gives more of a feeling of continuation of connection to the earth and plants than it did when in my first retreat with Howard Lawler [el tigre journeys]. I really liked, too, the bringing together of the employees, participants, friends, shamans, and local musicians, especially with the fiesta. The setting also is conducive for someone from a city needing deep healing.
Muchas gracias.
Sincerely,
Robyn, Canada

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Continued from Part 1… MOCURA/MUCURA: PSYCHOLOGICAL AND EMOTIONAL STRENGTH

One of the qualities of this plant is its ability to boost one’s psychological and emotional strength. For this reason it is regarded as a ‘great balancer’, restoring connection and equilibrium between our rational mind and feelings. For example, it is good at countering shyness and can enhance one’s sense of personal value and authority by helping to overcome painful memories (of past embarrassments and ‘failures’, etc).

 Mocura is also used in floral baths to both cleanse and protect against malevolent forces such as sorcery and envidia (envy). Its medicinal properties include relief from asthma, bronchitis, and the reduction of fat and cholesterol.  

In the West, there are a number of plants that have similar effects and bring calm and balance to the soul. These include lavender – which Pliny regarded as so powerful that even looking upon it brings peace –  meadowsweet, pine, and rosemary.

 Burning pine needles will purify the atmosphere of a house and a pine branch hung over the front door will bring harmony and joy to the home. Rosemary, especially when burned, is cleansing and centring, and it is said that if you concentrate on the smoke with a question in mind, rosemary will also provide the answer. There is a European belief that carrying rosemary leaves will protect you from sadness. It is also quite pleasant to drink with honey as a weak tea. 

In terms of body energetics and magical uses, moss, orange, and strawberry leaves are effective at removing bad luck, and loosestrife, myrtle, and violet leaves help to overcome fear.

 ROSA SISA: HARMONY AND HEALING THE SOUL This plant is often used to heal children who are suffering from mal aire (‘bad air’), a malady which can occur when a family member dies and leaves the child unhappy and sleepless. The spirit of the dead person lingers, it is said, because it is sad to go and aware of the grief around it, so it stays in the house and tries to comfort its family. This proximity to death, however, can make children sick.  Rosa sisa is also used to bring good luck and harmony in general. One of the ways that bad luck can result is through the magical force of envidia. A jealous neighbour might, for instance, throw a handful of graveyard dirt into your house to spread sadness and heavy feelings. Those in the house become bored, agitated, or restless as a consequence. The solution is to take a bucket of water and crushed rosa sisa flowers and thoroughly wash the floors to dispel the evil magic.  Many Peruvians also grow rosa sisa near the front door of their houses to absorb the negativity of people who pass by and look in enviously to see what possessions they have. The flowers turn black when this happens, but go back to their normal colour when the negative energy is dispersed through their roots to the Earth. Rosa sisa is also used for making dreams come true, by blowing on the petals with a wish in mind, like we do with dandelions. It can make these wishes happen because it is bright like the sun and contains the energy of good fortune. Marigolds have similar magical uses in the West. Aemilius Macer, as long ago as the 13th century, wrote that merely gazing at the flowers will draw “wicked humours out of the head”, “comfort the heart” and make “the sight bright and clean”. In Europe, just as in Peru, marigolds are often grown beside the front door or hung in garlands to protect those inside from magical attacks. For the same reason, and to empower the spirit, marigold petals can be scattered beneath the bed (where they will also ensure good – and often prophetic – dreams) or added to bath water to bring calm and refreshment to the body and soul. 

As well as drinking marigold tea, the petals can be used in salads or added to rice and pulses as another way of dieting them. Physically, the tea is good for bringing down fevers (especially in children), for gastritis, gallbladder problems, and tonsillitis. Rubbed on the skin, marigold petals will heal skin diseases, cuts, bruises, and rashes.

 Alternatives, to create harmony in the self and home, include gardenia, meadowsweet, and passion flower. PIRI PIRI, MEDICINAL SEDGES: FOR VISION  Native people cultivate numerous varieties of medicinal sedges to treat a wide range of health problems. Sedge roots, for example, are used to treat headaches, fevers, cramps, dysentery and wounds, as well easing childbirth and protecting babies from illness. Special sedge varieties are cultivated by Shipibo women to improve their skills in weaving magical tapestries that embody the spiritual universe, and it is customary when a girl is very young for her mother to squeeze a few drops of sap from the piri piri seed into her eyes to give her the ability to have visions of the designs she will make when she is older. The men cultivate sedges to improve their hunting skills.  Since the plant is used for such a wide range of conditions, its powers were once dismissed as superstition. Pharmacological research, however, has now revealed the presence of ergot alkaloids within these plants, which are known to have diverse effects on the body – from stimulation of the nervous system to the constriction of blood vessels. These alkaloids are responsible for the wide range of sedge uses, but come, not from the plant itself, but from a fungus that infects it.  There are a number of Western plants that are also said to produce visions – i.e. communion with the greater spirit of the world. The leaves of coltsfoot and angelica, when smoked, for example, will induce such visions, and damiana, when burned, will also produce these effects.  Angelica has long been regarded as a spiritual plant with almost supernatural powers. It is linked to the archangel Raphael, who appeared in the dreams of a medieval monk and revealed the plant as a cure for plague. Native Americans used it in compresses to cure painful swellings and believed it sucked the spirit of pain out of the body before casting it to the four winds. It has also been heralded as an aid to overcoming alcohol addiction as its regular usage creates a dislike for the taste of alcohol. Recent research suggests that it can also help the body fight the spread of cancer. Its leaves can be added to salads and this is another way to diet this plant.  

Coltsfoot is another plant with wide-ranging properties but is most highly regarded for its soothing effects on respiratory and bronchial problems. One way of dieting it, paradoxically, is to use it in herbal cigarettes. These can be made by adding a larger part of coltsfoot to other aromatic and soothing herbs such as skullcap or chamomile. Cut the herbs to small lengths and mix them thoroughly with a little honey dissolved in water, then spread the mix out and let it to dry for a few days. It can then be rolled to make cigarettes or smoked in a pipe.

 UNA DE GATO: FOR BALANCEUna de Gato (‘cat’s claw’) is a tropical vine that grows in the rainforests. It gets its name from the small thorns at the base of the leaves, which look like a cat’s claw and enable the vine to wind itself around trees, climbing to a height of up to 150 feet. The inner bark of the vine has been used for generations to treat inflammations, colds, viral infections, arthritis, and tumors. It also has anti-inflammatory and blood-cleansing properties, and will clean out the entire intestinal tract to treat a wide array of digestive problems such as gastric ulcers, parasites, and dysentery. Its most famous quality, however, is its powerful ability to boost the body’s immune system, and it is considered by many shamans to be a ‘balancer’, returning the body’s functions to a healthy equilibrium.  From a psycho-spiritual or shamanic perspective, disease usually arises from a spiritual imbalance within the patient causing him to become de-spirited or to lose heart (in the West we would call this depression). Interestingly, Thomas Bartram, in his Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, writes that in the West “some psychiatrists believe [problems of the immune system, where the body attacks itself] to be a self-produced phenomenon due to an unresolved sense of guilt or dislike of self… People who are happy at their home and work usually enjoy a robust immune system”. The psychiatric perspective, in this sense, is not so different from the shamanic view. Cat’s claw is believed to heal illness by restoring the peace of the spirit as well as the balance between spirit and body. The medicinal properties of this plant are officially recognized by the Peruvian government and it is a protected (for export) plant. It is, however, widely available in the West in capsule form and this is one way of dieting it, although its spiritual affects will be less strong, since, once a plant has been processed in this way, much of its spirit is lost. Echinacea can also be used as a substitute for cat’s claw and will stimulate the immune system and prove effective against depression and exhaustion. As an alternative, you might try a mixture of borage, cinnamon, and blackberry, all of which are regarded as lifting the spirits and good healers in general. CHULLACHAQUI CASPI: CONNECTION TO THE EARTHThe resin of the chullachaqui caspi tree, extracted from the trunk in the same way as rubber from the rubber tree, can be used as a poultice or smeared directly onto wounds to heal deep cuts and stop haemorrhages. For skin problems, such as psoriasis, the bark can be grated and boiled in water while the patient sits before it, covered with a blanket, to receive a steam bath. It is important to remove the bark without killing the tree, however, which can otherwise have serious spiritual consequences. Oil can also be extracted by boiling the bark, and this can be made into capsules. The deeper, more spiritual, purpose of this tree is to help the shaman or his patient get close to the spirit of the forest and in touch with the vibration and rhythm of the Earth. Through this reconnection with nature, it will strengthen an unsettled mind and help to ground a person who is disturbed.  It will also guide and protect the apprentice shaman and show him how to recognise which plants can heal. The tree has large buttress roots as it grows in sandy soil where roots cannot go deep (chulla in Quechua means ‘twisted foot’ and chaqui is the plant). This forms part of Amazonian mythology, in stories of the jungle ‘dwarf’, the chullachaqui, which is said to have a human appearance, with one exception: his twisted foot. The chullachaqui is the protector of the animals, and lives in places where the tree also grows. The legend is that if you are lost in the forest and meet a friend or family member, it is most likely the chullachaqui who has taken their form. He will be friendly and suggest going for a walk so he can guide you or show you something of interest. If you go, however, he will lead you deep into the rainforest until you are lost, and you will then suffer madness or become a chullachaqui yourself.  

Ross has speculated that the reference is to the initiation of the plant shaman, who must go deep into the jungle to pursue his craft by getting to know the plants and the forest. Such trials can, indeed, lead to madness or even death for the unwary, but for those who succeed, they will become great healers, in touch with the spirits of nature, like the chullachaqui himself. For those who are not ready to meet these challenges, the advice of the jungle shamans is simple: when out walking in the forest, should you encounter a friend or a family member, always look at his feet, as the chullachaqui will try to keep his twisted foot away from you. Do not go with him – turn back and run away!

 The chullachaqui, symbolically, is a tree and the motif of the ‘world tree’ – the spiritual centre of the universe which connects the material and immaterial planes – occurs in many cultures and is often to do with initiation. In Haiti, it is Papa Loko (a variant of the word iroco, which is the name of an African tree) who meets the shaman-to-be in the dark woods at night to initiate him into the Vodou religion. In Siberia, too, there is a tradition that the shaman-elect must climb a silver birch while in a state of trance and make secret, spirit-given, markings on one of its topmost branches. While it is interesting to speculate about the initiatory symbolism of the chullachaqui, it must also be pointed out that Amazonian shamans regard it as very real being. Javier Aravelo, for example, has a photograph of a chullachaqui’s tambo, which he swears is real. The tambo is a hut that stands about four feet high and is used as a dwelling. Javier discovered this one next to a cultivated garden deep in the otherwise wild rainforest In the West, we have our own tradition of magical trees. One of these is willow, a tree sacred to the Druids. Ancient British burial mounds and modern day cemeteries are both often lined with willow, symbolising the gateway this tree provides between the living and the dead, spirit and matter. The brooms of witches are also bound with willow, enabling their flight to the otherworld.  To deepen a connection to the Earth and the spirit, willow can be ‘dieted’ in place of chullachaqui caspi by burning crushed bark fragments with white sandalwood or myrrh and bathing in the smoke.  CHUCHUHUASI: INCREASED LIFE FORCE  This is another Amazonian tree which forms an important part of the jungle pharmacopoeia. The bark can be chewed as a remedy for stomach ache, fevers, arthritis, circulation, and bronchial problems, but it is rather bitter and so more often it is macerated in aguardiente or boiled in water and honey.  

Western alternatives include burdock for arthritis and for ‘fevers’ as they manifest through the skin in the form of eczema, psoriasis, acne, etc, and ginseng for problems of the circulation. Kola is good for stomach complaints (diarrhoea and dysentery, etc) and saw palmetto is a general tonic which is useful for bronchial problems.

 Chuchuhuasi is also regarded as a “libido stimulant” and aphrodisiac, giving the person who drinks it a renewed sense of life and vigour. With these properties in mind, chuchuhuasi is the main ingredient in cocktails at many bars and restaurants in Iquitos, on the banks of the Amazon river, the most popular of which is the Chuchuhuasi Sour, where it is mixed with limes, ice, and honey. In the West, plants with similar aphrodisiac qualities include burdock, ginseng, kola, and saw palmetto berries. These are not just aids to sexual potency, but reconnect the dieter to the joy of living and a love of involvement with others.  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.