Sacred Plant Medicine and
Ayahuasca Shamanism in Peru
For thousands of years, indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon have worked with sacred plants to heal illness, solve everyday problems and connect with spirit. A central part of this practice is the ritual consumption of ayahuasca, a preparation of 2 plants, the ayahuasca vine and chacruna. The healing powers, altered states of consciousness and spiritually awakening effects of ayahuasca have recently captivated much attention outside of Latin America generating widespread discussion and curiosity.
What is often missed from these discussions is the vast range of other powerful medicinal plants also used within these Amazonian traditions. Simply put, ayahuasca shamanism and plant medicine in Peru is not just about visions and psychedelic insights, it is a broad, ancient and complex wisdom path of holistic natural medicine for mind, body and spirit encompassing a plethora of plant based medicines and spiritual practices.
This page is designed to briefly introduce you to the historical and cultural context of ayahuasca shamanism and plant medicine in Peru, and to look at the way it is is evolving as the wider world begins to experience, discuss and explore these powerful gifts from nature.
Worldview and context
As with many indigenous or alternative healing paths, the world of Amazonian shamanism is multi-dimensional. From this perspective the ayahuasca ceremony, master plant dietas and wider practices serve as an intentional bridging of these dimensions, connecting us with forces that exist beyond our immediate reality yet have a direct impact on everyday life and well-being.
There are certainly powerful bio-chemical processes that contribute to the physical healing which occurs in this tradition, yet there is also a distinct vibrational reality playing an equally important part. This is the perspective of spirit and matter coexisting. In this way, it is understood that the “plant spirits” or conscious intelligence residing in the ayahuasca vine and all the other master plants are healing, teaching, sacred forces which are interfaced with ceremonially for the purpose of healing.
In this context these medicinal plants are not seen as “drugs” regardless of any psychoactive properties, but as spirits and medicines.
Roots and globalization
Researchers estimate ayahuasca has been used by indigenous Peruvian peoples for up to 5000 years. After the arrival of Spanish colonialists around 500 years ago the slow integration of western religion and ideology with indigenous shamanic belief systems began. In present day Peru a small number of people still practice exclusively from the traditional non-western perspective, while the larger group of “Mestizo” shamans have developed systems of practice that incorporate elements of Spanish Catholicism and other more western objects or rituals with the indigenous foundations. Some examples include references to Saints and Jesus, reciting of Christian prayers, the use of rosaries, Agua Florida, camphor or candles to make blessings and for protection all seen alongside more traditional aspects such as connections with animal and plant spirits, the use of tobacco and the all important Icaro’s (medicine songs) often sung in a mix of Spanish and Quechua.
Overall, there is no set in stone code of conduct for Amazonian Shamanism in Peru despite some consistency in various practices. The use of ayahuasca in Peru today is to some degree an individually expressed art, every healer will develop their own unique combination of beliefs and practices based on a mixture of inherited knowledge and personal experiential learning, a Curandero in Peru will tell you, “the plants teach me”.
Various non- Latin American seekers have experienced ayahuasca throughout the years from the famous beat poets Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs in the 1960’s to the world renowned ethnographer and psychonaught Graham Hancock. However, in the past decade a surging interest in ayahuasca has drawn thousands of seekers to Peru and the wider Amazon in search of physical healing, personal growth and spiritual awakening. Deeply connected to the New Age movement, ayahuasca shamanism is now firmly embedded in the modern world of spiritual discovery and alternative health. A number of documentaries, books and many websites exist and the term “ayahuasca tourism” is now commonly heard throughout Peru.
Holding space in changing times
Here at The Garden Of Peace, we acknowledge and are positive about the changing paradigm of ayahuasca’s use, yet also hold a deep respect and humble reverence for the ancient wisdom carried by her traditional custodians, the indigenous healers and shaman of the Amazon regions. We are mindful of cultural appropriation issues and serious about responsibly sharing this wisdom.
The specific approach to working with ayahuasca used by our Curandero’s who could be classified as Peruvian Mestizo Shamans, incorporates master plant dietas; a very traditional Peruvian approach which must be followed with dedication to be safely and effectively benefited from, more information about this on our ayhahuasca & master plants retreat page. We all have much to learn from all these traditions and plants. Equally, all of us who have come to the medicine have much to offer in turn to the world around us, a chance to pass it on in whatever form we can through our own healing experiences and insights.
From her indigenous roots deep in the Amazon to global emergence into the New Age and wellness communities, perhaps ayahuasca is now intentionally spreading beyond her native environment to help heal and guide us out of the devastation we are imposing on each other and our environment, to reconnect us with our divine nature and unify us with a bigger picture for the future of this reality, whatever the deeper purpose, this is truly an incredible gift from nature.
Here at The Garden Of Peace we hope to above all facilitate space for those who feel called to this path so they may come and meet the medicine and connect with their deepest potential for holistic well-being. Because, from that space it becomes so much easier for us all to walk the earth in harmony.