Another shamanic healing practice differs greatly from a typical healing session as the client goes on a spiritual journey. Non-ordinary states of consciousness can be accessed through deep meditation using shamanic trance-inducing methods.
However, there is another path one can take to heal and access these non-ordinary states: plant medicines. The difference is that the plant is the vehicle, and each plant has its own unique way of touring these worlds.
Misconceptions of plant medicines
In recent years, the curiosity of many people in the Western world about indigenous cultures and their plant medicines have peaked. This recent attention, however, has been accompanied by a misconception of the medicine, the experience, and its immense healing properties.
In shamanic culture, these plants are not drugs. Rather, they are highly respected sacred medicines. Shamans believe these plant medicines are deeply connected to the Spirit. They believe the plants can show us non-ordinary realms where knowledge can be attained, growth can be accelerated, and true healing can take place.
Traditional use of Plant Medicines
Plant medicines should only be experienced in a ceremonial context with a trained shaman and Curandero. The Curandero’s job during ceremony is to join the client in his or her journey, hold safe space, guide, protect, and intervene if needed. The Curandero can also help the participant to interpret, understand and integrate their experience after the ceremony.
Potential participants must feel called, not pressured, to participate in a plant medicine ceremony. You must be ready to make a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual change. They must also be ready to completely surrender to the plant and let it take them where they need to go. The plant spirit always knows exactly what one most needs to see, feel, hear, experience, and thus, learn.
Because these plants are so powerful, they are often regarded by shamanic cultures as spiritual entities or Gods and Goddesses. Many common shamanic plant medicines include, but are certainly not limited to: Ayahuasca, Iboga, San Pedro cactus, psychedelic mushrooms, which is more of a fungi, Salvia, and Peyote cactus.
Overview of an Ayahuasca Medicine Ceremony
Unlike other sacred plant medicines, Ayahuasca is comprised of two separate plants: the Chacruna leaf (Psychotria viridis) and the Ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi). Alone, neither of these plants can produce medicinal nor entheogenic properties. However, when combined, they work together and become a very powerful and sacred medicine. Both plants are found in the Amazon rainforest in South America with are over 80,000 leafy plant species. Yet, somehow, the psychopharmacologists of the Amazon (Curandero’s) knew exactly what two plant species would create such a magical and psychoactive medicine when combined.
History of Ayahuasca
Ayahuasca dates so far back that anthropologists and researchers have yet to trace its origins. However, the Shamanic Curandero’s claim the plants, themselves, told them during a Middle World shamanic journey.
The plants are collected from the jungle and brewed into a sacred tea. The tea, when taken ceremonially, opens the gates to the spirit realm and reveals mystical, non-ordinary worlds that are unperceivable in ordinary consciousness.
Traditionally, it was only the Curandero who would drink the Ayahuasca brew. They would do this in order to induce their shamanic journeys during a healing session and bring wisdom and guidance back in order to assist in healing individuals and the community.
Modern Use of Ayahuasca
Today, the Ayahuasca brew has evolved exponentially. Anyone can experience the extraordinary healing power of Ayahuasca. Unfortunately, many Western cultures do not fully understand the healing and medicinal properties of this unique plant substance. It is also illegal in many countries.
Yet, in the Amazonian countries of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, and Brazil, Ayahuasca is both legal and highly celebrated. In these countries, foreigners can partake in an Ayahuasca ceremonies with a respected shaman Curandero.
During these ceremonies participants can confront the root causes of their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual illnesses head-on, and delve deep into the healing process by allowing the spirit of Ayahuasca, to take them on a journey to these realms of non-ordinary consciousness.
Within these realms, issues that have long been hidden or dormant within the subconscious mind are revealed. Mother Ayahuasca will always teach participants precisely what they most need to learn to fully heal themselves.
Participation in an Ayahuasca Ceremony
Specific traditions within Ayahuasca ceremonies vary from shaman to shaman, however, there are universal protocols. Initially, participants prepare for an Ayahuasca ceremony by following a strict diet, often referred to as a ‘dieta’.
Ayahuasca is a total spirit, mind, and body cleanse. To prepare for the experience, a special diet ‘dieta’ is highly recommended. During the first half of a ceremony, there can be a fair amount of purging, from either or both ends. This is because Ayahuasca is purifying the physical body of removing toxins down to a cellular level, before moving into the mental, emotional, and spiritual body purification process.
A good tip to avoid or even alleviate the purging process is to begin the purification process the week before the ceremony. Specific diets vary, but usually require one to abstain from drugs, alcohol, and processed foods. In some cases, dieta’s even require the absence of sex, salt, meat, spice, and sugar. In most cultures, respecting and following a dieta is how you honor and pay homage to Mother Ayahuasca.
Each shaman Curandero has their own personal way of setting up the ceremonial space. Most ceremonies are held after sunset in a safe, relaxing, comfortable environment. In fact, many take place within the highly energetic confines of the Amazon Rainforest.
The number of participants can range from small groups of 7 or 8, to large groups of 30 or more participants. Typically, one or more Curandero’s are present during the ceremony. They also ingest the medicine. The Curandero creates a very open and safe space by lighting incense and candles, setting up altars, and playing powerfully transformative music. The Curandero will also clear and protect the energy of the space with Palo Santo and the sacred tobacco “Mapacho.
Often Curandero’s ask each participant to set an intention or intentions for their journey. These intentions can be voiced to the group, while prayers give thanks to Mother Ayahuasca. Then each participant drinks the Ayahuasca brew and begins their journey. Once the medicine kicks in, the Curandero will begin to sing icaros, or shaman songs, which help to intensify the medicine and further protect the energy of the room.
Ayahuasca typically lasts between 5 and 8 hours. As ceremony participants begin to return to this conscious reality, the Curandero often uses Mapacho to clear the energy of the space and ground everyone. Typically, there will be a period when participants can share their experience with the group through heartfelt communion.
In some, but not all ceremonies, participants can discuss their experience with the Curandero, for integrate of their experience and for suggestions on how to incorporate newly discovered insights, revelations and wisdom into their lives for optimal healing. The integration process often continues for days, weeks, and even months in some case.
Begin Your Journey
Access 3 Chapters of Dr. Hofrath’s Ebook
“The Healing Power of Somatic Body Psychology”
Heal the Body, Heal the Soul
What is it that makes human beings so susceptible to the devastating effects of trauma?
In this pioneering ebook you’ll learn how to process, integrate and dissipate adverse traumatic memories and heal your soul for balance and alignment in body mind and spirit.
Somatic science evolved from observing how animals overcome traumatic events. Animals have the uncanny ability to dissipate adverse over-reactivity, emotional flooding, fear based behavior, rumination, shame and guilt from their consciousness. Despite frequently facing life threatening situations, animals can quickly return to their normal way of being without holding on to traumatic memories.