Monday, January 13, 2014

Someone Asked About the Need for Curanderos in Ayahuasca Ceremonies

Someone on a forum on which I post occasionally questioned the need for a curandero in ceremony. The curandero is generally the person who makes and serves the ayahuasca and then runs the ceremony--which are generally very simple affairs. There were several responses to that person's question, most of which had to do with "you are your own healer" and the like. I put my two cents in and this is what I wrote:
The more one would tout themselves as being this or that type of curandero, the faster I'd run away from them. A banco (bench) curandero, for instance, is simply a curandero whose teachers have passed on but who are still available to help him/her--either through the memory of their teaching or through the gifts they gave him/her while alive or through some etheric trail they've left as a way to get in touch with their spirits once their bodies are gone. So that curandero, like a baseball manager, has a good bench to call on in the clutch.
    But I've always felt that the chemicals in ayahuasca have very little to do with anything. Oh, yes, you need to drink the medicine a few times to open up your invisible 'ayahuasca receptor sites', but after that, what really counts is your relationship to the spirit of those plants. Because it's the generosity of those spirits that can do the healing, not the chemicals. And someone who has been working at it for a long time, a curandero on a river somewhere who is that river's doctor for physical, emotional, spiritual ailments, might have made friends with a lot of different plant spirits who can help him/her diagnose what is wrong with the patient--and it's often very different from that the patient thinks is wrong--and then steer that curandero to the right plants or actions needed by the ill person to help with their cure.
    And the icaros, the songs the curanderos sing, are most frequently calling out to different spirits to come and help the work. They're not much if learned by rote, but very powerful if learned by sleeping with the plants or dieting them.
     I think the real question here is not whether a person drinking without a curandero, or drinking with a facilitator rather than a curandero will get some benefit: yes, they will. But if you add a curandero who has dozens of friendly plant spirits who can communicate with him/her, well, I think you would likely wind up with much more than you might otherwise. And that would be a real plus, and a reason to drink with a curandero if you had the chance.


Brian Dunston said...

I have wrestled with this particular question for a while. I was lucky to experience a powerful and benevolent curandero (a student of Julio), and I also have a very strong interest in the art, culture, and mythos of Amazonian shamanism. But I also realize that the Mother Vine's spirit is reaching people far away from her home, people in our own modern society, people with good intent but without the convenience of curanderos.

So I find myself torn between the obviously significant and traditional role of the curandero in the lifestyle (not practice) of ayahuasca, and the ways in which ayahuasca is being assimilated in a contemporary western society in which not everyone can afford the luxury of a guide.

I assume that what we will find is that those who have experienced true ayahuasqueros will swear they are essential, integral, and orchestral to the experience of the journey, and that those who have not come at the medicine from that angle will find curanderos less necessary. That being said, I feel blessed to have seen the former, which also means that the prospect of a local movement co-opted within our culture feels incomplete -- after 7 years since my Amazon trip I am still intensely drawn to it, drawn to apprentice, drawn to immerse myself in and maybe find a place within a waning tradition.

zaubin said...


I've tried contacting through your website, but haven't got any replies... I was wondering if you have any summer tours planned for 2014? I've read and loved your book, and would really like to go if at all possible.


RosaTorchFire said...

It is indeed a peculiar paradox, whether or not the curandero, like a guru, is necessary. My first and only Aya experiences were by myself (solo trips helped to shape my personality and individuality over the years).. I had an unparalleled telepathic communication with the spider-mantis entourage (god are they witty little guys, lol) and finally met the pink mother-spider I had painted for years. Though my experiences were immensely beneficial, I wish I had a leader to guide me like Julio and show me the ropes. I just finished reading '25 Years' and have never laughed, cried, and been wide-eyed ever more in my life reading a book! Learning of this Julio character's legacy and spiritual leadership have reshaped the way I see the guru-curandero / initiate relationship as well as the vast beauty of Aya and her Magick! Thank you so much for that book and for sharing your perspective & journeys! Would love to chat sometime. :) Wishing you a wonderful year!

RosaTorchFire said...
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