Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sapo and Italo

My son Italo is on all fours behind me. He's throwing up into a plastic bucket and has been for 5 or so minutes. He came in to my office a little while ago and asked me for some sapo, the Matses Indian medicine called frog sweat. I gave him four in the leg--it's administered subcutaneously after burning the epidermis with the flaming end of a jungle vine called tamishi--because he doesn't want visible scars, even small ones. Like all things from the jungle, and particluarly jungle medicines, it's harsh medicine.
Before he asked I'd started breakfast for Marco. So here is Italo puking pretty violently and feeling he's about to explode with the medicine while I'm cooking breakfast at the same time I'm watching him. Something sort of ridiculous in that, though it's something that could easily happen in the jungle since medicines are taken when needed, not when there is necessarily a lull in life.
It's a good medicine, the most bioactive substance found on the planet thus far and its use by the Matses, and my bringing it out to the Western world 25 years ago, has sparked a new avenue of pharmaceutical research into peptides from amphibian skins.
It will clean Italo out, and I don't just mean puking or pooping, I mean clean him out in every artery and clean out anything hidden in the kidneys or liver or pancreas, even fix his heart if it's suffering a little arrythmia--though the way he works out and how well he eats and the fact that he doesn't smoke or drink doesn't give him a lot to clean up. Still, it will make him stronger, make his vision clearer for a few days, make his hearing sharper, make him have extra oomph when he needs it for a few days: Just make him all around sharper.
Watching guests of mine in the jungle as they suffer the very very intense 15 acute minutes of medicinal action, I sometimes feel badly for them. Watching Italo go through it, or Marco last week, I almost want to die. I know it will help them, I know how good a medicine it is, but at the same time to see them so utterly utterly helpless and knowing that inside they're praying to their god to stop the feeling of their body being blown apart, of their heart beating like it will burst, of being so hot they think their brain will melt, well, that's the part that's difficult for me.
They probably feel the same when I ask them to administer it to me. It's just a harsh medicine.
The 15 minutes have now passed and Italo has gone to his room to rest and recuperate for a little while. In half-an-hour he'll feel brand new. I just heard Marco's dish being put into the kitchen sink. You feed all your children. You just feed them different things sometimes.


Serhio said...

Hola Peter. It's a great story.
Next Sunday we are going to celebrate our son's birthday. He will be two.
.. a little bit early for sapo.
By the way i still have some ,... the stuff about 3 years old. Probably no one in the jungle store it for so long. Do you think it is still ok?
I'm gonna try it next week.
My very first experience was similar to your description. The heart was beating and so on. And that amazing feeling of sharpness which came after .. just incredible.
It's a harsh experience as you said , why do we do it again and again?
I wonder, from what age Matses start administer sapo. Does it go hand by hand with the hunting?
Something like,.. once you've became a hunter you ought to use the sapo. Is it ?

Peter Gorman said...

Serhio: Three years is nothing for sapo unless it's gotten wet or something like that. I've got good sapo that's 20 years old and I still use it.
For the time they start: Most Matses children are introduced to it when they are young and get the grippe, a basic cold that they have no immunity to. Their dad will give them a single burn, sometimes at age 3 or so, to "burn" the grippe out of them. Others get it at an older age.
In my experience, everyone in camp has had it enough to run away from it when they see their dad's with it by the time they are 10-12. I would certainly not give it to Madeleina, 12, even though she's 1/2 indigenous from Peru. It wouldn't hurt her, I don't think, but would be too frightening an experience. Marco and Italo, on the other hand, can use a little pain and have known sapo since they were young teens.

Serhio said...

Thank you Peter.

tanya kilpatrick said...

so glad u wrote about sapo
thanks for mine

Paul de Boer said...

Hi Peter,
I was actually trying to search one of your older blog articles about the shape-shifting properties of San Pedro which I had an encounter with last week around Cuzco (nice). And then I saw this interesting story about sapo.
Thank you for writing!
Paul de Boer

Anonymous said...

Bravo. I appreciate the explanation of sufferring for a great result. Always worth it.

De Josefa said...

Hola Peter.

I am Josefa, from Chile. I was convinced by a very good friend of mine to take kambó, in fact, I have an appointment this saturday, but (there is always a but) an a friend (a doctor) is scaring me because I have a tumor (benign) in a suprarenal gland and high blood pressure and she is afraid that this can make me have a seizure of some kind. I know you are not a doctor, but maybe you can guide me on this. I am 39 years old.

Thank you very much.
My email is