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Amazon Rainforest, photo by Diana Waldron

The Magic of Music & Shamanism

Ayahuasca is a plant that is used for healing primarily in South America. It is considered to be a sacred spirit among the natives. It is combined with other plants and brewed together. After ingested, this plant allows the healing of the patient. Amazonian shamans have known the medicinal value of this plant for a long time. There are different elements that make up a shamanic ceremony in Mestizo shamanism. Before the ceremonies start, the shamans insist on a dieta — the dietary and sexual restrictions implemented to prepare the body for its journey. The use of sounds is also important among Mestizo shamans. Shamans and the plants communicate with each other through magical songs known as icaros. These songs are performed in such a way that transcends intellectual thinking. They come from deep within the shaman. It is similar to chanting a mantra. They are a point of focus for anyone who is participating in the healing ceremony. Many Westerners make the trip to South America to partake in Ayahuasca ceremonies. Their intentions are to heal themselves, seeking refuge from the modern world. In Ayahuasca ceremonies, there are certain preparations that need to be made by both the shaman and the patient in order to ensure a healthy atmosphere. Shamans, the singing of icaros, and the dieta all create a supportive environment that allows the healing of the participants during Ayahuasca ceremonies.

  • ✦The Sumi is a master shaman who has the ability to go into underwater realms. “The other-than-human persons who live under the water are often viewed as having great knowledge of healing and magic songs . . .” (Beyer, 201). The underwater realm is considered to be a sacred place, and they are often linked with sexuality. Mermaids are thought to sometimes seduce shamans who go into their world.
  • ✦Onanya literally means “one who knows.” This is the ordinary Ayahuasca healer (Beyer, 201).

Diana Waldron is a writer and a sitarist.

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