SHAMANISM IN OUR DAYS
By Daveed Cussack
We base our studies of shamanism as it is today not from a dependence of knowing what the shaman of today has but in order to begin a journey to the roots of shamanism. We, The Shamanic and Ecological Association of Colombia, want to start from the first notions of shamanism that are given by the shamans of today in order to reconstruct the path of knowledge until arriving at its origins and initial purity when the sacred plants were revealed to man by the Gods themselves.
We are not trying to invent anything new with regard to the wisdom itself but we know that to rediscover the knowledge of the Grandfather Amautas (instructors) is a new experience, from moment to moment.
There exists in Europe and many parts of the world, shamanic currents of the “new age” that, rather than go deeper into the true essence of the shamanism of light, dedicate themselves to making a business and at the same time showing a lack of vocation for this science and a lack of will to discipline themselves.
In the end they spoil it, vulgarise it and accelerate its process of decay in relation to its true reason for existing. In the ultimate extreme they are converted into cults of unconscious black magic.
We have arrived at the understanding of the intimate cosmic relation that exists between the seven rays, the seven races and the seven fundamental tribes of our planet.
The Indigenous Ray is associated, in its occult grade, with Egyptian, Hindu and Christian etc esoterisism, demonstrating that everything comes from the same origin, each one completes its mission in different aspects and that all the divinities meet and mix in the one that is God. All of the knowledge acquired through the plants is the same as that acquired through yoga, meditation, Tao, astrology and so on because in essence everything comes from the same divine source and the aim of all knowledge is to return to the origin of being.
We have investigated for a long time, living in the Amazon jungle, working the Earth and with the plants and through this we have been able to impregnate our bodies with the “Curiyacto” (knowledge of the shaman) that is brought to us by the elementals of the jungle.
In order to develop a mode of acting and thinking differently in tune with the rhythms latent in nature we begin with the sensitizing of our feelings, which permit us to navigate with indigenous feeling, in the oceans of knowledge of Pachamama. Only by fusing with the Indigenous spirit present in nature can one go deeper into this knowledge that is, today, almost forgotten since the great Amautas are now dead and their novices could not deepen in the initiatic path that the ancients walked.
The Shamans of Today.
`The stories told by the shamans are one form of penetrating into this world of knowledge and mystery, given through their form of expressing the dialectic of their knowledge in the personal style of each one.
It is because of this that we can value and interpret the stories of the shamans and here we can find the part that is strictly individual in this knowledge and those parts that apply to all.
Don Moises was a shaman that had to know many shamans during his learning and had to pass through many privations in order to obtain each piece of that which is his knowledge. Moises was with the Sionas, Coreguajes, Kofanes and Inganos of lower Putamayo. He had in his house lances of chonta (ceremonial lances made from a wood called Chonta) acquired from the Kofan and also Amarun Borrachero (a special kind of tree Datura) whose seeds he had received from the Pirangas of Caqueta.
Taita Piranga was the last shaman or Curaca that the Coreguajes of Caqueta had. It is a shame that non of his sons was able to follow the discipline in order to arrive at the wisdom that this cacique (chief) had.
When Taita Piranga died, with him much knowledge was lost. Now there are many Coreguajes that don’t know natural medicine and the majority have even forgotten how the Yaje plant looks.
Many shamans of the Valley of Sibundoy make reference to other Taitas or Instructors with whom they had to study in order to obtain their knowledge but they always emphasize the necessity to accept the disciplines and regulations demanded by the science of Yaje given that without this it is useless to try and learn the true science of shamanism for without the disciplines is how one falls into sorcery.
At the beginning of the 20th Century the Grandfather Shamans who were also called “Taitas”, made a very special ceremony. In a secret place, near to one of the last settlements of the ancient Coreguaje Indians, they had a special temple for making ceremonies and sacred rites of high power and magic. Many wise Indians came from different parts of the jungle. Some came on foot with bags on their shoulders carrying medicinal and power plants. Others arrived in canoes with their plants and vines, barks and roots that they would use to make their special drinks.
Ceremonies of this type would last for weeks and even months so that each shaman would have time to prepare his special plants that were the source of his secrets and power.
In this form the shamans of the different regions shared their knowledge and if anyone wanted to learn the science of a particular shaman they could speak with him about the conditions under which they could visit him and receive his teachings.
Each Shaman or Curaca had the opportunity to make ritualise for the others according to his form and style, realising in this way the integration of all this ancient shamanic knowledge through the experience acquired by each one through many years of learning and following the rules of the wisdom of the plants.
We had the opportunity to listen to the testimony of Don Laureano Becerra, an Ingano Cacique (Chief) from lower Caqueta, who told us that when he was young, many years before, he had been invited to a meeting of Taitas. They were very old Taitas that arrived from many parts in order to meet and share their knowledge. Don Laureano told us that they had given him “Borrachero Andaqui” (a variety of Datura) that before then he had not used.
This “Borrachero” is very strong, he told us, and it can make one lose consciousness when you drink it alone and in much quantity. In order to experiment with it one should be with a person who has knowledge of these things.
“The Taita that gave it to me looked after me, now I don’t remember his name, but he taught me many things through this plant and he told me that I would live for many years, many more than him and look, it was true because now I am very old and I don’t even remember my age.” Don Laureano told us that if you drink Borrachero mixed with Yaje you don’t lose consciousness so easily because the Yaje helps you to keep control. Borrachero mixed with Yaje is to help those persons that can’t get a good effect from the Yaje or don’t get “collected” as the Indians say. The Borrachero helps the Yaje to stay in the body because it cleans us of many impurities, it also protects the person from sorcery and curses but it is very delicate and should be used with care and good knowledge about the dosage.
Don Sebastian is another Ingano Shaman who is still alive and knows the plants through many years of experience. When we asked him how long it takes to learn shamanism he told us that to know the world of the plants of power one needs a whole lifetime.
The path of learning in order to be a shaman has three stages, which are:
Patience, consciousness and science.
Patience: Don Sebastian said that it is necessary to wait a long time to arrive at the point of initiation in the knowledge. One needs to pass through many hard tests and many Taitas test their disciples, leaving them to sleep outside where they have to survive the torments of the rain. They make them travel to places that are very inaccesable, walking indeterminable distances and going many nights without drinking Yaje etc.
All of this with the aim of knowing how much force, will and desire to learn the disciple has. When a student shows weakness or lack of will then they have to wait longer to begin in the true path. For this reason patience is the first quality necessary. No-one can pretend that things are given as gifts or that they can be bought with money.
However there are many Curacas who have become crooked and trick the people telling them that they can acquire many powers if they pay large sums of money.
In reality the Curaca is only an instrument through which the spirit of Yaje expresses itself. When a Shaman initiates a disciple he does it with the permission and force given by Yaje himself. It is possible to say that it is really Yaje that initiates the person in this sacred science.
There are physical tests, interior tests and other tests that are passed through experiences in dreams or in rituals of Yaje.
There are tests so hard and difficult that there are many who are unable to follow the teachings and become scared of the plant.
There are times when it appears that one is going to die but all of this gives us more force and will in order to overcome the still harder things that are to come later. Anyone that wants to become a shaman must pass all these things and if he doesn’t he will not have the capacity to hold a session of Yaje because many negative forces can take him over and knock him off the path.
After passing all these things one arrives at the point of having CONSCIOUSNESS but it is necessary to drink much Yaje of many types over a long period of time. There are many different types of Yaje and each one teaches us new things. When one has consciousness one learns to tell the difference between different types of Yaje because in the Yaje one can learn to tell the difference by the “pinta” or vision as much as from the appearance of the plant itself.
When we have consciousness we are no longer a passive element that only waits for the forces to act without being able to control them.
It is necessary to learn how to manage the energies and transform the negative forces into positive ones, one has to learn to distinguish between that which is true and that which is illusion. The mind often projects its illusions and desires making us believe they are messages from other dimensions. For this reason we need to have consciousness in order to know where the things that we see or feel in the experiences come from.
Consequently when one has passed through many tests in different levels and discovered the significance of the things that Yaje teaches us then we begin to know the SCIENCE. This never ends. He that believes that he knows and now doesn’t need to know more is demonstrating that he has a long way to go.
One can come to know the future and many things about life but still have more to learn for the truly wise know that the wisdom is infinite.
The science gives us the knowledge of how much bad there is in the world and how to defend ourselves from it. It is necessary to know right up to the point of our own death and even then it doesn’t finish because after this we get to know that which we need to do after death.
We can arrive at the point of knowing beings that are not of this world and journey to where they live but the biggest thing that we learn is the reason itself why we are here learning all these things and how it is that God has guided our knowledge.
Don Sebastian said that he had traveled in an experience with Yaje to the United States; “Where the most powerful people are but also the most stingy because instead of sharing their riches want to have more and more. They are so rich that I saw in the visions their tremendous buildings full of opulence with plates and utensils made of gold and even gold in the teeth of their dogs. All of this knowledge about the people that there are in the world, how they are and the feelings about the good and the bad is learnt with the Yaje.”
We need to go more deeply into what, in truth, is real shamanism. In these times many people go to the shamans purely out of curiosity, for natural medicine and the desire for power and greed for knowledge but in truth no-one knows about the tests that we need to come up against in order to know the wisdom of the plants.
The people have their minds full of theories, concepts, denominations, false identities, false presumptions and in many cases believing that they are very special or exclusive cases and that they have special merits that enable them to arrive at the SCIENCE without CONSCIOUSNESS and CONSCIOUSNESS without patience.
Patience overcomes our pride and changes our way of thinking, teaching us to calm ourselves in order that we can see life as it is, with more serenity so that we can see the details better.
Only through humility can we arrive at the doors of consciousness and these doors finally open demonstrating to us that reality is not what we think and not what we defend as a concept of ours that we think we own. In truth all that we are and we think before arriving at consciousness is only the rotten fruit of a world that influences and programmes you from the moment of your birth till the moment of death in complete unconsciousness.
When we acquire consciousness and change this make up that deforms us, we arrive at the point of seeing in our true mind and heart the FEELINGS and IDEAS that truly come from our REAL SELF.
Therefore one perceives the world from another perspective and begins to see the error that the entire world is following and in this way we understand the necessity to leave behind the illusion of the material world, an illusion that we truly comprehend. This is not the same as the fanaticism of the extremes. This is not to say that the material is an illusion, neither the world in which we live, nor man or nature. That which is illusory is the form that we have invented for living life, our aims and objectives and our place in existence. All of this is false and sterile, we pursue the path of illusion when we lose the essence of the truth.
A simple and illiterate Indian cannot be a big politician, the Indians don’t know anything of these boring idiocies of the whites but this doesn’t impede them from knowing the essence and where an imperialist and capitalist system such as that of the United States is headed. The little said to us by Don Sebastian in his own words is a lot for the person that can understand what is consciousness because a poor, old and ignorant Indian, as we see them with our completely distorted senses, is firm in his authentic IDEAS and FEELINGS.
The Real Science is the wisdom itself, it is the source of the knowledge without end and the more we make the light shine in our interior the greater will be the spiritual fire that illuminates us and the more of the truth of the infinite knowledge we can perceive… but first, with patience, we need to awaken our consciousness and this is only earnt through practical work and the experimentation with reality through suffering and voluntary sacrifice.
There are many external vehicles through which the Being manifests its knowledge before humanity; astrology, kabbalah, yoga, religion, gnostic schools, the dances of the dervishes, the plants of power etc. All of them are systems and methods that from the exterior take us towards the interior. These teachings and theories that we receive from the exterior can modify our conduct and thinking.
Studies based in numbers and mathematics show us the relation and spiritual-physical order of all things.
Special plants that are used in determined forms show us how the material is related to the spirit and the spirit to the material.
Devotional and mystical states make man feel the presence of God and his omnipresent spiritual energy.
All of the vehicles given by the Almighty and Universal God for knowledge of the truths of the spiritual world and of the causes are sterile when we haven’t developed the necessary elements for penetration into their hidden significance.
The studies of shamanism realised by anthropologists in some mode can conduce man to awaken consciousness and obtain the true original transcendental vision of the science of Shamanism. The anthropologists of official science, however, are not programmed to conduce anybody to this.
That which official anthropology has done is give information of the cultural aspects of the Indigenous not known by many due to the marginalisation of those cultures from modern society, awakening an interest or curiosity for these types of activities (shamanic), perhaps one of the more ancient, that still persist despite the “modern” times and even as far as wanting to diffuse such information as an alternative in these times of crisis of identities.
The shaman knows that he must change his life in service of knowledge and not put the knowledge at the service of the life without feeling as proposed by the science without consciousness, imposing technology as a way of finding the realisation of man without placing importance on the consequences of this, which in no way appear to give happiness.
How to return to Shamanism.
The truly wise are always innovators, revolutionaries and transformers because the wisdom can bring us to make great deeds that can affect and change the conduct of many human beings. And we shouldn’t let ourselves get lost in the false sensation that takes over many i.e. to try and fascinate people.
We need to read between the lines of the message of the awakening of consciousness, we should only follow the impulses that come from the interior. The actions and deeds that are conscious come directly from the being and are for the other beings.
To be a shaman is an intimate vocation that manifests itself through the course of life with the proposition of growth and interior realisation that allow us to develop our latent values.
The shamanic path of learning does not have a time scale, we are initiated only when we are ready psychologically. Among the Indians it is usual for the apprenticeship to begin very early.
Don Manuel, a shaman of the Valley of Sibundoy (Putamayo, Colombia), whose knowledge came from many journeys visiting the oldest Taitas and in this way learning from his experience, taught:
“There are two ways to become a Yajecero (Shaman of Yaje). The first is through the blood because when one has indigenous blood it is easier because one acquires powers that come from the ancients.
The other way is for those people that have the desire and the good heart to learn. There are also people with bad heart who learn so they can be sorcerers but these people aren’t really of the same blood and they can never learn the same as an Indigenous who has ancient blood. One teaches all with good faith knowing that it can be a lot of work and that the people can turn in the end if they become ambitious and want to take advantage of others. There are those that like to read books of Black Magic and even make pacts with demons but this is not natural knowledge. We don’t learn from books.”
Analysing these words of the shaman Manuel we can see clearly that which differentiates natural and practical indigenous knowledge from the knowledge of the white man that is totally influenced by what is written in books. It is difficult to know the true mechanism of self-knowledge; we need to look for the wisdom at its source.
Once, now some time ago, whilst conversing with Taita Benedicto Jacanamejoy about the wisdom of Yaje I asked if it would be possible for him to give me some of the words that he used in some of his shamanic chants of healing and for the rites of Yaje. Benedicto, who was very content to chat, was on the point of responding and giving me some words, when he stopped and looked fixedly at me for a moment before saying; “It will not serve you at all if I tell you these things, you will learn nothing, it is better to see in the pinta (vision) of Yaje the words and songs that you can use, in this way you will know the truth about what you are calling and what forces arrive to you.”
In truth, I didn’t expect him to say this but it appeared to me a wise reply and at the same time a great teaching.
In reality the rites of Yaje can’t be learnt by memory, each chant and each word that is used in these rituals should come from the corresponding interior expression of the vibration that arrives at us in that moment. Only in this way can we know and transform the energies according to the inspiration given us by the elemental spirit of Yaje, invoking all the forces of our indigenous ancestors acquired in our aid.
The Indian Shaman, knower of natural mysteries doesn’t know anything about the theories of re-incarnation, clairvoyance etc. He doesn’t know names but many have lived these things and that is more valuable than a thousand words.
The Indigenous Shaman knows that one can be of indigenous blood even though the body might not be precisely Indian. Only the persons that come to know their past as Indians and can allow this to flow and express itself through them, are those that can incarnate the values of their ancestors of wisdom.
The different incarnations are part of the spiritual evolution that we need to pass through. In some of these evolutionary steps we can go very high in spiritual knowledge and in others gain a lot of material knowledge but in the name of truth we have to say that the only thing that we don’t forget of our passage through different stages or incarnations, is that which we have learnt spiritually.
To arrive at the level of Shaman is not the ultimate goal of the plants of power and neither is it the goal for which they are used. To become a Shaman is to become a Priest in the Science of Pachamama; the science of the elementals and the elements but this isn’t where things end.
Now, when we need to decide what path we are going to take in our spiritual search, we need to know that there are two aspects that we need to balance: The being and knowledge.
The being is the real in us, it is related to our heart and is expressed through intuition. The being is that which guards all the spiritual knowledge acquired through different stages of our evolution, beginning from our origin. Knowledge is that which we acquire intellectually and is expressed through the personality. The knowledge is born in time and dies in time.
In the white man we find that knowledge is more developed than being. Speaking in general terms, the white man works more in the intellectual centre that projects its science from the outside and to the outside without caring for the interior and placing less emphasis on individual realisation. The sincere and authentic Indian has more balance between being and knowledge. He looks for the science inside of himself, in the interior of all things and of his brothers, using knowledge to develop and enrich his spirit more and in this way learn about his relationship with life and his companions.
The white man has developed a complex technology trying to make outside what he hasn’t developed inside. Knowledge needs to be in service of being in perfect harmony in order to arrive at the self-knowledge that determines our shamanic vocation.
When there is a balance between being and knowledge we are transformed into INTICHURICUNAS, that is to say, people whose interior light is expressed in all of our life.
In truth those Indian beings now born with white bodies or other races do so to balance their karma from other lives and to enrich their knowledge of different races.
The common white man has not valued indigenous culture as it is because he thinks that the Indian is ignorant or inferior. What has happened is that perhaps the Indian has not had the sufficient and complicated level of knowledge in order to explain the reason of his being but in the actions it is known and for the Indian this doesn’t merit or lack definition but in the practice its significance is known.
The great prophecy of the wise Amautas (instructors) says “Guaranga guaranga kutin samushu” – thousands and thousands will come.
Those Indian beings that today are born in white bodies are taught by the Indian shamans of today but after their initiation in the INTINAN (way of the sun) they will recuperate the ancient knowledge, and it will be them that in the end will teach their Amauta Shamans to connect with the Apus (guides) of ancient knowledge and this will be, therefore, when the knowledge of the Indigenous ray will be expressed once again for all those that look for ancient knowledge.
The Indigenous prepare their children from a young age for the apprenticeship of Yaje.
In many tribes it is customary to give the children three drops of Yaje when they are born so that they follow the path of Yaje.
Others have the custom of giving the children a spoonful when they finish taking the mothers milk. This is like a baptism of the child. For them the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are the same as the Yaje of the Sun, The Tiger Yaje and the Yaje of the Moon.
When they begin to give Yaje to their children the Indians know that in this way the blood begins to be filled with the knowledge of their ancestors. In this way they grow open to music and beauty because the true shaman learns to cure through these mediums.
Preparation of a Child Shaman in the community of the Shamanic and Ecological Association of Colombia in Yurayaco, Caqueta.
In the area of Yurayaco, part of the municipality of San Jose del Fragua in Caqueta there is a community in the jungle made of an Indigenous council and a group of campesinos that, united have formed the Shamanic and Ecological Association of Colombia.
Here they make investigations of the past and present of Shamanic knowledge, reliving the customs and mysteries as much of the Amazonian cultures as all the American continent and the pre-Colombian epoch in general.
The same as in the traditions of the Amazonian Indians, they give Yaje to the boy or girl from the moment the child stops taking the mothers milk.
The development of the child is realised in a very natural form, that is to say, it is left to the nature of the child to decide the moment when he or she stops taking the mothers milk.
As the child grows it is taught the names of all the medicinal plants, beginning with the most common ones.
In this way the child learns about the relationship between all the beings created by Mother Nature and him or herself and how all the medicine and food we need can be collected from the Earth itself.
The child learns all the shamanic rites naturally without mystery.
The example of the parents and the community in general constitutes the largest part of the child’s teaching.
At more or less five years of age the child will begin to have interest in the work of preparing the Yaje and at this time the child will know how to distinguish between the different plants. He or she will be permitted to assist in the collection and preparation of the sacred plant, allowed to help in what way he or she feels or according to his capacity because at this stage much of the knowledge enters through the eyes and the work is like a diversion that allows him to feel and share in the world of his parents and elders.
During the preparation and cooking of Yaje the child is allowed to bring wood and put it on the fire and carry water for the cookers to drink. In this way the child learns about the discipline and respect that the sacred things deserve, valuing the small mission to which he is assigned according to his age, that for him is a very large responsibility.
Both boys and girls can participate in these activities, all in accord with their vocation and the interest they show. With the discipline, given with love and wisdom by the adults, the child begins to learn the shamanic science in the most natural form.
Approximately at twelve years of age the child can participate almost fully in all aspects of preparation of the sacred drink of Yaje. With the instruction of the adults he learns to know the location of the plants that can be collected and the quantities necessary for each preparation. He will also know the approximate time needed for the preparation.
The children learn about many aspects of life from their relationships with the other children. Their participation in the shamanic activities goes in accord with the progress shown, also in the material work, his studies and his good involvement in the community.