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Shipibo Indians Ayahuasca Shaman

Shipibo Indians

Masters of Ayahuasca - Page 2 of 4

Despite over 300 years of contact with Europeans and Peruvians and the conversion of many Shipibos to Christianity by missionaries in the 1950's and 60's, the Shipibo tribe maintains a strong tribal identity and retains many of their prehistoric shamanic traditions and beliefs. Chief among their traditions is the Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi) ceremony. Perhaps surprisingly to those who have only experienced Shipibos involved in touristic enterprises, the Shipibos were not always as peaceful as they are presently, nor was their use of Ayahuasca solely employed for peaceful purposes. Prior to the 1960's, the Shipibos were actively involved in warfare with outsiders and sometimes with other Shipibos. According to Michael J. Harner in his essay "Common Themes in South American Indian Yage Experiences," anthropologists have studied the Shipibo Indians of the Ucayali region of eastern Peru and have reported that a common function of Ayahuasca-taking by shamans is to reap revenge on their enemies. He reports that Shipibo shamans believe that taking Ayahuasca permits the shaman's soul to leave his body in the form of a bird which then can fly to a distant enemy at night. This bird then changes back into the shaman's human form so he can destroy the sleeping enemy.  Under the influence of the Banisteriopsis drink mixture, the Shipibo Indians often report seeing giant anacondas, poisonous snakes, and jaguars. Less frequently, other animals are observed in their visions. In addition, Harner reports that often a shaman, taking the drink, believes he acquires giant snakes which are to be his special demons to be used in protecting himself against other shamans in supernatural battles. According to Harner, the Shipibo shamans, under the influence of the drug, believe they imprison other persons' souls with supernatural boats whose demon crews are led by a yellow jaguar and a black puma.


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