Javier was interviewed by Howard G Charing and Peter Cloudsley in the Peru, Amazon Rainforest 2000. In this interview Javier discusses his involvement with the shamanic Plant medicines of the Amazon, and Ayahuasca in particular.
Healing is at the centre of the Ayahuasca experience. Ayahuasca not only has a powerful and profound effect on the mind and spirit, but also on the physical body. This kind of purification of the body, mind, and spirit in a Ayahuasca ceremony can be the beginning of a process of profound personal and spiritual discovery. This process can continue indefinitely even if one never drinks Ayahuasca again.
Ayahuasca is the jungle medicine of the upper Amazon. It is made from the ayahuasca vine ( Banisteriopsis Caapi) and the leaf of the Chacruna plant (Psychotria Viridis). The two make a potent medicine which opens the doors to experiencing the energetic world which underlies the world of everyday. The vine is an inhibitor which contains harmala and harmaline among other alkaloids, and the leaf contains vision inducing alkaloids. As with all natural medicines, it is a mixture of many alkaloids that makes their unique properties
Ayahuasca is a name derived from two Quechua words: Aya means spirit, ancestor, deceased person, and Huasca means vine or rope, hence it is known as vine of the dead or vine of the soul. It is also known by many other local names including yaje, caapi, natema, pinde, daime, mihi, & dapa. It plays a central role in the spiritual, religious and cultural traditions of the Indigenous and Mestizo (mixed blood) poeples of the upper Amazon, Orinoco plains and the Pacific coast of Colombia and Equador.
Our view is that by seriously looking at the way Ayahuasca is used we can improve our life experience and benefit more from this medicine.
Since the late 1990’s we have worked extensively with Javier Arevalo and we had many discussions on the role of the Amazonian shaman and the use of ayahuasca. Javier comes from Nuevo Progreso, a community of 50 families on the Rio Napo, Department of Loreto, Peru. Several generations of his family before him have been shamans and already at the age of 17, he knew this would be his future. However it was not until he was 20 when his father died from a virote (a poisoned dart in the spiritual world) sent by a jealous brujo, (sorcerer) that he felt compelled to follow the arduous five-year apprenticeship to be a shaman.
Javier, what is the role of a shaman?
He learns everything about the rain forest and uses that knowledge to heal his people since they do not have money for Western style doctors. He uses Ayahuasca to discover in his visions, which plants will be effective for which illnesses.
How do you perceive this?
The sprits or plant doctors tell us. As they are pure, they are made happy when we are too, so we must diet in order to attract them. That means we should not eat salt, sugar or alcohol, and abstain from sex. The spirits come and say, for example they will cure in two months if the patient takes a particular plant. Then the shaman goes out to look for the plant.
It is said that every environments has the necessary plants to heal the people?
Yes, every plant has a spirit, the shaman goes into the forest as part of his apprenticeship and spends two years taking plants and roots. He takes Ayahuasca too and the spirit tells him what it cures. Then the shaman tries another plant, each time remembering which ailment is cured by what.