The great visionary artist, Pablo Amaringo, was born in 1943 in Puerto Libertad, in the Peruvian Amazon. He was 10 years old when he first took ayahuasca – a visionary brew used in shamanism – to help him overcome a severe heart disease. The magical cure of this ailment via the plants themselves led Pablo toward the life of a shaman, which he pursued successfully for many years, healing himself and others from the age of ten.
In 1977, he gave up his healing work to become a full-time painter and to set up his Usko-Ayar school. Pablo is now widely regarded as one of the worlds greatest visionary artists. His book, Ayahuasca Visions: The Religious Iconography of a Peruvian Shaman, co-authored with Luis Eduardo Luna, was published in 1993 by North Atlantic Books.
In 2006, Pablo wrote the foreword to my book, Plant Spirit Shamanism. After a lifetime spent working with plants and with plant spirit shamanism, what do plants mean to Pablo? This article is from the foreword.
I owe my life to plants and they have informed everything I have done.
From very young I liked to work with plants and I realised that they gave me daily sustenance, not just as foods, but in my soul. I loved and admired them greatly.
But in my adolescence they became even more important to me. I was very unwell in my heart but I healed myself with the sacred plant, ayahuasca, after many years of suffering – something which medicines from the pharmacy were unable to do.
After years of healing myself in this way, I became a shaman when I saw a curandera [a curandera is the Amazonian term for a female shaman] heal my younger sister, also by using ayahuasca. My sister had been in agony with hepatitis, but with this single healing from the plants, she was cured in just two hours. That was why I started learning the science of vegetalismo [a vegetalismo is a shamanic healer who works primarily with plants].
Later I began dieting and taking la purga [another name for ayahuasca] and she taught me how to use plants for healing and to understand their application through visions. That’s how I came to be a shaman, ordained by the spirits.
My visions helped me understand the value of human beings, animals, the plants themselves, and many other things. The plants taught me the function they play in life, and the holistic meaning of all life. We all should pay special attention and deference to Mother Nature. She deserves our love. And we should also show a healthy respect for her power!
Plants mean many things to me: they give life to all beings on Earth since they produce oxygen, which we need to be active; they conform the enormous greenhouse which gives board and lodging to diverse but interrelated guests; they are teachers and show us the holistic importance of conserving life in its due form and necessary conditions.
More than this, though, plants – the great living book of nature – have shown me how to study life as an artist and shaman. They help us to know the art of healing and to discover our own creativity, because the beauty of nature moves people to show reverence, fascination, and respect for the extent to which the forests give our souls shelter.
The consciousness of plants is a constant source of information in medicine, alimentation, and art, and an example of natures own intelligence and creative imagination. Much of my education I owe to the intelligence of these great teachers. Thus I consider myself to be the representative of plants and for this reason I assert that if they cut down the trees and burn whats left of the rainforests, it is the same as burning a whole library of books without ever having read them.
For people who are not so dedicated to the study and experience of plants, this is not so important to their lives, but even they should be conscious of the alimentary, medicinal, and scientific value of the plants they rely on for life.
My most sublime desire, though, is that every human being should begin to put as much attention as they can into the knowledge of plants because they are the greatest healers of all. And they should also put effort into the preservation and conservation of the rainforest, and care for it and the ecosystem, because damage to these not only prejudices the flora and fauna but humanity itself.
Even in the Amazon these days, plants are seen by many as only a resource for building houses and to finance large families. People who have farms and raise animals also clear the forest to produce foodstuffs. Mestizos and native Indians log the largest trees to sell to industrial sawmills for subsistence. They have never heard of the word ecology!
I, Pablo, say to everybody who lives in the Amazon and the forests of the world that they must love the plants of their land, and everything that is there!
This expression of love must be a sincere and altruistic interest in the lasting well-being of others. We are not here simply to exist, but to enjoy life together with plants, animals, and loved ones, and to delight in contemplation of the beauty of nature. A shaman has in his mind and heart the attitude of conserving nature because he knows that life is for enjoying the company of this worlds countless delights.
Any painting, or book, or piece of art that spreads this message is to be respected and every reader who picks up a book on this subject is to be honoured.
I invite you to read on and to learn from the greatest teachers of all the plants, our sacred brothers.
Plant Spirit Shamanism: Traditional Techniques for Healing the Soul, by Ross Heaven, is published by Destiny Books, ISBN 1594771189.