My Curandero Initiation

By Alan Shoemaker on Sunday, 09 March 2014, hits: 28975


“The ayahuasca was quite strong,” I told him, pleased that it was so.

“Did you experience anything unusual?” he asked me.

“No, Don Juan. I saw only one spirit the entire night.” I explained how the spirit looked and how it had presented itself to me.

“With a long black beard and streaks of silver?”

“Yes, Don Juan. And a long, dark, charcoal-colored robe.”

“Alan! That was the king, the ayahuasca king! He came to you on the night of your initiation and you sent him away?” He was incredulous. “Didn’t I tell you how to respond when a spirit presents itself?”

“Yes, Don Juan. Sorry. Do you think he’ll ever come back?” I felt like a complete idiot.

“Of course he will!” he assured me, but I didn’t feel very secure with that thought.

The following night I decided to drink again in the hope that this spirit hadn’t gone too far away. While I knew the concept of time and space was completely out of place in the spirit world, I still felt that the sooner I could drink, the more likely I would have the opportunity to speak with the king.

That night, in a quite clandestine fashion, I sneaked into the ritual hut and drank a large dose of the very same ayahuasca I had prepared for my initiation. I sat there in the center of the room all alone. When I felt the effects, I started singing not only the icaros I had learned from Don Juan, but also those from my San Pedro maestro. About an hour into the ceremony, Don Juan came out of his house and entered the hut.

“Alan! What are you doing in here?” He wasn’t happy.

“No problem, Don Juan. I’m drinking ayahuasca,” I told him, calmly.

“Then sing. Sing the entire time to bring only the spirits you want. If you don’t, other undesirables will come.”

He then began singing his icaros and demanded I sing along with him. I sang maybe five icaros with him. When he felt comfortable I would continue singing, he started to walk out of the room and got a few feet out when he stuck his head back in the door and said, “You remember the woman from Lima who has been staying here with us?”

Don Juan’s family had taken in a young woman from Lima. She was a distant cousin, maybe nineteen years old, who had split with her boyfriend and had come here to repair her heart. She was lazy and slept in every morning after spending every evening out on the town, somewhere in Iquitos. She didn’t help Leonore with the house chores, the laundry, or cooking but just seemed to sleep and eat. What she actually did during the late hours of the night when she was away from the house was anybody’s guess. Daily, Don Juan sang specific icaros that her hurt would be healed soon.

“Si, Don Juan.”

“Every night she goes out and returns the next day. I want to know where she is. You go and find her.”

“But, Don Juan,” I protested, “I’m in the middle of a ritual, drinking ayahuasca. I can’t leave here now.”

He gave me his best “you’re not as clever as you think you are” face, and said, “No, Alan. I don’t want you to physically go and look for her; I want your spirit to find her. Tomorrow you tell me where she was.”

“And how am I going to do this?” I asked.

He shot his look at me again. “So, your other maestro hasn’t taught you how to fly yet?” He enjoyed kidding me about things I had and had not learned from my “other maestro.” As much as possible, I, too, played with him by not mentioning any of the things I had learned. One of the rules of being an apprentice is that you must completely accept and abide by the philosophy of your teacher, regardless of what you believe. Those things gleaned from previous teachers must be shelved until you have finished the apprenticeship with the current maestro. When you are ready to begin your own practice, you may use those things learned from your various teachers as you will, thus developing your own style as you also integrate those concepts that you personally have discovered and that work for you.

Don Juan continued, “Listen to me. Place the name of the woman on your forehead. Think of nothing else, and go!” He told me, then repeated, “Think of nothing else, and go.”

“Gracias, Don Juan.” And he left again.

My mind raced. Was this possible? Was this the way to fly? Why hadn’t he explained this sooner? As often as I have discovered myself zooming out through space seemingly out of control, I realized I had never simply asked him if there was a rhyme or reason to it. Now he had given me something concrete, as strange as it sounds using concrete in this context. I was excited. I sat down in the chair and did as he said. I knew her complete name and placed it into my thoughts, on the very center of my forehead. I found I could maintain this only a minute or so and my mind began wandering. It would come back after wandering off to many other things and I had to begin again. Each time I began anew, I held it longer. Finally, after doing this for what seemed a hundred times, I found myself quite suddenly in the air and moving over the ground at a tremendous speed.

I saw from above the treetops down to the Plaza 28th of July, which was three miles away from Don Juan’s ritual hut. I could see the crowds of people and the tiles that made up the walkways. I was ­hovering above all of this. I didn’t get excited; I just looked around, somehow knowing that this, of all the many places this woman could be in Iquitos, was the location I was seeking. I can’t tell you with complete certainty exactly what sort of bird or insect it was that I was traveling with, but on looking back I think it must have been a hummingbird or a dragonfly because of the manner in which I was moving, the ability I had to simply hang in midair, and the way I seemed to be wafting back and forth with the breeze. I was looking down into this crowd when a man and a woman turned and walked directly toward me, seemingly presenting themselves. I realized I couldn’t actually be seen.

They walked over to be just underneath me. Controlling my excitement that this must be who I had asked to see, I first looked down at the shoes of the woman and man, then the tear in the knee of the blue jeans on the man, to the skirt on the woman. I knew that as soon as I saw her face I wouldn’t be able to maintain my calm, so I continued slowly up her body until I reached her face. When I saw her face and realized it was she, my exhilaration was so high it jolted me back into my body in less than an instant. I couldn’t believe it! It was real! You not only could leave your body, but it seemed you could even control when and where it happened and possibly even for how long you could stay out.

I was too excited by this discovery to get anything else accomplished for the next hour, so I crawled into my bed to sleep. I couldn’t wait to tell Don Juan. I slept through the morning and rose around 11:00 a.m., drank my lemon juice and garlic water, and sat down with Don Juan and his family at noon for lunch.

“Don Juan, I saw her last night!”

He looked up from his bowl of soup. “And?”

“She was at the Plaza 28th of July. She was with a man who had a tear in the knee of his jeans. They weren’t touching. It seemed more that they were just friends.”

He just shrugged his shoulders and continued eating. About half an hour later, the young woman arrived and sat down to eat. I remember so clearly Don Juan asking her, “Where did you go last night?”

“Plaza 28th of July. I met a friend there.”

I didn’t even look up from my soup.

There’s such magic here, in the jungle. So many things to understand, so many rules to break. And this is only the beginning. The way is full of traps, and it only takes one to fall off your path. The “light at the end of the tunnel” comes from maintaining balance in the midst of adversity. I understand that my mission is not in playing with these tools as a child does a new toy, but in using these gifts of the Sacred Power Plants and the ageless tradition of shamanism for healing. It is here that the real magic resides.

I hope to write more of my experiences in the hope that people might understand this phenomenon called curanderismo, that the troubled missionaries I have so often bumped into might finally understand that this type of work has nothing to do with evil, and to help the travelers who so often come down to the Amazon realize that they too have a healer within. It may not be that they are on the path of becoming a curandero, which is fine. It may just be that they need to understand that they can come to the center of things without trying to become “the shaman.”

Don Juan once explained to me the essence of this understanding in the beginning of my apprenticeship. He drew a spiral in the dusty clay at our feet with a twig, and with this twig he began by pointing to the perimeter of the spiral, saying, “Alan, this is the beginning of your studies in curanderismo. As we journey together I will guide you around this outside path and into its inner chambers.”

As he said this he moved the pointer to the inner swirls of the vortex. He then stuck the pointer into the center of the vortex and said, “This is the heart of curanderismo and the center that you will have to discover on your own. I cannot and will not show you what lies here. It is for you to discover. When you reach this point you will have learned how to heal yourself, and if the spirits desire, you then will begin to heal others. You will become a curandero with your own methods of curing and a particular group of spirits that you will have begun to work with. While the path of self-healing is for everyone, the ability to heal others is not granted to all. Perhaps, when you reach the heart, you will find that you have learned to heal yourself. Perhaps you will see that this is enough. However, if the spirits of the plants are willing, you will then be allowed to heal others. This we will watch and see.”


0 # Johnny 2016-03-10 22:34
:-) Awesome
I`m absolutely intrigued about this type of healing!
I can`t wait to make my own experience with ayahuasca
Thx for this little excerpt
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