Visionary Journeys between Medicine and Magic

Restrictions, Food, Plant Teachers and the Shamanic Diet

Initiation into Shamanic Plant Spirit Medicine


Photo Credit: Francesco Sammarco

FREE PDF Shamanic Plant Diet Apprenticeship Programme!

If you are seriously committed in doing the shamanic plant teachers diet apprenticeship with us please email us to receive the 3months/13 weeks/91 days PDF Programme. There you will be able to find more detailed info on how the Plant Diet, the ancient Shipibo Meraya rituals, and ultimately Toe’ and Ayahuasca will work synergetically together. As a bonus, during this 3 months period, you may also take part to 3 San Pedro (Huachuma) ceremonies & 3 Mapacho rituals in our centre. The shamanic plant diet programme we offer is one of the most comprehensive and unique in the whole of the Peruvian Amazon region, with many of the ancestral rituals featured being still practised only in our centre today.

Restrictions of the Plant Teachers Diet

Total sexual abstinence is required during the dieta (beginning from at least fifteen days before until thirty days after the completion of the training), as well as maintaining a certain degree of relative isolation. Guests doing the shamanic dieta shouldn’t expose themselves neither to direct sunlight nor to the rain (to avoid problems of sensitivity to humidity), and should avoid contact with strong smells (like perfumes and deodorants, exception made for those perfumes which have a specific shamanic use). Also, the diet should not be interrupted/curtailed, and one must fully commit to the period chosen for his/her apprenticeship.

Food restrictions in the Plant Teachers Diet as practised in Ashi Meraya

The usual food restrictions apply: very little to no salt, very little to no sugar, no vinegar, little to no sweets, no spices or chilli, no fats, little to no oil, little to no seasoning, no canned food, no stimulants, no alcohol, no red meat (from farmed animals), and – strictly – no pork meat and derivatives.

Food allowed in the Plant Teachers Diet

We have relaxed a bit the strict food restrictions on the plant diet, to make it more flexible and accessible to potential candidates who may not need to enter into the hardships of the traditional Amazonian training to follow the path of the shaman. Yet, some food from the list below – as specified – may require the final approval of the maestro you will be dieting with, so please ultimately check directly with him. When having food not otherwise allowed, the shaman may need to sing special icaros to the dietero/a to grant a status of energetic/spiritual protection and purification.

Different shamans have different styles and degrees of acceptance as for what food might or might not be allowed during the dieta. Here is a list of what may be allowed during the shamanic diet with us:

. fish (the best is the Boquichico)
. free range chicken
. free range eggs
. green plantains (roasted, grilled or boiled)
. green bananas (roasted, grilled or boiled)
. rice
. potatoes (subject to the shaman’s approval)
. spaghetti/noodles
. broccoli (subject to the shaman’s approval)
. onions
. garlic
. carrots (subject to the shaman’s approval)
. game (subject to the shaman’s approval)
. white or wholemeal bread
. beans
. oat
. lemon-grass (hierba luisa) tea
. chamomile tea

All food has to be almost unseasoned (little to no sugar, little to no salt, little to no oil, and no spices). Fish and meat will be served either roasted, grilled or boiled. Fish may be served also smoked. According to these indications, you may therefore expect to be served vegetable soups, “pescado a la Shipiba” (roasted fish wrapped in a leaf), meat soups (game, chicken) with yucca, fish soup with green plantains, among other dishes. No fruit, fruit juices or lemons are allowed.

What you may do

  • Read, listen to – or play – (appropriate, contemplative) music (acoustic instruments only, respecting the peace of other people).
  • Write, rest, sleep, dream, have visions, meditate.
  • Drink Ayahuasca, Toe’ and San Pedro together with the shaman-s (according to your tailor-made calendar).
  • Learn how to conduct Ayahuasca ceremonies – helping the shaman during the rituals.
  • Smoke and/or drink Mapacho (organic black jungle tobacco), under the guidance of the shaman, during the allocated nights for the ritual.
  • Walk around the ethnobotanical garden circuit (always remembering that the diet is more about not-doing rather than doing much or over-doing!!).
  • Chill out in the dieteros area.

With the shamanic diet one will be in tune with the Plant Spirit’s subtle world, and become more sensitive to the plants’ energies. Part of the teaching – the “theoretical” part – happen in dreaming and through visions, when the spirit of the plants, the ”genios de las plantas maestras”, come and reveal things to the apprentice-shaman.

IMPORTANT NOTICE

Although we have provided below – for informative and research purposes only – a “calendar” of the plants that a candidate shaman may be dieting with, following the traditional dieta for a whole year, for technical-logistic reasons, at the present we shall only be able to accept – subject to previous screening – candidate apprentices for up to a maximum time of 24-26 weeks. Longer periods may be agreed on. Upon successful completion of your first plant diet training period, you may then re-book and return for a further period, at another time, from a minimum of 2 weeks onwards.

Calendar of the Plant Diet

Not all plants may be dieted for the same length of time, as each one of them has different qualities, properties and various degree of potency. Therefore a specific minimum and maximum assigned time must be observed during the dieta. Some plants may be dieted for long periods, like the Piñon Blanco and the Piñon Colorado, others not, but each plant will demand a gradual approach, along the coordinates indicated by the shaman (see *sample* calendar below).

For instance, you may diet with the plant Piñon Colorado, from 2 weeks up to 25 weeks, but may not diet (unless you have already dieted this plant previously, or unless you are doing a diet tester) at the beginning with the powerful Toe’ (Brugmansia suaveolens, also known as Floripondio, a very strong psychotropic plant) which some of the most traditional shamans will only allow to be dieted from the sixth month (26th week) of the dieta, onwards. Again, please remember that each shaman will have his/her own calendar which may adhere with more or less degrees of flexibility to the one offered below. Moena Alcanfor (Ocotea sp.), another palo maestro, may be dieted only from the sixth month (26th week) of the diet, and for a maximum period of one year (which would mean, effectively, to engage in a diet of a maximum of eighteen months. Whilst the Lupuna blanca (Ceiba sp.) tree, may dieted only beginning from the ninth month (39th week) of the dieta.

Other palos maestros, like the Chiric sanango (Brunfelsia grandiflora) – another sacred plant often used by Amazonian shamans and curanderos as favourite admixture to the ayahuasca brew, for special initiations and for bad luck – may be dieted as well for a long time, but this time from just the 4th week of the dieta, up until the 52nd week. That is, for a full eleven months.

Requirements of the Plant Diet & Scheduled Periods of Rest

During the entire period of the diet – whether done with plantas, sogas and/or palos, and for whatever length this may be – every dietero/a is strictly required to maintain celibacy. A period of relative isolation in the selva should be observed whilst you will always be under the guidance and tutelage of our shamans. Regardless of that, the apprentice may be helping in preparing the ritual herbal/floral baths for other guests attending the retreat and also during all Ayahuasca ceremonies.

The timing when one might temporarily suspend his/her shamanic diet, following the scheduled periods of rest (“descanso“) which are part of the training, will be given to the dietero/a, as a specific, individual, personalized calendar showing the days of the dieta, the plants one will be dieting with, as well as the days when Ayahuasca & Toe’ ceremonies will take place.

Sample List of the Plant Teachers one may diet with.

The following is a progressive list of the plant teachers (plantas, sogas and palos) that may be dieted in our place, under the guidance of the shaman, and within the frame of time indicated. One may usually choose to diet with any of these plants, subject to availability, and within the time category they fell in. Please note that – no matter how hyper-specific the info here provided effectively is, the type of the plants you may diet with, and the time allocated to each diet with a specific plant, may still vary from shaman to shaman. Therefore everything said here should be taken as a broad idea of how the shamanic diet training may gradually evolve, rather than a clear-cut of how it will be in your specific case.

Each Maestro/a has his/her own different style of working with the plants, his/her own predilections, and his/her own approach to knowledge. It’s impossible to categorize in fixed schemes something like the shamanic plant diet initiation, which has such a broad spectrum of individual approaches, virtually changing from shaman to shaman, even within the same ethnic group:

Ajos Sacha

< 1 Month Diet (2-3 Weeks)

Plants (Plantas)

Ajos Sacha (Mansoa alliacea; Luna 1999:12): used also for ritual baths (baños de florecimiento) to attract good luck in love or business.

Piñon Blanco (Jatropha curcas)

Piñon Negro or Piñon Colorado (Jatropha gossypifolia; “used as defence against evil sorcerers”, Luna 1999:136)

Sacha Mango, Sacha Mangua (Grias peruviana; an edible fruit: Duke & Vasquez 1994:82)

Yahuar Piripiri (Eleutherine bulbosa; Luna 1999:54)

Vines (Sogas)

Motelo Sacha (Unidentified)

Tambor Huasca (Unidentified)

Uña de Gato de Siete Capas (Uncaria tomentosa? Duke & Vasquez 1994:172)

Trees (Palos)

Bellaco Caspi (Himantanthus sucuuba, “used in the extraction of the magic dart or virote”; Luna 1986:67)

Medicines

Comejen (The diet with this medicine is traditionally thought to be useful in cases of healing from gastro-intestinal conditions – including intestinal or stomach cancer – ulcers, and other internal wounds).

Miel de Abeja (Honey)

Piñon Colorado

1 Month < 3 Months Diet (4 to 11 weeks)

Plants (Plantas)

Cambio de renaco (Unidentified)

Huacra renaco (Unidentified)

Piñon Blanco (Jatropha curcas)

Piñon Negro, or Piñon Colorado (Jatropha gossypifolia)

Renaquilla con hojas anchas (literally: “Renaquilla with wide leaves”; Unidentified; see note below)

Renaquilla con hojas lanuda (literally: “Renaquilla with woolly leaves”; Unidentified; see note below)

Sacha Mango (Grias peruviana)

Trees (Palos)

Abuelo renaco (Ficus sp.?)

Chiric sanango (Brunfelsia grandiflora; Luna 1999:72; a shrubby tree)

Renaquilla hoja menuda (literally: “Renaquilla with small leaves”; Unidentified; see note below)

Renaquilla hoja larga (literally: “Renaquilla with large leaves”; Unidentified; see note below)

Shihuahuaco (Dipteryx sp.; Luna 1999:68)

3 Months < 6 Months Diet (12 to 25 weeks)

Plants (Plantas)

Cambio de renaco (Unidentified)

Huacra renaco (Unidentified)

Renaquilla con hojas lanuda (Unidentified)

Renaquilla con hojas anchas (Unidentified)

Piñon Blanco (Jatropha curcas)

Piñon Negro, Piñon Colorado (Jatropha gossypifolia)

Sacha Mango (Grias peruviana)

Trees (Palos)

Abuelo renaco (Ficus sp.?)

Chiric sanango (Brunfelsia grandiflora)

Chuchuhuasha, Chuchuhuasa (Heisteria pallida; Duke & Vasquez 1994:85)

Renaquilla hoja menuda (Unidentified)

Renaquilla hoja larga (Unidentified)

Ayahùman

6 Months < 9 Months Diet (26-38 Weeks)

Plants (Plantas)

Camalonga (Thevetia peruviana; Duke & Vasquez 1994:170)

Toe’ (Brugmansia suavolensis; Duke & Vasquez 1994:33)

Trees (Palos)

Ayahùma, Ayahùman (Couropita guianensis; Luna 1999:112). The “cannon-ball tree“.

Chiric sanango (Brunfelsia grandiflora)

Chuchuhuasha, Chuchuhuasa (Heisteria pallida)

Chullachaki caspi (Remijia Peruviana, Duke & Vasquez 1994:149; Brysonima christianeae, Luna 1999:13)

Huaira caspi (Nealchornea yapurensis, Duke & Vasquez 1994:122; Carpotroce grandiflora, Luna 1999:108)

Moena Alcanfor (Ocotea sp., Duke & Vasquez 1994:124)

Uchu sanango (Tabernaemontana maxima, Duke & Vasquez 1994:164)

Lupuna blanca

9 Months < 12Months Diet (39-51 Weeks)

Plants (Plantas)

Camalonga (Thevetia peruviana)

Toe’ (Brugmansia suavolensis)

Trees (Palos)

Ayahùma, Ayahùman (Couropita guianensis; Luna 1999:112). The “cannon-ball tree“.

Chiric sanango (Brunfelsia grandiflora)

Chullachaki caspi (Remijia Peruviana, Duke & Vasquez 1994:149; Brysonima christianeae, Luna 1999:13)

Huaira caspi (Nealchornea yapurensis)

Lupuna blanca (Ceiba pentadra, Duke & Vasquez 1994:48)

Moena Alcanfor (Ocotea sp.)

Shihuahuaco (Dipteryx sp.)

Uchu sanango (Tabernaemontana maxima)

Lupuna blanca

12 Months+ Diet (52 Weeks & over)

Plants (Plantas)

Camalonga (Thevetia peruviana)

Toe’ (Brugmansia suavolensis)

Trees (Palos)

Ayahùma, Ayahùman (Couropita guianensis; Luna 1999:112). The “cannon-ball tree“.

Chiric sanango (Brunfelsia grandiflora)

Chullachaki caspi (Remijia Peruviana, Duke & Vasquez 1994:149; Brysonima christianeae, Luna 1999:13)

Huaira caspi (Nealchornea yapurensis)

Lupuna blanca (Ceiba pentadra)

Moena Alcanfor (Ocotea sp.)

Shihuahuaco (Dipteryx sp.)

Uchu sanango (Tabernaemontana maxima)

Notes


Renaquilla: To the general vernacular name of Renaquilla correspond – according to Duke & Vasquez (1994:83) – the “Clusia rosea” plant. Shipibo maestro Rosendo Marin Lopez, however, distinguished seven different classes of Renaquilla which we were not able to identify. Specifically: Renaquilla con hojas anchas (bush), Renaquilla hoja menuda (tree), Renaquilla hoja larga (tree), Renaquilla con hojas lanuda (bush), Cambio de renaco (bush), Huacra renaco (bush) and Abuelo renaco (tree). The definition “Abuelo” amid the vegetalistas of the Peruvian Amazon refers to the senior status of a teacher plant, and means literally, “Grandfather”.

Anthropologist Luis Eduardo Luna identifies the Renaquilla as belonging to the Ficus sp. (Luna 1999: 54). He also adds that “Its spirit is a Shipibo woman. If those who ingest this plant diet correctly, this Shipibo woman will come to them in their dreams and teach them how to heal with this plant.” (Luna, Ibidem).


Ayahùman: Also known in Peru with the nickname of “cabeza de muerto” (dead person’s head), for the shape of its fruits (see picture above). Reputed especially valuable in protecting one from brujeria (evil sorcery). The fruits are also used by some vegetalistas as “magical” antidote to forms of chickens’ plague.

DUKE, James Alan, VASQUEZ, Rodolfo, Amazonian Ethnobotanical Dictionary, CRC Press, 1994

Luna, L.E. & Amaringo P., Ayahuasca Visions, The Religious Iconography of a Peruvian Shaman, Berkeley 1999

Luna, L.E., Vegetalismo. Shamanism among the Mestizo Population of the Peruvian Amazon, Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, Stockholm Studies in Comparative Religion 27, Stockholm 1986

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