Shipibo's Art and the Plants of Spirits
(Ucayali, Peru)

Shipibo's women drop some sap of the root of piripiri (Cyperus spp.) (photo) on their eyes and see visions which are the motifs of their handicrafts.

There are other plants which are very important to see visions. These are cahua and oni mainly taken by unayas (shamans).

Leaves of cahua (Psychotria viridis) are known as chakruna in Quechua. The active constituent of this plant is DMT (N,N-dimetyltriptamine). Usually, DMT is quickly digested by MAO (Monoamine Oxidase) inside our body.

Stems of oni (Banisteriopsis caapi) are known as ayahuasca in Quechua. The main active constituents of this plant are harmine and harmaline which are MAO inhibitors and prevent DMT from deactivating.

Roberto Sanchez, who is a unaya (shaman) and his son Alberto Sanchez are preparing pashin (ayahuasca tea). They crush stems of oni by a club and boil it with leaves of cahua in a pot for hours.

Healing ritual of Mateo Arevalo, who is also a unaya . Taking pashin, unayas can see the cause of sickness or other problems beyond time and space.

He blows smoke of tobacco on the patient's head. Tobacco is also an important plant in Shipibo's healing ritual.

20-03-2000 Virtual Museum of Anthropology

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