Ayahuasca’s Allies: The Different Shamanic Plants and how they can Affect your Ayahuasca Visions

Ayahuasca and Chacruna: The “Perfect” Pair

Ayahuasca is a potent psychotropic concoction that is made from two different plants, chacruna (Psychotria viridis) and its namesake, ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi). This means that although we refer to this entheogenic brew by only one of its two constituents, it must always contain both plants in order to retain its psychoactive properties.

The ayahuasca vine and the chacruna leaf are both necessary components in any ayahuasca concoction since the addition of chacruna prevents the DMT present in ayahuasca from being broken down in the stomach. This also increases the bioavailability of the DMT available in ayahuasca which is what allows us to benefit from its hallucinogenic properties.(1)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6343205/

Adding Other Plants to Ayahuasca: Why Three isn’t Always a Crowd

Although ayahuasca and chacruna are the cornerstones of all ayahuasca concoctions, Amazonian shamans sometimes like to add other jungle plants to their brews in order to harness different attributes of the medicine to suit the needs of a ceremony. Since ayahuasca is believed to connect drinkers to the entire universes(2)https://om-mij.nl/en/san-pedro/ , the effects of drinking the sacred vine can be unpredictable since the universe, by definition, is infinite. This means that if curanderos wish to harness a specific quality in the medicine or use it to heal certain ailments, it is often beneficial to use a third plant in order to engineer a desired outcome. The third plant acts like a modifier because its spirit is believed to be able to “coax” the relevant quality out of the ayahuasca, stamping the ceremony with its unique qualities and attributes.

For example, in Iquitos and the surrounding area of the Peruvian Amazon, curanderos like to add tobacco to their ayahuasca because it is believed to help with purging.(3)https://takiwasi.com/en/adestacado06.php Although it gives the ayahuasca a distinctly bitter flavor that many find unpalatable, it helps with eliminating all kinds of dense energies and environmental toxins from a person’s body. Tobacco is also popular because it is one of the most commonly “dieted” plants in the Iquitos region and is often given to newcomers in ceremony because it is believed to work very quickly, stripping all mental, emotional and physical superfluities from a person’s system.

This means that if an ayahuasca tourist is only in town for a brief period, a tobacco-laced infusion helps accelerate the process of internal cleansing as well as with promoting powerful visions. This indicates that once the dross and density has been purged from the body, a person can enjoy beautiful, crystal-clear visions. In fact, tobacco is a plant that is very much connected to the dream world in Amazonian shamanism(4)https://headoverheels.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/ayahuasca_visions_-_pablo_amaringo.pdf and when it is dieted or allowed to build up in a person’s system through a succession of ceremonies, it is believed to help unfold the healing work of ayahuasca which can be continued via the astral world of dreams.(5)P. Amaringo, “The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo,” p.105

The spirit of tobacco helps align a person to their inner self by making their ayahuasca visions more vivid and illuminating. By facilitating our connection to the astral world, tobacco can help keep these inner visions alive through our dreams, providing us with insight and spiritual sustenance long after we have completed our final ceremony.(6)https://www.scielo.br/j/bgoeldi/a/zmZrTNGrbKkNtXcyxr9hx4j/

Calling Upon The Plant Spirits

Although many believe that ayahuasca is the most powerful of all jungle plants with the power to overwrite all others, forging shamanic alliances with multiple plants is always considered to be beneficial when training as a curandero. This is because the more plant allies you have in your arsenal, the more powerful you are as a shaman and the more successful you’ll be at curing illnesses and warding off malevolent spirits.

When a curandero diets many different plants, he symbolically casts off his human body and becomes part of the plant kingdom(7)https://doubleblindmag.com/the-ayahuasca-dieta/ which works via an interconnected web of mutual dependence. Forging relationships with multiple plants makes him more “plant-like” and shows the plant spirits that he is at one with the plant kingdom. No longer an independent entity, he is a thriving member of an organic, synergetic system with each plant spirit playing their small but necessary role, contributing to a sense of mutual symbiosis and interdependence.

If a curandero adds a plant that he has dieted to his ayahuasca, the brew gains extra power and potency. This is why curanderos generally like to add the plants that they have dieted to their mixtures because it makes it easier for them to call upon the spirits, asking for divine assistance and special favors during ceremony.(8)https://doubleblindmag.com/the-ayahuasca-dieta/ By invoking the plant spirits they are familiar with, shamans have an easier time controlling the energy of a ceremony because they are working with a spirit with whom they have a deep and intimate connection.

Besides a shaman’s personal alliances with specific florae, it is important to note that there are also plants that are favored by entire tribes or communities. This is why it is common for Iquiteños to work with tobacco since it is a plant popular in both the ritual and mundane life of the mestizo community of Iquitos and anyone with any shamanic training is bound to have dieted it.

The Many Faces of the “Goddess of the Jungle”

Another way of understanding the benefits of adding a third plant to the mix is that it can help to reveal one of the many different “faces” of the ayahuasca spirit. Much like adding a third color to an artist’s palette, we become aware of subtleties that had previously escaped our attention since a third color brings added depth and nuance to a painting.  Because other plants are believed to help “narrow” the scope or focus of the ceremony, they have been popularly added to ayahuasca mixtures since time immemorial.

As mentioned earlier, there are plants that are particularly popular amongst certain tribes and the Shipibos, to use but one example, have been adding toé (Brugmansia sauveolens) to their ayahuasca for centuries.

Known as datura in English, toé is known as a “Mother Plant” amongst the Shipibos, meaning that it belongs to a category of plants that is considered to be one of the most powerful of all jungle florae.(9)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378874111000560 Toé should only be added to ayahuasca mixtures by an experienced shaman because too much of it has been known to put people into permanent psychoses.(10)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6767831/ When cooked and distributed by a highly knowledgeable maestro, toé-infused ayahuasca is believed to be the most powerful of all jungle medicine and gives the most vivid and intense visions of any plant or combination of plants. A shaman who has dieted toé is automatically considered a master healer(11)https://mamaolinda.com/masterplants and to drink ayahuasca mixed with this beautiful but deadly flower is to bring a person as close to the delirious heights of religious ecstasy possible.

Toé, Ego Disintegration and the Divine Feminine

Both ayahuasca and toé are considered “Mother Plants” in the Shipibo cosmovision and are believed to be immortal embodiments of cosmic feminine power.(12)https://mamaolinda.com/masterplants When mixed together, these two highly ambivalent plant spirits express the very apex of a primal feminine force and so to consume them is to absorb their full shamanic power.

According to Shipibo shamans, when we drink toé-laced ayahuasca, we put ourselves at the risk of being “consumed” by this primal feminine force which is why many drinkers experience a temporary psychosis when imbibing this combination of “Mother Plants,” although, as mentioned earlier, for some people the psychosis may be permanent.

One of the ways that ayahuasca works is through disintegration of the ego-self, however, when ayahuasca is combined with toé, the experience of this disintegration may be extreme.(13)https://mamaolinda.com/masterplants When undergoing disintegration of the ego, we become completely untethered to any sense of a continuous “I” which can be tremendously challenging for many people. Although the experience of “ego-disintegration” is one of main the reasons people seek out ayahuasca (particularly westerners), the reality can be a lot more frightening than people realize. It is for this reason that it is best to leave these kinds of “master” combinations to the experts.

Mother Ayahuasca and Father Chiricsanango: The Alchemy of Opposites

As a botanical incarnation of the divine feminine goddess(14)https://templeofthewayoflight.org/information/the-divine-feminine/, ayahuasca is considered the most mysterious of all jungle plants. Unpredictable and unfathomable, it can be hard for drinkers to navigate her numinous, otherworldly realms. Unlike the example of mixing ayahuasca with toé – which can make the experience of drinking ayahuasca even more intense – adding a third plant to the potion can serve as an “anchor,” pulling the spirit of ayahuasca in a more “worldly” direction, thus making it easier to navigate the medicine world.

As many curanderos have pointed out, she can destroy us or bless us and even if we’ve drunk ayahuasca countless times, we can never be sure what we’re going to get from one ceremony to another.  This is why certain “modifier” plants can be added to the final mixture to ensure an easier, more navigable journey.

It is for this reason that some maestros like to add chiricsanango (Brunfelsia grandiflora) to their ayahuasca, a combination that has been revered and used since time immemorial. While ayahuasca represents a great mother figure, chricsanango is likened to being a spiritual father and the male counterpart of ayahuasca.(15)https://ayahealingretreats.com/master-plants/chiric-sanango-brunfelsia-grandiflora/

Since plants that contain a masculine essence are traditionally representative of order and logic, the addition of chiricsanango to an ayahuasca brew can make the medicine world seem a little less daunting and easier to navigate.(16)https://www.helporg.org/chiric-sanango-healing-ceremony Some of the spiritual properties of chiricsanango include increased mental clarity, improved self-esteem, confidence and the ability to make connections between seemingly unrelated feelings and sensations.(17)https://www.helporg.org/chiric-sanango-healing-ceremony Chiricsanango is also believed to imbue people with passion and vigor and a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm for life. His spirit is also a harbinger of detachment as well as providing us with insight into the chaotic world of emotions and feelings.(18)https://ayahealingretreats.com/master-plants/chiric-sanango-brunfelsia-grandiflora/

Although the addition of other plants may make the integration of the ayahuasca experience easier to handle, it is important to note that many people may still feel intense discomfort or disorientation, particularly if they are not used to working with plant medicine. Having said that, chiricsanango is believed to provide at least a modicum of relief from the most intense of ceremonies which is why many drinkers swear by its ability to provide a sense of comfort and stability during the emotional upheavals typical of most ayahuasca journeys.(19)https://ayahealingretreats.com/master-plants/chiric-sanango-brunfelsia-grandiflora/

Ritual and Reintegration

When a curandero wishes to work with a third plant, it is not always necessary to add that plant to the actual medicine. Sometimes the spirit of the plant is invoked through separate brews and rituals that either precede or proceed a ceremony.

One example of this is through the ritual use of guayusa (Ilex guayusa), a tea traditionally drunk by the Kichwa tribe of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Members of a community or household typically gather round a communal fire in the early hours of the morning to discuss their dreams since, to the Kichwa people, guayusa is a teacher plant with a special affinity for dreaming.(20)https://ayusa.com.au/lucid-dreaming/ As medicine world and dream world are inseparable in the native mind, guayusa is believed to help with integrating and understanding ayahuasca visions at a deeper level. It is for this reason that many ayahuasca centres, particularly those found in the Ecuadorian Amazon, are serving up guayusa tea to their clients as it has proven very successful in bringing the “medicine” of ayahuasca into quotidian life.(21)https://yakum.org/kichwas-of-cotundo

Although guayusa is drunk at both mundane and ritual occasions, it is believed to have a special affinity with ayahuasca since they both help humanity navigate the astral realms albeit using different means. While guayusa helps with opening us up to the astral planes while we dream at night, ayahuasca reveals it through ceremony, thus, both plants can help infuse everyday reality with the magic of ceremony when they are used in their pre-prescribed ways.

Other plants typically used without being added to ayahuasca are maracuja (Passiflora edulis) and bobinsana (Calliandra angustifolia). Maracuja is typically given to ayahuasca tourists before and after ceremonies and is usually prescribed throughout the duration of an ayahuasca retreat because it lessens the symptoms of anxiety as well as helping to keep “Type A” personalities in balance. It is also considered a maternal, feminine plant that succors and comforts people going through periods of transition and transformation.(22)https://www.xulaherbs.com/blogs/blog/how-passionflower-supports-wellness

Bobinsana is another popular plant in the Amazon and is used in tandem with ayahuasca because it is believed to help open the heart while sensitizing our minds, making us more aware of higher realities.(23)https://www.thegardenofpeace.com/blog/bobinsana-medicine-open-heart Although it is sometimes added to an ayahuasca mixture to help bring about these aforementioned qualities, it is also popularly given to ayahuasca tourists with a more “rigid” and “intellectual” personality structure. Bobinsana helps soften our hard edges, assisting us in operating from the wisdom of the heart rather than through the biases of the mind and intellect.

Final Thoughts

Ayahuasca has a long history of use in the Amazon rainforest where it is prepared by shamans who use it to cure diseases and to connect to the spirit world, although it also has other applications and is used in weather manipulation rituals, scrying, astral projection and witchcraft. Depending on the “direction” shamans wish to take when imbibing ayahuasca, the addition of another plant (or more in some cases) can affect the results of their medicine journeys, and by using their vast knowledge of jungle plants, they can alter their specifications to meet their varying needs.

This practical use of plant alchemy also applies to a curandero cooking ayahuasca to serve up in ceremony and by using various combinations of plants, he can ensure that drinkers get the most benefit from their medicine journeys which might be harder to achieve when just using the classic combination of ayahuasca and chacruna.

References

References
1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6343205/
2 https://om-mij.nl/en/san-pedro/
3 https://takiwasi.com/en/adestacado06.php
4 https://headoverheels.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/ayahuasca_visions_-_pablo_amaringo.pdf
5 P. Amaringo, “The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo,” p.105
6 https://www.scielo.br/j/bgoeldi/a/zmZrTNGrbKkNtXcyxr9hx4j/
7, 8 https://doubleblindmag.com/the-ayahuasca-dieta/
9 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378874111000560
10 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6767831/
11, 12, 13 https://mamaolinda.com/masterplants
14 https://templeofthewayoflight.org/information/the-divine-feminine/
15, 18, 19 https://ayahealingretreats.com/master-plants/chiric-sanango-brunfelsia-grandiflora/
16, 17 https://www.helporg.org/chiric-sanango-healing-ceremony
20 https://ayusa.com.au/lucid-dreaming/
21 https://yakum.org/kichwas-of-cotundo
22 https://www.xulaherbs.com/blogs/blog/how-passionflower-supports-wellness
23 https://www.thegardenofpeace.com/blog/bobinsana-medicine-open-heart

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