The following is an excerpt from: The Secrets of the Amazon Shamans: Healing Traditions from South America, by Michael Peter Langevin. Michael tells about the native story of how yagé came to be part of the holy ceremonies of the people in the Putumayo area in Ecuador, and about participating in this fascinating ceremony. The Secrets of the Amazon Shamans was re-released by Crossroad Press in 2016.
The people of the Putumayo area, in Ecuador tell a story of the origin of yage’. When God created the world, he plucked a hair from his head and planted it in the Putumayo valley. He blessed this with his left hand. The native people discovered this plant and developed yage’ rituals, which taught them all about good and evil, the uses of animals, and the plants that could be used for food or visions. Yage’ taught them the meaning of life, and to live it. Seeing all this, God was shocked. He asked for and was given some yage’ tea. He trembled, vomited, defecated, and cried profusely, overcome by the many wonderful things he had seen. In the morning, God declared, “It is true, that the person who drinks yage’ suffers. But that person grows and learns wise things, and wisdom often comes from suffering.”
Don Pacienta utilized yage’ in his shamanistic rituals. I and others joined him at his rather large house set back away from the village. Don Pacienta explained to us that yage’ is a tool that you use as a cure, to improve your life and gain insight and intelligence. He went on to say that we might see beautiful things or horrible things, according to the state of our hearts.
Don Pacienta poured the yage’ and wiped it clean with a healing fan. We all drank, and immediately I could barely keep my eyes open. I looked around and we all seemed to be falling asleep, except Don Pacienta. I fell into a kind of sleepy trance. It seemed as if I were floating in a state where I was not fully capable of thinking or sleeping, but just lying down with my eyes closed. Then, after what I guessed to be an hour, I became aware of the nearby river noises and the breeze in the jungle trees.
Don Pacienta began to sing, but the voice didn’t sound like his. It seemed old and tired, not like ceremonial singing, but like singing for singing’s sake. The singing was almost torturously slow, both apart from and together with the yage’ journey being undertaken by the group. I could imagine this song existing before people lived on Earth, and thought that it might continue even after the planet ceased to exist. Just as I began to almost enjoy the seemingly endless, monotonous singing, one of the participants in the ritual suddenly jumped up and ran outside to vomit. It sounded so loud and disturbing, I opened my eyes, sat up, and looked around. Everyone else seemed asleep, except for Don Pacienta and me. The vomiting sound soon became all-consuming. It seemed to curl into and out of my stomach like a snake. Suddenly another participant left the house to defecate in a bush. His every movement was loud and it felt as though this act was being performed for me or maybe even by me. He suddenly yelled, “Snakes!” and ran back into the house, smelling awful.
“No, there are no snakes near here. I sent them all away before beginning this ritual. But this is what happens when people envy you; you have a terrible time with yage’,” boomed Don Pacienta. “Then the snakes come all over your body and your vomit goes back into your mouth as snakes, frogs, lizards, alligators, wild animals, and cockroaches. That is what you feel when you are sick. And it smells terribly, too.”
I realized Don Pacienta wasn’t talking about me or even to me. He knew everyone had been too aware of the man, who was vomiting, so he had broken the spell and awakened us. Now he was pouring second cups of yage’, and this time he was singing a lovely song. He sounded like himself, in a voice that transmitted healing energy.
Now he had a ring in his hand. One of the participants had asked him to instill it with protective magic. Don Pacienta shook the ring to the rhythm of the song, slow and deliberate. I picked up an occasional word in Spanish: “Buena suerte … no diablo … mucho amour….” (Good luck … no devil … much love). That was a strong magical song as I have seldom heard. He had us all try and sing along. The next thing I knew we were all singing faster, and Don Pacienta was swinging a bag of Chondur candy around the man with the ring.
Then Don Pacienta stopped abruptly. He handed the bag back to the owner, charged for protection. “This ring is now a powerful magic protector and the chondur will be a powerful love potion (quereme) to help win the heart of any women as you requested.” Don Pacienta giggled as he said this. And then he broke into howling laughter. The man began to laugh loudly also. Suddenly we were all laughing, as the world exploded with the humor of everything. It swept around the room in waves. The seriousness of the night, the vomit, the eternal song, and the dark, seemed to be cracked open like the shell, and into this opening we all tumbled willy-nilly, overflowing with laughter. In truth, I know the singing of that song and that night’s ritual made the rest of my travels better. Probably my whole life, too. And the story goes on and became more involved until long after dawn.
Michael Peter Langevin was the publisher/ editor of Magical Blend Magazine. He has authored three books: Secrets of the Ancient Incas, Secrets of the Amazon Shamans, and Spiritual Business. He has lived and traveled extensively in Latin America. His present day company LangevinAxelsson Marketing specializes in Social Media Marketing and Public Relations Consulting. Contact Michael