Amazon shamans are spiritual leaders of the Amerindians. They are the ones called upon by the village to interpret dreams and make sense of what is happening around them, whether it is disease, famine, or invasion. The knowledge is obtained from understanding and communicating with the spiritworld. This is done using the shaman’s unique knowledge of the spirits and his knowledge of hallucinogenic plants. Among one of their uses, hallucinogenic drugs like ayahuasca are taken by shamans to interpret the meaning of dreams.
Ayahuasca Tribe – Variants
The hallucinogen of choice in the Rio Ucayali region is ayahuasca, derived from the rainforest vine Banisteriopsis. Figuring prominently in the culture of Amerindians are serpents, the dream equivalent of snakes. The dreams can consist of serpents playing the parts of their cultural roles, such as lords of forests and lakes, impregnators of women, forest spirits, and even the ayahuasca vine itself. The sacred plant chosen to give hallucinations is not always ayahuasca and varies throughout the continent. In Ecuador the plant of choice is a member of the nightshade family, Datura arborea.
Science and Shamanism
The plants are no longer mysterious, as scientists have chemically analysed their constituents. The juices of ayahuasca and the other sacred plants contain neuromodulators that in high doses cause delirium, excitation, and vision. The chemicals alter the brain in the same way as the chemicals that cause normal dreaming. The difference is that uncontrolled dreaming is no longer restricted to sleep.