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A Local Encounter that Changed my Perspective - Juan, the Shaman

ECUADOR | Wednesday, 17 April 2013 | Views [239] | Scholarship Entry

Juan, the Shaman: A Local Encounter that Changed my Perspective
The three weeks I spent with a shaman and his family in the Amazon region of Ecuador broke down quite a few of my preconceived ideas of medicine men or witch doctors as they are sometimes called. They are not strange people with supernatural powers. My shaman lives a fairly normal life for the most part. He has been married to Maria for twenty-six years. They have six children and three grandchildren. He seems to have his share of shortcomings if I am to believe his wife!!
Outwardly, Juan is a handsome, physically fit, fifty year old, native person of Quichua-Andoan ancestry. He knows the jungle, its plants, animals, waters and land intimately. He can live off this land as his widowed mother taught him.
He has chosen to practice shamanism as a way of life. It has only recently become more profitable as he has a fairly constant number of guests or volunteers in the thatched-roof guesthouse he built. Quite a few people come by for a day or two to experiment with the hallucinatory drinks of Ayahuasca and Malikahua. Juan takes special care of such guests; preparing the drinks individually for each person and personally supervising them while they pursue their vision or puke their guts out!
Juan also uses Ayahuasca especially if he needs to cleanse himself of negative energy he has picked up while serving other people. While I was there, he spent one night alone in the jungle. He told us later of his visions and what they mean to him. He still surprises himself by the fact that he can walk naked in the jungle at night without a light and come out without a scratch. He thrills with the memory of a huge anaconda which crawled over his arm and up over his shoulder. He said, “I felt so strong under the weight of the snake,” as he holds out his muscular arm that supported that vision. At other times, Ayahuasca has shown him how to use new medicinal plants. This is the way of his ancestors.
It is this land, this way of life, these people, plants and animals that are under threat today. Their languages, their knowledge, and their future are in jeopardy. By getting to know Juan, his family and a little about his life, I hope that I can do something, perhaps through writing, to help protect the Amazon.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013

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