Icaros are ritual songs used to invoke the spirits of plants, animals and allies. The singing or whistling of icaros is sometimes accompanied by the chacapa, a rattle of bundled leaves. Icaros can enhance or subdue the effects of plant medicines, dispel energy, and protect those present in the sacred space. The word is believed to derive from the Quechua verb ikaray, which means “to blow smoke in order to heal.” Icaros can be “received” by vegetalista (healer) during plant diets, through dreams, visions and sounds, directly from the “mothers” of plants. These diets involve the ingestion of plants in strict conditions of isolation, food restrictions and sexual activity. The healing songs are also transmitted from teacher to apprentice, in many cases.
Specific icaros for patients are indicated to the vegetalista during the ceremony directly or indirectly from the spiritual world. Sometimes, the healer already knows what icaros to sing when the participant approaches. During the ceremony, under the effects of the medicine, icaros help to metabolize visions, remove subjective contents, guide the self-exploration, and at the same time to provide a link to the normal plane of reality. Icaros are the main tool of the healer during ceremonies.
Carlos and Juan sing mainly their own icaros, which are highly appreciated, and known for their beauty and healing qualities; they also know many popular local icaros, which they occasionally use. Carlos has made a CD of his icaros, and plans to keep recording them and sharing his knowledge with the world.
Music by Carlos Llerena Chavez:
Huaira Caspi welcomes different kinds of volunteers to our center.
If you are interested in:
- Academic research about ayahuasca and vegetalismo
- Documentary films about the topic
- Doing social work in the area of Tarapoto
- Teaching local children
- Learning how to work with woodcraft
- Learning traditional crafts from indigenous people of the Amazon
- Learning about the flora and fauna of the region
- Learning how to identify and cultivate medicinal plants
- Learning more about shamanism and its healing techniques
- Learning skills to live in the jungle
We are open to supporting your dream and making it happen! If you are interested, please write us a letter with your proposal, including:
1. One short paragraph about yourself: Academic achievements, publications, professional experience, volunteer work, certificates, etc.
2. Two paragraphs describing your proposed goal, and why you would like to do it with us.
3. A current photo of yourself.
Please send all this information to us using the contact information on our site.
Also, we would love to hear from you about how you think we can work together using your specific expertize in ways not already described here!
We hope to see you here and work together!
The Botanical Garden at Huaira Caspi combines ecology, education, relaxation and introspection. With hundreds of native plants and botanical species, the center offers itself as a space for medicinal plant research, classification and consumption by our participants and patients. The promotion of diversity in the Huaira Caspi community aims to save and spread knowledge of the positive impact of plant medicines, as well as to make our diets, baths and plant related activities self-sustainable. Through responsible cultivation and agroforestry practice, the center preserves an old medical tradition, while maintaining a respectful relationship toward surrounding environment.
The Amazon rainforest is a rich source of natural products; rich, but not inexhaustible. The arrival of Europeans in the sixteenth century led to the introduction of a predatory mentality that decimated numerous species to meet whims and needs overseas: from colorful bird feathers to rubber for the wheels of the automobile industry. Medicinal plants were also subject to this ferocious campaign. The cinchona tree, for example, whose bark provided quinine, an antipyretic, was brought to extinction in extensive areas of the Amazon in the nineteenth century.
Now is the time of ayahuasca and chacruna. The extraordinary interest that the ayahuasca brew has aroused throughout the world is having unexpected consequences on the availability of both species. It is very difficult to estimate how many thousands of people travel each year to Peru in order to experience ayahuasca, nor how many people in Iquitos, Pucallpa, Puerto Maldonado and Tarapoto are preparing the remedy and sending it abroad; healing ceremonies are performed every night in the five inhabited continents with ayahuasca produced in Peru.
Although we cannot know the amount of ayahuasca that is produced and consumed, we can see some of the consequences that this activity is having for both species in their wild habitat, where they have been harvested in a massive way to meet demand. As for the chacruna, it is no longer available in its natural habitat (at least in areas easily accessible to local communities). The vine is being harvested until its eradication in extensive areas of the Peruvian lowlands: another blow to the biodiversity of the last great forest of the planet.
Laws of market economy are relentless: the exponential growth of demand and the consequent scarcity have resulted in unprecedented difficulty in obtaining mature vines and an increase in the price. We are aware of this problem at Huaira Caspi, and we have chosen to produce our own plant material in a sustainable way, with the double purpose of offering quality medicine without damaging the environment. Currently, we are beginning to cultivate ayahuasca and chacruna and, with your help, we hope to continue increasing our production in the future.
PARTICIPATION IN CONFERENCES
Carlos speaks at schools, public events, cultural gatherings, academic conferences, and with human resources departments about the importance of healing, spirituality, introspection, meditation, an integrative approach to health, the culture and traditions of the forest peoples, the healing techniques of the vegetalistas, the importance of the environment and the sustainability of the Amazon and so forth. He believes that the use of sacred plants must be understood as part of a larger cultural complex, and that understanding and respect for traditional people and their ways of life is a crucial aspect of this conversation.
Carlos participated in the II World Ayahuasca Conference, which was held from October 17–22 in Acre, in the Brazilian Amazon. Due to his recognized work and trajectory, he was selected to represent Peru at this meeting organized by ICEERS that united more then 750 people from over 30 countries. His lecture addressed the topic of the dietas and the traditional use of plants in the Amazon jungle. He is open to travel and give lectures. If you are interested in arranging a lecture or visit, please use the contact section of the site.
Images courtesy of Gilberto Ávila