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Ayahuasca Healing Ceremonies

Ayahuasca Healing Ceremonies

An Ayahuasca Healing Ceremony is an opportunity to take part in your own healing.  A ceremony involves meeting at around 7pm and finding a spot to sit and settle in. It is important to arrive before the ceremony begins, out of respect for the curandero. After some introductions if necessary and perhaps some small talk, the maestro, or healer, will soplay each patient, the brew, the cup, and him or herself. Soplaying is a form of whistling and is often done with tobacco smoke. It is a way of putting the curandero’s healing intentions into the brew or to protect the patients.Then he/she will pour out the servings of ayahuasca for each person. There is little to no talking as people begin their personal journeys.


don Lucho healing a patient in an ayahuasca ceremony

The curandero then pours him/herself a cup of the sacred medicine. The curanderos that work with the Ayahuasca Foundation have each drank ayahuasca over 4,000 times. Their experience with the spiritual dimension is so extensive, yet they still maintain a student’s humility. After everyone has drank their cups of ayahuasca, there is usually a brief time of silence as everyone waits for the effects to set in.

The ceremony begins when the lights are extinguished and the curandero starts to sing.  The songs are an important part of ayahuasca ceremonies, as they are the method by which curanderos communicate with the spirits, asking them for help in healing the patients.  Ayahuasca cleans out the system of all toxins, and while it may seem unpleasant to vomit, and while it is not necessary for each person to throw up, it is accepted as positive.  The beginning of a ceremony is often an unsettling time, as people often purge themselves physically, and move from one dimension to another.


The healing songs sung by curanderos are called ‘icaros.’  Each icaro has a specific purpose and they play an intricate role in the healing process. Curanderos often sing the same icaros to open every ceremony. They immediately create an environment of compassion and love. The curandero sings throughout the ceremony as the patients navigate their own visions in the spiritual dimensions.  The singing is a way for the curanderos to hold space for the patients to go further in their visions and the curanderos can raise and lower the visions to further assist this process.

Listen to an icaro: don Lucho Icarodoña Othelia Icarodon Enrique Icaro

The visions ceremony participants have often become very vivid and dreamlike. Sometimes more than one person shares the same vision. It is within this visionary dream state that the curandero communicates with spirits and performs healings.  It is also how everyone learns from the spirits anything from healing their afflictions, making changes in their lifestyle, altering their perspective on past traumas, preparing plant remedies, understanding their destinies, to seeing the past or future or visiting other planets and exploring the universe.

Eventually, the curandero will begin doing healings for the patients.  There are many different styles of healings done in the ceremonies, but usually they involve sitting across from the patient and singing an icaro specific to that patient and his/her affliction. Sometimes, people have pain bothering them right at that moment and the curandero will address that, using the hands to pull negative energy from a part of the body and blowing it away with a quick breath. The breath and the hands, along with mapachos and the chakapa, are the tools of the curandero.

Mapachos are cigarettes used during ceremonies to soplay a patient with smoke. This process uses the breath, strengthened with tobacco smoke, to cleanse the spirit of the patient. It is also used to cleanse a space or a room, the chacapa, the drinking cup, or the brew itself.

A chacapa is a tool made from binding dried leaves from a plant of the same name. It resembles a small broom, and simulates the cleansing experience with physical sensation. The curandero taps the body of each participant lightly with the chakapa, dusting off their spiritual bodies, removing anything that may have clung to them. The chakapa is also used to enhance the rhythm and dynamics of the icaros.

The ceremony ends with an icaro to close the healing circle.  The curandero makes sure that the patients are protected so that they can leave the ceremony without any spiritual vulnerability.  Once the ceremony has ended, the lights are lit and a brief discussion takes place before people leave to go to sleep.

The first three ceremonies are typically cleanses of the three levels of self. Each ceremony goes deeper and deeper, cleansing from the outside in. The belief is that while we can see our physical bodies, we also possess an emotional body and a spiritual body. Our emotional body, when healthy, allows us to feel beyond our physical body, and a healthy spiritual body allows us to feel even further beyond that. To begin healing all of these bodies, we must first clean them thoroughly. Wounds must be clean to heal. Otherwise, even a small cut can turn into a dangerous ailment.

The physical self is usually cleansed in the first ceremony. It is necessary to purge the physical body in order to cleanse the deeper levels. Vomiting once or several times and sometimes diarrhea are common effects. Some people have intense visions during their first ceremony, but most receive only fleeting glimpses, patterns, and colored lights. Some people experience no visionary effects at all the first time they drink ayahuasca, but feel tremendous connections to the spiritual dimension.

The willingness to let go becomes a necessity, at many levels. From a physical point of view, one must be willing to expel the toxins that have accumulated in the body. For more healing to take place, one needs to be willing to let go of emotional attachments, feelings of guilt or resentment, everything that has been causing any sorrow or pain. Let go…

The second ceremony is often a cleanse of the emotional self. This is a deeper cleanse. It is still common to vomit, but usually it is just once. Working with the spirits called by the curandero, each participant will typically experience vivid, highly detailed memories of events from their past, powerful moments that influenced their emotional state of being, sometimes causing illness. These life experiences can be viewed with your current wisdom and understood in a whole new way.

Flashes of color and light and dreamlike visions are common. An emerging comprehension of one’s place and purpose in life arises. One begins to realize “the meaning of life”, their family, the community, society, the earth, the universe. One begins to understand the past and the present, to know the self completely.
The healing has begun.

It is during the third ceremony that the spiritual realm is discovered by most people. The purpose of one’s life is clearly understood and the feeling of being “complete” is often accompanied by visions as real as a dream. Often these visions convey messages that have great personal significance.

After three ceremonies, the entire body has often been fully cleansed. The body, mind, and spirit are now ready to heal. Sometimes just cleaning a wound is enough for it to heal on its own, but deeper wounds require more attention, beyond the necessary cleansing. For many people, a fourth ceremony is needed to further stimulate the healing process towards complete and total health. The more ceremonies done without returning to the ‘real world’ increase the amount of learning and healing possible.


A Pablo Amaringo painting depicting an ayahuasca ceremony

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