Alan Shoemaker is a gifted facilitator for the International Amazonian Shamanism Conference, and an expert on curanderos. I have personally gone to Peru and visited with him, and he is without a doubt the best of guides and a friend. Iquitos would shine less brightly without him!
7th International Amazonian Shamanism Conference:
July 16th - 22th, 2011Iquitos, Peru
(Soga Del Alma is Spanish for Vine of the Soul)
To see Alan Shoemaker's book Grace And Madness, you can go to the following link:
Grace And Madness
Alan is a great writer. Here is a sample of his writing from one of his articles on the web:
When drinking alone without the presence of a curandero, especially without the presence of the curandero who made the medicine and to whom the ritual space belongs, you must take it upon yourself to prepare the space. In North America, the medicine-men use sage smoke to clean the energies. In South America the typical method is to burn Palo Santo ("Holy Wood"). Mapacho (Nicotiana tabacum)(24) tobacco also works. This not only prepares the space by clearing out whatever spirits may be "nesting" there, but helps to put you in the correct psychological state by virtue of having gone through these steps. I knew these things when we drank Fernando's brew. I simply forgot to implement them. As a Mother cautions the child about speaking with strangers, beware of drinking brews from those you don't know. Sometimes rule-breaking can be dangerous.
Just over five hundred years ago the Western World all but destroyed the great nations of the Americas. They could not have succeeded with the force of arms alone so for some ungodly reason disease and fear spoiled cultures that would have been absolutely magnificent.
And now a new epoch has begun. The desire to reassemble those pieces that may still be found back into the puzzle, that we might somehow catch a glimpse of what was, and what still could be, haunts us. The most mysterious and precious of these pieces is the healer/curandero. Embodied within their ancient form of healing is a knowledge of mysticism and plant spirit medicine that may never be understood by modern medicine.
There exists a wealth of literature available on mysticism, shamanism, sorcery, magic, witchcraft, etc..., dealing generally with personal experiences and even giving rather precise instructions on how to find the various locations, teachers, and even the exact formulas necessary to turn a Sacred Power Plant into an entheogen(25). This ease of access to the mystical through entheogenic formulas is startling and possibly dangerous. Taking any form of mind altering medicine without preliminary rudimentary education and controlled investigation can lead to possible possession of the body by unknown subtle energies, permanent psychotic mental states, and even to a loss of the soul.
When under the influence of Sacred Power Plants you leave yourself open to being possessed, which can be very dangerous, but more importantly, you hope the plant will show itself to you, enabling you to understand its power and apprehend its uses as a medicine, for healing. As their names imply, Sacred Power Plants are to be ingested with the hope of being taught their medicine by energies of Light and the Spirits of the Plants. As fascinating as it may appear when reading accounts in various books and magazines of other-worldly visionary experiences, it is without a doubt something that should not be taken lightly. The negative energies and spirits can attach themselves to you and be extremely difficult to remove, even with the help of a curandero. Simply having memorized the various icaros and singing them during make-shift rituals is not sufficient, and could even create more havoc by giving you a false sense of security. The vibrations set up from these chantings must come from a spiritual center within yourself with such purity of purpose that your essence exudes the Light. I would also suggest that if you choose to play shaman, you do it in the midst of your maestro-shaman: a healer who has learned the majority of his icaros from the plants themselves. Without this the icaros are merely songs, sung for affect. If you memorize an icaro you have recorded from a curandero you are only reciting and its power may also reflect that. It is, however, a beginning and shouldn't prevent you from continuing your studies. Good teachers are difficult to come by, so you must center your energy such that when you recant these icaros the soul you expose is pure, humble, forgiving, gracious, endearing, egoless, and respectful for the icaro and the maestro from whom it came. Ideally your icaros should to be learned from the Spirits of the Plants. However, only they decide when, where, and if you will be granted this gift. This power comes only to those who have been shown the path. The desire to become a healer isn't enough. You must have been granted this gift in order to properly pursue it. However, it is possible that the "granting" can come after the student has already been studying, as the Spirits of the Plants can decide to teach you at any moment. The power to convey the Light through the chantings comes from your soul being its conduit. The"purer you are, spiritually, and the "cleaner" you are, physically, the more powerful are the incantations and their protection, and more the likely-hood of your being used by the energies of goodness.