Ancient Shipibo Dietas
Ancient Shipibo Dietas
A Master Plant Dieta, sometimes referred to as a shamanic dieta is a complex, strict and rigorous system of discipline through which a planta maestra (teacher plant) or plantas que enseñan ( plants and trees that teach) transmit protection, guidance and sacred knowledge to the student or “dietero”. Plantas que enseñan are not only those plants and trees with psychotropic or hallucinogenic properties. In fact, plants with psychotropic properties account for only a small number of the plants that together are fundamental to the learning and practice of authentic, shamanic medicine in the Amazon.
Maestro curanderos (Shamans) have traditionally used fasting, a diet of master plants and seclusion from others to seek guidance from the plant spirits and obtain the vital knowledge needed to heal others. A diet of teacher plants and trees is also central to the shamanic medicine apprenticeship. Young initiates will diet on master plants for months and sometimes year at a time. Throughout these dieta apprentices will develop a kind of capacity to “see” or communicate with the spirit realm. In the Peruvian Amazon in particular, the most direct way to develop this capacity to “see” and connect with the espiritus (spirits) is through master plant or shamanic dietas.
Before students can communicate with plant teachers, however, they must undergo a rigorous process of mental, physical and spiritual purification. Certain plants are often used in this process, including Ayahuasca, Tabacco and other plant purges (vomitivos). Master plant dietas are usually accompanied by abstinence from sex, pork, red meat, sugar, deodorants, alcohol, caffeine, shampoo, toothpaste, oils and processed food. Abstaining from any substance or activity that might cloud the mind is essential for the plants and trees dieta to promote physical healing and spiritual transformation.
Throughout the master plant dieta, whether endured for a long time with the view to becoming a maestro curandero, or for a shorter time as is the case on our retreats, the types of plants and the order in which they are consumed will be determined by the maestro curandero. Put differently, the order and kinds of master plants (teacher plants or trees) are not random, they are especially tailored to the individual.
The traditional belief of the indigenous peoples of Peruvian east-central Amazon is that plant remedies need careful time to begin to work. Which is very unlike Western medicines which we expect to begin to heal the body or alleviate pain immediately. It is frequently said that “en la dieta está la curación,” the healing is in the dieta, not just in the plants or trees.
From the very first day, you will learn in great depth about the properties and healing potentialities of each of the master plants
This knowledge will be vital in helping you to decide to commit to a Master Plant Dieta. Our maestros curandoros (shaman) are expert in the latent properties of the each of our master plants and will be able to offer you advice that stems from a long tradition of using the plants himself to heal and in his work transforming the lives of others. Each of our Maestros will tailor an individualized dieta during your Ayahuasca retreat in Peru with us of master plants and trees especially designed to support you to develop desired capacities and cure particular ailments.
In simple terms is a contract made between a curanderos, or student of curanderismo, and a particular plant spirit. The terms of the contract are decided and agreed upon prior to the dieta taking place, and often times the motivation to of a dieta comes at the request or suggestion of the plant spirit, but can also be decided by the person.
For instance, in an Ayahuasca ceremony perhaps a dream, a plant spirit may present itself to someone and suggest that he/she do a dieta with it.
Another common practice is that a student or curanderos feels a connection to a particular plant and decides to do a dieta with it, or a student’s teacher suggests that the student do a dieta.
One of the key agreement is the length of the dieta, meaning for how long the dieta will be kept. Sometimes this is as short as eight days, although more common would be months and even years. The general agreement in a dieta is that the curanderos or student will sacrifice the pleasures of physical stimulation by refraining from sex, alcohol, and sweet, spicy, salty, or rich foods.
In return of this sacrifice, the plant spirits agree to teach, guide, protect, strengthen, or endow special abilities to the person during the Dieta. Usually the dieta is done in near isolation in order to avoid any temptation that might come from interactions with people who are not doing the diet.
In some indigenous groups, like the Shipibo, people doing diets have their faces, hands and feet painted with a dye made from a fruit called huito so that anyone with whom they may come in contact knows to treat them appropriately, and so announce the dieta to the plant spirits.
An interesting feature of the fiesta is that the terms are nogotiatble, meaning that while a plant spirit may initially want a dieta to be of a certain length, like one year, for example, the curanderos can counter with an offer of a shorten duration, until the actual terms are agreed upon.
Once the terms of the dieta are established, the curanderos or student will then open the diatom or have the dieta opened for them, as in the case with most students. This is an “offical” announcement, made in an ayahuasca ceremony through the use of healing songs, called icarus, that the dieta has begun, or will begin the following day, to help demonstrate the determination of the curanderos or student and thus strengthen the connection to the plant.
After the diets has been opened on the spiritual plane, the physical aspects of the dieta begin. After again declaring the intentions for the dieta, the dieter ingest some form of extraction of the plant, which can be a preparation made from boiling the leaves, the bark or the roots of the plant, or by soaking them in alcohol, or even by smoking the pipe, tabacco would be use as the smoking material.
While the outward expression of the dieta is often talked about in terms of food restrictions and sexual abstinence, the dieta goes much deeper than the physical aspects. Thoughts have a very important role in the dieta. When the dieta is considered as a demonstration of determinations, it is easy to see how the physical act of abstinence and eating is just touching the surface. Being unhappy or complaining about the dieta, fantasising about sex or favourite foods is
also a demonstration of determination or the lack thereof.
Preventing oneself from getting angry, from doubting or losing faith in the process, or thinking negatively about the dieta are also important restrictions, The dieta does not just take place at the dinner table. It happens 24 hours a day, even during sleep. During walking hours, time is often spent in contemplation of the plant spirit, learning and singing icarus for the plant spirit, spending time with the actual plant and communicating with the plant spirit, dieters further their connection with the Plant Spirit.
Dialogues can be formed, and interactions can take place in trance like states produced by
smoking or in dreams. The spirit of the plant can be felt on the subtle levels and dieters can become more aware of
those sensations by directing their attention to them. The purpose of the dieta is to build relationship with the plant spirit, and just like with build-
ing relationships with other people, the more sincere, honest and well-intentioned attention a dieter gies to the plant spirit, the better the relationship will be.
More energy given results in more energy received.
As the dieta progresses, the sensations nd communications get stronger. The relationship become closer and deeper, eventually forming a special bond, a friendship between the dieter and the plant spirit. It is through this friendship that the curanderos or student receives benefit from the relationship, the fruits of the dieta.
This new friend provides information, guidance and energy to assist in the healing process. Somethimes it takes time for a a relationship to develop, especially if the dieters deretmination is not completely solid, and there is no guarantee as to what will result form a dieta, but if it is done right with the right intentions, thoughts, actions, and energy it should produce a beneficial connection that will continue to develop after the dire has been completed or closed.
When the length and terms of a dieta have been fulfilled, then the dieta is closed. Like with the opening of the dieta this is typically done with an Ayahuasca ceremony where the dieta is declared “officially” complete and tremendous gratitude is expressed to the plant
spirit in the form of icarus and prayers.
Statements are made regarding future plans to cultivate the relationship and use if for the betterment of humankind. The following morning, within some traditions another ceremony takes place where the dieter does a particular dance accompanied by song ato again express gratitude and to give
thanks and the dieter ingests a particular food like hot peeps, salt, onions, garlic and lemon,
before easing back into a “normal” diet again.
There is also a Post-Dieta which may seems confusing but is also important. The basics idea is that during the dieta a strong relationship is formed and a great deal of attention and energy is shared so even though the contractual agreement of the diet has been fulfilled a dieter should continue to give energy, thought and feelings to the plant spirit, which would also be expressed in actions. Therefore it is important to maintain the same reverence for the plant spirit even during the ingestion of salt, sugar, oil, etc. so as not to disrespect the relationship or devalue the willingness to make sacrifices.
A dieter shouldn’t want to run out and do all the things that were sacrificed for the dieta, even thought he/she is technically free do to so.
Perhaps it could be understood through this example:
If a man enters a relationship with a woman as her boyfriend (which could also be considered as a type of contract with negotiable terms like exclusive physical intimacy) and then after a period of time the two decide to mutually end that relationship but remain friends it would be disrespectful for the man (or woman) to have sex with someone else the next day or soon after, as their friendship would most likely suffer as a result.
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Don Miguel was born into a Shipibo community called Roaboya on the River Ucayali. When Don Miguel was a child, Angel Sanchez Vargas, his grandfather was the community’s curandero. Vargas was an expert in sacred plant medicines and was frequently called upon to heal and share his spiritual wisdom with members of Roaboya. The school built some years later was named after Vargas and Roaboya went on to be recognised as the first indigenous community 114 years ago. Don Miguel grew up surrounded by the Shipibo wisdom and possess intimate knowledge of the sacred plant medicines. At a very young age he began his apprenticeship as a curandero through plant dietas under the supportive guidance of his grandfather. Miguel is also a trained literature professor and thoroughly enjoys teaching the Shipibo language and culture. Since 2012, Don Miguel has spent the bulk of his time leading lectures, workshops, initiation courses and retreats. Don Miguel will lead our Ayahuasca ceremonies, circle discussions and be available for personal consultations whilst on retreat.
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