I have many friends, both American and foreign, who have an unshakable belief in Shamanism and shamanic treatments.  Most are quite well educated.  An example is John Perkins, author of the New York Times and Amazon bestseller, “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.”  As for me, I’m still somewhat up in the air about Shamanism in general, but I do believe that “treatments” by a true Shaman (there are a lot of charlatan’s around to be sure) have efficacious qualities that are not to be sneezed at.

One especially memorable experience occurred during a trip that a lady friend and I took a few years ago to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.  Although I had visited Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands before, this trip was pretty special in that we had a number of new and rather usual experiences.

Among those experiences was one where we met a man at the San Jorge Eco-Lodge in the Ecuadorian Andes.  Jorge, who was a recognized expert of the flora and fauna of the region, knew of a Shaman about three hours away by foot.  After telling us how respected this Shaman was amongst the indigenous people in that part of the Andes, we asked if we could get a “treatment” even though we were both feeling quite good and were not really suffering from any kind of malady. Therefore, the following day Jorge left the eco-lodge very early and several hours later returned with the Shaman.  He was at most 4 feet 6 inches tall, clearly a 100% indigenous person, probably descended from the Incas.

The shamanic experience we had on that occasion was the most unusual of any I had previously had.  After ingesting some sort of hallucinogenic and presumably alcoholic substance, the Shaman went into a trance like state.  Jorge spoke a smattering of the Indian dialect that the Shaman spoke and translated for us as best he could.  Eventually we were to get virtually naked and the Shaman began to roll raw eggs over and about our bodies.  He had with him a snake that was involved in the ceremony but never placed on us.  There were also different types of rodents involved.  While we weren’t asked to smoke anything ourselves, he was constantly inhaling some sort of hallucinogen from a pipe, the smoke of which he proceeded to repeatedly blow all over our bodies.  Soon the smoke was so thick that it was impossible not to ingest some of it through the nasal passages.  Probably due to inhaling the smoke, I became very relaxed.  The Shaman then engorged his cheeks with the alcoholic hallucinogenic substance and while chanting long incantations of some sort, he held a candle to his lips and exhaled rainbows of fire across our chests and up and down both the fronts and backs of our bodies. I was concerned that the limited amount of hair on my chest might catch fire, but gratefully that did not happen.  Having stripped everything off, I did not have my watch on.  Nevertheless, I’m sure that the entire treatment lasted well over an hour.

Again, although I had undergone shamanic treatments in the past, this was quite different than any I had undergone before.  Both my lady friend and I slept soundly that night and felt wonderful the following day when we left San Jorge and flew from Quito to Guayaquil and from there on to the Galapagos Islands where we boarded a small trimaran that we had reserved.  Indeed, throughout the remainder of the trip and after returning stateside I felt as strong and healthy as one could possibly feel.  So did my lady friend.

So what conclusion about Shamanism do I draw?  Basically, as with most ancient medicinal programs practiced in rural and remote parts of the developing world, proper shamanistic treatments are in my opinion to be respected.  Again, this feeling is reinforced by the strongly held beliefs of reputable friends in the United States and Europe who from time to time seek out Shaman’s when western medicine fails to meet their needs.  Is it “primitive?”  Only by Western standards where, to be sure, we have access to truly remarkable procedures and wonderful practitioners.   But more and more we learn that we in the west are not all knowing and can learn much from other modalities that have stood the test of time – often for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.


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