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Shamans know that a great variety of diseases are caused by extraneous powers in the body of the sick person and they developed different techniques to extract them. 

The first step is an accurate localisation of the intrusion. The shaman does stretch the patient on a blanket or a carpet that can have the power of Allied animals or it can be decorated with powerful embroideries that recall magic patterns. This becomes the Sacred place in which the powers of the Universe flow to heal the patient.

The shaman proceeds in a purification with fumes of sacred plants and herbs (i.e. cedar’s wood, sweetgrass, copal and silver sage). He fumigates all around the centre towards the Spirits of the Directions (North, East, South, West), the Sky and the Earth.  He dances beating the drum or shacking the rattle and he calls his Allied animals and all his Spirit helpers with Chants of Power (Anents in the Shuar tradition) and Ritual Formulas.

The dance awakens all the Spirits, it connects with the powers of the Sky and the Earth and it enhances the circulation and the flow of all the powers and energies that cross the Sacred place  and the body of the patient, because every stagnation is an opposition to the healing - but the dance has also the purpose to deeply connect the shaman with the sick person.


The dance is often neglected by the neo shamans, probably because is too ridiculous for the western view or because the shamans themselves are clumsy in doing it. The physic power of the dance corresponds to a physic power in the healing, therefore the lack of the dance corresponds to a drop in the efficacy of the healing in the case of physic diseases. 


The shaman is now ready to localise the intrusions. He can sit down beating his drum or, if the healing seems to be difficult, he asks a helper to beat the drum for him, while he lies down, beside the body of the patient. He looks in the body as if it is glass, under the clothes and the skin, through the flesh to discover where the intrusions are. This power is developed during the hard training done to acquire his Spirit helpers (Tsentsak - about which we speak in another article). The use of a rattle to keep awake the Spirits can help the diagnosis.  Some shamans use water to wet their hand, shacking it over the body of the patient. When the hand is over an intrusion the healer feels a difference in temperature or some electricity or other, it depends from his personal power and that of his helpers. 

La Chupada: extraction of the intrusion sucking it out


Once that intrusions are identified, the shaman starts the extraction. This is the most dangerous moment because the intrusion can enter in his body. The most powerful method taught by the Shuar (but spread around the world)  is the so called “chupada”:  the healer sucks the intrusion with the mouth and he spits it in a basin of water or toward a nearby water screen, lake or sea. A straw or a hollow bone can also be used, if the patient does not feel comfortable with the lips’ contact. 

This practice is the most used by tribal shamans, but it is not frequent in the modern forms of shamanism, maybe because too physic (neo shamanism and imitators tend to use evanescent and dematerialised procedures) and disgusting for the refined western culture. 

Maybe it is not used because dangerous for the shaman himself: it requires skills and mastery to avoid the contamination. Nevertheless a more difficult and more dangerous technique is also more powerful and efficient. The shaman needs a protection in his mouth and this protection is given by the same power of the intrusion; it works like a vaccine that makes the shaman partially immune. 


These powers, that we mentioned before, are called Tsentsak. Most of them are Spirits of the Trees, but they can come also from the World under the Water. They can comunicate with the shaman in different shapes: they can be seen as insects, spiders, reptiles, stones but also objects like scissors. For instance, if the intrusion has the shape of a wasp, the shaman need to have a wasp as a Tsentsak. He calls two of them in his mouth from the stomach, were most of them live (but they can flow around the body in the fluids). One of them is positioned at the entrance near the lips, the other will guard the throat. Their task is to block the intrusion sucked in the mouth. If the intrusion escape the first guarda, the second will accomplish his task. The shaman feels the disgusting taste of the intrusion coming into his mouth and he spits it in the basin of water. He does it several times, until he feels that the power of the intrusion is completely removed. Before each time the he sucks he recalls the guards in his mouth. 


Closing of the ritual


When the extraction is accomplished, the shaman invites the patient to get up and sit . He has to close the holes left by the intrusions removed. He can close them blowing some Punta (sacred beverage made by a white distilled, vegetables and Tsentsak) over the treated parts or he can spatter some water on the patient’s face, because the light shock close the holes. It is also possible to give some water to drink, in order to fill up the holes. The shaman at this point closes the ritual shacking the rattle four times around the body of the patient, sealing the ritual. This is the technique that we mostly use. There are plenty of other shamanic techniques around the world, but the principles are similar. 



Copyright © 2000 - 2020. Francesco Tsunki de Giorgio. All rights reserved. 


Copyright © 2017 - 2020. Marco Tuna Daldoss Pirri. All rights reserved. 

Giuliano Rigotti

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