The portrayal of power plants on the internet is a polarised topic. On one hand we see most western governments outright banning the consumption of these plants because they are classified as class A drugs, hallucinogens.
On the other side, we see their popularity growing by the day with alternative science taking an interest in these plants and exploring its miraculous healing potential that conventional medicine cannot treat. There are positive elements in this argument.
In between, there is a grey area, that is rarely discussed about the practitioners who are serving these medicinal plants. In South America, where use of power plants is legal, thousands of westerners travel there every year and in response hundreds of healing centers have opened to cater to the growing demand in last the 15 years or so. The same trend has also spread to the West, where these circles operate underground.
My introduction to this realm was 10 years ago. I consider myself lucky that I still have memory of the times where the spirit of the plants was not entirely corrupted by the prophets of profit.
Before I booked my first ticket to Peru, I hadn’t researched much on the effects of the plants or other people’s experiences. Suffering from a crippling illness most of my life, come what may was my attitude, which was great, because I went with a clean slate without expectations. And I got exactly what I needed to survive over the next little while.
I have great love for the plants, I can say for me, conventional western medicine could never have healed my illness, but at the same time, plants exclusively did not either, but gave me clues, with impressive clarity about the trauma at the root of my illness.
Over the years, my connection with plants deepened with yearly visits to Peru and subsequently participated in a ‘curandero initiation’ program. Life then took a catastrophic downturn. If my own illness didn’t kill me, then the practitioners pulled every trick in the book to make sure I did not come out alive.
The abuse committed by them is widespread, not just in South America, but often also in the West. The tricky thing is this can never be openly talked about because it can never be proven. This is common knowledge in the healing circles, since it’s a daily occurrence, but for someone who has no understanding of this system, will never understand the dangers.
Western media from time to time reports on deaths of tourists at healing centers, and soon after, it seems be vanish from our memory.
The use of power plants is nothing new. It has existed without exception on every continent since time immemorial. Every culture has used them in their own unique way suited to their respective environment. What is forgotten is that a proper technique was passed down from master to apprentice and years of training were necessary not only to learn the system but also develop ethical standards and integrity within oneself to safely practice the system.
In the use of power plants, the healer enters into ‘trance’ states, that are sometimes visual to diagnose the illness and then apply appropriate techniques to heal them. The trance states are literally uncharted territory, especially to the uninitiated, it involves a rigorous and lengthy process of learning the language of beings that inhabit the plant realm alongside working on oneself, identifying shadows in their own character so that the patient is not compromised in any way during the healing process. Immense power over one’s own weaknesses must be cultivated before the power of these plants can safely be used for healing others.
In the South American tradition, ‘dietas’ are common, that involve extended periods in isolation and a strict diet. This is a challenging process of subjecting oneself to uncomfortable situations which over time give you the possibility of acquiring strength and power by overcoming your own weaknesses, and use this power and alliance with plant allies to heal others. To call yourself a ‘vegelista’ (plant doctor), if done properly, requires a minimum 10 year commitment.
Now, this beautiful system, which worked effectively for thousands of years has become a victim of ‘trends’ that the West is addicted to. To call yourself a ‘Shaman’ is trendy, you are instantly elevated to a superior status.
Let’s start out with decontaminating the word “Shaman” first and foremost. It doesn’t originate in South America, rather in Central Asia. The Shamans of Central Asia were not only healers, but often also leaders of their tribes, the chiefs. They were men and women of knowledge and power and every indigenous culture has had them, still does. They are the Wise ones. This title was ‘earned’ after a lifetime of consistent and exemplary behaviour by providing leadership and support to their respective communities.
The healers in South America call themselves ‘curanderos’, which literally means ‘a healer’. Now, if I meet someone who calls themselves a ‘Shaman’ serving power plants, it’s all too easy to see for me that they belong to the ‘trendy bandwagon’, and I am not interested.
Since the 70’s, this word hit mainstream owing to the popularity of by Michael Harner’s book “The Way of the Shaman’. I personally have never been able to read books on Shamanism, it took me a while to realize why. It’s because these books are written with a ‘western mind’, that can never effectively capture the nuance and essence of a culture that has not followed their education system.
I have mostly been educated by my travels about different cultures, so my mind is free from other people’s opinions and impressions. When I travel, I just get up and go, my baggage is never weighed down by Lonely Planet books. I am at ease about forming my own opinion based on my own experience of direct observation and full immersion into the culture.
Earlier this year, after nearly 15 years into this path, I decided to just force myself to read the book. It really didn’t do much for me, especially the rituals with rattles and so on. I suppose I am too far in to this path and know shaking rattles and drums just doesn’t seduce me. The only takeaway from this book for me, that everyone else it seems glosses over, is that he says ‘Yage (power plants)’ were consumed by healers only, not the patients.
If power plants were given to patients, they were given very small doses, in order to establish an energetic link between the healer and the patient, which allowed the healer to correct energetic imbalances. There was rarely a concept of group healing ‘ceremonies’, individual attention was given to a patient
In fact, knowledge of power plants was tightly guarded from the West, due to its history of profiteering from and wiping out ancient traditions. This dynamic is beautifully expressed in the film ‘El abazro de la serpiente’ (2015), I highly recommend watching this film before you book your next ‘retreat’ to South America. You will get a sense of the western and indigenous psyche. In the indigenous psyche, contempt towards the West has been ingrained for generations.
Since the arrival of Spaniards, entire nations were wiped out with either with brute war fare or introduction of contagious diseases. In the last 100 years in the Amazon, rubber and timber trade and missionaries have further humiliated and decimated their culture.
Now, the trendy bandwagon of ‘conscious’ westerners is further enslaving these traumatized communities by misusing their cultural heritage for their own material benefit. The governments of Peru and Brazil have actually banned export of power plants because excessive harvest of them is depleting natural reserves. These plants generally need minimum 5-7 years to grow.
The overwhelming majority of the healing centers operate under a typical western pyramid schemes. To give legitimacy to their operations, they are generally owned and promoted by Westerners (because our faulty conditioning assumes they are more trustworthy than the Indigenous). The actual healers are often local, purported to have impressive bios that claim they come from a ‘lineage of famous healers’, ‘maestros’, fact checking of this is just isn’t possible.
Assisting them is an impressive army of western ‘facilitators’, usually in their 20’s -30’s who have been drawn to this tradition after reading some book on ‘shamanism’, who act as translators and apprentices.
They, by and large, despite outwardly seeming well intentioned, excel in one thing and one thing only, that is, inoculating the unsuspecting foreigner with fantastic tales of miraculous healings that have taken place. This is was I witnessed in my particular center when I was hired to train as a facilitator (thankfully I didn’t last long). On the outset, specific instructions were given on how to handle what they consider the participants as ‘crazy tourists’, ‘idiots’. The derogatory remarks made by the ‘maestros’ themselves are not worth mentioning.
I am merely illustrating this to give an overview of the mentality of the purported ‘healer’ and the facilitators that run the show. From what I have seen over a 10 year period, healing, is perhaps the last thing that takes place. In retreats that usually run one to three weeks, participants are given heavy doses of different medicine that keeps them docile and sedated mostly.
These healing sessions take place with the healers and participants both drinking magic brews. The outcome, to put it in a western way, is a massive ‘trip out’ event. Vomiting, yelling, screaming- with a backdrop of some singing or chanting or a western facilitator playing a western instrument. They call it ‘ceremony’.
The brew is often a noxious mix of multitude of plants through which the healers and facilitators control and manipulate their clients. For those having a first experience with this brew, they wouldn’t have a clue of what is taking place. They see psychedelic colours and geometric shapes which is very cool.
Some realise they are Jesus, Buddha, a reincarnated Egyptian King or a Tantra Master, some project through the milky way and are told they are Pleiadean royalty. Then these tales are shared with their friends and a new batch of newbies come in trying to figure out who and what they are, and expecting to have similar experiences, and the cycle continues. The language of plants is often symbolic, and when it is interpreted literally, it can often lead to delusion. It has now become psychedelic tourism and it is big business.
The primary purpose of the plants as a healer is long but forgotten. Their spirit is degraded, hijacked and manipulated by the business savvy controllers. The business has become so cut-throat in the last decade that there is an incredible amount of competition amongst the healing centers.
The westerners who are educated by books on shamanism, that are often nothing but accounts of ‘charlatanism’, fantastic tales are told of how the Shamans shapeshift into animals. Now this is a used as a marketing gimmick. If a center has a Shaman that can shapeshift, or can fly in a UFO, he’s the best one, the most powerful!
This brings me to the topic of Power in this misadventure. A common misconception, that comes from books on Shamanism is that this power is given from the Maestro to Apprentices or participants. It is assumed this is how one acquires power, from their teacher.
This is very far from the truth. One acquires power from their own conscious labours. No one can give it to you. In the case of curanderos, traditionally, they would acquire it through decades of training, doing ‘dietas’. This process is rarely practiced now, due to the growing demand from the west. Traditional curanderos have been swiftly replaced by ‘fast-shamans’.
‘Initiation’ courses that run from six to ten weeks are now being offered claiming to teach people everything they need to know about this system in that short duration by teaching them how to chant songs in some indigenous language and how to diet. If you ask any genuine healer about the ‘initiation courses’, they will just roll their eyes at you.
The overwhelming majority of fast-shamans take short cuts in the form of ‘dieting’ some plants that will give them clairvoyance and teach magic and through this they learn how to put attachments on their participants and drain them of energy. It is common to hear the curanderos say to participants, in every ceremony I am giving you 10% of my diet, and people are very grateful for this gift. So they literally steal power by feeding off of other people’s energy. The centers that offer ‘dietas’, often steal ‘diets’ that participants are doing.
Reports of sexual abuse are growing by the day in this area and few are aware of this danger. Most people come out of these centres even sicker than when they first went in. Their energetic system is completely distorted, attachments can stay on for years, unless you can find someone to remove them, which is a challenging process and often dangerous because the ones helping you are dragged into psychic warfare. Very few are brave enough to fight for you.
The curanderos are mostly only in it for the money. If they can sing and see, they are hired. Due to the generational trauma weaved into their psyche, that is far from even acknowledged, let alone resolved, whether you believe it or not resentment towards the West runs deep in their blood. They have no desire to heal, but only to make a living, and frankly I don’t blame them.
The facilitators, by and large have their own wounds and demons that they are rarely aware of, let alone resolved. If they can speak Spanish and sing, they are hired. For them it’s a quick promotion to the elitist role of being a facilitator where they are admired and respected by unsuspecting tourists.
They generally have no formal training in any support capacity of how to assist a person through their healing process, and to speed up their own shamanic training, they take the same short cuts as other fast-shamans and feed off of other peoples energy to increase their ‘power’. Learning magic tricks is common, because it impresses people.
In the West, the similar dynamics are being played out in at least the circles I have been through. Stiff competition and shortcuts. With the popularity of the book, DMT, The Spirit Molecule, people now assume taking power plants, the ones with DMT are a shortcut to enlightenment.
Now, this has become the spiritual path. The breakdown of plants into chemical properties is the handiwork of western science. The indigenous cultures interpret plants with ‘higher science’, that is, in terms of the spirit or essence of the plant. This is ancient knowledge.
DMT hype is a newer version of counter culture fascination with LSD in the 60’s, and on its own will rarely facilitate enlightenment, work on oneself alongside is necessary. This misinformation is misreported and popularised in podcasts and on countless online videos where people claim to have become enlightened or had mystical experiences with DMT. I suspect the lucrative ‘cosmic consciousness’ dollars promoted by pseudo-shamans are behind this trend.
In the West it is now in fashion to attend these ceremonies for ‘expansion of consciousness’ especially for those who seemingly have no health problems. Power plants have the potential to facilitate ‘expansion of consciousness’, however, consistent work on oneself is necessary alongside, under the expert guidance of master who can foresee how the plant will affect an individual.
In all indigenous cultures, without exception, power plants were never offered in a ‘ceremonial’ setting, especially for healing. The ‘ceremonial’ setting was only reserved for those participants who had acquired a certain degree of development, the ‘initiates’ of the tribe or a special school, who collectively, with the alliance of plants were able to bring positive changes to their environment. The Mayan ‘dreaming’ ceremonies with cacao are an example of this.
As I mentioned earlier, despite the challenges I have personally faced, I still have deep love for the plant realm, they are wise and caring beings who’s gift of healing has all but been decimated by the greed of money and power.
There are grave crimes being committed against plants, and especially against those who seek their assistance for healing, who show up with wounds wide open, and instead of being healed, they are further humiliated. They are often silenced as well with threats of repeated and horrific psychic attacks.
I have done my part by sharing my experience as candidly as possible. I hold no resentment towards those who committed crimes, for I have learnt to use my attention wisely over the years.
There are ethical healers and traditional healers in every society, if western medicine has not been helpful, it may be beneficial for you to seek assistance close to home rather than treading in places where the safety record is especially compromised and there is no legal recourse.
The ones closer to home have a greater likelihood of being familiar with the wounds present within their own society, if they have done work on themselves, and therefore have a greater possibility of guiding you safely through it. It really doesn’t matter what cultural background healers come from, if they have not done their own shadow work, they will more than likely do more harm than good, either consciously or unconsciously.
Traditionally, in most indigenous cultures, healers often were guided to this path after overcoming their own life threatening illnesses. They knew sickness intimately because of their own struggles that eventually made them effective and powerful healers. They gave individual effort to every person, over weeks, months or even years to oversee the healing process.
I have seen this in my own process after searching for over 25 years, the ones who facilitated my healing were the ones that healed themselves completely first, in mind, body and spirit. They had cultivated compassion, integrity and high ethical standards to see me through it every step of the way, and I am deeply grateful and humbled by their practice.
The plants are powerful healers, only in the hands of those who have first and foremost healed themselves and their vices. The true healers never call themselves healers, rather they become the channels for plants, that do the healing, or hold a safe space for you to allow yourself to heal.
Plants under the supervision of a master healer can heal, teach you how to cultivate power and also guide you on the path of self-knowledge. However, one must remember to put in the necessary effort to avail their beautiful gift of transformation.
© Lala Rukh 2020
Lala is an adventurous Traveller, her conquests have spanned across 6 continents through 115 Countries and territories and counting, that she records through digital art and photography. She is a life long student of the mysteries of the Self, with training in Plant medicine, Energy Healing and Wisdom Tradition of Ancient Egypt.