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Amazonian Shamanic Terms


ayahuasca -- considered the "mother" of the teaching plants

ayahuasquero -- shaman who specializes in ayahuasca

-- a warlock or witch

brujeria -- witchcraft

curandero --

-- strict lifestyle regime used for spiritual practices and healing

icaro/ikaro -- shamans' song unaccompanied or with rhythmic shaking of shacapa

madres -- spirit mothers of the plants

-- "master" (title used in addressing shaman)

-- Amazonian Indian building (one style shown below on right)

-- cigarette used in healing ceremonies

maraca -- seed-filled gourd rattleused in healing​. Two rhythmic instruments are used in shamanic performance in the Upper Amazon — the shacapa, the leaf-bundle rattle; and the maraca, the seed-filled gourd rattle. Whether shacapa or maraca, rattles are the most important shamanic tool in the Amazon — the equivalent of the shaman’s drum elsewhere. Anthropologist Lawrence Sullivan calls them the paradigm of sacred sound, the epitome of the link between sacred sound and shamanic power. Ethnographer Alfred Métraux descibes them as the most sacred object among the tropical tribes of South America. Anthropologist Jacques Chaumeil says that, among the Yagua, the rattle is held to be the voice of the spirits.


perfumero -- shaman who works with fragrances

San Pedro -- entheogen used by Incas in mountains of Peru

-- leaf-bundle rattle used by shamans during healing (see photo).​ There is a continuum of sound from the concrete, verbal, and intelligible to the abstract, sonic, and unintelligible. The continuum begins with intelligible lyrics in Spanish, and progresses through indigenous languages such as Quechua, purported languages of indigenous people and unknown archaic tongues, languages of animals and birds and computers, pure vocables, whispered sounds, whistling, breathy whistling, the silent pshoo of the blowing of tobacco smoke, and the susurration of the shacapa. The more rarefied the sound, the farther it departs from intelligible words into a state of pure sound -- the language of plants.

-- mermaid

-- healing and protecting by blowing mapacho, tobacco

-- shaman who specializes in tobacco

-- invisible "darts" used in black magic

-- another name for ayahuasca

The CDs page of this site links to 2 CDs with icaros/ikaros by several shamans. 

Click highlighted words below and some graphics for more information.​

The article Embarking Upon the Shamanic Odyssey: A Talk with Robert Tindall discusses Tindall's books and his wife Susana Bustos' doctoral thesis on icaros. 
He says: "I believe that we must re-familiarize ourselves with our indigenous roots,
the life-ways of our own European ancestors, to address our current ecological crisis.

The Shamanic Odyssey is not a rejection of modernity -- a call for reintegration of our indigenous selves. It's a call to awake the great dream."

In the article Mayantuyacu ~ Spirits of the Mountain and River, Tindall discusses the time he and Susana spent wih shaman Juan Flores Salazar.

Singing to the Plants presents several "icaros" as well as videos.

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