The extraordinary story of a shaman apprentice of the Ancient Amazonian Shipibo People


Shipibo, Amazonian Shamanism. A tradition that uses interspecies collaboration and plant intelligence, including Ayahuasca, for spiritual evolution and healing.


This is the extraordinary story of Francesca, an apprentice Onaya (Healer), who lived on the border of Peru and Brazil in close contact with the ancient Amazonian Native Shipibo People.  


The journey of healing with plants


Francesca’s story begins when she asked the Shipibo people near the border of Peru and Brazil for help. Her first experience with them was through the Pinate Diet, which included ritual ceremonies and spiritual contact with the Plant Kingdom of the Forest.

After having tasted the depth of their culture, she began a path of spiritual research guided by the Sages of these People.  She experienced ascetic practices and personal refinement that profoundly changed her.

After her consistency over a few years, she was invited to be an apprentice healer with Akun Ratè, a shaman belonging to the Mahua lineage of the Shipibo people. This was an exception because she was not a native.


Francesca now organizes healing ceremonies with traditional Shipibo rituals around the world in collaboration with Akun Ratè herself.

We are very interested in learning more about the Shamanic practices of the Shipibo People, who also have deep spiritual knowledge and healing practices connected to the subtle worlds and the plant kingdom.


An interview: Healing with plants and subtle spirits



Francesca can you tell us a little bit about the Shamanism of the Shipibo People?



Shamanism as a word comes from the Siberian tradition.

For the Shipibo inhabitants of the Amazon forest, they speak of Onaya, which means Healer or literally “one who has knowledge“. 

The Shipibo Shamans serve the same social and spiritual functions as those of other peoples. They are people who have gone on a very deep spiritual journey and have developed abilities to “diagnose”, heal, communicate with the subtle worlds and use vital energies.


In this tradition the “shamans”, the Onayas, are people in service to the people who need to heal. They are people trained to “see” and “work” with their own and other people’s vital energies and those of the Plant Kingdom. Their aim is to help with emotional and spiritual healing that will then also correspond to a physical healing.

The Onayas begin their journey in childhood, in a regime that we could call “ascetic” in order to make them become psychics and sages.

The path is long and involves long periods of isolation, silence, even mental, fasting, exercises and special diets, useful to refine their self-knowledge and perception of the “subtle” world, as well as communication with the intelligences of the plant kingdom.


The Onaya, once formed, is a great expert in the vast pharmacopoeia offered by the plants of the jungle. He has a direct, personal relationship with each of them and for this reason he can “ask” the plants to cure someone during ritual ceremonies.

The Onaya knows how to make diagnoses, can identify wounds, blockages, deficiencies and physical, mental and energetic excesses through specific rituals. She also works with the help of specific plants. Ayahuasca is only one of them.

Before and after the ceremonies he also administers “alchemically” prepared plants through songs, particular sounds and methodologies that further help the person to heal.


The Intelligence or spirit of plants



It is very interesting what you have told us. We are curious to know about contact with the intelligence of plants. What is the relationship between Shipibo shamans and the plant world? In their opinion are plants intelligent creatures?



They call plants “teachers” or “doctors” and certainly for them they are intelligent. For them, some are even real Spiritual Teachers, especially some of the older ones.

Part of the shamanic preparation of the Onaya is to spend many months in meditation in the company of a plant. You learn to get in tune with them and their spirit, communicate with them, get to know them and make “friends” with them. You also physically absorb parts of them in the form of decoctions or other preparations.


In this way the Onaya learns to recall the spirit of that type of plant when she needs it. During the healing ceremonies, the plant which is able to help the person to be healed is conveyed

In fact, every plant is different from the other from the physical and chemical point of view, it is also different from the energetic and spiritual point of view. So if one drinks the decoction of one plant it heals some diseases for purely chemical reasons. However also having received the intervention of the “spirit” of the plant conveyed by Onaya during a ceremony, will have an effect on your level of awareness and psychic healing too.


Ayahuasca, sacred plant for healing ceremonies.



Can you tell us about Ayahuasca?



One of the many plants that the Onaya uses to heal is Ayahuasca. This sacred plant brings DMT to the brain, the substance that according to many studies we produce when we dream and when we die. 

The effect of DMT is to take a journey inside yourself. In the case of the Healer, the healer goes inside the sick person. In this way we go in to “see” on a physical, but also psychic and energetic level, what are the origins of the illness and what needs to be transformed.

This plant was originally used only by the Healer during healing ceremonies to make this “diagnosis”. It was not absolutely necessary for the person who was to be healed to use this plant, especially if he did not have the ascetic preparation to do so.


Now it is very trendy to use Ayahuasca for this “psychedelic” property, but its original use was not this.


Plants healing ceremonies



So these ceremonies are real rituals? The Onaya, in communion with the Kingdom of Plants, heals people by first making a diagnosis? Then he uses the right plants and energy techniques to dissolve blockages, process emotions, heal wounds and re-balance the psycho-physical system of the person…correct?

Can you tell us more about how this very interesting INTERSPECIES healing ceremony takes place?



During the ceremony usually nothing is ingested. The Onaya sings words in the traditional Shipibo language that have the function of moving energies, opening doors between worlds, conveying the spirits suitable for healing and the processes that want to be activated.

They use florecimientos (plants and flowers of various types macerated in alcohol, such as perfumes) to blow/spray on the person (this technique is called suplado), and purified tobacco to smoke, always directing the smoke on the person to be healed, in order to clean him.


The ceremony is a moment of spiritual healing.


Before and after the ceremony, on the other hand, treatment is also done with other medicinal plants. Sometimes to be ingested, sometimes to be used topically, other times to take baths in. These plants are chosen among the many that the Amazon rainforest offers and are specific to the problem that the person may have. The intake of the plants occurs over the various days of treatment.


This physical part of the treatment involves the use of plants, massages and a specific diet and takes place during the entire period that the person remains in the care of the Onaya. 

The shaman connects to the “vibration” of the plant Teacher by investing it. Then he sings and conveys it to the person receiving treatment during the ceremony. He does not necessarily also give it to the person being treated to ingest because usually the shamanic plants or Teacher plants or Doctor plants are the ones that teach the shaman/Onaya what to do for the person during the retreat period. One of them is the Ayahuasca.

These are one of the master plants and they each teach different things. For example, how to energetically cure the winds (they would be equivalent to prana in chakra and Indian vayus) that when blocked result in diseases.


The plants and their wisdom/frequency are connected to only the shaman/Onaya who has been studying for years. He “studied”, or rather, he connected and “talked” with that plant and the spirits of that plant when he was in retreat.

Usually it is only the shaman in apprenticeship who, to better understand the plant, takes it just before the ceremony in order to communicate with the plant.



Thank you Francesca for sharing these experiences with us. It’s a pleasure to hear your story and the deep wisdom of the Shipibo people. It is an example of peaceful, community life in constant connection with the most magical and profound aspects of human beings and Nature.

The ancient spiritual knowledge that these people hold is very interesting and precious. Particular in regards to a theme very dear to us—the intelligence of the plant world.

Thank you.



Francesca Macario: apprentice Onaya, healer, educated by the native Amazonian Shipibo people


Tucano Noni: Life Coach, Healer, Teacher of Meditation, Alchemy, and Self-hypnosis

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