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The Ayahuasca-Alien Connection

From Ayahuasca Visions, The Religious Iconography of a Peruvian Shaman a publication of outstanding paintings of ayahuasca visions by native shaman Pablo César Amaringo, in collaboration with anthropologist Luis Eduardo Luna, Ph.D.

This large format book contains 160 pages and 49 magnificent 10.25" x 8" color plates. Published by North Atlantic Books, 2800 Woolsey Street, Berkeley, California 94705 ISBN 1-55643-064-7 You can find it at Mind Books and Amazon. For more information, and to purchase paintings directly from the artist visit http://www.pabloamaringo.com

This 2nd edition of this deoxy remix combines excerpts from the text with small scanned regions from 27 of Pablo's 49 larger paintings. The 1st edition contained several errors and omissions, and was not illustrated. Revised 7/23/99

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Some Important Iconographical Motifs


      The spaceship motif has an important place in Pablo's visions. As we saw earlier, when the curandera who cured his sister gave him ayahuasca, Pablo saw a huge flying saucer making a tremendous noise that made him panic (Vision 7). Don Manuel Amaringo, Pablo's older brother, has a similar story. He told me - with tears in his eyes - that the main icaro he employed to cure many people he learned from a fairy called Altos Cielos Nieves Tenebrosas, who came in a blue spaceship:

      She asked me: 'Do you want to listen to my song?' She sang and that song I have always kept in my heart.

      In spite of the frequency with which Pablo depicts spaceships, he is sparse in his commentary about them. Pablo says that these vehicles may take many shapes, are able to attain infinite speed, and can travel underwater or under the earth. The beings travelling in them are like spirits, having bodies more subtle than ours, appearing and disappearing at will. They belong to advanced extraterrestrial civilizations that live in perfect harmony. Great Amerindian civilizations like the Maya, Tiahuanaco, and Inca had contact with these beings. Pablo says that he saw in his journeys with ayahuasca that the Maya knew about this brew, and that they left for other worlds at some point in their history, but are about to return to this planet. In fact he says that some of the flying saucers seen by people today are piloted by Maya wise men.[48]

48A similar idea has been reported by German anthropologist Angelika Gebhart-Sayer. In 1981 while doing fieldwork in Caimito, a small Shipibo settlement by the Ucayali River, her indian friends were worried about strange light phenomena they had witnessed for months, and which they interpreted as a new tactic of white people to penetrate their tribal territories. When they approached the lights they disappeared. On several occasions Gebhart-Sayer herself saw soundless yellowish lights about the size of a football, moving about 400 meters away, and about one meter above the ground. She could not find any logical explaination for what she saw. Jose Santos, the shaman, calmed the people, explaining that in an ayahuasca vision he understood what it was: a golden airplane with big lamps and beautifully decorated seats. 'The pilot, a distinguished Inca, steps out. Sometimes he wears the modern clothes of white people, sometimes a precious Inca cushma {traditional men's garment}. We bow to each other, but don't speak, because we know each other's thoughts. Then he withdraws. The time has not yet arrived for him to speak. The Incas want to ally themselves with us, so as to defeat the white and mestizo, and establish a great empire in which we will live our traditional life, and will possess both the commodities of the Incas and the white. The time will come soon in which he will bring presents and give guidance. (Gebhart-Sayer 1987:141-2)

      Finnish historian Martti Parssinen kindly indicated to me a text written by Father Francisco de San Jose on a phenomenon the missionary witnessed at the confluence of the Pozuzo and Ucayali rivers on August 8, 1767. Father Francisco and other missionaries had been surrounded at night by a group of hostile Conibos, who were shooting their arrows at them, which they answered with gunfire. He writes:

We were in the midst of this battle when something happened well worth remembering. We saw, as much Christians as gentiles, a globe of light brighter than the moon that flew over the lines of the Conibos and lighted the while field. I don't know whether the Indians saw any mystery in the event, but I only know they abandoned their arrows... (San Jose 1767:364)

      Extraterrestrials are in contact with the nina-runas (fire people) that live in the interior of volcanoes. They communicate telepathically with each other. Under the effects of ayahuasca one can see these beings and their vehicles, but few vegetalistas actually have contact with them, only chosen ones, to whom extraterrestrials teach power songs and give useful information to help cure their patients.

      French anthropologist Francoise Barbira-Freedman, who did extensive work among the Lamista of San Martin province, told me that among her shaman informants spaceship sightings in ayahuasca were common. When I visited Don Manuel Shuna, Pablo's uncle, a vegetalista more than 90 years old, I showed his several photographs of Pablo's paintings. Pointing to the flying saucer in one of the photographs he told me with excitement, almost with stress, that the last two years he had been haunted by people coming out of machines like that. He said that these people fly standing slightly above the surface of the water. Don Manuel describes their machines as being about 50 meters long, with lights that make the night as bright as the day. When at rest they never touch the ground or the water, but remain suspended in the air. Sometimes the beings on board these machines knock down and take whole trees with them. Don Manuel said:

They know when I am taking ayahuasca. They come and sing all sorts of songs, and the icaros I sing. They also know how to pray. They want to be friends with me, because there are things these people don't know. They want to take me with them, but I don't want to go because these people eat each other. They tried to frighten me by moving the earth, or felling large trees. They almost made me crazy. But they no longer come close because I blew tobacco on them.

      It is of course very difficult to know what to make of this kind of report. It seems that shamans are constantly appropriating symbolically whatever innovations they see or hear about, using them in their visions as vivid metaphors to further explore the spirit realms, to increase their knowledge, or to defend themselves from supernatural attack. Shipibo shamans receive books in which they can read the condition of patients, have spirit pharmacies, or travel on airplanes covered with meaningful geometric designs to the bottom of lakes to recover the caya (soul) of their patients (Gebhart-Sayer 1985:168,172;1986:205;1987:240); Canelos Quichua receive from the spirits X-ray machines, blood pressure apparatuses, stethoscopes, and large bright surgical lights (Whitten 1985:147); an acculturated Campa shaman uses in his healing songs radio frequencies to communicate with water spirits (Chevalier 1982:352-3); Shuar shamans, who acquire from various plants, animals, stones, or other objects magical arrows (tsentsak) to cure or defend themselves, also get them from a witrur (from Spanish vitrola, phonograph) (Pellizzaro 1976:23,249); Don Alejandro Vazquez, a vegetalista living in Iquitos, told me that besides angels with swords and soldiers with guns, he has a jet fighter which he uses when he is attacked by strong sorcerers (Luna 1986:93; see also Pellizzaro 1976:47); Don Fidel Mosombite, an ayahuasquero of Pucallpa, told me that in his visions he was given magical keys, so that he was able to drive beautiful cars and airplanes of many kinds.

      Flying is one of the most common themes of shamanism anywhere. The shaman may transform himself into a bird, insect, or a winged being, or be taken by an animal or being into other realms. Contemporary shamans sometimes use metaphors based on modern innovations to express the idea of flying. Thus it is not strange that the UFO motif, which is part of modern imagery - perhaps, as proposed by Jung (1959), even an archetypal expression of our times - is used by shamans as a device for spiritual transportation into other worlds. The flying saucers, extraterrestrial beings, and intergalactic civilizations that appear in Pablo's paintings should not necessarily be considered unusual or extraneous to Amazonian shamanism; they may be manifestations of old motifs. Descriptions of shamanic journeys under the influence of ayahuasca and other psychotropic plants, even among culturally isolated Amazonian tribes, frequently include the idea of a shaman ascending to heaven to mingle with heavenly people or, conversely, celestial beings descending to the place of the ceremony. (cf. Gomez 1969; Reichel-Dolmatoff 1971:43,173; Vickers & Plowman 1984:19; Ramirez de Jara & Pinzon 1986:173-4; Chaumeil 1982:40; Cipoletti1987;etc.).[50]

50An interesting example from Cuna cosmology has been reported by Gomez:
The stars are the lights of a dwelling group of a nature which is intermediate between solid bodies and air. Those dwellings are inhabited by beautiful women who in the night spin cotton lighted by lamps similar to those of white people.

They reproduce themselves by the will of Paptummatti {literally, the Great Father} without the intervention of men, always giving birth to females. They move from one house to the other by means of golden saucers with which they also travel to other worlds, occasionally descending to any of them to transport in their vehicles those persons who are worthy of divine favor.

The author then adds the following footnote:
In Cuna mythology, there are numerous references to these flying saucers in their narrations about cultural heroes. This notion has gone over to the folklore, and descriptions of these saucers occur in daily life. (Gomez 1969:67)

Both Valle (1979) and Meheust (1988) have noticed the parallelism that can be found between folkloristic motifs, shamanic journeys, and flying saucer abductions. As in other parts of the world today, the Amazon is constantly being bombarded by exotic new images and symbols that rapidly intermingle with traditional beliefs.

      On the other hand, the connection between UFOs and tryptamine hallucinogens has been pointed out by Terence McKenna, who has ascertained by questionaire that UFO contact is the motif most frequently mentioned by people who take psilocybin recreationally, using 15-milligram-range doses sufficient to elicit the full spectrum of psychedelic effects (cf. McKenna 1984,1989). I have heard of such stories by Westerners who have taken ayahuasca, Psilocybin cubensis, or pure dimethyltryptamine. As Valle (1979:209-10) has pointed out, the UFOs are physical manifestations that cannot be understood apart from their psychic and symbolic reality. The UFO motif is a subject that should not be neglected by cognitive anthropologists, depth psychologists, and people interested in the mythologies of modern man.

EDITOR'S NOTE: What follows are excerpts from the descriptions of the visions which contain extraterrestrial themes including entities, vehicles, cities, abduction, etc.

Next » THE VISIONS PART I: Plant-Teachers and Shamanic Powers

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Bibliography of references cited

Chaumeil, Jean-Pierre
1982 Representation du Monde d'un Chaman Yagua. L'Ethnographie 78(87/88)49-83.

Chevalier, Jacques M.
1982 Civilization and the Stolen Gift: Capital, Kin, and Cult in Eastern Peru. University of Toronto Press.

Cipoletti, Maria Susana
1987 El Ascenso al Cielo en la Tradicion Oral Secoya (Noroeste Amazonico). Indiana 11190, Berlin.

Gebhart-Sayer, Angelika
1985 The Geometric Designs of the Shipibo-Conibo in ritual context. Journal of Latin American Lore 11(2)143-75
1986 Una Terapia Estetica. Los Disenos Visionarios del Ayahuasca entre lose Shipibo-Conibo. America Indigena 46(1)189-218. Mexico.
1987 Die Spitze des Bewusstseins. Untersuchungen zu Weltbild und Kunst der Shipibo-Conibo. Hohen scaftlarn, Klaus Renner Verlag.

Gomez, Antonio
1969 El Cosmos, Religion y Creencias de los Indios Cuna. In Boletin de Antropologia 3(11)55-98. Medelllin, Universidad de Antioquia.

Jung, Carl G.
1959 Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky. London & Henley, Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Luna, Luis Eduardo
1986a Vegetalismo Shamanism Among the Mestizo Population of the Peruvian Amazon. Stockholm, Almqvist & Wiksell International.

McKenna, Terence K.
1984 True Hallucinations, Berkeley, Lux Natura Inc. (An eight-tape talking book.)
1989a A Conversation over Saucers, ReVision 2(3)23-30.

Meheust, B
1988 Transeapatride. Pensees Mythique et Pensees Delirantes. Synapse 4458-75. Paris.

Pellizzaro, Siro
1976 Iniciacion, Ritos y Cantos de los Chamanes. Mitologia Shuar. Sucua, Ecuador, Mundo Shuar.

Ramirez De Jara, Maria Clemencia & Pinzon, Carlos Ernesto
1986 Los Hijos del Bejuco Solar y la Campana Celeste. El Yaje en la Cultura Popular Urbana. America Indigena 46(1)163-88. Mexico.

Reichel-Dolmatoff, Gerardo
1971 Amazonian Cosmos: The Sexual and Religious Symbolism of the Tukano Indians. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

San Jose, Francisco de
1767 Relacion del padre fray Francisco de San Jose. Guardian de Ocopa. In B. Izaguirre, Historia de las Misiones Franciscanas y Narracion de los Progresos de la Geografia en el Oriente del Peru, 1619-1921, tomo II, Apendices VII. Lima 1922.

Valle, Jacques
1979 Messengers of Deception: UFO Contacts and Cults. Berkely, And/Or Press.

Vickers, William T. & Plowman, Timothy
1984 Useful Plants of the Siona and Secoya Indians of Eastern Ecuador. Fieldiana. Chicago, Field Museum of Natural History. Publication 1351.

Whitten, Norman E.
1985 Sicuanga Runa: The Other Side of Development in Amazonian Ecuador. Urbana and Chicago, University of Illinois Press.

Next » THE VISIONS PART I: Plant-Teachers and Shamanic Powers

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