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Working with Ayahuasca

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Ayahuasca is a vine that grows throughout the Amazon, yet this word commonly refers to a tea containing the combination of the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) and the leaves from a bush called chakruna (Psychotria viridis). This mixture has been employed for many centuries throughout the Amazon as a powerful healing tool and vehicle to awaken consciousness. The word ayahuasca is actually a combination of two Quechua words aya and huasca which translates as the death vine or soul vine. In the Shipibo tradition ayahuasca is referred to as oni (oo-nee) which translates as knowledge. This medicine produces powerful psychoactive effects that can address many deeply rooted issues from trauma and addiction to assisting one in life direction and purpose.


As ayahuasca spreads around the world there are many people offering ceremony from traditional lineages to neo-shamanic styles incorporating other traditions and practices. We work strictly in the Shipibo tradition, honoring the lineage and ceremony practices handed down by our maestros. In the Shipibo tradition the healers are known as onanya, which translates to “one who knows." This tradition requires that those serving medicine have apprenticed for many years and have been given permission by their teacher after careful evaluation their work. For more information about the medicine of the Shipibo people please click here. Ceremonies held at Mana Rao will be run by Felix and those held at Mexa Nete are run by our teacher Soi and his family.


In addition to ayahuasca, three main healing tools are utilized during ceremony by the onanya:

Bewá (Icaros) - The Shipibo explain that their language is one that has come directly via their connection with the plants, and IS a language of the plants. Bewá are healing songs, channeling a specific type of medicine that the onanya has learned through their lineage, or directly through isolation diets from the plants themselves. The songs call to the spirit and world of the plants, which may bestow healing, align mind and/or emotions, teach or open up one to their path in life. Many onanya will continue to isolate and fast during their entire lives to increase their repertoire of healing bewá. During a ceremony the onanya will sit in front of you, sing to diagnose and then sing bewá specifically for your healing.

Róme (Tobacco) - Róme is one of the most powerful healing medicines and is used ceremonially throughout the Americas. This type of pure tobacco known by the Latin name Nicotiana rustica, has up to nine times more nicotine that common tobacco. Róme is a powerful conduit between the patient and the world of spirit. The onanya uses róme to feed the plant spirits and charge prayers which are often blown into the patient through the crown, hands or whole body. Róme is also used to protect the ceremonial space, patients and onanya themselves and thus is a necessary part of the ceremony. Often patients can have a strong reaction to the smell, yet this is often a sign that the róme is cleaning energies from the body.


Rao Initi (Pusanga) - Rao Initi refers to a bottle containing a mixture of a combination of plants or trees in a cologne base. Plant matter may or may not be visible in the bottle. The plants selected by the onanya are based upon the intention of the perfume. Typically healers will use a more generalized one with patients, such as Agua de Florida and use more complex ones for themselves. After the icaro is complete, the healer will sing or blow into the mixture to charge the liquid with prayer, light and intention. The onanya will then usually blow into the crown and/or on the body and hands of the patient to seal in the work. This helps to clear heavy energy from the body, calm the mind and bring healing and protection to the patient.