The Ritual of Sachamama – Payment to Mother Earth
The ritual of Sachamama is carried out in the trance state – induced traditionally by drinking an infusion of the jungle tobacco, mapacho, or a preparation of San Pedro (huachuma). This is one of the most ancient rituals of the Shipibo-Conibo culture, but it has fallen into disuse due to the loss of knowledge following the disappearance of the Merayas and it is one amongst many vital rituals that the Institute seeks to preserve and revive. The ritual of Sachamama was, generally, only practised by the Merayas, very rarely by ordinary shamans. We believe that the Peruvian Institute of Shamanism and Natural Medicine of Ashi Meraya is the only shamanic centre where this very special ritual – amongst others – is still practised thanks to the written records bequeathed by Don Guillermo Ramirez (or Soi Rama, to give him his Shipibo name) to his grandson, our founder Don Heberto G. Ramirez (Hiran Garra). The historical record describes Soi Rama as the last of the Merayas (or shape-shifters); he was also a prolific writer and defender of the Shipibo-Conibo culture, whilst encouraging integration with the dominant mestizo population and promoting the first bilingual schools. It is thanks to his writings and training that his grandson has been able to revive such shamanic practices as the Special Ritual of Spiritual Purification, the Ritual of Remocaspi, the Ritual of Chullchaki Caspi, The Fire Ritual,the Smoke Ritual, the Ritual of Yacumama (payment to the mother of water), the Ritual of Sachamama (payment to mother earth) and the Ritual of the Meraya. All of these rituals were practised by the Merayas since time immemorial – or for at least 5,000 years, according to the best historical estimates.
The ritual of Sachamama is celebrated around the Tamamuri tree, a very special palo maestro, whose loving energy is generally felt even by the most sceptical participants. Typically, two very special vines are entwined around the Tamamuri: quite different in appearance, and a rarity in the plant kingdom, they are the male, and the female Sachaboa. The female Sachaboa is considered – quite literally – as a ‘stairway to heaven’, or a connection between the physical earth and higher spiritual planes, because of its remarkable resemblance to a stairway, or rope ladder. The Tamamuri tree represents the gateway, or portal to Sachamama, whilst the male and female Sachaboa vines together represent Sachamama – the mother of the earth – herself. As a prelude to the ritual proper, mapacho smoke is blown around the Tamamuri and the vines, and payment of a mapacho cigarette is dropped by each participant at the foot of the tree. Additionally, any kind of personal item, or article of clothing, may be left by the tree, and collected at the end of the ritual having absorbed some of the loving energy.