Ritual de Yacumama – Payment to Mother Water
This ritual is performed to give payment to Yacumama, or Mother Water, in order to receive her energies which promote a long and healthy life. Formerly this ritual was often carried out by the Merayas in recognition of the services of creatures such as the ‘yacaruna’, the black crocodile, river and ‘pink’ dolphins, electric eels and mermaids. The ‘yacaruna’ – literally ‘water men’ – are man-like creatures, hairy, with the head pointing backwards and deformed feet. They are the ultimate bosses of all aquatic creatures, living in beautiful under-water cities; their palaces of crystal are panelled with fish-scales and pearls. At home, giant turtles provide their seating and they travel the waterways astride black crocodiles. By night they like to roam the rainforest sporting a giant anaconda around their neck, but they have the power to assume seductive human forms, abducting their victims, men and nubile girls alike, the latter returning mysteriously pregnant if they are lucky enough to escape the clutches of the ‘yacaruna’. At the same time, the ‘water men’ have powerful healing abilities and can be a powerful force for good: like the mermaids, they are clearly mythical beings – on the physical plane; but shamans recognise them as very real entities in another, non-physical, dimension, and it is the shaman’s job to establish contact and trust with the ‘yacaruna’ both to harness their power to heal the sick and to ensure the safe return of their victims. In the same way all of these creatures of the water have the powers to heal physically and to protect spiritually – to function as arcanas – once tamed and ‘broken’ by the Merayas, rather as a horse must be ‘broken’ before it can have a mutually beneficial relationship with mankind.
Also, payment to Mother Water was traditionally performed before embarking on a lengthy diet – be it a programme of healing or of shamanic apprenticeship – to help ensure the successful outcome of the diet. The ritual takes place around either the Leche Caspi or the Yacu Caspi,, both palo maestros that represent the gateway to Mother Water, around which is entwined the Yacu Boa, an exceptionally long vine that represents Mother Water herself.. The ritual is most effective a trance state is achieved either by ingesting the jungle tobacco mapacho or huachuma (San Pedro). Again, in addition to the payment of a mapacho cigarette, each participant may deposit a personal item or article of clothing at the foot of the tree for the duration of the ceremony to absorb the healing and life-giving energy of Yacumama.