The Story behind the founding of the Institute:
The Peruvian Institute of Shamanism and Natural Medicine eirl has been made possible by the extraordinary abilities and vision of one man – our founder, Heberto Garcia, or Coshe Niwe: his Shipibo name.
The Shipibo-Conibo tribal group, originating in the Ucayali Basin south of Iquitos, has for generations been respected as the guardian of the purest form and most powerful secrets of Amazonian shamanism and plant-based healing. Rather like Yale or Harvard, it has been the custom for countless generations amongst other tribes of the Western Amazon to send their would-be shamans to complete their arduous apprenticeship under the guidance of a Shipibo maestro curandero, or master healer.
Heberto numbers amongst his forebears an extraordinary number of onanyas (maestro shamans) and merayas. A meraya is the ninth and highest grade of shaman who is capable of appearing invisible to all around him, or otherwise ‘shape-shifting’ – appearing as the legendary jaguar, for example. And this is not the stuff of folklore, but well-attested historical fact. As far as we know, there are no merayas alive today, but many consider that the last of the historical merayas was Soi Rahua who died in 1999. Soi Rahua (Spanish name, Guillermo Ramirez) was Heberto’s maternal grandfather and his earliest mentor.
The public face of Soi Rahua, however, was political and educational, working with many national and international bodies such as INC (the National [Peruvian] Institute of Culture) and UNESCO, tirelessly campaigning to improve relations between the indigenous tribespeople of the Amazon and their mestizo (mixed-race) overlords; vindicate territorial claims, and bring bi-lingual education to all. The passion and commitment he brought to this work is all the more remarkable as in his youth, Soi Rahua was treated little better than a slave, and on occasion as cannon-fodder, by one of the last of the white rubber barons. It is hardly surprising then, that the full majesty of his shamanic powers was a closely guarded secret outside his small local community.
Shamanic wisdom has traditionally been an oral tradition, and great emphasis is placed on the shamanic secrets. We do not seek to mystify; like any great power, it can be used for good or ill, and once the forces of spiritual dimensions have been unleashed, the dangers of this power falling into the wrong hands – be they ill-intentioned or in-experienced – can be just as terrible as its healing and spiritually transformational capabilities are truly wonderful.
With the death of Soi Rahua the most exalted secrets of the merayas were lost: or so it was believed until Heberto was guided to excavate in his grandfather’s house. Whilst Soi Rahua had been a prolific, published writer on cultural, political and educational topics, no-one suspected that at the same time he had been painstakingly recording comprehensive details of shamanic rituals and procedures known only to the merayas, and this was to be his legacy to his grandson.
For over 30 years, Heberto has continued to study and endured many horrifying privations in the on-going development of his shamanic craft. For the last 7 years he has offered shamanic retreats and, in a few special cases, shamanic training, at his family’s beautiful jungle lodge, Ashi Meraya. He has now decided to establish the Institute to provide a more fitting repository for Soi Rahua’s bequest, and to seed a more far-reaching clinical and informational resource to aid those seeking health and spiritual fulfilment, particularly at a time when the world is receiving warnings, channelled from 18th century Amazonian shamans, about the dangers of ‘ayahuasca tourism’.