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This book is so packed full of information that I found myself flipping back through previous chapters trying to memorize all I could. This is definitely one of those books that everybody should read. It's a great example of fieldwork for an Ethnobotanist or an Anthropologist and gives extensive history and future expectations on a handful of tribes native to the Amazon rainforest. It is a beautiful yet tragic tale of humans and how important it is to preserve their environment.

Plotkin had stud This book is so packed full of information that I found myself flipping back through previous chapters trying to memorize all I could. Plotkin had studied under Richard Evans Schultes and Schultes actually wrote the introduction to this book.

Schultes has played a huge part in Anthropology and many people - including me - admire his work on the psychedelic drugs that native cultures use for spiritual and healing purposes. So the fact that he approves and urges people to read this book pretty much sealed it for me. Favorite book I am not a science gal but this book changed my life. I just wanted to give it 5 stars but now it's making me comment. Okay I hit enough words have a good day. Aug 18, Grace rated it liked it.

I live in the Brazilian Amazon where I am daily confronted by its mysteries. God has definitely left His signature creativity in this unique part of the world and I am curious to learn all I can. Ironically it is difficult to find books here in Brazil about the rain forest. Portuguese books are very expensive and go out of print quickly so that makes it tough to get information. The writer I live in the Brazilian Amazon where I am daily confronted by its mysteries. The writer helped to increase my wonder as he wrote in great detail about the fascinating flora, fauna and tribes who live here.

I loved that part. But as an ethnobotanist he studies also how culture and plants affect each other so I found myself disagreeing with many of his viewpoints. Plotkin considers in this book the influences that impact tribal cultures. Any change that comes is destructive to what he perceives should never change.

Change agents come in various forms such as gold diggers, government workers and missionaries. He found in the church and missionaries a target he never tired of hitting, over and over again. Those were his actual words. People who read this book from the comfort of their modern homes, in faraway places, begin to imagine something that is not true. The rainforest, in Brazil anyway, is nowhere near extinction and is rigidly protected. The so-called facts about deforestation have been used to create panic and money-making schemes. My Brazilian friends are often perplexed by the attitude of outsiders who want to barge in and control their country.

Brazilians actually think that we Americans must have destroyed all of our forests so we must now come and control theirs. And I guess that is what bothered me a great deal in this book. It was fine for Plotkin to live in his own modern world but resented it when the Indians he worked with wanted to become more modern. Plotkin was heartbroken when he saw Indians wear clothes and use aluminum roofs. When one of his guides asked to borrow a shirt Plotkin abruptly questioned why. It turns out that the bugs are pretty bad in some parts of the jungle and a shirt really helps.


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He resented it when Indians, who have a spiritual nature, chose to believe in God, and not remain dominated by the fear of evil spirits. He resented it when the missionaries gathered several tribes in one place, not realizing the protection this could give to vulnerable tribes. There must have been some benefit for the tribes as well since they stayed. There was a subtle nuance, where he respected their higher knowledge of the rain forest but did not think them capable or even wise to make other changes into their lives.

When he returned after a long absence he found his jungle companion wearing all western clothes. Somehow Plotkin, the all-knowing Westerner, thinks he knows best what should happen to these people. Oddly enough with the bringing together of several tribes in one village his research was helped immensely.

He could easily consult various tribes about the same plant without an airplane journey. I have read that once some of the Yanomamo tribes began to believe in the gospel they stopped living in fear and in constant war. They were free to settle down in one place, without being on the move constantly, either to escape evil spirits or avenging warriors.

Surprisingly enough they could then preserve their culture and their tribe. The constant war and suicide deaths had been lessening their numbers.

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Those untimely deaths had stopped with the coming of the gospel. It seemed at first the author, who has clearly not kept his own roots of Judaism, but everyone else should keep their ancient tribal religions , dismissed the supernatural element in the use of medicinal plants. Shamans seemed to be more doctor than witch. But when the author got some close-up glimpses with inexplicable happenings it scared him profoundly. I am glad that he could acknowledge it and did not explain it away, as he did in the beginning.

He put most supernatural experiences down to the use of hallucinogenic plants but when he had a real experience with a healing ceremony he thought differently and became truly frightened. And I must say that this was a good characteristic about the author. He did share his errors in judgment about people and situations, and learned from those. Only his motives were good. I wondered if he was aware of the fact that the coming of the missionaries prepared the way for him? Not only were the tribes people somewhat used to foreigners and didn't kill him outright, but they also had a language in print.

He mocked that the tribe only had one book in their language, the Bible. And now they can have this book of his written and preserved because of that Bible. Contrary to popular belief most missionaries work hard to preserve culture. His work in preserving these marvels is magnificent. I hope for him all the best.

May 05, Myles rated it really liked it Shelves: The evidence is conclusive: We remove the forest and replace it with pasture land, or mono-culture, or air-strips, or villages, town, cities, and industrial wasteland. When we take away the tropics jungle we take with it the diversity of plant and wildlife, indigenous homelands, and millennia of knowledge about the way the land actually works. It is simply heartbreaking. I am sitting here nursing tendonitis in my elbow reading about his own elbow troubles and submitting to a native shaman to remove his pain, which he does and I am wondering: In these tropical jungles Plotkin finds the most amazing mixture of terror and beauty.

From the large predators, including jaguar and giant anteater, to the microbial predators: Sandflies carrying the deadly leishmaniasis. And on and on. Then the beautiful birds, and plants, the waterfalls and jungle canope.


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And who owns what: Who owns the future discoveries or medicines pioneered by indigenous doctors? Who should pay for killing languages and cultures and way-of-life when civilisation intrudes on people in their natural habitat? The lifting of the genitals.

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In South America there is the detritus of the colonial period. Patois and the descendents of black slaves. Prostitution and poverty in the city slums. Dutch and French, Spanish and Portuguese languages intermingled. Poor Brazilians lured to the jungle for a new life. And the smell gasoline wafting through the air. Dec 10, Rebecca rated it it was amazing Shelves: This was an amusing and informative read. The author, from Harvard, begins with his first journey to South America with one of his professors. He immediately became fascinated with the intimate knowledge the tribal shamans and wise-men in the remote villages, and decided to focus his studies on learning about them, and preserving their knowledge as the tribes diminish with the increasing inclusion of missionaries and exposure to foreign cultures and peoples.

As with many authors who write books This was an amusing and informative read. As with many authors who write books like this, he sometimes goes off on educational tangents about the irrelevant history or experiences of people relevant to his South American studies if that makes sense. I can't recommend it enough for those of you who like books like this. Sep 12, Alice rated it really liked it. Before I started this book I wondered if an entire book on ethnobotany would hold my interest - after all, I'm only mildly interested in plants.

I worried that it might be a boring list of how people use them. Boy, was I wrong! The author obviously does talk about plants and their medicinal properties, but it's always in the context of a story about the people of the northern Amazon. He lived with and got to know the people as individuals, and in their cultural context and does a great job of de Before I started this book I wondered if an entire book on ethnobotany would hold my interest - after all, I'm only mildly interested in plants.

He lived with and got to know the people as individuals, and in their cultural context and does a great job of describing them for a "western" reader. I'm glad I chose this as my Suriname book. Nov 16, Matthew rated it it was amazing. This book literally changed my life. It inspired me to write my thesis on Rainforest Deforestation. A rare look into a culture most of us will never have the opportunity to see first hand. Unfortunately it may no longer exist anyway.

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It's a sobering tale but one told with compassion and a rare insight. I cannot recommend this book enough and have many times over the years. Jul 24, Don rated it really liked it Shelves: A fascinating look into South American native traditions of sorcery, hallucinogenics, and mystery. One of the purposes of smoking mapachos is to feed the connection to the plant spirits which are opened up by plant dietas. A plant dieta is the process through which, working with your teacher, you become introduced to a particular plant spirit, for the purpose of learning what the plant spirit has to teach you, and to develop a lifelong relationship or friendship.

Different plants have different properties. The shadow aspect of the plant reflects on the shadow aspect of you. Tobacco is considered a master-plant that opens that connection to other spirits. You smoke mapachos to feed the connection to the plants. We also blow the smoke to protect ourselves from taking on what other people are trying to get rid of among other things.

Lynne Cherry

About seven years ago, I was training to be a whirling dervish. But he planted a seed. The first time I drank medicine was at Stonehenge, at summer solstice. I think it was my second ceremony where I had the sensation that what I had flowing through my veins was not blood but yage , which is what we call ayahuasca in Colombia. And I entered this conversation where I was basically head-hunted, pretty aggressively, and I made this agreement to hand my life over.

The Shaman's Apprentice by Lynne CherryMark J. Plotkin | Scholastic

So the agreement was I would do the best that I could every day, and she would take care of me. I spoke Spanish and English, I studyied anthropology, I was interested in alternative healing, and I knew a lot of people. So I was very well positioned to organize ceremonies for other people. I started translating, organizing and facilitating ayahuasca and peyote ceremonies. I also went back and forth to Colombia [where she was born] to train as a maestra , drinking with whatever maestro I could find.

It was a very difficult time because the Colombian tradition is very male-orientated, and I was only I had a Colombian partner, also training in medicine, and there was a lot of pressure on us to get married.

The Shamans Apprentice

So I left Colombia with a broken heart. Eventually I was praying for more stability in my life. And on my Facebook feed, I saw a job advert to work as a facilitator at a well-known ayahuasca centre in Peru. It had a very long list of requirements, and I fulfilled all of them, except the age — I was too young. My partner and I both applied. It took a while, there were several of interviews. There are different ways of working in different tribes.

The Shipibo family I know best is a matriarchal family. My fascination with the centre is I can work directly with women. I apprentice exclusively with this female lineage which is a very strong lineage.


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My main maestra is Ynez Sanchez. I work with her and her eldest daughters. They feel like friends, like family. You begin to diet. They seem to think I need less training than I do. The diet process is very held. It was a very hard diet but it was beautiful. So…it can go both ways. You can ask, they can suggest. I recently got told it was time for me to pick what kind of healer I want to be.

As far as I understood, because of course their first language is not Spanish, the options are to focus on health, on connections — ie love, relationships — or being the type of healer that is a protector or warrior, who works with very difficult cases. Is that like different types of magic — curandera magic, love magic, and battle magic?

But love magic can be like, someone comes to you because their wife has left and you give them a love potion. As for battle magic…that sounds the worst option by far. I am very interested in healing and apparently I have some good love connection skills. All of my initial diets were warmi or love diets. One of my teachers said love plants are protection plants — the ultimate way to protect is to love. I really like love plants, I also like power plants. I like all of them. No, you have to be a well-rounded healer.

Every Shipibo healer is like GP, a well-trained doctor overall. But they specialize in certain things. There are very many ways of practicing. The Peruvian way of working is very broad. Ayahuasca is not a panacea that fixes everything. I see it as a very unique cutting-edge place. The centre used to call itself a traditional Shipibo centre, but this is actually not true. For example, the maestros said the floral baths should be moved later during the day. Often healers find a way to work at the centre, which they adopt and take back to their own centres.

There can be a lot of criticism about cultural appropriation and changing things, but my experience is there is dialogue and conversation. No, none of them do. The role of the facilitator is not just to translate language but to translate culture. You need to know not just how the medicine works but how the maestros work. I think some people are curious. Ayahuasca seems to be in fashion, which is fairly disturbing to me. But there are many types of illnesses and discomfort and disease that falls through the cracks of western medicine.

People are looking for ways to heal themselves with support, in a way that makes them feel respected in their agency. When I was there, the reasons people came ranged from bereavement and grief, trauma, people who had lost meaning. And also some people who were just curious — they seemed to have the hardest time of it. Because we all have stuff to work on. And if you go thinking you have nothing to work on, it would be shocked and surprised to discover you do. How would you explain how the medicine and shamans heal people, to someone reading this who might suffer from depression, say.

People are able to look at themselves in a very clear way. The main way that Shipibo maestros help to heal people is through the icaros [ songs the shamans sing, which were taught to them by plants on plant dietas]. A healer will sit in front of you and observe you, and will sing back to you everything that they can see, which you can remember.

The first point of treatment is for you to recognize and accept your trajectory as a person — the pain, the joy. From that moment on, there are ways of realigning or changing the way a person lives their life. The maestro begins to align certain things. Trained as an ethnobotanist, he has done extensive research throughout the lowlands of tropical South America. He currently serves as president of… More about Mark J. Through the Emerald Door Chapter 2: The Search for the Black Caiman Chapter 3: Among the Maroons Chapter 4: Under the Double Rainbow Chapter 5: A Recipe for Poison Chapter 6: Across the Savannas of the Sipaliwini Chapter 7: