Shipibo ayahuasca master Jorge Lopez Pinedo shares his profound initiation story and talks about the differences between healing international visitors and Shipibo patients.

I would like to let you know my story and how I became a master of curanderismo and shamanism. During the last 30 years, I have worked in many international ayahuasca centers in Peru, Argentina, and the Netherlands. I also regularly heal Peruvian patients in Pucallpa where I live. My goal in life is to keep healing people. But my experience training to become a healer was very challenging. Thirty years ago, I didn’t even believe in the world of shamanism.

This all changed when I got sick. I was in the hospital for 15 days, and I was not recovering properly. Then I returned to my rainforest community in Limongema, and I received a message in a dream telling me to take a particular tree medicine. The tree was ubos, and my mom prepared it for me. She invited me to have a spoonful, and it healed me. But I still did not feel fully well, so my mother took me to a maestro. He treated me for 15 days and from that point on, I started taking my medicine, ayahuasca. I had big cups of ayahuasca, and in the early morning I would wake-up and think, “Oh, my disease is going to reappear.” I got scared, and then I would say to myself, “If I have to die, then let me die now, and that’s it.” I did not know what was going to happen to me, since the maestro did not explain it. And this curse lasted a night and a day with me in my bed. It was six o’clock in the afternoon, and hunger was hitting, I had to eat and afterwards take a bath, and then it started again. That negative mood was getting hold of me, and I had to drink ayahuasca again. Then I went to the maestro and said, “I want to drink again.” And that is the way I started.

Brewing ayahuasca. Photo: Dominik Janus.

I did three years of training without dieting. I drank ayahuasca and had many powerful visions. Then I would prepare ayahuasca for the maestros. Before I was training to be a maestro, I was working on a farm, cultivating corn, yucca, bananas, and so on. Sometimes, I also worked as a day laborer. I worked in fishing too and in many other things. After that, I got into preparing ayahuasca. I prepared it for four years. I prepared about 100 bottles and brought them to my maestro. Then I got sick again. I cried with grief a lot. “Once again, I am going to die, perhaps,” I would say. Well, then, my wife said, “No, you won’t. You have to see your maestro again.” He is her cousin.

Then she took me there, and they treated me for five days. And, once more, I recovered my visions. This was about 30 years ago. My maestros father said to me, “You have to diet, so that you can provide for your children. You see that we receive money people give us.” And then I said, “No, the diet is not for me!” I’d heard lots of negative things about the diet such as “If you don’t stick to the diet, you’ll die.” I was afraid. I said to the maestro, “Let me think about it for two months.” Then I became strong enough. But during all that time I kept wondering whether I wanted to actually do it or not.

I started nine months of dieting. I was drinking ayahuasca every night for up to nine months.

I realized that I had to consider the consequences better. I said, “If I have to keep dieting, my wife is going to leave me. If she leaves me, I’m going to be left all alone. I have my children; what are they going to do?” But then she said to me, “No, no! You have to diet! You have to become a maestro, not because of the people, but because of our children, so you can take care of our children.” So I then thought okay and bought my agua de florida, cinnamon, my packet of tobacco, and I made my pipe myself. It’s a mermaid, a big one, and, well, I thought let’s see how I go. I then came to Yarina where my maestro lived. I said to him, “Today I am coming. I want you to give me something, and I will leave immediately.” Then I started nine months of dieting. I was drinking ayahuasca every night for up to nine months. Ufff! Very strong, very powerful. My maestro said to me, “Prepare the ayahuasca in one single pot; all of the tree bark, the sticks, the plant, and combine it all.” And that is what I was drinking every night. As soon as I finished one, I prepared another one.

Brewing ayahuasca. Photo: Paris Tume.

During one of my visions I saw a round sign written in Roman alphabet; I don’t know what it was about. Then it changed again and said, “One hundred and twenty years of life.” Wow, I am going to grow so old, I thought to myself! In brief, I asked my maestro, and he said to me, “That is your diet. During the time you have dieted for nine months, you now have 120 years of diet in your body. And that is what it means.” This is how I have learned; this is the way I have healed. I have healed for 30 years through curanderismo. Shamanism is different from curanderismo. It’s almost the same. When you work with Americans, here we call them “gringos”; that is shamanism. I believe that curanderismo is more than shamanism because you experience witchcraft inside you when you heal with curanderismo. You risk your life. If you heal a person who has received an evil spell, you have to deal with the evilness, and if you don’t watch out, it can be very dangerous. But mostly, I see shamanism as something better than curanderismo, in my opinion. There is not much danger when healing drug addiction, alcoholism, and the problems the foreigners come with. But I still do curanderismo with Peruvians here. Many people come to my house. But I do not accept anything related to witchcraft anymore.

During my visions, my body became an airplane and many other things, such as a car and a chalupa (small boat).

My speciality is tobacco. I am a tabaquero. I’ve dieted smoking tobacco, and I’ve drunk tobacco, its juice. During my first tobacco diet, I swallowed the smoke six times. It was very strong, and my stomach felt twisted. I touched it and thought, “Am I going to wake up that way, twisted”? Then, during my visions, my body became an airplane and many other things, such as a car and a chalupa (small boat). The vehicle was now my body itself and I was driving. In other visions, I’ve had to run from a helicopter. The sound of the blades was very loud. It was just like in the film “Rambo.” Everything, my sciences, my insight, my power, my medicine, I have transformed it into a giant. My hand, my fingers, were so thick. I have also transformed into a bear. When I went to work for the first time in the Temple of the Way of Light in Iquitos, they called me “Bear” or “Master Bear.” I am known by a lot of people as “Master Bear.” I chose tobacco as my medicine because I wanted to be as strong as a wall. I want to be able to fly into the water and the sky, just like Superman, by means of tobacco smoke. But in ceremonies with foreigners I sometimes think, “Oh! What will people say? Everyone doesn’t like it.” That’s why sometimes I don’t want to smoke as much anymore. There are many foreigners who don’t want to smell tobacco, so I decided to also wear strong perfumes in ceremonies.

Maestro Jorge, “Joy and humor are important to the healing journey”. Photo: Dominik Janus.

In the ceremonies, during the start of my songs, I am preparing my body to be able to work, so that the bad, negative things do not enter. When I blow agua de florida perfume over patients, I am healing them. My medicine then goes into that person. It penetrates their body. When I am singing to a patient, I can see their body and energy. We remove the bad vibes, leave him healed, and open his visions. But working with Peruvians can be different. There is a lot of black magic here, and people come with a lot of harm. Also, many people learn bad spells. The international patients don’t arrive with witchcraft harms. They are just sick with mental disorders and delusions, such as alcohol and drug addictions. Those cases are easy to heal. Being a shaman is easy; it’s not tiring work, but curanderismo is very hard. You have to be a very strong curandero, a fighter; if not, they expel you. They have evil energy inside of their body that causes harm. So when you heal someone like this, you are in a little danger. You have to look after yourself a lot; if not you can get sick. When you are lifting the person out of their problems, you can get sick. Some sorcerers want to kill good healers because we are healing people, because we are healing their prey, as they would say. That’s it.

In my curanderismo work I have healed many people; I have cured many, many people. Some people wouldn’t pay me. Some would pay me. But I would say, “Well, I’m going to help them, someday they’ll pay me.” I have healed many serious diseases, but in all my healing I’ve made three miracles. One person came saying that his heart wasn’t working properly anymore. Another patient wasn’t breathing properly. One patient was blind, but after three nights of treatment, he said, “Thanks, I can see. I am already healed.” So, those were the three miracles I have performed. But sometimes my healing is too strong for people. During ceremonies, some foreigners don’t want my icaros (healing songs). They say, “Your songs are very strong, maestro, too strong” when I passed by them in ceremony. The next day they tell me, “Master, your blowing was very strong.” I can actually sing much stronger, but that would strengthen the patient’s mareación (visions) too much, so I don’t want to do it. That’s why I sing just softly. But at home sometimes I sing loudly. I have made the house tremble when I sang loudly.

As I said, my goal in life is to keep healing people. I have children too. Five girls. They are adults now. One of them is training to be a healer. I will give my power to her when I leave.

Thank you for listening to my story.

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Maestro Jorge works as a healer at Pachamama Temple in Pucallpa, Peru.
Translation from Spanish to English by Maria Riega and Sonia Lunceford.

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Maestro Jorge Lopez Pinedo

Maestro Jorge grew up in a small village away from Pucallpa. His Shipibo name is Esgomenni. He started working as a curandero in 1989. He worked with ayahuasca for the first time at the age of 29 but disliked the taste so much that he treated it as a “one off” experience and could not imagine himself working with the medicine in the future. It was only later in his life, when he found himself very sick, that he was pushed to begin working with ayahuasca again. At that time, he met his maestro and dieted and apprenticed for nine years. He is a trained tabaquero. During a ceremony, Maestro Jorge’s icaros sound like a storm, and one blow of his tobacco is as potent as thunder. He works at the ayahuasca healing center Pachamama, in Pucallpa, Peru.
Maestro Jorge Lopez Pinedo

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