Sunday, May 22, 2016


The Kaxinawa describe mariri as the life-giving force of the forest, which is very sacred to their people. Throughout the Amazon, the word mariri means different things for different peoples. Mariri can be the healing spirit of certain medicinal plants that are considered to be powerful, intelligent teachers. Mariri also refers to the magical songs sung by shamans during healing ceremonies; and the curative force carried by those songs. 

In the Amazon basin, for the many tribes who regard nature as sacred and omnipotent, mariri is a manifestation of the rainforest's infinite capacity to heal and sustain life. Dieta - self-denial of indulgence, food and sex - is a necessary precondition for creating a relationship with the plants; and, thus, with mariri. 

Mariri, within the shaman, is a cured and rarified phlegm which is raised from the chest into the throat; often with the accompaniment of loud burps and belches, becoming like air. It is this mariri that extracts the sickness and other evils in the patient’s body; while at the same time protecting the shamans from the sickness they extract.

This mariri is received from the master shaman and nourished, like planting a seed in the chest. Nurturing the mariri is like raising a plant until it is the proper size, and then maintaining it. Fearlessness is a constant theme in relation to mariri. When you have this protection, you need not have fear of anyone; the medicine of mariri grants a heart of steel. 

What the plants give in return, for this dedication, is their willingness to help; their icaro, their song. The rarefication, or curing, of mariri relates it to these shamanic songs. Abstraction from vocal meaning is a key feature of such music. The most powerful icaros, such as the protective arcanas, are refined into breathy and almost inaudible whistles. 

When learning icaros, its best to first hum the melody and only then to learn the words. Shamans teach apprentices not to be overly concerned with trying to memorize the words; singing the icaros from the heart with the correct resonance and vibration is more important. The more abstract the icaro; the more powerful it is. Both mariri and icaro ultimately converge in pure sound, which is the the immaterial and wordless language of the plants. 

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