Master Plant Dieta
A master plant dieta, sometimes referred to as a shamanic dieta is a complex, strict and rigorous system of discipline through which a planta maestra (teacher plant) or plantas que enseñan (plants and trees that teach) transmit protection, guidance and sacred knowledge to the student or “dietero”. Plantas que enseñan are not only those plants and trees with psychotropic or hallucinogenic properties. In fact, plants with psychotropic properties account for only a small number of the plants that together are fundamental to the learning and practice of authentic, shamanic medicine in the Amazon.
Maestro curanderos (master healers) have traditionally used fasting, a diet of master plants and seclusion from others to seek guidance from the plant spirits and obtain the vital knowledge needed to heal others. A diet of teacher plants and trees is also central to the shamanic medicine apprenticeship. Young initiates will diet on master plants for months and sometimes year at a time. Throughout these dieta apprentices will develop a kind of capacity to “see” or communicate with the spirit realm. In the Peruvian Amazon in particular, the most direct way to develop this capacity to “see” and connect with the espiritus (spirits) is through master plant of shamanic dietas.
Before students can communicate with plant teachers, however, they must undergo a rigorous process of mental, physical and spiritual purification. Certain plants are often used in this process, including Ayahuasca, Tabacco and other plant purges (vomitivos). Mater plant dietas are usually accompanied by abstinence from sex, pork, red meat, sugar, deodorants, alcohol, caffeine, shampoo, toothpaste, oils and processed food. Abstaining from any substance or activity that might cloud the mind is essential for the plants and trees dieta to promote physical healing and spiritual transformation.
Throughout the master plant dieta, whether endured for a long time with the view to becoming a maestro curandero, or for a shorter time as is the case on the retreats, the types of plants and the order in which they are consumed will be determined by the maestro curandero. Put differently, the order and kinds of master plants (teacher plants or trees) are not random, they are especially tailored to the individual.
The Master Plant Dieta may well be the most powerful and for some of us, the most challenging sacred medicine ritual we commit to whilst on retreat.
Strict dieting or fasting has been used by the indigenous peoples of the Amazonian basin for thousands of years to:
- Restore human health and ward off diseases
- Prepare for fishing and hunting expeditions
- Mark a rite of passage and prepare young people for adulthood
- Increase physical strength and stamina
- Induce altered states of consciousness directed towards wholeness
- Receive guidance, wisdom, and direction from spirits and develop sensitivity and intuition
- Purify the body and spirit
- Ward off negative energy and bad spirits
The traditional belief of the indigenous peoples of Peruvian east-central Amazon is that plant remedies need careful time to begin to work. Which is very unlike Western medicines which we expect to begin to heal the body or alleviate pain immediately. It is frequently said that “en la dieta está la curación,” the healing is in the dieta, not just in the plants or trees.
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