Preserving Indigenous Science and Biodiversity in the Upper Amazon
Chronicling the practices, legends, and wisdom of the vanishing traditions of the upper Amazon, this book reveals the area’s indigenous peoples’ approach to living in harmony with the natural world. Rainforest Medicine features in-depth essays on plant-based medicine and indigenous science from four distinct Amazonian societies: deep forest and urban, lowland rainforest and mountain.
The book is illustrated with unique botanical and cultural drawings by Secoya elder and traditional healer Agustin Payaguaje and horticulturalist Thomas Y. Wang as well as by the author himself. Payaguaje shares his sincere imaginal view into the spiritual life of the Secoya; plates of petroglyphs from the sacred valley of Cotundo relate to an ancient language, and other illustrations show traditional Secoya ayahuasca symbols and indigenous origin myths. Two color sections showcase photos of the plants and people of the region, and include plates of previously unpublished full-color paintings by Pablo Cesar Amaringo (1938-2009), an acclaimed Peruvian artist renowned for his intricate, colorful depictions of his visions from drinking the entheogenic plant brew, ayahuasca (“vine of the soul” in Quechua languages).
Today the once-dense mysterious rainforest realms are under assault as the indiscriminate colonial frontier of resource extraction moves across the region; as the forest disappears, the traditional human legacy of sustainable utilization of this rich ecosystem is also being buried under modern realities. With over 20 years experience of ground-level environmental and cultural conservation, author Jonathon Miller Weisberger’s commitment to preserving the fascinating, unfathomably precious relics of the indigenous legacy shines through. Chief among these treasures is the “shimmering” “golden” plant-medicine science of ayahuasca or yajé, a rainforest vine that was popularized in the 1950s by Western travelers such as William Burroughs and Alan Ginsberg. It has been sampled, reviled, and celebrated by outsiders ever since.
Currently sought after by many in the industrialized West for its powerful psychotropic and life-transforming effects, this sacred brew is often imbibed by visitors to the upper Amazon and curious seekers in faraway venues, sometimes with little to no working knowledge of its principles and precepts. Perceiving that there is an evident need for in-depth information on ayahuasca if it is to be used beyond its traditional context for healing and spiritual illumination in the future, Miller Weisberger focuses on the fundamental knowledge and practices that guide the use of ayahuasca in indigenous cultures. Weaving first-person narrative with anthropological and ethnobotanical information, Rainforest Medicine aims to preserve both the record and ongoing reality of ayahuasca’s unique tradition and, of course, the priceless forest that gave birth to these sacred vines. Featuring words from Amazonian shamans–the living torchbearers of these sophisticated spiritual practices–the book stands as testimony to this sacred plant medicine’s power in shaping and healing individuals, communities, and nature alike.
About the Author
—Jeremy Narby, author of The Cosmic Serpent, Anthropologist
"Rainforest Medicine is a remarkable account from a scholar and experiential adventurer who has devoted more than twenty years of his life, much of the time in the field, to the study of physical and metaphysical realms where plants, nature, and the human imagination merge in the mind of the shaman, the true wizards of the upper Amazon." —Wade Davis, author of One River and Into the Silence, Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society
"Rainforest Medicine offers valuable insights into deepening our understanding of the natural world and thereby rediscovering ancient ways of thought that can guide us toward healthy living."
—Andrew Weil, M.D., author of Spontaneous Happiness: A New Path to Emotional Well-Being
"Jonathon Miller Weisberger, or 'Sparrow' as called by his friends, has been dedicated to the preservation of biodiversity, indigenous cultures, and indigenous knowledge in the Northwest Amazon for over twenty years! His commitment is one fueled by passion, a deep understanding of why all humanity needs the rainforest and a profound respect for traditional ways of knowing. In this book Jonathon shares the spiritual perspectives of healers and traditional elders as well as his own body of experiences, alongside a compilation of the identities and uses of two-hundred-and-one Amazonian medicines. This books jumps off the bookshelf and urges readers to connect straight to the living heart of the rainforest itself. This book undeniably will be appreciated by researchers of Amazonian topics for years to come, as well as anyone concerned about saving the rainforest and being an ally to its peoples."
—Dennis McKenna, Ph.D., ethnopharmacologist, author of The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss: My Life with Terrence McKenna
"Rainforest Medicine carries a timeless message, one that makes evident our essential need—which is to reconnect with nature. This book is an instrument of positive transformation. Highly recommended."
—Graham Hancock, author of Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind
"Rainforest Medicine teaches us a great deal. While holding true to adventure, the journey goes deep into the earth consciousness where the real medicine for all life exists. Weisberger is one of the great ethnobotanists of our time. Even more so, he is without a doubt one of the finest ambassadors for our planet. His story of the Upper Amazon with its amazing medicine plants, people, and oral traditions leaves you wanting to do something—anything—to save this amazing place. He has a gift for evoking a sense of place and purpose, and the characters he meets come alive on the page. There is little doubt in my mind that Rainforest Medicine is a masterpiece and sets a new standard in ethnobotany and conservation."
—Michael Cottingham, director of Voyage Botanica School of Botanical Medicine
Praise for Jonathon Miller Weisberger's work
• "[C]ourageous and innovative work. [He is] working to preserve ancient botanical wisdom, not on some dusty bookshelf, but in the hearts of indigenous youths and in the forest itself. This is a bold and crucial step in these times."
—Robert Hass, former United States poet laureate
• "Presided over by a most benevolent array of plant energies and animal intelligences, leafing and leaping spirits ... like a dark heart of the wave on the sloping strand in wilderness and wonder."
—David Abram, author of The Spell of the Sensuous
• "Jonathon Miller Weisberger—a 'young Schultes'—is a master with the plants.... He helps you listen to their myriad voices, each a wise voice singing a different part in Nature's chorus."
—Bill Pfeiffer, Sacred Earth Network