Icaros, the Magical Chants of the Ayahuasca Shamans

Ayahuasca IcarosHoward G Charing, Guest Writer
Waking Times

I recall one night time Ayahuasca ceremony, held in a small clearing in the Amazon rainforest. It was a beautiful clear night, there was no moon, and the sky was filled with hundreds of thousands of glistening stars; just looking up at the sky made my head swim. We were surrounded by trees and bushes, but could only discern their shapes and silhouettes. It felt as if I was in nature’s primordial theatre. When I had drank the Ayahuasca, the shaman started to chant his Icaros, and within a few minutes, there was the song of birds, fireflies flitting everywhere, the jungle around us was responding to the chants of the shaman. It was an exquisite experience, and the following day, when I discussed the opening experience, with the birds and insects appearing when he sang the first Icaro, he replied, “the first chant was to summon and ask the birds, and the insects for their protection”.

There are several different kinds of icaros, at the beginning of the session. Their purpose is to provoke the mareacion or effects, and, in the words of Javier, ‘to render the mind susceptible for visions to penetrate, then the curtains can open for the start of the theatre’. Other Icaros call the spirit of Ayahuasca to open visions ‘as though exposing the optic nerve to light’. Alternatively, if the visions are too strong, the same spirit can be made to fly away in order to bring the person back to normality.


  • There are icaros for calling the ‘doctors’, or plant spirits, for healing, while other icaros call animal spirits, which protect and rid patients of spells. Healing icaros may be for specific conditions like ‘manchare’ which a child may suffer when it gets a fright. The spirit of a child is not so fixed in its body as that of an adult, therefore a small fall can easily cause it to fly. Manchare is a common reason for taking children to Ayahuasca sessions.

    The arts of the Shipibo, especially textile designs, are closely related to Ayahuasca icaros. The words of the chants are symbolic stories telling of the ability of nature to heal itself. For example the crystalline waters from a stream wash, cleanse, and purify a person who is unwell, while coloured flowers attract the hummingbirds whose delicate wings fan healing energies etc. You might see such things in your visions but the essence or core which cures you is perhaps more likely to be the understanding of what is happening in your life. These deep insights allow your inner feelings to unblock so that bitterness and anger can change to ecstasy and love. To awaken from the ‘illusion of being alive’ is to experience life itself.

    The Icaros demonstrate the emotional bond between the shamans to the world of nature, and the spiritual powers of the rainforest. The Following Icaro ‘ Icaro Madre Naturaleza’, shows this relationship between man and nature.

    English Translation by Peter Cloudsley.

    Don’t leave me, don’t leave me

    My mother nature

    Don’t leave me, don’t leave me

    My mother nature

    For if you will leave me

    I would die or of the pain

    My tears of desperation

    My mother nature

    Yes you have the gift of life

    Sacred purification in you hands

    Blessed mother nature

    Don’t leave me don’t leave me

    My mother nature

    Don’t leave me, don’t leave me

    My mother nature

    For if you will leave me

    I would die or of the pain

    Tears of desperation

    The white veil that your you have

    As it covers this child

    Clean my body and spirit

    With the breath or of your lips

    Dearest miraculous Mother.

    Don’t leave me, don’t leave me

    My mother nature

    Don’t leave me, don’t leave me

    My mother nature

    For if you will leave me

    I will die of the sorrow

    My tears of desperation

    In the mountains or upper jungle

    Where you give me peace and prosperity

    Without regrets neither bitterness

    Dearest pure Mother

    Don’t leave me , don’t leave me

    My mother nature

    Don’t leave me , don’t leave me

    My mother nature

    For if you will leave me

    I would die or of the pain

    My tears of desperation

    Where you Take a bath with the plants

    Blessed Child put onto me

    Your crown of health

    Eternally in my heart

    In Spanish…

    No me dejes no me dejes
    Madre mia naturaleza
    No me dejes no me dejes
    Madre mia naturaleza
    Por que vas i ti me dejares
    Moriria o de las penas
    Llantos y desesperaciones
    Madre mia naturaleza
    Si tu tienes el don de la
    Santa purificacion en ti manos
    Benditas madre naturaleza

    No me dejes no me dejes
    Madre mia naturaleza
    No me dejes no me dejes
    Madre mia naturaleza
    Por que vas i ti me dejares
    Moriria o de las penas
    Llantos y desesperaciones
    El velo blanco que tu tienes
    Como cubre a esta criatura
    Limpia mi cuerpo y espirutu
    Con el soplo o de tus labios
    Madre cita milagrosa

    No me dejes no me dejes
    Madre mia naturaleza
    No me dejes no me dejes
    Madre mia naturaleza
    Por que vas i ti me dejares
    Moriria o de las penas
    Llantos y desesperaciones
    En las altas o montanas
    Donde pone paz y prosperaciones
    Sin remordimentos ni rencores
    Madre cita la pura

    No me dejes no me dejes
    Madre mia naturaleza
    No me dejes no me dejes
    Madre mia naturaleza
    Por que vas i ti me dejares
    Moriria o de las penas
    Llantos y desesperaciones
    Donde Banas con las plantas
    Obendita criatura ponme ya
    La corona de la sanidad
    Muy eternal en mi Corazon

    About the Author

    Howard G. Charing, is an accomplished international workshop leader on shamanism. He has worked some of the most respected and extraordinary shamans & healers in the Andes, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Philippines. He organises specialist retreats to the Amazon Rainforest at the dedicated centre located in the Mishana nature reserve. He is the author of the best selling book, Plant Spirit Shamanism (Destiny Books USA), and has published numerous articles about plant medicines. He was baptised into the Shipibo tribe of the Upper Amazon, and initiated into the lineage of the shamans of the Rio Napo. Howard is also an artist who’s paintings have featured in major exhibitions in London and elsewhere. His artwork has also been featured on book covers.

    His website: http://www.shamanism.co.uk email contact: eagleswing@shamanism.co.uk

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