Rainforest Medicine - Preserving Indigenous Science and Biodiversity in the Upper Amazon

by Jonathon Miller Weisberger

Rainforest Medicine - Preserving Indigenous Science in the Upper Amazon

Rainforest Medicine

published by North Atlantic Books

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Rainforest Councils with Plant Masters

January 2017

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. Agustin 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 Two color sections showcase photos of the plants and people of the region, and include plates of previously unpublished full-color paintings by Pablo Cesar Amaringo (1938-2009), an acclaimed Peruvian artist renowned for his intricate, colorful depictions of his visions from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 entheogenic 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.


"To those of you who live ardent and committed lives acting out of deep concern for the fate of our Earth and all its species, this book is most dedicated. To the People of the Earth, may it serve to educate and to enrich your lives on every continent. And to the Amazon Rainforest, may s/he assist in your preservation."
        ——JONATHON S. MILLER WEISBERGER, ethnobotanist and author

Jona and Pablo Amaringo
Jonathon Sparrow Miller Weisberger &
Line 2: dn Pablo César Amaringo
founding father of the genre of painting, Ayahuasca Visions

From the Foreword by Daniel Pinchbeck


"I met Jonathon on my first trip to the Amazon in 1999 - he was our exuberant, indomitable guide on a visit to the Secoya in their rainforest home. .....Rainforest Medicine ... as a spiritual primer, it couldn't have arrived at a more perfect moment. I hope you will enjoy it and take its lessons to heart."
        ——DANIEL PINCHBECK, author of Breaking Open the Head; video featured in the documentary 2012: Time for Change; co-founder of Evolver.net

Book Blurbs

"Rainforest Medicine offers valuable insights into deepening our understanding of the natural world and thereby re-discovering ancient ways of thought that can guide us toward healthy living."
        —ANDREW WEIL, MD, author of Spontaneous Happiness

"Jonathon Miller Weisberger has been dedicated to the preservation of biodiversity, indigenous cultures, and indigenous knowledge in the Northwest Amazon for over twenty years.... In this book he shares the spiritual perspectives of healers and traditional elders as well as his own body of experiences. It will be appreciated by researchers of Amazonian topics for years to come ...."
        —DENNIS MCKENNA, PhD, ethnopharmacologist, author of The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss

"Rainforest Medicine carries a timeless message, one that makes evident our essential need - to reconnect with nature. This book is an instrument of positive transformation. Highly recommend."
        —GRAHAM HANCOCK, author of Supernatural

"Weisberger offers a great work of ethnobotany necessary for our time. 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


"People interested in indigenous uses of ayahuasca will enjoy reading this book. Author JMW shares what he has seen, heard and experienced during long years spent with indigenous Amazonian people. He discusses the dangers of sorcery even for those who do not believe in it, as well as the importance of keeping quiet about one's visions. He also discusses a jaguar-centered world view, in which jaguar embodies energy, and energy makes up the universe. JMW shares nugget after nugget of Secoya wisdom about how to work with rainforest medicines. This book is personal rather than academic; its approach is "kaleidoscopic" and packed with knowledge, experience and respect for indigenous cultures. I will recommend it to friends."
        —JEREMY NARBY, PhD, Anthropologist, author of The Cosmic Serpent

"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, PhD, ethnobotanist, anthropologist, photographer, author of One River and Into the Silence

Thomas Wang Illustrator

For Mission Blue Project books, In the Garden with Blue Butterflies and other titles at: lulu.com/spotlight/thomasblues

Loli & Thomas' Honeymoon in Secoya Territory at: missionblueproject.com

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