Council of those who know: CYRAE

On this page the members and allies of CYRAE are briefly presented, in their own words, Kichwa and Spanish, translated into English. Many of CYRAE members will be present at the gathering. However, some live remotely and do not use email, Whatsapp or digital cameras, some are secretive and shy and do therefore not want to be photographed (you have to meet them in the flesh). This presentation page is in other words far from complete – and will never be complete.

CYRAE – literally Council of Those Who Know of the Ecuadorian Amazon – is an association of traditional healers with most (though not all) members from the Amazon region. The movement that successfully resisted the witch hunts of traditional healers in the 1980s and 1990s, resulted in the legalization of these curanderos with the establishment of ASHIN (Associación de Shamanes Indígenas del Napo) in 1997, now CYRAE.

CYRAE is an important element in local culture in a variety of ways, as yachaks do not only work for the physical and mental healing of individuals, but also entire communities. When community conflict has arisen (theft, violence, border disputes. etc.) the conflicting parties may bring their case to CYRAE, who help talk through the various perspectives and opinions and possibilities for resolution to ensure that everyone agrees. Here is a typical situation in the office:

Fidel Andi – La Soga, Tena; President of CYRAE – Learned the craft from his grandparents from a very young age, beginning with tobaco juice in the eyes and nostrils at the age of 6. Initiated at 14, with tests and challenges such as venturing into the forest for hunting or down the river to fish, then practicing from when he was 16 years old. Has been working with ASHIN (now CYRAE) for 27 years. Heals in a variety of ways, mainly energetically/spiritually, but also when necessary with medicinal plants. He has healed diseases that medical professionals did not know how to diagnose or treat. He cures diabetes and cancer, mainly with barks and roots from the forest, but tabacco and ayahuasca are the primordial plants he works with.

Fidel features on the “Songs of Ayahuasca” CD, a fascinating project by Jeronimo M.M. / as a representative of the potential origins of ayahuasca culture.

You can find a more detailed interview with Fidel here.

Ricardo Grefa Yumbo – San Pablo de Ushpayacu; Vice-president of CYRAE – Inherited the knowledge from his forefathers. His father went to Peru, Argentina, Colombia to study with healers. When he returned, he got married and had children and taught them. When Ricardo was 5 years old he performed what the missionaries thought of as miracles about which they kept pestering him: why and how did he do these things? At age 7 his father made him attend to ill people, drinking ayahuasca and sucking the bad energy out of the affected body parts. His father always gave plant medicines to drink after healing ceremonies in order to heal the inner wounds or infections. Some plants would be prepared for a long time – for exaple buried in an earthenware bowl for months and only then would they be applied, externally, in order to heal rheumatic pains. With this old knowledge of his father he has healed many types of illnesses, all on the basis of medicinal plants. He will always investigate which plant needs to be used. Sometimes he needs to use plants that he has never seen before, but when he prepares them correctly, they heal. He has traveled many provinces of this country, since he was little, before even the roads connected the Amazon region to the Andes. He walked to Quito when he was 5 years old. He has always served the community, society. He is a yachak, a healer, an ayahuasquero,  and will always stand by that.

Antonio Shiguango – Rukullacta – His father and grandfather were healers and he was prepared to be a healer from the first moment, just after birth, which is why he knows a lot about natural medicine and heals all kinds of diseases. He sucks bad energy out of peoples’ bodies and also prepares medicines to be taken internally. He says “There are so many remedies in the forest that Western medicine is not necessary”.

Jacinta Grefa – Archidona – Her grandfather adopted her and took her out into the forest from when she was very little, teaching her everything about plants and healing wisdom. When she was 14 years old she drank ayahuasca for the first time to learn to heal with the help of this plant. She has been working as a midwife for most of her life and is now also a member of AMUPAKIN. When there are difficulties during birth, she will use ayahuasca to heal the birthing mother and allow for a natural birth.

Bertila Grefa – Originally from Archidona, lives in Cayambe – She has been running a natural health centre (centro naturista) called Sacha Warmi (Forest Woman) for 15 years. She heals with medicinal plants from the Amazon forest – treating in particular kidney and gallbladder stones (which she says can be cured within 24 hours), menopause, prostata issues, gastritis, alcoholism, liver issues, blood purification.

Francisco Chimbo – Alto Poroto – His grandfather and grandmother taught him his knowledge. He learned to heal with 4 different powers from when he was 14 years old. He is now 71 years old and has never had any problems, and he continues to heal. He heals with incense, energetically, only with his own experience, ideas and power. He drinks ayahuasca, but only very rarely. He works with natural tobacco, incense and cologna. He works day and night, especially in his own community.

Raúl Tapuy – from the Napo riverbank – His knowledge is from a boa, an anaconda. It is from the boa that he has his power. He has three women of the river, three water women which help and support him when he drinks ayahuasca and calls upon them. He works in different Ecuadorian provinces. People call him because they have seen him heal. He also helps during birth and he sucks bad energies out. He is now 55 years old and has been healing since he was 20.

In the following gallery you can get a vague impression of 12 more CYRAE healers taken from the association’s membership records. Due to long distances, travel costs and local committments it is rarely possible to get all members in the same place at once – that’s one of the purposes of the Natural Medicine Gathering and one of the main things that your participation will be supporting:

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