For the amazonian indigenous amazon cosmogony, one of the basic principles for land management is reciprocity. To achieve balance and harmony, it is necessary to negotiate with supernatural beings, an act of exchange in which everything they offer will be compensated on an equal footing. Sacred plants are fundamental to interconnect and negotiate with spiritual beings, their elements are source of special energy for shamanistic management and without them communication would not flow.
Coca is undoubtedly one of the most important plants, because it represents thought itself, it is essential for the continuity of traditional knowledge and is present in the stories of origin and in daily life. The use of coca leaf is an essential part of the shaman and indigenous people’s life. Coca transformed into mambe is one of the products of chagra that never lacks. The mambe that is offered to the owners of the forest when permission, exchange or healing is requested.
Tobacco is a plant given to the amazonian indigenous peoples from the beginning, and is used to heal, to have wisdom and greater attention in everyday life. According to tradition, tobacco is sown around maloca and chagra. Traditional knowledgeers offer mambe and tobacco to people, and also to the owners of sacred sites to live in peace, harmony, and avoid disease in the community.
There are two main types of tobacco: smoking tobacco and blowing tobacco. The first is used to make the famous chimbombo, a long, thick tobacco that produces blue smoke (unlike cigarettes that produce gray smoke), which is used for communication with beings from other worlds. Powdered tobacco is used daily by the shaman, who has his own tobacco blower and his river snail full of snuff, while for ceremonial uses he uses a heron bone blower.
Unlike coca and tobacco, which are considered male plants, handled only by men, cassava was brought from other worlds and delivered to women. It is a sacred plant that represents the woman, it is the basis of the food diet and amazonian chagras.
Aji (chili pepper) is another major seed for the protection of women. It is sown in the chagra and near the houses, and is used as a condiment for food, also for cures, to suck through the nose or to be smeared on the body, especially after rituals to purify. This is a plant associated with strength, so it is an important part of the daily diet of men and women.
Like chili, there are other plants that are applied to the body to purify, protect or beautify. This is the case of the carayuru, a red paint that is worn on the face and body as protection when women go to the chagra every day, also during a traditional festival and to prevent any kind of diseases. In some communities of the Amazon it is the indigenous women’s make up.
Another dye for ritual use is we’e, a black paint which is used to purify and protect the body. This plant gives strength and powers to the traditional ones for the management of the world, according to the cures and warnings to be carried out in each season. Men and women smear the paint of the leaves on their hands and feet so that the rituals take place in total order and harmony.