"It wasn’t long after anthropologists and ethnographers arrived on the scene in the late ’80s and early ’90s that they realized they’d hit proverbial pay dirt in the Achuar as a truly rare subject of study. Here was a tribe whose intense isolation from the rest of the world helped preserve a pristine cultural identity, language and belief system. One of the tribal practices that immediately caught the attention of scientists, and became the reason the Achuar were introduced in academic journals as “The Dream People of The Amazon,” was their unique daily morning ritual of “wayusa” or “dream sharing,” which has continued into the present.
Each day the Achuar rise somewhere between 3 and 4 a.m., gathering in family units around a communal fire. There they consume a special wayús tea, guzzling three or four gourds’ worth of the warm liquid and then promptly vomiting it up. This is done as a kind of purge intended to cleanse a person of any negative energy. It also provides focus for the critical interpretation phase of the ritual, which comes as they take turns telling each other what they remember of their dreams. The Achuar believe that dreams contain fragments of important messages from spirit elders or the powerful spirit of the rainforest known as the “Arutam” that sometimes manifests as a panther or boa.
On a nightly basis during dreaming, and also during visions, the soul departs the body and enters a multiverse where anything is possible and anything can be learned.
“This is a serious social responsibility because they have a belief that no person gets all the information,” says Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D, a social anthropologist who has studied the Achuar, including their dream practices, over two decades. “Typically the elder person in the household acts as interpreter, piecing together the various parts of the dreams as a way to navigate their daily existence.”
Perhaps the first and most ancient bit of instruction the Achuar received, the one that’s passed from generation to generation, is to respect and live in harmony with nature.
“This is a system of living in right relationship with one’s community, one’s environment and the world,” says David Tucker, a former executive director of the Pachamama Alliance who has spent considerable time with indigenous partners in the Amazon and Andes and has studied earth-based wisdom and practices for over 20 years.
Super interesting stuff!