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sanación con tabaco


Ritual aspects.

Duga is the term for the “Word” of tobacco and coca, meaning the body of beliefs which incorporates the ritual use of these plants, on a daily basis, into the systems of healing, education, spirituality and maintenance of the ecological balance by certain indigenous groups of the Colombian Amazon who refer to themselves as the “people of the center”, that is, of the center of the world: the Witotos, Boras, Andoques, among others.


Jiibie* in the Witoto language is a plant preparation made up of toasted coca leaves (erythroxylon coca) mixed with ashes of the leaves of cecropia discolor; it represents the male principle and it is used only by men.
Yera*, or ambil in Spanish, is a mixture of boiled tobacco leaves with vegetable salts obtained from a dehydrated preparation of certain bark ashes to which water is added; it represents the female principle and is the most active substance in the ceremony.

Jiibie powder is held in the mouth, where it is slowly absorbed through the mucous membrane, while Yera is dissolved on the tongue. Both elements are used to facilitate an inter-personal relationship among the participants in the ritual that illuminates the above-mentioned aspects of healing, education, etc.
Tobacco speeds up neural transmission, while coca releases catecolamines, which sharpen attention and concentration; according to indigenous tradition, these requirements are indispensable to the search for knowledge.*
Education plays the main role in prevention , but in the case of addictive disorders, Duga is of paramount importance as a transcultural tool.
The validity of tobacco and coca as medicine has been underestimated by Western civilization, partly as a consequence of the misuse of these plants in the form of commercial cigarettes and cocaine, but that is the result of a cultural distortion by our society, which fails to understand that these risks are absent from their traditional use.
Neither tobacco or coca is used alone by the Witotos, and both are considered food: coca leaves because of their high content of proteins, vitamins and calories and yera because vegetable salt is rich in trace elements and the psycho-active properties of tobacco turn it into Food for the soul.

The ceremony.
The ceremony usually starts at six p.m., as the sun is falling. Jiibie and Yera are distributed among participants, meanwhile fresh coca leaves are being toasted and sifted for further consumption. After the preparations are ingested, one or several elders begins to discuss the normal events that take place in a day in the rainforest, that is, the idea is to avoid an immediate approach to the solution of problems but allow the “disease” to manifest itself on its own, this being the main attribute of the sacred plants used for healing. The ritual normally lasts until ten at night, when the youngsters go to the sleep. If the problem has not been solved by then, it may go on until 2.a.m. and if a solution has still not been found, it will continue until dawn, that is, around 6 a.m.
According to the cosmology of these indigenous group, there is no “good” or “bad” in life. Instead they use the terms “cool” or “hot”. Disease, violence, anxiety, etc. are “hot”. “Cool” applies to well-being, peace, tranquility, etc. In life there are several goals to attain: to enter into contact with “good thought”*, the kind of thought which is good for me, humanity and the world; to discover the origin of troubles and find solutions for them, at a personal, social, environmental and cosmic level; to heal all levels of existence; and finally to make the Word “real” in terms of facts.
One might think that it is not that different from any other religion or spiritual belief system that we know of, but the distinction lies in the procedure. What Ambil does, in practical terms, is to create an equilibrium between body and soul (emotions), so that the participant can find out how what he says “resonates” in his body as comfort, discomfort, contraction, easiness, etc. This becomes obvious during the ceremony under the enhanced awareness brought by the use of tobacco and coca leaves. This is the opposite of what happens during our normal daily activity; we are relatively “absent” from ourselves, in the sense that we are unaware of our whole functioning in terms of interrelations between cognitive, motor, sensory and emotional responses. In this way a comprehensive ethics arises in which my well-being is supported by my clarity of thought, the way it is reflected in my body and the extent to which my behavior positively influences the society around me and the universe. This offers the possibility of healing the individual, the body , the emotions, the “soul”, society and the world in a single act, through the use of our main Western tool: the Word, though its cultural connotations are completely different. Naïkïno is the term for the word-body that works both “vertically”, as it interprets experience in terms of the origin myths, and “horizontally”, by means of analogies, for example.

The Word*, naïkïno, is our essence. As Westerners, we would say plants sensitize us to this essence and enable us to experience it, but for the indigenous wise men there is no distinction between plants, qualities and personalities. Ambil (tobacco) is simultaneously woman, the word, communication, the eye that sees and the ear that hears.
But this does not refer to the sharpening of normal “sight”. It has, instead, to do with the ability to see “beyond”, hear “beyond” and talk “beyond” the world of appearances. If we only consider the superficial layer of reality, we will always make mistakes. This kind of “sight” enables us to feel the subtle energy field of people, their emotions and motivations, and that is exactly the ground on which the ritual conversation takes place. The person who directs the ritual tunes into a subliminal current of information, which is impressed on his mind while the myths are related and questions about personal and interpersonal matters are discussed.

There has never been any evidence of addiction among Duga practitioners, as a matter of fact it is non-existent among those who make a traditional use of that and other plants substances like Ayahuasca( Banisteriopsis caapi) and Yopo (Anadanantera peregrina).
The reason is that such plants are used in very ritualized ways and besides they are not forbidden, because they are part of a universal environment and are governed by specific rules.

The final part of the practice: cooling.
When the subjects under discussion are profoundly explored, in accordance with the aims of the ritual, the uzuma (healer) says that the basket has been firmly woven. The word basket has many connotations: it is the body, the receptacle where knowledge is stored, a symbol of relationships and the symbolic place where the “ heat” goes at the end of the ritual, the poisonous or diseased energies which have been transformed into spiritual nourishment.

When these ceremonies are carried out in a transcultural setting, a Witoto spiritual guide, known as Enokakuyodo( the one who creates from nothingness), invites the participants to approach and ask him what they want to know about their lives, diseases, etc. This is a very intense moment because everyone has been deeply “touched” by the myths and the conversation which has been held. In fact, this moment is reminiscent of religious confession, psychodrama and psychoanalysis and it has a strong therapeutic value. Suddenly things begin to be perceived in a different dimension. What before was a problem, is now a solution; what was a cause of suffering turns into an insight that guides one`s decisions; everything becomes clear and safe.

Treating patients´ addictions.
A comprehensive description of the physiological and pharmacological basis of this therapy will be given in the second part. The first deals with the social dynamics and humanistic foundation of the rituals.
A group of thirty people, made up ten young patients and their relatives, have taken part in this therapeutic experience since 2005. The sessions were initially held on a weekly basis with the patients, complemented by a bigger monthly one which included their parents. An addict has a personality disorder plus an addictive pattern, but he is also someone who is looking for himself in a philosophical sense: he`s looking for the meaning of life, wisdom, etc. Wisdom doesn`t play any role in our society, which denies us opportunities to carry out such a quest. Furthermore, to a large extent our society encourages addictive behavior, in the form of the use of alcohol, cigarettes and palliative pharmacological products and its emphasis on consumerism,
fashion, etc.
As a result, the patient destroys himself when adequate solutions do not exist.
The main characteristics of ancient wisdom are: 1) power, which is what attracts people to it , 2) benevolence: nobody is excluded, differences are regarded as enriching, 3) wisdom: the capacity to produce clarity in ourselves, so that we can reach autonomy.

The search for equilibrium. The patient realizes the consumption of substances is not necessarily associated with pleasure , but may also include learning. The old connection between learning and excitement, which was known to culture of Ancient Greece, has been confirmed by the Witotos: even small “overdoses” of jiibie or ambil are immediately recognized to be counterproductive, though harmless.

Truth as a social result.
Confrontation with oneself gives the person the opportunity to discover a new kind of honesty based upon one`s direct feelings and thoughts: this experience modifies his former addictive behavior.
Inner revelation vs someone else`s opinion.
What the participant discovers is a therapy of first-hand experience, based on his own perception and an inner “working out” of his problems. As we have mentioned, this privileged contact with one`s own consciousness through the enhancement of neural transmission and attention mechanism results in a feeling of inner assurance arising directly from the “self”. This state has no equivalent in our daily Western life, which is overburdened by superficial concepts about the importance of “facts”.