Singado, or singa, is a tobacco infusion, made in a variety of ways, it is drunk from a shell through the nose, either into the mouth and spat out or swallowed down the back of the throat and into the stomach. Tobacco infusions are an ancient way of ingesting tobacco, in South America indigenous peoples have been drinking tobacco for thousands of years, there are a few ways one can drink tobacco, through the nose is one way. Drinking tobacco was not a recreational activity, it had a spiritual purpose, tobacco being a very sacred plant that has spirit that guides the curandero. Tobaquero's (someone who works with tobacco), are often put into semi coma states with some being fatal, one would slowly dieta tobacco gradually increasing dose over a period of time until deep visionary states are acheived and the tobaquero goes through their intiation into the art. i will add here that drinking tobacco as a tea is not something one does without the proper guidance from an experienced tobaquero, it can be seriously fatal, it is not something to play with.
So here comes the warning..
Tobacco is a very powerful and can be fatally toxic, in large doses. tobacco can be toxic. the amount of singa actually drunk is very small, depending on the strength of singada. Here is some further information about tobacco and its toxicity.
The Concept of Plants as Teachers among four Mestizo Shamans of Iquitos, Northeastern Perú by Luis Eduardo Luna Perhonhatu 7B5, 00100 Helsinhf 10 (Finland)
Paper prepared for the Symposium on Shamanism of Phase 2 of the XIth International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, Vancouver, August 20-23, 1983.
Taken from The Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 11 (1984) 135-156 Elsevier Scientific Publishers Ireland Ltd.
paper can be found http://www.biopark.org/peru/luna-dissertation.html
The Plant Teachers
When the four informants were questioned about the origin of their knowledge they all answered: La purga mlsma te ensena (The purgative itself teaches you), referring to the ayahuasca beverage. Other plants, some of which I learned were used as additives to ayahuasca, were also mentioned. Suspecting that at least some of them might be psychoactive, I started to make a list and if possible collect all those plants that teach medicine. I found in the shamans' reports that plants they called doctores or vegetales que enseñan (plants that teach) either: (1) produce hallucinations if taken alone; (2) modify in some way the effects of the ayahuasca beverage; (3) produce dizziness; (4) possess strong emetic and/or cathartic properties; (5) bring on specially vivid dreams. Quite often a plant has all these characteristics, or some of them. I was somewhat perplexed about how to find the right way of questioning my informants about the plant teachers. If I use, for instance, the Spanish verb marear (to make you dizzy), for example: ¿Don Celso marea esta planta? (Don Celso, does this plant, when taking it, make you dizzy?)
The answer could be: "Yes, it is a good medicine", or "Yes in our dreams the spirit of the plants presents itself to you", or , "Yes, it makes you throw up everything, or "Yes, it teaches you", or "Yes, it makes you see beautiful things", or finally "Yes, if you combine it with ayahuasca." Similar answers were given to me when I put the questions differently, Iike, Don Emilio, ¿es esta planta doctor? (Is this a plant teacher?) or Don Alejandro, ¿tiene madre esta planta? (Does this plant have its "mother"?). This set of associations is interesting indeed. The association of psychoactive plants with emetics and vermifuges has been pointed out by Rodriguez and Cavin (1982). The association between dreams and hallucinations is a common theme in shamanic literature. As far as I understand, all psychoactive plants are considered potential teachers. I once asked Don Emilio if he had ever taken the mushroom Psilocybe cubensis, which grows widely throughout the region on cow dung. He answered positively: "Bonito se ve. Dietandole debe enseñar medicina." (You see beautiful things. If you keep the diet it might teach you medicine).
The four informants I worked with do not agree as to whether all plant teachers produce visions. According to Don Alejandro, all the plants that have "mothers" marean (make you dizzy). This implies that there are plants without "mother", with which Don Celso and Don Emilio do not agree. Don Celso says: The mother of the lant is its existence, its life". Don Emilio affirms that all plants, even the smallest, have their mother. Some of the plant teachers produce visions only when associated with ayahuasca. Others produce only una mareación ciega (a blind dizzyness), in which you do not see anything. Other plants teach only during the dreams.
The following plants are considered to "teach medicine" if the proper diet is kept, and can be added to the ayahuasca beverage (Banisteriopsis caapi + Psychotria viridis): Tobacco (a variety called mapacho in the area), toé (Brugmansia suaveolens), uchu-sanango (Tabernaemontana sp.), ayahuma (Couroupita guianensis Abl.), caupuri (Virola surinamensis (Rol) Warb),tangarana (Triplaris surinamensis Chamisso), chuchuhuasi (Maytenus ebenifolia Reiss),. hiporuru (Alchornea castaneifolia (Willd.) Juss), mucura (Petiveria alliacea L.), lupuna (Ceiba pentandra)*, clavohuasca (Tynanthas panurensis)*, bellaco caspi (Himantanthus sucuuba (Spruce) Woods) (Soukup, 1970), huairacaspi (Cedrelinga catanaeformis Ducke) (Soukup, 1970), huacapu (Vouacapoua americana Aubl.) (Soukup, 1970), chullachaqui caspi (Tovomita sp.), cumala (Virola sp.), catahua (Hura crepitans L.), abuta (Abuta grandifolia), amasisa (Erythrinaglauca) (Villarejo,1979; Chaumeil,1982), nuc-nuc pichana (Scoparia dulcis L.), bobinsana (Calliandra angustifolia) (Soukup, 1970), chiric sanang.o (Brunfelsia grandiflora D. Don ssp. schultesü Plowman), remo-caspi (Pithecolobium laetum Benth.) (Williams, 1936), renaco (Ficus sp.), tahuari (Tabebuia sp.) (Williams, 1936), capirona negra (Capirona decorticans Spruce) (Williams,1936), and cumaseba negra, tamshi, puca lupuna, garabato, millo renaquilla, murure, palisangre, of which at this point I have only the common names. Some of these plants (tobacco, toé, catahua, mucura, chiric sanango and others) may be taken alone. This is also the case for suelda con suelda (Phtirusa pyrifolia HBK Eichler), raya balsa (Montrichardia arborecens Schott), ajo sacha (Mansoa alliacea (Lam) A. Gentry and oje (Ficus insipida) (Encarnacion, 1983).
*Personal communication and tentative plant identification by botanists at the Herbarium Amazonense, Iquitos.
Don Emilio suggests a certain order in taking and following the proper diet for plant teachers. This is for him the ideal order: ayahuasca, tobacco, renaco, chullachaqui caspi, tahuari, huairacaspi, caupuri, palisangre, perfume, camalonga, agua florida, pedernal, creolina, akanfor, tambor huasca, chuchuhuasi, lupuna. In his list there are five elements that are not plants: perfume, agua florida and alcanfor (camphor), which are made of the essence of plants, pedernal (flintstone) and creoline (a strong commercial disinfectant). The list of additives is an open one, and I often hear about new ones.
In some cases it is clear that by ingesting and following the diet for a plant the shaman is trying to participate in some of its qualities. Many of the plant teachers are very tall trees, that resist heavy rains, winds and inundations. The shaman will then be able to withstand the elements in the same way.
The appearance of the spirits can vary greatly. They assume different human or animal forms. The only concurrence I found among the informants is that the spirit of ayahuma is a man without a head. Quite often the spirits present themselves as small people of beautiful and strong constitution. The "mother" of tangarana is supposed to be the ant that lives in a symbiotic relationship with this tree. Don Alejandro reported that he had used the shoots of this plant instead of chacruna (Psychotria viridis), as an additive of ayahuasca with positive results. This is in fact very interesting. The mechanism that has been proposed to underlie the oral activity of ayahuasca, and which has been confirmed recently by McKenna and Towers (1984), postulates that the p-carbolines present in Banisteriopsis caapi are highly reversible inhibitors of monoamine oxidase (MAO), protecting the N.Ndimethyltryptamine (DMT) present in Psychotria viridis (as in Diplopterys cabrerana) from deamination. If the effects of ayahuasca are primarily due to the DMT, perhaps the shoots of tangarana contain a similar component.
All four informants insist that the spirits af the plants taught them what they know. Don Celso never had a shaman as his teacher. On one occasion he made a very significant remark: "That is why some doctors believe that the uegetalismo (or science of the plants) is stronger than 1a medicina de estudio (Western medicine), because they learn by reading books. But we just take this liquid (ayahuasca), keep the diet, and then we learn". Don Alejandro told me that very soon he learned more than his teacher, an Indian captured by the caucheros (rubber workers), because the spirits of the plants taught him so much. Don Jose claims that his murrayas taught him everything he knows. As I mentioned earlier, he identifies them with the spirits of dead shamans. In his ecstatic trance they enter his body and talk to him in Cocama, a Peruvian tribe language. Don Jose is the only one of the four informants who manifests what could be labelled spirit possession. He sometimes maintains long dialogues with the spirits, who talk through his mouth in a loud voice.
The spirits, who are sometimes called doctorcitos (little doctors) or abuelos (grandfathers) present themselves during the visions and during the dreams. They show how to diagnose the illness, what plants to use and how, the proper use of tobacco smoke, how to suck out the illness or restore the spirit to a patient, how the shamans defend themselves, what to eat, and, most important, they teach them icaros, magic songs or shamanic melodies which are the main tools of shamanic practices.
when working with singado one can work it with ayahuasca as talked about in Luna's article, tobacco also works really well with San pedro cactus brews. The drinking of the singado is a main element to Andean mesa ceremonies. Often singado will be made with various other herbs, depending on the curandero and thier relation with the plants.
Singado and San Pedro
San Pedro is a cactus in the Echinopsis family. There are many cultivars of the hallucinogenic cacti and i wont go into that here at this time but San pedro has been used for thousands of years for divination, healing, sorcery and visionary states of awareness. the curandero/a work with a mesa, a divine table that works with the bioregion, spirit and curandero or brujo. (see further posts here about the mesa) tobacco is prepared as singado and is worked with throughout the ceremony, the tobacco infusion raises ones energy, it also provides clarity of the mind and sight, which enables the curandero or brujo to see clearly spiritually. For this reason it is sometimes known as condor herb, as it gives you the strength and sight of a condor. alos known as black tobacco or jungle tobacco, the particular tobacco mainly made into singado is mapacho, N. Rustica. However N. Tobacum is often made into singado as well, the mapacho is alot stronger than tobacum.
Howard G Charing, an author who has written alot on pervian vegetalismo practices has written the following interview with a peruvian curandero.
What is the relationship of the maestro with San Pedro?
In the north of Peru the power of San Pedro works in combination with tobacco. Also the sacred lakes Las Huaringas are very important. This is where we go to find the most powerful healing herbs which we use to energize our people. For example we use dominio [linking one's intent with the spirit power of the plants] to give strength and protection from supernatural forces such as sorcery and negative thoughts. It is also put into the seguros - amulet bottles filled with perfume, plants and seeds gathered from Las Huaringas. You keep them in your home for protection and to make your life go well. These plants do not have any secondary effects on the nervous system, nor do they provoke hallucinations. San Pedro has strength and is mildly hallucinatory, but you cannot become addicted. It doesn't do any harm to your body, rather it helps the maestro to see what the problem is with his patient. Of course some people have this gift born in them - as our ancestors used to say, it is in the blood of a shaman.
Is San Pedro a 'teacher plant'?
Of course, but it has a certain mystery.You have to be compatible with it because it doesn't work for everybody.The shaman has a special relationship with it. It circulates in the body of the patient and where it finds abnormality it enables the shaman to detect it. It lets him know the pain they feel and whereabouts it is. So it is the link between patient and maestro. It also purifies the blood of the person who drinks it. It balances the nervous system so people lose their fears, frights and traumas, and it charges people with positive energy. Everyone must drink so that the maestro can connect with them. Only the dose may vary from person to person because not everyone is as strong.
What about the singado?
(inhalation of tobacco juice through the nostrils) The tobacco leaf is left for two to three months in contact with honey, and when required for the singado it is macerated with aguardiente, or alcohol. How it functions depends on which nostril is used; when taken in by the left side it is for liberating us of negative energy, including psychosomatic ills, pains in the body, bad influences of other people - or 'envy' as we call it here. As you take it in you must concentrate on the situation which is going badly, or the person which is giving out a negative energy. When taken through the right nostril it is for rehabilitating and energizing, so that your projects go well. It's not for getting high on. Afterwards you can spit the tobacco out or swallow it, it doesn t matter. It has an interrelation with the san pedro in the body, and intensifies the visionary effects.
Tobacco is an important plant in the ceremonies - can you smoke in the session?
No, no, no. It may be the same plant but here another element comes into play, which is fire. As the session is carried out in darkness, the fire in the darkness can perturb, create a negative reflection or vision. It can cause trauma. Y
ou use a chungana (rattle) during the san pedro sessions and I 'see' the sound as a beam of a light penetrating the darkness.
Yes, sound and light are interrelated. Chunganas are used to invoke the spirits of the dead, whether of family or of great healers, so that they may feel comfortable with us. the chunganas are to give us 'enchantment' (protection and positive energy) and it has a relaxing effect when taking san pedro.
What is the power of the artes - the objects on the mesa?
They come from Las Huaringas, where a special energy is bestowed on everything, including the healing herbs which grow there and nowhere else. If you bathe in the lakes it takes away all your ills. You bathe with the intention of leaving everything negative behind. People go there to leave their enemies behind, so they can't do them any harm. After bathing, the maestro cleanses you with these artes, swords, bars, chontas (bamboo staffs), saints, and even huacos (the powers from ancient sacred sites). They 'flourish' you - spraying you with agua florida (perfume) and herb macerations, and giving you sweet things like limes and honey, so your life flourishes. We maestros also need to go to Las Huaringas regularly because we make enemies from healing people, so we need to protect ourselves. The reason for this is that two forces exist: the good and the bad. The bad forces are from the pacts which the brujos (sorcerors with negative intentions) make with the devil. The brujo is the rival of the curandero or healer. So when the curandero heals, he makes an enemy of the brujo. It's not so much because he sends the bad magic back, as because he does the opposite thing to him, and they want supremacy in the battle. Not far from Las Huaringas is a place called Sondor, which has its own lakes. This is where evil magic is practiced and where they do harm in a variety of ways. I know because as a curandero I must know how sorcery is practiced, in order to defend myself and my patients.
so that is an interesting article about singado san pedro and the way a huachumero works.
(see part 2 for a pictorial display of making some singado.)