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THE ACHUAR || Dream people of the Amazon

There are many communities living within the Amazon forest. Some we know of, and some of them have continued to succeed in shying away from western eyes. 
The Achuar community I stayed with was only 1 out of 6,000 communities thriving beneath the trees that act as the lungs of our planet. Their entire existence relies on the Amazon Rain Forest. It is their apothecary, their source of nourishment, a spiritual guide, and most importantly, the place they call home. 



Dreams are a fundamental part of the Achuar's world view. Their entire schedule is based on the Wayusa ceremony which takes place each day, a few hours before dawn. In the ceremony, each family gathers in their households to drink large quantities of herbal infused tea called Wayús which also acts as a stimulant. They will then clean their digestive system by regurgitating the liquid. Following that, both the men and women will share their dreams which will help determine their waking activities throughout the day. The activities are decided by the interpretation and meaning of their dreams and include activities such as hunting, fishing, tending to the fields, etc. Children also share their dreams and from a young age they learn from their elders how to understand the meaning of their dreams by listening and discussing them with their family.
If an interpretation for a dream could not be found during the ceremony, the person will actively seek to understand the meaning of the dream throughout the day, either by seeking guidance from the community shaman or by conferring with people and actively seeking unusual occurrences through the day. ​​​​
Chica is a common drink throughout the indigenous tribes of South America. It is also considered a welcoming beverage and whenever visitors arrive they will always serve it. The way Chica is prepared is quite peculiar. The drink is made from the yucca plant and once harvested, it is washed, and then peeled with a machete to remove the cyanid in the skin. It is then boiled, and eventually pounded and mashed. Yet to become alcohol, bacteria is needed. Well you can imagine how surprised I was to discover the last step in preparing Chica involves the village women chewing the mashed yucca and swishing it around in their mouths to mix it with the enzymes found in saliva which is needed for fermentation. Once the women spit out all the chewed yucca into a pot, they store it in a container under the sun to allow for the fermentation process to begin.
I was asked to join a fishing expedition which set out early in the morning. Prior to getting into the canoes, everyones faces were painted with the Achiote fruit to fend off evil spirits who live in the woods. I was then instructed to avoid touching any trees or bushes and to follow my guide closely throughout the thick bush. There are many dangerous creatures deep in the woods, among them the infamous bullet ant which we encountered many times. Luckily, we avoided its bite which is considered to be the most painful insect bite in the world. 
We reached a river when the dense forest opened up, a boy and his father arrived with baskets on their backs. They flipped the baskets and long, skinny roots came falling down to the ground. They then placed the roots against a big tree stump and started pounding them with heavy sticks. The roots bled white fluid, and were then placed back in the basket. The father then took the basket and made his way into the river. As he submerged the basket, the same white fluid rose up and washed down with the stream. I learned the liquid was a muscle relaxer which stops the fishes' gills from working, leading them to drown and float up where they will be collected down the river by the second group who built a dam to collet the fish.
Rafael Taish Yunkar, the local Shaman heading into the jungle to cut a piece of the sacred Caapi vine. The vine is used as one of the main ingredients for a soul searching ceremony called Ayahuasca which took place later that night. 
The Ayahuasca ceremony (also known as 'Natem') allows the Achuar to communicate with entities that they believe, posses the human soul. In the ceremony, a special drink is consumed which allows one to achieve an extreme state of self-awareness, also known as a soul journey, or an Arutam encounter. The ritual is sacrament in the Achuar religion and is a right of passage every child goes through with his father. During the right of passage which takes place inside the jungle, the child might see a forest animal which will then become his spiritual guide for the rest of their lives. 
"Keep an eye for the big trees, those are the ones 
that Arutam, the god of the forest, lives in".
Tribes aren’t only facing extinction from outside forces, but also from within as the new generations are leaving their communities in search of a more modern lifestyle. Some of them, will not return to their place of birth ever. And one day, all that history, all those stories, and all that ancient knowledge might be gone.
The Amazon Forest covers 40% of Ecuador. Though it seems like a lot, the portion of the forest that lies within the country's borders includes only 2% of the entire forest. That 2% alone hosts 14 distinct indigenous communities. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Once a day the community will meet to discuss important matters. The meeting is called by using a horn that is heard throughout the entire community and signals the opening of the gathering.
Gardens are maintained solely by women. They comprise a large quantity and variety of plant species, but their value goes much deeper than just a source of food. Women see their gardens as a sanctuary where they can express their grief and suffering in private, as public emotion is looked down upon. Maybe the most astonishing fact is that women also give birth to their children within the garden, demonstrating the importance of gardens in the Achuar's lives.
The Amazon, is referred to as the ‘Lungs of the planet’ and plays a crucial part in all of our lives. It produces more than 20% of the world's oxygen and acts as a giant cooling system for the planet. It also absorbs 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year. Without the amazon, humanity, and all life on the planet will face dire consequences. If the Amazon rainforest continues to wither and die, it will start producing something completely different, carbon. Which we all know is fueling climate change. ​​​​​​​
"It is a good dream” he said without looking at me. “It is showing you that every time you go to a new place, or you're embarking on a new experience, you are afraid. Maybe it is fear that you are going to have a bad experience, or that the people you will meet will not like you. And that fear leads you to anticipate having a bad experience”. Something in his words felt familiar. 
ֿ“But then you get there, and you realize there is a lot to learn and it is a very rich experience. You find out it is a good experience, and the people you meet are good people. You always feel you need the security of your home, but you already have it within yourself. You need to let go of the fear”
THE ACHUAR || Dream people of the Amazon

THE ACHUAR || Dream people of the Amazon