by Mary Olivar, Center for Shamanic Education and Exchange Board Member
“Cuando nosotros hablamos, tenemos mucho potencial en nuestra boca. El aroma y la potencia para ayudar a la gente.”
“When we speak, we have a lot of potential in our mouth. The aroma and the power to help people.” Enrique Flores Sinuiri
Founded in 2019, the Kurin Metsa School of Shamanism is a training program led by Enrique Flores Sinuiri, an elder Shipibo Onanya (Shaman). The school is located in the Shipibo-Conibo community of San Francisco, in the Ucayali region of Peru, near Yarinacocha. This community includes around 300 families.
It is Enrique’s goal and the goal of the Kurin Metsa School to keep the wisdom of the Shipibo alive and active amongst the younger generation. Many of the youth favor modern, western culture over their indigenous language, beliefs, and practices. This project meets that concern with direct, intergenerational action within the community.
From Enrique, ”Our project was born from the need to restore the values, principles, traditions and customs that little by little, with the passage of time, have been lost in our Shipibo ethnic group. We are concerned about the socioeconomic and educational situation of our generations…I, Enrique Flores, am a Shipibo master healer. I come from a family of healers, and my desire is to transmit my knowledge and wisdom to future generations with the purpose of preserving Shipibo culture”.
The Kurin Metsa School seeks to do this through an in-depth apprenticeship program, which includes month-long plant dietas, or “samas”, which involve a period of fasting and ingesting a certain plant brew for many days to gain a relationship with that plant and to understand its unique energy and particular kind of medicine. This is a time of concentration, contemplation, and reflection, to allow the participant to connect deeply with the plant, to communicate with it, and to build a close relationship. In a dieta, the plants are their books, their teachers.
“When you go to the plants and diet….you learn to listen to the plants, that is healing.” – Kurin Metsa Student
During this time in communion with these plant teachers, the students also learn icaros, the sacred songs that embody healing vibrations of particular plants and allies and are a foundational part of Shipibo healing traditions. “The songs that we learn come from them (the plants) and so we improve….How do you know that you have improved? Through the icaros. With the icaros you cure, you see in the vision, what kind of disease, what kind of concern, what kind of environment you have…”
In the program, the student apprentices keep journals, to track their learnings and progress in their dietas as well as in their studies of Shipibo massage techniques and other modalities. One apprentice reflected on their journaling process and said, “I have more respect for what I write now. I have a notebook in which I write dreams and visions. They are all very clear. All the things that I see in visions and dreams while sleeping are quite clear…I have a lot of respect for visions. That is why I hold this book sacred to what we learn from medicine…Here are the songs for all kinds of people, all kinds of concerns, all kinds of things that we also learn. From what we learn in the plant, here it is.”
In addition to the apprentice program, through your donations, the Center has supported the school in establishing a medicinal garden and constructing a fence to provide protection for these sacred plants. You can learn more about the medicinal garden and fence projects here – https://shamaniceducation.org/protecting-the-kurin-metsa-medicinal-garden/
Here are some of the things one apprentice shared about learning from their grandfather, Enrique:
“Learning from Enrique has been the most sublime experience. A lot of love, a lot of patience, a lot of wisdom within him…Enrique’s teaching is simple, there are no barriers, and there are no tests…Enrique’s way of teaching is very detail oriented. He teaches with great patience and he is also strict. Enrique tells you something — first he tells you here is the plant, touch it, smell it, feel it, close your eyes, imagine that it is there with you… His way of teaching is unique… I am enjoying it day after day, second after second and I want to learn this way too. With a lot of patience. With a lot of love. With a lot of intelligence.”
In addition to Enrique, their grandfather, the apprentices also learn from Enrique’s children, Magdalena and Pasquel. They all also feel a special bond to their late grandmother, Enrique’s wife, Herlinda. In their dietas and ceremonies, they can feel her presence and guidance strongly with them.
For these students, the Kurin Metsa School provides them with a structure to learn the practices and wisdoms of their grandfather and their grandmother, who were taught by their parents, by their grandparents. Here are some quotes that the apprentices shared about their work and what it means to be a part of these healing traditions:
“All people have cultures and traditions but there are very few, I mean fewer people who follow their traditions. It is worrying. Now that we are studying we have a great opportunity.”
“Healing leads you to healing….people are healing here right now. They are being cured by the teacher and the plants, the giant God who is in the energies of each one.”
“Thanks for this opportunity, and to Enrique for teaching us what he has been doing from an early age – practicing and learning.”
The school currently has 4 students, including Edith, the senior apprentice. They hope to add 2 or 3 more students in the future. Currently, students are continuing to diet with the plants, take care of the garden, and plant new medicinal plants. They are learning and improving their icaros and healing techniques, including Shipibo massage and making plant baths and steams. For the month of December, they will be doing intensive work with several weeks of dieting with plants and other in depth studies.
Your ongoing donations make this kind of education possible, and help keep the preservation of the Shipibo shamanic wisdom alive and active amongst the younger generations in the community. Thank you for your part in supporting Shipibo education and culture!
To read more about some of the students in the Kurin Metsa School, see some of our previous newsletters –
30 year old Edith Maribel Murayari Flores shares her experience as a senior apprentice in the program. https://shamaniceducation.org/kurin-metsa-school-interview-with-senior-apprentice-edith-maribel-murayari-flores/
Joel Romero Flores, is a native Shipibo and a Kurin Metsa student now in his second year as an apprentice https://shamaniceducation.org/interview-with-joel-a-kurin-metsa-student/ shamaniceducation.org/interview-with-joel-a-kurin-metsa-student
Juan Enrique, a 21 year old Kurin Metsa student of one and half years, shares his experience as an apprentice and his calling to the work here: https://shamaniceducation.org/a-kurin-metsa-student-interview-with-juan-enrique/