Heberto’s mother, Inés, is collecting the laundry that has been drying in the sunny back yard of their home. Suddenly, the sky becomes overcast by a great black cloud – held, by the Shipibos, to be the conveyance of Mayatai Jonibo (the travelling spirits) and a violent storm blows up as if from nowhere. The dreamy toddler wakes, and oblivious to the blustery gale, appears in the yard looking for his Mama. The spirits passing through snatch the soul of the infant Heberto. When the distinctive black cloud is accompanied by such a powerfully gusting wind, the custom of the tribe’s people is to take shelter indoors, taking special care to protect very young children by concealing them in large pitchers until the storm has past, for it can be very dangerous for the physical, mental and spiritual health of the baby. When a soul has been snatched by the spirits, the symptoms are a generalized weakness, sudden attacks of vomiting and diarrhea and a dramatic, and dangerous diminution of the vital signs. So it was with young Heberto, who was sobbing very weakly.
Intuiting what had happened, Inés took him at once to see her uncle, the Meraya Luís, to see what he could do to restore his shattered health. Feeling for his pulse, Luís confirmed that Heberto was now dangerously weak; the Spirits of the Winds had taken his soul to an unknown and distant destination; the only hope would be to follow the spiritual traces left when the wind passed through the yard that morning. Without further ado, Luís ran to the house of a neighbouring Meraya, Bawan Sani, to enlist his help in the difficult mission to rescue Heberto’s soul.
Luís took a handful of black mapacho tobacco from his pouch, mixed it in a jar with water and stirred it into a paste of uniform blackness, which he swallowed in one go, and the ceremony was convened. As he went into trance, he entered the tent of mosquito netting, which is only used in the most powerful ceremonies. Joined by Bawan Sani, they struggled together to locate the black cloud, which they found circling around the vast Amazon forest. When the ceremony was finally over, Luís reported as follows: “The city of the spirits, or invisible beings, is enormous. Other beings, known as the spirits of the winds, also live there; they are remarkable for their huge ears and their plaited grey hair terminating in snakes’ heads. When they feel badly affected by the mindless activity of man polluting the environment, which is their habitat too, they get upset and by the strenuous motion of their enormous ears they produce great gales, storms and hurricanes to purify the contaminated air.”
“We followed them”, continued Luís, “on the winged horses, my allies who transport me to other sidereal spaces, and when we reached that place, I saw with great concern that many of them were engaged in a ceremony for the adoption of spirits – the spirit of Heberto was in the middle of the circle and they were about to transform him into one of them! They had even started the baptism process using plants of the wind, and had already applied the tincture to his forehead and had pronounced his mystic name – of their choosing – “Niwen Koshi”.Read more...
“When we arrived, the beings with the huge ears were quite amazed to see us, but we already knew quite a few of them, as we had had dealings with them on previous occasions. They were obstinate in their refusal to release Heberto’s soul back to us; they had already baptised him and applied their sacred tinctures and that, it would seem, was that. The life energy of the spirits of the winds was now flowing in his spiritual body which was, therefore, ready to embark on the great voyages which they undertake around the world. It was no easy job convincing them – we had to emphasise that he was a member of my family, and resort to certain ruses of persuasion. In the face of our insistence and perseverance – and when we threatened to use certain other measures against them – they finally decided to let us have him back, but, before handing him over, they assured us that Heberto, on earth, would never be a normal person for he had now absorbed the energy of the spirits of the winds; he would be a very special person, already possessing a weightless (spiritual) body, so that he could transport himself at will to other places, just as they can. Furthermore, at any time, he could reach them, and should he so desire, live with them in their community.”
“If you are determined to reunite him with his physical body”, they continued, “you must help his development so that he can be a special being on earth. You must put him on a strict diet for three months, out of sight of normal people, feeding him only fish and vegetables, and during this time you must bathe him with a preparation of the leaves and flowers of Nuyá Rao and Niwe Rao.’’ [The plant Niwe Rao is much used in shamanic treatments, primarily known for its efficacy in opening up, and strengthening one’s connection with spirit]. ‘This will be a solemn pact between us, and will ensure this child will always have a way of contacting us”. Agreeing to these obligations, I took him in my arms and brought him back to his physical body.
“In conclusion” Luís told Inés, “from this moment on, your son bears the name Niwen Koshi, which means ‘the force of the storm‘ or ‘the life-force of the winds‘.” And thus the infant Heberto, or Niwen Koshi, recovered his health.