A “medicine” of the Amazon forest — the “hapé”
Hi and happy Monday! I hope you are doing great.
Yesterday I wrote on my “no more than once a week” other newsletter about Discipline, a recap of some of my key teachings. I came-up with 40 teachings… There are many more I am remembering every day here.
Tobacco has been used for centuries by indigenous for spiritual purposes.
If you are sensitive to the topic of “substances” don’t read this. I am also not suggesting anyone should try it or encouraging anyone to do so. I am only sharing some of the things I learned. Just remember we’re ingesting and drinking substances every day and they might be legal but terrible for you, like alcohol for example. It’s all a question of culture. Alcohol is prohibited in the village where I spent months while this tobacco powder is encouraged if used respectfully and consciously.
I am going to talk about a specific legal use of tobacco in the Amazon forest.
I noticed many friends ask frequently about “hapé” that I intentionally don’t write “rapé” for the confusion with “rape” in english, but that’s how it’s pronounce, “ra-pé”.
I am going to write soon about “how to be your own master” and will, but I thought this was a good way to illustrate first why we need to be our own master and my experience sometimes struggling with it.
Hapé is a truly powerful legal “medicine” to be used carefully
What is it?
Rapé is a very thin powder of very strong and fresh tobacco plants mixed 50/50 with ashes of a very specific tree in the tradition I learned with, Yawanawà. The Yawanawá are known to be one of the tribes at the origin of it and making the best one. My teacher Peù Yawanawá is known to make one of the best ones and most Yawanawá rapé is generally excellent, that’s the only one I use myself. Who makes it is very important and each is completely different, even from the same person. Some tribes mix it with plants like mint or other tastes but the Yawanawá only use ashes from the tree called “tsunu” from the Amazon forest.
How do people take it?
The tobacco and ashes powder is sent inside the nostrils with a “Tepi” if someone serves it to you (a sort of sarbacane) or a “Kuripe” if you serve it to yourself. The container is very important too, the Yawanawà call it “Muti”. A very special Muti that I have is made from the throat of a monkey, they say it gives you the animal energy and helps you sing (it’s from a monkey that sings very high). They also make Mutis from many different types of animal or animal parts (lizard tails, bones, bamboo…). They craft many animal patterns on the tools to serve it.
These three tools are very sacred for the indigenous and are not to be shared with others. Many masters I know never show their “tools” to others and hide away when they use them or take rapé.
What does it do?
-grounding- clears my thoughts and helps me focus.
-clearing — I feel it removes bad energies I could have from me or outside
-can help cut anger or other strong emotions
-helps connect with someone or a group — I sometimes do it when I discuss with someone I want to be closer to.
-”ceremonial space” — it connects me to the forest and the spiritual world even though I do not need it, it helps.
-cuts hunger which is why it is often used in dietas
-I often have great ideas when I do it
Unlike other “medicines” its effect is immediate and short, from a few minutes to 20 mins.
How is it made?
In the Yawanawá tradition it takes a full day or so to make. First the tobacco is dried under the sun, then mixed with the ashes “tsunu” of that specific tree. Then it is “hit” strongly in a tube (first photo) to make a powder and filtered to remove any remaining non powder tobacco remaining. The process is repeated many times until it is thin enough and the correct mix of tobacco and ashes is achieved. The ashes make it smoother. The more ashes the less strong it is (generally about 50/50). Women also do their own rapé generally smoother with more ashes.
Most important, it is made in a real ceremony with many songs and prayers that they believe “go into it” so the mix can receive the energy of the person or the group making it. When made during a dieta (like mine recently) the person in dieta sings for long periods of time while it is made and they say it has the energy of that person and the dieta.
This is how it is important like any “medicine” to know who prepared it and what intention or training that person has. I never take rapé from a random person and don’t share it as I am not allowed to during my dieta, unless I serve it with a very specific intention and prayer.
How to use it
-do it outside in nature as much as possible
-always have a clear intention before and during, or a prayer
-be very conscious of why you are doing it and what you feel when doing it
-do it ideally isolated and discretely. The masters there rarely do it in public unless it is during a ceremony
-never do it during or after a meal
-if it is your first time do very little to feel it first. If you are served by someone including an advanced “pajeh” or “master” ask for very little quantity and say it’s your first time. Do not hesitate to say it if he served too much, you are your own master. Better start with a little bit than losing balance as it enters your body.
-never do it just after taking other medicines as it might increase the force (it can decrease it too, it depends)
-never do it with alcohol in your body or other substances
-never mix different types of rapé, even if it is the same rapé but from different people carrying it or from different containers.
I have seen everything even from very advanced indigenous people. From occasionally to once a day to many times a day. The use of rapé is recommended or even required at least once a day during dietas.
When you take too much rapé your nose gets clogged, it is a sign to decrease or stop. I have never seen anyone get sick from using rapé, including indigenous who took it all their lives, they have never seen anyone getting sick from it too the way “we” get sick or even cancer from industrial cigarettes…
It is nicotine so there is the risk of addiction and getting used to it too much if you are not careful. I have felt it myself many times and always stop entirely for days or even weeks or months if I feel it “calls me” too much. Tobacco is very strong and can feel more powerful than your own will. It is very important to convince yourself you are stronger and stop or pause if it is the case. I wrote about it “you are not addicted it is just a thought”. If you are concerned about getting addicted I recommend getting served by someone and not having your own “kuripe”.
Rapé can actually be used to remove tobacco addiction but I have seen often that it just “replaced” the tobacco addiction by another form…
How they use it in the forest
They are highly respectful of it. They do not do it too often as its effects are less powerful if you do it too often. They say “don’t do it often so it works when you really need it”. They are extremely careful with their tools and their rapé and do not share it or very rarely with a precise intention. As I said they generally hide while doing it, even often in ceremonies they just stand-up and do it outside. When you do it be mindful of your environment and who is around as the powder might also reach their nose or disturb someone singing. Never do it next to someone performing a song.
Most advanced “pajehs” or “masters” will do rapé and just that to perform a healing or sing powerful prayers, this is why they cary it at all times with them in case they need it for themselves or others.
They also use it to connect with animals if they encounter a “sacred” bird or snake they sit with the animal and “communicate” using the force of rapé. They also use it to sing and get back in connection with “spirit”.
If you try it, use with caution and better be in touch with someone who has experience using it. If you don’t that’s totally fine too. Be your own master.