I met Ya’Acov in 2011 when he and his wife, Susannah, came to visit my village, Llanchamacocha. They were travelling with their colleague David Tucker from the Pachamama Alliance and a group of people from around the world. They came not as tourists, but as allies of the forest.
The forest has been the home of my people, the Sápara, for millennia. We do not own it, or the land; we are not superior to the earth, rivers or trees. Our lives are based on recognizing the sacredness of all things — animate, inanimate and even invisible. We believe that everything that lives has a spirit and that we can all make direct connections with the spirit world through dreams. We are all potentially equal strands with a part to play in the web of life. We envision a world in which society understands the importance of living in harmony with the Earth and the rights of nature are respected by all. Our fight to protect the Amazon before it disappears is a fight that belongs to us all.
There are now fewer than 600 of my people left and only five of us still speak the Sápara language. We are aware we could disappear from the world completely in the near future. Yet we still have something unique to offer and we are committed to sharing our knowledge of medicinal plants and the spirit world for the benefit of all peoples. So I was honoured to meet Ya’Acov and the group travelling with him.
The night before he arrived, we met in our dreaming. Ya’Acov came and stood outside my house and sang. I recognized his song and my father, a well-known and powerful shaman who passed away some years ago, came to meet him and took us into the forest, where we met three jaguars. I meet my father every night when I dream and that night he showed me that Ya’Acov was an ally for me and for our people. I knew then that Ya’Acov and I were brothers.
Over the years, we have worked together in my village and in the UK, where every year I join Ya’Acov and Susannah’s Long Dance ceremony. So I have come to know him both as a friend and as a very genuine and compassionate shaman. He has put his knowledge in the service of healing through music, sound and movement, and leads very powerful ceremonies that transform thousands of people, helping them to deal with their suffering and answer their most important questions. He is a great healer who has helped me in my shamanic spiritual growth.
Ya’Acov and Susannah often show up in our ceremonies and our dreams. They bring healing and we call on their strength when we work with our medicine ceremonies. Ya’Acov is always there when we need him, helping us to keep the oil in the ground and protecting the community and the river with shields and spirits. There have been many other powerful signs of our connection and our work together.
And we are there for him and his family and the people they work with. Our collaboration is part of an ancient prophecy that says that the way we will come through the challenges we are now facing as a species is to connect across cultures. We need to bring together the best of what we all know in order to find solutions to our collective challenges. We share one Earth and we must remember that we need each other.
We believe that the people of the modern world need to wake up and connect with their natural and ancestral vision and activate their tribal knowledge to live through these times with less disease of the body and disease of the spirit. It is important to rediscover our collective ancestral heritage and to remember the archetype of the Shaman. Ya’Acov’s book, like everything he does, is full of power straight from the heart. When he speaks, it is a direct transmission from the spirits to whom he is connected, including the spirits of the forest. I am certain that this book will bring you inspiration, help you to remember what you already know deep inside yourself and open the door between the worlds of the sleeping and the waking dream.
The practices that Ya’Acov is sharing with you are strong medicine and they will support you in making or deepening your connection to the Inner Shaman. This part of you remembers who you are, who your people and your guides are, what you are connected to, and what your work is. They are also tuned in to the spirit guides of the forest and the universe. They can show you the changes you need to make in your life in relationship to yourself, others, the community of life, your ancestors and guides and the source of life itself, so that future generations can survive and thrive in this world.
I am longing to continue working in collaboration with my brother Ya’Acov, uniting the spirits and shamanic knowledge. My father ’s spirit, my community and I hold him and his work in deep respect and affection. May this book reach all those who need to be touched by its wisdom. And may you feel the transmission of the ancient spirits through this modern understanding of how shamanism and the Inner Shaman can inspire and help you in your day-to-day life.
Witsaha. Thank you.
Manari Kaji Ushigua Santi
Shaman and leader of the Sápara nation of the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador