It is common in the Sacred Ceremonies, especially those held in the Amazons, for Shamans to sing ‘Songs’ which may appear as unique and uncommon to the Western or Asian person. These special Holy ‘Songs’ are called the Icaros, or Ikaros (in Quechuan), which have certain ‘Way’ of reaching the Heart of the participants in a Sacred Ceremony.
The Icaros, or Ikaros in Quechuan, are Holy ‘Songs’ which were taught by the Holy Trees to the Shamans during Sacred Ceremonies. The Holy Icaros are considered as ‘gift’ to the Shaman during a Sacred Ceremony, providing a communication link between the Shaman and the Holy Plant.
History of Icaros
The Holy Icaros are Holy ‘Songs’ taught Directly by the Holy Trees to the Shamans throughout history during Sacred Ceremonies.
The Holy Icaros are integral part of Healing received from a Sacred Ceremony, and words cannot suffice to properly describe the intangible power of the Holy Icaros. They are like ‘Magical Spells’, and have been used throughout history, often known by other ‘terms’ like mantra. Many spiritual traditions around the world have mantras, similar to the Holy Icaros, which are considered as secret or protected sound.
Holy Icaros may be passed down from master Shaman to student, and can be ‘Sung’ in different native dialects and tongues, as well as in Spanish. However, the Holy Icaros which are received from the Holy Plant directly are considered most effective than those learnt from a traditional master or teacher.
A Shaman is often measured for experience by how many Holy Icaros he/she can ‘Sing’, which can often be in hundreds. Due to the complexity of techniques required to learn a Holy Icaro, it can take years for a Shaman to learn the Holy Icaros from a human teacher.
Since the Holy Icaros are also taught Directly by Holy Plants, each Shaman may have their own set of Holy Icaros. Traditionally, the Amazonian Shamans believe each animal, tree and stone have lives of their own, and therefore there is a Holy Icaro which is uniquely for them.
How Holy Icaros Work
The Holy Icaros are received by the human ear as melodies, however they are much more – they are an expression of otherworldly energy channeled by the recipient of the Holy Icaros. The shaman makes themselves open and empty for the spiritual energies to take over, and express as wavelengths, detected as sound.
Within the Holy Icaros are information, instruction and communications from spiritual realms which remains beyond any musicological explanation, with otherworldly vibrations communicating and resonating with the energetic body of the target. The soul can realign, thereafter, according to the blueprint which the Holy Icaro lays out.
The Holy Icaros are dynamic, and often spontaneous, which can heal, protect, cause manipulation of energy to provide healing for the patient/participant in the Sacred Ceremony. The Holy Icaros can communicate energies of elemental forces, create otherworldly realms and landscapes, induce specific feelings, and manifest animal and plant spirits and deities as allies.
During Singing of the Holy Icaros, the shaman can spiritually transform into entities channeled, losing their egos, entering into state of trance and flow with the ‘Source of the Holy Icaro’. As different shamans can access different frequencies for these energy transmissions, the healing varies in distinct quality accordingly.
Besides singing, the shaman may shake the chakapa (bundle of dry leaves producing rattling sound when shaken), smoke mapacho (sacred tobacco) and make various sound effects including purging sounds, whistling, speaking in tongues.
For the Hoy Icaros to be impact the participant with full potential it is essential for the participant in the Sacred Ceremony to have faith on the shaman and the Sacred Ceremony, otherwise it may take multiple Sacred Ceremonies to achieve ‘Healing’.
The 3 main effects of the Holy Icaros in Sacred Ceremonies
There are three main functions for ‘Singing’ Holy Icaros:
- Calling the ‘Spirits’ to Heal or for other reasons.
- Healing and influencing participants during the Sacred Ceremonies.
- Controlling the ‘visions’ and ‘imagery’ of participants during a Sacred Ceremony.
Impacts of the Holy Icaros during a Sacred Ceremony
There can be many categories under which the Holy Icaros can be categorised under. Some standard categories are:
- Protecting the Sacred Ceremony Area with an energetic defence shield, by requesting spirit allies of Holy Plants, animals, to guard or attach with the participants and defend them against attacks.
- Inducing Visions in Participants by creating energetic connection between the spirits and the participants, by either attracting their energetic lines, or by transporting participant’s energetic body to the spirit realms .
- Creating and Opening New Realms or Portals to different realms or spiritual ‘entities’. By inviting spirits of birds, fishes, boas and requesting to transport the participant’s souls to their dwellings.
- Stabilising Intense Visions during a Sacred Ceremony and calling back souls of participants which may have strayed too far away, from where it may be difficult to return. Melody of a aHoly Icaro can be immensely helpful in tracing their way back to safety.
- Invoking Healing Spirits during Sacred Ceremony either from Holy Plant Healers, Animal Allies, Ancestors, Mythical Figures, Elements, Deities, or Others, drawing energy from shamans relationship with the Holy Plants or ‘Entities’.
- Cleansing from Negative Energies by creating an ‘energy storm’ to separate positive from negative energies.
- Shifting Energies from one participant to another when the energies are made to travel through the energetic matrix woven by the Holy Icaros in the Sacred Space where the Sacred Ceremony is being organised.
- Healing Mind-Body-Spirit of participants during Sacred Ceremonies through the Holy Icaros which are songs of pure light, inducing divine, blissful, euphoric feeling within the participants while healing them, and invoking power of the healing spirit allies familiar to the shaman, and directing the power to the conscious or the subconscious mind of the participant, which can provide missing love, recalibration, sensory experiences, emotional release, insight or as necessary for ‘Healing’.
- Defence Against Evil or Dark Magic in case of brujeria or malevolent energy attacks. The shaman involves spirits of powerful, violent, dangerous entities to ward off an attack or defend against dark magic.
- Sealing Energy within a Participant during Sacred Ceremonies to keep the influences of the healing spirits within the body of the participant after the Sacred Ceremony, shielding from negative energies. Such Holy Icaros are also categorised as Holy “Arkana Icaros”.
- During closure of a Sacred Ceremony to complete the Sacred Ceremony and the energy bodies of the participants.
During a Sacred Ceremony, a Shaman will ‘Sing’ the Holy Icaros to control energies, visions and imageries of participants, usually using voice, whistling, sometimes accompanied with instruments like flute. During a Sacred Ceremony, the Shaman invites the Holy Plant first with Holy Icaros, and then requests the Healing.
Negative Use of Holy Icaros
There are Sorcerers who use the Holy Icaros to cause harm upon others by singing Holy Icaros in a negative fashion, either to cause harm (dano), bring misfortune, illness, or ever death to their enemies or to people they may be seeking revenge against.
Modernised Holy Icaros
The Holy Icaros are traditionally sung without any instruments or with shaking of shacapa, leaf-bundle rattle. In modern times shamans have been using other musical equipment including variety of drums, panpipes, maracas, harmonica, stringed instruments, with new singing styles.
Some shamans have experimented with traditional Peruvian instruments including bone flutes, panpipes, conch shells, rattles, and whistling vessels, percussion, violin, charango, and keyboard. Some new generation shamans are also known to use guitars and sometimes Peruvian wind and string instrument. Renowned musicians have performed Holy Icaros with modern music, and launched albums with shipibo shamans as cross cultural music.
These new format of singing the Holy Icaros, with or without being accompanied by modern musical instruments, cannot be comparable with traditional Holy Icaros, which are taught by the Holy Plants, and connects with spirit dimensions. Although, these modern renditions are introducing Holy Icaros to the worldwide audience, but not in original formats.
The actual Holy Icaros, are not music, they are ‘Communications’, which must be ‘intended’ as so, before ‘sung’. Without the essence of the purpose and reasons behind ‘singing’ the Holy Icaros, the art will be lost. With growing lack of interest among the new generation, who are losing interest in continuing the legacy of shamans by becoming apprentice – either because they find the process too difficult, as they must adhere to strict diet and abstinences or because they are more interested learning quickly from books – whatever may be the reason, the signing of Holy Icaros with the original essence may be fading away with time.
However, the growing global interest in the Holy Medicine of the Holy and Divine Mother Ayahuasca provides the hope as the tourists are driving demand for shamans and helping shamanism thrive by bringing shamans economic prosperity to continue their ‘art’. As, by the blessings of the Holy and Divine Mother Ayahuasca, the shamans get to earn more from the tourists and growing demand on the Holy Medicine, the youth to some degree are eventually becoming interested to pursue shamanism as career prospects.
Listening o the Holy Icaros can be heart lightening and have phenomenal and hidden positive impact on the listener especially since the Holy Icaros have been taught Directly by the Holy Plants, containing mystical, spiritual communications and tremendous healing potential.
The participant should learn more about the Holy Icaros and remain open to the healing potentials so that their personal healing reaches full potential during a Sacred Ceremony as the Holy Icaros can impact them fully without any mental hindrance from them as they remain open to the Holy Icaros healing them.
You can Listen to some of the Holy Icaros digitally, which were available in YouTube, Spotify and other sources (accessed in May, 2021).
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Icaros
- Spotify: Icaros for Ceremony
- Soundcloud: Ayahuasca Icaro sung by Shipibo Shaman Benjamin Ochavano.
- Beyer S. V., 2009, Singing to the Plants: A Guide to Mestizo Shamanism in the Upper Amazon, University of New Mexico Press, USA.
- Francuski X., What Are Ayahuasca Icaros & How Do They Work?, available at: https://entheonation.com/blog/ayahuasca-icaros/, [accessed on 15th April, 2021.]