Icaros: Magical Healing Songs of the Amazon


It wasn’t until my third Ayahuasca ceremony that I became fully aware of the magic and power of the icaro (sacred songs sung by shamans during healing ceremonies). The shamans of the Amazon claim that icaros are healing gifts taught directly from the spirits of the plants themselves for a myriad of healing applications. Icaros are sung during ceremonies to hold a protected healing space whilst helping participants navigate safely throughout the visionary spirit realms.

In the Shipibo culture, icaros are visually represented as intricate geometric patterns. In fact, if you visit a Shipibo community, you’ll likely see these patterns absolutely everywhere, from they clothes they wear to the buildings on the streets. According to Shipibo culture, everything in the universe has its own song, and it’s the singing of these songs that helps maintain balance and harmony on our planet. At a level of personal healing, when the shaman sings icaros during Ayahuasca ceremonies, they help return balance to the subtle energy geometric patterns of the person being sung to. That’s right, a true shaman can sing someone back together!

Tonight’s Ayahuasca medicine has taken me into a deep altered state, and for the first time, I see the shaman’s powerful icaros come to life. I can visually see an electric rainbow matrix-web of energy flowing out from his throat and reaching into each of the participants in the room. I see how his icaro is working on everybody at the same time, delving deep into everyone’s bodies, minds, spirits and past lives. The magic of the icaro is revealed to my eyes as a multi-dimensional healing matrix that works beyond the borders of space and time. I feel his icaro energetically piercing right through me like a surgical needle, sucking up negative energy from my own lives as well as those of my ancestors.

As the shaman’s icaros bring all this negative energy to surface, I experience waves of nausea. I look out again and witness how the icaro energy-matrix is “dancing” with everyone’s nausea. Sometimes, a participant’s nausea is directed to the shaman for purging, whilst at other times it’s directed to another participant. At one point, I notice how a particular nausea emanating from my German ancestry is handed over to a German participant for purging. The Ayahuasca medicine tells me that she is releasing for me, and that I should thank her later, which I do.

The medicine is really working me hard tonight and it feels like the icaros are continually bringing me to the brink of purging before sending off the nausea somewhere else for release. And it’s the first ceremony I don’t purge myself. The strangest moment unfolds when I witness one particularly intense wave of nausea being sent back in time to the preceding ceremony two nights before, during which I experienced the biggest purge of my life. “Icaros can send energy through time?” I wonder in amazement to myself. OK, now I’m really blown away by the power of these sacred songs.

As a musician, I love how central a role these healing songs play in the cultures of the Amazon. This experience reminds me of the healing power of music in all cultures and of the countless times I’ve felt uplifted and comforted by listening to my favorite records.

And as someone interested in spirituality, I love how these songs are credited to the plant spirits themselves, and therefore considered as healing gifts from nature. There’s such a close, symbiotic relationship between human communities and the natural world here in the Amazon, and it’s something I realize that’s been missing for some time now in the urbanized, concrete-dominant culture that I grew up in.

I wonder how many healing songs there are in the plants of other countries and cultures, just waiting patiently for us to slow down, open our hearts and really listen. You never know, there may just be there’s a healing icaro waiting for you in the sentient plants of your own backyard.


Peter Uhlenbruch

Peter Uhlenbruch is a cultural entrepreneur who is passionate about spirituality, music and sustainability. He is founder of the Melodica Festival (a global network of artist-run festivals that build community through music), writes introspective indie-folk music under the banner Owls of the Swamp and works as a business analyst. You can read more about Pete’s journey with Ayahuasca on his personal blog.


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