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Glossary of Terminology
of the Shamanic & Ceremonial Traditions
of the Inca Medicine Lineage

as Practiced in the United States

CAUTION: The inclusion of herbs, symptomatology and treatments for disease within this glossary
is not meant for diagnosis of, nor prescription for treatment of, any medical condition.
This information is included for anthropological and historical study only.


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Ch, Ch' & Chh
F & G
K' & Kh
N & ‹
P', Ph
Q', Qh
T' & Th


    Use the Firefox browser with the CoolPreviews add on. CoolPreviews will give a magnifying glass icon at every link when you put your cursor on the link. Click on the icon and it will open a separate, smaller window with the definition of the term in it. You can either lock the window by clicking the padlock icon in the top bar of the little window, or move your cursor off the window and it will automatically close. This is almost as good as mouseovers.


    Bactris (Pyrenoglyphis sp.): (n) Elder payés transmit their supernatural power to young initiates by putting a number of splinters of this palm on the pupil's forearm and pressing them firmly with the magic quartz crystal. These are also virotes by means of which payés send sickness and death to distant enemies and to all who have broken the moral code. AYV


    balsam of Peru, balsam of Tolu: (n) Myroxylon balsamum, also known as quina or balsamo. Other names include tolu in Colombia, quina quina in Argentina; in lumber trade, sometimes named santos mahogany. Peru Balsam aromatic resin is extracted from the variant Myroxylon balsamum pereirae, native from Central America farther north. The name is a misinterpretation of its origin, since it was originally assembled and shipped to Europe from the ports of Callao and Lima, in Peru, even though the species is not indigenous to Peru. The indigenous use of Peru Balsam led to its export to Europe in the seventeenth century, where it was first documented in the German Pharmacopedia. Today El Salvador is the main exporter of Peru Balsam where it is extracted under a plainly handicraft process. Peru balsam has uses in medicine, pharmaceutical, in the food industry and in perfumery. It has been used as a cough suppressant, in the treatment of dry socket in dentistry, in suppositories for hemorrhoids, the plants have been reported to inhibit Mycobacterium tuberculosis as well as the common ulcer-causing bacteria, H. pylori in test-tube studies, so it is used topically as a treatment of wounds and ulcers, as an antiseptic and used as an anal muscle relaxant. Peru Balsam can be found in diaper rash ointments, hair tonics, antidandruff preparations, and feminine hygiene sprays and as a natural fragrance in soaps, detergents, creams, lotions, and perfumes. WIKI   It happens to be a fairly good febrifuge when given by mouth. The tree was given the name of quina-quina and appears with this name in the bills of lading coming from Peru as early as 1609. In the Quechua language a repeated voice frequently suggests a plant of medicinal or toxic properties, i.e., chancha-chancha, chullco-chullco, cilla-cilla, etc. DYE  

    Balsam of Peru. WIKI  

    balsam of copaiba, Jesuit's balsam, copal, palo de aceite, capivi: (n) Copaefera Officinalis. Antibacterial, diuretic, disinfectant and stimulant properties. The resin contains caryophyllene, a phytochemical with strong anti-inflammatory, fungal and pain relieving properties. The hydrocarbons in copaiba are terpenes, including pinene (commonly known as turpentine). Copaiba is used topically to relieve inflammation and help heal athlete's foot, eczema and psoriasis, and heals damaged skin with minimal scarring. Shampoos containing copaiba are effective in fighting dandruff. Copaiba balsam been found most beneficial in chronic coughs, catarrh, colds, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems. ARC

    Balsam of copaiba, leaves, flowers, seeds.

    bamba (Span): (n) The Spanish pronunciation and spelling for the Quechua pampa.

    banco (Span), bancu (sp.): (n) (1) One of the three levels of vegetalista, a shaman who masters the jungle realm and has contact with the sky spirits, understand the secrets of the earth. The banco lies face down in the mosquito net and the spirits descend and sit on him, giving correct diagnoses and the cure. In some traditions, the banco is unable to enter the underwater realm. In others (the Lamista), a sinchi runa must live near a waterfall or the tributary of a large river to gain direct contact with the underwater world.  Bancos have the power to immerse themselves for hours and days during which time they cease to have relations with their wives in order to dedicate themselves to their yaku warmi. AYV (2) A field of the curandero mesa. GOL   See, campo.

    banco curandero (Span): See, campo justiciero.

    banco de gloria (Span): Right-hand field of the curandero mesa. GOL  (See, campo justiciero.)

    banco ganadero: See, campo ganadero.

    baraja (Span): (n) From barajar, to shuffle cards. SEES Tarot cards or any deck of cards. GOL  

    bautisay: (v) To baptize.  PSL (n) Baptism. RS (sp.)

    bautisakuy: (v) To be baptized (sp.). PSL

    bejuco de las calenturas (Span): (n) Literally, vine for fevers (Mascagnia psilophylla), its mama is the boa, but it also has other mamas: a dwarf dressed in red, needles and pins. Fire, too, is its mother. Mixed with ayahuasca, it is most powerful in curing extreme cases, patients with convulsions or typhus. The root is used for curing high fevers. AYV


    bejuco de la estrella, contrayerba: (n) The Cholone Indians use the root to cure rheumatic and venereal pains, drinking a decoction of it at night. A few hours after taking such a draught, the patient breaks out in a profuse sweat that continues for three days. On the fourth day, he is fully recovered and can leave his sick bed without any ill effects to hinder his work. I have used this root in Peru for killing toothache. One might expect that in time this root will find an important use in medicine, for its aroma and taste bespeak excellent properties, making it valuable for a number of therapeutic applications. REPC

    Bejuco de la estrella.

    bell (Eng): When rung by the paq'o in ceremony, it calls the Apus. IGMP (See, chanrara.)

    bendición: (n) Blessing (sp.). PSL

    bendeciy: (v) To bless (sp.). PSL

    bestiality (Eng): A sexual practice frequently found among the pre-Columbians of Peru. The most common form was the sexual relations the shepherds had with the female llamas, a custom old enough to be recorded in the ancient ceramics and strong enough to have survived more than four centuries of Western indoctrination. It is said that the Incas strongly penalized those who committed this act. The custom still appears sporadically in the high plateaus of the Peruvian sierras. Bestiality probably existed also among women as it is recorded in their mythology, although ceramic representation is rare and dubious. It is possible, however, that these representations (see picture below) are actually religious symbolisms. Acts of love between a woman and an animal frequently depict the totemic origin of a human group. DYE See, sexual activity for more information and other links.

    Partial view of a Mochica ceramic piece showing a mythological
    animal copulating with a woman.

    birth control (Eng): An increase in population was a very desired complement to the political expansion of the empire; but the Inca were fully aware of the dangers of family overgrowth and knew well the disturbing biological and social effects of an undesired pregnancy. A pregnant woman, for example, was forbidden normal sexual contact with her husband; and once she was delivered, this prohibition continued for two more years until the suckling baby was weaned. Since they never used animal milk to feed their children and they knew that a new pregnancy would usually interrupt the production of maternal milk, any woman with a suckling baby was harshly penalized if she became pregnant during this period. Therefore, to avoid pregnancy, they practiced anal and oral coitus, as well as mutual masturbation, in order to satisfy their husbands. This is well depicted in [pre-Columbian] ceramics, which often show very clearly a recumbent woman holding a baby in arms and having anal intercourse with a man; or a woman on all fours with signs of pregnancy, practicing the same act. DYE See, sexual activity for more information and other links.

    birth defects (Eng): (n) Congenital anomalies were interpreted as acts of the gods leading to the identification of those were considered of holy origin and usually were led into activities connected with religion and divination. The still-born or those who died because of a non-viable malformation -- like hydrocephaly or anencephaly -- were mummified and kept at home in ceramic urns to be honored as evidence of the divine will. DYE See, pregnancy.

    black ayahuasca: See, ayahuasca trueno, ayahuasca india.

    bloodletting (therapeutic) (Eng): See, circcacuy and surgical tools.

    blowing (Eng): (n) The exhalation of air by the shaman is an expression of his/her power. Singing, chanting, naming are variationof the act of creative and transformative blowing. Shamans can blow spells. A manifestation of the soul or spirit, when done along with the uttering of spells or prayers, the shaman can direct the power of spirit toward a specific end. Blowing has curative and protective power, imparts life force and can change the state of being of the client. AYV (See, camay, phukuy, samay, saminchaska)

    boa: (n) A large terrestrial and arboreal constrictor snake, the embodiment of the sach'amama. AYV


    boa negra (Span): (n) The black anaconda which acts as a bridge between the earth and the water. Can also be yakumama or sach'amama. AYV (See, yana puma, k'uychi.)

    boldu, boldo: (n) Peumus boldus. Its leaves, which have a strong, woody and slightly bitter flavor and camphor-like aroma, are used for culinary purposes, primarily in Latin America. The leaves are used in a similar manner to bay leaves and also used as a tea. Although not well known, boldo fruits, which appear between December and February, are very tasty, nutritious, small, green, edible spheres. WIKI The dry leaves are used in infusion or decoction as a digestive and to improve hepatic complaints. Preliminary assays showed free-radical scavenging activity in hot water extracts of boldo leaves. NIH  Chileans employ the crushed leaves extensively to strengthen the stomach and relieve pains. They cure earaches with the sap of the leaves extracted with water. To treat running sores and colds in the head, they apply the leaves, half roasted, bruised and sprayed with wine. Warm baths prepared with the leaves are taken as unsurpassed cures for rheumatism and dropsy [an old term for edema (swelling) -- Patt]. An infusion of the leaves can be taken daily. REPC


    borrachero, yas, flor de quinde, arbol de campanilla: (n) From Spanish borrachera meaning a drinking binge. SEES Lachroma fuchsioides. A member of the nightshade family, Found in the high Andes of Columbia and ecuador. The leaves and flowers are psychoactive. It is either smoked or used as a tea. It is used as an ayahuasca additive; the shamans of the Columbian indigenous use this nightshade when confronted with cases that are difficult to diagnose. It is also used as a narcotic for difficult births and digestive disorders. Curanderos use it as a contrahechizo as an additive to the San Pedro drink and as a purgative for treating diseases caused by harmful magic. It is said to induce vomiting and diarrhea, thereby cleansing the body of all poisons and negative influences. It is also used as a bath additive for removing magic. EPP

    The inebriating nightshade borrachera is shown on this old
    Indian drawing from Colombia. The bird shown hovering
    above the tree is likely a transformed shaman or the
    vision-inducing spirit of the plant.

    The leaves and flowers of the psychoactive plant also
    known as arbol de campanilla (tree of the little bell).

    breast feeding (Eng): (n) When suckling her baby, the Inca woman would never put it in her lap or hold it in her arms, lest the child should become accustomed to being carried in her arms and reject the cradle. The quirao was placed on the floor and the mother would recline to place her breast within the baby's reach. This was done only three times a day, spaced like the adult normal meals. “If the baby should already crawl,” said chronicler Garcilaso, “he was placed on the ground and the mother would approach him so that he could reach her breast … for the other breast, he was signaled by his mother to come around and get it, but the mother would never take him in her arms…” These rules were enforced probably only in the rigidly educated families of the Inca nobility, since the ceramics of practically all the other cultures show us much more tender mother/child scenes. DYE

    breech birth (Eng): (n) The birth of a baby from a breech presentation, in which the baby exits the pelvis buttocks or feet first as opposed to the normal head first presentation. WIKI Breech presentations had such a mysterious significance that if the child survived he was considered a holy man; and if he did not survive, his body was desiccated and kept inside a clay urn in the house. It was named Chacpa and it protected the household against illness. DYE See, pregnancy and midwives.

    Brugmansia suaveolens: (n) Angel's trumpet, a datura shrub in the nightshade family. Smoked or brewed by individuals in lone quests within the spirit world. WCE [Caveat: all daturas are very toxic, even deadly, when abused.] (See, toé.)

    brujería: (n) Refers to the practice of the brujo, or to a magically induced illness. EMM

    brujo / bruja (Span): (n) Male/female wizard, sorcerer, or witch. CEES Generally associated to a sorcerer or witch-doctor whose practice is focused on causing harm to his/her enemies, either for personal gain (i.e., paid by a client to induce illness or kill a person) or revenge. The title is full of negative association in the Peruvian Amazon, almost without exception, although in some areas of the Andes (Ecuador) it may refer to a shaman who is equally capable of causing harm or to heal. EMM The brujos know how to prepare potions to cause love, hate, pity, or to drive a man crazy. Impartial and disinterested practitioners, they administer according to the needs of their clients. TAV

    He could be a sorcerer or a shaman, because
    shamans are called brujos in Ecuador. Pictures of
    known sorcerers at work are not surprisingly
    almost impossible to find.
    -- Patt]

    bubinzana (Amaz): (n) Also called an icaro; a sacred song which is an invocation, a musical prayer. THIM

    bufeo colorado (Span): (n) The pink river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis) which legend has given the powers of shapeshifting into human form in order to have sex with humans (some pregnant women attribute their condition to the bufeo); when they have shapeshifted, then can often be spotted because they become ch'ullan chakis, or wear hats to conceal their blowholes. Large dolphins are the authorities of the river world; small dolphins are the police. They are considered to be powerful shamans, probably because of their behavior of whistling and blowing forcefully from their blowholes, very much like a shaman blowing virotes or whistling an icaro. AYV Some sorcerers are said to capture a female bufeo and cut a ring of tissue from around her vagina to make a talisman to attract women. THIMTo see two videos of the dolphins by National Geographic, click here and here.


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