Singing to the Plants

Singing to the Plants is a book written by Steve Beyer,

which explores in great length just what Peruvian mestizos shamanism is all about — what happens at an ayahuasca healing ceremony, how the apprentice shaman forms a spiritual relationship with the healing plant spirits, how sorcerers inflict the harm that the shaman heals, and the ways that plants are used in healing, love magic, and sorcery.

About the Book


"There are several reasons why a book on the mestizo shamanism of the Upper Amazon is worth writing at this time. Mestizo shamanism occupies an exceptional place among the shamanisms of the Upper Amazon, assimilating key features of indigenous shamanisms, and at the same time adapting and transforming them. There is today considerable interest in shamanism in general, and in Upper Amazonian shamanism in particular, especially its use of plant hallucinogens; yet there is currently no readily accessible text giving general consideration to the unique features of Amazonian shamanism and its relationship to shamanisms elsewhere in the world.

We now know much more about shamanism than when Mircea Eliade published his famous overview in 1951. There is now a wider range of excellent ethnographies, including many of Amazonian peoples; debates within the field have sharpened an awareness of many of the assumptions that underlay the fieldwork of many decades ago. Indeed, we now know, too, much more about ethnobotany, hallucinations, and the actions of such substances as dimethyltryptamine.

Moreover, ayahuasca shamanism has become part of global culture. The visionary ayahuasca paintings of Pablo César Amaringo are available to a world market in a sumptuous coffee-table book; international ayahuasca tourists exert a profound economic and cultural pull on previously isolated local practitioners; ayahuasca shamanism, once the terrain of anthropologists, is the subject of novels and spiritual memoirs. Ayahuasca shamans perform their healing rituals in Ontario and Wisconsin. It is time to try to put some of this together.

Singing to the Plants emphasizes both the uniqueness of this highly eclectic and absorptive shamanism — plant spirits dressed in surgical scrubs, extraterrestrial doctors speaking computer language — and its deep roots in shamanist beliefs and practices, both healing and sorcery, common to the Upper Amazon. The work seeks to understand this form of shamanism, its relationship to other shamanisms, and its survival in the new global economy, through anthropology, ethnobotany, cognitive psychology, legal history, and my own personal experiences studying wilderness survival and plant healing in the Amazon." -Steve Beyer

    "This extraordinary book is as thorough an account of any shamanistic complex as is available today." --Religious Studies Review

    "An exhaustively researched and detailed study, unique among its kind, and an absolute 'must-have.'" --Midwest Book Review

    "Both highly readable and scholarly... This is an excellent and strong book that, because of its reach and detail, will become a classic in the field of Amazonian shamanism." --Journal of Shamanic Practice

    "Beyer has found the sweet spot between scholarly and popular writing, the otherworldly and the ordinary, participation and observation; the result is the single best book I have seen yet on ayahuasca." --Erowid

“Beyer pushes past surface elements of shamanic craft and takes an objective look at everything he reports… By far the best book on ayahuasca shamanism I have ever read.” --DoseNation

    "His own experiences with the potent hallucinogen ayahuasca are woven seamlessly into local, regional, and even global contexts... Serious scholarship blended with subjectivity and self-reflection." --Medical Anthropology Quarterly

    “A riveting, yet thoroughly academic, nonfiction page-turner… Though verifiably academic, each page reads like a novel — with layers upon layers of intrigue and information, and with the plants, the animals, and the teachers as finely drawn characters imbued with complexity, mystery, and wisdom.” --International Journal of Transpersonal Studies