The Huni Kuin Story of Ayahuasca and the Boa Mother
Huni Kuin is another name the Kaxinawa people use to refer to themselves. Most indigenous tribes that hold the Ayahuasca as a sacred medicine have a legend about how this medicine came to their tribe from the spirit beings of the forest. This is the Huni Kuin story.
It is said that the Huni Kuin warrior went hunting. He was hunting and came upon the shore of a lake, where he met an enchanted white boa constrictor that lived at the bottom of the lake. This magical snake had the power to transform into a woman. She could walk around on land as a woman and change back into a Boa when she went home to the lake.
When the warrior met her he immediately fell deeply in love. He asked her to marry him and she accepted. The warrior forgot all about his previous life and was very happy living at the bottom of the lake with the boa. She shared with him the sacred knowledge and ways of her spiritual lineage.
In the lake there was a community of enchanted spirits and forest beings that lived together. They all knew the secret powers of Ayahuasca and the warrior learned from the White Boa all of its sacred teachings on how to prepare the Ayahuasca brew, the sacred chants and mantras, how to call the enchanted powers of the forest and access the visions of the Boa Boa. Today the Huni Kuin know the vine as Nixi Pae and the leaf as Kawa, which together make the Ayahuasca brew. The mantra of the Huni Kuin is the Huni Meka, the song of the Boa. Although the warrior learned all this, the White Boa did not allow him to drink the Ayahuasca brew at the time. Instead, he participated in the ceremonies and learned all of the rituals and songs without drinking.
The Huni Kuin warrior lived in the bottom of the lake for 3 years and had 3 children with his wife the White Boa. One day the shaman of the community traveled out into the forest to gather the Liana vine and the Chacruna leaf to prepare the brew, and the warrior felt that it was time for him to participate in the sacrament. He had been learning these sacred teachings for three years and asked the Boa once more if he could drink the sacred brew.
The Boa told him that it was very strong and that there were many vivid visions, and that he might not be able to comprehend all the mysteries of the forest visions. Still he insisted and said it was time. Finally, the Boa said "You are free, if you want to take it, meditate on the patterns of my snake body, so that you may have a good vision, to bring to our community knowledge, wisdom and the light of the ayahuasca.
So that night he drank the brew and they all had a ceremony at the bottom of the dark lake. It was an incredible night and all of the animals of the area attended the ceremony. They began to sing and each one was served a glass of the drink. Soon they had a second glass, and then a third. After the third round, they began to receive the forces of the vine, the incorporation of all the vibrations of the ayahuasca; the energy of the earth, of the water and of the forest. The warrior began to perceive the true awesomeness of the miracles of the Boa.
He had many visions and received knowledge about the forest, the stars in the sky and about the Earth, but then he had an intense vision of the White Boa eating him alive. Suddenly, he felt like he was being swallowed and could not move and began to scream loudly, even though he had been previously warned that screaming was not allowed. The Shamans who had prepared the brew were frightened, they took this vision away from the warrior and made a healing prayer over his body, and promptly the day dawned and the ceremony ended. Since this was a very sacred ritual to the White Boa, the Shamans were very upset and a little offended by what had happened. There was unrest in the lake and that morning the boa constrictor went hunting.
The warrior had an enchanted fish friend who lived in the lake and came to talk to him when the Boa had left. The fish told the forgetful warrior about the warrior's life before he came to the lake, about the Huni Kuin community he used to be a part of and the family he had left behind. He told him about his human children with his first wife, who were always searching for their father, wishing he would come back to their village.
The warrior accepted his friend's invitation to lead him back to his original home in the Huni Kuin community. When the warrior left the lake, he ointed his whole body with plant medicine to transform himself into his original self and he looked like a Huni Kuin warrior once more, and not a dweller of the lake depths. When the Boa arrived from the hunt, the warrior had already arrived back in his old home.
He reunited with his first wife and told her the story of what had happened to him during all these years. He told her about the enchanted snake whom he fell in love with and lived with at the bottom of the lake, about the enchanted forest creatures, all of the knowledge he had gained about the Liana vine and the Ayahuasca brew and about the visions he had in ceremony. His wife listened to everything he said, and received him back lovingly, but she was afraid he would go back to the boa and would not let him leave the house.
After some years passed, the warrior one day returned to the place where he had first met the White Snake. He returned because he had seen in his vision that he would return, and that he had a mission to fulfill with the Boa. There, the warrior met the son of the White Snake, his own son, who was looking for his father. It was his youngest son, and the little boa child came and bit the warrior's fingertip, but did not have the strength or size to eat his father whole. So the little boa called his brother to help. The second boa child came and bit the tip of the warrior's toe, but also could not swallow. They called their older brother, who came and also bit without being able to swallow. Together, they all called for their mother and throught the jungle the giant White Boa came slithering to meet them. She immediately was able to swallow both of the warrior's feet, and then made her way up his legs to his waist, and then up past his belly, just like in the vision. The warrior, unable to move, began to scream loudly into the forest.
The Huni Kuin people heard the cries and came running to see what was happening. They found the warrior half swallowed by the Boa, but still alive and screaming. The other Huni Kuin warriors managed to kill the large Boa and remove the warrior from its jaws, but the warrior's body was very badly damaged, most of his bones were broken and he knew he would not survive. The warrior asked his relatives to bring the Boa's body along with his and that they be buried side by side. He asked them not to be buried together because, as he explained, his body was going to transform into a giant vine that would grow up from his grave, and the Boa's body was going to transform into a large shrub of the Kawa leaves, the Queen of the Forest.
Three months laters, the vine and leaf were born there the way he said they would. In his remaining time before dying and being buried, the warrior had given the tribe instructions on how to treat these plants with the utmost respect. To ask permission from nature and from the vine and shrub themselves, before extracting the vine and leaf. He also taught them the teachings of the mantras and the singing and how to use it to connect to the sacred visions and the forest spirit. From then on, the mission was fulfilled and the enchantment was sealed. The vine grew quickly and was very thick. The elders of the community followed the warriors instructions on how to extract the vine and leaf with respect and of all of the rituals to clean them and cook them together in a clay pot with water. The fire had to be made with a special tree from the forest, the Yapa Karu.
The entire community was invited to participate in the ayahuasca ceremony and as they drank the brew and sang the chants they had been taught, they began to receive all of the sacred mantras of the Snake. In their visions, they succeeded in learning all of the Huni Meká chants and all of the wisdom of nature, science, the mysteries of the forest and the knowledge of the Boa Constrictor guardian. They hence forth became the guardians of the Snake medicine and called themselves the people of the Boa.
And so is the legend of how the Ayahuasca came to the Huni Kuin people of the Kaxinawa tribes, and how they learned to respect and honor this sacred forest medicine.