Microcosms is honored that Neil Logan, co-creator of the AgroforestryX.com Design Tool, and Jonathon Miller Weisberger, author of Rainforest Medicine: Preserving Indigenous Science and Biological Diversity in the Upper Amazon, have accepted the invitation to be guest writers for this new section of the Plant Index called The Yagé Complex. Their research and personal experience with the enigmatic and fascinating varieties of Banisteriopsis caapi and other members of the Malpighiaceae family take us to the very origin of the synergistic plant knowledge of yagé/ayahuasca that has been cared for over the course of ancestral time by the Siekopai (Secoya) wisdom keepers (such as Fernando Payaguaje) and their gods. The stunning confocal images on display here generated by Microscopy Specialist Jill Pflugheber exemplify innovative art-science projects that, according to Joanna Page in Decolonizing Science in Latin American Art, “increase our understanding of other species by promoting an aesthetic and affective engagement with new scientific findings, or deploy scientific techniques for objectives other than those of predicting, controlling or commodifying the natural world.”
The Yagé Complex
by Neil Logan
Dedicated to Miguel Payaguaje and his extended family (including his father Delfín and his grandfather Fernando), as well as all the vine gardeners responsible for stewarding these sacred plants through time.
This essay will present the origins, evolution, and human co-history of the Malpighiaceae family of ethnomedically significant vines in order to shed light on the confusion and controversy surrounding these important taxa. The intention is to draw attention to the importance of preservation and support of the indigenous cultures that continue to have deep connections with these sacred plants before this knowledge is gone. Images created with the confocal microscope of these species are featured in the website Microcosms: A Homage to Sacred Plants of the Americas. Read the full article here.
Yagé Varieties and Their Names
By Jonathon Miller Weisberger
In this essay, I will share some key insights into the notable varieties of Amazonia’s enigmatic visionary vine, Banisteriopsis caapi, specifically related to the Indigenous science of yagé, as known and practiced by the Western Tukanoan speaking Siekopai people of the northern Ecuadorian Amazon. The information I received about these plants was imparted to me by the kind-hearted traditional elders, stewards of this ancestral sacred knowledge, who I befriended during my sojourn of five years (1995-2000) while living at the home of traditional elder Cesáreo Piaguaje. A focus on the indigenous names of B. caapi in the Paicoca language reveals fascinating symbolic attributes and cultural lore related to this mystical woody liana that is the basis of the holistic, ceremonial, and entheogenic plant medicine tradition of yagé. Read the full article here.