For thousands of years, tribes of the Amazon basin have used tobacco snuff as a shamanic medicine or tool, which has become an integral part of their culture and history. One of these snuffs, Rapé, is made by numerous indigenous tribes in Acre, Brazil. Interestingly, Rapé is not sniffed, snorted, or inhaled. It is administered (blown) into the nostrils with a special blowpipe known as a Kuripe (self-administration) or Tepi (administration by another person). The blow is not very pleasant. Some people find it shocking.
Rapé dust appears as a fine, grey-to-sand-colored dust. The traditional method for processing Tobacco is to add tree ashes to it and pound it, resulting in a fine dust as fine as 125 microns. Tobacco varieties used are not the typically known N tabacum, but N rustica varieties like Corda or Moi and in some cases also Mapacho. Its potency, Nicotiana rustica, is darker and stronger than Nicotiana tabacum, making it capable of eliciting grounding and alerting effects.
Ash is another important component in Rapé. Ash comes from the bark of a variety of medicinal or sacred trees. Often, the exact composition and ratio of ingredients as well as the method of producing ashes remain a secret.
Shamans in South America use tobacco as a sacred, wholesome medicine and tobacco and shamanism share a close bond that has little in common with our western way of using tobacco. Tribal groups used tobacco for spiritual purposes (e.g. vision quests, trances, etc.) and curing, but rarely for smoking. Tobacco has been thoroughly ingrained in South American indigenous cultures, such as the Kaxinawá, Yawanawá, and Katukina, and has been used for ritual, medicinal, and recreational purposes for at least 2,000 years.
Effects and Usage
Tobacco snuff or Rapé can be used for several purposes among indigenous tribes, including female puberty rites, initiation rites, cashiri festivals, and social rites. However, every tribe has their own routine. Some tribes use it every day after breakfast and dinner, while other tribes use it three times at night.
A typical Rapé ceremony involves mutual administration between two people. Rapé is blown through a bamboo or bone pipe into the nostrils. Intense blows instantly focus the mind, stop the chatter, and open the entire freed mind space for your intentions. Furthermore, this helps release emotional, physical, and spiritual illnesses, and relieves negativity and confusion, allowing for a complete grounding of the mind. Similarly, shamans use Rapé to re-align with their energy channels and with their higher self and to strengthen their connection with the universe and the world. As well, Rapé detoxifies the body and eliminates all excess mucus, toxins, and bacteria, thereby aiding in the fight against colds and sniffles. Rapé stimulates the mind with its Nicotine content which in turn releases a.o Epinephrine, Acetylcholine, and Dopamine, resulting in increased focus, presence, and intuition. According to rumors, Rapé decalcifies the pineal gland, which is responsible for melatonin secretion, circadian time perception, and drug metabolism. Fluoride exposure and pineal gland calcification have been linked to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. This underscores the importance of a healthy pineal gland. Nevertheless, whether Rapé can actually aid in decalcification of the pineal gland remains highly debated and needs to be scientifically proven.
Production of Rapé
In addition to Tobacco, a Rapé blend may also contain the ashes of aromatic plants or medicinal plants. In order to dry the tobacco, small pieces must first be cut and then dried over low heat. Tobacco and ashes are then ground and pulverized in a large mortar and pestle. After many days of ceremonial pounding, the resulting dust is sieved through the finest cloth, and the remains are ground a second time until it is fine and smooth. For maximum freshness, the mixture is kept in bottles, plugged tubes, or ornamental bottles made of bone.
In general, a dosage that is not larger than a pea per serving is recommended. The Rapé needs to be blown into both nostrils as it is so important to do so. Therefore, you will need two pea-sized portions as a good starting point. Tolerance varies from person to person, so every individual might prefer a different dosage. If you are starting with a pea-sized dose, then you will need to experiment for yourself to find the appropriate dose.
To self-administer, all you need to do is place a small amount (half a pea’s worth) into the nasal end of the applicator. Once your mouth is attached to the other end, you can blow. It’s okay to experiment with different blows, from shorter sharp ones to longer gentle ones. It needs to be done in both nostrils.
Prior to using Rapé, make sure you are in a calm environment and center yourself. Rapé can be used to transform intentions, as well as cutting through whatever mental or emotional field you are in. It usually takes a few minutes for the initial experience and the strong feeling to wear off, while the newly gained state remains for a long time.
How to take Rapé: Set and Setting
By indigenous tribes, all medicinal plants are considered sacraments and prayers. We recommend that you use this sacred medicine, Rapé, in an environment which honors and values the plant for its teaching and healing capabilities. Incense, crystals, chumpi stones, tribal music, and nature create a perfect environment for meditation and reflection when using rapé. Prior to embracing Rapé, it is very important to aim your mind and prepare an intention; sit in silence and focus on your intention before commencing the practice. Whether you hope to gain further insights, heal physically or energetically, or gain greater clarity or healing in your life, this intention can be useful. You can then ask the spirit world or the universe to assist you in that process once you have found an intention.
After that, the receiver inhales deeply and holds his breath for a few seconds before receiving the medicine, first through the left nostril, symbolizing death. The right side of the body is then treated with Rapé, which symbolizes rebirth. Inhaling and exhaling slowly through the mouth is the best way to ground and maintain focus after the experience. When grounding, keep your thoughts and energy focused instead of putting your experience into words. Rather than fall into suffering or drama, notice how easy it is to channel the experience into your heart, and how it gives you a sense of warrior power and grounding, and how it helps you rebalance.
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