The Power of the Ikaros and the Arkanas

Ikaros are a major part of a shaman’s repertoire, this is the main medium through which almost everything is directed during ceremony. The magical chanting or ikaros is where all the power lies, so it would be correct to claim that to a great extent, the power of a vegetalista is embodied in his icaros.

The word ikaro seems to be borrowed from the Quechua verb ikaray, which means "to blow smoke " in order to heal. The vegetalistas of Iquitos and other areas of the Peruvian Amazon use the verb ikarar, which means to sing, blow or whistle a melody over a person or an object in the intention of transferring power.

The ikaro bridges between intention and action in the will to manifest, it is an act of creation. The verb is sound and sound is frequency and frequency is at the core of all creation. This is reminiscent of the biblical account of the creation of a living being, where life is blown into an inanimate piece of clay to create life which reflects the intention of its creator. In this case, will alone is still latent and unmanifested and is empowered through the verb in conveying the act of creation. It all starts with the verb in the form of a command.

Ikaros are used ritually, but not only in Ayahuasca sessions, they are also used during the preparation of remedies, during healing sessions, to communicate with spirits, to travel to other realms, to invoque past shamans and teachers, to direct or modify the effects of plant medicine and even during activities such as fishing and hunting for certain species. The Shipibo terms for ikaro are taquina, nasha and cusho (to work by blowing). There is great responsibility involved at the moment of intoning an Ikaro to entune to co-create with the universe. The sacred chanting of Ikaros is often used in summoning the power of diverse agents of protection in order to set in place an arkana.


The term arkana is probably a word derived from the Quechua arkay, which means "to block", "to bar". It is usually described as a body shield that protects the individual from any evil influence, hence it is impenetrable to the actions of evil doers. The concept of arkana has to be understood as a protection against intrusive external influences, simple illness, soul loss and even from spiritual injuries as a result of a psychic attack.

The Arkana is inherently tied to the threefold states in which a person’s body may find itself in:

1) cuerpo Sencillo (the body in its normal unprotected state)

2) cuerpo cerrado or preparado (the body is prepared with one or many shields)

3) cuerpo dañado (the body is ill due to one’s own doing or that of a spirit or an enemy).

The spiritual power of animals and plants are also used as arkana during ceremonies to keep the sacred space well protected.

Source: VEGETALISMO - Shamanism Among The Mestizo Population Of The Peruvian Amazon by Luis Eduardo Luna, published by (ACTA Universitatis Stockholmiensis) Stockholm Studies in Comparative Religions.