A New Study of Icaros

Susana Bustos is a graduate student in East-West Psychology at the California Inistitute of Integral Studies. In 2004, she began research in the Peruvian Amazonian Rainforest, working as a counselor at Takiwasi, a center for the research of traditional medicine and drug abuse rehabilitation using ayahuasca and other indigenous healing methods.

Subsequently, she and her husband also sought out Anáshaninca shaman don Juan Flores Salazar -- you can hear some of his singing here -- and they have provided us with a brief description of some of their experiences at his center, called Mayantuyacu, in the Amazon rainforest of the Ucayali region.

Susana focused her research on icaros, and she has now completed a doctoral dissertation entitled The Healing Power of the Icaros: A Phenomenological Study of Ayahuasca Experiences, which she is due to defend at CIIS in early December. Her committee includes Luis Eduardo Luna, one of the pioneers in the study of mestizo shamans and their songs. She describes her dissertation as

a qualitative exploratory study of intense healing experiences with icaros, or ayahuasqueros' songs, during traditional ayahuasca ceremonies in the Peruvian Amazon. Giorgi's Descriptive Phenomenology in Psychology was utilized in the analysis of the data, uncovering an essential meaning structure of the phenomenon, which supports the perception of particular musical features as healing.

This sounds really interesting. I will let you know when I hear more about this work.


  1. Did you ever take a look at this work? Anything more to say about it?

  2. Susana has completed her dissertation and has received her Ph.D. degree. I have not seen her complete dissertation, but the dissertation proposal is online here, and some of her work has been presented in Shamans Drum magazine. She will be presenting a paper entitled The Healing Power of the Icaros: An Analysis of Ayahuasca Experiences at the annual conference of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness in Portland, Oregon, in April, as part of a panel on Sacred Brews, Ayahuasca Controversies and a Clash of Cultures—Indigenous and Postmodern. I plan to be at the conference and, finally, meet her in person. I too am looking forward to learning more about her research and her current work, which, with her permission, I will be happy to pass along in this blog.