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An icaro (or ikaro) is a song sung in Shipibo healing ceremonies, or by vegetalistas. The word icaro is believed to be derived from the Quechua verb ikaray, which means "to blow smoke in order to heal".
Shipibo shamans say that spirits, particularly plant spirits, teach them the icaros. They are used to bring on mareación (the visionary effects of the ayahuasca), take mareación away, call in different plant spirits, call in the spirits of others or the deceased, take away dark spirits and dark energies, for protection and to manage the ceremony. Experienced shamans can recite hundreds of icaros.
Icaros are either whistled or sung, and can be expressed in any language. The shamans generally sing in a spirit dialect that is a mixture of their native language (i.e. Quechua, Shipibo-Conibo, Asháninka, etc.), Spanish, and different evocative sounds or vocables. Icaros represent a system of communication between the shaman and the spirits, and the shaman and the participants in the ceremony. The shamans believe that every living thing has an icaro and that these icaros can be learned.
The singing of icaros is sometimes accompanied by the chakapa, rattle of bundled leaves that is used to carry the rhythm of the ceremony. The shaman will use his chakapa to direct energy and the icaros, as well as send away dark or unwanted energies.
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