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A view of the wall of vegetalistas paintings set in the rainforest biome

Spirits of the Rainforest

Explore our spiritual connection with plants via the Peruvian wall paintings on the top path of our Rainforest Biome. 


Don Francisco Montes Shuna and Yolanda Panduro Baneo

Don Francisco Montes Shuna and Yolanda Panduro Baneo
Spirits of the Rainforest,2001

This series of murals was painted in-situ by the Peruvian maestro vegetalista (shamanic herbalist) Don Francisco Montes Shuna and artist Yolanda Panduro Baneo.

To the Capanahua, indigenous people of the Peruvian rainforest, vegetalista are said to gain their knowledge and power to heal from the plants of the region. Traditional herbalists work with the sacred ayahuasca vine and other psychoactive plant infusions believed to enhance our understanding of the world. The murals portray different narratives and depictions of the plants that the artists' use, while also exploring the spiritual connection between plants and humanity.

The Origin of Ayahuasca and Chacruna

When the powerful vegetalista Ayas was buried, the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) grew from his head and the chacruna bush (Psychotria viridis) from his hands.  These two sacred plants are used by the vegetalistas to contact the spirit world.

The Spirit of Chiric-sanango

As a teacher plant, chiric sanango (Brunflsia grandiflora) has both male and female energy and is said to increase energy and clear the mind. As a medicinal plant it is used to treat arthritis and rheumatism.

Spiritual Purification

The canelilla (Aniba canelilla) and huambisa chacruna (Diplopterys cabrerana) are depicted here, purifying the body. The body is covered with yellow clay, also used in spiritual purification. Look closely to find male and female energy in the painting.

A close up of the winds of the shacapa painting

Winds of the Shacapa

The shacapa (Pariana sp.) is sacred. It is used to make rattles for ceremonies to draw impurities from the body. The bands of colour represent different energies of the shacapa. This energy comes from the eye of the universe.

Vegetalistas paintings

The Spirit of Colita de Gavilan

The bromeliad colita de gavilan (Billbergia sp.) is depicted as the headdress of the spirit. It is mixed with the sapohuasca vine (Cissus sicyoides) to make a compress to heal broken bones.

Birth of the Spirit 

When this spirit was born, all the flowers and plants were born. The first two were tobaco bravo (Nicotiana sp.) to purify the place of birth, and campanita del campo, to announce his birth. The sun and the moon are giving energy to the birth of the spirit.

Dance of the Spirits

The spirits are rising from the earth, dancing for joy at seeing the plants and flowers of the world. The tree, Huarmi caspi (Sterculia apetala), is used as a medicine by female healers, and sacha granadilla (Passiflora quadrangularis) for medicine and perfume.

A close view of the spirit of the woman painting which shows a woman in the middle surrounded by leaves

The Spirit Woman of Ajo Sacha

The leaves of ajo sacha (Mansoa alliacea) are used in a cleansing bath and are taken to soothe joint pain. The plant also teaches mental concentration. The spirit woman represents the vegetalistas.

Vegetalistas paintings continuation

Dance of the Leaves

The leaves of these two teacher trees, huayra caspi (Cedrelinga catenaformis) and puma caspi (Roucheria punctata), are said to dance with each other as they fall. They are both used medicinally. Spot the black panther, the spirit of this plant.

Spirit Woman of the Toé

Leaves and flowers of toé or datura (Brugmansia sp.) are smoked to relax the mind and to treat epilepsy. The sap from the stem and root are used to induce visions. This plant is a powerful narcotic and if misused can be fatal.

The Spiritual Birth

The spirit woman, Quilloryna (yellow woman), became pregnant when she met the venomous snake Machacuy, who represents the first temptation. Two cadenilla branches (Bauhinia sp.) grow over her during the birth and the Huayraruma (woman of the wind), watches over.

The paradise lost, paradise found painting which shows two green mountains

Paradise lost, paradise found

The artist Francisco had this vision of Eden before it was a china clay pit. Two mountains guarded a secret beneath the earth. A green star connects to the earth, a blue star to the sky, giving this place powerful energy. Above, the wind, and below, the sea, protect us. The eyes of the world are here to see us go forward. Below is a great man representing the tribes of the world, his head connected to Eden, his body to the sea.

More about the Vegetalistas paintings

Spirit woman of Machacuy Huasca

The artist was bitten by a jergon (a venomous snake) and was cured by this plant. Yolanda took the cooked root of machacuy huasca for eight days and claims to have been visited by this spirit.

The spirit of the grandfather trees

 Three great teacher trees, catahua (Hura crepitans), lupuna colorada (Cavanillesia arborea) and chullachaqui caspi (Remijia peruviana) with their spirits. Teacher trees provide spiritual guidance and speak to the vegetalistas about their medicinal properties.

About the artists

Don Francisco Montes Shuna is a Peruvian Maestro Vegetalista, a traditional shaman herbalist. He works with his wife, artist Yolanda Panduro Baneo.

Coming from the indigenous Amazonian Capanahua ethnic group, Don Francisco Montes Shuna learnt his skills and knowledge from his grandparents, passed down through ancient oral traditions. 

Vegetalistas sometimes use psychoactive plant infusions, ayahuasca, to create the visions, which are the source for their paintings.  

Francisco and Yolanda painted with acrylics for the first time in the Rainforest biome, instead of natural rainforest pigments.

Discover the art of Eden

Find out more about art at the Eden Project