Explore our spiritual connection with plants via the Peruvian wall paintings on the top path of our Rainforest Biome.
The murals on the back wall were painted by traditional Peruvian herbalists Francisco Montes Shuna and Yolanda Panduro Baneo. The paintings show their visions of the spirits of the plants they have worked with medicinally and a spiritual connection between plants and people. The two vegetalistas (healers) learnt their skills and knowledge from their grandparents, passed down through ancient oral traditions.
In the Biome it was the first time Montes Shuna had ever painted with acrylics instead of natural rainforest pigments. He sometimes uses psychoactive plant infusions, ayahuasca, to create the visions which were the source for his paintings. Each mural tells a different story.
What the murals mean
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 (Brunfelsia 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.