- Iquitos, Peru
Aya Madre is a shamanic healing center outside of Iquitos, Peru. It is owned and operated by master Shipibo shaman Estela Pangoza and her family. Maestra Estela is a renowned healer who works with the power of ayahuasca and mother nature as part of an ancient system of holistic treatment. Come heal your physical, emotional and/or spiritual illnesses, and connect more deeply to nature, yourself and higher states of well-being.
Maestra Estela has owned this property and been hosting a wide range of guests, clients and patients for over 5 years. In 2018 the center was officially founded as “Aya Madre.” Maestra Estela’s vision is to open a space deep in the heart of the jungle for people from the around the world to experience the deep and profound healing of mother nature.
While “ayahuasca tourism” has boomed in the Amazon jungle, with tourists seeking the sometimes thrilling visions ayahuasca can offer, Maestra Estela practices a traditional form of Shipibo plant medicine. This tradition sees ayahuasca as one of many master plants which along with a range of other plant treatments, can act as a powerful diagnostic tool, purgative, and ultimately, help us connect more deeply with the healing power within ourselves and all around us. This form of Shipibo plant medicine has been practiced for thousands of years, and at Aya Madre guests will be immersed in the full system of healing under Maestra Estela’s care and guidance.
As far as we know, this center is unique in being 100% owned and operated by a female, indigenous shaman. This is no small task in a world of shamanism dominated by men. Maestra Estela provides a safe, nurturing, empowering environment where you can experience the deep healing of the jungle, Ayahuasca, and the Shipibo plant tradition.
Go see Estela!
I spent a month at Aya Madre for my thirtieth birthday. Prior to going to the jungle, I had already sat in six or so ceremonies. Going to Peru, all I knew was that I wanted a female shaman. When I walked through the gates of Aya Madre I knew I had chosen the right center. This place is different than any other retreat center for a multitude of reasons.
First, this isn’t just a retreat center. It’s a school and you will learn as much as you want to in your time there. Maestra Estela is constantly teaching about plants. How to gather them and turn them into medicine. If you have any ailment, pain, worry, or shadow she is off at a moment’s notice looking in the jungle for the plant that will help you. You don’t just take medicine here, you learn how to prepare the plants and what purposes they serve.
Second, Maestra Estela. She is a mother through and through. Her nurturing, caring spirit can be felt on every leaf throughout the center. Not once did I feel like she didn’t have me – in ceremony and out of ceremony. She is constantly working to help the center and the pasajeros and seems to be everywhere at once. I will forever carry her icaros in my heart.
Third, the plant diet. Here each pasajero is given their own plant dieta prescribed by Maestra after your consult. It’s like a prescription, but from Mother Earth. You are encouraged to spend time with your plants and really connect with them. So many retreat centers want to just shove Ayahuasca your way and let you have this wild trip, but here Maestra gets to the root of the problem by using all of her resources from the jungle and what’s more, she teaches you how to do it yourself. Thus, you learn how to heal yourself.
I had plenty of experience with ayahuasca before I went to Peru and I was not disappointed in the center I chose (because there are a LOT of choices!). This center is special and I would recommend it to everyone, but especially anyone who has never drank before and anyone who might be more comfortable with a woman. I can’t wait to go back 🙂
I came to Aya Madre intending to spend 1 or 2 months, I ended up spending 3 months there. There are so many elements that made Aya Madre the perfect place for me.
1) Community. The feeling at Aya Madre is one of being with family. When diving into the deepest part of ourselves, it is so valuable to be surrounded by an environment that holds you, nurtures, and gives you something to laugh about. When you aren’t deep in medicine work, you might be playing futbol with Maestras kids or the local children. You might be playing volleyball with Maestra herself along with other workers and pasajeros. Most importantly, you are not isolated from who the Shipibo are, beyond a Shaman to facilitate your ceremony, you are invited to engage with a Shipibo family, in all their humanness and be a part of their community- and that in itself is profund medicine
2) Maesta Estela. She is such an incredible presence and teacher. Specifically I appreciated the way she empowered me to find my own medicine and understanding. She doesn’t just tell you like it is (except when she does because she knows) she encourages you to decide for yourself what your body needs and how to get it. You get to know the plants yourself- harvest them, touch them, communicate with them. Also, while she is deeply attuned to Shipibo traditions, she listens to the plants more than anything else. She knows instructions and rules aren’t fixed- her flexibility and fluidity to adapt as she listens to the plants moment to moment makes the experience.
3) The environment was beautiful. The spongy soft ground the tambos are situated around made it possible for me to be bare foot 99% of the time. The tambos are the perfect combination of rustic and comfortable. I felt so safe and taken care of all of the time- while still feeling really connected to my natural environment even when I was inside. The food was delicious and nourishing.
I highly recommend Aya Madre to anyone seeking a profound and comprehensive experience of plant medicine. I especially encourage women to consider Aya Madre.
Aya Madre was perfect me. It is a true healing center. It is not just an Ayahuasca retreat. I found warm welcoming energy and peace. The retreat is very well designed and the whole concept is well thought of. It is a place, where different medicinal plants are used and combined with different healing practices. This is very important if you are familiar with the medicine or if you have already been to the Peruvian jungle.
The retreat is absolutely authentic. I noticed very little “gringo” conveniences added. The tambos are set well apart from each other and without electricity. You have the opportunity to completely detach from civilization and focus on yourself and pray or meditate. There are very little distractions, which I found very useful for the healing process.
Apart from the ceremonies, the maestra is prescribing various medicinal plants, which are ingested multiple times a day and help cleanse, heal, invigorate and restore the body and mind.
The food is way more diverse than in other retreats I have been to. There are fruits and cooked meals all in accordance with the strict Ayahuasca diet.
The place is very clean and beautiful. There is a clean river just outside if it, which we loved after our daily steam baths.
Aya Madre is smaller than other retreats. In our last ceremony we were only 9 people. This helps the shaman focus individually on each participant, something that I did not experience elsewhere. The daily price includes everything. Mapachos and Aqua Di Florida are included as well. Included is a daily massage and a Shipibo steam bath (something I loved). Everyone in the center is approachable and ready to talk and listen. Maestro Guillermo was helping the maestra during my stay. He is down to earth and very easy going. One evening he came to the maloca, sat down with us and told us amazing stories about the plants and the tradition.
One of the things that I noticed during my stay was that I didn’t count down the days and didn’t feel any pressure before ceremonies. The flow of energy is amazing and I will return for another week or too.
Amazing and totally unique experience. Deeply healing.
I spent a month working with Estela, and now I am actually helping her with her website and intake process. She is a true curandera in the old-fashioned sense. I stayed with her and her family for a month in her amazing and beautiful center. It is rustic and simple and certainly not a luxury center. What I loved about working with Estela as my shaman is that she didn’t just have me take Ayahuasca over and over again. After a few ceremonies, we both realized it wasn’t healing me, and she laid out a treatment plan for the next month. This included a whole host of plant remedies, massages, steam baths, etc. She sat with me time and time again to explain what she saw in my body, what she thinks I need, how the healing works, etc. I felt so loved and cared for, and the plants have really helped me work through some much-needed psychological problems. Estela seems to understand the issues us “Northerners” have, which are both mental, energetic and physical all at the same time. What a powerful, loving and healing soul. I can’t recommend enough working with Estela. Go to Aya Madre!!