The shaman had red tribal face paint on when I met him. I asked our guide, “When you wear makeup, is it always in that design?” She explained to me that shamans decorate their bodies with paint, necklaces and costumes to resemble their gods. They also envision these gods when they ingest ayahuasca, which is a hallucinogenic brew used in rituals to reach a higher level of consciousness.
Women in the tribe traditionally use two different beauty products: the achiote plant and the genipa americana. Achiote holds seed pods filled with a blood-red color referred to as “annatto.” Genipa americana is fruit that produces a bright black pigment which is used for face paint and hair dye. “So you dye you hair?” Excitedly, I asked to find out if it could be true. She smiled and said only for a celebration. Both of these plants grow in the Amazon Basin and are strictly used for ceremonial events.
The relationship between women and the female spirits of plants is believed to impart female beauty and attraction. It adds mystery and the women cultivate beauty the way a tree attracts birds and butterflies. Both the achiote plant and genipa americana are used to paint beautiful designs on the body and face. There is also a sacred ritual that follows the painting of a woman’s body. It unites the woman’s heart and emotions to manifest in the design to establish her power of attraction.
She said to learn about more beauty secrets, I should search to the south of Ecuador, where the volcanoes are still active. The area is unlike any jungle you’ll ever see. She also mentioned that many use the medicinal clay from the volcano as a facial treatment. I had heard about this clay before. An overnight VIP bus could get me there with a ticket costing no more than $10.00 U.S.
One bus ticket in hand for an overnight transfer from Lago Agrio to Banos and I was ready to go searching for more beauty secrets from the Ecuadorian culture.