In the Amazonian basin of Peru lives a type of tree called Noya Rao. And there’s only three of them- as far as the Mahua Shipibo people know, anyway. Noya Rao’s name translates to “Flying Tree”, “Tree of Light”, and “Path of Truth,” and its medicine has been used ceremonially in the Shipibo tradition for centuries. Because this tree is so rare, and so closely guarded by the Shipibo people, it is a privilege to work with its medicine in dieta. So we spoke to Elio Geusa, the founder and lead-facilitator at AYA Healing Retreats in Pucallpa, Peru, to learn more about its wisdom and mystery.
It all starts with one very special tree near Iquitos, Elio says. “There was an indigenous tribe very close to this tree- a Shipibo tribe. The chief of this tribe noticed that the fish were eating the bark or the leaves of this tree, and they were actually taking off the lake or river and flying. So, that’s the reason why it’s called Noya Rao because it’s such a powerful tree, it actually makes you fly.”
Fly? Not literally, perhaps. Though Elio says the Shipibo elders don’t understand such stories in the same way as our Western minds, and will not try to explain whether it’s a metaphor or… something else.
“In the beginning, I had a lot of questions, and they didn’t come out to answer me these questions. For them it’s part of the culture, it’s part of their life. Maybe our mind needs to understand the meaning of it but for them probably they have already integrated the meaning of the stories as well.”
So how exactly does Noya Rao make you fly? Elio has developed his own understanding through years of experience with the sacred tree.
“For me, yes, it’s definitely a metaphor.” Elio says. During his time living with the Shipibo people, he’s witnessed a lot of ceremony.
“I’ve been working with Noya Rao and see the people that work with Noya Rao and see such transformations that occur. Some people can actually fly in a way, spiritually. Some people when working with Noya Rao get visited by angels or birds or butterflies, or beings with wings. So, if you ask these questions to a Shipibo person they will probably not be able to answer you but yes, they totally believe in this. It can be a metaphor of transformation as well.”
Because Noya Rao is such a rare medicine and so little is known about its properties - unlike ayahuasca or Huachuma, which are more widely utilized in ceremonial contexts - we asked Elio to describe a little bit more about how a dieta with the Tree of Light brings transformation. Why would one seek to dive into a guided ceremony, or a silent retreat at their Ayahuasca retreats in Peru, lead at AYA Healings Retreats, with this plant?
Elio explains, “Even the masters have such a respect for Noya Rao and call it literally ‘the path of the truth’... What happened to me, working with Noya Rao, is it really brings us into balance or to takes us to the truth within ourselves. Probably from 5 years old through our entire life, people are putting on masks and identifying ourselves with one thing or another just to maybe protect ourselves… It shows us what’s really true in ourselves and then really shakes us to shed what doesn’t really serve us. It makes us free and to be pure, in a way.”
But what makes it a little different, he notes, is the lack of darkness. As many who have worked with plant medicine can attest, there is often a plunge into darkness before the spirit of the medicine lifts you into the light. Noya Rao, on the other hand, seems to be intent on one thing: showing each one their perfect light.
“So, that’s why a lot of people in their journey see a lot of angels, a lot of pure light. Noya Rao really looks like it wants to take you to the pure form of yourself.”
Generally, the maestros and facilitators at AYA Healing Retreats work with Noya Rao in tandem with Ayahuasca ceremony. Together, participants have the opportunity to work through the dark…
And with the help of the Tree of Light, come out the other side with a brighter understanding of Truth.