Rapé – Sacred Tobacco (pronounced ha-PAY) is a preparation of powdered medicinal herbs – often with a tobacco base – that the Indians of the Amazon basin blow through the nose, either with a small V-shaped self applicator, or with the help of a buddy.
In contemporary Amazonia, sharing rapé is a common social activity with spiritual, pre-Columbian roots. Rapé is considered to be a sacred, shamanic medicine. It’s traditionally prepared by a knowledgeable shaman, however, the art of sacred rapé preparation has been passed on to non-indigenous rapé enthusiasts, so you can find makers of high-quality rapé outside tribal communities and in other parts of Brazil. Sharing rapé was traditionally done in a ritualistic way. Because the medicine can have stimulating or psychoactive effects (depending on what plants were used to make it) receiving rapé can bring about a profound experience of the Forest. Because the medicine is sacred, the Indians take rapé as a prayer calling upon the forces of Nature, the blessing of the animals of the forest, and power of medicinal plants to heal us and give us strength.
Medicinal rapé is also making its way all over the world, through increasing cross cultural friendships between the Indians and non-indigenous friends, as well as through ayahuasca ceremonies held by traveling shamans. Rapé is increasingly being consumed in a more social context, in the way that sharing sacred tobacco shifted to social cigarette smoking.
To prevent your relationship with rapé from turning into an addiction and a personal vice, here are some tips you can follow to maintain the sacredness of the rapé ritual as a modern shaman.