What is a Kuripe: An Ancient Tribal Tool?

Learn About the Rapé Ceremony and How to Use Shamanic Snuff with a Kuripe Pipe

Handmade Sacraments from the Tribes of the Amazon
An ingenious Yawanawá snake kuripe carved from a single piece of Cumaru wood.

Tribal communities in South America have been using rapé snuff for many generations. Rapé snuff is a mixture of medicinal herbs, barks, and ashes. The application of rapé is believed to help cleanse negative energies and promote spiritual well-being. They traditionally administer this shamanic snuff with homemade tools called Kuripe or Tepi. The Tepi is for giving rapé to someone else, while the Kuripe is for using rapé on yourself without help.

The Kuripe Pipe

The Kuripe is a small, handheld pipe crafted by indigenous tribes specifically for self-administering rapé. Some Kuripe pipes are carved from a single piece of wood, ensuring durability and a seamless design. Its V-shaped design allows for mess-free, solitary dosing without needing an assistant’s help. Kuripe pipes can be made from various materials, including wood, bamboo, bone, and metal. Smaller than the Tepi pipe, the Kuripe enables individuals to use rapé independently in ceremonies or daily life. In the West people may refer to it as a rapé or hape applicator.

Kuntanawa Bird Kuripe made from animal bone and black resin. Yellow bead eye.
A lovely kuripe from the Kuntanawa, fashioned from animal bones and resin.

Tribal Craftsmanship in Kuripe Pipes

V-shaped Kuripes are the most common, but these tribal pipes showcase a remarkable variety of hand-carved designs. Some feature two nasal exits, allowing you to use both nostrils simultaneously.

Tribal artisans create these pipes with exquisite craftsmanship, often hand-carving each piece. You can find adjustable designs that function both as a self-use Kuripe and a Tepi pipe. Tribal artisans craft Kuripes from various natural materials, including bamboo, bone, wood, and horn, demonstrating their artistic skills.

They often decorate Kuripes with elements from the jungle, such as brightly colored seeds or slices of Ayahuasca vine.

Yawanawá Bird Kuripe made from bamboo and colorful threads.
Making a bone Kuripe at the Yawanawá.

The Ritual of Self-Application

Engaging in personal rapé rituals using a Kuripe can be either a simple or elaborate practice. You can quickly and easily take rapé, a traditional tobacco snuff, and go about your day, or perform a deeper ritual.

To begin, measure a modest amount of rapé snuff onto the palm of the hand. Use the pipe to press the snuff, ensuring no lumps remain before application. By cupping the hand, it is easier to scrape up the rapé and load it into the nasal end of the pipe. Beginners typically start with around 0.25g of rapé to avoid too strong a reaction.

Take a deep breath and gently place the pipe’s nasal end into your left nostril, holding the mouthpiece between your lips. With eyes closed, blow out, ejecting the rapé through the Kuripe and deep into the nasal cavity. After applying the rapé more formally, in a sacred ritual, it is customary to ‘sit with the rapé’ for a while. The idea of using a Kuripe for self-application allows individuals to partake in traditional healing ceremonies independently.

Yawanawá Bird Kuripe made from bamboo and colorful threads.
A colorful Yawanawá kuripe made from bamboo and thread.

The Different Kinds of Rapé Blows

According to the Katukina Shamans, there are three main blows to administer rapé snuff to yourself or another with a Tepi pipe. They name the blows after animals based on their characteristics. The three blows are the Turtle, the Deer, and the Hummingbird. By using the same rapé with different intentions and a different blow, they believe you can affect the outcome of the ceremony. The Turtle blow is soft, long, slow, and gentle. The Hummingbird blow is very fast, sharp, and powerful. The Deer blow is somewhere in the middle of the two.

When giving rapé to yourself with a Kuripe, tune into your needs. Consider the type, the intention, and the blow.

Yawanawá Wooden Kuripe made from Cumaru.
A simple Yawanawá kuripe carved from a single piece of Cumaru wood.

What Does Rapé Do?

After taking rapé, especially in the early days, you may experience sweating, dizziness, light-headedness, or even vomiting. These reactions, including purging through vomiting or diarrhea, are seen in some traditional practices as a cleansing process, clearing you of disparate energies. After the heavier reactions have passed, you may feel increased alertness and clarity of mind. These sensations can lead to feeling lighter and more connected with people and your surroundings.

It’s important to note that these side effects are not universal, and many people use rapé without experiencing them. The effects can be influenced by the specific blend of ingredients, the dosage, and the individual’s sensitivity. Additionally, some indigenous cultures view particular side effects, such as purging, as part of ritual purification and cleansing. Read more about rapé here.

Closing your Rapé Ceremony

A good practice is to acknowledge the plants, the rapé snuff and the medicine makers when closing your sacred space. This can be done with a simple thank you or by saying "HAUX HAUX," which means "may the cure come." This gesture adds humility to the end of the ceremony and shows respect for the powerful spirit of the rapé, Rome poto. Recognizing Rome poto during your closing ritual honors the sacred connection to the tradition and the medicine.

Learn More

Making Hapé, Rapeh, Hapeh with the Katukina Tribe, Acre Brazil
Rapé being hand-ground by the Katukina tribe in Acre, Brazil.