The intricate pattern embroidered in this cloth is a song-pattern, and depending on its size, can take an entire month to complete. Song patterns are geometrically fractal in their design, and this is especially evident when one looks closely at the complexity of the modern stitching patterns. In analyzing this stitch work, I've determined three primary styles. First, these tiny stitches that make up the background patterns were explained by the late Herlinda Augustin, a revered Shipibo shaman and weaver, to be representative of the cosmic oneness, and I have come to call this the atomic stitch. To the Shipibo, this oneness very literally connects all things in the universe.
Over the top of the atomic stitch is the main song line, and these patterns are recognized holistically by the shaman as the main identifying characteristic of the corresponding icaro. When I observed the shamans singing a cloth, they would trace their index finger along this main song line pattern, the melody rising or descending in general accordance with the rise and fall of the line. Again we see the visual metaphor of the shamanic staircase, represented as a descending song line.
Along the main song line itself and at various points of intersection along its path, can be seen the beautiful geometric designs called the floras, this being a Shipibo term. These flowers represent turning points where the song may take a new direction, such as a new verse or chorus. According to Herlinda, it is also the point where new life is born into the cosmos.
The colors of these flowers have significance as well, and they are woven in eight colors; black and white as the base colors of the cloth and primary stitch patterns; red corresponding with blood, childbirth, and the historical conflict between the Amazonian tribes; yellow for sunlight; green for the jungle; and blue for the rivers and lakes. Other colors include purple and orange their significance is not yet known.
*Reference: Woven Songs Of The Amazon (Icaros and Weavings of The Shipibo Shamans) by Barrett H. Martin
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