A Medical Doctor’s Journey to Shamanism in Peru.
I started studying Shamanism 18 months ago. I was looking for an expression for my spirituality and intrigued by the universal connection of shamanic practice across cultures and time. I started taking classes at a local community center, then had the opportunity to join fellow gay men at Easton Mountain for the “Introduction to Shamanism” course with Tony Allicino and Jay Thomas. The universe does indeed act in mysterious ways. I hired a nurse manager at this same time who is a practicing shaman. This friend and colleague goes to Peru every year to study with the indigenous shamans there, and of course I was committed to traveling with her this past spring. We flew from Boston to Panama City and on to Lima, then another plane to Cusco in the heart of the Peruvian Andes. Day 1 was indeed magical and inspiring the way I envisioned Peru. We connected with our local guide and shamanic apprentice and toured many of the local sites and ruins. The energy of the place, the artwork of the stone masons, and the ancient power was obvious. The terraces and plateaus, the stairways, and the remnants of a time passed all beckoned me to explore. Some places are still active and growing with culture on top of the ancient stone, and some are left untouched for the ages as a memory in time. The hummingbird was a frequent visitor in our sight and reminded us that we were indeed in a spiritual place.
Looking out over the valleys and seeing the ancient crops continuing to grow, farmed as they were many 1000s of years before, was simultaneously invigorating and soothing. We had an opportunity to hear our local shaman guide play the singing bowls in the Valley of Moray where the sounds reverberate off the ancient terraces like a natural “Opera House of the Divine”. These ancient terraces where the Incan people of old farmed and experimented with raising various crops . The next day, we took a train to Aguas Callientes at the base of Machu Picchu. This town is nestled in the Andes like a bird’s nest in the crook of the branches of an apple tree. The ancient structure of the mountains tower around it, and the waters percolate with warmth from the heat of the earth due to the subduction of the pacific plate. We were truly standing in the navel of the Ring of Fire. The people here of Peru are warm, friendly, and inviting, and happy to give you a tour or assist you in buying something from their shop. The climb to the summit of Machu Picchu overlooking the historical city was not easy. I have asthma, was only day 2 at altitude, and recovering from bronchitis. It was like an endless stair-master , climbing high into the clouds to meet the condors. I thought I was going to die. But I also thought…well there are worse ways to go. The views were spectacular of course, looking down on the spiritual home of the ancient Incas -Machu Picchu- shimmering in the light of the noonday sun.
Inside the ancient city, we did 4 shamanic ceremonies to sanctify and raise the energy: A fire ceremony in the Temple of the Sun, a water ceremony in the center where the old city well still flows, an Earth ceremony in the caves beneath the city, and an Air Ceremony in the Temple of the Condor. Our guide and shaman had to bribe the government guards with a little polite small talk and some cocoa leaves, but we thankfully gained access to the places for ceremony where the public is generally not allowed. We next traveled south to Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world and the largest lake in South America. We journeyed to the lake islands. Taquile Island is a place lost in time where the locals continue to wear the traditional garb, and where no motorized vehicles are allowed. We met up with the local shamans, ate the local cuisine of fresh fish caught that day, and were invited to a wedding celebration. We dove into the peacefulness of their island retreat, honored their dead, and explored the nooks and crannies of their charming island with gusto. The floating islands of Uros are just amazing…cut from the local lake reeds and bound together with native twine made from the same, the islands survive about 10-15 years and then the family needs to build a new island and move. The local shamans are friendly and jovial and love telling a good joke – I guess you need to be when you live on a floating island that is slowly sinking, and will float away to Belize if you do not anchor it in place. We did ceremonies daily in sites well known to tourists and sites known only to the local shamans. It was truly memorable and special to have the opportunity to connect with the local people and be part of their world. I wish I could paint the picture of this part of the world with all the colors of the wind. I hope this small excerpt of my travels invite you to experience our world as well, and remember We Are All One !