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Pick your shaman carefully! [Huachuma ceremony] Options
 
Nydex
#1 Posted : 10/10/2021 2:16:50 AM

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Hello friends,

This write-up has been a long time coming. I returned from Peru around 20 months ago, but this experience is still quite fresh in my memory. I guess there's a reasonable amount of truth behind the idea that it's much easier for people to memorize traumatic and unpleasant events than those that carry the opposite emotional charge.

This experience, which I am not so much sharing with you because of its exceptional nature, but because of the message I want to impart through it, took place in the colorful town of Pisac, in very close proximity to the legendary town of Cusco (which everyone that goes to Peru needs to visit!). Through word of mouth, I found out that a local woman was serving Huachuma tea and offering individual ceremonies at a slightly higher cost, compared to what a group ceremony would cost you. I preferred a solo ceremony because I didn't want to get distracted by anyone else's energy during the journey. I wanted to focus on myself and do some introspection and inner work.

I believe the ceremony cost me around 400 Soles, which is roughly 100 Euro. I found the price to be reasonable, considering the responsibilities of my shaman included preparing the Huachuma tea (which those of you that have done it know takes a rather long time), prepare an offering to Mother Earth (La Ofrenda a la Pachamama) and the mountains, lead me to the ceremonial area, arrange for dinner at a local family's house, and generally take care for me the whole time. Sounded like a fantastic deal, so I took it.

It was a sunny day in early January. The clock on the central market of Pisac struck 7:30 am when I saw her (let's call her Alicia for simplicity) coming my way with a relatively oversized backpack behind her, which was clearly heavy and uncomfortable to carry. We hugged and soon after we were in our designated taxi, going up the winding road towards Laguna Quinsacocha - a glacial lake high above Pisac, around which a local community had formed, sustaining primarily on Alpaca farming and any form of agriculture this difficult to live in terrain, situated at an altitude of 4631 meters (~ 15,200ft), could offer, which was not much. Primarily potatoes, corn, and a few leafy greens.

After our driver dropped us off near the shore of the lake, we took a winding path that climbed up above the lake and circumvented it entirely. We walked for a kilometer or so, and finally settled on a lower spot that was level with the lake, and not far from its waters either. She pulled out the Huachuma brew, stored in a plastic water bottle, as well as her entire offering kit. She laid a colorful blanket on the grass and started placing crystals on it. There was an amethyst, rose quartz, regular quartz, something that looked like lapis lazuli, and one other that I couldn't recognize.

Following the crystals, she placed a metal plate in the center of the arrangement and loaded it with some incense - palo santo and one other that I couldn't recognize. A bottle of Agua Florida took the rightmost part of the blanket, and some flowers were put on the leftmost. Coca leaves were put right below the incense plate. She explained to me that we were going to make an offering to all the Apus (mountain spirits, quite central to the Peruvian traditional belief system). She lit up the incense and smoked me well, then I did the same to her. She sprinkled some agua florida on my shoulders and head, then picked up the coca leaves and instructed me to raise my hands as she did. We turned in each of the four directions and she said a prayer to the mountain spirits to protect us during this journey. Then we drank the tea. I gulped down a 150ml plastic cup's worth of brew. It was bitter and thick, but not too hard to get down at all.

We packed up our stuff and started walking the path slowly, occasionally exchanging some small talk. The lake was truly astounding. The bright azure of the sky reflected on the lake surface, and the vast mountains towered around us with a stoic and enduring character. This place is truly magical. Once there, one feels the presence of those mountains. Alicia explained to me that the mountains that were sharper and more jagged were the male spirits, and the flatter, more gentle, and non-intimidating ones were the female spirits. Each of them had a name, but I'll never be able to recollect any of them.

I noticed she was being uncomfortable carrying her backpack, and mine was much lighter, so I offered my assistance in carrying it. She was carrying a bunch of firewood this entire time. We kept walking, and the effects from the brew were gradually intensifying. About an hour or so later, we were almost fully immersed. The hitherto azure sky had taken a greyish tint as some rain clouds were starting to gather above us. It was at this point that it started becoming clear that Alicia was carrying some emotional baggage in her. She was looking at the sky, and we were at an intersection and had to choose one of two paths to take, both meeting at the same point in the end. Without any explanation, she said with a weird look on her face "This path is not good. We need to go on the other". Her vibe gradually changed and acquired a weird, slightly concerning flavor of which I was not at all fond.

We kept walking, and she was talking some weird stuff that I could not really focus much on as I was getting deeper and deeper, and was starting to feel a bit nauseous. An hour or so later, we reached the area she wanted to take me to. It was high above a flat wetland that was on the shore of the lake. Enormous boulders were strewn around the area, and a few bigger ones formed a kind of enclosure, with a fireplace square in the center of it.

We unpacked there, and she pulled out a bag full of the materials necessary for a Despacho (a traditional Peruvian offering to Pachamama). She put an A3-sized piece of red paper on the ground and started pulling out an amazing variety of colorful candy, beads, beans, corn, glitter, and all other kinds of stuff, all neatly packed into plastic wrappers. Felt weird bringing so much plastic to such a beautiful place, but I didn't resist the process. On that sheet of paper, each area was dedicated to some aspect of the world. The lower part was dedicated to the underworld and those that have passed. The top part was dedicated to the gods and spirits. The left part to Pachamama. And the right part to the soul. Each type of material imparted some kind of meaning that one then would offer to the respective aspect of the world. After 30 minutes of carefully crafting this offering, she explained that we need to burn it, which is what the firewood was for.

By that time, a slight drizzle had begun, just strong enough to annoy and make us wet. I suppose Alicia was expecting me to be some kind of survival expert or magician because she dumped the 7-8 thick logs on the ground and kind of instructed me to light a fire. "It's your offering, you need to light the fire," she said. So I started struggling to get a fire going, but the rain was not helping at all, as well as the lack of any form of suitable kindling. We had no knife or axe, and lighting a fire in such humid conditions with no kindling is no easy feat. I kneeled over the firepit and struggled for 20 minutes, barely got the fire going by breaking off some pieces of wood from the logs and using that as kindling, but it was not enough to get it going. The rain was putting it out constantly.

The struggle that followed was really draining and unpleasant. I was sweating over the firepit, trying to get this fire going, while she just sat next to me and explained to me how it's not working because I don't want it hard enough, and that I can do better than that, and whatnot else. It felt like she was purposefully pressuring me all the time. At some point, it really started annoying me, so I gave up and told her I'm done with this fire and don't want to keep struggling with it. During this time I was already quite deep in the experience and the cactus was quite strong, but if I was feeling way out there, she was twice as deep and communicating with her was difficult and ineffective. Clearly, she was going through some internal stuff that I neither wanted to, nor could understand. She said if burning the despacho is not an option, then burying it in the ground was the only other way, so I grabbed one of the logs and started digging a hole in the wet soil, eager to get this unpleasant process over with. My nausea was manageable, with infrequent peaks in intensity through whom I breathed my way.

Then I was able to focus a bit more on the view, and sure enough down in the valley where a bunch of Peruvians were scuttling about their day, an alpaca was being butchered and skinned. This was definitely not something I was enjoying the view of. A flow of pale blood was coming out of the carcass, going directly into the lake further down. I tried to distract myself from this and try to focus on the experience and gaining something from it, but I frequently found myself shifting my focus back on the gruesome spectacle that those people relied upon for sustenance. We hanged around a bit longer, rarely exchanging any words in a futile attempt at mellowing down the awkwardness that had developed between me and her, and soon started heading back towards the more densely populated area around the lake, where the vehicle road ended.

I was still tripping quite hard around 4.30 pm, at which point we were nearly at the beginning of the lake. On the road back, we met an extremely old Peruvian man that was boldly marching the tight path above the lake. We filled his hat with a hefty amount of coca leaves, to which he responded with so much joy and gratitude. I could see in his eyes a strong spirit that has survived a long time and seen a lot of things. He was no less than 95 years old, judging by his looks.

It made me think how hard life at this altitude, and on this terrain is. And it became even more clear why people were so connected with the spirit world around here. They were subservient to mother nature's whims and at her mercy all the time. Their livelihood depended on a good year for the crops and good health for their animals. If one of those things was missing, they were in massive trouble. So they make offerings to the spirits and Pachamama all the time and live in harmony with her. It was simple, difficult, and beautiful. Made me think about how much different the western model is, and how far we have strayed from our mother in our ceaseless desire to have more stuff.

We went to the house of the local family in whose home Alicia had arranged for us to be welcomed and served soup, salad, and tea. It was a small mud shack into which a family of 5 lived. I politely declined all food that was offered to me mostly because the way back to Pisac was thick with sharp turns, and I was still a bit nauseous, so I decided to not make it harder for myself than necessary and only drank the fantastic tea that had some herbs and flowers in it.

Meanwhile, Alicia was next to me stuffing her face full of everything edible within her reach. Lips smacking and moans of gluttonous satisfaction filling the rather awkward silence. An hour or so later it was time to take off as the taxi driver was supposed to pick us up. The daughter of this family pulled out a collection of socks and scarves and wristbands and all other kinds of merch she had made, which was the signal that we were supposed to buy something from her. I bought a pair of alpaca wool socks and gave her 50 soles, which is more than would be expected, as a token of gratitude for their hospitality. During the way back to Pisac, Alicia kept talking to me about how she could hear the child in me, and that it talked a lot (as opposed to me, being silent most of the time).

She talked about trauma in her life and how she had some demons she was fighting and all other kinds of issues she clearly was dealing with actively. By the time I got back into Pisac I was so unbelievably drained from this experience I just wanted to take a shower and sleep for 3 days.

Now, why did I tell this entire story? Partially because Peru is an interesting place and I wanted to share this with you, but the more important part of my motivation to share this is to put out there a word of caution.

With the recent development of psychedelic tourism in the South American countries, there has been a gradual and persistent increase in the number of people that market themselves as shamans, supposedly fit to hold a ceremonial space and guide a traveler through the experience. Unfortunately, many of those hopeful tourists, eager to discover the world within themselves, come way too late to the realization that most of those self-proclaimed shamans are far from worthy of wielding a title like that. A concerningly large portion of those pseudo-guides carry a lot of emotional baggage and trauma from their past and have not been able to integrate any successful amount of healing for that, so they transfer all those shadows over to the poor soul that's tripping their balls off.

To anyone that is considering booking a ceremony with a guide in Peru (or anywhere else for that matter), please, for the love of your own safety and wellbeing, research that person very well, and make sure to meet and get to know them at least a little bit before you actually settle on the decision to do this with them. I feel like a lot of people underestimate the scale of the impact a truly heroic journey that went south can have on someone when no experienced guide is present and holding the space for you. People have been left traumatized for life because of experiences like this. Others have taken their own lives during or after such a ceremony. Please, do not be unreasonable or lazy in your research.

Word of mouth is not enough. A recommendation by a couple of people you met in the market or in your hostel is not enough either. Do extensive research. Ask people that have been proven to be a reliable source of information on things of this manner. Do not be afraid to ask the person questions that might expose their lack of experience or confidence. Put them in a hypothetical situation where a ceremony attendee is having a very difficult moment from their journey and is starting to have a panic attack and ask how they would handle this situation. Sometimes their lack of experience would show right then and there. And it's not only about getting an idea of how much experience or knowledge they have, but also to feel their energy. You can't do that through chatting or a call. You need to be close to the person, feel their vibe. This can tell you a lot as well. I met two supposed shamans - one in Cusco, and one in Pisac - both of whom had offered to lead a ceremony for me, with a dieta and the entire package. I was reasonable enough to meet them both before I settle on a decision. One of them was clearly only interested in the money I would pay for his service, and the other had a straight up sinister and malevolent vibe to him. I am so thankful for my diligence and suspicion in those moments.

The bottom line is when it's the integrity of your consciousness and the state of your mental health on the table, be careful, observant, disciplined, and thorough in your research, preparation, and negotiation. There are way too many pseudo-shamans out there that will do you much more harm than good. I can go on a tangent about how specifically women are at an even higher risk of that, but I think we all know what I mean.

Enjoy some pictures that I snapped while on the Laguna Quinsacocha!

Stay safe, friends. May the light be bright upon your path. Love
Nydex attached the following image(s):
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kajex
#2 Posted : 10/10/2021 3:21:01 AM

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wonderful writing- looking at those pictures, I think I would have been tempted to set out on my own and sprawl beneath the peaks once the going got strange with the would-be shaman Laughing . at the end of the day, we are all just humans with our own problems, and I for one am wary about enlisting guides of any sort. that area of Peru is absolutely gorgeous, I have been and would love to return. Thumbs up
 
Nydex
#3 Posted : 10/10/2021 9:50:23 AM

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kajex wrote:
wonderful writing- looking at those pictures, I think I would have been tempted to set out on my own and sprawl beneath the peaks once the going got strange with the would-be shaman Laughing . at the end of the day, we are all just humans with our own problems, and I for one am wary about enlisting guides of any sort. that area of Peru is absolutely gorgeous, I have been and would love to return. Thumbs up


It would be a lie if I said that at no point during this experience I felt the urge to just leave her behind and take off on my own journey. Still, the rational mind prevailed and reminded me that I'm in an area of Peru that I've never been to before, without any way of finding my way back to Pisac on my own (since it was at least 30km away from there), so I just stuck with her and patiently awaited the moment I'd be back home and not in her company anymore.
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downwardsfromzero
#4 Posted : 10/10/2021 8:01:46 PM

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I knew I'd seen these pictures before: https://www.dmt-nexus.me...mp;m=1069705#post1069705 Laughing

They're still lovely, and the new write up is just as good Thumbs up (Is it the same one?)

Laughing




β€œThere is a way of manipulating matter and energy so as to produce what modern scientists call 'a field of force'. The field acts on the observer and puts him in a privileged position vis-à-vis the universe. From this position he has access to the realities which are ordinarily hidden from us by time and space, matter and energy. This is what we call the Great Work."
― Jacques Bergier, quoting Fulcanelli
 
Nydex
#5 Posted : 10/12/2021 4:14:20 PM

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downwardsfromzero wrote:
I knew I'd seen these pictures before: https://www.dmt-nexus.me...mp;m=1069705#post1069705 Laughing

They're still lovely, and the new write up is just as good Thumbs up (Is it the same one?)

Laughing


Haha yeah, a few people got me busted Very happy I was stoned on some mephedrone and completely blacked out of the fact that I'd written this up, so I did it all again. It is a bit different from the original, for sure. But I deleted the original so there's no duplication.
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