4 12 2012

The Shamans of Peru have done their best to keep the ancient traditions of the Andean region alive. Sadly, most of the knowledge has been forgotten. In the modern world, the son´s of shamans are not interested in learning ancient knowledge, lured by the western world of money and materialism. One man in Cusco who still knows something of the past is the retired historian Abraham Valencia Espinoza whom I interviewed several weeks ago.

Once the interview was over, Senor Valencia indicated ‘one moment,’ then stood and announced he wanted to show me something. He left the room and returned smiling like a child. With him he carried a box wrapped in a patch blanket with four coloured squares. He told us: “In the past people with powers to predict the future were known as Alto Misayoq. A person struck by lightning was deemed to receive special powers. Out of the lightning come two stones. The stones are the High Priests amulets and have magnetic power. Through these stones the Alto Misayoq speaks with the Gods.”

In the past true shamans would climb the hills in a thunderstorm and attempt to attract the lightning. The shaman´s that were struck were considered to have the greatest powers and were revered as demi-gods. They were known as Alto Misayoq. Dr. Valencia told us the last true Alto Misayoq died when he was a young. All of Cusco lined the streets to watch his funeral procession and pay their respects.

Dr. Valencia proceeded to show us a demonstration using a blanket originally associated with the Alto Misayoq, known as a Tiklla (pronounced Tikia). He laid the blanket on the table and told me each coloured square represented four regions. White represented Chinchay Suyo. In that square you put the oil of a Llama. In the grey square you give corn. This is the region of Anti Suyo. In the brown square, Konti Suyo, you leave the foetus of a Llama. And in the black square, Kalla Suyo, there you put a starfish.

The centre of the cloth represents Cusco and there you place a shell filled with water. Then you leave a set of three coca leaves around the shell. Dr. Valencia pulls out a box filled with obscure paraphernalia. This is when things started to get complicated. He began taking things out of the box and placing them inside a cotton tea towel.

“This is a symbol of fertility,” he said taking a toy snake from the box. Then he pulls out an elongated gold Puma, a male figurine sporting an erection and the kidney stone of a Llama.

Shamanic traditions

Traditionally the Power of Pachamama is performed on the 1st of January and 1st August, but in today’s world it is performed all the time. Though this is an example of how traditional wisdom is being ignored by practicing Shamans for commercial gain, the festival is still respected on the original dates and is a major event in Peru.

I recalled a conversation I had had earlier that day with a little Peruvian man called Angel, the manager of Ethnikas. He told me that the most important part of their service involved leaving a gift for Pachamama (Mother Earth). The ceremony teaches participants the importance of giving to Pachamama in order to receive from the Universe. The ceremony is part of the Ethnika experience when you book a session of ayahuasca. From what Senor Valencia had told me they certainly sounded more genuine than some of the other agencies I had spoken with.

Dr. Valencia proceeded with the demonstration and explained that the gifts to Pachamama are folded in paper and either burnt or buried in the ground. The ceremony is often referred to as a despatcho and is supposed to create the life energy to make your wishes and desires come true.

When it was time to leave, Dr. Valencia took my hand firmly in the two of his and shook it warmly. “Thank you,” he said in English. “Thank you.” His gratitude was sincere and I got the impression it wasn’t for the $100 I’d had charged me for an hour of his time, but for exposing the history and traditions of indigenous Andes peoples to the West. He wasn’t the first to express his thanks and he wouldn’t be the last. Peruvians have an untold story to tell and they want the world to hear.


The Inka Museum, Cusco, Peru

3 08 2012

The interview with Dr. Valencia had given me an expert insight into the past and practices of the Inca and other Andean cultures. Armed with a little more knowledge I thought I’d better take myself off to the Inca Museum in Cusco to learn more.

The Inca Museum sits on the corner towards the bottom of Cuesta del Almirante and is identified by a solid green door with a bright red sign which reads INKA MUSEUM in white letters. A pretty fountain dances just outside. The two storey building is departmentalised into the different eras of the Andean cultures, giving you a brief introduction to each before launching into a fully-blown unfolding of the Inca Empire.

At the entrance where visitors hand over the 10 soles (2.20GBP) admission fee I asked for a guide and was subsequently greeted by Javier, a chubby young Peruvian with a friendly smile and jolly personality.

The first room we enter is small with glass cabinets pressed up against the wall. The first thing you notice is a large headdress made from gold. I took out my camera to take a photograph and was informed it is forbidden to take pictures,

“That is the sun God, Choquechinchay,” Javier tells me.

For years, the first recorded culture in the Andes was the Chavin around 1500 BCE. That has now known to be a false assumption following the discovery of Caral in 2001 – although a decade on and the Inka Museum has not updated its information! When I point that out to the guide, he replied, “yes, but it is the Chavin who first worshipped the sun God they called Choquechinchay.”

A depiction of Virococha at Tiwanaku

That may be true in Peru, but Choquechinchay has a familiar look of the figure carved into the Sun Gate at Tiwanaku where he is known as Viracocha. As we found at Tiwanaku there is some dispute as to when the settlement was built and could even date back to 15,000 BCE.

“Choquechinchay was also known as Titi,” Javier says. “Titi in Aymara is the word for Puma.”

Javier then pointed out something I had become quite familiar with in Inca architecture. Choquechinchay had the hair shaped like a serpent, the face of a puma and the hands of the condor.

“Around his head are 19 serpents,” Javier tells me.

“Why 19,” I ask.

“Yes, 19.”

David’s comment as we left Q’enko echoed back to me. “There are 19 niches. Nobody knows why.” I ask Javier again why 19 serpents. I don’t know whether he didn’t understand the question or whether he didn’t know the answer, but he just smiled and moved on.

Few Facts in the Inca Museum in Cusco

There was little else I found of great interest in the Inca Museum that I didn’t already know. Typical of Museums it only scratches the surface although I did find a couple of interesting artefacts.

The fist was a large wooden pipe known as an Akilla. It had a serpent carved into a long handle. Javier told me it was used to drink Chicha, a sacred drink made from corn. This may well be the case though I couldn’t help thinking how much it looked like a pipe used for smoking tobacco.

Several years ago I had read somewhere that Shamans smoked tobacco to help them transcend into the spiritual world. Inhaling smoke stops the oxygen getting to your brain which is how smokers have a brief sense of euphoria and one of the reasons why smoking is addictive. Johannes Wilbert states something similar in an article titled: Tobacco and Shamanism in South America. He writes:

The Flower of Life

“In ritualistic use, tobacco was consumed in quantities large enough to cause hallucinations.”

Tobacco plays a central role in the spiritual training of Shamans. It is used in many rituals and even mixed with the juice of the Ayahuasca plant in preparation for the ceremony. Taken in high doses, tobacco is toxic and Shamans undergoing initiation would “inhale copious amounts that would take them to the edge of the grave.” The belief is that “he who overcomes death by healing himself is capable of curing and revitalizing others”.

It occurred to me in the Inca Museum that I was looking at an artefact used for a particular purpose by the ancient Indians, yet was being told it was used for something entirely different.  For the record, Chicha is a mildly alcoholic drink used at ceremonies to foster a sense of solidarity in the community. It is still part of the culture in South America today.

In other words it is perfectly harmless and can’t help you reach out-of-mind levels of consciousness that open up the third eye and allow you to see beyond the material realm in the same way Shaman’s use tobacco. There seems little reason then for the ancients to make a drinking vessel to represent a snake – the symbol for wisdom. Is this another example of historians and scholars keeping the truth about esoteric wisdom darkly veiled or is it that they just don´t know?

Further into the museum I found more evidence of a change in ancient cultures. The tide well and truly turned after the invasion of the Spanish who had begun inflicting their European ideals on the Inca since their arrival. As we had learned in Chuquito, the indigenous peoples of South America who refused to convert to Catholicism were flogged to death. They had little choice other than to convert from their traditional religious and cultural values in favour of Spanish ways.

Inca Archetypes

Javier introduced me to Qero – ceremonial cups. I had seen a number of similar types, many of which depicted snakes, pumas, fish and other sacred animals in the artwork. These images of course are the archetypes which were central to the culture of ancient civilisations and worshipped as deities.

During Inca times the same images is evident in their artwork, ceramics, and even their architecture, but in the cabinets indicating the ceramics were made after the conquistadors had landed, the artwork on the Qeros instead show soldiers on horseback slaying Indians. Already ancient traditions were dying out; and soon they would fade to a dim memory of the past. Out of sight, out of mind.

The fact of the matter is that even though the ancient history of the Andean population was only infiltrated 500 years ago, in a time when history was recorded, the aim of European countries conquering ancient lands was to strangle the ancient knowledge of esoteric wisdom so that future generations would not know about it. Sure enough today, most people do not even believe in God or spiritualism, therefore they will never know that esoteric wisdom exists.

After I left the Inca Museum the significance of the number 19 was bothering me so I did some research and found a few very interesting answers.

In his acclaimed book, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” Paramhansa Yogananda writes:

The “astral” body is said to be composed of 19 elements: intelligence; ego; feeling; mind(sense consciousness) and five instruments of knowledge; the subtle counterparts of the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch; the five instruments of action, the mental correspondence for the executive abilities to procreate, excrete, talk, walk, and exercise manual skill; and five instruments of life force, those empowered to perform the crystallizing, assimilating, eliminating, metabolizing, and circulating functions of the body.

Furthermore the symbol depicting the Flower of Life has 19 interlocking circles. The flower of life is connected to the ancient teachings of esoteric wisdom, the understanding of the self. Each human has a unique talent which can be nurtured to change your personal world. It is said by spiritual teachers that by living that pure true self beyond your limited beliefs, you slowly change the world around you and experience greater freedom and possibilities.

The Flower of Life interspersed with the Tree of Life in West Minster Abbey, London

The flower of life is considered one of the most powerful sacred patterns of geometry in nature and is said to have emerged from the Great Void – that everything is made from the Mind of the original creator, or as scientists call it, the big bang.

The tree of life can be dated back to the Egyptians, but is also found in Christianity locked into the Tree of Life. This is the symbol you see in the windows of churches and cathedrals like West Minster Abbey.

In Muslim symbolism we find the star tetrahedron, otherwise known as the Merkaba – or the tree of life. Furthermore the Koran has the number 19 encoded all the way through it. The star tetrahedron is also associated with Judaism. In other words, almost all major religions share the same powerful symbol that is connected to ancient teachings of esoteric wisdom – yet none of these same religions teach people how to understand their inner-self whereby you can ascend to higher levels of consciousness and experience true freedom.

It should be noted that the symbol of the star tetrahedron has been used in churches all over the globe – most significantly by the Knights Templar in churches and Cathedrals across Europe. You also find the same esoteric symbolism is present in christian churches throughout Peru and the rest of South America – and it´s not just a coincidence!