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.


Day Tripping in Pisac: An Experience with San Pedro

28 08 2012

Peeling Pedro in Pisac

The San Pedro Cactus

There are questions about our ancient ancestors and the ability of shamans to transcend to other dimensions that have been gnawing at me for years now. And where did they get the knowledge and ideas to build such monumental structures? How were they able to build pyramids with such a degree of accuracy?  I can only come to one conclusion: The ancient shamans were on drugs!

Of course, I am not the first researcher to reach this conclusion. As a matter fact the idea is almost a foregone conclusion, but was it the experiences they had whilst indulging in hallucogens that allowed them to envisage the knowledge to build such great structures and acquire the knowledge to do so. Shamans say some drugs speak to them and tell them everything. Some have reported being given the answers to complex mathematical equations such as string theory. Could the plants of nature really help humans be so powerful and knowledgeable?

The hallucogens shamans use to day are mostly for healing. Ayahuasca and San Pedro are hallucogenics, not unlike LSD or crystal Meth; though they are not party drugs. They possess healing properties and are considered “medicines” throughout South America. Though they are hallucogens, they are perfectly legal in South America and used by shamans for the purpose of spiritual healing. With the right shamanic guidance, an experience with San Pedro or ayahuasca will teach you many things about yourself.

By definition shamans are medicine men, spiritual doctors if you will. In western terms they’re known as psychologists. For years Shamanic healing has been regarded as primitive techniques by Western scientists, yet the medicine is far more effective than the poisoned drugs dished out by western GP´s and psychologists, have a far quicker response rate and are subsequently far less expensive than western treatments.

Ancient Shamanic Wisdom

The reason for this is that in reality the only person that can cure your demons, depressions and insecurities is you. Your entire being is psychological. Shaman´s know this. The ancients knew this. But knowing and believing are two different things. If you want it to, San Pedro will reaffirm your existence in the universe and cure any wounds opened up in the past.

As we pass through life our experiences instil a programme in our psyche, a way of thinking. Your personal experience will determine the outcome of your beliefs. Science shows that our first seven years of life go a long way into shaping how we behave as adults. But the fact of the matter is we continue to programmed by our experiences every day, good or bad, for the rest of our lives. The key to understanding yourself therefore is to learn your programmes and reverse any negative ones.

Whilst I was in Peru I wanted to experience either Ayahuasca or San Pedro for two reasons; for personal means, but also for research for the book – and subsequently this blog: Journeys to Ancient Worlds. It was purely by chance that I met Julian Jurak on a boat crossing Lake Titicaca, and after a moment of enlightenment one day in Puno, found myself at Paz y Luz in Pisac. It was here that I would have my first experience with San Pedro.


Pisac is a sedate little village at the very beginning of the Sacred Valley, an hour´s collectivo drive from Cusco. Surrounded by raking mountains on all sides it’s a pleasure to just kick back and take in the picturesque scenery. Paz y Luz is a five minute ride in a Tuk Tuk, or moto-taxi as they are called in Peru. Peaceful and comfortable there is a good energy about the place. I felt safe and prepared for a spiritual journey in search of a soul.

San Pedro is regarded as a sacred plant among the ancient cultures of the Andean region and can be found in Chavin stone carvings and ceramics, some dating as far back as 15,000 BCE. It is extracted from the cactus plant and contains mescaline together with 30 other alkaloids. It is generally prepared by boiling strips of the cactus until it forms a powder. During the ceremony it is mixed with water and gulped down in one foul swoop. The taste is none too pleasant.

After drinking the medicine I laid on the yoga mat and blankets and waited for the medicine to kick-in. I wasn´t sure what to expect and was a little apprehensive. It rested heavily on my stomach and I felt nauseous, partly because I was forbidden to have breakfast.

It takes between 10 and 20 minutes for the medicine to take effect. At first you may feel lethargic and restless. It’s not unusual to purge. This is the plant clearing out any unwanted waste in your body. Subsequently it’s best practice not to eat meat, fish or anything spicy for two or three days before the ceremony. Likewise you must abstain from alcohol and sex, including masturbation. Self-discipline will reward you with a better experience.

The ceremony with Julian was performed in a circular temple, a bandstand-like structure with a straw roof known as a Moloka. Once the drug began to take effect, the red tiles on the floor morphed and swayed, the temple rocked gently like a giant hammock. Pachamama (Mother Earth) was seducing me with her rhythmic movement and I felt relaxed.

The Majestic Calm of Pisac

In Pisac the mountains are in full view from all directions. They came alive and appeared like a busy city at work from a bird’s eye view, like watching a line of ants from a distance. Majestic faces formed in the clouds. Now I understood why the Inca were so in tune with nature and believed the mountains had spirits that talked to them.

The Moloka

I laid on the yoga mat and wrapped blankets around me in awe of the surreal surroundings. The nausea had dissipated, but when I looked down at my legs my body appeared to me like a midget. My legs were like thin little stumps. I felt myself shrinking. Julian told me, “Sometimes you have to feel small before you can feel big.” It’s an integral part of personal growth.

Before a Shaman conducts a “medicinal ceremony,” he will ask you what you want to achieve from the session. This can be anything, physical and mental. If you have trouble with your joints a Shaman will fix them. I sometimes lack confidence in myself and suffer with anxiety. I wanted to address that. I was also intrigued in meeting with the creator I had heard so much about – especially during my time at Paz y Luz.

“Why do you lack confidence in yourself?” Julian asked.

Even before my experience with San Pedro I knew the answer to this stemmed from my childhood. I´m a right-brain thinker and often had different ideas to other people, but didn´t know how to express my ideas because I didn´t have the facts, yet normal views of people around me didn´t always make sense. I was picked on for this and often dismissed. It was often the case when I was growing up that I felt isolated.

Things didn´t improve when I was an adult and started work in an office. Somebody once told me they thought I was weird because “you write books and shit.” It was saddening to realise how narrow minded some people can be. Yet I need to accept that this is how the world is. If you don´t follow the herd, you become a black sheep on the fringes of society and find it difficult to be accepted. This is how I feel.

“Did you feel rejected as a child?” Julian asked me.

“Yes,” I said.

“Did anybody tell you that you were destined for failure?”

“Not in so many words.” But that is how I was made to feel.

“I am a failure is a common program,” Julian said. “Let´s replace that with I have complete confidence in my own ability in everything I do.”

He took my hand between his and went into a trance. Looking towards the heavens his eyeballs flickered behind his half-closed lids. I felt a surge of energy pulse through his hands into mine. It surged up my arm with a force I had never experienced from anybody. It was like a bolt of electricity flowing through my veins and with so much power my arm went numb.

“How does that feel?” Julian asked.

“Okay,” I said.

“Meditate on that program for a while. There will be more work to do later.”

San Pedro Visions

I meditated and felt a lightness wash over me. The whirring in my head softened as though the pressure had leaked out through my ears. After meditating I went for a walk in the garden. My legs were so light it felt as though I was walking in blancmange. The flowers glowed with such vivid colours my surroundings appeared like a Beatles video.

I was sharing my San Pedro experience with Doris, an Austrian girl who was working at Paz y Luz. She had worked with San Pedro before, but felt as though she needed another session. She told me she had issues from her childhood, mainly rejection and ill-treatment from her older brothers who used to bully her.

I watched Julian performing the same re-programming with her as he had on me. It was a profound moment. In the temple I could suddenly see lines that crossed like a matrix. Everything seemed to form in geometric patterns. A dome of light emanated from Julian and Doris and Doris´ face morphed rapidly into different characters from old to young, anguished and afraid. Then suddenly, peace. She looked beautiful. Had I just see a moment of creation?

Later Julian came over to work with me again. “Do you trust yourself?” he asked.

“Not always.”

“Why do you think that?”

“I have this fear that I´m not doing things right. Sometimes it stops me from writing.”

“Do you think that´s because you will be rejected by others?”

“Possibly. I don´t really know, rejections are part of my work and that doesn´t worry me. My problem is that I worry I won´t find the right words.”

“You expect too much from yourself.” Julian told me. “Let´s work with that. I´m going to change the program ´I have no confidence in myself,´ to ´I trust myself completely in everything I do.´ He pumped the program through my arm. That was trust and confidence in myself dealt with.  After that it was trust in others and trust in the universe.

Six years ago I gave up my job and sold my house to pursue a writing career. In effect, I lost all my financial security to chase after what might have just been a pipe dream. Initially I even moved to Amsterdam in search of inspiration, to live a little. England was too dull for me. But the massive changes to my life deepened my anxiety. In Amsterdam I went to a counsellor to try and improve my condition and improve my confidence. The results were fleeting.

Spiritual Healing in Pisac

The effects of San Pedro last for around eight hours. Some ceremonies only last four or five hours. Julian likes to make his potion strong so his clients get more from the session. As the light was fading he made a fire. The reason was so he could perform a ´pestacho´ a ceremony whereby you offer gifts to Pachamama and burn away your fears and frustrations.

I wanted my anxiety to burn away. At the time it didn´t feel as though it was working. Doris took my hand in hers and as we watched the sunset over the mountains the soothing feeling returned. Lights flashed in the sky like a disco. “That´s for us ” Doris said. “We´re part of nature.”

That night I went to bed feeling a little weird. I had a lot to think about and didn´t feel as though the experience with San Pedro had helped as much as I had hoped. I felt melancholic and tired. Yet the next day I felt great and have done ever since. No anxiety clouds in the head, no worries about what to write when I face a blank page. When I feel low or anxious, I meditate with the mantra, “I have complete faith in myself, in others, and in the Universe,” and feel the positive effects instantly. There is no doubt in my mind that my experience with San Pedro in Peru has reprogrammed my way of thinking – something western science could not give me.

Whether our ancient ancestors used hallocugens for greater purposes is open for debate. My personal experience certainly wasn´t as profound as some of the reports I read, but then I am still on a journey to discover (I hope) what the human mind can really be capable of – whether in a sober state or with stimulation. What I can categorically say from my experience with San Pedro it helped me see the world in a different light and maybe stripped a way a layer of the veil that conceals the truth. I hope it is possible for humankind to travel to other dimensions and learn more about ourselves and the universe, but until I have that experience I will never know the truth – but after my experience with San Pedro in Peru, I feel I have taken a step closer to becoming one with the source.

Ancient Shaman Healing in Peru

24 08 2012

The Man Who Conquered Cancer: An Interview with Ray H Crist

During the four elements workshop at Paz y Luz in Pisac, I had the fortune to meet Ray H Crist. He is a practicing Shaman, taught by the Qéro Indians of Peru, and the founder of the spiritual healing group, Jaguar Path. Out of interest I ask him what lead him on to the path of Andean Shamanism. Ray has a fascinating story to tell, one of survival against the odds, alternative healing and the power of the mind.

Ray´s story begins in 2002 when he was diagnosed with cancer. Not long before that he had received the wonderful news that his then wife was pregnant. That news should have been the clincher to change his life-style, but the diagnoses of cancer overshadowed it.

His life-threatening news came about purely by chance. He had gone to hospital in terrible pain and was told he was passing stones through his kidneys. But the ultra-sound registered more than just kidney stones. It was infested with a tumour.

“The doctor told me I should go into surgery the next day. I was with a friend at the time and asked the doctor if we could have a moment. When he left I got dressed and left. We just walked out. Nobody even saw us. I didn’t even take the surgeons business card.”

Words of Wisdom from the Oracle of Delphi

The diagnosis ripped his world apart. At the time he was living in Greece so decided to visit the famous Oracle of Delphi.

“The answers she gives always has two meanings so she’s never wrong,” Ray tells me. “What she told me was he that travels gets healed. He who stays puts gets healed and dies.”

Ray´s understanding of the message was if he stayed in Greece in the life that he knew he would die – but he would die with regrets. That was his biggest fear of death.

“We all know that,” he says, “because within us all is an innate sense if wisdom. Wise men are no different than any of us. We are all wise men. Wisdom is innate and it’s just a matter of tapping into it.

It was a classic case of Plato´s theory of innate ideas. We all have the answers within us, we just haven’t realised them yet. My own belief was that we are all capable of being wise providing we choose the path to find wisdom.

When Ray was 16 he had read Carlos Castaneda´s teachings of Don Juan. The book had such a profound effect on him he travelled to Mexico to seek out the Shaman. He was fascinated by Don Juan´s ability to transcend to other realms and wanted to experience the power of that world for himself.

“But I didn’t. I was a successful photographer working for Vogue, but that life wasn’t really full. It was merely surface. It had no depth. I had cars, motorcycles, models. I was cruising different countries of the world on yachts. But I was living in the mundane, an illusion.”

Ray doesn´t exactly see the entire world as fake and phoney, but from his readings all those years ago he knew there was a lot more to life. He knew there was a real side.

“Were you looking for something more internal?” I asked. “A belief system that was more fulfilling.”

Ray pauses for a long time to think.

“That’s a good question. Belief systems don’t fulfil you. I had a belief systems but I wasn’t connected to life itself. And there was this other thing that I remembered from these books. It said that when Death knocks on your door, change your address.”

After Ray had reflected on his fate and the words of the Oracle, he came to the conclusion this was definitely not his time. There was no reason for him to die. That´s when he realised he had to disappear.

“I knew what was going to happen,” he says, “was that that ego, the self with all those energy lines, habits, addictions, ways of being, belief systems; everything in that person was  convicted to die. I had a few months to live. It was on the horizon and I thought, this is it. So I left. I decided that if there are men and women out there who are healers and if there is anything like magic or if there is something like enlightened people that could help me understand the spirit and find a connection then I would just go and find it. So I sold everything and disappeared.”

Most of his possessions he gave away. He put his house up for sale and closed down his business. Inside a few days everything was gone. He told just two people what was happening. He didn’t want to make this thing a reality.

Spiritual Healing in Thailand

His decision to leave Greece took him to monasteries in the north of Thailand where he stayed for over a year taking herbs from the mountains, he learned how to do self acupuncture. In that time he faced his demons.

“It was so difficult to accept my shortcomings. I just kept on finding them. In the moment of living waiting to die I could not find the space to heal myself. Even though I was a very normal person. I wasn’t a bad person, just an average guy. I hadn’t done anything that was out of any moral standing. I just had this guilt. We all collect them from since we were kids. The only reason this happens is because we’re afraid that we’re already guilty so we can never fully express ourselves because we feel we are going to be exposed. So we all skip along playing the game.”

After another year of taking herbal remedies, Ray went for check-up at the hospital. Nothing had changed. The cancer had not got any worse; it had stayed dormant which meant he was doing something right. Essentially it was a struggle for purification, an exercise to understand how to forgive himself.

“I needed to know there was more to life,” Ray tells me. “If I could find a higher place and evolve I would have no reason to feel that I wasn´t enough. I had to come to terms with myself otherwise I would lose everybody I knew, including by that time my born son. He would have grown up without ever knowing me.”

“Is that what compelled you to turn to alternative healing instead of western medicine?”

“Yeah, because one way or another I was going to die.”

But even the healers in Thailand could only do so much for his condition. He was advised to have the tumour taken out. ´

“You can change small things, but big things make matters harder. It likes maths. It’s not just magic, there is a mechanism involved in trying to make something smaller. When you get the idea you can heal, it makes things much easier, but if you let it grow it becomes harder and will eventually pull you down.”

Ray was blessed; at least that what he believes. The people he met were key to his recovery. From the outset, every person he met had answers that helped him out. His conviction that this was not the end was affirmed.

“It proved I was right not to take the results from the hospital. That would have been accepting reality. Then I met this wonderful person, whose father was a doctor in Washington. He referred me to a study in the National Health. They found it interesting that after two years I was still alive. They put me on a six month program continuing what I had been doing. Then I went into surgery.”

Before the tumour had been removed Ray had taken up Yoga where he met a wonderful community of people. He learned about mantras and eventually became certified as a yoga teacher.

“By this time I was already in a better place. I had been and met a wonderful community of people in the yoga world that supported me. When I left that centre there were 20 people who prayed for me and during the surgery I could sense they were all there.”

Each day he emerged himself in learning instead of worrying. It was important to keep busy and not worry – that is a disease in itself. It was a tremendous time of growth.

The path of the Shaman

In Carlos Castaneda’s book, Don Juan Matus said the difference between a Shaman and a normal person is the Shaman knows he will die. Normal people who don’t think they will die think they have hundreds of years ahead of themselves so don’t do anything, they just sit in front of the television and do nothing. But we can´t just be. If there was another moment that could pass by without learning something there would never be a mystery. It’s not enough about finding impressions, it’s about finding the mystery behind the mystery. When you get comfortable you stop thinking and you think you’ve answered the question; but you never find the answer because there´s always another question – the mystery behind the mystery. It’s an impossibility. For Ray the mystery was about awakening. If you are present in everything you do, if you do something with all your heart, then life is fulfilling.

The Four Elements Workshop, Pisac, Peru

20 08 2012

A Date with Destiny in Peru at Paz y Luz

Paz y Luz, Pisac

The first time I believed in fate was when I was travelling around Peru. When I was younger I used to think it was clichéd nonsense. These days I keep an open mind about most things especially spirituality and how we connect with the energy of the Universe. During my journeys through the ancient worlds of South America I´m learning about the mysterious and powerful universal force that has a profound effect on us far greater than many people understand or appreciate. It comes in many forms and can be backed both philosophically and scientifically. On this occasion for me, I found myself at Paz y Luz spiritual healing centre in Pisac, Peru, and the experience changed my life!

I call it fate because Pisac was not on my original to go list. The first link in the chain of events that led me to Pisac began in my first week on the road. Literally in fact! I was on a bus from Santa Cruz to Sampaiata and met Eve, an English women living in Bolivia. Eve told me I should go to Isla Del Sol. I had contemplated visiting the Lake Titicaca Island when I was planning my trip back in London, but after researching it did not feel compelled to go. Eve convinced me otherwise.

On the boat from Copacabana to Isla del Sol I met Julian, a practicing Shaman from England. He told me about his journey learning the ways of Andean Shamanism and that if I was interested in taking ayahuasca or San Pedro I could find him at Paz y Luz in Pisac. I didn´t think any more of it until about three days later. That´s when fate dealt me another hand.

I was reading a book called Cusco: The gateway to Inner Wisdom by Diane Dunn that I had found in ´100 books of solitude´, a library swap shop in Oliver Travels pub in La Paz. In the book Diane talks about her experience with ayahuasca and how it had helped her find her calling to become a spiritual healer. I was reading the epilogue in a restaurant in Puno and learned she had set up a spiritual healing centre in Pisac. She had called the B&B Paz y Luz, the same place Julian had told me about on the boat. As I was finishing the book the lights went out in the restaurant and the page was illuminated by candlelight. In fact, there was a power shortage right throughout the city. Outside, in the pitch darkness a torrential downpour bounced violently on the pavement. Was this a sign? I wasn´t sure, but took the decision to email Diane. She replied and invited me to attend a workshop she was holding at Paz y Luz at the end of the month. I had no hesitation in accepting her offer.

Spiritual Healing Theta Meditation

Paz y Luz is located on the fringes of Pisac village, a bumpy but exhilarating moto-taxi ride along the side of the raging Urubamba River. It´s peaceful, quiet and, as it turned out inspirational. That night I met an Australian girl, Debbie. She was also a guest and was scheduled for the Four Elements workshop the next day. As we sipped red wine, she introduced me to Theta Meditation. The process involves describing a journey through space and instantly helps you develop a mental picture.

“Sit with you feet flat to the floor and close your eyes,” Debbie told me. “Breathe deeply and relax. Imagine you are connected to the planet and feel the energy of Pachamama rising from the earth into your feet, through your legs, up into your body and straight to your heart. Feel the love and the warmth of Pachamama as she comforts you.”

As she spoke, I felt a light tingling sensation seeping through my legs. It was like the vibrations I had got from the rock at Amaru Muru.

“Now imagine you are in a bubble that rockets into space, schoom, and as you fly into the darkness stars appear. You fly past them and see a planet ahead. You go zooming past. Then another planet flies past and another. Ahead of you is a rainbow. Aim for the pink strand and fly through it.”

I could see the rainbow more vividly than a spectrum arc in the sky, and headed for the pink.

“When you get to the other side, you come to a long corridor with a door at the far end. Walk along the corridor. When you get to the door open it…and you will meet with your creator.”

I opened the door and saw a vivid image of a cross with equilateral sides. Each spoke looked like the head of a sword with the blades melted into each other in the middle. I have tried to think where I have seen this image before, but can´t pinpoint this exact image. However, to give you an idea it looks similar to the Christian cross on your right, but with each spoke measuring equal lengths like the cross below. Both photographs have been taken at Christian churches. I later learned that what I saw was the Rosicrucian cross – one of the most powerful Freemasonic groups in existence. Fascinating that a group practicing esoteric wisdom has the same symbols as the Christian Church isn´t it!

I was somewhat disappointed that I didn´t meet an actual person, man, woman or hermaphrodite – as I had heard other people talk about. Debbie told me she can only see a shadow, but is at a point where she is able to communicate with her creator. But what did all this mean?

Debbie is not a typical spiritual person who sometimes appear a little odd and aloof when they are talking about fairies and pixies. She is a normal young lady like the average person you come into contact every day. In fact, she told me that until her experience at Paz y Luz she has always been sceptical about the new age movement. She was still coming to terms with how much the techniques she had learnt at Paz y Luz had empowered her mind so profoundly. And now she isn´t an average person, she has a special ability – one she had developed in just 6 days!

Andean Healing and the Jaguar Path

The next morning I joined a group of Americans who were taking the workshop. They were known as the Jaguar Path and practice the fundamentals of Andean Shamanism and Eastern yoga. They were a wonderful group of people; open, friendly and very welcoming. I found it remarkable that they had come together as a group yet lived in different parts of the United States – a small Shamanic group assembled together in a huge continent. Many of them were meeting for the first time on this trip to Peru, but despite that, it was clear they had a kindred spirit. After all they were all in search of the same thing. To find peace with themselves.

After the usual introductions, Diane began the workshop with a dedication to the seven corners of the planet. The four winds of north, south, east and west. Facing the mountains that surrounded us in each direction I could already sense the presence of an immense energy coursing through the bare skin of my hands. Then we paid tribute to Pachamama (mother earth), Hanak Pacha (the heavens) and the innerself.

Diane explained the three worlds I had already heard so often whilst researching Andean traditions:

Uku Pacha – the underworld, our unconscious represented by the serpent, the symbol of wisdom.
Kay Pacha – the material world, our conscious represented by the Puma and the Llama.
Hanak Pacha – the super conscious, the dimension of spirits, represented by the Condor and the hummingbird.
She then went on to explain the three important principles that connected us with the three worlds:
Yatsui – work or service
Yankai – wisdom
Munchi – love

Then she introduced us to the teachings of the first of the four elements.

The Earth Element

The earth element is the most dense, the most forgiving of the elements. It represents Pachamama who, like any mother, listens to your troubles and takes the burden for you. Pachamama takes your troubles as a gift and receives it with gratitude. Think of it has giving your shit to the earth so that she can fertilise it and make something grow.

“The earth cleanses and transforms,” Diane told us. “Working with the elements is to clean out your trash. Speak to Pachamama and tell her your troubles. Sometimes when you clear out your wardrobe, spare room, or attic you find something you’d forgotten you had. This can also happen when airing your grievances to the earth.”

The sacred for the element of earth is “to want.” We were asked to find a place on our own, put our ears to the ground and release our “shit” into the ground. Then we were to listen to what Pachamama had to tell us.

It was raining outside so I stayed in the conservatory where the workshop was being held. In the middle of the floor was the sacred Andean symbol of the Chakana. Even before everybody had scattered I knew that was where I wanted to lie. I put down a blanket to cushion my chest on the hard floor and poured my heart out to Pachamama. In truth I didn’t have much to say, but asked for help in finding peace with the system that is dumbing society down and turning us into mindless cattle. This is what Angelo Herrera Delgado had told me I needed to do back at Etnika´s in Cusco.

When I put my ear to the ground to listen to what Pachamama had to tell me, I heard dogs barking frantically in the distance. There were about five of them going crazy. Then all of sudden things went silent and I heard birds singing. Was this a sign to demonstrate I could learn to manage my anger and frustration until I found peace? Given that Mama Yupanqui told me the birds only sing sad songs these days I’m not convinced a message was sent to me at all. Though if the birds do know the world is going to end, then maybe the people can create a better world other than the materialistic one that has been designed by the white supremacists of Europe and America. If only I knew what the birds were saying.
When we regrouped Diane told us about the next element, water.

The Element of Water

Water is the most subtle element. Its purpose is to wash away the dirt and leave us with a balanced mind. “Because water is adaptable it can teach us also to ride with the waves of life. When water is confronted with something blocking its path, it always finds a way around it.” As Diane spoke she demonstrated how water changes its flow by tilting a bottle.

Urubamba River

We live on a water planet and water is governed by the moon. As we know it determines the tides of the shore. Our bodies are made of more than 70% of water and it has been scientifically proven that a full moon can affect behaviour patterns. This was another example how we are directly connected to the cosmos.

“Sometimes we get filthy with the grime of life and the water washes it away,” Diane told us. “When you are working with water, feel it power, it´s energy. Put your hands or your feet in the river, listen to the sounds. Does the water have a message? Meditate and take a journey through the water.” If you are knew to meditation, water is a very powerful element to help you visualise images in your mind´s eyes and go on a journey.

The scared word for water is to be silent and down by the river is as peaceful a setting as you an imagine. The sun was bearing down on my face as I meditated and I went on a journey through different bodies of water, starting with the river I flowed into a lake, then an ocean until I found myself flying through the cosmos. It was the most profound meditation exercise I had ever experienced. I didn´t want it to end. Eventually I came to a room plated with gold, but couldn´t get any further. When I opened my eyes everyone had disappeared. I rejoined the group and learned about air.

The Element of Air

“Every second of every day we are intimately connected to air,” Diane said. “Air purifies and enlightens. Breathing is the best purifier for the body and helps us to expand our consciousness” The sacred word is to know.

Air is the element of interconnection, just like a radio and the internet, TV, mobiles and satellites are only possible through airwaves. Diane told us we are on the cusp of a cosmic shift which will give us increased conscious awareness. This will also be possible through the airwaves.

For the exercise we had to climb a small hill onto a tiny plateau which offered stunning views of Pisac. On the way up I put my hand on the spike of a cactus and almost lost my footing down the rocky hill path. I´d already had a scare with heights on my adventure up Pinkuylluna in Ollantaytambo at this near miss did nothing for my ambivalence to heights.

At the top of the hill we found a comfortable place to lie and were asked to close our eyes. Diane talked us through the meditation in a similar way Debbie had during the Theta healing exercise the previous evening. Diane told us to imagine we were flying, soaring high over the mountains. The aim was to imagine we had taken the shape of a bird, an eagle or the condor, both of which are Andean archetypes.

After a few moments I felt as though I was flying, but the image of a goose appeared in my mind´s eye. I don´t want to be a goose, I thought and tried to change the image. I could myself as a chicken flapping frantically in the air and not getting anywhere. I´m not a chicken, I thought to myself. Then I took on a shape that appeared to me as a shadow. The mountains, rivers and forests were below and swept over and beyond them with ease. I couldn´t see what bird I was, but I felt immense. It was the best meditation experience I have ever had.

The Element of Fire

Safely back at Paz y Luz, we learnt about Fire, the most powerful of the four elements. It transmutes and amplifies. Without fire, the sun would not heat the planet and there would be no life. The sun and the earth´s core is the space of life.

The Jaguar Path around the Fire

“Fire that burns wide can turn rage into peace and harmony, Diane told us. “The sacred word is to dare.”

With fire you can move beyond your comfort zone, release anger, fear and frustration so that the negative energy transform into love. “Fear and anger are toxic and can cause illness,” Diane said. “Whatever grudge you hold in life, fire will burn it away.”

We lit candles punctured through paper plates and stared into the fire in open eye meditation. The fire flickered and shimmered, but I didn´t take much from it. Perhaps I was too fatigues to concentrate, or maybe it was because people were around me and I wasn´t used to meditation, yet alone open-eye meditation.

Later that night we lit a fire and burned sticks. The sticks were a representation of our fears, angers and woes. As we stood in a group it began to rain. In the moment, at the end of the day, all four elements were present.

Tambomachay to Sacsayhuman, Peru

27 07 2012

Duality fountains, Tambomachay

Four Ancient Archaeological Sites for the Price of One

“There are two theories about Tambomachay,” David Choque, my guide tells me.

We are at Tambomachay near Cusco, Peru, the first of four sites you can visit by following the winding path down the mountain and ending at Sacsayhuaman. Most people just visit the latter as it is the most impressive and thus the most well-known. But it doesn´t cost any more to visit the other three and with the right guide, you will discover much more things of interest than you can find at Sacsayhuaman alone.

The first theory about Tambomachay is that the site was used by Inca kings to bathe after hunting. In the time of the Incas the surrounding hills were abundant with wildlife and it is thought the Inca Kings came up here to hunt. The steep terrain would have meant it was tiring work and with all the running and climbing the hunters would have been ready for a bath and somewhere to relax. In Quechua, Tambomachay literally means, “resting place.”

The other theory is this was the site of a temple dedicated to the water God, Pariacaca. The creator God Virococha is also looked up as the God of water, together with the God of rain and fertility among other things.

The water at Tambomachay has flowed at the same consistency for as long as anybody knows, presumably since the day it was built and plumbed in. The water is fresh, most likely from a natural spring, yet nobody knows where it stems from.

Tambomachay is an Inca Mystyery

One thing scholars do agree on is that the site would have been used exclusively by Inca nobility and religious leaders. The water displays are a profound example of that. One in particular is known as the fountain of life. It flows down in a single current before separating into two chutes at the bottom.

Like many things in the Inca world, the fountain of life is a symbolic display of duality. Nothing can exist without an opposite; night and day, man and woman, life and death. It is the same principle as Ying and Yang in ancient Chinese philosophy – yet another example of similarities from cultures half a world apart, despite according to mainstream historians, the peoples of South America and Asia had never met.

Shelter for the Dead

Another re-occurrence I noticed at Tambomachay was the niches I had first seen at El Fuerte in Bolivia and again on the Isla del Sol and at the Wiracocha Temple at Raqchi on the way to Cusco. By now I knew they were called Chullpas and represent the womb.

“They were used to keep mummies of the deceased in,” David tells me. “Each mummy would be looked after by an assistant who would feed them and take them outside for a sun-bath. To the Inca the mummies were considered living people. Servants would even cook for them and feed them.”

To the ancient Andean cultures the niches represented the woman’s womb and the dead are buried in the feotal position – like the mummies we have seen in the Wiracocha Museum on the way to Cusco. With their dead the ancients buried possessions that were considered sacred to the deceased. The whole ceremony was to prepare the soul for the next life. The Incas believed that death was a continuation of this life.

Puca Pucara Inca Check Point of Cusco

We made our way down the hill to the next ancient site, passing Queuna trees along the way, natives of Peru. Across the road from Tambomachay is Puca Pucara, believed to be a check point to count the number of people coming in and out of Cusco, as well as a resting place for messengers on their way to Cusco.

In its prime Puca Pucara would have been an impressive sight. Built in full view of the surrounding hills the four-tiered complex would also have been used as a look-out post.

Historians are certain that Puca Pucara was used as a watch tower because of its defensive wall and its name; in Quechua the meaning translates to red fortress, so called because the minerals in the stone magically change to a reddish colour in the sunshine.

Inca design double jam doors indicate nobility

The doorways were considered sacred and evidence of a double jam structure can be found all over the site suggesting a particular importance was attached to the site. At the back of the complex the smooth walls and skilled stonework is a clear indication that nobility stayed in that portion of the complex. It seems more likely that together Tambomachay and Puca Pucara was a sort of weekend retreat for the Inca hierarchy to relax and play.

At the entrance of the fortress you find rooms where travellers and messengers would have rested before continuing their journey to Cusco another 2km down the hill. Evidence has also been found that the site was used as a large storage facility for produce.

Another mean feat of engineering, the Puca Pucara complex was built on top of natural rocks, believed by the Inca to be the safest foundations.

The outcrop rocks are still in reasonably good condition, much better than the decaying stone underneath.

“That’s because the Inca deemed them to be sacred,” David tells me. “The Inca believed the spirits of deities lived in them.”

The Inca were very in tune with nature, much more so than we are today. Before they slaughtered an animal they would ask the spirit of the animal for its consent to kill it. They believed that without the agreement of the animal the food would be bad. It was a sign of respect for every living creature.

Inca Sacrifices at Q´Enqo

Continuing downhill we grabbed a taxi to drop us of at Q’enqo. For a couple of soles it saves a lot of time and energy.

Q’enqo is a fascinating place. Used as a religious complex, man-made corridors have been carved out of dense rock, and in a tunnel an altar was built for the purpose of performing ritual sacrifices on animals.

At one time of day this labyrinth of corridors was visited by priests and other high ranking religious members from the surrounding areas who would to come pray to their own deities.

Sacrificial Slab at Q´enqo

Although the Inca had conquered much of the Andean region, to show good faith to the occupied cultures they allowed them to continue worshipping their own gods without discrimination. Though some deities changed slightly from one culture to the next the practice of prayer and offering gifts was principally the same. And every culture shared the idea of one Goddess, that of Pachamama, Mother Earth.

As Dr. Valencia had explained a few days earlier, to offer a gift to Pachamama the priest would wrap gifts of corn, textiles, llama fat, cotton and other important products they considered important in paper and burn it. As a result, the high volume of visitors to Q’enqo on a daily basis would cover the place in ash from their burnt offerings. Renowned for the strength of their economy however, the Inca would not even allow ash to be wasted so it was gathered up and scattered on the fields below to ferment the land.

Q’enqo was a very important site for priests. It was here they would conduct ceremonies to pray to the Gods for a good harvest. On special occasions, usually a full moon or the solstices and equinoxes, a ceremony would take place in which an animal would be sacrificed. For the important dates this would be a black Llama, black as this was much rarer and considered more sacred.

The ceremonies always took place in secret and at night and were performed by the High Priest and a close confidante. The priest would perform the sacrificial ritual then tear the heart out of the Llama. The priest is said to have been able to predict how that year’s harvest was going to do by the way the heart came out. Because he was second only to the King in the hierarchy, whatever he said was believed and obeyed.

What Did the Number 19 Mean for the Inca?

As we were leaving David told me something I found very odd. Near the entrance of the Q’enqo complex are 19 small niches. These types of niches are used by priests to place their idols in when they are praying. They can be found in every Inca site still standing. Yet curiously, David tells me this on the way out:

“Nobody knows why there are 19,” he says.

My initial thought was why would anybody even question why there are only 19? Why has the question been raised? It was not until I visited the Inca Museum that I realised there may be some significance in the number after all!

Our last stop is Sacsayhuaman, the formidable fortress looking out over the city of Cusco. Sacsayhuaman represents the head of the Puma whilst the city is laid out in the shape of it body, and you can read more about the symbolism and mystery of Sacsayhuaman in another post.

An Insight into the Inca and Cosmo Visions in Peru

26 07 2012

The Sun God Virococha

An Interview with Retired Peruvian Historian Abraham Valencia Espinoza

There is little information about the Inca of Peru available in England, at least in London anyway. Before I embarked on my travels to Peru however, I was fortunate enough to be put in contact with a delightful and very helpful lady, Fresia Orihuela of Daily Tours in Cusco (Av. Sol 315, Tel: +51 084 277712). Fresia was taken by the idea for my book and subsequently arranged an interview with Senor Abraham Valencia Espinoza, a retired historian who had an illustrious career as an anthropologist at Cusco University for 50 years.

Dr. Valencia originates from Quechua and specialised in the study of ancient civilisations in South America. He has conducted a mountain of research into pre-Colombian cultures together with studies of Andean mystics and Cosmo visions of Shamanic tribes. I met up with him at his home in Cusco to learn more about Andean cultures and what modern man could learn from ancient civilisations. In order to communicate we enlisted the services of a translator, a pleasant and mild-mannered gentleman, David Choque.

Dr. Valencia is wearing a white shirt and beige trousers. His friendly face is capped with greying hair that curl into tiny spirals. To ease into the interview I ask how the Inca were able to achieve such extraordinary feats of engineering and how they learned such progressive architectural skills.

“Before the Inca there were tribes who possessed this knowledge. The Tiwanakans, the Wari’ and the Pucara were the most important.”

Senor Valencia explained these civilisations became very knowledgeable about architecture and engineering. But I still wanted to know how they acquired the knowledge. The professor replied, “They were shown by Viracocha. It goes back to the myths.”

The Legend of Virococha

Viracocha is said to have arrived in South America from across the ocean and walked into the highlands. Dr. Valencia told me about the legend I discovered in Isla del Sol, that talks about Viracocha rising from the depths of Lake Titicaca on a bed of white foam.

The Virococha Temple, Raqchi, Peru

“Viracocha looked totally different to the other people in the area,” Dr. Valencia said. “The people thought he was something mythical and were frightened of him. They didn’t trust him and treated him as an enemy. They threw rocks at him with slings so Viracocha started a fire.”

The interpreter David, a very knowledgeable man himself told me about an event that happened in the ancient past and is still remembered to this day. The region described in the myth is called Kanamarka which means ‘burned city.’ According to legend, the people were afraid of the fire and fled from the village. When they reflected what they had done to Viracocha they were overcome by guilt and returned to the settlement to make their peace. It was agreed they would build a temple in honour of his wisdom. The ruins of the Wiracocha Temple can still be found in the former Aymara community of Raqchi.

I was curious to know whether Senor Valencia subscribed to the orthodox teachings of historians so I ask him when he believed advanced civilisation began. He replied more than 5000 years ago.

“Thousands of years before or hundreds?”  I say.

The learned man gave a wry smile and said, “The Incas were the last culture to have knowledge of the ancients. That is why they were so good at medicine, architecture and maths etc.”

“Knowledge that had been passed down for thousands of years,” I pushed. He nodded his head, but didn’t give a date. Orthodox historians tell us

CNC Cut Stones – Space-age Technology at Tiwanaku

advanced civilisation began in Mesopotamia in modern day Iraq around the year 5500 BCE. Yet here I was with a former historian of the Andes region hinting advanced knowledge in this area of the world may well be much older. My curiosity satisfied I decided to leave it at that, but asked his opinion about the engineering feats achieved at Tiwanaku.

In order to cut stones so precisely they had to work day and night. They used Amorite stone to shape the other stones.”

Knowing that some of the stones at Tiwanaku are diorite, I quizzed Dr. Valencia about how they could have been cut with Amorite. Dr. Valencia replied that the ancients knew of volcanic stones which contained diamonds. This is how they were able to carve diorite. The answer was perfectly acceptable but for one major detail: the Tiwanakans would still have needed the right tools and know-how to cut shapes into the stone with such precision.

“People in the Raqchi area still working with them,” Dr. Valencia told me. His evasive answer suggested I wasn’t going to get an answer.

I was interested to know more about Senor Valencia’s study into Cosmo visions. “Shamans enter a Cosmo vision where they go into the Milky Way and can read the future.” They sounded very much like the description I had read in Diane Dunn’s book, ‘Cusco: The Gateway to Inner Wisdom.’

“There are three worlds, “Dr. Valencia said. “The Upper World, Our World and the Under World. When a Shaman enters a Cosmo vision he enters the Upper World.” As an after-thought, Dr. Valencia said, “but there has not been any real Shaman’s like in Inca times for years.”

David enhanced on this and told me most Shamans today are fakes. “Not even the Q’ero is 100% authentic.” That’s not to say all Shamans are pretenders, many do still practice ancient traditions, but because traditions have died out over time, it is considered Shaman’s today are not as powerful as they were in the ancient past.

Dr. Valencia tells us a story about a very powerful type of Shaman known as Alto Misayoq. It is said they are struck by lightning in order to gain special powers. Earlier that day I had seen a picture depicting such a scene in the office of a Shamanic healing centre. Dr Valencia told us that the last genuine Alto Misayoq living in Cusco died 51 years ago when he was still a boy. The man had a scar on his back in the shape of lightning. His predictions were considered to be so creditable that even the Catholic priests invited him in to the church to help people. He was so well respected that when he died the entire city turned out for his funeral.

Stars were important to the Inca

“What important artefacts tell us most about the past,” I asked.

Inca Pottery

Dr. Valencia told me to look for artefacts with stars on them. I had already found many ceramics depicting stars and had come across a lot of evidence that supported the fact ancient cultures had an in-depth knowledge of astronomy.

“And the magnetic stone, the Hatun Taqe Viracocha,” Dr Valencia said. “This is very important.”

Translated from Quechua the name means ‘The Great God Viracocha,’ and represents the upper world of the Inca. In 1613, Pacuakutiq Yanki Salgamaywi, a native chronicler, painted an oval shaped image in a painting to represent Viracocha and the stone has become synonymous with the mythical creator God ever since.

I wanted to know how the Quechua scholar felt about how the traditions of his indigenous culture were dying out. He looked pensive for several moments and a solemn glaze reflected in his dark eyes.

“Traditions are dying out because myths are disappearing. Nobody talks about Viracocha anymore,” he said. “One particular myth tells the story of a war between the Chankas and the Incas. After weeks of vigorous fighting the blood in the streets reached all the way up to the ankles. Viracocha helped the Incas defeat the Chankas. Afterwards he left South America – the way he had arrived; by boat.”

It was an interesting myth, but the chronology didn’t fit. If Viracocha had first appeared during the time Tiwanaku was built – said to be 500AD – how could he helped the Inca defeat the Chankas in 1438?

“Modern culture is destroying indigenous traditions,” Dr. Valencia continues. “Native children want to create some level of class and try to live in white society, but they struggle. They can’t move forward and they can’t go back. They’re just stuck in the middle.”  In Peru, these people are known as Choclo’s.

“Do you think the influence from Europe hindered the progress of South America as a culture and a continent?

“The arrival of the Spaniards had a totally negative effect on South America. They destroyed the culture, traditions and beliefs,” Dr. Valencia said. As I had already heard in Puno, the Spaniards executed anyone who refused to adopt Christianity as their religion. That was especially the case for Inca rebel leader Amaru Tupac who was executed in the main square at Cusco.

To end the interview I asked the burning question, the main reason I was here.

“What can the modern age learn from ancient cultures?”

“There is a lot to learn from tradition. Respect the Gods is the first. Give to Pachamama and the Universe gives back to you. The Incas were much more economical than us because their systems were more efficient.”

The Gateway of the Gods: Amaru Muru, Peru

21 07 2012

A portal to another dimension..?

“Many people have gone missing in this area,” my guide, Juan Jose tells me. “Children, groups of musicians; all just disappeared.”

We are on the edge of a field in the middle of nowhere, 12,800 feet above sea level in the Andes mountains and 35Km from Puno in the south of Peru. Looming over us is Hayu Marca, a surreal rock formation made of red-brown sandstone with deep rivets melted away by volcanic lava. Even more strange is a mysterious doorway carved into the side of a rock. Locally, this site is known as Amaru Muru; according to legend this is “The Gateway of the Gods.”

Popular myth tells the story of the Inca Priest Amaru Muru fleeing from his temple with the sacred ‘Golden Solar Disc’ which connects man with the cosmic energies of Love. The priest gave the disc to the Shamans who watched over the portal in a remote Aymara region near Lake Titicaca. Legend says the Shaman showed Amara Muru how to enter through the doorway into another dimension. He was never seen again.

The doorway was only discovered as a tourist attraction in 1996, although the natives have known about the location and what it represents for centuries. Strange beings in unusual clothing have been reported passing through the doorway and disappearing towards the lake.

Juan Jose is short and tanned with jet black hair. He wears jeans, a blue-striped shirt and shades. He kneels in the doorway facing the wall, his palms pressed against the side of the rock.

“At noon the gateway opens,” he tells me. “If you enter you never come back to this life.” It is one O’clock and we’ve missed our chance to escape to another dimension by a lunch hour.

Local Shaman’s still visit the site to perform ceremonies for tourists making offerings of coca leaves, corn and pieces of grain to Mother Earth which they call Pachamama. The remnant of a fire where a Shaman has performed a ‘despacho’ is evident between the rocks in front of the portal.

“At night the energy is strongest,” Juan Jose tells me. “People are afraid to come here after dark.”

An elderly man who lives in the Aymara village ten minutes walk away watches us with interest – but keeps his distance leaning on the rock near the entrance.

It’s my turn to kneel in the crevice and I press my head against the small blackened groove in the wall. This is where the priest, Amaru Muru supposedly placed the sun disc to unlock the portal. With my arms outstretched I place my palms against the rock either side of the doorway. As I meditate I feel an electromagnetic pulse emanate from the rock. The deeper my thoughts the stronger the vibrations pulse through the palm of my hands.

Why did ancestors of the Inca carve a doorway into a rock face..?

Years ago in Amsterdam, I attended a workshop and was asked to perform an exercise with a girl I had just met. We were instructed to look into one another’s eyes for about a minute. Then we were asked to close our eyes and go deep into ourselves to a place we felt safe. After another minute had passed we were asked to repeat the exercise. Look into one another’s eyes then withdraw into ourselves to a place we feel safe.

We were then asked to hold out our palms, up towards one another, but without touching. When we did an electric pulse vibrated in our fingers. The experiment was to identify how the electro-magnetic energy we have in our bodies can be used to help us to connect – or be repelled – to others. This is how the vibrations coming from the rock at Amaru Muru feel, only the ancients used this power we have to connect with the Universe.

Some people claim to have had strange experiences in the portal; visions of stars, columns of fire, the sound of strange music. Others say they saw tunnels and crystals. Outlandish and beautiful images are quite common in meditation and everyone has their own experience. This is what I believe happens at Amaru Muru, but because of the height in electromagnetic energy which stems from underlying ley lines and through the rock, meditation is much more forceful.

A spiritual healer from America claims to have passed through the portal at Amaru Muru and was stuck on the other side for some time before he could find his way back. An account of his claim is posted on the internet by a third party. If it is true he is the only known person to have passed through the gate and returned. I emailed and asked if I could interview about his experience. That was 6 months ago. I haven´t had a response.

I kneel and meditate in the doorway. A lightness washes over me. Maybe this is the point I transcend into another world. Nothing more happened. I concentrate harder, but still nothing. A few spectacular images of flying through space and into planets, but nothing unusual. It seems I am not physically destined for other worlds yet and they will remain purely in my imagination. My rightful place is here on Earth.

Amaru Muru – nothing on earth quite like it!

Perched on the rock above me an Andean Pakir calls to a mate. Somewhere in the distance comes a muffled whistle. The world around me is still a powerful presence.

We make our way back to the car. Along the dirt road we pass Aymara villagers returning to from a days work by the roadside. They carry spades and picks. “Buenas Tardis,” we say to exchange pleasantries. They are cheerful and polite.

Four women and a man stop us and speak in Spanish to Juan Jose. “They want to know if you want your photograph taken with them.” How could I refuse – even though it cost me five soles for the pleasure.

The Aymara women tell us they have been filling in the trenches to bridge a path on to the main road. It was the rainy season and the trenches had filled with water and blocked their path out of the village. To fill it they had used sand and gravel. Their natural surroundings were suitable to ensure they had not been stranded.

The encounter reminded me how indigenous cultures rely on nature to solve their problems. It struck me how limited we are in the west because we throw money at tradesman to fix our problems for us or the council repair whatever needs fixing with the street – eventually.

Whilst we talk to the women, a man leading donkeys carrying bundles of mustard flowers comes towards us from the opposite direction. As they pass one of the donkeys collides with me and bumps me off the road. Perhaps that was my penance for trying to escape to another world.

The Ancient El Fuerte Fortress, Bolivia

20 07 2012

Mysteries in the Ancient Inca Settlement

It was a strange day at El Fuerte. Winding along the eastern foothill of the Andes Mountains in a 12-seater minivan with a demon behind the wheel was a hair-raising experience in itself. How we didn´t crash or run over a dog is beyond me. The archaeological site is full of mystery and symbolism I don´t quite understand, and to top it off my camera inexplicably stopped working. Was it just a surreal day, or is there something more mysterious about El Fuerte?

To get to El Fuerte from Santa Cruz in Bolivia, you have two options. A private taxi for around 200 Boliviano’s (£17) or a shared minibus to Samaipata for 30 Bolivianos (£2.60) with Expreso Rapido Samaipata (366 2312), then arrange a trip to El Fuerte with one of the tour operators in the village. The second option was my plan.

It changed slightly however, as a young German couple also wanting to go to El Fuerte agreed a fee with the mad taxi driver to take us to the ruins and back to Santa Cruz. He gave us a good price so I tagged along.

El Fuerte Museum, Samaipata

The majority of the mini-busload was locals of Samaipata. Some were dropped off by the roadside on the way up the mountain, the rest in the town. Whilst the driver finished making his house calls with the village post I went to the small museum with the German couple Annaka and Ferde.

The museum is small, but we only had 15-minutes – and ten of those were spent watching a video about El Fuerte which basically told us, nobody knows a great deal about the settlement. As I would come to discover on my travels to archaeological sites around South America that is a common claim by scholars, but for me, that was not the only pattern that emerged. Life in the world of our ancient ancestors also came to light.

At the time of visiting El Fuerte however, not of what I would discover about the Inca and other ancient civilisation was apparent. However, I had done a lot of reading before embarking on my journey through South America and knew a little about this ancient settlement.

As we climbed the trail and stopped to admire the view of the ruins and the surrounding hills I tell the Germans, “El Fuerte is the largest rock carving in the world.” The air is thin and I am breathing heavily, not yet acclimatised to the altitude. “It’s shrouded in mystery.” When I saw this so-called “largest rock carving in the world,” I am not convinced it is true. This is not the first time I would discover scholars get their facts wrong!

Ancient El Fuerte Fortress built by Mojocoyan Indians

El Fuerte is believed to have been built by the Mojocoyan culture who inhabited the area around 300 AD. They will have started the building works long before the Inca arrived in the 1300’s. Before the Inca the surrounding valleys were populated by the Chane culture who were repeatedly attacked by Guarani warriors. When the Incas arrived they made a pact with the Chane to help fend off the enemy, but when the Spanish arrived the area had succumbed to the Guarani’s.

The Spanish gave the site its name, El Fuerte (The Fort) because of its fortress like shape. Archaeologists are undecided. Some believe it was used for religious ceremonies, others suggest it was used as a central meeting place where tribal leaders from the surrounding areas gathered to participate in spiritual rituals.

“So basically, nobody knows what it is,” said Annaka.

“Exactly,” I said. “Erich von Daniken thinks the parallel lines carved into the rock there is a landing pad for alien spaceships.”

“Ha, ha, Von Daniken,” Annaka laughs. “He’s an interesting character.”

In his book “Chariots of the Gods,” Erich von Daniken presents a theory that human beings were injected by alien DNA. Anybody who has seen the ancient alien theory on the history channel may be convinced this is true as some of the evidence presented in compelling. You can´t say the same about El Fuerte.

The Link Between Ancient Snakes and Human DNA

Gorged out of the rock are two huge lines that run parallel to one another. The lines are known locally as El Dorso de la Serpiente (The Snakes Back), due to two intertwining cross-spirals that run down either side of the grooves to give it a snake-like impression.

Because of damage caused by tourists visitors are forbidden to go on the rock therefore a close-up inspection was not possible. Also, because the memory card (of a one month old camera) packed up as I came out of the site I don´t have photographs to show you here, but you can visit here and here for visual images. The first picture is what von Daniken believes is an alien landing strip, but why would alien aircraft need a slope and why is there no evidence of anything else quite like it?

You will note the “Serpent’s Back” in the second image looks remarkably like the double helix which depicts the human DNA. In his book, The Cosmic Serpent, Jeremy Narby, an anthropologist conducted research into Shamanism and molecular biology and concluded that snakes that appear in Shamanic and ancient legends are directly linked with the human DNA.

He bases his hypothesis on the startling similarities reported by Shaman’s who communicate with the ‘spirits’ of nature with those discovered by scientists examining DNA. Shamans claim the hallucogen found in cactus plants like Ayahuasca and San Pedro help them transcend on to a higher dimension where they are able to communicate with nature. They say because God is nature, the spirits present themselves to them in their visions.

The snake is a symbol of wisdom, or knowledge, in ancient cultures all over the world. Shamans say the cosmic serpent is the creation of life. They describe it as two snakes intertwined with each other, an image that replicates the double helix of DNA identified under the microscopes of scientists.

It is also a known fact that all living cells on the planet contain DNA and are filled with salt water. The legends of mythical serpents also make reference to water. Likewise, DNA is the informational molecule of life and that the basic mechanisms are identical for all species; just like with the serpents described in popular myth around the world.

If Narby’s connection is right it could be that the spiral lines at El Fuerte were carved into the rock as a dedication to life and the origins of knowledge, therefore the site is more likely to have been used for ritual ceremonies rather than a fort. One thing for certain is Andean cultures placed a lot of importance on esoteric wisdom and went out of their way to pay tribute to the cosmos. I certainly wasn´t buying Von Daniken’s theory based on this evidence!

Ancient Orgies at El Fuerte

One of the more interesting and realistic theories about this rock and the carvings etched into it, is they were used to observe the rising of Venus and Jupiter. Archaeo-astronomers predict the event was due to took place at sunrise on the 20th August 1066. So why did the Mojocoyan Indians who lived here go to such extraordinary lengths some 700 years before the cosmic event took place. It must have some immense connection of importance to mankind. Venus certainly was an obsession with ancient civilisations.

Also carved into the red sandstone rock are two prominent reliefs in the form of a domestic cat.

“In Inca religion the cat represented motherhood and fertility,” I tell the Germans. “It also represents promiscuity.”

“Perhaps they came here for orgies,” Ferde said.

According to ancient tradition, the rocks at El Fuerte link the mountains to the sun. The rock is also known to emit high levels of energy. In what is described as a residential area, small alcoves, big enough for an ancient Andean to stand in, are built into the wall.

Andean cultures worshipped the Sun as a god and I considered whether the alcoves might have been used as some kind of meditation capsule the Indians stood in to help them transcend into the Upper World. I would later learn the alcoves are where they ancients stored their dead until burial.

Just beyond the residential area are several stone-built enclosures that looked remarkably like Roman baths we find scattered across Europe. The German couple agreed they shared a resemblance with Roman structures they had seen in Germany. Ferde’s idea about orgies suddenly seemed a plausible possibility.

On the other hand I felt these “baths” could have been used for some form of cleansing. Or perhaps they were just baths for bathing in. Water played a major role in the rituals and belief system of Andean tribes. Water is said to wash away worries and fears and give the body balance. In fact, we see water used in many religions around the world for spiritual cleansing. Roman Catholics use holy water to ward off evil spirits.

Mysterious Tunnels at El Fuerte

In the far corner of the complex was a path lined with trees either side. They met in the middle to form a foliaged archway. The downhill slope had steps built into it and zig-zagged back and forth. It seemed to be leading nowhere, but there was a mysteriousness that compelled us to keep going.

When we reached the bottom we found a well. “I’ve read about this well” I said. “It’s so deep that if you dropped a penny down you won’t hear it hit the bottom.” I looked into the well and found discarded pop bottles a short distance down. “Oh!,” I say slightly bemused, “Perhaps this is a different well.”

“Is this the underground passage that was mentioned in the video [at the museum]?” Ferde asked.

“It could be.”

“But where does it go?” Annaka said.

There was a path running down by the side of the well, but it was closed off to visitors and we couldn’t see where it led although it looked like it went into the rock. I’ve heard stories of Incas building roads and tunnels that covered great distances. In fact, they’d built a road that ran from Samaipata to Tiwanaku almost 1000 kilometres (621 miles) apart.

But for us the route of the tunnel at El Feurte would remain as much of a mystery as the grooved tram lines and the “Roman baths.”

Back in the mini-bus we rattled back down the mountain side headed for Santa Cruz. The journey back was even more of a white-knuckle ride than getting here. To show his intention to overtake the taxi driver rides on the bumper of the car in front and beeps his horn, a demonic stare firmly fixed on his face.

A young dog, no older than three, was eating in the middle of the road. As the taxi driver risked another crazy overtake we hurtled towards it. He looked up from his food, but didn’t move, didn’t panic. He had nowhere to go so stood his ground and accepted death. My heart stopped. Annaka gasped. The taxi driver swerved in the nick of time. A smile parted his lips, a mystery to rival El Fuerte.