“There are no real shaman.”
This is what David Choque had told me in the living room of Doctor Valencia’s apartment.
That’s not to say authentic Shaman do not exist. The problem is ancient traditions have died out due to the Spanish suppression of indigenous peoples and the full of extent of ancient wisdom has been lost. As a consequence modern man may never develop the esoteric wisdom our ancestors possessed.
A question had been gnawing at me for years. How did the ancient peoples of Mesoamerica, Peru and Egypt build their temples? I have read an immense amount of information about lost civilisations and ancient wisdom and have come to the conclusion they were on drugs!
To be more precise, psychedelic drugs. Whilst in Peru I was intent on experiencing “the spiritual medicine” of Ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca is not a hallucinogenic party drug that is prevalent in western party scenes; in South America, it is considered a medicine and is therefore legal. It is, however, a potent hallucinogenic some Shaman describe as “The TV of the forest.”
The ancient’s uses psychedelic plants to help them transcend into the spirit world where they communicated with nature. For the unschooled spiritual traveller, it can be used to ask questions about your own true nature. With the right Shamanic healer, you can help banish demons and venture back into the world with renewed confidence. If you take ayahuasca with the intention of having a “trip,” you’re wasting your time.
Shamanic Healing in Peru
Shaman are associated with snakes, the ancient archetype representing wisdom. Many people see snakes during their experiences with ayahuasca. It could really freak you out if you don’t recognise it’s only a hallucination. Many people do freak out on ayahuasca. Shaman say it’s because they are not ready to take the medicine. Therefore if you are considering taking ayahuasca, make sure you understand what you are getting into and be prepared for the experience.
When I was in Cusco researching tour operators, I met Ivan Florez who asked me to hold my hands out in front of me so he could test to see if I was ready for this kind of treatment. When he slipped is hands beneath mine – even though he was not touching me – I could feel a strong electromagnetic force streaming from his hands into mine. The effect was like putting the tip of your tongue on a battery.
Shamans are witchdoctors, healers with an extensive knowledge in healing methods from fresh natural sources. Some claim to have psychic abilities that help them see into a person and diagnose their illness. Western doctors have long since discredited their methods and cast aspersions on their authenticity to return people to health, though in more recent times pharmaceutical companies have acknowledged they possess a knowledge far more advanced than western science. America and Europe are only just catching up with treatments Shamanic medicine men have been using for centuries.
Finding Ayahuasca ceremonies in Peru
During my investigations into tour operators and shamanic healing centres offering ayahuasca treatments I was advised not to take a session with more than four people, or at the very most seven. Some ayahuasceros take groups in double figures, sometimes in excess of 20 or 30 people. If this is the case you won’t have a good experience as the Shaman will not have enough time to guide you through your visions and if you panic your experience will be lost. It will be a pointless exercise and a complete waste of money. And sessions don’t come cheap.
In Cusco, most Shamanic centres charge between US$70 and US$100 (44-60GBP). Others offer three to five-day courses for in access of US$300-US$500. In the jungle at Iquitos you can stay for a week or more and spend over US$1000. They will undoubtedly give you a better experience as the Shaman prepare you mentally and physically and the more you take a course of ayahuasca and learn to work with the medicine the more you will take from it. A special diet is required, no meat, fish, spices or citrus foods. No sex for a couple of days before the ceremony and no alcohol for at least five days beforehand. Not if you want to get the most from your experience anyway.
Recommended Shamanic Centres in Cusco, Peru
My first experience with hallucinogenics in Peru was at Paz y Luz in Pisac, a quaint village about 1h 30 minutes from Cusco. Paz y Luz is quiet, secluded and only give ayahuasca ceremonies to small groups. When I was there, I tried San Pedro and was guided by Julian Jurak, an English guy that had trained with Andean Shaman. I doubt I would have had the benefit of a more personalised experience elsewhere. You can read more about my experience with Julian and Paz y Luz in my book, Journey’s To Ancient Worlds: What Modern Man Can Learn From Ancient Civilisations.
Etnikas situated on Herrajes Steet opposite the Hatun Rumiyoc (www.etnikas.com – tel: +51 84 244516) offer ceremonies that last for three to five days for between US$380 and US$580. During the course of my research, they seemed to be one of the most authentic and offer the most comprehensive service in Cusco. The owner used to be a ceremonial Shaman and set up Etnikas to prevent Shamans from being exploited by tourism money-makers.
Golden Peru Travel Services on Calle San Augustin (51 48 782296), where Ivan tested my readiness, was also one of the more impressive options. Ivan has such a powerful energy I have never felt anything like it. He was very amiable, informative and persuasive.
Another option you could check out is the Shamanic Shop on Calle Triunfo 338 Floor 2. They also have an office at number 393 on the same street (51 48 233839). I was taken here by Fresia Orihuela of Daily Tours in Cusco (Av. Sol 315, Tel: +51 084 277712) the helpful tour operator who had put me in touch with Dr. Valencia and guide David Choque (Cusco Top Travel & Treks, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 51 84 9944069).
The Shaman Shop do rituals with a Shaman named Kush for US$100. The idea seemed geared toward tourism more than anything else to me, but I can be cynical about commercialism. I knew I could trust Fresia, but at the time of our visit the organiser wanted to shut up shop and asked me to return the following day. Due to a busy schedule I couldn’t make it and when I went back the girl at the desk didn’t speak English and the first guy I had spoken to was nowhere to be found. I decided it was not meant to be and left it at that. I still hadn’t found a Shaman.
Another couple of places I tried were Sumac Coca (Calle San Augustin 245, www.sumaccoca.com., Tel: 51 84 260311). They also have offices in Lima and were charging a tide US$130 for what seemed like a fairly comprehensive and well-organised ceremony. I also enquired at the Casa De La Gringa (San Blas 148, www.casadelagringa.com, Tel: 51 84 254387). They take you to the caves at the Temple of the Moon on the fringes of Cusco, but mostly dabble with San Pedro.
Most other tour operators I spoke with in Cusco either charged too much for what they were offering, had too many people listed for a ceremony or it simply just didn’t feel right. For me an ayahuasca experience is not just a drug trip; it is an experiment to discover how powerful our minds can be.
You can read about my experiences with san pedro and ayahuasca in my book, Journeys To Ancient Worlds: What Modern Man Can Learn from Ancient Civilisations, available on Amazon, Apple iBooks and Lulu.