As I was planning my trip to Peru in May, I saw this as a spiritual journey and dreamed of having an encounter with a shaman, an intermediary between the natural and supernatural worlds. I even considered taking ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic plant, commonly used by the native people. But trying to book something like that online was daunting to say the least. I needed to meet the person and have a mutual trust before committing. So I left it to the universe to help me find the right person when I was in the area.
Once in Peru, I kept my eyes, heart and intuition open to the possibilities. One day while visiting Pisac, a village in the Sacred Valley known for its textile market, I asked a local for recommendations on a lunch place, and he directed us to a small cafe, Apu Organic. Right away, I could see the owner was into the spiritual and perhaps they could put my friend and I in touch with a shaman. Maria Elena agreed to connect us with ‘El Viejo’ (the old man), which she referred to as a paco, not a shaman.
On the appointed day, Isaiahs, our translator and guide met us at the Apu Cafe and took us up to the mountain to meet ‘El Viejo’. It was a beautiful walk through fields of quinoa, wheat, maiz, and assorted vegetables – all laid out in free-form plots. As we walked, Isaiahs pointed out herbs used for medicinal purposes and textile dyes. This alone was an extraordinary experience.
Glen with Isaiahs, our guide and translator
Having reached a simple adobe structure at the top of a hill, we learned this was the home of Don Jesus or ‘El Viejo’. Upon meeting us, he took each of us by both hands, looked deeply into our eyes, which felt like he was looking into our souls. As he sat on a blanket on the dirt floor, he started by pouring coca leaves into a cloth, having me lay my hands over them while concentrating on my questions. He then read the coca leaves as they dropped from his hand, answering our questions about the future in his native Quechuan language while Isaiahs translated to us in Spanish. After we were satisfied, he proceeded to make a large bundle of various herbs, minerals, shells, milagros, seeds, metal, etc. that he had brought with him in small packets of newspaper. After deliberately placing each item on a square of paper, he folded it up, and began chanting over this offering to Pachamama, Mother Earth. He then had Isaiahs walk us further up the mountain to burn the offering. Reaching a well-used fire pit, Isaiahs showed us how to blow the clouds away since it was threatening to rain. We brought Port Wine, as directed, as an offering to Pachamama as part of our ritual and despite the sprinkles, we felt our offering was successfully received. This was one of my most treasured moments in Peru, and I left the mountain feeling positive, encouraged, revived and hopeful about the future.
At the Apu Organic Cafe in Pisac with Maria Elena (center)