Shamanic Apprenticeship in Peru
December 16, 2004
In 1985 a Cuban anthropologist named Alberto Villoldo brought a small group to Peru to study as shaman’s apprentices with his teacher, don Eduardo Calderon, known in Peru as “the Wizard of the Four Winds”. I was fortunate to be included on this adventure. Most of us were involved in the medical field in some manner, either as alternative health care practitioners, or medical doctors. The Wizard was world renowned for effecting “miracle cures” and a broad global interest in his work was well established, including a book titled, “The Wizard of the Four Winds”.
This apprenticeship was made possible by the fact that Eduardo believed the current Caucasian population consisted of a large number of reincarnated Native Americans and that most of the living Native Americans who were suffering under poverty were actually reincarnations of the white men who had conquered and oppressed them. It made sense to him to pass the mantle of the shamanic tradition on to the predominant contemporary culture of reincarnated ancestors. And so, our little group was among the first whom Eduardo took on as students.
Peru at this time was embroiled in a civil war; you may recall The Shining Path, revolutionaries fighting in certain regions. Considered an unsafe travel destination, there were no direct flights from the U.S. This meant flying from L.A. to Miami, to catch a flight in the Grand Caymans and then pop over to Peru. The flight was getting tiresome by the time we reached Cayman Island in the middle of the night to board a solitary airplane, alone on the landing field. Climbing up the ladder, one noticed it was literally held together with duct tape. Same inside. The little tags on the seat backs revealed it as a cast off from one of our major airlines.
It was on this plane that I learned how to sleep on the fold down trays. Hot and stuffy as the plane was (no air circulation), eat white bread/American cheese sandwiches served as dinner…and when dawn woke me up…the view of the Andes stuck me breathless. Everyone was busy praying the airplane aloft.
At last, Lima and a safe landing. The airport was in a desolate area surrounded by infamous third world poverty décor – everything made up of a blend of mud and debris. We were greeted inside by teenage soldiers, grim faced, eager to give exercise to their weapons and, according to our guide, Alberto, relieve us of our cameras and other valuables. We were told to put all such things in a pile for inspection, but Alberto flashed our diplomatic papers and we retained our property.
It turns out that due to the respect Peru had for Eduardo, each of us was given diplomatic papers to ensure not only safe passage through Peru, but to allow us access to areas of Peru which are off limits to tourists or even citizens of Peru. Ceremonies with Eduardo would be taking us into such regions and it was necessary to have government permission.
A luxurious bus was commissioned to carry us through Peru, and we began with a brief rest and orientation at one of Lima’s old, run down but once glorious hotels downtown. The look of faded wealth , of better times.
After a nap we met each other and Alberto explained our first stop, Paracus to the south. A seaside tourist village where we would meet up with Eduardo and start our voyage into the nagual – the feminine side of the shamanic journey.
The next morning we rode down the coast for about 6 hours. The coastal side of Peru looks as barren as the moon. Very little vegetation, dry, barren mountainsides plunging down into the sea, little fishing villages here and there. Paracus turned out to be another faded glory. Our “resort” accommodations harkened back to a more prosperous 1940’s.
Late afternoon we met Eduardo. His parents were Japanese and one of the native Peruvian tribes. It was his mother who trained him initially in shamanism. He then went on to study with the shamans in the jungle. Since he spoke no English, Alberto translated.
THE ALLIES – POWER ANIMALS
Our first training session involved identifying which animal allies each of us were associated with. All of us had “book knowledge” of shamanism so it wasn’t necessary to start with the theoretical first steps. We knew what “allies” were and some of us had already done work with them. In my case, I had already discovered an association with the eagle and the jaguar.
But, just in case the reader is not familiar with shamanic allies, I will explain some of it here. The shamanic view is that all beings are manifestations of different aspects of Divine Consciousness. And each plant or animal carries certain qualities in which they are specialized.
“Secrets of Shamanism” by Jose Stevens, Ph.D and Lena Stevens, has this to say about power animals:
“The shaman’s power is directly related to their totems, or in other words, their animal allies. The greater the totems, the stronger their power animals, the more influential they are. To a shaman, a human being is not better or more aware than an animal, even though humans largely depend on animals for their source of food. Animals, like rocks, have powerful spirits, each with his own talents, and are uniquely qualified to assist people in specific areas. The shaman’s relationship with animals is a mutually beneficial one. The shaman offers the spirit animal respect and devotion, while the animal offers guidance and assistance with a great many tasks beyond the shaman’s personal abilities. One of the chief gifts that power animals offer is protection and guardianship to the shaman during arduous tasks. Animal allies may also be used to help find lost objects, mediate problematic relationships and in general assist in the achievement of a challenging goal.
Since each power animal has a specialty, the shaman may need to consult with several if a problem has a variety of aspects to it. The hawk is good at seeing things from afar while the fox is known for its intelligence and cunning. Generally speaking, power animals are wild animals…domestic animals have lost their power.
For shamans, the physical animal is just the outward form of the great spirit of that animal species. So the shaman’s ally is the bear, not this or that bear. Even so, the outward form of the bear may be revered and honored. If you do not have a relationship with a power animal, or you have lost yours through neglect, the shaman would say that you are in a very vulnerable and weak position. You have lost touch with your own animal nature.”
Readers of Gregory Bateson’s “Mind and Nature” and Rupert Sheldrake’s books on the morphogenic field will recognize a scientific explanation to this area of shamanism. Another new book by Dr. Len Horowitz, “DNA and the Pirates of the Sacred Spiral” will throw light on this topic as well. Horowitz explains that our DNA is actually a bio-acoustic transmitter and receiver by which each creature is “sung” into existence by sound. Each creature represents a different “love song” sung by the creative process, or Creator, or God, or Great Spirit.
According to Sheldrake, each creature springs out of a morphogenic field by which it both receives and transmits information while embodied. And Bateson claims that Mind is primary and exists throughout Nature.
Thus, the power animal is a way to plug into the “mental” morphogenic field and love song to gain access to information which isn’t readily available to us.
Steven’s book states: “How do shamans find power animals in order to gain mastery? First of all they do not select an animal and then go about establishing a relationship with it. The contact is made in the reverse. The spirit of the animal selects the shaman. ….Typically shamans discover their power animals by allowing them to emerge through a spontaneous dance or by seeing the animal in a vision or a dream…”
Eduardo explained that we were to reveal our power animals by dancing and so, we got some Peruvian dancing lessons next to the swimming pool….to the entertainment of hotel staff and guests. We had a drummer and Eduardo whistled a haunting melody while we were to perform some tai chi like movements holding a ball of energy in front of the hara (belly center) until the ball of energy could be felt in the hands. Then we were to allow this ball of energy to begin flowing though the body while another course of energy moved from the ground up through the feet. We were told to simply move however these two sources of energy directed the body…follow them.
I expected movements from the eagle or jaguar and was surprised to find myself prancing about the lawn like a horse! I’m not very fond of horses due to an abusive childhood relationship with breaking wild horses. But there I was, big as life, prancing and galloping about until Eduardo called a halt.
THE TREE OF LIFE
He sent us off to our rooms to meditate on our next destination, the Tree of Life (otherwise known as the Giant Candelabra). We couldn’t see it from the beach but he pointed out to the ocean and said that we would go by boat the next day out to a rocky headland called the Tree of Life, the first of the famous Nasca glyphs which actually points towards the Nasca lines located some distance away. Since cliffs plunge down into the ocean and there is no beach, we would have to jump out of the boat and swim to the cliffs and climb.
Horrors, this was far worse than a duct taped airplane. I’m no swimmer and grave doubts about surviving my trip to the Tree of Life kept me up all night. Should I turn back? Skip this part of our training?
Eduardo didn’t want us to see any photos of it but instead, wanted us to see it first in meditation. According to his tradition, there are multiple “power spots” on this glyph and he can read the lifeline of his students according to where they are attracted to sit on it. To begin to establish our connection, we were first to see it in a vision during the night.
I failed that part because I couldn’t get past visions of drowning.
The boat ride into the ocean took about 45 minutes with seals cavorting along side us expecting fish apparently. Paracus is a fishing village, which has trained them well.
As we neared the cliffs we found an area where waters were shallow enough to step out and wade rather than body surf into the cliffs (an option we had been warned about the night before).
Silently each of us climbed up to the spot on this glyph, which “called”. My own spot turned out to be on the line furthest to the left. I sat in meditation with my back to the ocean. The day was bright and sunny, perfect temperatures. It was exhilarating to spend the morning on such a “tree”. However, after about 20 minutes my meditation took an unusual turn. My power animal, the eagle, made itself known as consciousness felt itself in full eagle regalia flying high above and out over the ocean. Seeing through the eyes of the eagle I spotted a fishing boat approach. Men on the boat had spotted us and were furious. As you’ll recall, it is against the law for people to be anywhere near these glyphs. Not knowing who we were, these fishing men thought we were desecrating a sacred landmark and were headed our way to teach us a lesson.
As the eagle, I continued to watch for about 30 minutes, as the boat got closer. Eduardo was also watching and before a confrontation developed, he called a halt to our meditations and explained about the incoming vessel. By now, the shouting was audible. During times of civil unrest, its best to steer clear of potential hostilities, even if you have the diplomatic paperwork, it isn’t always a guarantee of safe passage. In fact, in times of revolution it can backfire.
When we got back to quarters, Eduardo met with each of us and explained the meaning behind each spot we had chosen. I was reminded of the Cabbala as his dissertation had many similarities. Regrettably, so much time has passed that I don’t recall all of the knowledge he shared to pass on to you now! I do remember that the “arm” I sat along was associated with the path of knowledge. Another was the path of heart.
And we spent the rest of the day in lecture and demonstrations. Primarily we studied the energy body. One of the meditations was to focus on a visualized “sun” in the middle of the belly for at least 15 minutes everyday to strengthen the entire system. We learned how to immediately injure the energy body of an attacking foe to weaken them right there on the spot, and how to repair the damage after we were safe. And we learned that we were next on our way to the Nasca desert to hold ceremonies on the Nasca lines. This was the official beginning of our training in the nagual. Everything else had been preparatory.
I would recommend that the reader do a web search on Nasca at this point to prepare for the next installment of this story.