San Pedro, the Sacred Plant for Incas
This is not a trip like any other, it’s in fact one of the most intense and deep I’ve made. It’s neither a pilgrimage trip with a saint named Pedro nor is it religious, though. It’s something spiritual instead. An indoor trip and in between worlds with a sacred plant called San Pedro as a helper.
Some years ago I’d have said, “nonsense, I don’t believe in those kinds of things!” A sacred plant that’s adored by Incas and makes you see things?
Due to the path’s circumstances, the power of the plant came to me in November, in the lovely mountains of Perú. I arrived there to volunteer in a house/hostel to build adobe houses. I arrived there by chance or by destiny, I still don’t know.
But that’s not where it all started, it did one month prior to leaving Spain, when I was invited to watch the documentary Chavín de Huantar: El teatro del más allá (Chavín de Huantar, the afterlife theatre), a film that impressed me and helped me to understand how the Chavin culture worked, a culture I honestly hadn’t heard of before.
What today are ruins, represented for a long time a pilgrimage place to those who wanted to become shamans, coming from all over the territory. Once there, they were subdued with different activities, what’s well described as a theatre, a stage play that was mounted so that students would pass the acid test before becoming shamans.
San Pedro ritual for shamans
After drinking San Pedro or Wachuma (in Quechua), a plant that’s similar to cactus, they were sent underground where tunnels made them get lost, a maze that was impossible to get out of. From time to time they were supervised to see how they were doing on their journeys. In case one of them didn’t hallucinate, they were given more dose.
Once the test was passed, it was the turn of the pututu, a seashell that harmonised by wise men confused the temporary guests of that transitory stay. Those sounds that came from afterlife, made them think a lion or any fierce animal was stalking them as a prey. Even so, their own minds where the ones drawing all those scenes.
Travelling to Huarás
I came out of the cinema intrigued and worried and actually not feeling like ever going to that monument. In September, at the beginning of this adventure around South America we arrived in Huarás, a place that delightly witnesses its own Andean heritage. Sited around 30 minutes from Chavin, Huarás is a bustling and commercial village hidden between beautiful mountains.
30 minutes far from the town, up-hill, there’s a small village that took our breath away. In that concealed spot a Quechua family was waiting for us to work with them. A big family, of five sons, traditional values and a lot of daily duties to carry out.
One day I was talking to the elder son, a shaman who told me that he had participated in that same documentary I had watched back home. He was one of the shamans, his face was now familiar! Those kinds of coincidences don’t stop surprising me and are often scary.
Volunteering in Huaras, Peru
Among corn sowings, Andean soups and cuys (guinea pigs that are eaten as a delicacy) I doubt if I should have the San Pedro ceremony or not, I’m afraid of what I may see. Days go by with treks around the mountains and hard work.
Days pass by and I connect to myself, the contact with pure and wild nature makes me feel free. The sound of water trickling down a canal to supply every little house of the place, gives me freedom. The Good Morning greetings given by locals, a bit shy but smiling, gives me peace.
San Pedro ritual is getting real
I talk to Christian, the shaman and I confess that I’m afraid of doing the ceremony. He replies, “You can’t be afraid of the plant, you only can be respectful towards it. If you take it as a joke, it will never help you.”
For the next days I listen to other people’s experiences and I do some research about the plant, the preparation process and the ritual but it comes a time when I don’t want to know anything else. Some say they have felt their dead relatives, some say they have vomited and have seen things they don’t know how to explain. I don’t know if I’m ready but I’m going to do it.
Christian gives me a list of what I have to buy for the ceremony: mapacho (a special tobacco for the ceremonies), agua de florida (florida water), agua de rosas (rose water), palo santo (rosewood) and an offering to pachamama (coca leaves or any kind of object you’d like to offer to nature). In the city of Huaras there are several streets full of little stands with products for ceremonies and it’s not hard to get them. I go back happy but still respectful and starving since I’ve fasted for a day so that the plant cleans me better inside.
My ancestral trip
Night falls over the place. Everyone goes to sleep and I stay with Christian. He fires up rosewood and asks me to share the purpose of having San Pedro while the plant itself, while smoking mapacho. We get started.
I take my first cup right away. A thick green liquid that tastes like bile, a dense and slimy dough that causes retching but I still let it get inside of me. Now I have to wait. We walk until we reach Wilkawain ruins, quite at night. Christian, full of shaman’s utensils and I, equipped with hundreds of layers to fight the Andean cold. Surrounded by nature, preinca ruins and protected by a canopy of starts, I sit anxious on the ground.
“Do you see something?,” Christian asks me.
“Nope. Am I supposed to see something?”
“Easy, it will come. Be patient.”
Wait, I want to vomit. And out it came I don’t know what because I hadn’t eaten anything else than a bit of soup. It came from inside, from deep inside. I felt every bad thing went out but the trip had only just begun. I try to sleep but I just want to see things. Soon after, I take the second dose because the first one seems not to do anything apart from making me sick.
Suddenly, stars begin to move and boost greatly. Oh, wait my stomach is doing so, too! I vomit again, I feel every disgusting and unnecesary cell of my body is going out. I try to take a piss but it’s hard for me to see the distance to the ground, it seems like a colour abyss is opening under my feet. I have a pee but I don’t feel it, I only realise I’m doing so by the heat that comes out of my body. Everything starts to oddly seem from another planet. I take two more cups.
“You’ll really fly with this. You are really strong, woman!,” he says surprised.
Astonished by my endurance, I sit inside a hut with piles of hay. I see people where in reality there are only empty buckets and it’s a bit scary.
A bit after I start seeing more people in the background. Where city lights were before now a big puma is laying down, with a posture that reminds me of an Egiptian sphinx. Stars flip me out with their beauty, there in the sky where precisely figures start to take shape. I see colourful butterflies, the alive soul of the plant. We get out of the hut and I see more people and a lot of llamas that move around in the distance. Where there was silence before I witness a whole ancient village in movement.
“Christian, I see someone behind you and he’s wearing a hat”.
“Don’t worry, he’s my grandpa, my gard. Say hi and ask him to help you to clear out, to walk with you and show you the way tonight”.
Dubious and incredulous of what I’m doing, I greet him and ask him for permission to stay in his area. I look at Christian and notice his transformation, he’s suddenly wearing feathers on his head and his nose has become more sharp, as if he were a condor.
I find myself in a world I had never seen before, I try to convince myself that’s not real but I go with the flow and believe everything my eyes see. It’s hard for me to walk, distances between my body and objects seem slow, hesitant. Even if it’s night time, I see colours everywhere and I feel like having magic rays like those of Superman.
“Let’s go for a walk, Alba.” I observe the puma that’s still there, grand and imperious. It was smiling before but now is looking mad at me.
“Christian, the puma is mad,” I tell him, worried. He, serenely and with composure, whistles at him and the puma gets back to its initial condition. That was really impressive!
I see reality in 5D -if that even exists- in bright colours, things I had never seen in my life. It’s like if I was in a movie, in a videogame or inside a book of those where you have to force to be cross-eyed to see the figure or image. Stages take place after each other between smoke screens and Christian comes in and goes out every time. I seem to depend on him, on his wisdom and strength. Sometimes energy leaves my body and I feel like fainting but when he blows smoke to my face or through my nose I regain consciousness.
I’m now really flying and I realise I was really wrong when I thought I had seen everything about my subconscious practising Vipassana meditation. I see condors crossing the sky, butterflies, ganeshas, Buddhist symbols and elephants, a lot of elephants. Everything points out that India is waiting for me or that’s where I left my soul in another life, as Christian would tell me the day after.
Suddenly, a Chinese gold dragon crosses the sky and moves its mouth while spewing fire. I smile in the presence of such a diversity of figures and colours but that feeling wouldn’t last for long. We keep on walking, I see bugs everywhere, a kind of spider blended with a scorpion and people coming from underground wanting to grab my legs. I’m really scared in this part of the night. Christian gives me his feathers and guarantees they will protect me. I move them and the bugs disappear as if by magic. I feel powerful for a moment.
I drink water from the river without being conscious that’s the river but it alleviates my thirst anyways. I see Christian’s llama (the real one) and around it a lot more. It’s time to leave and I’m still flying. The rooster sings and light is blinding me, I don’t know where the hell I’m.
Christian hands me a tambourine and a maraca over and I seem to come back to the real world by playing them but I’m still in a parallel reality. We go by the cemetery and step on people, again. Stunned, we arrive home with a lot of effort. We sit by the fire, where everything started 11 hours ago. What a flight! What a trip!
The effect of San Pedro lasts for hours
Eyes still dilated, I lay down on the ground. Sun is going out strong and I’m still very confused. I want to go to the toilet but I don’t want to go alone, I can’t get locked in a place because I’m quickly taken to another reality, walls move too much.
People wake up and I feel observed. I want to sleep but I have way too much energy. I keep on seeing things, the ground is moving, people have several eyes and colours are brighter. Elephants are still there and seem to be the animal that has protected me all night long.
Christian puts a flute in my hands so that I quiet down but I don’t know how to grab it. My hands are shaking but in another reality, I can’t coordinate my movements. I keep on talking to Christian by telepathy, in another world, I don’t want him to leave. I feel like shadows take me away if he’s not here.
I go to bed but I can’t sleep, I close my eyes and I quickly travel to another reality. My heart beats hard and it’s difficult for me to stay present. I become anxious because I swim between two interweaven and tangled worlds, I find it hard to know what’s going on.
Dave and I climb the hill, I can’t sleep. Dogs caress us with their paws and I feel a beautiful energy that emanates from one of them that calms me down. Up I still see condors and I’m getting more and more sleepy. Energy comes and goes. I feel connected to nature in a very intense and uncommon way, the midday sun is reviving me little by little.
We visit the Wilkawain ruins where last night I had felt such a movement and souls. We get in the rooms where Waris professed their ceremonies and I feel the energy of the people that have been there. I play the pututu and scare the evil away. The trip is over, it’s time to rest.
A trip that marked a milestone in mi life even if I wasn’t aware of it in that precise moment.
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Would you like to learn some Spanish before visiting Peru?
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If you’d like, however, to know a bit more about how hallucinogenic drugs work, I highly recommend this documentary: