The first Trip to Machu Picchu
As part of our sacred sites series, Amanda (co owner of Magic Self and Spirit) has written a beautiful article about her journeys to the Sacred Mountain of Machu Picchu, an initiatory and magical experience...Stephen]
Last year I had the opportunity to spend 6 months in the beautiful country of Peru. I ate amazing food, learned to speak Spanish, and met many lovely people. I saw the beaches, the deserts, the valleys and the mountains. However, the spirituality of Peru and the sacred Mountain of Machu Picchu was the crowning jewel. I was privileged to visit twice and I know I will be back.
My first trip was with a guided tour and a 2 day hike along the Inca Trail. The amazing mountain pathway that was used by the Incas to travel between villages and mountain strongholds. This trek is not for the faint of heart. It is steep in places, rough in others and beautiful the entire way. At the end of the day you come through the sun gate, the watch point that the Incas would have used to monitor who came and went from the sacred site, and walk the now finally down hill last 30 mins to the top of the temple complex of Machu Picchu.
This trip focused on the history of the region and the botany of the plants that grow on the mountain. There was some discussion on the ritual significance of some of the sites but very little.
During our tour of the temple complex I was taken in by the sundial. A massive stone installation with points to the four cardinal directions reading the location and direction of the sun’s rays throughout the day and the year. I stood for some time feeling the amazing energy of this place and imagining the rituals that would have taken place here in the time of the Incas and before.
Check out National Geographic's summary of the history of Machu Picchu
Initiation and Local Spirits
Several months later I visited a friend, an American shaman who had spent the past 10 years in Peru studying with the pacos - the priests and lore keepers of the traditional Andean belief system that predates the Incas. In this region many of the prayers are in Quechua, the language of the Incas and some in Aymara or other dialects that were spoken by people who lived at such high altitudes that even the Incas could not conquer.
My friend translated the ceremony we were invited to on a hill in the sacred valley at the base of the Machu Picchu mountain.
As we entered the area Victor - our paco- led us in a prayer of initiation, introducing us to the spirit of the pacha mama, the goddess of the earth who protects and sustains all life. He lead a prayer of thanksgiving and permission to enter the sacred site, using coca leaves - a sacred medicinal plant in this high altitude culture. This cure for headache, hunger, and altitude sickness is a gift from the pacha mama to her children and is offered back to her as a gesture of reverence and gratitude.
We proceeded up the hill to an outcropping of beautifully carved stones, one with a half moon cut into its side. Past the ruins of a temple and an assembly hall. He lead us to a cave at the top of the hill where the ancient high priests were said to come to connect to spirit and receive guidance for their people. Victor lead a song and a prayer, he introduced us to the Apu, the spirit of the mountain. It is said that the spirits of his ancestors congregate at the top of their local mountain to commune with the Apu and await their next incarnation. As the prayer was said a light rain began to fall, an answer from the Apu’s that they had heard our prayer and acknowledged our ceremony. It was explained that the rain almost always answers Victor no matter the season or time of day.
Second Visit to Machu Picchu
It was with this knowledge and initiations that I made my second visit to Machu Picchu. This time I traveled by private tour, and got to discuss the spiritual history of the mountain and the people much more. We took our time and got to feel each area of the temple complex. Having worked with another shaman and been introduced to the majesty of the Andean Condor, a sacred animal in the Andean belief system, it was the temple of the condor that struck me this trip. I spent a beautiful 20 minutes in meditation and received a big download.
Downloads, for those not familiar with the term, are said to be a receiving of energy from the sacred site itself. For me it occurs as a feeling of deep connection in a moment of silence. I am sometimes aware of the information coming to me and other times it is simply a feeling that I am accessing the collective unconscious of all seekers, worshipers and pilgrims who have come to this place throughout the centuries. That my unconscious mind is receiving or participating in their stories and their learnings in a way that will become know to me later, or not at all, but always charges my spiritual batteries, makes me feel grounded and full, ready to deepen my own spiritual practices.
This day had been “blessed” by a light rain (I do not love getting rained on no matter how auspicious it is said to be). However, this allowed us to witness the most beautiful rainbows. The friend I was traveling with was very taken with them, with the new level of connection had gained from the prayers with Victor, I prayed to the Apu for the rainbow my friend so desired. After my experience at the temple of the condor I needed a moment to process. We chose a spectacular look out point over Wayna Picchu and enjoyed the quiet together. We sat for 45 minutes while the most amazing rainbow slowly formed over the Wayna Picchu mountain. We had been patient, we had been quiet, and our blessing from the mountain came.
As I left that day I felt that all that was available for me today had been transferred but that I was bound to return again to this sacred site, not knowing what is in store for me on my next visit.