Most shamans would answer when asked how they knew they were healers that, “We are called by the spirits.” And if you ask a Peruvian holy man or woman how they were selected they’d tell you of being struck by lightening. I’ve certainly survived being struck by metaphorical lightening – more than once.
Yet no one was more surprised than I was when I ended up on the receiving end of literal holy rites of initiation just after the recent new year. Even though the whole purpose of White Horse Medicine™ has always taken a basic, if somewhat diluted and generic inspiration from shamanic wisdom, I’ve walked a pathless path. Never had I encountered a tradition that felt wholly my own. Until now.
Anthropologists have discovered that all shamanic traditions share a core set of values, just as most religions do. These traditions have even given rise to the study of “core” or cross cultural shamanism on the part of many wellness advocates and healers. And this wasn’t for me either. As a woman already saddled with the tendency to leave her body (Aspergers + near death experience, thank you) journeying just didn’t appeal to me. And beating drums to my ultra sensitive ears and thoughts of hallucinogenic escapades…no, these just weren’t my thing. I just liked talking to rocks and trees and my animals. They always kept up their part of the conversation beautifully. And I felt perfectly capable of sharing the wisdom I got from time to time working this way. Ditto my sensitivity to energy of all kinds from plant essences to intense or incongruent emotions in my clients.
And then all this changed. I suddenly found my way back home to a place I never knew I’d left.
The Q’ero people of Peru are civilization’s last living link to the great cosmology of the Incas. Hidden away for hundreds of years after the 16th century Spanish invasion, these mountain-dwelling and simple people demonstrate daily the epitome of heart-based living. Living in deep partnership with each other and the animals they share life with, the Q’ero paqos (high priest or holy man/woman, they don’t use the word “shaman”) lead their communities in co-creation with nature and living in perfect balance with each other and the land around them through spiritual ritual and ceremony. And they are consummate healers.
As a part of the mighty Tahuantisuyo empire, their people arrived in the Americas long before the great civilization known to modern times as the Inca, with whom they later assimilated. “Inca” is actually the title given to the ruler of the Tahuantisuyo and thanks to the Spanish, we now call the whole civilization by this name. In Q’ero villages the community leader or mayor is called “Inca.”
The language of the Q’ero is thought to be over 20,000 years old, and is believed by some to have seeded ancient Hebrew and Sanskrit. Their oral history, handed down perhaps for thousands of years, holds that they are of the same original lineage as ancient Mayans, Hopi, Navajo and Tibetans. Recent cross-cultural exchanges with some of these other peoples show that indeed their language and rituals share many similarities. The Dalai Lama visited Peru in 2006 and held court with Q’ero elders. In 2008, a Hopi Wisdom Keeper visited the Q’ero, whom he called his “relations,” while retracing his people’s migration paths.
Also called the Children of the Sun, the Q’ero have been hidden away until relatively recently when they were rediscovered publicly in 1950. Leading up to and since 2012, the elders are more inspired than ever to share their ways due to prophecies and a deep held belief that we are ushering in a golden age. Their vision is that we as human beings can reach previously unknown levels of consciousness and harmony with the earth and each other. This is certainly a vision that I share.
I’d never heard of the Q’ero people until a random email newsletter from a medical anthropologist I follow sent me on a several days-long internet expedition. And something shifted inside me. I began remembering things I never knew I’d forgotten. God bless the internet and its ability to connect me with things I need to know.
To make a very long story short I soon found myself in retreat with Q’ero paqos who “just happened” to be coming to the U.S. a mere 6 weeks after I discovered this tradition and knew it was my next step – both for myself and for White Horse Medicine™. Husband and wife team, don Franscisco Chura Flores and doña Juana Apaza Ccapa are my new spiritual brother and sister and I’ll never forget my experiences with them. Nor with Malieokalani Urrutia, a magical sprite of a healer and fellow friend to the Q’ero who had the inspiration to celebrate the new year by bringing two of her paqo friends to the U.S. I joked with her that she brought them in just for me, as her retreat was posted on the internet fairly last minute (Thank you, Google Alerts!) and right after my heartfelt prayers to find a way to receive these spiritual rites short of trekking to Peru.
This is just the beginning and I cherish each day as I go deeper and deeper into this work. I have plans to be with other elders of the tribe next fall to supplement my study of their recently transcribed teachings in text – a first ever due to the lack of written language in their villages.
You can be sure that White Horse Medicine meditation classes and wellness coaching now have a decidedly new flavor. One that I hope you’ll love as much as I do.
Photo :: Lisa Garrigues image of the Dalai Lama and Q’ero paqo, the late Isaac Flores.