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CHAPTER ONE

Initiation Journey with Shaman don Eduardo Calderon


            In Peru many years ago I was part of a group of twenty-four, participating in an exotic series of initiations being orchestrated and delivered by one of the most extraordinary shamans of our times. Never before or since have I traveled with a bolder group of serious spiritual practitioners. Most of us had made trips to Peru before, specifically to work directly with an indigenous shaman to learn his craft, which meant being accepted by someone capable of delivering such training. This trip was very different than taking a vacation to be around a shaman or to experience one of their ceremonies. We were a group already dedicated to the path of the shaman, and because we had become known in different shamanic circles around the world, we were invited to participate in this rare opportunity.
           Shamans are masters of the ecstatic trance and whatever means they employ to get there, and in that capacity they can function as communication intermediaries between exalted realms normally outside the purview of our consciousness. They are not priests or religious representatives, and shamanism is not a religion. Real shamans have inherited sophisticated primeval practices originating from prehistory that are methods field-tested by countless generations to establish energetic links between our everyday experience and the invisible realm of the spirit. In this sense most especially, shamans exist as a living bridge between the realm of the invisible and the practical spiritual needs of the community they serve. From the exotic realms they travel within their ecstasies, shamans bring useful information and energetic effects to guide, to heal and to assist our day-to-day living as well as to serve our spiritual illumination.
           Shamans also practice worldly occupations: a shaman might be a furniture maker, a healer charging for his/her services, or most any other occupation. A shaman is always a shaman and their inherent traits are available to them always, but they do not always interact in a shaman capacity with the world. Don Eduardo told me that in ancient Peruvian civilizations such as the Incas, it was mandatory that the shamans also practice a craft or a profession for a living. Indigenous traditions say that the average person has no way to assess the quality and caliber of a shaman's spiritual reality and that could pose inordinate risks to the people who rely on their services. Watch what they do in the world, observe how they operate within their profession or craft, the ancients tell us. Do they make great furniture, charge a fair price, and treat customers well? Do you feel good when you use their furniture at home? A shaman cannot help but place their mood, their touch, the level at which they conceptualize the world into their work, so look there for signposts, the ancients say.
           Among this group of travelers, most practiced shamanism within the fabric of their lives and brought enough experience to make our journey extraordinary. Beyond that we had not much in common and even our practices varied widely. Some in the group relished daily exotic ceremonies such as: greeting the morning sun, praying to the apus or the spirit presence of the mountains, praying to Wankan Tanka or the sky father God of the Central Plains Indians, or praying to Pacha Mama or the earth mother goddess of the Incas. Some even prayed to the Christian saints, others revered the Buddha and some of us participated in all of it! Others kept their prayers internal and without display, other than during ceremony. Many dressed colorfully in ceremonial regalia while others preferred simple camp clothing. The pressure we produced on each other pushed many of us beyond our limitations and would prove positive and challenging, causing me to investigate my experience for many years.
           The final leg of our initiation journey, following five days in the high country wilderness beyond Machu Pichu, was a two-day trek to the infamous Marcawasi Lagoons, an ancient sorcerer's lair where indigenous sorcerers had been initiated since before the Incas. According to these ancient traditions, a sorcerer is a shaman gone bad, corrupted by power and lust for personal gain, the exact opposite of the shaman who is dedicated to the health and well-being of the community and formally makes his or herself available on that basis. I daresay if the sorcerers could be heard, they would offer a different description of their path and whom they are, but that's what the shamans have to say about it.
           I once asked don Eduardo, half-joking but also serious, if a group of shamans gets together and takes a vote on who has become a sorcerer? I thought I was being facetious but I was also trying to understand how a person attains the title of "sorcerer" in the Peruvian world with its unique ancestral heritage. To my surprise but typical of his very different thought patterns, he responded that shamans do indeed get together and decide on who is a sorcerer, but only after the shaman in question had already somehow declared himself to be a sorcerer. Among other things, that meant a kind of personal marketing and advertising, alerting the world that he or she could be approached on that basis. For example, both a shaman and a sorcerer might be approached to help a distraught marriage partner whose mate was having an affair. According to don Eduardo, it would have been understood and expected that the shaman would try to heal or fix the problem for the cuckolded partner by improving the marriage. A sorcerer, on the other hand, would accept payment to help the emotionally injured partner to reap their revenge and would be approached on that basis. These opposite ways of using power have been prevalent in South America for probably thousands of years. The personal power of both the shaman and the sorcerer determines the nature of the requests they can accept as well as the remedy they can deliver.
           Don Eduardo made a clear distinction between the shaman and the sorcerer and it was fairly black and white in his mind. The sorcerer used his power to control, dominate or manipulate people for personal gain, while the shaman drew on the power of the medicine wheel to heal, to help, and above all to continually make contact with the invisible realms to affirm our spiritual identity. In practice, however, these distinctions were far from simple, along with most everything else in the world of Peruvian shamans. The Marcawasi Lagoons is a sorcerer's lair and going to such a power spot was an initiation for would-be adepts needing to learn about such distinctions.
           Our final campsite was at 17,000 feet and for five days we enacted ancient shamanic ceremonies repeated by countless generations to make our bid for a rightful place among the energies and spirits that inhabit that otherworldly landscape. We had come from Europe, North and South America, Africa and Asia, each of us for a single purpose, to be initiated by Shaman don Eduardo Calderon of Trujillo, Peru, as a shaman of his lineage. Throughout the world don Eduardo was known as the Wizard of the Four Winds; he is a shaman master who can invoke the power of the four directions of the medicine wheel to do all the things shamans are reputed to do. My tale will reveal what that means since it cannot be easily explained any more than one can explain a kiss.
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