Chavin San Pedro Pilgrimage, early 2019

huaca at Chavin de Huantar

We invite you to connect with us if you are called to participate.

The early 2019 journey will be in the January-February period (Summer in Peru), with 5-6 ceremonies over a period of about 10-12 days.

You may be able to extend your retreat on an individual basis. If you have an interest, please contact us ( to be in the loop for this next pilgrimage.

"Chavin" probably derives from the Quechua word  "chaupin", which translates roughly as “center”. Center is the place where all come together - and whence all arises!. It touches on the sense in which all manifestations, all the pairs of opposites, are harmoniously united. And "huaca" refers to a sacred space or site. I think of the old pagan sites in Europe, where later cathedrals were built. Places on the earth recognized as holding higher energies, or opening access to those energies. This alludes to the presence of the divine as not just other-worldly, but in “this” world, and accessible.

The Chavin temple was built in several stages, over a 300-500 year period beginning about 1200 BCE. It's believed that first there was an open-air step pyramid, on which was placed the primary sacred object, often called the Lanzon, for its overall lance-shape, as if a piercing arrival here of something from ... elsewhere. Over time this was enclosed in a higher structure, so that the icon now is presented as piercing the earth, yet with its shaft still appearing out of the darkness above.

As the temple gained in power, it was further enlarged, with the addition of a circular plaza, its walls carved with a procession of jaguars, participants bearing staffs of the cactus, approaching from the right and the left, to broad steps leading up into the step pyramid. Then a larger structure was added, "the new temple", enclosing numerous labyrinths and chambers. What we have found is that each chamber seems to hold a specific energy of its own. These seem to be places of ceremony and meditation. The approach to the "New Temple" is a square, sunken plaza, large enough to hold several hundred people.

Based on remains of offerings found in excavations, pilgrims arrived from as far north as Ecuador, and from much of what is presently Peru. Those entering the temple would begin their approach by crossing the river (which now divides the site itself from our ceremony grounds) to enter via the great sunken plaza, and then tracing into older and older, more and more central portions, until finally arriving, alone, before the Lanzon itself. With the medicine the entire journey is filled with process and interaction. The ultimate experience, alone before the Lanzon, is often climactic. We'll follow this series of steps on ceremony days.

Huachuma (San Pedro)

The stone carving above, from the circular plaza, presents a jaguar/human figure, arriving to the temple, carrying a large stalk of the cactus. Large cats are archetypal beings in many cultures, and the jaguar may represent the power to transform, to eliminate weak forms and rededicate energy to more viable manifestation.

The medicine plant is seen here at our ceremony site. "Huachuma" is a Quechua word meaning something like "without the head" - expanding our cognitive range beyond the conventional, "mental" boundaries.It is the cactus that the Spaniards named “San Pedro”. San Pedro, or Saint Peter, is the saint who is said to carry the keys to heaven.
It does indeed open the gates to other realms. There are huachuma plants depicted on much of the stone sculpture at Chavin and other early ceremonial sites in the North of Peru. It grows abundantly in the highlands we’ll be visiting. It’s quite clear, as even the most academic of authorities recognize, that this medicine was a sacrament in journey-work from very early times. So it's natural to work with huachuma in its home, the temple at Chavin, in the process of making a deep connection here.

Many of you have worked with huachuma in the past. There is a good chance you’ll find this medicine to be more powerful than what you’ve experienced. Whether you're new at this or experienced, keep in mind that you have option to start with a small cup, to learn how this medicine is interacting with your body and your being. After an hour or so you can choose to drink more if you wish. For those familiar with ayahuasca, this has similarities and differences. One viewpoint is that ayahuasca takes us into "otherwordly" realms, and Huachuma connects us to subtle elements present in this world. Ceremony is usually in the daytime; one "walks with it". We find that in addition to connecting us with our own inner material, it’s very useful for bringing in subtler dimensions of what the Western mind-set calls the not-self; elements of nature - the plants, animals, stones, bodies of water, mountains. Language is tricky! Such self / not-self distinctions are verbal and consensual.You will connect with the energies that are relevant to your path and process. Particularly in the context of the huacas, the subtle forces (angels, allies, impulses of Creative Intelligence), are seen, heard, sensed, or felt … gifts are received, and these tend to be relevant; they tend to be aligned and meaningful to our own needs, the stage of our own process. Thus it is both “healing” and “revealing”. And, one can “walk with it". (See integration). 

Here's a perspective: Our experience has been that we come into the presence of powerful "subtle" beings in this temple space. And it seems to make sense: Though the Chavin high culture (archeological term: "The Chavin Horizon") is thought to have lasted from about 1200 BCE to 200BC, Spanish explorers found it still in use in the eraly 19th century. So this huaca  was an active place of sacred interaction for some 3000 years. It is so today. We find it to be the home of teachers and allies. They respond when we come into their presence. Often there is an overwhelming sense of gratitude and humility as we encounter them. Entering this sacred temple, in the footsteps of those who've walked this path for 30 centuries, we encounter the beings who've been met here, been revered here, over that vast period of time. Each pilgrim has brought offerings, from kintus of coca to fine gold, shells from Ecuador, weavings from the altiplano, plants from the jungle. Brought in exchange, as offerings in ayni to the spirit-teachers, the forces alive in Nature which interact with and support the paths of the two-legged journeyors.

Is Huachuma right for you?  This work is intensely personal. The plant spirit will reveal to you what you are ready to see; it will guide you in the next step of your journey. The material that you are shown will be presented specifically for your soul at this moment. It's been our experience that those who have unreleased personal trauma will be wise to pursue deep healing/release work before connecting with this particularly strong medicine in this particularly powerful setting. Such healing work may take the form of Holotropic Breathwork, or meditative or psychotherapeutic forms of help. At some point La Madre Ayahusca may help you to work with such material. If you are on prescription medicines, including cannabis, to cushion the presence of deep problematic material, it may be prudent to focus first on healing those old traumas. We'd encourage you to be familiar with those deep places in yourself, and that inner healing work, before engaging with this powerful plant. And we're happy to discuss this issue with you personally. 

As the carvings show us, it has been the cactus, huachuma, which opens the communication channel for those who wish to enter into communion here. The energy of huachuma is often described as the masculine counterpart to the more feminine energy of the sacred vine of the jungle. Some find an opening to the Divine Masculine, the Creator,  the Source of creation, the "center" from which all the pairs of opposites arise, but in which they are are held in balance. That certainly coincides with the notion of chawpi, the center, the place of yanantin-masinitin, harmonizing apparent opposites. Much of Chavin's iconography evokes the harmonization of opposite values - masculine-feminine, light-dark, above-below. Yet the journey is very personal. Each soul arrives with its own history, and its own future. The lessons learned, however numinous, or exhalted, or difficult, are specific gifts for the experiencer.

Since we do each arrive with our own past, please be sure to read the section on medications at the link above.


Our host is the steward of land that was part of the original temple grounds, which had been more recently used for farming and is now effectively returned to its sacred context. There are immense, ancient standing stones welcoming us, as well as large terraced groves of San Pedro cactus. Around a massive mesa and firepit we’ll gather to open sacred space and drink the medicine. And here we’ll return in late afternoon to sit by the fire, under the stars. Expect to be in the medicine for about 8-12 hours, usually fairly strong for the first 4-5 hours, and gradually tapering off. While each of us is in our own process, during the later hours there’s more opportunity to sing and share if you’re so moved. The rich soup served in the evening is welcome and grounding. Shelter and mattresses are provided at the end of the evening, and we return to the village next morning.

Ceremonies will be offered about every other day during our stay at Chavin. 

Medicine People

We’re fortunate to have two  medicine people along on this journey. Our host is an American who has lived at Chavin de Huantar and worked with huachuma here for 10 years. He is essentially a devotee of both the temple and the spirit of Huchuma. He selects the cactus and prepares all the medicine. Every individual cactus plant is different, and our host selects them and works himself with each one, so that he is quite cognizant of subtle variations from ceremony to ceremony. Even if you have experienced huachuma before, you are likely to be surprised at the differences in these different brews, and the specific preparation brought to each ceremony.

Music is an important element in medicine journeys; in October we’ll be joined by Alvaro Zumaran Chavez. Alvaro is quite well-known in
Europe and South America, a master of this art who makes all his own instruments (reeds, bone flutes). Alvaro brings a very powerful energy into the process, and his music carries us gently into the subtle realms.

You can download and listen to Alvaro here: Alvaro - two tracks


In ceremony we have unusual, sometimes mysterious and puzzling, experiences. It’s our responsibility to engage these. If we treat them as entertainment, that’s recreational use. And we're not implying that there's no place in life for recreation! But where the objective is healing, growth, answering important questions, engaging with the medicine and the presences it opens us to... it takes some work on our part to integrate the experience. In the morning or afternoon, on the day after ceremony, we’ll meet together as a group, to share whatever each person wishes to bring into the circle. We honor one another’s process; comments or reflections from others are at the option of the person sharing. We’ve found that, as with all deep work, the step of integrating the experience into our lives is as important as the inner process itself. This may include meditation, yoga, talking, journaling, or drawing … whatever means works for you to help bring the reality of deep access with other realms into the everyday reality of our lives in this middle world. 

Integration can also including going for walks and hikes, or some time in the thermal baths, or hanging out with friends.

Transportation, lodging, etc.

Please scroll to the top of this page to find the links at the right leading to more details about transportation and lodging. Here is some general information.

Chavin de Huantar is on the Eastern slopes of the Cordillera Blanca range in Peru’s Ancash province. Once you’ve reached Lima, there is bus service direct to Chavin from the Plaza del Norte terminal via MovilBus. 

Or you can take any of several bus lines to Huaraz, the city that's high in the mountains and closest to Chavin.
Then the second leg is transport from Huaraz to Chavin de Huantar. Lots of buses and combis on this route, a 2 hour drive. (Stunning scenery!) . It’s easy to find transportation - bus, taxi, or collectivo - to Chavin from Huaraz. See the link above - top right -  for more info on transportation.

It won’t hurt to have a day in Huaraz, either coming or leaving. It’s an interesting city, jumping off spot for many people trekking in the high Andes, lots of restaurants, crafts, a couple good museums. Recommended hotel: “Tumi”.

Once in Chavin we’ll stay at one of several simple hotels/hostals. The town is hardly a culinary destination, but there are a number of good clean restaurants, and a couple quite nice ones (and no one got sick from the food!).


The planned retreat will comprise about 10 days at Chavin, with 5 medicine ceremonies. Pricing should be here soon..

This includes transport from our lodging to the ceremony grounds, medicine, admission to the temple site, judicious tips for guards, evening meal the evening of ceremony, lodging at the ceremony site. Depending on local situation there may be opportunities for special access. You do have the option to not participate in any ceremony; it’s fine to take a break if that feels right.

Each person pays for their own lodging in Chavin, about $10 single, $15 double, per night. Lunch and dinner meals meals in town cost $5-10.

If you wish to join us, we'd like to receive your $500 deposit to hold your space. This is refundable in the event an emergency prevents you from coming. Pay via Paypal using our email address, or via check to Stepping Into Freedom, at 1307 S. Main St., Fairfield, IA 52556.

Questions? Reach us at