Photos, Artwork, & Musings on Life, Spirit, Entheogens, and What Is Real

Archive for March, 2012

The Incan Fortress of Ollantaytambo

Many visitors to the Peruvian highlands concentrate their efforts on Machu Picchu and Cusco, and give less attention to the Sacred Valley and its extensive Incan ruins. The valley contains numerous historical sites, plus a vibrant living culture. The Valle Sagrado de los Incas resonates with peoples of Incan, mestizo, Hispanic, and other pre-Incan tribal heritages. The valley runs just north of Cusco and lies in between that huge and fascinating city and the citadel of Machu Picchu.

Some of the finest Incan stonework can be found at the amazing fortress at the edge of Ollantaytambo, one of the oldest and most Incan towns in Peru.

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The “fortress” of Ollantaytambo is actually a religious structure, but it did function as a retreat from the attacks of the conquistadores in the 1500’s. It was originally built by Incan Emperor Pachacuti, and last held by Manco Inca, who, leading resistance forces against the Spanish, retreated to Ollantaytambo in January of 1537. The Spanish forces attacked on horseback, but Manco Inca’s band, in a technical tour de force, flooded the entire approach plain with water forcing the Spanish to retreat and regroup. The Battle of Ollantaytambo did not last long. The forces were about even at first – 30,000 on each side, plus about 100 Spanish led by Hernando Pizarro. He returned with reinforcements, but Manco Inca had wisely retreated on into the jungle beyond the Sacred Valley, where the Inca rebellion centered itself until eventual defeat.

The scale of the terracing here is huge. Look closely in these photos to see people climbing slowly up the tiny human-scale stairs.

At the top is an unfinished temple of some of the most exquisite stonework remaining from the Inca times. The Sun Temple is made with cut and fitted stones of a slightly pink or coral color.

In this photo, I’m standing in front of the “Wall of the Six Monoliths,” with its amazing slender stone sections fit expertly in between larger slabs, all beautifully carved and smoothed. This work was never completed, probably due to the Spanish invasion.

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There are several Incan fountains, still functioning, at the base of the fortress area. See my earlier post on these types of fountains and waterworks.

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On Flying

 

What golden king of ancient time

Would not envy my simple pursuit?

The span I leap in minutes,

His fleet-footed messenger could not match

In months of arduous travel.

 

 

My eye gazes down upon a wider land,

From a vantage higher than any mountain.

I eat and drink in ease, and calmly survey sights no

Emperor’s eye of old ever beheld.

 

The Envy of Birds!

The Power of Air!

I, the every day man, an ambler –

Godlike, stepping on clouds to soar above.

The ancient kings would marvel and

Desire above gold, what now I plainly do.

 

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Air travel has become such a commodity these days that I find myself in some kind of strange minority in that I am still amazed and awestruck at the fact that we can don our metal wings and actually fly. I’ll take a window seat any time I get a chance to go. While everyone else is watching a movie or sleeping, I’m gazing out that window with a bemused grin, following the landmarks and geography below or glorying in fantasy cloudscapes and trying to get my brain to realize and accept just exactly where I am up here in the sky, higher than Earth’s tallest mountain, flashing across entire continents and great oceans in my cushioned sedan chair.

It is truly an experience of power (and wealth!) that no ancient King could have imagined. What is truly Amazing, however, soon becomes mundane once it becomes a commonplace method of travel.

All too soon I must turn away from the mythic views from my plastic window and the magic carpet ride comes to its earthy end.

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The Gates of Forever

Original digital art by David P. Crews

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Endless was my journey over broken

Lands and through forests green;

Between great white mountains,

Across cobalt deeps – desolate seas:

Arduous.

 

Ahead, my goal. My path a road – now a trail.

Steps pursuing lands of promise. I was not

Where I should be. I must campaign to the end.

At last I carved a path from unknown soil

To reach that storied land. I could not stop. I was

Impelled.

 

I stood at last upon a jutting rock,

A stony islet black as a forgotten dream.

Vast waters lay ahead. Somber waves roiled against

My feet, then became singularly quiet.

Receding spume erased my former trail. The

Setting sun reflected in darkling waters, now still as

Glass.

 

I gazed up at two golden towers. Needles –

Silent gnomons attesting a single message:

There is no East or West. There is no

South or North. There is no Down.

We speak for the Zenith. Look

Up.

 

I looked into the fading air above,

My wandering paths all lost from view,

Nor any new paths seen. Only the sharp tips of

Gold and the sweet air beyond.

There is but this one place – this one

Moment.

 

Here, all the pieces of Time collect and

Converge around a mass that compels

All to become one moment, ever moving,

Ever lasting, ever evolving, ever

Still.

 

The Mystery opened my soul,

And I knew I was where I should be,

At the Center. where all things are – beneath

The Gates of Forever.

 

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The word “zenith” is derived from the Arabic: “samt ar-ras”, meaning “the road above one’s head.”

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Illusion of Time

On the Mesa - Taos, New Mexico ______ Photo by David P. Crews

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“Perhaps time is after all merely a device to prevent everything from happening at once – or the illusion that prevents us from seeing that in fact everything is happening at once. For time really dwells within the vastness of Eternity – where all things exist simultaneously without any past or future: as that most ancient of all texts, the Rig-Veda, tells us so pointedly.”

– Paul William Roberts, In Search of the Birth of Jesus-The Real Journey of the Magi (New York: Riverhead Books, 1995) 278.
Note: recently reissued (more appropriately) as The Journey of the Magi.

 

By the way, this book by Paul William Roberts is one of a very few that have actually changed the course of my life and my philosophy when I encountered it by chance in the mid 90′s. He traces the history of modern religions back through Zoroastrianism to the Vedas. That logically leads the intrepid seeker on back to shamanism.  I highly recommend his book for its truly important insights, plus it is also a great travelogue and one of the most outrageously funny such books I’ve read.

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Desert Places

Big Bend Badlands – Photo ©2004 David P. Crews

“They cannot scare me with their empty spaces

Between stars—on stars where no human race is.

I have it in me so much nearer home

To scare myself with my own desert places.”

-       Robert Frost  – from “Desert Places”
A Further Range  –  Henry Holt & Co. (1936)

Photo of badlands in Big Bend National Park, in west Texas, just north of Castolon.


Ancient Songs and Green Magic (Part V – Conclusion)

ANCIENT SONGS AND GREEN MAGIC
– A Search for What Is Real in the Amazon Jungle of Peru

By David P. Crews

Don Rober prepares.

Read Part I here

Read Part II here

Read Part III here

Read Part IV here

 PART V

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FINAL AYAHUASCA CEREMONY

A Vision of the Spirit and Heart

Note: This longer post concludes my Ancient Songs and Green Magic series on Ayahuasca. Please read beyond the fold for the final extraordinary visions and my Five Years Later postscript.

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VISITING THE MURRAY HUITOTO TRIBE

from my trip journal:

The Amazon River

Today, we boarded the boats to travel down the Rio Momón and on to the true Rio Amazonas: the Amazon itself. We rode a short way downriver from Iquitos to take a longer jungle hike and meet the Murray Huitoto people. This tribe lives a couple of miles inland from the great river, so we landed at a rough riverfront town and hiked through the beautiful dense jungle to find them.

The tribe was happy to dance for us and invite us in to see their world. We also delivered some needed medical supplies.

Huitoto Dances

The chief was very welcoming, and although he spoke only Spanish to me, and I spoke none, we still had a very friendly conversation.

Author with Huitoto Chief

We swam in the small river here, enjoying the cool water and also the soothing mud from the banks – an exclusive facial and body treatment that would be costly in any big city salon! Rufus, don Howard’s red uakari monkey, joined us for some fresh jungle fruit and kept us laughing with his constant antics.

Rufus!

Back at the tribe’s camp, the matron of the group showed us their ayahuasca vines, planted at the base of certain trees and growing strong. As the vine is used, it is important to keep it cultivated.

Huitoto woman-cultivated Aya vine.

Huitoto Chief

Back at our lodge once more, it was time for our third and last ceremony.

THIRD AYAHUASCA CEREMONY

There is an ancient practice or technique in shamanism called “soul retrieval.” It is a healing for someone who has lost part of their spirit – their spiritual body. Perhaps they simply wandered away into a spiritual place and part of them did not return to our everyday reality. Perhaps someone stole that part of the person, or borrowed it and never returned it. Now the person is ill with a kind of emptiness or depression that cannot be cured by normal means. The shaman goes into trance state and travels off into the past or alternate realities, finds the part that is missing and invites it back. He or she recovers that spirit essence and reunites it with the ill person, making them whole and happy once more. This kind of healing is something a human shaman does, but it may not always be a human who heals.

“Anything will give up its secrets, if you only love it enough.”
– George Washington Carver

As my final opportunity to experience the tea approached, I re-evaluated my set of Intentions for it. After thinking about it, I realized I had been unconsciously self-centered in my original intentions. Instead of being completely open in my heart, I had been trying to get what I wanted while couching the request in careful language. I had been requesting, as if off a menu, to be shown the visions I desired. I wanted to see and learn what I wanted.

Magic Tea

This time, I let go. I decided to simply open myself up and let Ayahuasca take control and lead me where, perhaps, I did not know I needed to go. She certainly did that in the first session! Having confronted Fear itself and then allowed to get my bearings in session two, I felt like I was oriented enough now to trust her and not be anxious or fearful this time. My new intention was: “Open me up.  Show me Love.  Let me be love.”

The Ayahuasca tea seemed slightly more viscous tonight. Once again, I felt fortunate that the drink went down rather easily and I had no problem with it. Since this was our final ceremony, don Howard and his wife Reyna placed wonderful little bead necklaces around our necks, each with a small pendant of Ayahuasca vine. Now, we waited in the darkness once again – waited for our next inexorable leap into the true unknown.

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“For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror
which we are barely able to endure, and it amazes us so,
because it serenely disdains to destroy us.
Every angel is terrifying.”
–      Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies

As we waited for the onset of Ayahuasca space, don Rober began his icaros. Several of the other participants were inclined to join in, and then many of the tribespeople in and outside the molloca also began to sing along, with a group energy that I found myself caught up in as well. It was a wonderful antiphonal surround-sound beginning to tonight’s ceremony and it boded well for the nature of this journey.

Once more, and to my relief, I entered Ayahuasca’s dimensions easily. As my head and extremities began to hum and vibrate with the powerful electric energy of the medicine, it grew in strength, then leveled off and remained a neon body buzz throughout the session. I saw some geometric patterns and some colors, but they were muted. Visual effects are easier to describe than other more internal effects, but now I noticed a different internal feel to this space from the previous ceremonies. The vine felt strong and it was deepening into me moment to moment. After some time, I was very deep, indeed, and I drifted on into another dimension.

Without warning or sign, I realized that something was coming towards me. There was no sound. As it drew near, it looked like a train or subway vehicle, which now pulled up at my left side and came to a stop. This seemed like an obvious invitation to board, but the train was too small to enter it. I thought, though, that I could probably get on top of it and ride it the way they do rail cars in India, so I climbed up and onto the top of the second car from the front. In a twinkling, as I did so, the train changed its form – morphing into a gigantic snake. I knew it was common in Ayahuasca visions to encounter these huge Ayahuasca snakes or jaguars or other elemental animal forms. It is sometimes a challenging test, but this seemed straightforward enough. I was going to ride the Snake!

Please read the rest of Part V here.