Cusco II: The Magic of the Munay-ki
The Earthkeeper Rite connects you to a lineage of archangels that are guardians of our galaxy. They’re reputed to have human form and be as tall as trees. The Earthkeepers, who are stewards of all life on the Earth, come under the direct protection of these archangels and can summon their power when they need to in order to bring healing and balance to any situation.
This Rite corresponds in the tradition with the Kuraq Akulleq initiation. In Quechua, kuraq akulleq means the elder who chews coca, or the wise master who knows many things. They are the ones who have the wisdom of experience and have mastered the art of working with energy. When they summon the wind or call on the rain, the elements of nature respond. The communities turned to these wise ones for advice and counsel. They are the bridge between heaven and earth, the mediators between divine and human.
When I first received this rite in 2007, I felt the energy shiver through my body, akin to an electric shock. It was a sweet sensation. It was as if this lineage of wise ones were knocking at my door, letting me know they were there to assist me. That energy, the connection I felt with the lineage, was what guided me to teach the Andean Tradition in my own way, ultimately using the Munay-Ki Rites so others could feel their support as well.
Historically, this rite was given after many years of experience practicing the tradition. But we are living in a very special moment of history where everything is speeding up. Our ability to receive and share this energy has increased dramatically since 2007. Our consciousness is vibrating at a higher frequency. So when we receive these energy transmissions, we are much better able to integrate the energy and utilize it to bring healing and balance into our lives.
When Christer first moved to Paz y Luz late in 2007, we began to push each other’s buttons quite regularly. The issues seemed somewhat territorial as I tried to create space in my house for him. Sometimes I became obsessed with the proper location of things in the kitchen, for example. I’m sure it was much more about creating space in my life, than it was about the order of things in my house. For Christer it was about finding comfort in a place that was new, that wasn’t yet his.
Our love continued to bloom and grow, even as we triggered things in the other, helping us to heal. From our first car rental fiasco in St. Lucia to the flat tire trauma in South Africa, as well as here at home, whenever situations are the most challenging, I can feel the Earthkeepers watching over us, as our doubts and fears ebb and flow, and old wounds are given a chance to mend.
In January 2010, the sacred river outside our door flooded, bringing two feet of water and mud into our house and half that into our hotel rooms. Christer and I were on holiday in South Africa when it happened. The volunteer looking after the hotel, evacuated the premises and left the area. Our new manager who was supposed to start the following month decided not to come. Two women who had committed to run our new restaurant changed their minds.
When I got the news on the other side of the hemisphere, my immediate emotional response was one of betrayal and abandonment, not only by our potential colleagues but also by Pachamama and the Earthkeepers. Christer received the news with a calm steady strength that provided a container which allowed me to process my feelings without fuelling them. Twenty-four hours after hearing about the flood, our neighbors informed us that the water had receded and our house was still standing.
Tears poured out of me releasing the tension as Christer stood over me like a guardian. It was then my emotions shifted from anger at the ones who left to gratitude for our local staff who stayed and had already begun cleaning things up. I remembered that the element Earth cleanses and the Water washes. The Earthkeepers in fact were doing their job cleansing and transforming on all levels – physical, emotional and spiritual. Christer’s steady countenance and gentle loving strength was such a comfort to me.
We celebrated Thanksgiving that year at Paz y Luz, inviting all our friends, neighbors and guests for a big meal with turkey and all the trimmings. There were 28 people from 19 countries including my parents, my brother Dennis and his wife Sharon. We sat in a circle each one sharing what we were thankful for that year. Surrounded by so many people who had helped us during the flood and as we made repairs, Christer so beautifully expressed our gratitude for all the care and support we received. I felt gratitude to Pachamama and the Earthkeepers as well.
The Earthkeepers help us shift our consciousness to see life from a broader perspective, which opens us up to so many new possibilities. Sylvia, who invited Christer and me to teach the rites in Bariloche, Argentina, came to Peru for the “Deepening the Munay-Ki” retreat I offer every year. During the five days of this retreat, we share our experiences with Munay-Ki. We also go to four sacred initiation sites in Cusco and the Sacred Valley, where mountain shamans received the rites for many generations. These sites are unknown to most tourists. I work with Don Francisco and his wife Dona Juanita who give us the lineage rites in the traditional way with their mesas, sacred stones wrapped in a traditional woven cloth.
On the fourth day of the retreat, we go to an old temple with a carved chakana altar. There Francisco and Juanita give us the Kuraq Akulleq initiation with their mesas.
Sylvia’s husband Jimmy had been very sick for more than a year. She shared this story with the group when we returned from receiving this rite.
We got there, and I sat down on a rock and found myself meditating. So I went with it and there was Jimmy, his back against the rock with a kind of tunic on, hands outstretched, with a ceremonial dagger in his chest. He wasn´t a bit put out; in fact he had a smile on his face. So I went up to him, took him by the hand, and walked him to the tunnel. We parted; he waved, smiled, and turned and walked away. As did I. And connecting us was this tube of energy of light which stretched as we walked in opposite directions. POWERFUL to say the least. I had been trying to talk to Jimmy energetically for some time, to let him know it was OK not to hang on to life endlessly if he really wants to go. This time I managed, quite beautifully.
The course to learn the Munay-Ki Rites doesn’t teach you shamanic techniques or train you to perform other rituals and practices of the tradition. There is other training available for that. What Munay-Ki does is open us up to the vast potential within us and to the many possibilities that exist beyond our material practical reality of linear time and space. The rites tune us in to alternative frequencies.
This rite in particular, and how it has been given in the last 15 years or so, has caused some controversy among students and teachers of the Andean tradition. Until 2007 and the birth of the “Rites to Come”, the Kuraq Akulleq initiation was the ultimate rite. Like its name explains, traditionally it was given after many years of practice and experience. When Peruvian professionals and foreigners began learning the tradition from indigenous shamans, they eventually received this rite themselves. When they began teaching foreigners the tradition, this was the prize, you might say, for learning well and completing the full course of study.
Teachers each have their own style and form for teaching the tradition and their own organization, their own fees and their own length of study. My teachers for example, taught us using four levels of the Andean priesthood and within those four levels, there were six initiations in total, the last being the Kuraq Akulleq.
With each level some people would fall away, as more new initiates would start at level one. I received five of the six initiations over the nine years I worked with Regis and Sergio. Regis finally offered the Kuraq Akulleq initiation as part of a ten-day trip around Peru and Bolivia, eleven years after the first workshop I organized for him in 1999 in South Africa. Ten people from South Africa received it out of hundreds who had done the other levels over the years.
Alberto Villoldo has a school called Healing the Light Body. Through this school, he has been training people in shamanic healing practices for more than 20 years. One model he uses for some of his training is a “medicine wheel” and the four cardinal directions. At the end of the 4th direction (the East), students receive the Kuraq Akulleq rite.
In the mid-90s, Juan Nunez Del Prado, working with Elizabeth Jenkins, began leading groups of foreigners for a ten-day initiation journey to sacred sites in and around Cusco. All the lineage rites were given to the participants as part of that journey, culminating with the Kuraq Akulleq rite. Regis and Juan had both studied with a master shaman from Huasao named Don Benito years before so they knew each other and shared many teachings they had learned together. Regis had also studied with other masters so he drew his knowledge from several sources. They had much in common but chose to share the rites in different ways.
By 2000, when I moved to Cusco, there were many people who were leading groups, teaching the tradition and sharing the rites, often given to the foreigners by indigenous shamans who worked alongside the teachers and group leaders. Among different teachers and students there have been debates about whose way is more authentic, more appropriate, more valid. These debates continue and the Munay-Ki is often part of those discussions.
In 2009, Peggy from my Full Circle group and I had an interesting discussion about the use of mesas. The Full Circle included a Munay-Ki training to receive and give the rites using a Pi stone. It also included visiting four sacred initiation sites and receiving the lineage rites from Francisco and Juanita in the traditional way with their mesas. As part of the tradition, Francisco was giving each person a stone from the site to put in their mesa. Some of the people participating in the Full Circle were mesa carriers, having learned about the mesa from other training they had taken (like Peggy and me) but others were new to the tradition and didn’t have a mesa. For these people, Francisco offered to help them start a mesa with special stones and a hand-woven manta cloth that they could buy from him.
Peggy was very distressed these people were getting a mesa without “earning” it. She said she had to work so hard and went through so much training. She felt Francisco just giving these other participants a mesa was somehow diminishing her mesa. I told her that her mesa represented her own journey and that it was valuable and powerful to her for that reason and didn’t need to be compared to someone else’s.
I feel the same way about receiving the Munay- Ki rites. Each way of teaching the tradition has its merits. Students have their own experiences during their training. Most often they learn what is important for them to learn. Juan Nunez, Albert Villoldo and others felt the time was right to share the initiation rites, including the Kuraq Akulleq, with as many people as possible to assist the coming of a new age. So they created ways for that to happen.
As I was thinking about this topic, I was reminded of a parable told by Jesus (recorded in Matt. 20:1-16) about laborers in the vineyard. Some workers were hired first thing in the morning and agreed to work all day for a silver coin. The owner then went out during subsequent hours collecting more workers. At the end of the day, some had worked many hours, others only a few but they were each paid the same silver coin. The ones who worked the longest were upset because they thought they deserved more than the ones who hadn’t. The owner asked why they were upset because they had been given exactly what they had been promised.
Most biblical scholars interpret this story to mean that God’s grace is unmerited rather than earned. Some people may say a certain teacher’s training is worth more than another’s, which of course may be true. But in the end, the initiation rites of the Andean tradition (including the Munay-Ki) are an energetic connection with higher consciousness and the Divine. There are techniques that can be taught to utilize that energy but the rites themselves are like God’s grace which isn’t earned by our worthiness, but given freely to assist humanity.
I didn’t like that parable when I was young. I thought it was unfair, unjust. One should be paid what one earned, what one deserves. But now, after many years practicing Andean spirituality, I conclude we’d all be in big trouble if we got only what we earned or deserved. Then we would miss the magic, we’d miss the unconditional love of Divine Creator who gives sunshine and air to the good and bad alike. Fair or not, the rites are given to expand our consciousness – both personal and collective – so we can let go of what is fair and right to embrace love and beauty and acceptance instead.
We may not all be equal but we are all acceptable. Those who train people in the Andean Spiritual tradition do it differently. Their students have free will to choose where, when, how and with whom they wish to study and what they are willing to pay for that training. The choices made are not validated by negating the other options. The value is determined by how the teachings enable the students to improve their lives, and each life that their lives touch.
My life was greatly improved by what I learned from Regis and Sergio, and I am grateful to them for what they taught me. That grace continues with learning and teaching the Munay-Ki and working with Francisco and Juanita. It is the energy of the rites that opens us up – I can see that when I teach the Munay-Ki to others.
The Earthkeeper Rite especially guides me when I share the Andean tradition with others. The Earthkeepers are the ones who remind me how important it is we learn how to trust we are being guided and assisted during this time of great turmoil and change. They are the ones that keep us reaching for the sky with our feet firmly planted on the earth. They help us navigate when our usual compasses are spinning in all directions. We are indeed being looked after from a higher source. When we feel that energy inside us, we can trust it is at work in the world around us as well, no matter how chaotic things seem from our material practical vantage point. That’s grace. That’s the magic.