Published on January 3rd, 2017 | by Phyllis Clay, Ph.D.0
An Interview with don Oscar Miro-Quesada, Originator of the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition of Cross-Cultural Shamanism (PMT)
Phyllis: don Oscar, how would you describe the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition of Cross-Cultural Shamanism to someone who is not familiar with the word “shaman” or “curandero”?
don Oscar: The Pachakuti Mesa Tradition of Cross-Cultural Shamanism is a vehicle for people from all walks of life who are fascinated by the beauty of the natural world and derive great sustenance from being part of an earth-honoring spiritual community that is authentic and genuine in purpose in which they can blend their own spiritual practice with the opportunity to practice rituals and ceremonies that have a very ancient origin (practices of the original peoples of this planet, our indigenous ancestors); and, together, re-discover the original instructions, the old ways of how to live in harmony and balance with our earth. There are many shamanic traditions; but, within them, there are lineages. The Pachakuti Mesa Tradition is derived specifically from Peruvian original sources of shamanic wisdom and practice.
The word “shaman” is a Tungusic term [Tungusic is a family of languages spoken in Eastern Siberia and northeast China] that literally means “he or she who communes with the spirit world to impart healing guidance to their community.” So a shaman is a person who taps into non-ordinary states of awareness or that have informed the ways of traditional people since time immemorial.
When a shaman enters into a trance state, or a non-ordinary state of awareness, he or she receives messages that are like very deep intuitions, leading them into 1) the rituals they perform for people that are under duress, 2) the plant remedies to harvest and prepare into elixers for the restoration of physical health, and 3) the communal rights of passage or initiations necessary for maintaining the integrity of their tribal peoples. So shamans are really like transpersonal priests. Ultimately, a shaman is a person who cares deeply about other people and the entire earth community and extends that sense of caring and willingness to be of service out into his or her people and the world.
The impulse to care is the foundation of the word curandero. It is derived from curare which means “to heal.” So a curandero is a person who is motivated by a very pure impulse to be a healing force in the world. However that is given expression, matters not, in my opinion. The masks we wear and the outfits we don to lovingly provide healing presence to others is secondary to the fact that the impulse to be a healing source in the world is alive and well in the destiny of that soul.
Phyllis: While we’re talking about words, the word “pachakuti” may be unfamiliar to the readers. Where did that word originate and why did you choose it?
don Oscar: The Pachakuti Mesa Tradition derives primarily from two sources of aboriginal or original practices in Peru, my country of origin: one is Northern Coastal; and the other is Southeastern Highland or Andean. Over the years, having been sanctioned by my mentors to carry both of these lineages into the world, I fused them together and formed the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition. Pachakuti, in the language of my ancestors, the Inca people, means “world reversal” or “cosmic transformation.”
- Pacha means world, cosmos, space, place, time, realm, bardo – it can be many things; but ultimately by using the word Pacha, we mean the entirety of whatever we experience our world to be, both subjectively and objectively.
- Kuti literally means transformation or change, reversal, turning around, shape shifting. So, the word Pachakuti embodies the principle of transformation – the only permanent aspect of life: everything changes; everything is in flux.
- The Mesa part of the name is a Spanish word meaning “table.” Yet, in this context, it is an altar ground, a ceremonial space in which world transformation takes place, both on a personal and a planetary level.
- A pachakuti (world reversal/cosmic transformation) is both subjective and objective change and can mean a transformation in our own lives. Every time we go through a healing crisis – a divorce, a job transition – it is a right of passage if we relate to it properly. It is a change, a major transformation, and requires recalibrating ourselves to rise to the occasion and to tap into our internal resources to navigate through the difficult times, knowing always that, after the storm, does come the calm; and we are able to start a new life after that great, challenging moment. Relating to a pachakuti in a friendly way on both a personal and a planetary level is what shamans do.
Even though the individual experiencing the pachakuti is typically the main protagonist in these experiences, it can seem as though the changes are coming from an outside source. If you are the person undergoing the change, to be able to ceremonially ritualize the experience provides extraordinary release. If you are a Pachakuti Mesa initiate or practitioner, you are able to help people going through the change by bringing them to your own Pachakuti Mesa sacred space and modifying their experience through various means learned in the Apprenticeship Program.
Since life is full of these moments of great change and transformation, being able to harness that experience, to contain it within a sacred, ceremonial ground, empowers the individuals going through the pachakuti greatly. It makes them feel like they are in charge of the process rather than just a hapless spoke in a wheel. It provides great release of tension, anxiety, and general existential angst.
Relating to a pachakuti in a friendly way, on a personal and planetary level is what shamans do. The reason that I chose this word is because it is associated with the prophecies of the Peruvian ancestral people about the very epic, transformational times we are witnessing upon the planet. The shamanic traditions that we honor serve to assist in navigating these challenging times with peaceful hearts and open minds. The Pachakuti Mesa Tradition is a vehicle for people from all walks of life who are fascinated with capacity of the beauty in the natural world to assist in their own personal/spiritual growth and change; in the growth and transformation of others; and in the care and feeding of our beloved planet.
Phyllis: In the last several years you have begun sanctioning teachers to introduce this very rich tradition through the Apprenticeship Series. What led you to that decision?
don Oscar: First, when I received my compacto de rosi palera, my sanction from don Celso Rojas Palomino (my primary mentor from Salas, a village in the Northern Coastal area of Peru), our people thought traditional practices were impractical, discredited them, and even persecuted the practitioners. At the time I was apprenticing, it was illegal to practice the shamanic arts.
don Celso was convinced that, if our people saw the people from developed nations, such as the United States of America and European countries, respecting these arts and using them in an honorable way, the people from my own country would wake up and realize that if “gringos” do it, then it must be good medicine and we ought to begin learning to practice these things ourselves. And he was right, we are seeing this extraordinary resurgence of shamanism world-wide and the anchoring, the presence of indigenous perennial wisdom teachings all over, in literature, as well as in television shows and movies. So it’s becoming a global, cultural phenomenon that shamanism is a pathway that is both a spiritual practice and a ceremonial life-way that can be of great service to healing the pain and suffering in the world.
Yet I was taught this orally and I adhered to that oral compacto, bringing these teachings to the United States, initiating non-native people to the teachings and practices and beginning a cross-cultural shamanic current after spending many years holding that commitment with unyielding trust, even though, at times, it felt like just a pipe dream.
The reason I’m sanctioning others to introduce this rich tradition through the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition Apprenticeship Series, is because I personally could not be the only one initiating people into this art. There was so much interest and so many deserving men/women/elders that were seeking this experience that a group of people, including yourself , who have heartfelt dedication to this work because it had been transformative in their own lives were meant to take this out into the world, were meant to disseminate this work. So, over a series of months, I prayed deeply about it and called upon don Celso in my dreamtime and on my altar ground at my home until it became very, very clear in a couple of don Celso’s visitations, that the time is now that this work must spread and spread with great grace and beauty and that the people, such as yourself, that had been in my circles for so many moons had been thoroughly prepared to carry this to the world.
In addition, there are people that have taken the five-part Apprenticeship Series with sanctioned teachers, that I have been with in a maximum of two or three circles, yet are of the caliber that I am feeling confident that they can be sanctioned teachers, as well. So there’s no longer a need to have such extensive, one-on-one experience with me, as was the case in the past. We’re creating a critical mass. That’s why, in the last few years, I have decided to open the opportunity to teach to deserving people.
It’s not indiscriminant; there are certain requirements, both in terms of one’s ethical standards, moral predisposition, and integrity of purpose that are fundamental to be honored as a teacher of this tradition. So there is a vetting process. Yet I am very ecstatic about the caliber of teachers that have shown up.
Phyllis: I’m excited and visualizing this community being stretched and becoming more inclusive, while at the same time staying really grounded in and true to the tradition. don Oscar, what would you say to encourage others to explore and embrace this in-depth shamanic journey into the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition Cross Cultural Shamanism Apprenticeship Series?
don Oscar: I would remind them that we are divine beings. As immortal souls we have a place in the sustaining of beauty and healing grace upon whichever world we find ourselves – be it this earth plane or some other trans-dimensional reality, makes no difference. We are all together as a family – a cosmic tribe. Anybody who understands what I have just said, will experience a re-membering – a coming back into membership as a united, peaceful, earth-honoring, planetary family. There is nothing more rewarding, more nourishing, more healing than sharing that awareness with others in circle, such as Pachakuti Mesa Carrier circles, in which everyone else is a pristine reflection of yourself, in which your fears, doubts, insecurities are medicine to everyone; where you never have to hold back from showing your true self, whether in moments of deep pain and anguish or in a blissful/transcendent awakening. Honesty, truth, integrity, and a befriending of our shadow, a support of taking our personal inventory is always lovingly encouraged in our circles. I cannot think of any better medicine in the world than that opportunity.
Phyllis: Thank you, don Oscar, for the richness of this lineage and for the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition Apprenticeship Series.
Phyllis Clay, Ph.D., a sanctioned teacher of the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition, will begin a five-weekend PMT Apprenticeship Series in Albuquerque, February 24-26, 2017. Call her for information or to enroll in the series: 505-918-4388. For more information about don Oscar Miro Quesada and about the PMT Apprenticeship Series, see heartofthehealer.org