Energy healer Colleen McCann heads to the Peruvian Andes on a mystical trip
As told to ELIZABETH VARNELL
Photography by AMY DICKERSON
On an airplane, you can turn on electronics at 10,000 feet. My destination, the 200-year-old hut of a Q’ero shaman in the mountains of Peru, is well above that mark. That’s one way to wrap your mind around the idea of life at 16,000 feet. I sought out Peru for its power spots and for the stones in the ground: pyrite, pink opals, tektite, a dark gray limestone with a white quartz streak through it in the shape of a lightning bolt and more all came back with me.
Machu Picchu, one of the cradles of civilization, is a city built on quartz-rich terrain. The towering southeastern Andes looming above the ancient city are home to the Q’ero, a vibrant indigenous community with shamans who are still very connected to the land and spirits of their Incan ancestors.
Getting acclimated to the region’s higher altitudes is crucial, so flying into Lima and on to Cuzco to journey through Peru’s Sacred Valley is the ideal prep for ascending into the Andes. Cuzco is 11,000 feet above sea level, so the air is thin enough. You’re already in a dreamlike state when you land. Locals recommend chewing on coca leaves or sipping on coca tea to tame the jarring effects of lighter air. Here—I quickly learned—the leaves double as medicine, currency and hostess gifts; shamans even use them for prayers and readings.
Wandering through the nearby Maras salt plots, llama-filled Písac textile markets and the Incan ruins of Ollantaytambo readies your body for the towering staircases of Machu Picchu. To rest up for each day trip—and fuel them—El Albergue Ollantaytambo hotel has balcony rooms overlooking the train station and also houses a coffee roasting facility, farm, herb garden and distillery. Chef Gabriel Velázquez’s pachamanca lunch of chicken, potatoes and herbs, all cooked in a traditional Incan underground earth oven, is an essential restorative. Panoramic PeruRail Vistadome trains with glass ceilings for breathtaking mountain views run daily to Machu Picchu, where the Treehouse Lodge hovers above the Amazon rainforest. The spiritual power of Machu Picchu is intense. Temples, living quarters and gardens all have different energy.
A daylong climb up Waman Lipa Mountain culminating on horseback and on foot finally brought me to the indigenous Q’ero villages, where the weather shifts every five minutes and huts appear out of the mists. There, a shaman threw down coca leaves, asked me to blow on them, then ran his hand through them for my reading. Hannah Rae Porst, founder of nonprofit Willka Yachay (meaning sacred wisdom in the native language Quechua), which is helping to build schools for the village children, translated his personal words about my future as a condor soared above.
Los Angeles-based crystal reader Colleen McCann’s wanderlust and reverence for mysticism and ancient cultures compelled her to become a shamanic healer. She maps out the restorative powers of, say, citrine, amethyst, lapis lazuli and rose quartz at her Style Rituals studios in Venice and New York, and at Golden Door immersive retreats. The former stylist’s new volume, Crystal Rx: Daily Rituals for Cultivating Calm, Achieving Your Goals, and Rocking Your Inner Gem Boss (Dey Street Books, $26), is a road map to mental, physical and spiritual realignment through minerals.
Feature image: The contents of a shaman’s medicine bag, including rocks, shells, crystals, coca leaves and other talismans.
This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of C Magazine.