Machu Picchu — part 3: the nature of Nature, inKa style

Long ago I became infatuated with what little I knew about the ancient Inca culture. Back in the 70s when I was drawing plants for botanists who studied them for scientific and shamanic purposes (brugmansia, brunfelsia, erythroxylum coca), I discovered how these ancient Indigenous people of the Andes, just as indigenous folk throughout history, everywhere, revered all of Nature. They worshiped the Sun, the Moon, even Thunder and Lightning and raging Rivers and earth-touching majestic Mountains. When I first heard the Inca terms “Pachamama” and “Sacha Runa” I never knew what these Quechua language words meant. Until, that is, I traveled with my consort CarterO recently to el Valle Sagrado (the Sacred Valley) to see for myself. So many people have said how visiting the site of Machu Picchu is life-altering, this hundreds-years old citadel of Inca spirituality, and I have to agree.

I am back from the trip almost a month, yet a part of me still feels “I am there.” And I think I will always feel that way, that I am connected to the message, the deep awakening I received by visiting this sacred site.

first glance of Matchu PIcchu from the Inka Trail

first glance of Machu Picchu as you enter city’s ruins from the high Inka Trail

In preparation for our two-week long trip I began to research these two terms, especially. I’d like to share with you about the core of what I discovered. It may seem sophomoric to you, but to me this message I received from my visit to Machu Picchu is as extraordinary a spiritual awakening as I’ve ever had, the so-called “Great A-Ha!” What I learned from these two terms, Pachamama and Sacha Runa, summarizes the essence of what all indigenous people regard as “the meaning of life.”

The Inca Empire, which came to a sudden and abrupt ending when the Spanish conquistadors invaded Peru and killed many, including the “head of the Inca empire,” also known as “the Inka” himself … this Inca empire was the culmination of thousands of years of previous indigenous empires and smaller, more diverse and spread-out peoples. The Incas, therefore, were the last of the South American great empires before the Europeans ended Nature worship and installed Christianity as the required faith. Don’t forget, the conquering of the New World happened during the Spanish Inquisition when even Spaniards back home were killed for not complying with strict Catholic dogma, not to mention faraway pagans who’d never even heard of Jesus Christ.

High in the Andes, where the environment is dry and conducive to preservation, artifacts of clay, gold, silver and mummified bodies have been found that have helped scientists name the various “empires” that came long before the Inca Empire. These previous pre-Columbian regimes came from all directions of the newly discovered continents, which came to be called the Americas. The Inca Empire, like the Maya and the Aztec Empires of Central America, were essentially ended when the Spanish, who had valiantly fought the Moors for centuries before and were thusly, unstoppable warrriors who overtook Central and South America in the fifteenth century. Today, most indigenous people of the Andes, those who have not left their small villages, that is, still speak their native tongue and practice their pagan (pre-Christianity) beliefs alongside those rituals of Catholicism, which most of the indigenous people adopted under Spanish rule. Many indigenous people of the Andes never learned to speak Spanish.

So how do present-day Incas — direct and pure descendents of their ancestors, today gaily dressed in each village’s idiosyncratic style, and in many ways still living very similarly to how their predecessors lived centuries before, even though enjoying a lone, bare light bulb hanging in a room of their house, riding in the back of transport trucks, and knowing television is available down the road — how do these indigenous people revere Nature without being told they are “going to hell” by the local Padre, the Catholic priest?

They chew coca! They honor the goddess of Nature! Every single indigenous person in the area around Machu Picchu in Peru and other parts of the altiplano, in Bolivia, chews coca. And not just because their grandparents did, and the eons of ancestors before them. A pouch of coca is around the neck of every newly found mummified remains of another ancestral Inca when discovered. These burials are found in dug-out holes one can see spotting the sides of every tall mountain, some in clusters of a dozen or more, looking like birds’ rookeries, some alone and seemingly inaccessible. But clearly, when another oval shaped, man-made hole in the rock is found, another mummy’s site is recognized by all who know what they contain.

Coca leaves are considered by the indigenous to be part of Mama Coca’s gifts to the earth. Mama Coca is the deity of the bush which in scientific terms is called Erythroxylum Coca. The magical power that the leaves contain are personified to the Inca as a female, nurturing, universal caregiver, whose other name is Pachamama. She is Mother Earth. She is all Powerful, all Grace-bestowing, and the supreme balancer between good and evil in life.

el botanico Timothy Plowman y su perrito Pogo, Sacha Runa

el botanico Timothy Plowman y su perrito Pogo, nicknamed: Sacha Runa

The people who watch over Pachamama and keep her safe, are known as Sacha Runa: the people who follow Nature’s way. It is they, the Sacha Runa, who inclusively are all indigenous people and anyone else, like me, or any non-indigenous, who feels more aligned with protecting Nature and honoring Her significance, than any other form of superstitious belief system.

The first time I heard the expression “Sacha Runa” was when my pal Timothy Plowman, an enlightened Harvard botanist, returned from the Andes where he’d gone to study indigenous people and how they used coca. He nicknamed his dog, after that trip, Sacha Runa. By calling his dog, formerly known as Pogo, the special symbolic and spiritually charged-name of Sacha Runa, Tim kept alive in his mind how important it is to remember to protect and honor Nature. Throughout his short life, Tim did just that.

Mama Coca, the Inca goddess also called Pachamama

Mama Coca, the Inca goddess also called Pachamama—painting by teZa Lord

Today, every person of Inca descent does a ritual honoring Pachamama. It is performed each day, sometimes many times a day, before a person starts each new “chew” for their enjoyment. A chew is a clump of leaves that stays hidden in the cheek for quite some time, the beneficial alkaloids of the coca leaves being released slowly, or more quickly when the chewer introduces an alkaline substance such as ash or burnt seashells, or in my case, bi-carbonate of soda. This is just one of the many way the people of Inca descent still honor the goddess, Mother Nature.

The pre-chew ritual goes like this: Select three perfectly dried leaves (all coca is dried at harvest time, before ingesting). Hold the three “special” leaves in an open fan-shape between the first two fingers and the thumb. Hold them up before you, sky-ward (honoring the Sun and Moon and Stars and all else that derives from the heavenly body, the Sky above, all holy to Incas). Then blow on the three leaves with your own breath joining Nature’s, as you offer a prayer or homage to the goddess. You can make a dedication then if you wish. Or you can ask for protection, or any other request to the Goddess of Nature, Pachamama. Then reverently take each leaf, separately, and remove the pokey stem, then lovingly place the individual leaf of Mama Coca’s benevolence in your mouth, to moisten, adding one by one, each new leaf, reverently, intentionally, reminding yourself with each new leaf that this power that comes from Pachamama is now — in you — the recipient of Mama Coca’s great blessing.

And so it is.

How many rituals do you do, to remind yourself that life is special? You may not chew leaves, but surely you can do something to feel more connected to Nature. The coca ritual reminds me of Holy Communion, which I partake of as often as I can, thinking how great, to bring into my own body the symbolic bread and wine, body and blood, of Christ, a great Light to and of humanity.

It doesn’t have to be this elaborate a ritual, either. You don’t have to chew coca leaves, go to church, or blow to the wind. But you can do something. Perhaps bless your food silently? Honor your neighbor, even your enemy as you wish to be honored? Perhaps honor the weather as it shifts and acts unpredictably, sometimes mild sometimes roaring, exhausting us humans, prepared for calm or nightmarish frenzy each new day.

Indigenous people everywhere, from all times, have a lot to teach us modern Westerners. To have more rituals in our lives would help us understand the power of our own individual thoughts. Ritual reminds us how we can harness our thoughts to our intentions. Then we get to see real results manifest, eventually.

Enjoy the moment! Enjoy the day! Enjoy life!
Your pal who loves you,

LordFlea aka teZa Lord

blessings on our new president!

hi friends,

no matter how each of us votes today, i pray Great Spirit will guide the best choice (along with each and every one of us…all a part of Great Spirit, too!) to make the best candidate win the necessary votes.

politics on turtle island

politics on turtle island

who am i voting for? well, that’s an interesting question. but fortunately for YOU this is not a political discussion, here on lordflea’s blog. so…i’ll save that for my book. have a joyous day, and please VOTE!!! your choice should be heard now…because whomever is chosen, and i mean WHO-EVER!!! let’s come together as a nation, as a family of humanity, and heal. let’s stop the whining, the blaming, and the anger, and let’s get busy and heal ourselves.

in the Light, lord flea singing the song of Turtle Island politics,

“politics is poison,” says my hopi friend, Bucky. “nah,” says i, “it just be a dance, and you must move in it to feel the beat.”

VOTE!!! anyone who doesn’t vote is … well, this isn’t a political blog, remember? yahhhhhhh. ahhhhh-men, and ahhhhhhh-women too!

passionate politics

dear friend,

the election is fast approaching and with it, passions are flaring, tempers heating, and this is great! NOW is the time for people to express themselves, actively promote their choice, say what they want to say, and defend the position of whatever candidate they’ve chosen to support.

it’s talking heads everywhere!

opinions, passions, choices--everywhere!

opinions, passions, choices--everywhere!

 for someone like me, who basically doesn’t trust ANY politician, but feels by the very nature of politics one who has entered that realm of public life has to be a magician, of sorts, to persuade the masses to believe their views–i can only pray that the choices we all make will serve the highest good for all.

and that when the dust settles, in the late evening of November 7, whoever is the winner will be the most enlightened choice of the people’s collective will.  yes, NOW is the time to voice our passions about which candidate is ours — but after the election, i hope the country of America will enjoy a period of healing, and rally around the new chief.  in other words, i hope whoever wins, does so by a landslide.  otherwise, i’m afraid, there’s going to be more back-biting and bitterness from the opposing political parties.  and quite frankly, i’m sick of it!

i don’t trust any politician.  but i will vote.  who i vote for is my own business.  how i believe in a universal force of such magnitude that politics is a mere ant’s footprint in its shadow, is my business here.

that’s why you’ll not be hearing any more political talk from me, lord flea.

so voice your choice loud and clear, my friend!  be active!  get connected, get out there and talk, argue, and make your point — but after Nov. 8th, please be kind and support whomever is chosen to lead this country.  we have some tough times ahead of us.  we need to be united in order to grow as a nation, as a people, as individuals.

be well, be loving, be kind to one another.

we are ONE -- a united family of humankind

we are ONE -- a united family of humankind

i spoke to my hopi native american friend, binky person, today.  he and i laughed and cried and shared our frustrations, and were amazed at how similar we are.  he, who has tried to teach his fellow indians to uphold the sacredness of the “old ways” feels ineffectual, even despised by his people.  binky feels no one wants to remember the sacredness of life here on earth.  i told him he has affected me deeply, and that counts.  i’ll write more of my new friendship with hopi binky in future posts.

in the Light, lord flea

need a little neem?

Hi friend,

equipoise, a term used to denote being in balance, also called "the middle way" in buddhism, or serenity, or ... peace. not too much this, not too much that; perfectly with earth, air, water, and fire. om shanti shanti shanti

"equipoise," a yogic term used to denote being in balance, also called "the middle way" in buddhism, or "serenity," or ... peace, contentment, and other words. equipoise is an inner state achieved by learning to not respond to too much this, too much that; to be perfectly aligned with Nature and Her elements: earth, air, water, and fire. om shanti shanti shanti

a new friend came into my life on saturday night, when we had a satsang at our house. “satsang” is a sanskrit term for “being in company of Truth.” it is what you call the time when seekers of all sorts get together purposefully for the opportunity to be as One, to honor the Inner Self, to honor the teachers, disseminate the teachers’ and scriptural wisdom, and to do things like chant, contemplate great words, and meditate, and…to socialize with like-minded individuals. we had cake (someone’s birthday! happy leos! and herb tea afterwards.)

this new friend of mine grows herbs. she knew i was a fan of nature because in our emailing back and forth preceding the satsang, i mentioned my love of ripping out lawns (which i do wherever i can) and replanting them with zero-scape (or is it xeroscape?) gardens, designed free-style with meandering paths, little areas of interests, and as much rock-work and sculpture as i can possibly fit into the space. i’ve done lots of this kind of arting-with-earth-moving-and-painting-with-living plants creation, in both cities and in rural areas.

in an email to her i mentioned how i’ve been trying to germinate “tulsi,” a variety of basil, which is considered both medicinal and sacred in India, where it’s from. so when Dora the herb lady (her business is ) came to satsang, she brought bunches of cut neem, and…magic of all magic, a tulsi plant!

the neem was especially interesting to me, as i’ve been staring at a jar of neem oil, afraid to use it, timid to try something so foreignly sticky and yukky smelling, and generally being the kind of slouch and narrow-minded fool that i often ridicule. so isn’t it perfect, me thinks to meself, that Dora has brought me some neem as a gift.

nature's gifts...worn as jewelry, cool necklace, eh?

nature's gifts worn as jewelry; cool necklace, eh?

plants are truly gifts from the gods. how often has mankind been rewarded, even “saved” by a natural plant or mineral? a cure for leprosy; the fungus growing on bread that became penicillin; barley and hops that became mankind’s favorite intoxicant: mead then beer; juniper berries in gin; little unopened flowers that are capers; and let’s not forget all the great cures of cancer, AIDS and every other disease that is sure to be contained in the “right plant”…when the scientists discover them. 

a little treat for you, on this thought:

through the gate of seeking, all Truth is found. this is a work by my friend, tomas sanchez, of costa rica. his work is filled with the kind of exciting, gorgeous discoveries that make being alive so magical as i feel, as tomas does too. and you? we hope so; if not, keep looking deeper into this painting. you will find the invitation to discover what you need, right there, in the Light.

through the gate of seeking, all Truth is found. this is a work by my friend, tomas sanchez, of costa rica. his work is filled with the kind of exciting, gorgeous discoveries that make being alive so magical as i feel, as tomas does too. and you? we hope so; if not, keep looking deeper into this painting. you will find the invitation to discover what you need, right there, in the Light.


…so…what is neem, you ask.

it is a deep-green, delicated-leaved tree used for any type of ailment besieging a plant grower or gardener. writing this, i’m working up to trying an infusion of its leaves on an infestation of white flies attacking my young papaya trees. i’ll also be glad to share my other stash (a jar of neem oil from Dyna-Gro) with my friend, Isabel, who has an epidemic of microscopic black flies (or is it scale?) attacking hers. i’ll put some of this neem oil into my sprayer, diluted with water and liquid dish soap (1 tsp. per gal) and spray it on early in morning or late in afternoon. meanwhile, i’m cooking up the leaves of the neem branches that Dora brought, to make my own brew. the leftover naked woody stems i’ve put in a pot of water with the prospect of their sending out roots and then, voila! i’ll have little neem trees of my own to plant in my St. Augustine, Florida garden.  

when i kill lawns i always plant as many native species of “wild grass” from the area, and as many big timber species of bamboo as i can fit into a property.

lord flea with a giant timber bamboo, in costa rica

lord flea with a giant timber bamboo, in costa rica

here, at the garden i’m creating at our new home (which I’ve named “Veritas Shambho”…veritas is latin for “the Truth” and shambho, sanskrit for “the abode of bliss”), i’ve planted over 7 different clumping species (old hamii, minor amoenus, buddha belly, dragon’s nest, etc.), and wow, this place will look like that fighting scene from “Crouching Tiger” in just a few years. be sure to always plant clumpers, not spreaders, for those of you who are thinking of going natural, and planting bamboo. BIG difference. you will regret it if you accidentally plant a bamboo that spreads, rather than clumps. so be careful.

the conundrum of plants

the conundrum of plants

which brings me to the thought of how nature is so well balanced, so much in fact that if we could just learn how to live from observing nature, how much happier, healthier, and prosperous we’d all be.

years ago i drew this illustration for Tim Plowman, a great botanist who succumbed early on to the AIDS pandemic. but before timoteo left us he studied the use of, spread of, and in general, good effects humanity has derived from the plant known as coca.

coca erythroxylum, the bush that has caused such havoc when humans distill its alkaloid, "cocaine" but which also has great beneficial qualities, known to the ancients and to modern dwellers of the high Andes and Altiplano of South America
coca erythroxylum, the bush that has caused such havoc when humans distill its alkaloid, “cocaine” but which also has great beneficial qualities, known to the ancients and to modern dwellers of the high Andes and Altiplano of South America

it has occurred to me on several occasions, about the mystery of how nature has encrypted both a blessing and a curse in each of her byproducts. certainly, the human species is the best example of that, as we can be either the very best example of cosmic consciousness or…the very most slug-minded beast who slaves at dispersing evil and dismay for him/her-self and others.

but with coca, mother nature has outwitted us brainy humans by implanting in this particularly favored of her plant-children, many remarkable attributes, attesting for its being one of the great plants that both boosts the human experience, and seriously challenges it.

the delicate tropical bush named coca erythroxylum is still cultivated for its unique flavor (and exported to Coca Cola factories throughout the world, minus the alkaloid cocaine which is distilled from the leaf in its native growing countries of Peru, Bolivia, Columbia); used still for its medicinal qualities by indigenous and acculturated people throughout the Andes, for warding off everything from altitude sickness, stomach ailments, to a child’s misbehavior, and even malnutrition. best known, though, is coca’s malicious, much maligned cousin, the alkaloid cocaine, which is familiar to plain old recreational drug users everywhere, for an energized thrill-seeking high preferred by those seeking to escape so-called reality (coke users, crack-heads, and their danger-loving drug-dealing suppliers).

when Nature bestowed on us earth dwellers the plant coca, She intended for the plant to be worshipped as a Goddess. the ancient Incans did so, and all was well. the ancient Incans used the plant sparingly, to fuel themselves on long treks through the mountains where taking food and water would be difficult, if not impossible. every Incan who was mummified has been found with his/her coca pouch for their trek to the Great Hereafter, as they believed chewing coca made them more in touch with the divine.

even modern-day descendants of the Incans have lost the divine connection to Mama Coca. to this day, the indigenous Kogi people of Columbia still chew (although, to my mind, way too excessively), but certainly more than any westerner i ever met either snorts, smokes or swallows drugs, chews gum or smokes cigarettes, for these so-called “pure” indigenous people to be labeled anything other than intoxicated. certainly these guys don’t need to so addictively be poking their sticks into their lime gourds, constantly constantly constantly activating the alkaloid in the leaves as they habitually do. whereas the other Altiplano indigenous people, for instance, the Ayamarra in Bolivia, just let their coca wads set and trickle their juices in their puffed-out cheeks, adding the lime activater (a catalyst substance, like ground-up seashell, or fire ash) to the cheek wad only occasionally.

truly, the world is witnessing the degradation and murdurous violence, the downgrading of humanity through the spread of drug use, and cocaine is one of the strongest, most addictive, next to heroin. within all so-called “beneficial” plants Nature has, in the balance of existence She is, activated the “encoded” curse within everything. with coca it goes something like this (lord flea sings!):

when the spaniards came to invade the new world, they wiped out the indigenous people, the Incans, calling them heathens and savages. they didn’t honor the gods of the Incans. they didn’t recognize Mama Coca, and called Her, instead, a false god. the spaniards wanted the savages to stop chewing Her coca leaves, to stop revering Mama Coca. but the native people did not, and thus, they were eradicated. now…centuries later…the conquerors, those descended from the spaniards, the english, the dutch, etc. have themselves come under the evil scourge of what coca does when it’s been altered by “human distillation” … in the form of cocaine. people everywhere are suffering from the prevalence of cocaine. gone are the days when coca was considered a valuable medicine, when Coca Cola had it in their drink (the alkaloid addition halted after narcotics were regulated by Federal Law in 1927, but the distinguishing extracted flavor of coca still is used). gone are the elixirs, the coca-laced wines and other coca-enhanced pick-me-uppers, the refreshing, nourishing potions sold everywhere after the discovery of coca in the new world.

now the world thinks of “coca” and (if they don’t confuse it with cacao, the tree that is the source of chocolate) they think of drug-addled crazies. This is the way Nature, or i should say, Mother Nature, our Mother Earth, our dear Planet, beloved Gaia, has encoded into all her being-ness her all-knowing, always sensing, self-protecting feature, in each and every one of her cells of existence. Including you, all other humans, and me.

In other words: addiction to cocaine is Mother Nature’s way of getting back on the guys, the so-called “civilized conquerors” who wiped out the Incans, just because they were different than they were. Heed this warning, all good people of the Earth. Mother Nature always balances the scales when there are injustices against any part of herself.

We are One.

the dance ... We are One

the dance ... We are One

we cannot hurt one part of Her without another part of Her hurting us. this is the law of cause and effect: of Mother Earth’s Mystery, the balancing act of Nature. 

so…i boil my neem leaves and prepare to make my own insect-killer, bacteria-negater, infestation-preventing potion: not by buying the latest chemical (which might do ME in by accident…it happens!) but by finding out what Nature has given us to counteract negatives. There is always a positive out there, to balance out the negative.

oh, and did i mention i’m suffering from poison ivy this week? jewelweed, the natural antidote for poison ivy (rhus toxicedron) doesn’t grow around here, in northern Florida. but i found a good poison-ivy soap from  that contains jewelweed, and also other good things from our Mother.

here’s another of my early botanical works for you. this study done for Tom E. Lockwood’s dissertation on Brugmansia (Harvard University, 1968). brugmansia is the tree form of datura, which is popularly called Devil’s Weed, Angel’s Trumpet, and many other weird, counter-indicating names that don’t make much sense, except they are quite sensational, as the plant is.

enjoy the moment, yours in singing Truth, lord flea

brugmansia sanguinea

brugmansia sanguinea

ps. if you want to know more about “Plants of the Gods” check out that eponymously named book by Schultes, Hofmann and Ratsch, Healing Arts Press.