A Hair-Cutting Ceremony with
the Q'ero Master Shamans of
By Michelle Karen



I was 16 when I first saw a picture of Machu Picchu. The shock was so deep, that I fell into a trance for three days. I knew that place, I had lived there at one time, and some day I would return with a man I was deeply connected to in my soul.

Thirty years later, my vision manifested.

What was supposed to be a ten-day hike through the various temples of the Sacred Valley ended up being a month-and-a-half life-changing spiritual journey.

We navigated the pure and sacred waters of Lake Titicaca, visited a few islands within the lake, spent nights at the homes of local people, shared their customs and their food. The nights in December were very cold, and with bathrooms devoid of electricity and water, the living conditions were definitely rudimentary.

As we returned to the Mediterranean climate of the Sacred Valley one bright morning, our Peruvian guide showed up with a short and dignified older lady dressed in the traditional Q'ero  black, embroidered skirt and a dark grey sweater covered with a manta (small shawl) held by a safety pin, her long black hair protected by her ochre bowler hat.

She had a mischievous look on her tanned, wrinkled face, eyes that shone like black diamonds, and an aura of warmth and loving kindness. Without knowing who she was, I spontaneously fell into her welcoming arms with a joy I couldn't remember ever feeling so clearly. My boyfriend and I had just been introduced to Doña Maria, the only living Altomesayoq (highest ranked shaman in the Q'ero nation).

Now in her eighties, she had been "chosen" by the spirit of the mountains, the Apus. Three times in her life, she had been struck by lightning and survived. The first time, she was 8 years old. While still unconscious, she heard the voice of  Illaca (the God of Lightning). Following each of these episodes, she underwent many secret and arduous initiations, hidden for years inside a cave where she experienced many visions. She is a seer, invested with the gift of prophecy.

The mystery of her power, the immensity of her love, and the depth of her wisdom are tempered by a great sense of humor. On her frail legs, carrying on her back a bag almost as big as herself, she lightly runs up and down the mountains and the temples as sure footed as a goat.

She invited us to share her favorite delicacy, tiny potatoes buried in the ground for decades. "Full of minerals and good nutrients," she said to us with a delighted, broad, toothless smile.

She performed a despacho (healing ceremony) for us that day, in the Moray Temple. With profound concentration, fast and precise movements, she unfolded a sheet of white paper and scientifically rearranged our inner world with natural symbols such as seeds, corn, shells, flowers and leaves. Following her special work, our external circumstances were to rapidly change.

The next morning, I woke up with a vision. She had sent me an omen: an eagle flying high above a mountain forming a mysterious loop. My boyfriend also had a dream: "Something is going to happen today. Something important. There are lots of people. Chaos. Something really bad." he said to me.

A few hours later, on December 24th, on our way to Machu Picchu where I was expecting the vision I had three decades earlier to manifest at last, we were literally stopped dead in our tracks. We had just gotten involved in a head-on train collision in the middle of the jungle. Both trains were full of  backpackers from all over the world. The shock was unexpected and brutal.

Everyone flew against the walls, fell on the floor, on top of each other. Just before the final impact, the conductor of our train thankfully jumped out the window, thus saving his own life. Thankfully no one died but it took eight hours to find and receive proper medical care. My boyfriend had three broken ribs. I was lucky to be intact. Lucky. . ..? I suddenly remembered the omen sent by Doña Maria in my dreams the previous night. "A protection," I thought.

Flying back to Arizona was out of the question. We were "stuck" in Cuzco, until he was healed enough to board a plane without risking further complications.

In alignment with the magic and mystery of this sacred land, the spirits of the Ancestors were not done with us. This new situation forced us into a much deeper, personal relationship with the extraordinary Q'ero Master Shamans, the last direct descendants of the Ancient Inkas.

For 500 years, they remained voluntarily unseen, secluded in the inaccessible high glaciers. In 1955, they knew the time had come to reveal themselves again and to share their prophecy for our end times and help humanity. Keepers of the Inka traditions, they live very simple lives in oneness with nature.

The first few drops of their drinks are always offered to Pachamama (Mother Earth). They honor the spirit of the mountains, the Apus, Father Sky and Grandmother Moon, the magical spirit of animals and the divinity in all beings. Because of their deep understanding of the oneness of the various expressions of life, the idea of "evil" is completely foreign to them.

We were honored to be asked by Doña Maria's son Manuel - now trained by her to also become a shaman - to become the Godfather and Godmother of his two-year-old son, Clinton (named after former U.S. President Clinton whom they greatly admire).

The traditional hair-cutting ceremony took place in a beautiful private garden in Cuzco filled with wildflowers, next to a Q'ero hut where they sleep on the ground when in town. The uncles, aunts, cousins, parents, grandparents, four generations, showed up, squeezed like sardines into one small truck.

The men all dressed in their ceremonial hand-woven ponchos, and the women with their most beautiful woolen skirts and mantas looked very excited and grateful. We had earlier accompanied them to the market, buying enough potatoes, corn, lentils, flour and sugar to last them all for six months. As new members of their family, this was our gift to them.

Each family member started by sharing coca leaves. It was a happy time of jokes and laughter, choosing two leaves for Pachamama or three for the Apus, and respectfully holding them between the index and third finger, and blessing them by blowing a gentle breath before offering them to the person of our choice. We traditionally drank some chicha, an alcoholic drink made of fermented corn.

As little Clinton's Godmother, I had the honor of opening the ceremony. I was presented with a small plate on which lay a pair of scissors. I reiterated what my gifts to this little child were (food that was still in the truck) recorded in a black notebook by one of the uncles, and proceeded to start cutting this baby's hair, one lock at a time.

Then came my boyfriend's turn, followed  by each member of the family, until little Clinton, clad in a dark red tunic wrapped around his body and held by a cord, was almost bald. We served them the meal we had prepared in advance, sitting in the grass among some Inka stones, in the afternoon breeze, like any family in the world, on a quiet Sunday.

This ceremony remains for-ever engraved in my heart. I feel so deeply blessed to have received such a powerful gift of love. Despite our very varied origins (Peru, Colombia, Europe. . .) our shared soul connection was very real.

Transcending cultural differences, our telepathic communion (the Q'eros only speak quechua, the sacred language of the Andes) brought me back to the powerful simplicity of life lived in harmony with the divine. This consciousness will continue every day to usher me into the mystery of the unknown.

Michelle Karen, M.A., D.F.As-trol.S., became an internationally-consulted Astrologer at the age of 14. She was selected to be the exclusive astrologer to the Stars at the 78th Academy Awards in Hollywood. Author of nine books on astrology, living food nutrition, yoga and spiritual novels in French, English and Finnish, she just published "Astrology For Enlightenment" with Atria Books (Simon and Schuster, NY). For more information on her personal readings, books, and next mystical journey to Peru on Inka Astrology with the Q'ero Master Shamans (Aug. 22-Sept. 3), visit: www.MichelleKaren.com


Return to the July/August Index page