Trichocereus pachanoi (Echinopsis pachanoi)

Perhaps the most compelling new research on the ritual use of Wachuma, the San Pedro cactus, is by Argentine Leonardo Feldman. 

He points out that San Pedro is one of the plants of power that is best represented in pre-Incan iconography, appearing in the art of a variety of indigenous cultures such as that of Chavín (with its utterly riveting anthropomorphic feline Bearer of San Pedro), Nazca, Moche, Paracas and Chimú.

For Feldman, it was exhilarating to see the cactus growing freely and abundantly among the ruins of the ritual center of the Templo del Lanzón in Chavín de Huántar.

The traditional use of this cactus, which contains significant amounts of mescaline, extends to northern Chile, northwestern Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. 

Even so, he says, the pre-Hispanic uses of the cactus (as a sacrament that facilitated communing with the divine spirits of nature) are still particularly well-conserved in northern Peru in the mountains of Piura (Huancabamba and Ayabaca), where the Complex of Las Huaringas Lagoons (a UNESCO World Heritage Centre) with its páramo ecosystem is located. 

Feldman analyzes the social function of San Pedro as a means of diagnosing illness and healing as well as conflict resolution or achieving prosperity in diverse forms.

It is also employed in rituals for predicting the weather, doing astronomical observation, and extracting the mamayacu, (the mother of the sacred waters of the lakes). 

Even in the present day, Feldman affirms, the traditional use of San Pedro “represents a factor of social cohesion and regional cultural identity, while at the same time preserving a centuries-old religious system.” 
In the pre-Hispanic past, the Wachuma cactus may well have served as the basis for a pan-Andean religious and political lingua franca that enabled people from different ethnic groups to communicate, to mediate their differences and to coexist by means of a shared ritual exchange.

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