top of page

Chavin de Huantar 

The ancient ceremonial center known as "Chavin de Huantar" is one of the most important and intriguing ruins in all of Peru. Chavin is any extremely important pre-Inca culture shaping the history of ancient Peru extensivley. Though to be as old as 3300 years ago Chavin is truely a wonder to behold. The Temple itself has widing maze like laberinths and the most exquiste stone carving depeciting shamans in the midst of entheogenic estasty transforming into jaguars or other animals. The "Temple of Doom" from the Indian Jones films is based on this site.

We will explore the ruins of Chavin de Huantar, the Musuem which houses many of Chavin's artifacts, enjoy the quiet town next to the ruins and delve deeply into the culture and ethnobotany (useful plants) of the area. In addition to visiting the sacred ruins of Chavin de Huantar. This is of course optional, it may be ommited if the group desires or ceremony and shamanism could become the main focus of the trip, it's up to you!

    The ancient site of Chavin de Huantar in central Peru near the city of Huaraz was the center of ancient “Huachuma” usage. “Huachuma” played a key role in the religion and rituals of the people of Chavin de Huantar.

   The “Temple of Doom” in the movie Indiana Jones are based off of the labyrinths of Chavin de Huantar. The earliest evidence of occupation of the Chavin site stretches back to 3000 B.C.E., with ceremonial activity occurring mostly from circa 800 B.C.E. to 300 B.C.E.(4), The beginnings of the Temple itself dates back to 1500 B.C.E., the temple at Chavin is not nearly as ancient as the Guitarrero Cave but it makes up for it in grandeur. The Temple of Chavin de Huantar is made up of large rectangular building flanked by open plazas which display carved stone gate ways and panels containing images of anthropomorphic eagles, snakes and jaguar. The large rectangular main temple also had another curious feature: stone heads showing the transformation and process of psychoactive plant usage know as “cabezas clavas”. Underground the temple held vast maze-like labyrinths where initiates would be taken through rituals, ceremonies and ordeals by the shaman and priest of Chavin. 

   The Temple of Chavin de Huantar with its, grandiose festivals, mysterious rites, fantastical therianthrope gods and a court of charismatic wizards, priests and shaman it must have truly been a wonder to behold. People from all over what is now Peru, perhaps further to visit the revered temple. Much like the Rites of Eleusis in ancient Greece the temple at Chavin de Huantar and its rituals played an integral role in early Andean society. 

   The initiate would be given a Spondylus shell of “Huachuma” to drink and may also have had “Willka” (Anadenanthera spp.) blow up their nose by a priest. They would then be led to the underground labyrinths. Chavin was designed in such a way that channels of water flowed over the subterranean passageways creating a constant roaring sound that intensified as the initiate went deeper and deeper inside the underworld maze. The labyrinth was designed to have special acoustic properties. Holes in various chambers would allow the priest to whisper incantations or blow a pututu (shell horns) which would fill the space with reverberating sound. After stumbling through the darkness, now fully under the effects of the magical cactus, worked into an ecstatic state by the plants, the rushing water, the whispers of the priests seemingly coming from nowhere and the call of the pututu the initiate would turn the corner and out of the pitch blackness standing in blinding white light was the terrific, fanged, half-man, half-animal carved in stone. It must have been a truly potent experience. 

   The monolith mentioned above is a 4.5 meter carved stone, known in Spanish as the “Lanzon”, it is thought to be a representation of the main deity of Chavin. A fierce fanged anthropomorphic Caiman (relative of the alligator), it is housed in the depths of the tunnels underneath the temple. Two carved stones clearly represent "Huachuma". The Stella Raimondi depicts a shaman, holding two "Huachuma" cacti transforming and transforming into a fractal caiman, which can be viewed from either above or below, creating a sort of double image. “The Shaman” is found carved into a stone panel in Chavin’s central plaza, the man is clearing holding a Trichocereus cactus. 

   For 100s of years the temple of Chavin de Huantar carried out it’s rituals and ceremonies. It was a powerful cultural force and had major influence of the history, politics, religion and economics, even vast distances from the temple itself.  The priests and shaman of Chavin were extremely influential, yet held this power through religious awe, not military might. Yet one day, for reasons unknown, this power began to wane, the people slowly moved away and the ceremonies slowly diminished until they were all but forgotten… but some, some remember and others are learning.

bottom of page