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Huachuma Introduction

"Huachuma is a lifetime lived in a single day."
- Don Howard



Huachuma (San Pedro) is a very serotonergic, heart-opening, heart consciousness medicine. Huachuma is timeless, universal, and accessible to those who bring the right intention and a good, open heart to it. 


Huachuma is a fast-growing cactus that is native to the Andes of Peru and Ecuador. In its natural environment, Huachuma grows up to 20 feet high and is multi-branched. Huachuma contains a number of psychoactive alkaloids, including Mescaline. Mescaline is also found in Peyote.


As Don Howard described, "Huachuma and Peyote are spiritual brothers but not twins. They both have a way of lovingly hitting you over the head. Peyote is like a hammer. It’s a beautiful hammer, though. Huachuma is like a feather. But it’s a heavy, heavy feather."


That feather of Huachuma hits heavily indeed. As Don Howard has stated, "We can receive our lessons with the weight of a hammer, a baseball bat, or a feather." And Huachuma has no shortage of invaluable lessons that it imparts. 


Huachuma has become the most popular entheogenic cactus due to its excellent fertility and ease of cultivation. Huachuma is sometimes used in conjunction with other sacred plants, including Mapacho (wild, sacred tobacco). We use Mapacho at SpiritQuest. 

"Just smoke. No mirrors."
- Don Howard

The mirror eventually arrives with Huachuma. It's the mirror of unvarnished truth, although that defies explanation and perhaps you'll have to experience that for yourself. 


Huachuma has been used throughout history by many ancient pre-Columbian civilizations of the Peruvian coast and central Andes. For more than 4,000 years, the Huachuma ceremony has been a continuous tradition in Peru to the present day. 


The great spiritual movement of Chavín originated thousands and thousands of years ago. Chavín has been described as the cradle and the nucleus of Andean civilization. Chavín de Huántar was the capital and the religious focal point of the Chavin people. Chavín was a culture of consciousness that was facilitated by the sharing of the ineffable sacrament, Huachuma. ¡Para El Bien De Todos! - meaning For The Good Of All! - is the spirit of Chavín. In response to a mythical calling by the plant (which still takes place today), people from hundreds and hundreds of miles away embarked on a pilgrimage to Chavín. Everyone who came to Chavín as a pilgrim partook in the sacred sacrament of Huachuma. 


This outstanding video documentary, produced by Aubrey Marcus and Mitch Schultz, explores the many dimensions of Huachuma at SpiritQuest.

"On Huachuma, reality is the vision and vision is the reality."
- Don Howard



Boiled down to one word, Huachuma is about clarity. Huachuma is a clarifier. It’s hard to see and hard to drive if you have a dirty windshield. Huachuma thoroughly cleans the windshield.


Balance, harmony, and reconciliation are other words that authentically express Huachuma. The 3 principal components of the Chavín experience were unification, transformation, and ascension. Huachuma helps you attain and remain in balance with the natural world, and in this heightened state, people realize that they're a part of nature, and nature is a part of them. 

As Erick Godsey eloquently described in his written summary about his Huachuma experience at SpiritQuest:

"If you imagine your perception is like a movie theater goer, that the screen is what you visually perceive, and the person watching the film is your internal judge, who comments and judges what's on the screen, I might be able to explain. 

Most psychedelics noticeably alter the way the projector creates the way the movie looks, and it can make the person watching the movie very giggly, or very afraid. 

Huachuma is different. The movie projector seemed completely accurate, but it was a little brighter, a little cleaner, and a little more glittery. And the moviegoer...he felt much, much more clear. Like he’d been meditating, fasting, and hadn’t a need in the world."



Another SpiritQuest attendee saliently observed that, "Huachuma took the world around me, made everything much more alive and much more vibrant, and extracted the thinking mind."


Taking Huachuma is like living, seeing, and experiencing a world without filters. Huachuma removes the veils. Time and time again we hear from SpiritQuest graduates that they "felt like a kid again" while experiencing Huachuma at SpiritQuest. Many people get a sense of déjà vu, and it harkens them back to being like a child in experiencing the wonders and awe of the world. Huachuma brings up things that you haven’t thought about in years – and in some cases since early childhood – that are having a profound influence on your adult lives without you being aware of them. In confronting these unresolved issues, you can find deep healing and closure.

"Huachuma is both powerfully gentle and gently powerful."
- Don Howard



Underestimate Huachuma's power at your own risk, though. Huachuma is plenty powerful! Huachuma's effects can last up to 8-12 hours, but the sense of time on Huachuma can dilate or cease to exist entirely. There's a good reason that many alumni of SpiritQuest will tell you that taking Huachuma is like living a lifetime in a day.

"Everything has consciousness, has energy, has life. We're energetic beings. Everything is composed of energy. And everything has something to teach us, if we can simply slow down enough and still our minds enough to listen."
- Don Howard

"Much of what we do with Huachuma involves energy + synergy.

That’s where the magic happens."
- Don Howard



Huachuma is a potentiator plant, much like Ayahuasca. Huachuma potentiates the energy of the person taking it, and gives you a heightened sense of the energetic connection with whatever energies in your setting that are present. One recent SpiritQuest participant noted that he felt, "Magnified presence. Magnified gratitude. Magnified love." You are more sensitive not only to your own energy, but also to the energy of other people and your surrounding environment. 


Huachuma is a marvelous healing medicine and a magnificent spiritual teacher. Huachuma not only turns the volume up on all of your senses - hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch - it also molds all of your senses together. All of your senses start to become more alive on multiple dimensions.


Synergy, as Don Howard explained, is the process of integrating and taking all of that energy in, and becoming one with it. There needs to be a certain synergy of intention in the group dynamic as well. Everyone doesn’t need to have the exact same intention. Overall, the intention is positive, loving, and uplifting for your lives and the lives of others, and one that will expand and enhance your spiritual consciousness. The bonding qualities that Huachuma offers are unparalleled.

The lineage of thousands and thousands of years of Huachumeros in the Chavín tradition which both Don Howard and Selva embrace is a path of service. SpiritQuest is a mission of service for holistic healing and higher consciousness for those who seek it.


The Huachuma mesadas (ceremonies) and the profoundly transformative vehicle of higher consciousness and spiritual connection that Huachuma imparts are a reflection of the teaching of the plant. The construct of the mesa is a sprawling altar in the shape of an Andean cross, which is called a Chakana. The mesa contains energetically-charged objects arranged in juxtaposition with other objects representing the core principles in ancient Peruvian Shamanism.


There are 3 phases of the mesada. The opening phase – or induction – is an awakening of the arts of the mesa and an awakening of the energy in everyone who is taking Huachuma. The second phase of our work entails our group leaving the mesa and finding and deepening our connection with the energy of Mother Nature for several hours. In our final phase, later in the evening we return to the mesa for some additional work and the conclusion of the mesada.


The 3 mesadas engage the healing power and profoundly organic teachings of the great elemental Mother spirits of the Amazon:




Mother Spirit of the Water

The Lower World

Our Spiritual Birthing

Mesada of the Serpent




Mother Spirit of the Earth

The Middle World

Our Spiritual Realization

Mesada of the Jaguar




Mother Spirit of the Air

The Upper World

Our Spiritual Ascension


Mesada of the Eagle

An Active Teacher


The difference between Huachuma and many other plant medicines is that Huachuma is a highly active teacher. Huachuma commands presence. When you are fully immersed in the present moment, life is truly blissful. As one recent SpiritQuest participant stated, "On Huachuma, each moment is delicious and nutritious."


In contrast to the feminine energy of Ayahuasca, Huachuma has a fundamentally masculine energy of the Andes and Peruvian coast. And Grandfather Huachuma is a teacher that will present himself to you in a long series of tests. 


As one recent SpiritQuest grad explained, "The real magic comes in paying very close attention to the subtleties in Huachuma. That Grandfather energy presents itself and seemingly says, 'Here’s your playground, daughter. Here’s your playground, son. Where do you want to go? What do you want to explore? This is your opportunity!' Huachuma opens opportunities. It’s up to you how you want to navigate those opportunities. And with those opportunities come corresponding challenges and tests."


Another accurate description from a SpiritQuest alum is that, "With Huachuma, there’s more choice. Ayahuasca presents herself to you, and you better surrender and pay close attention to the curriculum. Huachuma presents himself to you and says, 'Practice and learn now. Here’s your opportunity!'"

"Once you really see the beauty in the world, you'll never let it leave you."
- Don Howard

"Once seen, once experienced, once realized... the truth is never forgotten."
- Don Howard



For many people, they are never quite the same after taking Huachuma. Why is that? According to Don Howard, it is because you know the true magnitude of what’s going on around you. Afterwards, people feel an acute awareness of the concept of Ayni (reciprocity) and a sense of connectedness to Mother Nature and the Cosmos.


Don Howard started – or more accurately, rekindled – a fire that was initially lit at Chavín over 4,000 years ago, and his daughter and prodigy Selva impeccably carries forth his lineage of Huachumero Shamanism. With people from all over the world making a pilgrimage to SpiritQuest who join us for Huachuma, that fire not only stays lit… the fire rises!

"Every day we live is a day we'll never live again."
- Don Howard
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