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Wachuma: What to Expect

Updated: Apr 6

Wachuma, or San Pedro, is a cactus native to the Andes mountains, which is now cultivated in many places around the world. When cooked into a brew it has psychoactive properties due to the active component mescaline. Wachuma is used ceremonially for healing and divination throughout South America. Known as 'Wachuma' by the native people (honestly, I have been told a few different definitions of what the word 'Wachuma' means so I'm not really sure, but I think it relates to the quality of the medicine, either the liquid brew or the nature of the medicine's effects...), the cactus was named 'San Pedro' by the Spanish after St. Peter, the Guardian of the Gates of Heaven, due to the perceptions of heavenly dimensions experienced by many who use the cactus. Wachuma is often referred to as 'the Grandfather,' and the spirit of Wachuma is often experienced as a wise and loving, masculine teacher and healer (although the plant undoubtedly has a feminine side too.) Experiences with the plant are diverse and there is nothing which is guaranteed to happen when it is taken, but it tends to bring a heightened sense of connection with nature,the spirit world, and with nature spirits; and facilitates an opening of the heart which can lead to feelings of unconditional love and forgiveness.

The Ceremony

The effects of Wachuma usually last for six to eight hours although it can continue for much longer, especially if additional doses are taken during the ceremony. Wachuma ceremonies most often take place outdoors during the daytime, but can also happen overnight, often with the presence of a ceremonial fire. There is a diverse range of traditions and styles of ceremony which vary greatly throughout different locations, and which include hikes in the mountains, seated group ceremonies and sacred dances. Usually prayers and offerings are made during the ceremony, and participants receive a limpieza (cleansing) from the Wachumero (healer).

Effects of the Medicine

Connection with Nature

It is common to feel a heightened sense of connection with nature, especially when the plant is taken outdoors, during the daytime, and in a natural environment. An increased appreciation of the natural world, an understanding of the inter-connectedness of all things, and seeing and connecting with nature spirits are all common experiences. Wachuma can remind us that we are a part of nature, and restores our natural sense of connection with the world we live in. Often a Wachumero will have personal relationships with mountain and nature spirits, which are called into the ceremony to assist with healing.

Heart Opening

Wachuma has the ability to open the heart, and many people experience a profound heart opening, accompanied with feelings of unconditional love, compassion and forgiveness. Deeper levels of self-understanding, and healing from past traumas and relationships can occur from this place, along with the understanding of the connection between all things. A deeper understanding of the nature of one's own heart and of one's deepest purpose in life can be accessed, and it is possible to confront and heal painful aspects of the past from a clear and unconditionally loving perspective.

Wachumero Hernan Colque with a flowering San Pedro Cactus in the Sacred Valley, Peru

Purging and Healing

Wachuma clears old, unhealthy energy, trauma and sickness from the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies. This cleansing may be experienced through vomiting or diarrhoea, or often through uncontrollable physical shaking. Emotional releases, including intense amplification of suppressed emotions and release through shouting or crying, are also very common. Physical discomfort often occurs as energy is released. Personal healing can be experienced on every level, and it is also possible to receive healing from ancestral or collective wounds. Very often an awareness of what is being healed accompanies the experience, although it is also possible to feel discomfort and release without knowing, or needing to know, exactly what it was about.

Connection with Spirit

It is possible to connect with spiritual entities whilst under the influence of the cactus. These may be in the form of nature spirits, ancestral spirits, spirit guides and animals, or other spiritual beings. Sometimes an understanding of one's spiritual ancestry can be accessed, and spiritual guidance or healing is often received. It is also common to meet and communicate with the spirit of Wachuma, who is often presented as a loving, Grandfatherly energy. Part of the work of the Wachumero is to ensure that the ceremony is spiritually protected, and that all spirits who enter the space are there for the highest good and well-being of the participants.

Blessing the food during a Wachuma ceremony with Wachumero Hernan Colque in the Sacred Valley, Peru

Clarity and Wisdom

Wachuma is often very straightforward in the way that it teaches and shows us things. Clarity may be gained on aspects of one's life, or on the root cause of an illness or a problem. Many people find it useful to drink Wachuma following one or more Ayahuasca ceremonies, as it can help to bring a greater level of understanding around the experiences that were had during those ceremonies, and can assist in a practical and courageous integration of those experiences. Wachuma can also deliver powerful spiritual teachings and facilitate new, more meaningful ways of experiencing and understanding life.

Psychedelic Experience

Wachuma is undoubtedly a mind-altering substance but it does not necessarily induce psychedelic visions. However, the visual field can noticeably change and perceptions of colours and shapes can be very different. It is possible to see or perceive the subtle energy of people, animals, the natural world and objects. Psychedelic visions can also happen, and if they do occur, one is likely to see spiritual entities, colourful shapes and patterns, and visions connected to their inner journey with the cactus.

After the Ceremony

In general, Wachuma tends to be easier to integrate and understand than Ayahuasca as insights and experiences are generally clear and straightforward. It may take some time to gradually integrate the necessary changes into one's life, but it is common to look back on the ceremony with clarity and understanding. There is often a feeling of physicial and mental tiredness and a sense of being 'hung over' the day after the ceremony, but this usually lasts no more than a day. A deeper feeling of connection and respect for nature and/or the spirit world is a common lasting effect from Wachuma, and one may feel more deeply aware of their spirituality and sense of purpose in life as they integrate the teachings into their everyday experiences.

Where to drink it?

Hernan and Miguel lead the Wachuma ceremonies during our retreats, and offer indiviudal ceremonies in the Sacred Valley which can be booked directly with them. Read more about them and contact them here.

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