Statue of a Puma, a Snake and a Condor in honour of the Inca Trilogy at Machu Picchu, Peru

The Puma, The Snake, and The Condor – The Inca Trilogy and Psychedelics

The Puma, The Snake, and The Condor.

If you have spent some time in the Peruvian Amazon (and I have, and I do), this triad will be familiar. These three animals represent the ‘Inca Trilogy’. In this mythology, the animals are meant to represent different planes of existence. The Snake, low to the ground and never to be trusted, represents the underworld and our inner demons. The Puma, lazing in tall grass or perched in a tree, represents our natural environment, our reality. And the Condor, soaring above the jungle, is meant to represent spirituality and the spirit world. But what does this have to do with psychedelics?

Trilogies Around the World

If you dig closely enough, some form of the Holy Trinity is nearly everywhere, in cultures and lineages from around the world. In Hinduism, a complete or holistic system is represented by the number three and the word AUM (the sound of creation). In Hindu mythology, the ‘Trimurti’ or ‘Trinity’ speaks of Brahma (The Creator), Vishnu (The Preserver) and Shiva (The Destroyer), each one interconnected and together representing One. The Egyptians held the number three in high regard for stability. Ancient Egyptian texts include references to ‘Atum’, the creator, “when he was one and became three”, referring to his birthing of the triad of Horus, Osiris, and Isis. Celtics use a 3-pointed symbol called a triquetra in their practices.

I have spent a long time working through these mythologies, as they form the sacred underpinning of much spiritual understanding. Working with traditional plant medicines in Peru. Learning about Amchi Tibetan Buddhist Tantric practices in the Himalayas. About classical Ayurvedic medicine and its branches of Psychology in India. Earthing and Fire practices in Australia. And about the Ceremonial use of Coca with the Kallawaya in Bolivia. And what these experiences have started to reveal is that the symbols used across these traditions are remarkably similar. In particular, they all use symbolic totem animals, and these often represent the underworld, the Earth, and the spiritual heavens.

The Trilogy of Plant Medicines

A few years back I visited Ollyantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of Peru. There was a small Museum dedicated to the use of Sacred Medicines by the area’s indigenous. Amidst the Coca, Maca and Quinoa was an installation that revealed how each plant medicine, or entheogen, is connected to each of the THREE personalities of GOD. I carried this thought with me for a time. I was puzzled over the seemingly coincidental nature of this global phenomenon and alignment to plant medicine. And yet, it turns out to be quite a widely-known and discussed association. The plant medicines we know around the world today tend to fall into the 3 types of existence or energy as described by the Trilogies.

The Snake (Boa)

Cold blooded, nocturnal; encounters with a snake are creepy, scary, and hint at the underworld. Plant medicines associated with The Snake cause you to work through a very intense, and often very unpleasant, experience. You may vomit, a physical purge helping you commit to your spiritual purge. You may feel a need to resist, to struggle; you may experience great fear. But it also represents the beginning of a new life; often, the only way out, is through. These heavier experiences can become wisdom and path to transformation. Ayahuasca and ibogaine would be the most notable members of the ‘Snake’ family of entheogens.

The snake

The Puma

In Incan tradition, an obscure (but quite strong) medicinal plant called Wilka represented the physical world, the human world. In the words of a Qero who saw this association, he said of Wilka that it “heightens this world, this realm and how we see nature.” Psilocybin, more widely known then Wilka, certainly falls into this group, as it helps you commune with the nature around you. The Aztecs called psilocybin ‘teonanacatl’, which translates to “Flesh or Body of the gods,” and revered it for its mind enhancing properties. MDMA also offers a pleasant experience with a heightened sense of your surroundings.

The puma

The Condor

This higher realm is one that unlocks your spiritual growth and allows you to see the divine; to process the infinite. The one with the keys to heaven, that when used properly has the potential to connect us with the higher spirits, archangels and our higher consciousness. Many plant medicines fall into this category. Peyote or San Pedro are famous for leading people on spiritual journeys. 5-MeO-DMT takes on an element of the divine. LSD is famous for this.

The condor

Which One Really Is My ‘Spirit Animal’?

With very different experiences on offer, it’s fair to wonder which type of plant medicine is best for you? While the kind of experience you are likely to have is one element of this choice, it isn’t the only one. Your objective and intention, your mental health history, the intensity and intractability of the problem you’re trying to solve: all of these must factor in to your decision. For more information on this topic, consult our Ultimate Psilocybin or Ayahuasca Retreat Guides. Ask lots of questions. Use our Retreat Finder Tool and select by Spirit Animal. And most importantly, stay safe!

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About the Author

Dan Barnes is a classically trained Ayurvedic Therapist, Perfumero and Amchi Tantric practitioner. He lives in Tarapoto, Peru with his wife who is also a MD and Ayurvedic Specialist where they work at Medicina Del Sol integrating Ayurvedic medicine with Curanderismo, Ayahuasca and Local Plant Medicines. He has sat in Ceremony with many traditions, wisdom keepers, healers, fools, tricksters and Shamaniacs from numerous countries over the last 19 years and draws from these experiences in everything he does. He is also a Photographer, Father, Poet and Freelance Journalist having written for many online Ayurvedic Journals and is the author of the 3 Chapter stream of consciousness fable - Who is Siddha Somanomah?

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