Chris Kilham and Zoe Helene. Photo by Jennifer Szymasek, for The New York Times

On a Remote Path to Cures
The New York Times
by Andrew Downie

NINACACA, Peru — High in the Peruvian Andes, a shaman rubs a fluffy white rabbit all over Chris Kilham’s body, murmuring in Quechua, the language of these barren plains. Then she slits the animal’s throat and lets the blood run into a tiny grave.

To Mr. Kilham, the offering — an appeal to the gods for a bountiful harvest of maca, a local tuber — is just another day at the office.

“People in the U.S. are more cranked up on pharmaceutical drugs than any other culture in the world today. I want people using safer medicine. And that means plant medicine.” - Chris Kilham, The New York Times Peruvian Maca Expedition

“Shaman Dona Lucy sacrifices a baby white bunny as part of an earth’s fertility ceremony. I never watch. That sweet little pink nose pokes through a breathing hole in the box... The photo that appeared in the New Times was taken right before she slit the bunny's throat. They know I’m a vegetarian but that concept is very foreign to the Andean people. I say that it is part of my spiritual calling not to eat animals, and that is true. So far, everyone has seemed to be OK with it.” - Zoe Helene, New York Times Peruvian Andes Maca Expedition

Photo: Lucy Herrera, left, a shaman, performing a harvest ritual with Chris Kilham, center, his wife, Zoe Helene, and others.

January 2008