Friday, March 14, 2014

Pachamama Ceremony

March 12

Each year, the women's alpaca co-op has a ceremony to make offerings to Pachamama (Earth Mother), and to pray for prosperity, health and success in the following year. I went along with the group, always eager to add to my experiences.

We met at 6:00 a.m. and took a combi partway up, and then hiked way way up a steep hill, to a sacred spot with a 360 degree view. As usual I was amazed at the heavy bundles the women carry on their backs, and that they still manage better than I do. They were carrying food for all of us for lunch, the items required as offerings, including bottles of wine, and the heaviest of all -a huge bag of dung to burn. One woman also carried her three year old daughter on her back, and she is not a tiny girl.

Lucas, the husband of Prudencia, is a shaman who conducts these ceremonies each year.

 There were many steps involved, each conducted slowly and methodically. First we were each given a wrapped chalk carving, each a different symbol representing something we would receive in the coming year. I received two frogs -a gold one and a silver one- which apparently means I will gain a lot of wealth. After each of us opened those packages, the items were carefully placed in one large cardboard box. 

Next the shaman gave each of us another smaller packet with a handful of  items inside, such as various seeds, cookies, sweets. Mine was a packet of sweets, which again symbolized the wealth I will attain this year. I was eager to eat them, but they also had to be added to the box. Flower petals and wine were sprinkled over them.

Next we were given a handful of coca leaves. We were to carefully select ones to represent people with whom we wanted to share our positive thoughts and feelings. I liked that part of the ceremony, and felt quite emotional as I focused on each special person in my life.

While we were doing that, the shaman was spreading  alpaca fleece in front of him, ready to receive these offerings. Each of the coca leaf bundles was carefully placed on the fleece, and more flower petals and wine were sprinkled on top. This was wrapped up and added to the box.

The shaman then unwrapped a dried alpaca fetus, which he gilded with gold leaf before adding to the top of the box.

Next, the shaman piled the dung in a circle, and lit the fire. When it was burning well, he put the cardboard box on top.

Then we had to move away from the fire (which I was really enjoying, because it was cold up there!!), to a spot on the side of the hill facing east. We each had a turn spraying a small amount of wine towards the east. While we sat there, a hawk was hovering in the wind near us, which apparently was a very auspicious sign. Birds appeared four times while we were sitting there, and the participants all made welcoming gestures in their direction. 

In front are Maude, Michel (who started the co-op 10 years ago) and his wife Nilda
Finally we were allowed to return to the fire, where we each had to sprinkle incense, frankincense I think. Sometimes it burned in a big sparkling whoosh, while other times it just smoldered. That had some significance which was lost on me.

While the fire turned to ashes, we ate our lunch, the usual potluck blanket of potatoes, beans, and this time, plain little cookies.  We were also given a chunk of barbequed alpaca to eat. 

Over lunch there was quite a discussion about pollution ad the amount of litter all about us. Plastic bottles and other garbage were everywhere at this sacred site.
View over Lake Titicaca

We returned to the fire for the reading of the ashes. Apparently they had burned cleanly and completely, which meant that our good wishes for ourselves and our loved ones would come true.

About 1:00 p.m. we finally headed down the hill, and caught a taxi home. Once again I was dying for a cup of coffee!!

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