Peru has a rich, ancient culture of spiritualism centering around the connection between humans and the Earth Mother (Pachamama). The ceremonies involved date back to long before the Incas and are mediated by paqos, which are distinct from shamans. (See our newsletter here to learn the difference between the two and about the paqos which Travel and Healing uses. Note that our itineraries refer to paqos as shamans to avoid confusion.) At its core, Peruvian spirituality is animist, believing in the sentience and power of individual mountains and the gods that inhabit them (“apus,” as they are called locally), natural phenomena such as thunder and lightning, and to Pachamama, the Earth Mother. Travel and Healing emphasizes three of the most important traditional ceremonies: the Flower Cleansing, Coca Leaf Reading, and the “despacho,” or Offering to Pachamama.
The ceremonies begin with the Flower Cleansing, involving sage and indigenous yellow flowers called “retama”. The paqo starts by covering you with sage to clean the negative energies from your body. He does this while saying a prayer in his native Quechua language. He nexts covers your body with retama flowers for protection. Many say they can feel the strong energy as an after effect of the ceremony. It is quite a moving experience. These two plants have other local uses: sage is common around houses and businesses here in the Andes, often found by the front door, and is used to ward off bad spirits. Retama flowers are commonly thrown during certain parades and festivals, especially in the main Plaza of Cusco.
The Coca Leaf Reading comes next. This is essentially a form of divination focusing on your health, family, friends and occupation. The paqo begins by asking you questions regarding these, then prays to the nearby mountains with his satchel of coca leaves held high above his head. He will blow his breath through a bundle of three coca leaves known as a “quintu,” an act which establishes a connection to the apu mountain gods. He distributes the leaves onto a textile blanket and interprets the orientation of the leaves (i.e. light or dark side up) and their pattern for insight into your past, present, and future. This is a long-standing practice in Andean culture and a one-of-a-kind experience. It is traditionally performed before making major decisions and occasionally to identify thieves.
The final and most important ceremony is the despacho, the Offering to Pachamama.
This offering gives thanks to Pachamama for our food, our health, our lives, and everything we have. It can also be used to release dense “hucha” energy which is no longer serving us. This ceremony is performed through the paqo’s prayer and his pouch of sacred Andean offerings. All are symbolic of personal aspects such as protection of travel and relationships, occupational success, and many more. The paqo, with the help of the translator, will go over each offering and its significance in Andean culture before wrapping them all up to go into the offering. Once completed, the paqo will tie up the bundle and use it to bless each participant before ceremonially burning it.
This offering unifies our life with Pachamama, God and the Universal Order. We arrange all aspects of our lives and in doing so achieve a high level of vitality, courage, wisdom and passion. Our new order and happiness are shared with all those around us.
Travel and Healing offers all of these ceremonies together in our Trifecta of Ceremonies or offers Coca Leaf Readings and Despachos individually. For all of our ceremonies we use paqos from the Highland Q’eros Nation, respected across Peru for their talents and as the last true carriers of Inca traditions. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions about any of these ceremonies or about Peruvian spiritualism in general.