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On the Ancient Wisdom and Spirituality of the Andes part 1

The Rituals of Despacho and The Coca Leaves Reading (Part 1)


It is almost the end of the month of September and I'm sitting in my bed, writing, from a remote little town cradled in the heart of the Andes mountains; Pisac. As I cuddle up in bed under my covers, the frozen keys in my laptop, remind me of how cold the air gets when night falls in these parts of the world. There are no central heat systems or air conditioners, it's a simple life, where the drive that keeps you moving forward isn't money or success but something deeper, much, much deeper. My heart’s urge to put on paper the events of the last few days woke me up early. I’ve learned so much about myself and the Andean way, I have to share it with someone. I've been preparing for this trip for over a year now. I knew it was to be a spiritual trip because our leader had set it up that way. It has been several years since I have returned to this part of my native country, but I'm experiencing it in a much different way. Perhaps because the last time I was here my psychic abilities were set at survival, now they are set at wonder and appreciation for what is. As we drove into town, the narrow streets, the red tile roofs, and the adobe buildings remind me of a simple beauty I've seen in other places of the world, like Bhutan or even Tibet. This part of the world has something in common with those remote places in the Himalayas. That is that even in the way the houses are built, you are reminded that you are deeply connected to the environment around you, to mother Earth, to the soil and to the mercy of father Weather. It's strange how this place makes me think of the weather as a father, irrational at times, but gives you exactly what you need at the right moment. We are driven around town by a happy go lucky driver named Juan Carlos, I've been told he never gets upset. As soon as this statement is made, chance puts it to the test. The streets are so narrow, a big passenger bus hits our van's side mirror. Juan Carlos is visibly surprised by what just had happened but addresses the culprit in a way that reminds me that things are done differently in this part of the world. Cual es el asunto, compañero? what is the issue, compañero? Compañero translates into partner, peer, companion. And that is what makes the Quechua people different from us. Even when they address each other under undesirable circumstances, they know that we are all together on this journey called life, might as well be partners while we are at it. The "asunto" is quickly resolved as we navigate through traffic. An exchange of ten soles, less than three dollars, a thank you and later, some glue, settle the situation. I could have never resolved an issue like this back at home for less than $400 and an insurance claim. Even then, Juan Carlos did not get mad, his reputation as a happy guy is undeniable.


The next day we meet with a Shaman woman, Vilma. She belongs to a family that has practiced spiritual healing the Andean way for several generations. As her husband watches her rambunctious little girl, in a beautiful yard facing the imposing Pisac mountains, she leads us into a Despacho ceremony. Despacho is basically an offertory to mother Earth so we can ask her to help us fulfill our intentions. This is the Andean way, it’s called “Ayni”, a form of reciprocity in Andean communities. We can’t ask if we are not willing to give back. A strange concept in this day and age were the world is divided into givers and takers. That’s a lesson in itself, balance. As we prepare to give a present to mother Earth, she makes us pick twelve coca leaves, and think about the true intentions of our hearts. At first, my true desire was blurry in my mind, but I as keep looking deeper, my true intention is revealed. It wasn't what I thought. My belief was that writing was my next and only step. Lately, I've been rearranging my life around that desire. My heart showed something much bigger than that, something I hadn’t consciously addressed, something that is going to require a lot of personal growth, but mostly letting go, and allowing my path to guide me, without resistance.


Vilma makes us chew the leaves, which I do reluctantly because they taste bitter to me. Other finds them sweet. Vilma explains to me later than the coca leaves taste the same way you feel inside. She points out to me in a private conversation, that perhaps I'm still holding on to some old resentments I need to let go of, she is right on. Little by little, we all think of our intentions and we create “quintus”, groups of four coca leaves, some llama fat and carnations petals, which we make part of our offertory to mother Earth. Emotions arise, somehow this little ceremony reaches deep into my soul and brings emotions forward. I feel the bitterness in my heart releasing while tears roll down my cheeks. For those familiar with psychic work they’ll understand that I’m actually not crying, just releasing some deep energy within me that was no longer valid in the present. Tearing up is a very effective way to release and a consequence of deep energy release within one’s body, there is no sadness attached. Vilma, adds all kinds of goodies to the gift, salt, sugar, glitter, food, etc. and wraps it up tightly in a package that will, later on, be burned.

dried flowers on a piece of tissue paper on a decorative table cloth

After lunch, a few of us, decide to have a reading with Vilma. She spreads the coca leaves on a small table and she immediately starts describing me as a person, the good and the bad, there is no hiding from it. Everything she says is incredibly accurate, and crystal clear, as if she is reading it out of a book. As a psychic reader I’ve learned from my clients that if you don't ask, you don't get. So, I keep asking her questions, this time, I’m the client, searching for those answers I can’t reach on my own. She describes the people in my life with incredible accuracy. What makes them tick, what are their hearts desires, their handicaps, their traumas; even life experiences, they have gone through, and she gets all this information out of a simple spread of coca leaves.


To be continued!

two hands holding a pile of coca leaves above a pile of coca leaves