When the new year arrives, one of my first thoughts is just to simply say thank you. To be thankful for so many things and most importantly the chance to start a new page in the book of life.
The Q’eros tribe, one of the last Inca tribes living in Peru have a special way of saying thank you. This blessing is performed by shamans and is called ‘despacho’. Despacho, “dispatch,” in this sense refers both to the ceremony and the sacred bundle being offered.
The Q’eros believe that “Pachamama” (Mother Earth🌏) is inherently nurturing when all is in balance. When we fail to bless and express our gratitude to Mother Earth for all we take from her, we fall out of balance and she withholds her blessings. And because so much is taken from Pachamama each day—food to eat, water to drink, minerals from the land, wood for the fires, beauty to nourish our souls—despachos are a way to restore the balance.
The despacho ceremony takes participants into ritual space and operates at the level of the soul. As the shaman adds gifts to the mandala of the despacho, the participants focus their intention on gratitude and blessing🙏, and the vibration of the circle elevates.
Performing a Despacho ceremony:
- The base: Coca is the medicine plant the Q’ero shaman use the most. Coca leaves that have been collected are placed on a piece of paper. The coca leaves are believed to accept prayers unconditionally. Salt is often spread across the paper base as a cleansing element.
- Creation of a sacred place: The traditional despacho ceremony begins with the ethereal practice of creating sacred space by calling upon the powers beyond that resonate with you. Mother Earth could use all the help it can
- Set the intentions of the despacho: Use three coca leaves to form a triad known as the kintu. The kintu is the central ingredient of the despacho. Kintus are used as messengers of gratitude, intentions, and prayers. Say prayers of gratitude and blessing to the earth, and blow these intentions into the leaves three times. The kintu is passed around the circle of participants until everyone has blown his or her intentions into the leaves. The circle of leaves will form the base for the mandala
- Embellishing the mandala: A seashell is typically placed in the center to honor Mamacocha, Mother of the Waters, or the sea. Red wine is poured to the earth as an offering and as a reminder of her life blood, and white wine is poured as an offering to the mountain spirits (apukuna). Gold and silver elements, such as ribbons or metallic fetishes, are also offered, representing the sun (light) and the moon (dark). Beans are included to bring abundance and prosperity, while minerals represent the earth’s food. Fat from around the heart of the llama is included as energy in pure form, helping the despacho to burn. Red flowers, traditionally fresh, fragrant carnations, represent the feminine, while white signifies the masculine: woman and man, sacred balance, relationship. In pure Q’ero tradition, a sacred llama fetus is placed in the arrangement. The fetus, reclaimed from the animal’s natural cycles, represents unborn, unfulfilled, or dormant aspects of the circle of life.
- Final Blessing: When the despacho is complete, all are invited to infuse the offering with love from their hearts by holding their hands over this earth mandala. Hand bells are rung over the despacho. It is then wrapped in a sacred cloth and tied with string like a gift.
- Final offering: the package will be offered to fire for immediate transmutation; to flowing water, like a river or the sea, for a gentler, slower release; or directly to the earth by being buried, which is the slowest of the vehicles of transmutation.