In The Andes of Peru a Despacho is a sacred offering, a practice of Reciprocity/Ayni offered to the
Sacred Apus (Mountains), to Pachamama (Mother Earth), to the elements of nature and the Cosmos.
It is literally and act of profound Love: Munay, a reminder that we are one Pacha, we are One with no
separateness. We are connected to all beings, elements, spirits and sacred places.
There are over 200 different variations of Despachos, but most of them carry a common thread: they
are done in a celebratory ceremony and there is a very clear purpose or intention.
Some of the intentions are related to Healing, getting rid of illness, bringing abundance, inviting loving
relationships as well as bringing harmony and balance to the earth and honoring new beginnings.
The ceremony brings participants into alignment with their personal intent, the group's intent, and
gratitude to the earth, which supports us in all our endeavors. It also brings participants into internal
alignment with the "three bands:" physical (yankay), feeling and heart (munay), and spirit, or energetic
wisdom (yachay). Finally, the despacho harmonizes the community through the sharing of coca leaves
and gifts of stones, all of which strengthen the luminous fibers that connect us all.
A traditional despacho is created by medicine people who work in alignment through their spiritual
power. As the ceremony begins, red wine and white liquor (pisco) are offered to the spirits of the
mountains and to Mother Earth. The medicine persons and all the participants feed each other coca
leaves--the sacred plant of the Andes--into which their prayers have been blown. These gifts are a sign
of community and strengthen connections.
The offering is created on Andean weavings that represent the masculine and feminine in balance
(mastanas and uncunas). White paper, for clarity, is placed on the weavings for a base. A bed of
incense is laid, to carry the prayers of the offering into the cosmos. Flower petals (red for Pachamama,
white for mountains) are laid in a pattern, commonly in a circle, four directions, cross, or flower pattern,
depending on the intent. Sets of coca leaves, called kintus, are prepared with intent by each
participant, then collected by the medicine people and placed in a pattern on the offering, again
reflecting the particular intent.
After the initial "bed" is created, some or all of the following symbolic representations are prayed over,
offered up, and added: fruits of the earth (seeds, raisins, grains, nuts, corn, quinoa); sweets (wrapped
candy, sugar); representations of the sea (a shell) and the stars (a starfish, the five-legged star of
return, unfolding into the Fifth world); silver and gold papers representing threads to the earth and the
cosmos; confetti; miniature tin figures of animals, people, and tools; beads; llama fat from while
llamas (symbolizing the sun); a baby llama fetus (representing that which is unborn or not yet
manifested); white cotton (for the clouds that surround the mountains and bring rain); many-colored
wool (for the rainbow bridge into the cosmos); condor feathers; and so on.
A despacho contains symbols of everything: elements, weather, clouds around mountains, rainbows,
the four directions, lakes, rivers, fruits of our labors, earth, stars. Every item represents a part of the
Andean cosmology, is imbued with intent for connection to the mountains and the cosmos, and affects
the totality of energy in the universe.
When the offering is complete, the bundle is folded, tied, and wrapped in sacred weavings. The
shaman may circle the group with the despacho bundle, cleansing the luminous bodies of each
participant to remove any heavy energy, and blessing everyone. These heavy energies, or hucha,
become part of the offering, as the earth eats heavy energy and composts it. Finally, the offering is
burned. Participants do not watch the offering burning, so Apuchin (the old condor) can come to eat
any remaining hucha, and because watching might hold back some of the filaments being sent into
Don Bernabe prepares the space for ceremony
|Opening Sacred Space, calling the Apus
and Pacha Mama
|A Kintu: 3 coca leaves.
Don Bernabe praying to the Apus