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  • John J King II

Peru: High up with Mother Earth

Six months have passed since we trekked into the magical Sacred Valley high up in the Andes Mountains in Peru. Our journey there has had longer reaching effects and in looking back on our time there the memories are powerful. The impetus for traveling to Peru was centered around a long standing fascination with Machu Picchu, a desire to see this mysterious ruin first hand and to learn more about the people who made it more than 500 years ago.

Machu Picchu (also known as The lost City of the Incas) is located 2,430 meters (7,970 ft) above sea level and is situated on an Andes mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, which is 80 kilometers (50 mi) northwest of Cusco, Peru. Most archeologists deem that Machu Picchu was constructed as a manor for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438“1472). It is the most renowned Inca construction that has been built and known to date. Constructed in the 1400’s at the explosion of the Inca Empire, this lost city was abandoned less than 100 years from its construction. It was abandoned as a delayed result of the Spanish Conquest. It is likely that most of its population died from smallpox, launched by voyagers before the Spanish conquistadors. Furthermore, because there are no historical records of the Spanish ever knowing of this fascinating Inca city, it was of vital importance to its survival, as most of the Inca constructions in the Cusco area were completely destroyed by the conquistadors and new European constructions were built on top of these destroyed ruins.

However, today most of the remote structures have been restored in hopes of giving tourist an enhanced concept of what the buildings looked like from the beginning. Moreover, although Machu Picchu was already known locally, it was anonymous to outsiders until American historian Hiram Bingham brought the mysterious wonder to international attention in 1911. Since then it has become one of the most important tourist attractions in Peru and worldwide. In 1981, Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary and in 1983 it was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

One evening at sunset we met with two Andean shaman or Misayoq, specialists in Andean rituals (commonly equated to priests). Misayoqs are believed to possess the ability to communicate directly with the mountain spirits and natural forces. We settled cross legged in soft grass near the fast moving water of the Urubamba River, considered sacred in the Valley, and participated in a ritual ceremony to make an offering to Pachamama "Mother Earth" with thanks.

The ritual is called a Despacho (a Spanish word meaning "offering", in Peru the word pago is often used meaning "payment"). In this context payment in the form of prayers and material gifts of food, alcohol and other items considered necessary. The offerings are usually made to the spirits residing in the highest mountain peaks (known as Apus) or to Pachamama (Mother Earth) or to a combination of the two. We entered the ceremony a bit under briefed on the background but with an open mind. The intent of the ceremony may be to bring about harmony and balance to the earth (such as abundant crops and fertile animals), honour a new beginning (such as a new house, business or marriage) or to get rid of an illness or negative energy. Despachos can also be made to ward off witchcraft and sorcery. Participation in the ceremony can help reinforce spiritual relationships between members of the community and cleanse each participant of negative or heavy energy. This heavy energy actually becomes part of the offering. It is very important that the ceremony is treated with utmost respect and faith. It is often said that a badly made despacho or a ceremony that is attended by participants who treat it as a game can often do more harm than good. We ended up mesmerized and very moved with good feelings as we concluded in pitch darkness after more than 1 hour.

During the ceremony Pam and I were each asked to make a silent petition to Pachamama which we did without discussing our intentions and the Misayog transmitted these wishes by laying hands on our heads and adding items to a bundle of "gifts" to be committed to fire in a sacred place after the ceremony to seal the petition. Only much later did we learn that not only did both of us wish for the same thing BUT our prayers had been answered when we learned more than three weeks later that both of our children were expecting there first BABIES! Whoa! Were we surprised and elated. Be very careful what you wish for from Mother Earth - she may just grant it! Our very first grandchildren are expected to deliver on the same day in March 2014 from two different mothers.

Quetsuan Creation Myth - Cusco

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