Happy Thanksgiving! We just returned from a trip to Peru and one of the most magical experiences we had was to participate in a special type of thanksgiving unique to the Andes: a traditional Pachamama ceremony!
What is a Pachamama Ceremony?
To the indigenous people of the Andes, Pachamama is the omnipresent Earth Mother goddess who presides over fertility, the harvest and earthquakes. To the Incans, Pachamama was the mother of Mama Killa, the moon goddess, and Inti, the revered sun god, patriarch of the Incas. Pachamama is the highest divinity of the Andean people and she represents abundance, femininity, generosity and protection.
Pachamama ceremonies are performed by Andean priests at any time of the year and are most often performed around a special event, like a harvest, a natural disaster, or an upcoming journey. The purpose of the ceremony is to restore the balance between humans and Mother Earth by offering gratitude and making material offerings to the Apus or spirits of the mountains.
What happens during the Pachamama Ceremony?
A local priest facilitated a Pachamama ceremony for our Salkantay trekking group in a grassy meadow above the turquoise waters of Lago Humantay near Salkantay Peak. To start, each participant was given a k’intu, three coca leaves that the priest had specifically selected for the ceremony. The three leaves represent the three worlds of Incan religion: Uku Pacha (the underworld of the dead), Kay Pacha (the middle world we live in) and Hanan Pacha (the upper world of the gods). We were instructed to hold the leaves while silently making a wish, summoning our deepest desires for ourselves and our loved ones, channeling those desires into the k’intu. We then each took turns presenting our k’intu to the priest, who said Quechuan prayers over us and the leaves, calling upon the Apus and downloading their blessings and protection into each k’intu.
Once blessings had been made, each k’intu was placed into a ceremonial bundle on a sacred blanket woven by the priest’s wife. Once all of our k’intu’s were carefully placed in the packet, additional offerings were added to the mix, including wine, white sugar, brown sugar, garbanzo beans, grains, cotton, seashells, wool, flower petals, candies, confetti, and more. The most interesting offering was llama fat, a tourist-friendly substitute for the llama fetuses that are traditionally used in offerings. After artfully arranging all ingredients, everything was sealed up into a neat little packet and wrapped in the sacred blanket.
The final step of the Pachamama ceremony was for the priest to bless each one of us with the sacred bundle of offerings, once again invoking the Apus in Quechuan prayers while touching the sacred bundle to the three key energy centers of our bodies: the belly, the mind and the heart.
Once all prayers had been said and each individual had been blessed, the entire offering packet was burned in a campfire at night, with the smoke of the fire carrying our wishes to the Apus above while the ashes returned our offerings to Pachamama (Mother Earth). Once the offering was complete, we wrapped up the ceremony by giving each member of the group a sincere, heart-upon-heart hug and genuinely wishing them all the best.
Where can I experience a Pachamama ceremony?
Pachamama can be experienced in several different ways, from partaking in the annual Pachamama Raymi celebration in early August in Cusco to arranging a small, intimate ceremony with an indigenous priest at any time of year. Our Salkantay Trek is the perfect itinerary to experience a Patchamama.
Who can experience a Pachamama ceremony?
Whether you are a highly spiritual person or an atheist, a Pachamama ceremony is a deeply moving experience, sparking deep thoughts about the wisdom of indigenous people and the relationship between humans and nature. I will never forget the enchantment that I felt kneeling before an Andean priest as he softly chanted prayers in Quechua, or watching the smoke from our offering drift skyward with the moonlight reflecting off the imposing, snow-covered peaks of Salkantay and Umantay towering above us as the stars channeled light from eons ago through a pitch-black sky.
If you are interested in experiencing a Pachamama ceremony during your visit to Peru, give us a call and we will help craft the perfect Andean adventure for you! We've been there!
Your friendly adventure expert,