Yesterday I met Eduardo, a shaman of Inca lineage and heritage. His visit offered us an opportunity share in a Coca leaf ceremonial reading at our lodge. The group aspect was fascinating as he honored Pachamama at the start and closing. Community is very important to these traditions, as is honoring the earth and the natural elements. He lives within a community the traditional manner without electricity and modern conveniences (By choice—NGO have offered), at an altitude of near 16,000 feet!
We are comfortably nestled in a valley here at about 9,000 feet. The mountain ranges command the landscape and such river valleys with small plains dot the geography and mark locations where most people have settled. Watching the clouds float by in the blue skies yesterday, we could literally see them being divided by the mountains as they passed overhead. It is easy to see how the powers of the natural elements would evolve into mythologies of the region. Such symbolism is not childish; for certain there’s a deep appreciation and understanding of how these ecosystems work together and each component is interwoven, from which our more “scientifically driven” culture could learn.
We took turns privately engaging with him, receiving a general reading or invited to ask specific questions we might have. It was very interesting. I asked guidance about my career and personal path, as well as personal relationships. I was a bit surprised by the responses and it will be interesting to see how my life plays forward. We shared a lunch with our unpretentious guests, and learned about their families and children. Prompted by a great question from one in our group, even gained insight into our shared mischievous childhoods. Juan Carlos told a tale of how he had once collected lizards in his pockets as a boy and tried to hide this fact from his mother on returning into his home. Eduardo confided he had tied together then shoelaces of some intoxicated adults who had been celebrating and fallen asleep. Following the ceremonies each enjoyed partaking in an offer of chocolate and some tequila from some in our group. Through and through these are down to earth people who laugh, live, and love with all their hearts.
At the closing of the ceremony Eduardo and his assistant Juan Carlos pulled out a few dozen small tokens, symbolic and actual, that acted as representative offerings. Intermixed with this, one by one we each presented coca leaves we had chosen earlier. He carefully consciously blessed these and each addition of his offerings with words, breath, chants/prayers and intention and steadily built a small beautiful sculptural assemblage. We all received a blessing separately and a cleansing of “bad energies” — who doesn’t need that? — and then a final communal send off.
I was wonderful to meet them and participate. As a “take away” we were advised to rise joyful that we were alive, share that joy with others and the earth, and do everything with a conscious and sincere heart. Of course this meshed perfectly with the path I have been following for the last several years. Eduardo was most delighted to accept my offering of a golden shafted feather from my hat from a Flicker, a native Virginian bird, and add it to his own chapeau. I’m honored and happy to have a new “brother” in the Andes.