Indigenous Wisdom

In Memoriam: Maestro Xavier Quijas Yxayotl

Another star has appeared in the night sky.  Xavier Quijas Yxayotl — composer, master musician, spiritual guide, healer, artist, visionary, resurrector of the ancient ways, life-giver, steward of Mother Earth, friend, lover of life and all beings — has passed. And we have experienced an incredible loss  at his departure.

We can be thankful that he leaves a substantial legacy in the way of ancient Mesoamerican music and instruments. He rescued this rich heritage from annihilation, the colonizers having sought to destroy it. Xavier led the way and others then stood on his shoulders. He’s globally acclaimed. Beyond this enormous accomplishment, there is the man. I’m not sure I’ve ever known a man more gentle, kind, generous and — despite his renown — humble.

Xavier Quijas Yxayotl
Portrait of Xavier Quijas Yxayotl with one of his handmade ancestral flutes. ©2015 Barry Wolf. Used with permission.

I first met Xavier in September 2013 when we, Kenosis Spirit Keepers, invited him to Phoenix to share his music, Huichol/Azteca traditions and ceremony. I was so taken by how, through his music, he led us into other worlds and realms entirely. I grew excited when he mentioned a bit of his life’s history to the point that, a couple of months later, he agreed to relay it to me in detail, allowing me to document it. In 2014, Still Point Arts Quarterly, a literary arts journal, accepted Beyond the Dark as a feature in their Fall 2015 issue.

Over the ensuing years, Xavier lent support of his music and presence to other of our Spirit Keepers Series weekends, and in January 2018 he was our invited guest on the Maya spiritual travel program in the highlands and lowlands of Chiapas, Mexico. It was my honor and privilege to know this compassionate spirit…who grew through a difficult childhood, separated from his ancestral traditions…who heard the calling of his ancestors…maintained his sensitivities throughout…to give his gifts to the world. He remains a role model for all time.

To read Xavier’s soulful life story, Beyond the Dark, in its entirety, go here. You’ll discover how he returned to the Huichol roots denied him as a child, and went on to resurrect ancient instruments lost to time through visitations from his ancestors.

Xavier, your bright light lives on.

Xavier and Apab’yan Tew closing a fire ceremony with ritual music at a Spirit Keepers Series offering in Phoenix in 2017.

Categories: Global Consciousness, Gratitude, Indigenous Wisdom | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Q’ero Relief: Food Delivery for Ccochamocco

I’m going to provide some background before launching into my update for anyone reading of this undertaking for the first time. Kenosis Spirit Keepers, the nonprofit I founded in 2007,  began to fundraise back in early April to provide emergency COVID-19 relief for the Hatun Q’ero village of Ccochamocco, where my close relationships have developed since the mid-90s. I love these people. The village is quite isolated at 14,500’ high in the Peruvian Andes, and Indigenous lands in the Cusco Region had been closed by the Peruvian government.

Who thought the pandemic would last for so long and intensify? The timeline kept slipping again and again as to when quarantines would end in the Cusco Region and Indigenous lands would reopen. We’d been ready since June to make the food delivery. But it was not to be. All I could think of was how their food supplies must be dwindling away.

Some have been cavalier about the Q’eros’ predicament saying they’ve survived for a thousand-plus years that way. Sorry. I can’t accept the image that kept playing in my mind of my godson, his and other families, children and elders being hungry, only having potatoes to eat and then those diminishing. That’s exactly what happened. By October when lands finally opened and it became possible to travel into the high mountain villages, potatoes had been their sole dietary choice for quite a while. I’m thankful they at least had that.

See the full report of our effort for Ccochamocco, plus the Hopi villages of Moenkopi and Shungopavi in northern Arizona. Scroll down to the portion on Q’eros after Hopi.

Now on to happy news…

First, I want to express great gratitude for all the donors over these months. Because of you, we had $7000 to pay for food and expenses to get the goods up to the waiting villagers. This kind of money goes a very long way in Peru, as you’ll discover in a moment.

Second, I really want to recognize my Q’ero liaison Santos Machacca Apaza. A lot of times, those people who quietly operate in the background but who do all the legwork to get things done—make things actually happen—are taken for granted. I don’t. As soon as lands reopened, Santos made the long trip from Cusco to Ccochamocco to consult with the community on what they needed, then went to a number of merchants in Cusco to secure supplies and got the best price. Very time consuming, along with hiring a large truck, helpers and everything else, including keeping me apprised. Clearly, if he wasn’t so willing and trustworthy, we couldn’t have gotten this done.

Santos Machacca Apaza, my Q’ero liaison, showing one of his wife Remigia’s weavings.

It was a 3-day operation from first load to delivery into the hands of the families—not counting all the prep beforehand. Santos documented it all with photos and videos. Here are some.

This first video is the only one with English. The rest are in the Q’ero dialect with a few words of Spanish sprinkled in periodically. Santos narrates, expressing the gratitude of our Q’ero friends, telling us 54 families will be fed now for months as a result of what they’ve received, visible in this wide circle before each family and more to the far side of the video pan. He thanks all donors and, if you listen closely, at the last pass through the circle you can hear some of them calling out in thanks to Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Apu Wamanlipa, the sacred mountain that watches over Ccochamocco.

This next video is a little wonky but I wanted to share it. This is Juan Machacca Paucar, the current president of Ccochamocco, a responsibility that rotates every year or so. He wants to show us all the food each family received: rice, flour, sugar, cooking oil, quinoa, tuna, soups, pasta, lentils, oatmeal, condensed milk, salt, soap and a few other things I can’t identify.

Just as when we come together for despacho ceremony, Q’ero friends place importance on standing, speaking sincere words of welcome and letting us know how they hold us in their hearts. First, you see Modesto Machacca Apaza, father to Miguel Angel, my godson. Next is Carmina Zamata Machacca, Miguel Angel’s maternal grandmother, who you can glimpse hovering behind the stacked food. (So big now at 14!)

Finally, you see some Q’ero friends holding a banner. When Santos asked me to send a photo file of the Kenosis Spirit Keepers business card, I had no idea he had this purpose in mind. Plus, it appears he located an old image of me, probably lifted from Facebook. Frankly, I was a bit embarrassed when I saw this. I tend to operate beneath the radar. But I know how much receiving these goods means to them, and this is their way of making a visual representation of their appreciation.

If anything, I wish we’d been able to show a gallery of donors who made all of this possible, for both Q’ero and Hopi. It would be crammed full front and back. Kenosis Spirit Keepers is merely the vehicle through which love flows from like-hearted people who assist us in fulfilling our mission to help sustain these Indigenous peoples who hold intent to keep their traditions alive.

Despacho ceremony
Despacho ceremony. Modesto Machacca Apaza breathing prayers into a coca kintu (prayer offering). Photo credit: Cécile Sother.
Categories: Compassionate Action, Emergency Relief Fund, Gratitude, Q'ero | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Return to the Center

I’ve come late to Linda Hogan’s writing. I’ve now read two of her books – Solar Storms and People of the Whale –  and in the middle of a third – Mean Spirit. I can’t help but know what is apparent. The message they hold is for all time, but especially now when we’re called upon to pay attention and determine how we shall live. We are called upon to be distinctly cognizant that what we do matters.

The common theme has to do with the clash of cultures. One honors the Earth, all ways of life, and practices a sacred sense of reciprocity. The other is intensely focused on accumulation that can’t be satiated and complete disregard of all life…for the benefit of a few. One is life-giving. One is depleting. There’s no subtlety and here no overlap. It’s the Great Divide for purpose: Pay attention. Heal.

The books involve Indigenous characters who experienced separation from traditional ways of living to varying degrees, and those who remain in touch. Through outside western influences, they’ve had their birthright nearly or completely destroyed. Through manipulations, they’ve borne murder, blurring of identity and loss of homeland. Hogan points so well to the insidiousness of these shenanigans that caused people to fall away from their True North over time, almost without noticing.

What I so appreciate about Hogan’s writings is her willingness to dive deeply and excavate struggle, confusion and collapse at the individual and communal level. But equally she leads the search for a way out that also involves struggle and confusion.  But the shift involves direction aimed toward – and does produce – a return.

The Mythic Journey Engaged, Finisterre. ©2015 Carla Woody.

In People of the Whale, certain sentences popped out to me over the course of the novel that, just in these, told the whole story.

They do not feel the spirits that once lived in the fogs and clouds around them. The alive world is unfelt. They feel abandoned...

For every inch of skin, there is memory...

He was waiting for something to open, but it wasn’t the door...

…they are answers to questions not yet even asked...

…he hears the sound of birds and it is as if behind the human world something else is taking place...

There is just a breeze of something living, like the breath of the universe...

Then he sings an old whale song he has never learned...

Tradition had been waiting their return.

It’s of Mythic stature and, of course, this is what we now engage.

Categories: Book Review, Global Consciousness, Honoring the Earth, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

In Time With the Deluge

Nearly twenty years ago, I began writing my second book Standing Stark: The Willingness to Engage. It was a time of exhilarating change and deep insights for me, rampant with significant leaps of faith, without any visible safety net, that brought me to where I am today.  I was presented with another fork in the road as there had been others along the way. Who knows where I’d be if I’d remained on the beaten path? While those personal choices dismantled much of my old foundation, they were proactive in constituting another, likely waiting for the right time to emerge.

Here we are now, as a Collective, with something so major thrust upon us, something so new that little can be predicted, safety net unknown or when it may settle down. It’s torn apart our systemic status quo and exposed what was kept under wraps. Upheaval. The measure of response at both an individual and macro level will necessarily bring revolution and evolution, or (my belief) we wouldn’t have been presented with it. Its time was past due.

I’ve had plenty of time to muse about things over these months in ways I wouldn’t have had before, being so much on the move. Being still has always worked its magic on me.

With that, I began to consider the words that came through me all those years ago. They flowed out of me to become the prologue, setting the stage for Standing Stark. Presently, we are in the time of monsoons, the same period I wrote then, with barely a drop of relief, hoping for the rains to come. Yet they’ll come in their own time or not at all. We have no control over the movements of nature. But, as with any time, we do have control over our own responses and sensibilities.

StarkTree

We have heavy rains in Arizona. They normally start in July and go through August. We call the rains monsoons, which may be hard to imagine for those who have not yet experienced the rhythms of the high desert. Sometimes, though, we have a drought year and the rains start later. The tall pines become over-thirsty, beyond being parched. In those times, all of us develop expectancy — trees, plants, animals and humans alike. We are all in it together after all.

But invariably the monsoons come, often with violent storms. Jagged lightning dazzles the sky and thunder cracks so loudly it can bring us up sharply if we’re not attuned. In a primal way, we are all more susceptible during periods of scarcity.

Wandering in the forest later, we can see the aftermath. In a sea of towering ponderosas, or their kin, there are those who stand apart. Not frequently, but infrequently, there will be those who are now shed of their needles, their skins laid open by the snaking of a lightning strike. Standing stark, they appear to be dead. They aren’t. When I go and put my forehead against their trunks, I feel the elemental filaments that have startled another kind of consciousness within them. Still dwelling in their habitat, they are even more alive than before. They draw our attention — our fascination.

The fire that discharged their coverings often may move to some of the surrounding brush and trees, those in close proximity. Sometimes it may travel from a tree to ignite nearly the entire forest. But before that could happen it was first necessary for that tree to be burned of its own covering before the fire that began with that One could affect its brethren…

The lightning strike oftentimes comes suddenly, a bolt unexpected. But there may well be a stirring before the charge and those who have grown the tallest stand most ready to receive…

In order to be ready, we do for ourselves what we know to do as best we can. Yet, there must be no striving. The striving of the material world has no place in this transmission. We need only send our willingness up as a prayer and merely stand waiting. This is for those souls who hold themselves available — to be struck.

— In the time of monsoons

For a few years, prior to a huge personal fork in the road in 1992, I worked as an internal consultant for the US government. (Those who know me find my long stint in civil service hard to believe. Now, so do I.) I was one of several in my small office trained to seed organizational development by focusing on leadership strategies, team building, conflict resolution and the like. The approach most meaningful to me was a holistic one. With intact work teams, we used the Meyer-Briggs Type Indicator or experiential activities that pointed to similar outcomes: the varied styles and capabilities of each individual made a stronger, more creative team. Everyone brings something to the table to contribute. Most of the time, I felt like I was banging my head against a stone wall. It was a challenge to get most of those managers to think beyond protecting their own turf and short-term thinking.

When that happened, we had another trick to pull out of our back pockets: WIIFM (pronounced whiff-um). When wanting them to consider a more holistic, visionary style, we’d guide them to consider, what’s in it for me? Back then I was fresh-faced and hopeful. Now, I see asking that question likely served to entrench rigid individualism rather than open a pathway toward higher values on Maslow’s pyramid and farseeing. It wasn’t long before all came to a head for me. I simply couldn’t do it anymore and cut those ties.

A friend recently said, we’ll all find something to justify our beliefs and actions. Of course, we do. That’s true no matter where you fall in the current deluge that assaults our moral compass or however else you make decisions.

Shortly after leaving disillusionment behind, I was first introduced to traditional Indigenous ways: seventh generation decision-making, sacred reciprocity and actions intent on the well-being of the planet and all beings. This is the world where I choose to dwell, one whose time is long overdue and endangered. In practicing stillness, these are some of the memories and metaphors that have guided my considerations over the last months.

Categories: Contemplative Life, COVID-19, Global Consciousness, Indigenous Wisdom, Sacred Reciprocity | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Storyteller

Over the last five years, I’ve been periodically working with Don Alberto Manquierapa — Huachipaeri-Matsigenka spiritual leader, master of plant medicines—bringing groups to learn from his teachings of the jungle. I’ve consistently said Don Alberto carries the rainforest in his soul. In November 2019, we were with him again in the high jungle of the Manu Biosphere in Peru. For the first time, he spoke at length of the wise men of the Matsigenka (also spelled Machiguenga) and how they were married to Nature but never elaborated directly what that meant.

A few months later I was having a conversation with Jack Wheeler of Xapiri, whose relationships extend to the Matsigenka and ten other Indigenous peoples of the Amazon. He suggested I read The Storyteller by Mario Vargas Llosa to see what I could glean.

StorytellerI was rewarded in the first chapter when a character called Mascarita, in talking to the narrator, spoke of a wise man then saying, “I’m calling him a witch doctor so you know what I’m talking about.” He also used medicine man and shaman as a stand-in. Additionally, I learned that, while the Matsigenka may practice polygamy, it appears that a wise man sets himself apart from the villages, living in the jungle, or on a riverbank, even more simply than others, distinctly in solitude, communing with Nature.

Much of the book is interspersed with creation stories, tales of survival and beliefs. We know when a story ends because it’s punctuated with, “That, anyway, is what I’ve learned.” That said always before launching into the next monologue. Clearly the discourse is relayed to an audience but not clearly who or even the identity of the one relaying…until much later. Many peoples only know of themselves, their origins and how they are to exist and survive through the keeping of oral histories taken on by a living depository. That person has a special role and designation: Storyteller.

The Matsigenka are peaceful people who hold their world together by walking, being nomadic…nonviolent men who walk. But what happens  when Viracochas* begin to intrude and impact the lands always known to them…introduce money and other foreign ways…when missionaries move into their villages? When…”The most important thing to them was serenity…Any sort of emotional upheaval had to be controlled, for there is a fatal correspondence between the spirit of man and the spirits of Nature, and any violent disturbance in the former causes some catastrophe in the latter.”

In such a case, maybe there’s finally a time when only a Storyteller can tell the Matsigenka who they are and where they’ve been.

This may be a familiar tragic tale containing elements we’ve heard all too many times before, but it’s also a mystery. The Peruvian narrator, whose name is never uttered, goes into a small gallery, while in Florence on vacation, and is electrified by what he sees in a particular photograph in the exhibition. And what of Mascarita who appears  to have a significant role in the book but then simply disappears without a trace…never to be heard from again?

The Storyteller is a complex novel. For me, it was equally disturbing as it was compelling. I believe Llosa  meant it to be so. I’ve promised myself that, in the not-too-distant future, I will reread it, thus allowing its even deeper structure to become apparent.

This book was first published in 1989 and still widely available. I bought my own copy. It’s well underlined.

***

*I found it curious that the name Viracocha, commonly known as the Inka and pre-Inka creator deity, is used with a capital “V” in The Storyteller to identify outsiders, particularly foreigners having marked consequences on the Matsigenka way of life.

Categories: Book Review, Honoring the Earth, Indigenous Rights, Indigenous Wisdom | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Update August 20: COVID-19 Emergency Relief for Hopi and Q’ero

Kenosis Spirit Keepers logo

Kenosis Spirit Keepers is the 501(c)3 nonprofit extension of Kenosis.

This is a 7th and final update (now as of August 20) to our original announcement on April 4 sent through our newsletter and on Facebook. It contains our progress from April until the formal close of this drive. Updates are in blue below within our original announcement.

We have so much gratitude for all the support we’ve experienced in the way of funders, mask-makers, helpers, connectors and emotional bolstering in our great desire to serve these Indigenous peoples. Clearly, we could not fulfill our mission without you. You are life-givers. View our tribute.

Extension of Emergency Relief Drive through August 8 specifically to address food insecurities. Note: We will continue to forward funds for food purchase and delivery to Second Mesa when the donation notation designates this emergency program.

Dear Friends,
We have all been touched by the pandemic in one way or another. The Indigenous peoples we work with are also undergoing a state of emergency. In some ways, they are even more at risk due to their isolated locations with little access to food or protective equipment, and little to no medical care should they need it.
We are opening an emergency relief fundraising campaign now formally completed August 8 to do everything we can to help support them in this difficult time that is very real globally. We are specifically focusing on the Hopi and Q’ero people we work with due to our direct relationship. Hence, we have the most control over the needed funds and supplies reaching them.

   Please see the information below given to us personally after being contacted for help.

   To donate by PayPal or credit card, please go here. To donate by check or money order: Please make the check or money order out to Kenosis Spirit Keepers. Mail to Kenosis Spirit Keepers, PO Box 10441, Prescott, AZ 86304. In making your donation, indicate Hopi and/or Q’ero. If both are indicated, we will split equally unless you designate otherwise.

The full amount of your donation we receive goes directly to those in need.

Help for the Sacred Guardians of the World

Blessings of the Four Directions.Hopi Village of Shungopavi: Shungopavi is located on Second Mesa in northern Arizona. Mike Weddle, who is on the board of KSK, and I have had discussions with leadership members as to the situation and needs. The village has been closed. Non-residents are not allowed to enter. However, State Route 264 runs through the middle of the village.  Hopi residents must stay at home in order to be safe. There are three small stores. Any goods delivered have been immediately emptied again. Leadership has requested help to buy non-perishable food supplies, water and PPE (disinfectants, gloves, and masks) so they can allocate them to their people. They have confirmed they have a way to have these things delivered.

What we, Kenosis Spirit Keepers, have been able to do so far: On April 2, a check for $1000 was mailed to the Community Service Administrator (CSA) on Shungopavi to begin purchase of needed items. We sent a check for $2500 on April 13. From additional donations through this fundraiser, we mailed a 4th donation of $1170 on May 13.  Your donations will be sent  directly to the CSA to administer so they may fulfill their needs and manage allocation.

The CSA has advised they are first seeking PPE to protect their people, 265 homes. They’ve been unable to find a source within the US and had to resort to ordering from an overseas source. They are due to receive this shipment costing $12,000 on April 20. Once they meet this need, they will focus on food supplies. 

Food insecurities currently exist within Shungopavi and surrounding areas. First, it has come to our attention that a number of families and elders received inadequate food distributions. Second, residents have little to no income to purchase food due to loss of tourism during this pandemic. The village will remain in lockdown until the end of July. We are now partnering with Filmer Kewanyama and Wen McBrain Vansandt, both from Shungopavi, to ensure food boxes are delivered directly into the hands of those residents who need it most. We were able to purchase food and deliver to a total of 20 food boxes to elders and families on June 12 and July 11 . We will continue this effort through August 8 entirely dependent on donor generosity.

Additionally, masks  from Ohio mask-making teams – Pamela Seel Borgerding, liaison – have been mailed to our Shungopavi liaison for direct distribution. Between June 17 and July 17, 236 adult’s and children’s masks have made it into the hands of Shungopavi residents this way.

Between July 17 and August 15, we shipped 300 masks to Second Mesa donated by private mask-makers, Democratic Women of Prescott and Prescott Indivisible. We were also able to forward funds to Wen, our Hopi liaison, to purchase perishable goods and deliver to 8 households with elders and single parent families.

Original funding goal for Shungopavi: $6000

Added total funding to include support for food insecuties: $9000

Total funding support to Shungopavi as of August 20: $8407

Total in-kind donations of masks: Priceless

Going Home Shungopavi

Hopi Village of Lower Moencopi:  Lower Moencopi is the traditional village located down the hill from Upper Moencopi. Both villages are across the street from the Navajo town of Tuba City. Across the Navajo Nation, they have been hard hit. The lower village is the home to many elders, shut-ins and some families. A board member well known to me reached out for emergency relief. They are doing their best to keep their people home and safe. Food boxes provided to the lower village from another relief organization fell vastly short. Only 7 of 40 elders received food.

What we, Kenosis Spirit Keepers, have been able to do thus far: On April 10 a check for $1000 was mailed to the Board of Lower Moencopi to fulfill the immediate need to cover food for these elders, accomplished through Shamrock Foods. These funds came directly from the donation portion of tuitions from our delayed Spiritual Travel Program to Hopi from March, and an additional private donation.

We asked the Lower Moencopi board to identify any other near-term or immediate needs for their 87 homes, which includes an outlying area. Based on their updated need for additional food, disinfectant and protective equipment, they’ve requested an additional $1000. On April 20 a purchase of 300 masks was made from donations received and sent overnight delivery. These masks have been distributed to the village. On April 28, we were also able to purchase 24 8-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer with hand delivery to Moencopi for May 1.

Volunteers in my home area of Prescott, AZ and others in CA, OH and OR have truly stepped up support. To date, they have provided or sewn over 600 adult’s and children’s masks, 15 face shields and purchased hand sanitizer. An additional 500 masks were purchased and provided. Note: These are being distributed to Upper and Lower Moencopi. Once those needs are met for masks, any other masks sent will be shared with underserved Hopi villages.

The following is a primer on Lower Moencopi provided by Carrie Joseph of their Board of Directors.

Only 5% of homes have direct access (in-house) to plumbing and electricity in the Village of Moencopi. The majority rely on the spring source and three water facets located in the village for water. There is a central “bathouse” that includes six bathroom stalls and shower units that is shared among approximately seven families. One of the six is a handicap stall. For electricity, families rely on generators and propane fuel to light gas lamps. This type of living has always been a part of who we are; however, this virus is making us question what considerations will need to be made for the health of the community in the future. We continue to pray that our village community will continue to remain unharmed; however, with the daily increase in cases in our neighboring Navajo community we are taking necessary precautionary measures to protect our people. This includes closing our village to non-residents and hiring 24-hour security to patrol the village area to regulate village traffic and unnecessary visitation from non-village residents. 

 

Funding goal for Lower Moencopi: $2000

Total funding support to Lower Moencopi as of May 14: $2300

Total in-kind donations of masks and other PPE: Priceless


KSK_Web_Qeros16 copy

Help for the Keepers of the Ancient Knowledge…the Children of Inkari

Hatun Q’ero of Peru: The remote village of Ccochamocco is located at 14,500 feet in the
high Andes. They live in stone huts with dirt floors. No electricity or running water.

I have been in contact with Santos Machacca, my Q’ero liaison who lives in Cusco. I have also consulted with Jack Wheeler of Xapiri located in Cusco. This is the situation…There is a strict quarantine nationwide until Apr 12, but expected to be extended. People in Cusco are allowed out until 6 PM to buy food. Military and police in the streets are controlling movement. There is no shortage of food in Cusco city at the moment. But there are collections of money to help feed the poorest. Indigenous lands are closed throughout Peru at least until the end of June. The Peruvian government did this quickly. There are info graphics going around the Indigenous communities explaining the situation. No Q’ero are known to have the corona virus at this writing.

QeroBoyWhile there is currently no shortage of food or supplies in Cusco, our Q’ero friends living in Cusco largely exist through tourism. There is none. The Q’eros of Ccochamocco are subsistence farmers living at survival level. Their crop is mostly potatoes. What limited monies they normally have comes through selling of their weavings, the same as those Q’eros living in Cusco. Again, there is no current tourism. There are 43 homes in the village.

This is what we, Kenosis Spirit Keepers, have been able to do so far: On April 1, a Western Union transfer of $500 was sent to Santos to divide equally among the Hatun Q’ero weavers 11 cooperative members living in Cusco to be spent on food. This, of course, is not nearly enough.

Immediately upon the opening of Indigenous lands again in Peru, now projected for end of August, we will organize purchase and transport of food and protective supplies up to Ccochamocco with the help of Santos and community leaders in the village. This is a measure we’ve accomplished successfully in the past in 2013 and 2015 under emergency conditions.

There is an average of 7 people living in each of the 43 tiny rock huts in Ccochamocco. Our hope is to raise enough funds to cover the 7-hour truck transport and a minimum of $100 per household worth of food.

I have confirmed there is no aid from the Peruvian government going to Ccochamocco. Nor are any of the isolated Indigenous peoples receiving any help by their government whatsoever. We ask your help to fulfill a much needed requirement for Ccochamocco: food.

As of the end of May we received word that food availability in Cusco has decreased and increased exponentially in price. We sent an additional $500 to help feed the Hatun Q’ero weavers living between Cusco and their villages. They are unable to get to their crops at their village fields due to the close of Indigenous lands, and have very limited income to buy food in Cusco. An additional $500 was sent on August 10 to the Q’ero weavers living in Cusco due to food insecurities.

We are currently awaiting word from the Q’ero village of Ccochamocco that they are ready to receive transfer of food supplies.

Total additional donations raised as of May 20: $7500
Total donations sent as of August 10: $1500
Tota donations raised as of  August 20: $6695

Kenosis Spirit Keepers is a grassroots, volunteer-run 501(c)3 nonprofit. We receive no grants but depend on your private donations and funds coming through the spiritual travel programs we co-sponsor with Kenosis, our mother organization, to fulfill our mission. Your gracious donation is recognized as a charitable contribution by the State of Arizona, and by the US Internal Revenue Service under Section 501(c)(3). The Kenosis Spirit Keepers, Inc. Federal Identification Number is 71-1038685.


Thanking you in advance for your generosity, compassion and support toward keeping Indigenous traditions alive. Please share this invitation and emergency appeal widely with friends and family. Please get in touch: 928-778-1058 or info@kenosisspiritkeepers.org with questions.

Be well. Stay well.

Carla Woody

Founder
Kenosis and Kenosis Spirit Keepers

Kenosis Spirit Keepers logo

Categories: Emergency Relief Fund, Hopi, Q'ero | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Indigenous to the Journey

Imagine a people whose origins were once lost to time but who are now thought to have come from northwest India…who—in their own region—endured plunder, massacre and enslavement over 500 years and beyond at the hands of foreign rulers. The result finally creating a diaspora, spread over the world, in search of home…over 1500 years to present day.

When doors were shut to them, the road and their culture endured. It was a way of life. They were so close knit—for mere survival—that, for many of their present-day groups, it’s still a taboo to associate with outsiders except for livelihood…when they themselves are considered so. They’re communal, strict about their traditions and syncretic religion. They’re known for passionate song, music and dance, having influenced jazz, flamenco, and even classical music. They are mostly entertainers, artisans, laborers and trades people. Along with the Jewish people, they were the first target for annihilation by the Nazis, and their women underwent forced sterilization. Despite this, their culture maintains the heady expression of freedom, along with protection of their own.

For the rest of the world, they largely retain an air of mystique and are reviled or barely tolerated. Objects of fear. After all, they live outside the mainstream. They’re different. How can “other” be good?

Their names for themselves vary depending on country—Romanichal (England), Romansæl (Norway and Denmark), Sinti (Germanic countries), Manush (France), Kalo (Spain, Wales and Finland)—or clans—the Kalderash, Machvaya, Boyash, Lovari and others.

The Romani or Roma people are known to non-Roma by a number of names depending where they are: gitans, ciganos, zingari, gíftoi and others, along with the derogatory term gypsy.

Dispersed as the Roma are, in late May, from great distances, they stream into a diminutive French town in the Camargue on the Mediterranean Sea. In a massive gathering, they come to venerate, celebrate and reunite through the passions of devotion, music and processional.

For it is here the three Marys, Sarah—and some say—Lazarus and Maximin landed safely on the shores of Gaul in their tiny boat, site of the present-day Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. To the Roma she is known as Sara-la-Kali, Sara the Black, their patron saint, an adolescent Egyptian maid who accompanied the Marys. To others, Saint Sarah is the daughter of The Magdalene and Jesus.

And we will be there…women on pilgrimage of spiritual travel…sourcing the ways of love and light. We will be there for the music, dance, making our own prayers as we witness Sara-la-Kali…Saint Sarah in her glorious vestments carried from the church on the shoulders of the Roma, accompanied by the famous Camargue white horses, into the sea.

In Latcho Drom—meaning Safe Journey—you can catch a glimpse of this passion toward the end. Latcho Drom is a 1993 documentary about the Roma by filmmaker Tony Gatlif, himself Roma. This film is a cinematographic masterpiece telling the story of a people through song, dance, music and community. It subliminally tracks their geographic diaspora until you finally realize the whole by the end of the film.

This version of the documentary includes sporadic English subtitles of lyrics, just enough to emphasize the beauty and—later—the poignancy of the scenes.

In one with exuberant music and celebration that continues late into the night until the fire has burned out, a man sings and gestures first to a woman in their circle and then to the moon…

…I have placed my bed in a delicious spot. How can I sleep without you?

 Later…

…In the grounds of my coffee cup, I see your image…It drives me mad…

 And much later in scenes toward the end…

…We are cursed to wander all our lives…Deliver us from our trials…We fled from hate…No one will ever change our way of life…Me? I am a black bird who has taken flight…

 Latcho Drom may be viewed in its entirety streaming online for free. This is a haunting, inspirational depiction of a beleaguered people with a rich heritage not widely known. Highly recommend. 1 hour, 38 minutes.

***

The May 20-29, 2020 women’s pilgrimage, Spiritual Travel to Southern France: Sourcing the Ways of Love and Light, takes place in the Languedoc and Provence focusing on Mary Magdalene, the Cathars, art and bounty of the land. There are currently 2 spaces open with group size very limited to maintain depth of process and outcome for participants.

Categories: cultural interests, Film Review, Indigenous Rights, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Film: Sacred Trances of Java and Bali

I want to say upfront this is the most remarkable film of its type I’ve seen. Just in the first seconds of the documentary, before an actual image came, the hair rose on the back of my neck. My skin tightened into goosebumps. The staccato chant I heard was well familiar to me.

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Bali Temple, 2007. Photo: Carla Woody

The film is specifically focused on the phases of ritual trance dancing of Java and Bali, particularly the horse dance where the dancer becomes the ‘horse’ he is ‘riding.’ It features elements to induce a trance: dance, drum, chant, whip, hyperventilation, meditation and acting ‘as if.’ Once entering trance, there’s no question the dancers are in another dimension altogether. To the point, after the ritual is complete, their fingers will not loosen from their stead or their body is completely rigid. These are no actors. You will see the dancers guided into and out of trance by the village shaman.

I appreciated the film underscored that these were ordinary people transformed into extraordinary personage through spiritual intent…and so affected return to their everyday lives. The shaman in one part was also shown in his work-a-day world as a government official in his village. One trance dancer was normally a farmer.

I know these things to be true through examples. Long ago, I remember participating in a Sufi retreat with a particularly adept Sufi teacher. At home he was a barista. I work with Maya religious leader-healer Xun Calixto who lives in a hamlet above San Juan Chamula in Chiapas. When not attending to his sacred duties, he works as a gardener.

Another interesting aspect highlighted is the syncretic nature of the religions in Bali and Java. Before other influences moved in and overtook them, Indonesia practiced pure animism. In Java, Hinduism arrived first, which the people incorporated for 800 years until Islam made inroads and prevailed. At that point, Hinduism moved on to Bali and remained. But in each instance elements of their original animism were maintained and expressed in isolated villages or special holidays, depicted well in the film.

To diverge a bit more, it made me think of the Maya people of Mexico and Guatemala, especially in San Juan Chamula. The church there was taken back from the Catholics in no uncertain terms. Yet, they have Catholic processionals on a saint’s day and allow the token priest to take part. The saints in glass boxes still line the walls. But the pews are gone and Maya forms of healing and prayer occur instead. It was a curiosity to me until I learned that the saints may be there, but the Maya people have their own stories about them, resoundingly connecting them to their land. The place is imbued with a sense of the sacred felt viscerally every bit as much as what’s shown in the film I’m reviewing.

You may be wondering how it is I immediately recognized the staccato chant that recurs throughout the documentary. In 2007 I was in Ubud, Bali presenting at a conference and elected to stay on afterward to experience more of its beautiful traditions. One night I attended a dance performance. I had no idea what it was but came highly recommended to me. I was myself entranced the entire time, not moving a muscle even for a while after it was over. It had a number of the same components I’ve discussed here—the ongoing staccato chant rising and falling—but also fire dancing and throwing with no one harmed. It was done at night. Mesmerizing. It’s stayed with me over the years. Whenever I thought of Bali, what I witnessed that night automatically emerged. Yet I had no reference for it until I watched this film. After I viewed it for the third time, I did some research and found the traditional Kecak ritual dance as a type of exorcism. The version I saw was created in the 1930s for Westerners by German artist Walter Spies and Indonesian dancer Wayan Limbak. Not exactly what was in the film. But still… Below you’ll see a good example of the Kecak dance I saw back in 2007.

It’s incredible the filmmakers—Elda Voelkel Hartley and Irving Hartley—were able to document these rituals, obviously done with great respect, which is why they gained permission. This 29-minute documentary is a true tribute to such sacred traditions. It doesn’t matter that if was produced in 1976. These things are timeless.

Watch the Hartley Productions full documentary Sacred Trances of Java and Bali for free streaming here.

 

 

Categories: Film, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Taller Leñateros: A Tzotzil Maya Blessing

I’d just left the family-run hotel where I stay when in San Cristobál de las Casas headed to Na Bolom. I was paying particular attention to my feet due to the town’s notoriously deteriorating, uneven sidewalks with potholes aplenty. When I glanced up to make sure I was still on track, I saw a painted sign, hung over a doorway enclosed by a gate, of a Classic Maya in full regalia riding a bicycle. Its paint was peeling and had seen better days. A similar image and fanciful creatures were strung out along the adobe wall.

I crossed the street to peer into the courtyard. The long work tables lining the wall were filled with stacks of some kind of material – that I couldn’t readily identify – and wood block prints haphazardly hung on the wall. I didn’t see anyone around. It was just too intriguing. I opened the wooden gate and entered. I was fascinated by all the prints, more now visible on the inside wall, and saw a small room. It was stocked full of handmade books and journals, posters and postcards. I’m enamored of such hidden treasures.

I’d discovered Taller Leñateros. That was probably ten years ago. Since then, I stop by nearly every year when I’m in San Cris and purchase a book, postcard or poster. I have my own private collection of their jewels.

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Tree of Eyes. José Luis Hernández, Artist. Printed by Taller Leñateros.

Mexican-American poet Ambar Past started this natural paper and bookmaking collective back in 1975. She’d been living among Tzotzil Maya women in the highland villages of Chiapas, Mexico and, with their permission, began to collect and translate their traditional prayers, spells and poetry, which had never been written down. Her efforts ultimately culminated in a truly unique illustrated book, Incantations: Songs, Spells and Images by Mayan Women. One time when I return, I’ll purchase the handmade book. In the meantime, I own a paperback copy.

I absolutely adore one of their dimunitive books containing only one prayer. It has a place on my altar. Sacred to me, its message touches something deep inside. Whenever I read it, I’m uplifted as much as I want to cry.

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Magic for a Long Life*

Manwela Kokoroch

Elder Brother of writing:

Elder Brother of painting:

I’ve come with roses, with lilies, with carnations, with chamomile.

 

Lend me your ten masks so my years within the corral will grow longer.

My wayhel is suffering in the mountains.**

My animal soul has fallen off the hill.

She’s at the end of the rope, at the last link in the chain.

 

Lend me your ten toes, your ten fingers.

To guide my wayhel back into her tiger cave.

Back in the green cave where my Spirit lives.

 

Lift her up with a cloth that smells of roses.

With a rose, lift me up.

Lay me down in the shade of the vine.

 

Elder Brother who feeds the Souls:

Guardian of the Corral:

Bearer of time:

Spin around in a circle,

Turn around in a square.

 

Don’t let the tiger out,

The jaguar out,

The wolf, the coyote, the fox, the weasel.

 

Herd them together,

Don’t let them go.

I’ve brought you turkey eggs.

I’ve brought pigeon stones for the hand and the foot

Of She Who Sees From Far Away Through Dreams.

 

Thirteen essences of tilil

Make my day longer with the sweat of your legs,

Your hands that glow green as precious jade,

Your green, green blood.

 

Carry me, embrace me and my tiger, and my jaguar.

This is all I will bother you with in the name of the flowers.

 

Keep my animal alive for many years

In the pages of the Book, in its letters, in its paintings,

On the whole Surface of the Earth.

 

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Atlas Obscura just published an article on the collective. For more background and photos than I’ve offered, do read it. It brought back to me the sheer magic of the place, the beauty of Taller Leñateros’ mission, and its fragility.

*****

* I attempted to contact Ambar Past to gain permission to use the prayer in its entirety, since to segment it with just a few words would do it a disservice. I have been unable to reach her over time. I was advised that Ambar had withdrawn from the world and is now living in a monastery in Nepal. The suggestion came from a friend of hers to use the prayer listing the Maya woman whose version it is, there being other similar versions in the villages. I intend respect and hope to have done it justice.

**Wayhel is a Tzotzil Maya word meaning animal companion. In the words of Ambar Past, “…associated with shamanism, the portals of the Underworld, communication with the gods and the dead. The wayhel accompanies its alter ego from the moment it is born…” If one suffers, the other suffers. If one thrives, the other thrives.

Categories: Book Review, cultural interests, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya, What Warms the Heart | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hatun Q’ero Weavers: Destination Santa Fe

In October 2016 I sponsored a pilgrimage beginning in Bolivia that culminated in the Hatun Q’ero village of Ccochamocco high in the Peruvian Andes of the Cusco Region.* About 2,000 Q’ero live spread through small villages on the mountains commonly known as Q’ero. They exist as subsistence farmers—their fields some distance below—living in stone huts with dirt floors, no electricity or running water. Their main diet is potatoes. All families have alpaca and sheep herds and live engaged with the natural world, which they consider sacred. The majority of my relationships with these beautiful people going back 20+ years rests in Ccochamocco.

We spent our time with them in ceremony, soaking up the vibrations of sacred mountains and generally hanging out with the community. At one point, we gathered with the weavers who were gladly showing us their textiles, also hoping for sales.

Weaving is integral to Q’ero life. Passed down through generations since Inka times, they make their clothing, ceremonial and other functional items. In keeping with tradition, women weave. Men knit.

Some weaving is like a rite of passage. When a girl comes of marriageable age, her mother teaches her how to weave a man’s poncho. The wife is always the one who weaves the husband’s poncho—a necessary skill. When a young man is looking for a wife, he knits a colorful hat and applies beads. The more beads he applies, the more patience he is said to have—a signal to a prospective wife of good husband material.

 

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Despacho outside Tiwanaku, Bolivia for permission to enter. Photo: Carla Woody.

Mesas or mestanas, woven altars or bundles used for ceremony, are used to hold sacred stones, other objects and coca leaves, and contain healing or divination properties. They are also used as a ground altar upon which a despacho, or blessing/prayer bundle, is created within ceremony. When weavers create these special use pieces, they imbue intent and prayers within the weaving similar to the making of Tibetan singing bowls.

The Q’eros are known for their textiles and authentic traditional designs. But they have little opportunity to sell their weavings except to the occasional visitor to the villages or on the streets of Cusco to tourists when they venture down.

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Carmina weaving outside her home in Ccochamocco. Photo: Carla Woody.

After we’d been with the weavers in Ccochamocco, participant Loretta McGrath suggested I look at having Kenosis Spirit Keepers sponsor them at the annual International Folk Art Market (IFAM) in Santa Fe. Loretta had volunteered with them for years and told me about this prestigious market. I’d never heard of it.

Armed with information from Loretta, I checked into it upon my return home. In the meantime, the Association of Weavers Q’ero Inka Design (Asociación de Tejidores Inka Pallay Q’eros) was formally established July 4, 2017. The cooperative was the first of its kind within Hatun Q’ero.

Their purpose was for the weavers to learn from each other and outside resources in the ways of natural dyeing and best practices to produce high quality items and increase their availability to larger markets. Members include those living between Cusco and the Hatun Q’ero villages, and those who do not step beyond their high-altitude homes. This cooperative represents members from Hatun Q’ero villages of Ccochamocco, Chua Chua, Challma and Qolpacucho.

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Members using natural dyes with alpaca wool. Photo: Santos Machacca.

In 2018 I began the lengthy series of communications, information and photo gathering, writing, and finetuning until finally submitting the application by the October 2018 deadline. Then we waited. Would they be chosen? How would we raise the chunk of funds needed to pull it off? I was also concerned about the relatively short time between January notification and the need for the weavers to produce a reasonable number of textiles to bring to market.

All weavings are done completely by hand. No machines of any sort are used. The wool is cleaned, spun using a traditional hand spindle, and woven using 4 stake looms. Hats are hand knitted from alpaca wool in the same manner. It’s a very long process.

There were over 700 applications. Of those, 178 artisans from 50 countries were accepted. The Q’ero weavers were one of those. We celebrated. This was huge. I could envision the beginning of something that would immensely benefit the weavers, their families and larger community. Then the weaving began in earnest.

Santos Machacca, my Q’ero liaison and member of the cooperative, kept me updated. He said that many of the women were weaving day after day starting at 4 a.m. and into the night. I could imagine how sore their fingers must be and how strained their eyes.

The next frontier was obtaining visas. Santos and Remigia Salas Chura, his wife and a master weaver, were designated to represent the cooperative at the market. Given the current political climate in the US, it seemed quite iffy whether they would be granted. But armed with formal invitations from IFAM, the major of Santa Fe and Kenosis Spirit Keepers, visas were granted.

Santos and Remigia arrived in Santa Fe on July 9. It was the first time Remigia had flown or been so very far from home. They were thrilled to be there. Their smiling faces were evidence. Aside from being in Santa Fe—first time in the US—they were rubbing elbows with artisans from all over the world: Algeria, Colombia, Cuba, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Pakistan, Rwanda. Too many to name. The artisan processional in Santa Fe Plaza was truly inspirational.

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Peek at the processional. Photo: Carla Woody.

During the market I was there with them in the booth. It was a real pleasure. The Q’ero weavers offered a range of textiles from hat bands to ponchos to mesas to table runners. The latter was something I suggested for Western customers along with coasters and placemats. All in traditional designs. Truly the Association of Weavers Q’ero Inka Design outdid themselves. Offerings were 100% alpaca—no blends—all natural dyes or natural wool, all finely finished. They had undertaken this effort to produce the highest quality—and they did.

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Santos and Remigia at the Q’ero weavers booth. Photo: Carla Woody.

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Remigia weaving at the booth. Photo: Carla Woody.

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Q’ero weavings. Photo: Carla Woody.

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Q’ero mesas and hatbands. Photo: Carla Woody.

The mission of Kenosis Spirit Keepers is to help preserve Indigenous traditions. I take the outcome of this endeavor as a big win for the Q’eros—a full return to traditional weaving—as well that we could assist in such an important effort.

The plants needed for dyes grow lower than the altitude of the villages. In order to gather them, the artisans must forage distances from their homes. Perhaps due to this reality, it became common for family weavers to use synthetic dyes for their wool when they became available in the markets about 70 years ago. However, the Association members have returned to natural dyes or natural wool as most traditional.

Fine finishing, or binding the edges, had also been let go. It was rare for see a Q’ero weaving like that even though still beautiful. I can imagine much of their time was taken up with childcare and their herds. I had encouraged the highest quality though, telling Santos the elements that were needed for acceptance at the market. He later told me the weavers had forgotten how to finish edges or never knew. They had sought out elder weavers to teach them.

I want to publicly thank Loretta McGrath for her initial urging and support during the application process. I don’t know how we would have survived without Lisa Flynn who was so willingly by our side offering rides, her fine Spanish and calls back to Peru, as well as ongoing hospitality. I’m grateful to Sachiko Umi and her team at IFAM for patiently guiding me in this first-time effort, and their great care for all the artisans. Really, it was amazing how everything came together. But you know…this never would have come about for these Hatun Q’ero weavers without the generosity of donors, some who knew them and others who didn’t. I hope you are reading this, and realize you supported a dream come true.

Now we look to next year…

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Artisans of the 2019 International Folk Art Market. Photo: Marc Romanelli.

***

*The Hatun Q’ero of the Q’ero Nation are known as the Keepers of the Ancient Knowledge and call themselves the children of Inkari, the first Inka. They are widely accepted by anthropologists to be direct descendants of the Inka. They live in isolation at 14,000-15,000 feet in the Andes, as they have for hundreds of years after the conquistadors came, preserving their ancient mystical traditions. The lands of the Q’ero have been declared a cultural heritage site by UNESCO, but that has not brought personal riches to the Q’ero Nation. Some Q’ero have migrated to Cusco and environs hoping for a better life.

I will be sponsoring another pilgrimage in Fall 2020 following along Bolivia’s sacred sites…Tiwanaku, Islands of the Sun and Moon…and into Peru…through Puno, Cusco and once again culminating in Ccochamocco. Check on this spiritual travel page. It should be posted soon.

 

Categories: cultural interests, Gratitude, Q'ero, What Warms the Heart | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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