Q’ero

When the Invisible Manifests, Part II: A First-Hand Account of Talking with Andean Mountain Spirits

Part II: In which the Apus appeared.

I returned from Peru less than a week ago. My own night experience in the sacred compound, as I’ve given attention to describing it, remains foremost⎯I’ll say in my energy field because my mind can’t hold it or understand what occurred. I’ll admit to being a healthy skeptic for good purpose when there are so many passing themselves off for what they aren’t, sometimes causing great harm. I choose to be vigilant in order to protect myself and any group in my care. After the opportunity to talk with the Apus was offered, I accepted and included it for this year’s journey. Logic offers no answers here and, knowing the steward, I placed trust in him for his offering and the altomisayoq he arranged, one of three he’s worked with over some years.

I hadn’t previously noticed the anteroom where the session would be held. Perhaps the door had been closed when I’d been there before. A few of the group and I ventured inside for a brief look before we went to the temple for preliminary preparations. Immediately upon entering I was aware of the extraordinary energy, so strong it felt like my head would implode and fly off into the cosmos. We didn’t stay long.

The first order was to create a despacho, an offering and prayer bundle to later give to the Apu who governed the surrounding land. We all participated in unwrapping the many chocolates, cookies, candies⎯because the spirits very much enjoy sweets⎯crackers, sea creatures and the rest, while the steward placed all the elaborate piece parts in a particular order. Ultimately, he created a complex structure several inches high, our kintu prayers inserted⎯three coca leaves held together with llama fat topped with a carnation petal. Breath carried our individual prayers on the surface of each one we personally made. Finally, the entire bundle was completely covered with more coca leaves, neatly wrapped in decorative paper and secured. The steward was precise.

We approached the anteroom and filed inside. I wondered how we would all fit as it really was quite small. We numbered fourteen but all managed to find a space on the long benches that wrapped the perimeter, or the couple of chairs finally put in front of the door. The altomisayoq was already in his place in a confined spot in the front corner. The altar to the left stretched most of the space across the front and held flowers, a few capped bottles of soda and beer and ceremonial objects. A painting of Jesus graced the wall above. A waist-high table was immediately against the altar. The altomisayoq was boxed in, no room to exit or other freedom of movement unless he crawled over Marianne and me.

Once all were settled, the steward dropped the heavy curtain over the door. We were in absolute darkness. A few days prior I had prepped the group to have a couple of personal questions ready when it was their turn to speak with the manifested beings. These could be such things as concerns about family, health or relationship matters, advice on a project and the like. While they are not clairvoyant, the beings are wise and give information and suggestions from that standpoint. They can “see” into the body, diagnose health issues and prescribe natural medicines, even surgery, accordingly. If a surgery, they will perform it themselves.* The steward had advised that this space was not yet sanctioned for that purpose. But if a surgery was so prescribed they could go to an audience that would take place elsewhere within a few days. In the darkness, the steward would come get each petitioner and guide them to stand in front of the table to communicate directly with the beings. Marianne would translate the answers given.

We sat in silence. There was no light. My eyes did not adjust to reveal anything other than complete darkness. Suddenly, the altomisayoq chanted an invocation, inviting the beings in by name…then a sharp whistle. My eyes swiveled around the room searching but saw nothing.

Commotion came swiftly. Chaos. Loud flapping of many wings like huge birds⎯or something⎯near the ceiling, it seemed. Whoomp as something landed. Then more. It couldn’t have been but a couple of feet away somewhere there at the altar or maybe the table. Announcements…loud and garbled. The room felt suddenly full of some magnificent energy. Frankly, my mind fled. I couldn’t make sense of it all and have little memory of those first proceeding moments.

Condor image

A condor. Photo: Google, original source unlisted.

I was so confused and, as it turns out, so was everyone else who was having this experience for the first time. I wasn’t sure who or what had shown up until later when their identity was confirmed for us. Those present: Santa Tierra Madre Ascunto de Calca, Señor de Ausangate, Señor de Soqllacassa and Señor Sacsayhuaman Cabildo. †

Ausangate image

Apu Ausangate. Photo: Carla Woody

I was glad the petitions would go in an ordered fashion beginning on the other side of the room for I certainly wasn’t ready yet. I grant that the young woman who was the first of us to approach had courage…when she’d never even been outside the US before or encountered anything like this. A soothing grandmotherly voice welcomed her to the altar and asked, “What can I do for you?” She haltingly asked her questions and received the guidance, then was led by the steward back to her seat. It went like that around the room, the majority speaking to the Santa Tierra. For some it was quite emotional. There were tears. One asked to speak directly to Señor de Ausangate for a matter that directly required his intervention. When he spoke, there was great power and presence. It was a male voice. Some asked for healing or insight to a health issue and later reported a sense of relief and physical uplifting.

Other than times anyone was speaking, noise-making⎯pounding like a drum, a pop, stomping, clicking together of stones or crystals, rustling⎯emitted periodically from different places at the altar. Once I saw sparks, like static electricity up near the ceiling, but nothing else. Across the board, I noted how fluidly answers came, kind wise counsel. There was no hesitation, no searching around for a response.

My turn came. At the altar, the steward stood immediately next to me holding my hand, the other arm wrapped around me. Gentle support. I needed it. The energy was overwhelming. For one who is well used to public speaking and does so easily, I found myself barely able to put any words together. I was disoriented. I had my prepared questions but they wouldn’t assemble themselves to come out my mouth. They finally did though, and Mamita gave her practical, logical response to one and feeling response to the other. Both things I already knew and was validated.

The steward told Mamita I represented the group and had an offering for Señor de Sacsayhuaman, with respect and recognition as the holder of the land where we assembled. When we came in earlier, he’d placed two despachos on the table. The other was from Marianne for a special personal petition.

Señor de Sacsayhuaman bombed into the room. Much to-do. The despacho sounded like it was being torn to smithereens and inhaled…and I felt more waves of energy engulfing me. The offering accepted, my time was done. But instead of the steward leading me back to my seat, he turned his attention to Marianne, who was on his other side, for her petition and offering. His comforting physical support gone, I had the strong urge to grab onto him like a little kid hiding behind a parent⎯although I restrained myself. The woman who sat next to me on the bench later told me, when I never returned, she thought I’d been spirited away by the Apus…

Marianne stated her request fluidly and made her offering, no stumbling around. But then she’d done this several times before. All was then complete. We once again heard the voice of the altomisayoq thanking these manifested beings profusely for answering his call. Mamita’s voice overlapped his, speaking for the Apus and herself, giving blessings and saying goodbye. Again, chaos moved the air, flapping of many wings…silence. The magnificent energy in the room had vacated.

A few seconds later, the steward turned on the lights. All was the same as when we entered. All were in their original places except myself and Marianne at the altar. The despachos were as they’d been placed on the table and appeared to be untouched. One exception: The bottle of beer on the altar was now uncapped.

Before she left, the Santa Tierra⎯Mamita⎯advised that if we wanted to be in contact with her, we could burn a white candle. We wouldn’t see her, but she would be there.

I have mine.

To read Part I of this accounting, in which the foundation is laid, go here.


*From someone who had undergone a surgery by the Apus, it is a physical matter that involved some pain. When over, a thin red line remained on the person’s body for some time at the site of the surgery. There was no blood or stitches. The explanation given was the wound closed up immediately. The result was relief. This from someone who is credible and would have no investment in relaying something other than the actual experience.

† Santa Tierra Madre Ascunto de Calca was the director of this session. She is also known as the Virgin Maria de Lares Calca. Calca is a village in the Sacred Valley near Cusco. Apu, being Quechua, also translates to El Señor. Apu Ausangate is considered the supreme witness, one who has powers of increase and healing. Apu Soqllacassa has nursing capabilities. Apu Sacsayhuaman Cabildo is a keeper of knowledge and wisdom.

 

Categories: Andean Cosmology, Indigenous Wisdom, Q'ero, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

When the Invisible Manifests, Part I: A First-Hand Account of Talking with Andean Mountain Spirits

Part I: In which the foundation is laid.

An open secret exists just beneath the bustle of everyday life in Cusco. It’s actually a phenomenon that occurs in pockets across the Andes. It’s unknown to outsiders, even expats who have lived there for decades…unless they accidentally stumble upon it and are invited. That’s exactly how it happened in this case. I’m no longer amazed how one thing leads to another because I’ve been shown over and over that I’m led to what I’m supposed to experience and who I’m destined to meet that supports this work.

It all started two years ago when I needed to find an appropriate place near Cusco to hold a ceremonial space for the teachings of Don Alberto Manqueriapa, a respected jungle paq’o.* I queried my long-time friend Christo who told me of a hidden compound, a site with small temples and a garden honoring all sacred traditions, its stewardship held by a spiritual man of great humility and sweetness.† As I was then at home in the US, I asked another friend, Marianne, if she would make the connection and see if we could make arrangements for a time during last year’s spiritual travel program.

At the high stone wall, an oversized wooden door opened into a place not unlike something you might see in a movie. The informal garden held small altars and religious statues from world traditions placed here and there. A huge domed adobe oven sat across from a cloistered seating area. Several chickens, a fancy breed with feathered topknots and naked necks, scratched the dirt in-between. I’ve since noticed the collective intake of breath for those who haven’t entered here before. Indeed, it was of some other world, not Peru. Yet it contained all that, too. It was inclusive.

A few steps beyond were the temples, one round and the other a small antechamber. Then the kitchen building and living quarters. Flowers, shrubs and trees took up every bit of remaining ground. It sounds as though all should be strewn over an acre or two. But part of its beauty and the stillness it lent had to do with how all fit in a surprisingly small space, the sacred and daily life coexisting, one within the other. As it should be.

At our first visit, the steward told us how he came to be there after intense dissatisfaction with a material life, traveling to far reaches in search of his soul, finally finding himself in Peru where this special place was unexpectedly given to his care. He was soft-spoken, unassuming. He did not pronounce but simply told his story as though still amazed it had all happened to him. When he talked briefly of the angels and how they spoke directly, it caught my attention but not long at that point. We experienced Don Alberto’s teachings there, and I’m quite sure whatever was resident helped us receive them.

Little did I know how all this would evolve over the coming year, for my friend Marianne took to heart the steward’s mention of the angels⎯what the local people also referred to as talking to the Apus, with an altomisayoq as intermediary.‡ She said to me, how did she not know about this when she’d been living in Cusco for thirty years? But then she’s Dutch by birth, not Cusquenan. Over the year between then and now she attended a number of these sessions, introduced to them through the steward.

Moray-Apus

Apus of the Sacred Valley. Photo: Carla Woody.

It’s said that during the times of the Inca, people’s sensibilities were developed to the extent they could communicate with the Apus in daylight. As those capabilities waned, such visible encounters would have somehow overcome them. Now it’s all confined to complete darkness with the necessary presence of an altomisayoq. But only to call in the coordinates for these beings to materialize in the place where the people are gathered to receive them and request counsel. The altomisayoq is not a medium. Those Apus, Santa Tierras and Mamitas of sacred places or villages who manifest during a session are completely separate entities from each other and the altomisayoq. They speak directly in their own voice to the petitioner, not through the altomisayoq as channel.

It’s hard to know how common this practice is today in remote Andean villages. With sadness, I heard that it is no longer so in Q’eros as no altomisayoqs remain in the villages, having passed long ago or moved to Cusco or elsewhere. But there was a time when the Apus did still appear there to give counsel when called upon. Q’ero Santos Machacca told me of the time when they were consulted about his grandfather’s health. Don Manuel Quispe, who passed in 2004 at 99 years old and well-known to many westerners, was the intermediary and provided his rustic home. There were offerings of chicha⎯a fermented drink⎯and coca. The Apus somehow entered through the thatched roof with a great flapping of wings, announcing their arrival by first landing on the back of Don Manuel, bending him double before taking their place on the mesa with much stomping and noise-making. In most ways, the process has not changed.

I was soon to find out…and truly believe the ambience of the hidden space, and sacred way the steward held it, set the stage for what was to happen…

Read Part II in which the Apus appeared here.


*Paq’o is a Quechua word with no direct translation, the closest being a cross between shaman and mystic in the Andean tradition.

†This steward prefers to operate beneath the radar, as do most altomisayoqs working strictly within their communities, knowing that those with pure spiritual intent will find their way to what is offered. Any mention of their name in writing on the internet is strictly forbidden in their lineage. To maintain respect, the exact site location and name of the holy men who provided our direct encounter will go unmentioned.

Apu is a Quechua word that translates to mountain. But the meaning goes deeper. The Apus are the living entities of the Andes, no less than Pachamama (Mother Earth), Mama Quilla (Mother Moon), Inti (Father Sun), Mama Cocha (Mother Ocean) and other elementals comprising the world. As mentioned, angels are also referred to depending on the influence of Catholicism, so prevalent in Peru, or other world traditions where the reference is generally accepted. An altomisayoq is the name given to the highest level of Andean priest, one who communicates with other dimensions. They are said to have been initiated directly by the Apus and thus able to call upon them for the benefit of the people. While increasingly rare in these times due to the great sacrifices required of them, there are a number who live in or near Cusco.

Categories: Andean Cosmology, Indigenous Wisdom, Q'ero, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Reflections Forward

Q'eros

Q’eros. Photo credit: Carla Woody

Inclement weather prevailed. Mist drifting into the small valley out of nowhere lending invisibility to what was just a few feet beyond, then dissipating equally unannounced. Splashes of rain turning steady through the night, chill creeping into the bones. Snow in the high mountains. Rays of sunshine breaking through. We soaked up the warmth when we could.

This was the backdrop for four days in the Hatun Q’ero village of Ccochamocco in the Cusco Region of Peru. People in my group kept asking, “Is it always like this?” No. The last time it was mostly sunny with a brief snow shower. We played outside in light jackets with the children and freely roamed the land.

This time we were clothed in as many layers as we could stuff under our heavy coats. Mufflers. Hats. Gloves. Meanwhile, nothing altered much for Q’ero waikis (term for brother, sister or friend). The children still wore sandals with bare feet as did the adults. Layers of sweaters, yes. Heavy coats, no. Bare legs on the girls and women. Their homes: tiny one-roomed huts of local stone with thatched roofs, dirt floors, most having no hearth inside with appropriate ventilation. These things have changed little over the centuries in this high Andean village at nearly 15,000’.

More fortunate, we were housed and fed in the large room of the new community hall that sported a wooden floor. No heat but solid walls and roof. The waikis brought plastic, alpaca hides and blankets from their own homes for us to place under our sleeping bags, barriers from the cold seeping in through the ground.

That was the background. The foreground was this…

The men busily cooking in the entrance room designated as the kitchen producing three remarkably tasty meals a day from simple ingredients. Their constant laughter punctuated the air.

Despacho ceremony

Despacho ceremony. Modesto Machacca Apaza breathing prayers into a coca kintu (prayer offering). Photo credit: Cécile Sother.

A communal despacho ceremony where we all placed prayers for family, friends, global consciousness…our own path… the bundle later taken and burned outside—somehow in the pouring rain—by my compadre Modesto, the father of my godson. But not before, by their request, we visitors formed a tight circle which the waikis entered singing, touching our hearts and hands, wiping down our bodies to release any last vestiges of heavy energy that may have remained. I can think of no words to describe the love in which these actions were given. The transmission remains imprinted in my soul.

Face painting

Lisa Flynn of Santa Fe, NM with her face paints. Photo credit: Cécile Sother.

The children…of all ages. Bright. Curious. Well-behaved. Raised to be happy and free. It shows. There were always at least a handful among us. Sidling up to one or another of us. Reaching out a hand to be held. Lots of laughter during face-painting or hair-braiding time.

Carla Woody

Communing with the mountains and my morning coffee in Ccochamocco. Photo credit: Cécile Sother.

What to say about the land? It’s not in the background. The very terrain, dotted with alpaca and sheep, dramatic, sweeping: Its vibration permeates everything. I know I’ve brought it home, reinforced once again.

Every moment there was filled with magic against the backdrop of hard living—at the level of survival—unlike anything any of us visitors have experienced in our own lives. This was the true initiation presented on this pilgrimage that began in Bolivia…preparing us for its culmination in Ccochamocco, where the highest concentration of paq’os—Andean mysticsreside. Where, in their tradition, an alto mesayoq is chosen by the lightning itself to work with cosmic energies. Where a pampa mesayoq undertakes many years of sacrifice and apprenticeship to learn the ways to honor the Pachamama (Mother Earth). Where the community lives in ayni, sacred reciprocity.

The morning after we returned from Ccochamocco to Cusco I awoke with intense feelings and recognition that I shared with the group as we closed our circle:

I’m feeling much gratitude this morning. After a hot shower and having slept in a warm bed with a good mattress…instead of the hard floor on top of an alpaca hide and a blanket to keep the cold at bay. Q’ero waikis have such fortitude to live in extremely difficult, unpredictable  conditions—subsistence—and yet theirs is also a life interlaced with laughter and sheer joy. It’s also evident to me that their connection to the Pachamama, Apus (sacred mountains) and community is their source. Our culture has much to learn. After yet another reminder of their ongoing gratitude, I can’t help but be humbled again.

And I can’t help but think our initiation, the opportunity always orchestrated by the Universe to be accepted or put aside by each individual, is in what we choose to focus on and how we integrate what we’ve been presented.

Tomorrow I will have been home a week. I’ve only ventured outside my home once to get a few groceries. I placed all other life on hold as I can do little but stare at the distant mountains and landscape outside my own home. Integration has its own way with everyone. This is mine. Tomorrow I begin re-entering my daily life, lunch with a friend and a meeting in town…and see what else the Universe has in store.

***

With many thanks to the gracious, courageous people who joined me in this pilgrimage, making it possible. I continue to be honored by your trust.

Heart of the Andes 2016

Heart of the Andes 2016 bringing together Q’ero, Aymara, Hopi and Maya spiritual leaders, and other intrepid travelers. Pictured here the 3rd day of the pilgrimage after ceremony off the waters of the Island of the Sun at a hidden sacred site. Photo credit: Stacy Christensen.

Categories: Global Consciousness, Indigenous Wisdom, Q'ero | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

The Grace of Ayni: How a Young Q’ero Man Journeys to Maya Land

There’s a point in spiritual development that—if we’re going any further—we recognize something so important that it will guide us the rest of our lives: It’s not all about us. It becomes a natural act to give back in whatever ways we can, large or small. Every time we do it’s an act of gratitude done—not with thoughts of getting something in return—but purely because it’s ours to do, representative of a deeper calling. I’ve written about ayni before, a practice embedded in the way of life in the Andes and other Indigenous cultures. Ayni is a Quechua word loosely translated as sacred reciprocity, a way of living within the universal law of balance and flow.

Ayni travels anywhere in your life: family, friends, those you know little or not at all. Acknowledgement to the Creator, Mother Earth, the ancestors and guides—those seen and unseen—comprising all the threads of this tapestry we call existence. It’s the validation of your presence in its make-up, a particular insight to global consciousness.

The practice has long been a focus in my personal life through what I’ve learned by consistent contact with Indigenous ways. I’m especially invested in exposing participants of my spiritual travel programs as I can—by writing about it, speaking of it and embedding automatic ayni within tuitions that goes to help support the spiritual leaders and their families who have offered their hearts to us. And it goes into the communities to benefit people the travelers have never met.

I make this point because it’s not a natural part of Western culture, which is particularly evident lately. We must be taught that ayni is ours to embrace so the world becomes a better place. In the last few years, I’ve become much more vocal about all this. I talk to people about standing beside me in this work. It does take a global village. Through Kenosis Spirit Keepers, we’ve created Kinship Ambassadors recognizing individuals who are supporting our initiatives in various ways. Our Kinship Circle acknowledges collaborative organizations we’ve worked with to jointly further our common missions.

A wonderful thing has unfolded over the last few years, something that makes my heart sing. Folks are stepping forward to support or completely sponsor areas of the work. They understand the value through their own experiences. I cannot begin to tell you how much it means that they are joining with the vision. This is ayni in action.

With this preface, I want to share a story leading to the most recent occurrence. During the 2014 Heart of the Andes program, we visited with Q’ero friends in Ccochamocco. We spent our days in ceremony, surrounded by the children, awestruck by the power of the land. Ccochamocco is a small, isolated village high in the Andes at 14,500 feet. Residents live in stone huts, with none of the most basic services we have, their alpaca close by. Life is hard there. Yet in its simplicity, in ayni with each other and Pachamama (Mother Earth), the Apus (sacred mountain spirits), Mama Killa (Mother Moon) and Inti (the Sun), these are some of the most peaceful, connected people I’ve experienced. Power is delivered through their natural reverence for all things. We can learn a lot from them.

Our first day in Ccochomocco, a young man made the point of introducing himself to me. He was 17 years old at the time. His name was Santos, son of my old friend Don Domingo, a respected paq’o (shaman or traditional Wisdom Keeper) that I’d first met 20 years before. A few years ago he passed suddenly under unexplained circumstances, a tragedy his family still struggles to endure. It was evident this young man was suffering his father’s absence. He stayed close while we were there, and proclaimed he would follow in his father’s footsteps to undertake the path of the paq’o himself. He meant it. It’s not a light commitment. It’s one of endurance and duty to community, in service to the Cosmos. He set aside his given name Santos and took on a new one: Salqa. In Quechua, Salqa (or Salka, another spelling) means ‘undomesticated energy’⏤the word given to the chaotic energy of The Great Mystery that distills into pure intent.

The next year I arranged a pilgrimage starting outside La Paz, Bolivia and ending in Cusco, closely replicating the initiation journey of the first Inka couple Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo. Directed by their father-god Viracocha, they sought a most holy place to build a city—a place of the sun and navel of the world. As part of this program we sponsored five Qeros and one Hopi along the path of their origins. I made sure that Salqa was invited. I felt it important that, if Salqa was going to commit himself in this way, then it was key for him to know, at this young age, the place of his spiritual origins.

He was thrilled to be part of this journey. Innocence and humility are part of his make-up. He was so eager to learn. Janet Harvey, a return traveler from North Carolina, remembers him this way:

Salqa and I stood listening to our guide describe the significant areas at Raqch’i, the temple of Wiracocha. The guide mentioned one place as the ‘ushnu.’  “Isn’t that a word for ‘navel’?”  I asked. Both of us checked the guidebook he had purchased to find this place on the map. Instead, we became transfixed on the photo of a sculpted image of Viracocha. One of many moments shared with this young/old, playful, wise, curious, creative, helpful, encouraging (for those of us hiking UP the steep path), smiling, thoughtful young man.

During this 2015 pilgrimage I experienced a vision during despacho ceremony that will shortly come to pass in 2016: Qero, Maya, Hopi and Aymara journeying together all the way from Bolivia culminating in Ccochamocco in the high Andes of Peru. But secretly I also held another vision: to bring a Qero paq’o to Maya Land in 2017 to meet those relations in their home environment. A Hopi Wisdom Keeper is already slated to join us there as normal. I had no idea how this would come to pass but have learned to trust and set it aside. The details were not mine to arrange.

This May, out of the blue, I was contacted by another return traveler inquiring about the possibility of sponsoring Salqa on the Maya program in January. Terry Waters of Colorado told me she’d intended to set her reasons for making the suggestion down in just a few paragraphs…and wrote a few pages instead. They were heartfelt. In part, she wrote:

…During our ceremony in Raqch’i Salqa so powerfully expressed himself, clearly from his heart, in the English he’d just learned. His words will remain in my memory. It was like music to my soul…Our Q’ero friends planted blessings in my heart that just keep growing, and I experience this young man as a fine representative of his people, someone who will do great things and impact many souls.

Salqa Apaza

Salqa (left) breathing prayers into a kintu during 2015 despacho ceremony outside Cusco. Photo courtesy of Diane Grupe Marshall.

As ayni took the lead, things were on the wind and developed quickly. In just a few days it was settled. A group of women who traveled with Salqa in Bolivia and Peru bonded together to sponsor him to Maya Land this coming January.

Salqa Bolivia

Salqa Apaza (foreground) on the Island of the Sun, Bolivia, during the 2015 Bolivia-Peru pilgrimage. Photo courtesy of Diane Grupe Marshall.

Diane Grupe Marshall of Montana shared with me:

Salqa is so kind, compassionate and mindful of his traditions. But he’s also becoming aware of today’s challenges and need to preserve those Q’ero traditions.

Maya Daykeeper Apab’yan Tew has agreed to act as his “spiritual father” during the entire January journey. Indeed, he’s delighted to take him under his wing with great anticipation. Since Tat Apab’yan will be on the Bolivia-Peru journey in September-October, they will have opportunity to make a connection in advance. Such mentoring will be a blessing to witness, and I know will add so much for all of us as we hold the space.

As for Salqa, he accepted our invitation and wrote:

 It is a magnificent idea! I will be preparing for such a trip from this early time. I would like to share our customs and traditions…Andean spirituality of the Nation of Q’eros. I am happy to read this message! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to travel and get to know other countries and get to know the Maya brothers. Greetings from the distance and many hugs for you.

Ccochamocco

Q’ero village of Ccochamocco in the Cusco Region of Peru. Photo courtesy of Carla Woody.

And so…this is the story…how the young paq’o Salqa Apaza will make history by being the first of his people to share traditions with Maya leaders in their home communities in Chiapas, Mexico.

And how the grace of ayni has a life of its own and travels on.

***********

You are invited to join us on this important, history-making journey, January 18-28, in Maya Land, and support the tutelage of this young Qero Wisdom Keeper. Be part of the global village.

 

 

Categories: Global Consciousness, Gratitude, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya, Q'ero, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Book Review: The Andean Cosmovision

AndeanCosmovision

This is a precious book on a number of levels. First, it is written by a Western man, a dedicated seeker on the Andean path through the teachings of Don Américo Yábar, who has consistently held intent to integrate his learnings back into life at home…and share what he’s discovered over more than twenty years. He touches on some of his struggles to do so coming from a Western intellectual perspective.  This honesty is important. It shows possibility toward core understanding beyond the mind and a way of incorporating it into daily living, an evolutionary process.

I can state these things with confidence having known Oakley Gordon over a very long time, witnessing his process as much as being a fellow traveler on the path. I know his heart. We were introduced to the Andean way through the same spiritual teacher, literally at the same time and place. He has also served on the board of Kenosis Spirit Keepers as Vice-President since our inception.

The book is a primer on Andean worldview. If you want more beyond the introduction, Oakley provides endnotes and anthropological resources. In this book though he writes to you as a friend would, not as an academic. It’s easy to take in and comprehend.

But ultimately it’s a guidebook, a how-to. It’s a compilation of meditations gleaned directly from Don Américo and exposure to other paq’os⎯a general Quechua term for healer, shaman or mystic⎯or created by the author from what he’s learned while in Peru. I don’t think another such book exists. This is important. From my own spiritual travel programs, people periodically express the fear of not being able to recreate the same state of being upon their return home. I share and show them how to do so. But The Andean Cosmovision provides it in print with many different examples to explore with step-by-step instruction.

Oakley states that, although much of the book is taken from the teachings of one specific teacher, he believes any paq’o would validate them. I’ll take it one step further. The tenets covered in this book are found at the core of all Indigenous traditions I’ve worked within: Maya, Hopi and Andean, as well as others where I’ve had exposure.

Highly recommend. Available in print and e-book through Amazon and on Oakley’s website.

♦︎♦︎♦︎

 Oakley will be covering the material in his book during a weekend workshop June 3-5, 2016 in Rockville, Utah to benefit the Heart Walk Foundation who work within the Japu Q’ero villages in the areas of education and agriculture. For more information, click this link to a pdf flyer: Andean Cosmovision Workshop

Categories: Book Review, Indigenous Wisdom, Meditation, Q'ero, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

A Vision Comes

On the second day of our time on the Island of the Sun in Bolivia an opportunity presented itself. Local Aymara spiritual leader Mallku Roger Choque offered to take us to a closely held sacred place, one little known to outsiders where even few locals venture. The ancient ceremonial purpose of the site off the Island of the Sun was verified some decades ago when archaeologists found ritual artifacts on the lake bed at its base.

Clearly, this was another gift being handed to us. The first gift occurred the day before when sponsored Hopi guest Suhongva Marvin Lalo had discovered the Hopi migration petroglyph on a huge stone slab at the ruins of Puma Punku, outside La Paz—significant validation of the Hopi migration path. My spiritual travel group also included five sponsored Q’ero Wisdom Keepers making this journey to return to their Inka origins, as well as participants from across the US and Canada.

Given the cue by Mallku Roger we descended from the high point where we were lodging to the boat below. Not long after we headed out, waves washing behind us, this Aymara paq’o, or medicine person, laid a large weaving out on the floor of the boat’s front interior. Crouching down, he removed items from his bag. Soon it became apparent he would be leading a despacho ceremony, a prayer offering. Others squeezed around the altar, getting as close as we could in that cramped space.

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Mallku Roger Choque. Photo credit: Carla Woody.

And a memory surfaced, one of being on a boat and, so much the same, engaged in despacho ceremony the previous year on a private journey with a few friends. But that time we had been leaving the Island of the Moon, ancient site of the Mystery School for Inka priestesses. And after our prayers were all placed in the despacho, and it was tightly wrapped, I was beckoned outside to the boat’s back deck. The package was placed in my hands. I remember standing, watching the waves recede as we plowed through the waters. Raising my hands I released the bundle to send it arcing over the waters. Time slowed down. It seemed to hover for a few moments before slipping into the lake…and some kind of energy was emitted. We all felt it. I tried not to engage my mind then about what it might mean, if anything.

I came back to the present as one of my Q’ero friends stood before me offering me a kintu for the Pachamama—Mother Earth—coca leaves in proper placement. Taking them into my own hands, I began breathing my prayers into the coca. Another kintu was given for the Apus, the mountain spirits. My friend came back to receive the kintus that would be placed in an earthen vessel, along with the others. I gazed out at Lake Titicaca, so incredibly vast, then turned my attention back to the ceremony.

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Despacho ceremony on Lake Titicaca. Photo credit: Carla Woody.

And in that split second, a vision distilled. I say vision but can I say a precise image appeared? No. It was more a sense that something was being woven together. Can I say that I was given a commandment? No. But I was receiving a precise direction. It produced the feeling of something inside settling and becoming solid. A calling I didn’t question. But it still involved asking permission. I sat there with the knowledge.

By then the boat had approached our destination. But first the vessel that held all our prayers and blessings was lowered carefully into the shallow water and came to rest.

That night after dinner I asked Hopi, Q’ero and Aymara spiritual leaders if they would gather in circle with me. I told them of the vision I’d received during ceremony: to invite Hopi, Q’ero, Aymara and Maya Wisdom Keepers on a pilgrimage in 2016 nearly replicating the one we were making this year from Bolivia to Peru with one difference. The culmination would be on Q’ero. While others have brought different traditions together in various locations on a much grander scale, the direction I’d received involved a journey of an intimate, humble nature. I felt that others across the lands who would assist in holding such a space for this pilgrimage would emerge to support it. I asked the Wisdom Keepers if they would tell me what thoughts they had. One by one they spoke agreeing wholeheartedly with this vision.

Only Mallku Roger was silent. When all had finished speaking their piece, he turned to Marvin, our Hopi guest, and said in a strong voice, “I see your pain. And I have the same pain. Your pain is all our pain.” He gestured around this circle of his Indigenous brothers. “We are to help each other. I will never abandon you. We will never abandon each other.”

He spoke at length on the Eagle Condor Prophecy, then turned to me. I swear his eyes bored into my very soul and wouldn’t let me go. “This is like a weaving. We cannot do this alone. There are those who are connectors, people who help. Your vision is correct.”

In that moment, the last vestiges of doubt that periodically played inside my head over the years about the work I’ve dedicated myself to…when I’d get tired…when my faith got called into question…when it seemed like I was swimming against a tidal wave with little forward motion…dissipated.

Later I wondered if last year—when I slipped the despacho into Lake Titicaca—something had been set into motion. One more evolution. Each time it’s never about predicting what is to come as a result. One can’t. But it is about engagement…full engagement to the calling.

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To read about the discovery of the Hopi migration petroglyph at Puma Punku and more background, go here.

To learn more about the 2016 Heart of the Andes spiritual travel program in Bolivia and Peru, the intimate pilgrimage honoring the Eagle Condor Prophecy as noted in this writing, go here.

 

 

Categories: Global Consciousness, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya, Q'ero, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage infers travel, a journey undertaken with intent—not as a lark, although fun can be a part of it. Sometimes the mission is known ahead. Or it’s discovered along the way. Just as true, it may only be in hindsight, a lengthy time passed from the conclusion, that all comes into focus. Ah, there’s the reason I went…

One thing is certain. It’s a passage made with holy purpose, and you must leave the homeland in order for the pilgrimage to occur. I’m using the word ‘holy’ for a reason. It’s a term people usually back away from because of its connotations, often for the same reasons ‘pilgrimage’ is given wide berth. Here I’m using both for common purpose, giving them due because they take us to a place we normally don’t dwell.

To undertake a pilgrimage, your soul must come through, reaching out from that core level. It’s a call to engage, go deeper. It’s a yearning to venture into the unknown. Some conclusion is sought. It’s time to step beyond a threshold, out of the status quo.

Your soul is offering the invitation. But it’s your everyday self that has to accept it at some level because…

 You’re offering yourself up to a foreign land…

Little is likely to be what you’re used to…

There’s certain to be physical, emotional or mental discomfort—maybe all three!

And it’s through such radical departure that you discover what you’re made of—sometimes quite the surprise. As a result, you’re enlivened. Your constructs are stretched. You’re taken beyond your limits. Your new world emerges.

Sometimes folks attempt to fool themselves into it by saying such things as:

 I’m expected to do it.

I’m here to support my spouse…friend…(fill in the blank).

That’s a place I always wanted to visit.

 Whatever it takes to get you there is fine. In the end, there will be certain recognition for most:

 This is spiritual travel. And it’s pure medicine.

In early November I returned from The Heart of the Andes during which we made a pilgrimage to the Q’ero village of Ccochamocco, perched at 14,300 feet.* Harold Joseph, a Hopi Wisdom Keeper from the village of Shungopavi, Second Mesa, Arizona, was sponsored by Kenosis Spirit Keepers as an emissary for his religious leader Lee Wayne Lomayestewa with a mission to request prayers from the Q’ero community for continuity of threatened Hopi traditions. Harold said, “The Q’ero spiritual leaders make strong prayers!”

There is no road up to the village. In order to get there we sometimes rode on horseback, much of it walking through some of the most beautiful and steep landscape I’ve experienced. Harold stopped a number of places on our journey to give his own prayers and leaving offerings, as well as during despacho ceremony during our time in the village.* We were truly privileged to be part of all of it.

Hopi Harold Joseph (rt) during despacho ceremony with Q'ero spiritual leaders. Photo credit: Sage Garrett.

Hopi Harold Joseph (rt) during despacho ceremony with Q’ero spiritual leaders. Photo credit: Sage Garrett.

The highest point to and from the village is 16,000 feet before descending. On our return, as some of us were already ascending, I began to hear a voice echoing from the valley below, calling forcefully every few minutes. I couldn’t understand the words or see who it was. Later I learned it was Harold giving us all a message that Hopi Spirit Keepers used with each other during times of challenge in the kiva, after many long hours of prayer or enduring inclement weather during ceremonial dances.

Be strong!

Pilgrimage to Ccochamocco

The highest point at 16,000 ft on the pilgrimage to Ccochamocco. Photo credit: Carla Woody.

Return from Q'eros.

Returning from Q’eros. Photo credit: Carla Woody

He said it’s meant to strengthen spiritual warriors, to remind them they’re doing what they’re doing for more than just themselves. They’re doing it for their community and more…for all humanity. I will never forget Harold’s message bouncing from mountain to mountain.

After we were home for a few weeks, Harold sent me a note about our spiritual travel journey: “The effect on my life has been enormous in terms of the spiritual connections that was made in behalf of the Kikmongi.*** The awareness that we are spiritually connected to creators and keepers of life: Katsi. No changes in my life but emphasis on the importance of carrying on my responsibility as a Hopi and its ceremonial practices that rejuvenates life here on Mother Earth and the Universe for future generations.”

Harold Joseph. Photo credit: Sage Garrett

Harold Joseph. Photo credit: Sage Garrett

In early May I will begin walking the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage in northern Spain. My old friend Oscar Panizo is going with me. People ask me why I’m doing such a thing. I can’t honestly give a concrete reason. I just know I’m called to undertake it. The whisper had been hovering in the background for a while, and now is the time.

I also know without a doubt: I will repeatedly hear echoes through time—Harold’s voice encouraging me.

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*The next Heart of the Andes will be October 23-November 5, 2015 and include Bolivia and Peru as a special initiation journey mirroring the path designated by Viracocha, the Incan Creator God. Six Q’ero Spirit Keepers have been invited to accompany us in a pilgrimage that will take them back to their origins. A portion of tuition is tax-deductible to support their sponsorship.

**A despacho is a prayer or blessing bundle made in ceremony by Quechua and Q’ero peoples of the Andes.

*** Kikmongi is Hopi for religious leader.

 

 

Categories: Hopi, Q'ero, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel, Travel Experiences | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Film Review: Q’ero Mystics of Peru

Seti Gershberg has produced an important documentary containing key elements for Westerners to fathom the mysticism of the Peruvian Andes: the descendants of the Inka who embody it, their history and traditions. The film is rich with interviews of Q’ero mystics and breathtaking vistas that perfectly enveloped this viewer, taking me back to all the times I sat in circle with these beautiful people. The energy they carry came through the screen.

We are offered teachings from the Q’ero worldview about interconnection, the inherent birthright of prosperity for all—not just a few—and how ayni, or sacred reciprocity, creates flow and balance. The Q’ero people are living examples, incarnating the natural laws that we all must embrace for global transformation. Segments show despacho ceremonies offering gratitude to the Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Apus (mountain spirits), and blessing prayers. How lightning is a message from the Apus signaling an individual’s role and healing methods are disclosed.

Paq’os (shamans) outline initiations and practices for the life of a healer and mystic—how the process happens over years of commitment, often with strong challenges. One young paq’o describes how, in earlier years, he helped gather materials for the despacho. Then at fourteen he assisted in the making, but it wasn’t until he was eighteen that he was deemed ready to do them on his own. I was personally glad to see this distinction included. Hopefully, it conveys to a Western audience that such a path does not happen in a weekend workshop; nor is it a romantic undertaking but one of humility and sacrifice to community.

Juan Núñez del Prado, Joan Parisi Wilcox, Elizabeth Jenkins, Holly Wissler and J.E. Williams share their understanding from an outside perspective as scholars and authors but also as practitioners of Andean Cosmovision.

The Q’ero are a people of dynastic lineage and strength, who only within the past sixty years have broken out of indentured servitude, having maintained their core identity throughout. These words are spoken during interviews:

 Our work is sacred.

We will not forget or lose this knowledge.

 Q’ero Mystics of Peru came at an opportune time, just as I’m preparing to return to Peru to be with Q’ero friends in the village of Ccochamocco for an unprecedented occurrence during The Heart of the Andes. Hopi Elder Harold Joseph from Shungopavi, Second Mesa, Arizona, is accompanying us, as an emissary of his religious leader, to seek prayers for the preservation of Hopi traditions. He says: The Q’ero spiritual leaders are strong in their prayers. So they are.

I personally thank Seti Gershberg for documenting the wisdom of the Q’ero Nation so effectively.

Categories: cultural interests, Film Review, Indigenous Wisdom, Q'ero | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ninth Evolution of the Spirit Keepers Journey (with Video)

I’m coming up on the nine-year anniversary of an occurrence so significant that I wanted to share it with you, giving it the special transmission it deserves. In numerology, a secret fascination of mine, the number nine is related to convergence of the three worlds—matter, mind, spirit—holy mission, creation, harmony, rhythm and development. Its meaning is given sanctified space in such religious doctrine as the Kabbalah and Bible, and elevated across a number of cultures: Maya, Egyptian, Greek and more.

Nine years ago outside Cusco something unusual happened that continues to unfold all these years later. In July 2006 during my spiritual travel program in Peru, we were gathered with Q’ero spiritual leaders for ceremony at the edge of Huaypo Lake. We had just come to closure, the despacho burning, prayers ascending…when Q’ero friends began murmuring amongst themselves. Some were pointing directly overhead. A condor and eagle were flying together.

And in the minutes that followed, an inspiration came to me: the compelling urge to somehow start bringing Native people from the US Southwest for intimate circles with their counterparts south. I say “somehow” because I knew no Native people in my home area at the time. Also understand, at the time, I’d never heard of the Condor and Eagle Prophecy.

Long story short: I came home from that journey with a vision. Synchronicities occurred. The next summer I returned to Peru bringing David and Clarence Washington, a Hopi father and son from Shungopavi, Second Mesa, Arizona. More Q’ero Wisdom Keepers gathered with us than ever before until we numbered nearly forty. That journey had incredible affect on us all, especially David and Clarence.

Coming home, I endured intense labor pains to establish Kenosis Spirit Keepers as the nonprofit extension of Kenosis. Anyone who has done this knows what hoops the IRS makes you jump through. It isn’t pretty. I couldn’t have done it without the support of our fledgling board, particularly Doug Easterling and Lucinda Brogden who knew the territory. I didn’t. In October 2007 we became a legitimate nonprofit whose mission helps to preserve threatened Indigenous traditions.

In 2008 Hopi elder Harold Joseph came as our guest to clear the way for other Hopis to safely follow, returning along their migration paths, in the manner given him by the secret society he belongs to. Quietly, he would move away from the group or stay behind while others went on, just for a few minutes then rejoin us. In a number of those places we traveled through in the Cusco and Puno regions that summer, Harold recognized symbols—in a Pachamama cave, in the way the stones were placed in an Inca wall, something carved and almost hidden, in the eagles flying alongside us—which created validation for him.

Harold also paved the way in the highlands and lowlands of Chiapas, Mexico. In 2009 his meeting and offerings to Don Antonio Martinez, Lacandón Maya elder in the tiny rainforest village of Najá, came at a vulnerable time—and made a difference. That story and the effect that followed was published by Sacred Fire Magazine in Fall 2012 and may be downloaded.

Since that time, we have sponsored a number of traditional Hopi Spirit Keepers on programs in Peru, Mexico and Guatemala. With the help of Hopi friends, I’ve started a program in their home villages. Anyone who is drawn may participate and also support preservation.*

In this ninth year from that flight of the condor and eagle and the birth of my personal vision, I’m pleased to offer a video documenting spiritual travel programs with Native leaders and healers from Summer 2007 through Spring 2014.**

 

 In October 2014 Harold returns to Peru with us. Once again he is acting as the emissary of his religious leader, Lee Wayne Lomayestewa. But this time it’s to seek prayers from the Q’ero spiritual leaders for the continuation of the traditional Hopi way of life, now very much threatened. Council will be held in the Q’ero village of Ccochamocco.

Lorna Joseph from Shungopavi will be joining us in January 2015 for our Maya Mysteries program in Chiapas, Mexico. She has heard the stories from those Tribal members who have traveled with us. Now she wants to experience her southern relations personally and what comes from overlapping creation stories. Such validation creates spiritual strength.

The number nine also symbolizes the human gestation period. I never could have predicted all that has occurred since that time I was sitting in circle with Q’ero spiritual leaders in 2006. I had no preconceived notion. Nor do I now.

And yet…I sense we are again upon another threshold with this work. I can feel it. And I invite anyone who wants to be part of it, holding intent, to stand beside me with integrity, and take the step.

We look for the burning bush. But truly, it’s the subtle, quiet moments that open us…

 ☀ Individuals from different cultures share a meal and discover camaraderie, even though they don’t understand each other’s spoken language.

☀ Two Indigenous people, with common ancestors, put their heads together and compare notes.

☀ A brown hand is extended to a white hand to offer help up a steep trail.

 Then the recognition comes: You are my brothers and sisters!

*****

*A portion of tuitions for spiritual travel programs are tax-deductible to fund these efforts. Early registration discount for the October 24-November 2, 2014 Heart of the Andes program ends June 20. Early registration discount for the January 18-28, 2015 Entering the Maya Mysteries program ends September 12.

** Thanks so much to Sunny Heartley who composed and produced the soundtrack for this video with his beautiful Native flute music. Visit his website.

Categories: Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Lacandón Maya, Maya, Q'ero, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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