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Offerings to Pachamama

Rhynie

 

At the southern end of Sun Island on Lake Titicaca is a sacred place, used by the local Andean Indians and their Kallawaya for rituals and offerings to Pachamama, the Earth Mother. The Kallawaya is a fortune teller or native doctor of the Andean Altiplano and this one is a small man, dressed inconspicuously in a white shirt and dark trousers. With thin sandals on his feet, he walks purposefully south along an unseen trail through eucalyptus trees, past a stone monument until he reaches his destination, a small, round stone enclosure. On his back, a grey sheet encases a medley of strange shaped objects which are clearly heavy, because he’s bent over forwards to balance the weight.

 

 

Once inside the stone hut, the grey sheet is emptied of its contents. First he takes out a pile of wooden logs half a metre long and proceeds to build a square-shaped stack around a pile of shavings and small twigs. We admire the view—this is a beautiful spot with the snow-capped Cordillera Real and the sacred mountain, Nevada Illampú in the east and the southern shore of Lake Titicaca in the west. It’s mid afternoon. The sky is clear and very blue, the lake surface is placid and the sun is still very hot.

 

 

We turn back to the Kallawaya who is now dressed in a bright red, sleeveless poncho with an intricately patterned woolen hat on his head— he is ready to begin a ceremony which has been handed down through his family over countless generations.

 

 

The offering package was bought from the Witches’ Market in La Paz and every item has a special significance. The contents can vary depending on the price paid, but this one contains a small llama foetus, coca leaves, sweets, small gold and silver coloured trinkets, images of the sun and the moon and crushed quartz and other crystals. We take turns to present the offering to the north, south, east and west, saying a few words to Pachamama in each direction. We are asking for peace and prosperity for the Lake and the people who live around it, but the words can change, depending on the occasion.

 

 

Offerings to Pachamama are made to celebrate marriages and births, to ask for rain and a bountiful harvest, to ask for luck in exams, anything the giver chooses. The package is finally handed to the Kallawaya who murmurs his own incantations before placing it on the wood stack and lighting it. The heat from the fire is fierce and we move away to the edges of the stone enclosure, where we sit and watch as the logs and offering burn down to embers.

 

The ceremony is complete, the Kallawaya is thanked for his services and we leave the sacred area to its guardian spirits, beckoned on by the need for a cold drink and a seat in the shade.



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