Honoring Grandmother Earth (and the Grandfather Mountain Spirits)
“Returning” by Jennifer Berezan – our song for the month
Pachamama is our first true Mother Earth goddess of the year, and I am very honored to be working with her this month. August is known as her sacred month across South America. I find that working with Mother Earth in her many manifestations (Gaia, Cerridwen, Isis, etc) can be so deeply healing, nurturing, and cathartic, especially for those of us whose mothers have passed, or who do not have strong relationships with our own mothers. Pachamama, Tierra Madre, is our Grandmother Earth, and she watches over, loves, and protects us with support from the Grandfather Apu – or Mountain Spirits.
During the month of August, Pachamama is exalted throughout the Andean regions of South America with food and drink offerings. In the past there were ritual animal sacrifices made to her, and the idea behind them was connected to a ritual of blood returning to the Earth, and pouring back into the mother. The offerings made to her during this time are known as despachos. The essential ritual is an act of reciprocation. Created on the first of August, she is celebrated all month long, and in many places, her day of celebrations falls on the first friday of August. Working with Pachamama’s energy and creating a despacho to her can help us with the process of reflection, which begins now.
In Peru, especially Cuzco, Los Apus are the Divine Masculine Mountain Spirits, which are directly connected to the chumpi stones some of us have been working with. They are the seven sacred mountain spirits, the sacred ones with whom we live and who we have to honor. In ancient rituals to Pachamama, one despacho would be made to the grandfathers, and one would be for Pachamama. The rituals are deeply rooted in the ancestral wisdom of Incan times. It is part of a sacred system of reciprocity between the spiritual and material world. It honors the duality of masculine and feminine, for the Apu are the masculine aspects of the Divine, and Pachamama is feminine. The Apu protect animals and men, as well as Pachamama. They are in a sense her caretakers, and I find that so beautiful. It is known that if this ritual is broken or not performed correctly, there can be serious distortions of the equilibrium in natural systems; both social and religious. It is a Universal and cosmic principle. For the Andean men, the offerings to Pachamama carry a sense of reconciliation between the spiritual powers that be, and their own rites of passage. Doing these rituals helps them connect to feminine energy, and integrate the Divine masculine with the feminine.
Journal prompts for Pachamama
Which of your crops made it to fruition this year? Which ones did not? How might you release and return them to the Mother?
Do you feel a connection to one element more than the others? How do you like to honor this connection in ritual?
Are there any rituals you do that you feel help deepen your connection to Mother Earth? How do you honor and care for the Earth in your daily life?
Our August Theme: Building a Sacred Bridge from Lammas to Mabon with Pachamama
I find it very interesting that Pachamama’s Holy day is August 1st, coinciding directly with the holiday of Lammas. She is the force which carries us from Lammas to Mabon, the second of our three autumn harvests. I would like for your work this month to involve the creation of a despacho or sacred offering to Pachamama. You should plan to make yours sometime between now and Mabon; I will teach you more about these when we gather next. It needs to be an offering that can be given to the Earth, so it needs to be made out of items that are not toxic to the planet, or are able to fully decompose. I suggest gathering sacred natural items, wrapped in compostable fabric, and tied with twine. You can make it small if you feel called to, or quite large and gather others with you to make it a group ceremony! The traditional despachos were burned, and then the ashes were buried. I like the idea of creating something that can be burned because we invoke the fire element with this ritual. This process also ties in with the rune – as a process of giving and receiving. You are giving something to Mother Earth, and in turn you are asking for her blessings throughout the year. I’d like for you to think about what you are going to give to her, will it be symbolic in some way? For example, if you have been blessed with good health this year, you might want to offer a sprig of fresh rosemary or bloodstone. You can offer different forms of natural things, like plants, stones, etc. I like to mix the media in my despacho, so you might consider doing the same.
The ancient ceremonies to Pachamama required quite a bit of preparation. There were preparation rituals that involved the cooking of food and special drinks, such as chicha de maiz, coca, cerveza, aguas dulces, flowers, chocolate, beans, rice, corn, grains of all kinds, and preparation of incense, especially Sahumerio. The ceremony could be accompanied with the lighting of white candles or different candles that symbolized different social contexts. Participants would come close to their altars, and look for symbols in what has been gathered – this is also connected to runes. The ceremonies would be led by a shaman, who serves wine, puts everything together, and adds the sweet food offerings last. Each person would make their requests for health, happiness, prosperity, to deepen their relationships with the Apus, and add white and multicolored corn. Then they would drink wine. The moment of the burning of the despacho was the most important. It represented the mother consuming the offering, and if it completely burns, it means she has received it well. The shaman – or the officiant of the ceremony – is referred to as “the one who knows”. He conjures the spirits of the mountains and subterranean deities, and he interprets the signs. This celebration is practiced in different regions of the Andes with common significances.
I am very excited to take our work south this month and engage more deeply with the Mother, with the Incan civilization, and with our own ancestry as it links us here.