Q’ero Elder Don Manuel Q’espi, in a presentation at Canyon de Chelley in May 1997 (translated by Jose Luis Herrera), spoke of despachos this way:
“The despacho is a gift–a giving back of what we receive everyday in our lives. We seek, through the despacho ceremony, to bridge the ordinary and non-ordinary realms; to establish new patterns of relationship and possibility. The despacho places us in right relationship, right ayni, with the Pachamama. It establishes a linkage between our three centers of interaction in the kaypacha (the physical universe); our llankay (our personal power and source of action, located in our solar plexus), our munay (the source of our love, located in our heart chakra), and our yachay (wisdom, sourced from our foreheads or “third eye“).
The contents of the despacho are in part determined by its purpose. The various elements that comprise the despacho energetically interact to permit access to portals or bridges from the ordinary and non-ordinary worlds. When working in ceremony with the despacho, one is accessing the non-ordinary energetic dimensions, the source of things. Though the contents may have symbolic significance, the despacho, when performed with the correct intent, transcends literal and symbolic domains and directly accesses the archetypal and energetic realms.
“In order to build a good co-existence with nature, the only real choice we have is to enter with our heart, wisdom, and our action. We call upon the spirits of the waters, of the mountains, and of the Pachamama to come and help us prepare the offering. We have the intent of seeking to establish and maintain a continuous dialogue with the Mother and to bring balance and harmony to our lives, and to all our relations. It is through the dynamics of love, of right thinking, and of right action that our lives become bountiful.
He described several types of despachos in this way:
“The Pachamama despacho is an offering of thanks to Mother Earth and an invocation for her blessings.”
“The Ayni despacho: Ayni is the operating principle on Incan shamanism and refers to “reciprocity” and divine exchange. The intent of the Ayni despacho is to bring balance in our lives and relationship between our secular and sacred worlds.”
Performing a Despacho ceremony is a unique way of connecting with the energy and spirits of nature. Generally, it is done to honor Mother Earth, or “Pachamama,” and the “Apus,” or the nature spirits that may take the form of mountains, rivers or lakes. A Despacho is also done to express or manifest what we would like to attract into our lives or into the lives of our family or community members. We show our gratitude, love and respect for Mother Earth and the great nature spirits of the mountains, lakes or rivers through symbolism, in the form of items representing the best of our work and our finest crops. By expressing love and gratitude from the bottom of our hearts, we are also manifesting our intentions to attract more of what it is we are grateful for.
The components of a Despacho are physical and spiritual, tangible and intangible. They represent what is part of our lives now, and our intentions for what is to come next. The act of harmonizing with nature is done by engaging ourselves in a sacred Ayni or spiritual act of reciprocity with the energies of the Universe. Just as in the physical world we receive help when we give help to others, in the spiritual-energetic world, the same law applies.
Prior to doing a Despacho ceremony, each person participating (Despachos are usually done in a group setting) should prepare him or herself. The length of the preparation depends on the type of ceremony or event for which the intention is directed. There are many ways to prepare, but the purpose is the same—one needs to elevate one’s consciousness, engaging his or her higher self. Some effective methods of preparation include meditation (following a tradition that feels comfortable), listening to relaxing music, engaging in prayer, or cleansing oneself by smudging with incense, sage or tobacco.
Setting the environment for a Despacho can take a few minutes. The idea is to set the tone to create a respectful space, or in Native American terms, a sacred circle. In the Andes, people sometime use flutes, rattles or drums to play music, or chant in a ceremonial, meditative rhythm. If any of that is not an option, meditative recorded music can be played in the background.
Paqos or Andean practitioners of the Inka tradition perform Despacho ceremonies outdoors when possible, to be physically close to Nature. Weather permitting, it is best to take off one’s shoes not only to show reverence and respect to the sacred circle but also to be in direct contact with Mother Earth, the Apus, and the spiritual guides that will be invoked to join the circle. A Despacho ceremony creates a ‘waka’ or a sacred temple in the place where it is performed; it can be done virtually anywhere, since all land is sacred.
The ceremony itself may vary from region to region, just like the name varies, but the goal is the always the same—to connect, recognize our true purpose, and experience Ayni on the three planes of existence—physical, mental and spiritual—using our purest intentions via our higher self.
Immediately before beginning a Despacho ceremony, it’s helpful to do a final cleansing exercise as a group. This might take the form of a short guided meditation to help everyone release any remaining heavy energy, followed by smudging with sage. Such acts of final cleansing help set the stage for the Despacho by allowing people to achieve a relaxed, meditative state of being.
The Despacho ceremony begins when one person, typically the leader of the ceremony, lays out a large, plain white sheet of paper. The group offering will be built on, and later wrapped in, this paper.
The first item added to the Despacho is a seashell shaped like those that house clams. By starting with the shell, the group invokes the feminine energies of Mama Qocha, the Mother of the Oceans, as well as those of Pachamama, or Mother Earth. Since our Mother literally supports our every step and gives so generously of Herself to care for us, we build our Despacho offering starting with her energy as our base.
Once the shell is in place, the leader distributes three coca leaves (which in the US can be represented by bay leaves) to each person participating in the Despacho. Upon receiving the three leaves, each participant arranges the leaves so that the bases overlay each other at one end, but the points of the leaves spread out like a fan. Participants should hold onto their three-leaf arrangements, called Kintu, with both hands to show reverence to the sacredness of the ceremony.
After everyone in the group is holding their Kintu, the leader asks the participants to invoke the presence of their spiritual guides so that the group will be surrounded and supported by the sacred aspects of the Divine that are most important to each person in attendance.
There is no one way to invite the presence of all the sacred aspects of the Creator. It may be done aloud or silently; simultaneously, with everyone present participating at once, or each in turn. However, the invitation is always made with utmost respect and reverence, and with an open heart and the purest of intentions to create a sacred space by incorporating many aspects of the Universe into the circle as both protectors of the group and witnesses from a higher dimension. As each participant invokes the presence of the aspects of the sacred that are dearest to his or her heart, s/he invites the presence of each with the words “hampuy, hampuy, hampuy” (please come, please come, please come), followed by blowing out three times in different directions to take the request to a higher realm.
The participants return their Kintus to the ceremony leader, who tucks them artfully around the shell in the center of the Despacho, so that they fan out in all directions. The leader then invites the participants to contribute their individual offerings to the Despacho, each in turn, along with their most sincere intentions that they wish to communicate to the Creator through the Despacho.
Depending on the purpose for the Despacho, these intentions may be expressions of gratitude for the abundance received, the growth experienced, or recent lessons that have been internalized. Or they may include requests for healing for the participants themselves or for their friends or families, as well as requests to manifest any number of outcomes, from a happy marriage, children, business success, or protection for a home or car, to name a few examples.
With each intention put into the Despacho, the person voicing it adds one or more items around and on top of the shell and Kintus. Items offered may include such things as candies or cookies (it’s well known in the Andes that like many of us, Pachamama loves sweet treats); products of our harvest, especially rice and other grains (which nourish the Apus); cotton (representing the clouds, which connect our physical realm with the world of Spirit); gold and silver foil (representing the masculine energy of the sun and the feminine energy of the moon); multicolored confetti or paper streamers (representing joy and the rainbow, our reminder that our ultimate purpose is to ascend and to help others do the same); animal fat (representing the richness and abundance of our lives); and spices or perfumed waters (representing the fullness and beauty of our lives).
If the Despacho is for a very special occasion, such as to bless a new marriage, the participants may include a confection made in the shape of bride and groom, along with their heartfelt intentions for a long, happy, loving union for the newly joined couple. Despacho “ingredients” vary substantially according to the purpose and intentions that the participants want to manifest or communicate. However, Despachos may only be used for helping people, never for harm, as they are a fundamental tool for spiritual ascension.
Since ancient times, people of the Andes have based their lives on the natural principles embodied in Despacho ceremonies. The recognized inherently the importance of expressing their gratitude both to the Creator and to the ultimate provider of the necessary components of all life—the Earth (soil), the Sun (energy), the Wind (air), and the Water—for they knew that without any one of them, all life would die. Likewise, they recognized the essential need for balance in life, the complete interdependence of the masculine and the feminine, and the undeniable interconnectedness between ourselves and all other inhabitants in our Universe.
If you would like to have a personal Despacho or attend in a group, call to set up an appointment.