Despachos – Offerings to Mother Earth and the Cosmos

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In Peru, one of the oldest of traditions is the making of despachos, sacred offerings that are made to the mountain spirits (Sacred Apus) and to Pachamama (Mother Earth). This practice is meant to bring ayni, or reciprocity, into balance and is an act of profound love. In Peru, this concept of love is called Munay, and it is a reminder that we are all one with absolutely no separateness, and that to love others is to love ourselves. To love a stone is to love others. To love a tree is to love ourselves. All of this interconnection of beings, elements, spirits and sacred places is represented in a despacho.

So just what is a despacho? Well, the easiest way to describe it is by translating the word „despacho“ from Spanish, which means „office“ or study. In ancient times, people did not have „offices“. For the shaman, his or her office was the medicine bundle, which when opened, would contain all the energy and frequencies of the environment, and would contain all the tools the shaman needed to bring things into balance. Hence, one did not „cure“ someone, one brought them into balance.

The despacho is similar to a medicine bundle in that it is an open bundle. The difference is that the shaman would have spent many years learning and being initiated into the practice and the use of all the tools that make up his medicine bundle. In a despacho, the items that are placed in the bundle are done so purposefully, with the specific intention of creation balance. I’ll talk more about that in a moment.

In the Sacred Valley of Peru it is said that there are well over 300 types of despacho offerings. Some are for healing, some are for bringing abundance, other are to attract loving relationships, or perhaps to honor new beginnings or endings. The making of despachos is not limited to the Sacred Valley alone. There are coastal, mountain, jungle and northern Peruvian medicine people who work with despachos all the time. And it is a practice also known in Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Not only are there hundreds of types of despachos, but as you can imagine, you might put 5 shamans in a room for each to create the same type of despacho, and each despacho would be different from the other!

Essentially the creation of a despacho is done as a ceremony, in which those attending seek to come into alignment with whatever their personal intent might be, as well as to create a group intent. The most important purpose behind the despacho is to express gratitude to Pachamama, sweet Mother Earth, who supports us in everything we do. Only after expressing our gratitude to Pachamama does one begin to ask for whatever intention they seek to manifest.

In Peruvian mysticism, one works energetically with three very powerful energy centers. Not unlike the chakras, these three energy centers have certain characteristics. The first is the physical center, called Llankay in Quechua. This center is located roughly between the first and second chakra, and subsumes the two chakras. It is one’s power center, the place from which one draws the ability to stand in power, similar to the Tan Tien, the body’s center of energy and gravity.

The second energy center is called Munay, and is located at the heart center. It is here that we source love and compassion, and connect with Spirit. It subsumes the third, fourth and fifth chakras. And the last energy center is Yachay, or the wisdom center. If you were to place your palm on your forehead (on the 3rd eye) and allow the fingers to rest gently across the top of your head, that is the wisdom center. So it incorporates both the 6th and 7th chakras. It is here that we access our wisdom, and from here, we can tap into the wisdom of the cosmos.

The shaman creating the despacho works from all the energy centers, and infuses each and every item placed on the despacho with the characteristics of each energy center. In addition to calling on the attributes of each energy center, the shaman will create ayni, or balance, by working with the energy of the community of participants. As he weaves each person’s luminous threads into the despacho, he thus harmonizes both the personal intentions and the group’s intentions as a whole.

Usually despachos are built on lovely bright wrapping paper. After all, it is a gift for Pachamama! Some despachos can be very elaborate or very simple. Usually, there are items placed on the paper that represent certain basic categories. One of these is the Animal kingdom, or Tirakuna. The Tirakuna are spirit watchers of nature. Their role is to help us always stay in balance. Some Tirakuna reside in rocks, trees, sacred ceremonial sites. Others manifest as cows, dogs, animals.

Another element that is represented is Plant products for the Auquis, who are the mythical nature spirits such as devas, gnomes, fairies. And there are mineral products for the Malquis, or tree spirits. Then we have human-made products. These products are offered to the Machikukuna, the ancient ones. And lastly there are elements representing the Cosmos, the Chaskakuna (the stars) and the Sun and Moon.

A despacho is usually created as a form of mandala on paper. As mentioned earlier, the simplest of despachos will have sugar (Pachamama LOVES sweets!) and flower petals or bay leaves to hold the prayers. In Peru they use coca leaves, sometimes in sets of three or seven. Each group of three is prayed over and infused with the intention of providing beauty, power and energy that will create balance, thus allowing our prayer to be heard. Even though the despacho might only have two ingredients, one can infuse each set of the flower petals or bay leaves with the characteristics of the five basic categories.

A more elaborate despacho will include symbols of everything: the elements, the four directions, weather, clouds, mountains, rainbows, the fruits of human labor, emotions, ideas, and so on. In fact, on August 1st, considered one of the most auspicious dates in the Inkan calendar as it marks the shift of vibrations (almost like a new year), nearly everyone hires a shaman to create a Hatun Despacho, or Great Despacho. These can be quite huge!

When the offering is complete, the entire assemblage is folded, tied and wrapped in a sacred weaving. It is then offered to the forces of nature either by burning, burying, or by casting into water. Usually the despachos are burned, for faster manifestation. The energy and intention of all the participants is contained in the despacho, and released into the universe, where it is then transmuted into manifestation.

I often encourage people to NOT buy kits from Peru or from shaman’s markets because if we are creating a despacho in the United States (or wherever you may be), you will want to use those elements that are representative of your locale. That is the energy that pervades your sensibility, not a Peruvian energy. We do not live in Peru but we can certainly take the blessings and teachings and use them in an honoring way in our own landscape. When we create with what is in abundance in our landscape, we reinform the area and allow the Universe to know that we are honoring our own time and space.

For example, if you were to live in the Northwest, you would want to substitute salmon fat for llama fat. Or perhaps you live near or have access to buffalo fat. That would make a wonderful replacement for the llama fat. Or instead of coca leaves, which we do not have, you may substitute bay leaves, which closely resemble the coca leaves in shape. Because it’s difficult to find whole bay leaves, I often use flower petals, whatever may be growing in that season. I’m blessed to live in southern California, so I can find a variety of items quite readily. The point is to think about the source, the energy and the intent you are putting into each item being placed in the despacho. If you have had a summer garden, you will have plenty of seeds at the end of the season. These are home grown, likely organically grown, and thus carry so much more potential and personal healing energy than something store bought.

In addition to encouraging you to use those items that are local, I recommend that you journey and spend time beforehand with the items that you might like to put into the despacho. Ask Spirit if it is an honoring gift or if it might represent something that you have in mind in terms of what you’d like manifested. I often use brown sugar in place of white sugar – the idea of „sweetness“ still comes through and it honors both my intention and my beliefs. Or perhaps you are in the Minnesota area, where wild rice is somewhat plentiful. This would make a wonderful addition to represent grain in place of Quinoa, which is a Peruvian staple. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use Quinoa, readily available in many health food markets.  It’s just that there is likely something that is specific to the area in which you live, and that carries the energy of place.

Because I love to work with both essential oils and incense, I will always include those in the despacho. Copal, a resin used widely in Central America, is frequently used as a offering to the Lower World, to help illuminate the Shadow. Frankincense, on the other hand, is an offering to the Upper World, and reflects the Light from the Cosmos shining down on us. Lavender, whether in plant form or as an essential oil, represents purification and healing.

I love animals and have three fur kids of my own, so I always try to include something in the despacho that represents the animal kingdom. One easy way to do that is to use animal cookies, such as those you might give a child, or even teddy bear graham crackers. I collect the fur from my dogs and cat and use that as well.  Any feathers that you might find on walks or hikes can easily be added to represent not only the animal kingdom, but the power of the prayers to „fly“ to Great Spirit.

Use your imagination. The list of items you can include is endless. But… you don’t want to make the despacho so big that you can’t fold it and burn it. As with so many things, less is more. It is all about intention! And if you want directions for specific despachos, such as Abundance despachos, or perhaps an Aya Despacho, one to honor someone who has passed over, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I can share information on many different types. In the end, though, you are the one who knows what you want to manifest, and what intentions you wish to place in the despacho. So get creative and make it up! Spirit loves anything that comes from the heart and is your gift. As good cooks know, a recipe is only a template; it is the act of creating that brings about the most wonderful food, in this case, the most sublime of despacho offerings!

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