Monday, August 15, 2011

Pago a la Tierra

It’s quite a trip thinking of oneself as a tool of God or the spirits or whatever deity one might believe in. I recently had a revelation that has made me think really hard about my spirituality and relationship with what I consider to be God.

On Thursday night we had a Pago a la Tierra (payment to the Earth) at Qantu. Every August many Andean people pay hommage to PacchaMama (mother earth) with this type of ceremony. It is thought that she gets hungry so she must be satisfied with this things the people have to offer her and in return she will grant the people their wishes. It was just the profes, a shaman, and an interpreter. First, coca leaves were spread out on a manta (a blanket) and we all looked for full leaves to make quintas, or groups of three leaves placed in the shape of a clover. We gave them to each other as offerings or respect and friendship and every quinta I received I was to put in my mouth and chew. Well, for anyone who has chewed coca leaves, after a while your tongue falls asleep because of the alkaloids in the plants. The interpreter passed around ceniza which you are only supposed to take a very small bit of. It’s super strong but when it is mixed with the coca leaves it creates a sweet taste. Unfortunately, all the coca and ceniza left my tongue with 5 canker sore. Oh well, it was worth it if what we asked for comes to fruition.

We sat in a circle and kept making quintas, making a pile of them for every intention we wanted to share and offer to Pacchamama (mother earth). Many people asked for the prosperity of Qantu, a larger house for the association, the health and well being of students and professors, but what affected me the most was the request for a new violin teacher to come quickly before Angela leaves for school next January. Had they asked for a violin teacher last time they did a pago a la tierra? I asked Flor afterward and she said yes, they had asked for a violin teacher and here I was. Whoa, was I somehow sent by the Apus (mountain gods) to Qantu? We continued on and after everyone had asked for what they wanted we watched as the shaman put all sorts of trinkets and toys into the package along with all our coca leaves. Each item represented something. For example, there was fake money to represent wealth, there was a plastic house to represent a home, food, cloth, lots of cereals such as quinoa and anis. Once the package was complete it was put over a fire to be burned to ashes which would then be buried in the ground the following day. Only when the offering is in the ground with Pacchamama take action. One thing I thought was kind of funny was how as women, a lot of us were not able to actually look directly as the burning homage. Why? Who know, probably some machista bs but whatever, I wasn’t going to jinx anything by watching it.

So, the whole ceremony got me thinking about myself as a tool sent by the spirits but what really got me thinking more was later that night when I was talking to Marco about everything. He told me that a year and a half ago he had asked Señor de Huanca or Señor de los Milagros in Lima, for happiness. He wasn’t specific about it so it left the possibilities wide open but he told me that his happiness came when I came into his life. He wasn’t a depressed, down in the dumps, kind of person before but he has been through a lot the past 8 years and he just wanted some happiness to come about. What a feeling knowing that I was what made him believe in his faith even more than before. Did Señor de Huanca bring me to Marco? Was it just coincidence? I honestly can’t say but ever since I got to Cusco I have felt a change in the way I feel about my faith in a higher spirit. I honestly think that sometimes it isn’t coincidence that certain things happen and at other moments I am absolutely positive it is coincidence. With these two I am leaning more towards faith and the possibility that I do have a destiny. However, I am not entirely convinced that I have no control over my destiny. I think that on the one hand we have choices and if we are in situations that seem hopeless there is always the option of changing our attitudes which in turn can drastically change the outcome of a situation. The rational part of me keeps saying that I should think logically about things but the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that some things are meant to be and and not meant to be pondered so intensely. I have to say, it’s a wonderful feeling!

1 comment:

  1. Uh oh, I better get you back here right away!

    Human beings are naturally attracted to superstition and the mysterious and lived for hundreds of thousands of years yielding to it and building huge mental castles in the air that had no basis in fact. It was institutionalized into churches and religious doctrine from the simple roots that you experienced. Everyone feels this pull to go back at one time or another. But we know the result was a huge dead weight that, far from expanding life, blocked the mind from rational thought.

    Only in the last 400 years has the candle of reason been kept steadily burning in the vast darkness of mystical thought that actively sought to extinguish it. Don't forget that science was actively discouraged by the church and those who dared to use their reason were terribly persecuted if not executed.

    The Founding Fathers knew that church and state had to be separated because experience showed when God and Spirit are in play, nobody and everybody is an authority with no basis to settle things one way or another. It invites discord and ultimately warfare.

    Rudimentary spiritualism in the form you experienced is harmless and pleasant but be on guard as it is a temptress that plays upon our natural inclination to want a higher power and to be relieved of responsibility!

    Ignorance attributing cause to spirits and gods has given way to real understanding of how the universe works. The benefits have been overwhelming. Aztecs are no longer ripping living hearts out on stone altars. Puritans are no longer putting witches to death. The Enlightenment was so very very very long in coming. Resist the siren song of the belief that things unseen are acting in the world, because when the curtain is pulled aside you will always find some real live human beings are using such beliefs to further their own very real power - just as did the priests, shamans and clergy of old. To be credulous is to be open to abuse.

    Carl Sagan wrote an excellent book about all this called "A Demon Haunted World: Science as a candle in the darkness" that I recommend.

    Love you lots!