The ritual at Otorongowarmycocha (Female Jaguar Lagoon) and the Moray Circles honored the rich, fertile potentiality of creation that I yearn to dance with in my everyday life. This “feminine” quality of energy feeds my creativity, nurtures my availability, and reminds me to be fluid and adaptive in my relationships and engagements. In complementary contrast, the ceremony at Otorongococha (Male Jaguar Lagoon) and don Mariano’s coca leaf reading
I know now, without doubt, that my personal journey requires me to heal on all levels, to evolve, to become whole — to return to ayni.
It is cold this morning. The sun has a way to go before it crests the mountains and begins to warm the air. Last night over dinner, several woman made plans to go back to Otorongowarycocha early this morning to hold ceremony and take a cleansing dip in its feminine-rich waters. Too cold for me! Instead, I join the Q’ero shaman to learn more about the ceremony and two rites of initiation that will occur later this morning.
Rites of initiation are traditionally conferred after an apprenticeship that involves learning and mastering techniques and rituals. There are many different types of karpays. During the ceremony, a shaman of considerable power transfers a body of knowledge they possess (karpay) energetically to his or her apprentice. Often a metaphor of a “seed” is used to describe this transmission of knowledge: “seeds” are planted in soil (apprentice) that has been well prepared. Once planted it is the apprentice’s responsibility to nurture these “seeds” so they sprout (come into consciousness) and grow strong (are connected to kollana affinities) to create wholeness and well-being. As in gardening, however, not all seeds mature. Some rot in the ground. Others are not adequately nurtured so whither and die. And, others are eaten by birds and other creatures before they have an opportunity to grow. Throughout my apprenticeship I have received a variety of karpays, some again and again until I learn to become a more proficient steward of experience.
The first rite we are to receive this morning is that of the Altomesayok, which is connect to a body of knowledge associated with the Upper World and its archetypal forces of nature. These include spirits identified with holy mountains known as apu. I first received this initiation several years ago, while undergoing my initial training with The Four Winds Society, but like all initiation rites they are given repeatedly, "seeding" the possibility that the body of knowledge will be nurtured to “grow corn.” With this particular rite comes a bi-directional responsibility. When Spirit calls, one must immediately respond affirmatively. Conversely, Spirit answers when called upon.
The second rite we are to receive is the Musakmesayoq or the Rite of Becoming. “This,” don Humberto tells us, “is a new transmission that the Q’ero have recently received and want to pass along.” It is to prepare us for the Taripaypacha, which is understood to be the next stage of consciousness when culturally we move beyond the limitations of individual karma to that of group (allyu) karma. “The time when we meet our essential (kollana) Soul-Selves and are no longer bound to ego.”
Dressed in my black poncho, I sit in the ceremonial circle with my allyu brothers and sisters. The ceremony begins with mastay, the gifting of our prayers with k’intus for another’s becoming. The mestana full of coca leaves sits in the center of the circle. The more prayers we consume, the higher the vibration rises of our luminous energy fields.
Once the despachos are fully constructed, wrapped and tied with strings of red, we are cleansed by the shamans. Francesco cleanses my energy body first with his mesa. Bracing myself with a wider than normal stance, knees slightly bent, I await the thump on the crown of my head followed by the vacuuming and pulling-off of heavy energy (hucha) — front and back. Next, don Mariano bestows the Musakmesayoq Rite while softly reciting Quechua prayers. Doña Bernadina cleanses my energy body next. Tinkling her little bell over the crown of my head, she prays on my behalf to the archetypal forces as she scours my luminous energy body with her mesa. Lastly, don Humberto confers the Altomesayoq Rite. Stillness and silence descends upon our group. Then, as if on cue, we hug each other and the medicine people. A discernible glow surrounds our allyu. The power of this morning's ceremony percolates into the very depth of my being.
Quickly and imperceptibly we rearrange ourselves from one ceremony to the next. On the heels of receiving initiation rites, there is another type of union to be made — a wedding. The second wedding of this trip. The groom, resplendently dressed, plays a beautiful melody on a recorder. Ausangate towering behind him in all its majesty. Below where we are gathered along the lagoon’s edge, the bride, dressed like an Asian/Andean princess, sits astride a white horse led by one of our guides. The scene is storybook romantic. As the bride and horse approach, the groom steps forward to help her down. Thus begins the symbology of their union.
Near the close of the ceremony, the groom invites us to pick a black velvet pouch from a container he is carrying. Inside each is a necklace of fused glass with a stamped silver disk, which was made by the bride. The one I chose, or rather was chosen by, is stamped with the image of a hummingbird. Perfect. In the Inka cosmology, hummingbird represents one’s connection with this ancestral lineage, reminds us to drink deeply from the sweet nectar of life, and to be fully negotiable so we can change course in a flash.
It is afternoon by the time the ceremonies are over. Quickly we eat lunch and ready ourselves for the trek to Alcacocha — the Rainbow Lagoon. At about 17,500 feet in elevation, I pack a wind jacket, gloves, wool hat in my daypack, along with my mesa, water, a protein bar, camera and extra memory card. Not knowing what the terrain will be like or how I will feel at an even higher elevation, I decide to ride one of the Peruvian horses rather than hike. Besides, we have less than four hours to reach the Rainbow Lagoon, hold ceremony, and return before the sun sets.
“Good Boy” is the name of my chestnut brown Peruvian horse. Thankfully, he has a saddle, albeit not a comfortable one, and stirrups. Many do not. Quite a number of others opt to ride, too. Deceptively, the steepest part of the journey is at the beginning, from our campsite at 14,000 feet to the plateau above.
From this vantage, several homesteads can be seen in the distance with alpaca and llamas grazing in pastures delineated by stone walls. The holiest of feminine mountains — Salcantay — can also be seen in the far distance. Ausangate's complementary opposite holy mountain, Salcantay's medicine teaching is about being in relationship with wild, chaotic feminine energy.
The challenge is a short, but very steep scree slope that at the top of the pass narrows. It must be negotiated. There is no way around it. While going up will be an adventure, I instantaneously realize the return trip will involve skiing scree on horseback! “Oh, Mr. deMille, I don’t know if I’m quite up for this!” I say to myself.
There is no time to pull out my camera and capture the moment. This will be a Zen experience — coming and going! The horse and rider in front of me begin their ascent. I watch carefully since she is a much more experienced rider than I. After whispering a few encouraging words to “Good Boy,” I dig my heels gently into his sides while saying, “OK, let’s go.” Reigning him slightly to the left, I then cut back to the right to minimize the steep ascent and lessen the possibility of “Good Boy” losing his footing. It is not until we have made it over the top of the pass that I am aware of holding my breath. I let out a silent “Yippee!” not wanting to startle the horse and rider behind me. From here, the trail gradually descends several hundred feet, to a stone hut.
We are ecstatic to learn that don Mariano Turpo is here. Several days ago, we were told that the 96 year old “Keeper of the Rainbow Lagoon” was not well, and had left the mountain to get medical treatment. It was, at the time, unknown whether his health would permit his return while we were here. As I discovered, it is an arduous trip from here to town. I cannot imagine making the journey at his age, let alone in ill health!
It is considerably colder at this elevation. Reaching into my daypack, I quickly put the wind jacket over my polar fleece jacket and add a wool hat and gloves. Movement is slower, too. I am very aware of my heart pumping, and lungs expanding and contracting as I walk over to the ceremonial circle by the stone hut.
The views from here are fabulous — Alcacocha is several hundred feet below, and towering above is the holy mountain Colca Cruz. I am thankful for the potato chips, coca leaves, and herbal supplements that have helped my body stay hydrated and oxygenated. I feel good. Granted, I didn’t hike the more than 3,000 feet in elevation today, but nonetheless I am grateful for my body’s stamina and well-being.
Seated in the ceremonial circle with us are don Mariano and his grandson, who is taking care of him. Though it is very cold, we sit quietly in stillness — each of us holding impeccable intent to connect to our essential nature (waykey) that is incorruptible and in concert with creation.
After everyone has received a blessing and gift from don Mariano, an egg-shaped rock is passed around for us to imprint with a personal prayer that will be carried by the wind to the star people. My prayer seeks assistance from Pachamama, Wiracocha, Apu Ausangate and Apu Colca Cruz, which rises above Alcacocha, to help me further open my mind, my heart and my availability so I step into the fullness of my essential (soul) being.
Walking a short distance to a large rock outcropping overlooking Alcacocha, I sense an energetic force stronger than I have ever felt before. Later I learn the source is known in Quechua as a huaca, “a sacred object or place.” These can be natural places in the environment such as the Rainbow Lagoon and Ausangate or man-made like the temples Jerry and I did ceremony at when we first arrived, or even a church. What distinguishes a huaca is that it contains “high-voltage” energy (kollana) of a magnitude that creates a portal to alternate realities that can shift a person’s luminous energy field to create ayni.
This particular spot overlooking Alcacocha is such a place, and it is don Mariano’s job, as “Keeper of the Rainbow Lagoon,” to ‘feed’ this huaca with prayers so the portal to our star brothers and sisters, and especially the Pleiades, remains open. Like us, medicine people come here in pilgrimage to add their prayers.
As sacred space is created beside this huaca above Alcococha, my body literally vibrates with the energy of this sacred place. It is a surreal setting. My energy centers suck deeply from this energy, reorganizing the very essence (DNA) of my being. I am quiet and respectful, yet inside I am screaming out with joy!
It is getting late, the light is changing and the mountains begin to glow. Rather than walking back to the horses, I feel as if I am floating. Unlike the ride up to Alcacocha, I am moving with the speed of my horse. We seem to be standing still, but the scenery keeps changing. In no time we arrive at the top of the pass. Without pause, or fear, I take “Good Boy” down the scree slope. No problem. I whisper words of gratitude for his sure-footedness while gently stroking his neck. He, in turn, snorts back “You’re welcome.” When Salcantay comes into view I pause to inhale, through each of my senses, her extraordinary beauty bathed in alpine glow. “I will come back to know you directly and experience your energy,” I whisper.
We arrive back at camp just as the last light of dusk fades into blackness. The smell of dinner cooking greets me. But first, there is a special fire ceremony to attend, on the bank of the Blue Lagoon, which is held annually by the local horsemen to welcome Pleiades back in the southern sky. After opening sacred space, in Quechua, they construct large squares of hay upon the ground. Each square represents an aspect of life: family, health, community, things they are thankful for, and things they would like to manifest. One of the horsemen tells us that Apu Ausangate is their holy mountain, and provides them with everything — water to quench their thirst and that of their animals, to irrigate their crops and provide fish and stones to construct their shelters, walls and bridges; and tourists such as us. “Everything,” the horseman underscores, “is provided by Ausangate.”
Blessed is the Universe that conspired to bring me here, to this place, to the extraordinary experiences that are of this lifetime — that have coalesced to open me up, break me down, and help me remember who I am.
Dancing at 14,000 feet is no easy feat for someone who lives just above sea-level. By the time all the hay has turned to ash, I am out of breath, and my heart is beating wildly. With many thanks all around, I head back to camp and dinner — hot and delicious soup. I opt for two bowls and nothing more. An announcement is made that after throwing coca leaves, the medicine people have determined that tomorrow Francesco will be going, on behalf of us all, to a huaca farther up Ausangate to leave a mesa that will contain one kuya — a stone that has been initiated with power — from each of our mesas. Three from our group will accompany him only to the top of the moraine. They will leave by 4:30 a.m. so they can meet us at the hot spring for lunch.
I know immediately which of my kuyas it will be — my female jaguar stone — a reddish stone shaped like a heart. The medicine teaching for me that is held in this stone relates to receiving and expressing love in everything I do, mirroring for others the love I feel inside, and unconditionality. Not surprisingly, the energetic connection I have to this stone is attached through my heart (munay) energy center. With a prayer of gratitude for all that this kuya has taught me and a kiss, I place the stone in our allyu’s collective mesa. I feel light. My heart sings. There is no more appropriate place to give my “heart” than to Ausangate.
Though tired, today’s work is not yet done. I collect what little kindling can be scrounged from the kitchen tent and a bit of hay left from the horsemen’s fire to light my own small ceremonial fire to burn the despacho that don Humberto and doña Bernadina created for my spiritual evolution while in Pisa'q. It is difficult, at this altitude, to light a fire. Silently, I call in directions and begin singing a medicine song or ikaro. I sing while waiting for the fire to burn hot, then, after placing the despacho on the fire, turn my back while it burns. It is impossible to prolong my ceremony for long because there is not enough fuel to keep the fire burning. It is a just after 9 p.m. when I return to our tent and hug Suzi goodnight. We agree, it has been another extraordinary day!