On the Tuesday of #Carnaval in La Paz, here in #Bolivia, we were invited by a family where we are staying to attend a small local ceremony & offering to #Pachamama. This is a fairly traditional event here on the Tuesday of Carnaval, so we were happy to go along, as there would be no chanting, nor sacrifices!
Pachamama is integral to Andean culture & beliefs, being by far the most important of the female deities. It’s both a Quechuan & Aymaran word, meaning ‘mother earth’ or ‘world mother’ in English, and is the diety concerned with fertility, abundance, and therefore important for agriculture – for the Andean peoples agriculture was their primary activity, at least until colonialism, catholicism & capitalism arrived to enslave them. (info on Pachamama in english 1 and 2, and in spanish).
In modern times therefore elements of Catholicism have slipped into the ceremonies, sometimes with the Virgin Mary being linked with Pachamama. Thankfully our ceremony was free from such corruption.
Tuesday’s event, on ‘Martes de Challa‘ (ie the Toast of Tuesday), was very much a low key family & community affair. Homes are decorated with streamers and balloons etc, and ‘chicha’ (alcoholic maize drink) is sprinkled at the 4 corners of the home. An offering to Pachamama is prepeared & decorated – featuring for example a cake, sweets, nuts & fruit, sweets etc. People gather round the offering on a ‘mesa’ (a table), and will take turns to blow on 3 coca leaves each before adding them to the offering – by blowing on the leaves you are imbuing them with your spirit, giving thanks to Pachamama, and perhaps reaching out to someone who has departed this life. Wine may be drunk, and then the offering is ceremoniously burnt.
People gather around the fire, and may sprinkle more chicha on it, whilst making a wish – a wish for something positive in the coming year ie not the death of Trump, but the overthrow of Trump & his ilk by a progressive mass social movement, or more simply just the wish for a good harvest etc. People will then sit down to a communal meal, something fairly simple. When the ashes of the fire have cooled, the ashes will be dug into the ground, to fertilise the earth – putting something back.
Such simple, communal, acts of thanksgiving, and acknowledgement of the importance of ‘mother earth’ are to be welcomed, particularly at times such as these when some elements of humanity seem bent on the destruction of the planet through their own greed & lust for power. It really isn’t just a load of old superstitious (or hippy) nonsense, but a genuine attempt to reconnect with what sustains us, before it is too late…