Today is Chinese New Year...a good excuse for me to write an about my new year and to share the unusual way I started it. This is my interpretation/recollection of an interesting evening, so I may not have all my "facts" about the ceremony totally correct. The pictures are courtesy of Val's daughter.
Two of my neighbors have been studying Peruvian stype shamanisn, and on New years night hosted a despacho. My rather uneducated lay description of a despacho is a ceremony where you essentially make a package of gifts and blessings to offer to mother earth (Pachamama) as thanks or as a celebration, or to seek good fortune or cast away evil spirits.
We started the evening with a lovely dinner and wine, then headed downstairs to a big table where the the paper wrapper was laid out and surrounded by the offerings.
The purchased kit is layed out on the brown paper. Rancid llama fat is smelly!
The gifts include an assortment of plant materials; seeds and leaves and fresh flower petals, sea shells and starfish, items that represent animal life, such as animal crackers and gummi bears and stickers, things that represent the earth like soil, and items that represent the heavens like rainbow strings and cotton clouds and stars. Kits can actually by purchased that contain appropriate offerings. My friends had quite a variety of items in addition to the kit which contained a few rare (for us) items like peruvian soil and llama fat and placenta. We were all invited to bring our own offerings as well.
Patty blowing smoke.
With these items we created a mandala on the paper. There was of course an order to the laying of the gifts, and their orientation and layers, all dictated to us by my friends, the shaman in training. We all sipped from a glass of wine, which was then offered to the god, my friends blew (organic) tobbacco smoke onto the pile (which seemed odd as neither of them smoke), and we all took a turn blowing a mist of Florida water over the offerings. The wine and the smoke and the Florida water where all things that the gods "like". The water was interesting as it was a more or less an alcohol (strong) extract of flowers. It wasn't meant to be swallowed, but taken into the mouth then misted over the package. I think fire water would have been a better name! More important than all the actual items were our intentions as we mantthe offerings.
The package was neatly tied up, bundled in a cloth and we took turns passed the package over each other. I think this was supposed to balance or release personal energy. I was rather surprised by the odd sensation I felt as the package was passed over me.
Val and Patti, our shaman.
After this was done we moved outside where we had a bondfire and burned the despacho, offering all of our intentions to the spirits. There was ceremony to this as well, incense oriented to the 4 coordinants, more smoke and Florida water. We watched the fire until our despacho we incinerated, looking for glimpses of the various items in the smoldering embers.
While I'm not sure I necessarily believe in this sort of mystisism, it was a very interesting way to bring in the new year. Learning the believes of other cultures is always fascinating. Besides, how can you go wrong with a ceremony that is all about thankfullness and good intentions?
The despacho burns... see the starfish?