My Peru - A Guide to the Culture and Traditions of the Andean Communities of Peru

A Guide to the Culture and Traditions of the Andean Communities of Peru



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Rituals & Beliefs in the Andes


"Andean Religion" is based on the fundamental belief that energy exists in all things (the spiritual life force) and that this energy needs to be maintained in a balanced state. This energy exists in all natural forms including trees & plants, rivers, glaciers, lakes, rocks and high mountain peaks. Quechua people believe that life depends on a balanced relationship with nature for good health, a successful harvest and fertile and abundant livestock. They believe that all life comes from Pachamama (Mother Earth) and returns to her upon death. When the energy becomes unbalanced or out of alignment, rituals are required to regain equilibrium.






Despachos or Pagos


Sacred Valley & the Milkyway




Coca Leaf


Guinea Pig


Andean Cross




Comadre / Compadre




Wool cutting ceremony




Despacho or Pago


Despacho is a Spanish word meaning offering. In Peru the word pago is often used meaning literally a payment in the form of prayers and material gifts of food, alcohol and other items considered necessary. The offerings are usually made to the spirits residing in the highest mountain peaks (known as Apus) or to Pachamama (Mother Earth) or to a combination of the two. The ceremony is usually performed by a Misayoq, a specialist in Andean rituals (commonly equated to priests). Misayoqs are believed to possess the ability to communicate directly with the mountain spirits and natural forces.

The ceremony generally takes place outdoors, in the middle of a field. The misayoq (sometimes referred to as a Paq'o) lays an unkuņa (a small rectangular finely woven cloth made from natural alpaca) on the ground, orientated in the direction of the nearest important Apu such as Salkantay or Ausangate. He places a large sheet of white paper on top of the unkuņa and upon the paper places one by one the various elements that make up the offering.


There are many variations of despachos. While there are certain elements common to all despachos the particular healing intention determines the final design and some of the contents of the offering. The intent of the ceremony may be to bring about harmony and balance to the earth (such as abundant crops and fertile animals), honour a new beginning (such as a new house, business or marriage) or to get rid of an illness or negative energy. Despachos can also be made to ward off witchcraft and sorcery. Participation in the ceremony can help reinforce spiritual relationships between members of the community and cleanse each participant of negative or heavy energy. This heavy energy actually becomes part of the offering.


It is very important that the ceremony is treated with utmost respect and faith. It is often said that a badly made despacho or a ceremony that is attended by participants who treat it as a game can often do more harm than good. Traditionally the misayoq will not charge a fee for the ceremony and any payment is completely voluntary although a small tip or payment in kind is always expected.


For more information about making a despacho click here











The compadre (literally, "co-father" or "co-parent") relationship between the parents and godparents of a child is an important bond which originates when a child is baptized in Latin American countries. The abstract noun compadrazgo ("co-parenthood") is sometimes used to refer to the institutional relationship between compadres.
From the moment of a baptism ceremony, the godparents (godfather and godmother, padrino and madrina in Spanish) share the parenting role of the baptised child with the natural parents. By Catholic doctrine, upon the child's baptism the padrinos' accept the responsibility to ensure that the child is raised according to the dictates of the Catholic faith and to ensure the child pursues a life of improvement and success (through education, marriage, personal development, and so forth).
At the moment of baptism, the godparents and natural parents become each others' compadres. (The plural form Compadres includes both male and female co-parents.) The female equivalent of compadre is comadre. Thus, the child's father will call the child's godmother "comadre," while she will call him "compadre," and so on.
Traditionally among Latin Americans, this relationship formalizes a pre-existing friendship which results in a strong lifelong bond between compadres. In its truest form, the compadre relationship becomes as strong a bond as the relationship between natural siblings or between a father or mother and his child. In many Latin American societies, life-long friends or siblings who have always spoken to each other informally (using the informal Spanish second-person, tu) will mark their new compadre relationship by using respectful or formal speech (the formal Spanish second-person, usted).
There are a number of other ritual occasions that are considered to result in a compadre relationship in various Latin American societies. These may include ritual sponsorship of other Catholic sacraments (first communion, confirmation, and marriage); sponsorship of a quinceaņera celebration; and, in Peru, sponsorship of a ritual first haircut ceremony that normally takes place when a child turns three years old.
Compadrazgo has its roots in medieval European Catholicism. The classic Spanish novel Don Quixote (1605-1615) contains several references to compadres; however, the compadre relationship has much less formal meaning in modern Spain were is a reference both to a godfather/ padrino or just to a best friend that didn't participate in any ritual. The expression is in use particularly in southern Spain. In medieval England, parents and godparents called each other "godsibs" (that is, "God siblings"). The only trace of this old Catholic English practice in modern English is the word gossip, presumably a reference to the propensity of close companions such as compadres to chat and gossip with one another. In Spanish, the verb comadrear (from comadre) similarly means "to gossip."
The term compadre has been extended in some regions to describe a relationship between two good friends. In Argentina and Paraguay, the word is used in popular speech (especially in the diminutive, compadrito) to mean "braggart, loud-mouth, bully." However, for many Latin Americans and Latinos, the word retains its original meaning and symbolism, and for them there is no greater honor than to be asked to be a padrino or compadre.







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