Since ancient times communities living in the Sacred Valley of the Incas have worshipped nature and the universe. In Peru today many still subscribe to these strong beliefs and whether or not you consider there to be a logical explanation, Intrepid’s Julio Padilla had a heart-pumping encounter with the powers of Pachamama…
“One day my brother told me he had been given a kind of ancient weapon that came from an underground tomb in the coast of Peru, dating back to around 500AD. I told him this could be very bad luck for him, because where we come from in the Amazon we do not touch things that belong to the dead. The belief of our people in the mountains is that the item could either bring you good times or bad times. And when it is about bad times, the energy of the dead could suck up your soul.
We consulted a Paqo from the Qero community. Unlike the medicine men of the coast and the jungle, the Paqos from the mountains don’t use psychotropic plants to induce a trance. He read the coca leaf for us to know about this relic and told us that the item should be taken back to the pace where it was taken, but unfortunately my brother didn’t know where the tomb was located exactly. So the Paqo, Sebastian, proposed to do a payment or ‘pagapu’, which is a ritual that gives something back to the mother earth by either burning or burying it.
The day came and we went from Cuzco city to Urubamba Valley. We found a very quiet area of the mountains, because nobody must see where the offering would be buried. Sebastian’s idea was that the Pachamama (mother earth) would collect the offering and take it through the ground back to its rightful place, this way the spirit would be calmed again.
So Sebastian, his wife Paulina, Pepe (my brother), Lucho (a friend who works with these medicine men from Qeros community) and myself began the journey. Sebastian arranged the whole offering. It took him at least one hour just to set it up, and in the meantime we were sharing smoke and wine with the Pachamama. Suddenly Sebastian started calling the spirit of the mountains. I heard before that if a bird shows up in the mountains in a lonely place it is sign of good luck. Amazingly, while Sebastian was calling the ‘animu of the apus’ (spirit of the sacred mountains), a falcon showed up and starting flying in circles around us sitting setting up the offering, it was a very special experience and we all felt different in that moment.
The ceremony kept going and my brother was getting weaker, Sebastian asked him to call Jesus (there is syncretism in the religion in the mountains, they believe in the power of the apus, plus lords, plus mountains, but at the same time they also believe in Jesus Christ). This way my brother got a bit better. Paulina was praying and rubbing things against my brother all the time, the air became different, for a moment I remember feeling like the space and time stopped for a while, it was very strange.
Sebastian gave Lucho and me directions about getting the offering into a hole he had already made in the ground. The only thing we had to do was to push a few small boulders into the hole once the offering was inside.
Sebastian started calling the power and favour of the mountains, and this was the moment when everything intensified. While he was doing this, his wife was helping him, saying things and rubbing items against my brother’s body. Pepe started to look pale and weak, it was like he was going to faint, but suddenly he started vomiting a very brown almost black liquid. Sebastian asked us to keep calm and help him.
Suddenly Sebastian came running with the offering and running back to my brother he said: “Julio, Lucho, rumi rumi”, meaning the rocks. This is the moment where I was about to push one of the small boulders and my body paralised, I could not move. Then I saw Lucho next to me, he looked like he was about to faint and fall off the cliff, so I jumped to him, grabbed him and tied him to me. I tried my best to push the boulders, but neither of us had the energy to do it. Suddenly Sebastian came to our rescue and pushed the boulders into the hole, covering the offering. Lucho and I fell to the ground, we were very weak and could not move very well. All I did was check if my brother was alright, I could see in the distance Sebastian and Paulina were taking care of him, that is all that mattered to me in that moment.
The ceremony was coming to the end. Lucho and I felt better and started walking very slowly, we were at the top of a mountain where it wouldn’t be nice to fall. Sebastian announced “It is all good, it is done, the Pachamama took it, you do not have to be worry anymore. That spirit will not bother you anymore.”
We all were feeling weak but Sebastian, he was looking just a bit more tired than usual. We walked back to Cuzco and when we got to Lucho’s house my brother said he was very tired and wanted to sleep. I asked Sebastian if it was alright and he said he will go to sleep now and will wake up at 8am tomorrow. This can sound funny, but that is what happened. My brother woke up on the next day at that time and the first thing he said coming out of the bathroom was: “Wow, my face looks like somebody washed it, like it has changed.”
You can make up your own mind from a psychological point of view, but from that day forward my brother’s life was out of those two years of darkness. He fell in love, got married and was blessed with his first child, called Nina (it means fire in our native language). Some people could say I do not believe in these things, but I am happy to say that while I was alive I saw this with my eyes and felt it with my own body and soul.”
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* photo by Brian Crowley – Intrepid Photography Competition