To recap from part l, the date was May 30, our 40th wedding anniversary. Our group had spent the morning gliding around Lago Umayo looking for wildlife, then we were treated to traditional highland homemade snacks with our host family and the boatmen beside the lake, a truly memorable picnic. After a stopover at Silistani for a tour of the pre-Incan burial grounds of the Colla people, the Aymara, we were bussed to Julio’s house to spend the afternoon.
I’ve written several times about the little bulls you see adorning so many homes and entries throughout the highlands of Peru. Thanks to my fellow traveler, Judy, you can see what they look like. Does anyone besides me see pigs with horns?
Julio’s home has a courtyard, like most families have, with several buildings inside the compound. I like the idea of a private enclosed area like this. If I were designing my ideal home, it would certainly include an area like this where I could poke around with my clay projects and not worry about the muddy mess. Plus you could put up a clothes line to line dry your bed linens. Or dry your underwear outside without the neighbors knowing what size you wear.
Inside, a three-quarter wall separates the prep and kitchen area from the dining area. Peruvian posters and pots of flowers add color to otherwise very plain decor. Despite how we look in the photos, I assure you our group was actually looking forward to this lunch. What you’re seeing on our faces is what tired looks like on 60-somethings, while Julio’s wife Maria begins to serve up smiles with our lunch.
Hey! I recognize those dishes. I have a similar set of four plates and a serving platter in green, which I use for lunch or tea, at home in my cupboard! Lunch is all fresh items, and I think the peas (below) look like eyes, but the mouth seems to have rolled off. I finished mine completely, and drank at least two cups of coca tea.
After dessert (I can’t remember what it was, hence a sense of urgency I have in completing these Peruvian posts) we settled back in our chairs to meet the village shaman and witness a ceremony Julio had arranged in our honor. In the following photos the shaman assembles an offering of gratitude to Pachamama (Mother Earth) and the Apus (mountain spirits) and other spirits of nature. I think it’s a reminder of the inter-connectedness between all beings, elements, spirits, and sacred places of the earth.
There was little formality other than our observing in quiet respect and taking part as we were instructed. To begin, we were told to think of an issue or something that bothered us, we should fix our minds on it and also think of a wish we’d like to come true, then choose two coca leaves and focus to transfer all those thoughts and energy on them.
Marilyn (l) seems to be thinking hard, Caroline (r) is having too much fun to contemplate too hard, and Boyce (standing) seems to have a headache while we all watch. Note the other natural elements involved–the oyster shell which contains llama fat and wine if memory serves me.
I think Kathryn may have her eyes on that bottle of wine, but Judy is certainly giving the shaman her full attention. My wish had long since made, and came true by the way, as I wished for a safe journey back to our homes for all of us, and I’m not telling what issue I focused on. The jury’s still out on that one.
After the shaman had collected everything, such as all our wishes and issues now represented within the coca leaves, he placed onto that clean rectangle of paper so that he could pray over them. Then he blew his breath on them and bundled them up to be moved outside to a firepit where Julio was waiting with a fire to receive our offerings.
While all this ceremony, which as I pointed out was very informal, was in preparation, I decided to make a quick pit stop at the baño that Julio had installed for the comfort of western tourists. It had a western style toilet, but the flusher didn’t work. This didn’t bother me much, as I knew from prior experience that the tub of water on the floor was there to be used to flush without a flusher. I filled the bucket half full and tossed it directly into the toilet bowl and, wa la, the toilet throat swallowed everything right up like magic. Meanwhile, things outside were about to begin full force.
There was just enough time to see the shaman pouring a little more wine to an apparently thirsty Pachamama and getting the fire flaming still higher and receiving our offerings. It produced quite a bit of smoke in the constant cold breeze. Then he passed the incense around and asked us all to breathe our blessings in deeply.
The shaman himself was a mustachioed man of small stature with a very peaceful demeanor, always smiling or grinning, and seeming genuinely happy. I asked Francisco (the guide) how one decides to become a shaman. He explained that it’s a job handed down in families. I’m sorry now that I forgot to ask if women can become shamans too, but apparently so. I’ve read that sometimes shamans come in couples.
I noticed this shaman had a wedding band on his right ring finger in the Spanish tradition, so after the ceremony was finished, he changed from his shaman hat to his traveling hat, retrieved his bicycle, and waved goodbye. Presumably he was headed back to Mrs. Shaman. The whole afternoon, the luncheon, the shaman, the ceremony, had all been an experience of a lifetime.
Goodbye, Mr. Shaman. Godspeed.
And a very special goodbye to the adorable little girl, Julio’s young daughter and his best PR person, who stole our hearts.