If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough. ~ Meister Eckhart (Selected Writings)
In nature within every moment we can observe generosity. Our nourishment, our meaning, and our very lives are only possible thanks to the unconditionally giving nature of Life, of Pachamama.
Bacteria, fungi and worms help to transform lifeless rock into fertile soil. Plants, fruits and grains blossom to give us food. The plankton in the ocean creates oxygen for us to survive. Life is an eternal dance of giving and receiving energy, a mutual dependency, or what shamanic natives call “Ayni.”
Yet these days, our modern society has become greedy and lopsided. We take so much from the unconditionally generous Mother Earth, but we give back to her so little.
In Peru (as well as in parts of Bolivia and Ecuador), there’s an ancient ceremony called the “Despacho.” The word means “sending a message or care package” in Spanish and it’s an act of love that reminds us of the interconnectedness shared between all beings, elements, spirits, and sacred places. Despachos provide us with the opportunity to momentarily return to the essential unity with all that exists, with the living energy (Kawsay Pacha) of the Universe.
What Are Despachos Used For?
When we perform a Despacho ceremony, we are trying to give back to Life by creating a space in time that allows us to show our gratitude.
Among the Quechua Indians, the despacho ceremony is the centerpiece of their spiritual and ritualistic heritage. When the locals go to see a Shaman, whether they go in search of better health, a more loving relationship, or healing from grief, the first thing often done is a despacho.
Despacho rituals are designed to align, balance and harmonize the three levels of consciousness: Yankay (the physical universe), Yachay (the spirit or wisdom center), and Munay (the feeling or heart center). In building your own bundle or despacho, you are bringing all aspects of your consciousness into the process. You are entering an altered state of consciousness that is alignment with all these energy centers.
The shamans that specialize in despachos known as “Pampa Masayoq” know over 200 different types of despachos. Some include the “Pachamama Despacho” (mother earth), “Apu Despacho” (mountains), “Ayni Despacho” (reciprocity), “Inti/Chaska Despacho” (sun), “Aya Despacho” (soul guiding), and the “Cuti Despacho” (negative energy repellent) to name a few. While all despachos share similar elements, they are designed differently according to the intention of the person.
Below I’ll show you how to create a very simple Despacho that can help you learn the art of connecting to Mother Earth once again.
Despacho Ceremony Instructions
A traditional despacho is created by medicine people who work in alignment with their spiritual powers. Traditional shamans offer liquor at the beginning, use white and red carnations as decorations, chew on coca leaves that are exchanged with other participants, and chant prayers.
In the West we’re often hindered by local laws and geography (e.g. chewing coca leaves and using carnations), so I want to give you a much more practical and simple approach.
The power behind despachos and the most important ingredient is intent. As with any offering, having a special inner connection with each component of the despacho is what allows our emotional center to align with everything else. For example, in Peru coca leaves have a special cultural significance, but for someone that isn’t local, they don’t have quite as strong a connection. In the demonstration below, I use Dragon Fruit instead of the traditional fruit offerings because I grew it myself organically. I also use the skull of a Quokka that I found during a walk on the island of Rottnest where I live.
Though the contents may vary in their symbolic significance, the despacho, when performed with the correct intent, transcends literal and symbolic domains and directly accesses the energetic realms.
5 Steps to Create Your Own Despacho
To make a despacho, you first have to collect the items that you plan to include in the offering. This will depend on the intention or purpose of the ritual:
- Gather a piece of white paper or cloth, all your ingredients, and anything you need to be comfortable for an hour or so (water, a pillow, etc.). I provide a list of common items and their respective meanings at the end of this article. However as I explained above, you need to be able to resonate with the objects (i.e. they have to be meaningful to you). This is an exercise in gratitude, not engineering. In my demonstration I used what was available to me, and what I was grateful for on that particular day.
- Find a space at home, in your altar, in your garden or nature where you can concentrate and be uninterrupted. Some people like combining this ritual with that of a medicine wheel.
- Create your prayer bundle in a way that is meaningful to you. Remember that this is a shrine of gratitude from you to Mother Nature. Don’t feel like you need to create an intricate mandala design like many people tend to do (unless this is what your Soul is inclined towards).
1) Choose the ingredients
I like to use my feelings of gratitude when I’m deciding what I’m going to include in the Despacho. Gratitude has to fill my body – it has to become tangible when I’m deciding whether or not to include an item. Once that feeling is present within me, I ask myself, “Does this item increase my gratitude towards existence in this moment or not?” If it doesn’t, I move on to another item.
You might like to spend a few moments with the objects that you have chosen. What do they represent? Perhaps you may like to give them symbolic meaning, for example, brown sugar might represent an appreciation of the “sweetness of life.” Quinoa (a grain) might ask to be a bridge between life and death.
2) Design your universe
Lay a large sheet of white paper/cloth on the ground. Add the ingredients in patterns that represent the purpose of the ritual, as well as the Cosmos at large. Think of the despacho as a work of art, or as a symbolic representation of the purpose behind it. Mandala arrangements are common but not necessary as they represent and contain multiple meanings of interconnectedness and wholeness.
As you add each item, blow a prayer over them for something that you’re thankful for. For example, add plants and vegetables first (“I’m thankful for the food I ate”), then minerals (“I’m thankful for the roof over my head”), then animal bones (“I’m thankful for the bees and flowers in my garden”), and finally those made by the human hand (“I’m thankful for the clothes I’m wearing”). You don’t need to design your despacho in this order, this is only an example.
3) Final touches
Once you’ve finished adding your items, you may like to decorate your despacho with flowers, candy or other colorful items. When you’re finished, open up your hands to give love and gratitude to the despacho, and make yourself open to receive energy from the despacho as well as any messages from the prayers.
4) Wrap it up
When you have placed all your items in the despacho, the corners of the large paper/cloth are then folded over the contents so that they all overlap in the center. The despacho is now a smaller square. Some people use bells to call upon the Spirit to receive their offerings, others use shells – this is optional. Afterwards, the despacho is then tied up without flipping it over so all the prayers are sustained with colorful twine or ribbons, and decorated again. Make it pretty.
5) Offer your despacho
Once you have adorned your despacho, you will then offer it to the forces of Nature. You can do this by either burying it (for slow, steady results), burning it (for quicker transformation), or feeding it to the running waters ceremonially. If you are burying or allowing your despacho to be taken by water, ensure that the objects within it are natural and degradable ingredients.
If the despacho is being burned, do not look towards the flames until after the despacho has completely burned up. This is symbolic of non-attachment.
Despacho Ingredients and Meanings
Below you’ll find a large collection of items that you may like to include in your despacho. Each item comes with its own symbolic meaning, but remember: meaning is subjective. Your meaning for a flower may differ greatly from my own. So let yourself be organically inspired. Always choose what is most easily accessible to you.
Finally, remember that despachos are not about ingredients. They are about the quality of your intention towards each ingredient, and this allows you to flow with sincerity and gratitude.
- Copal: offering to the lower world, the shadow
- Frankincense: offering to the upper world, the light
- Palo Santo: space for our prayers
- Coca: sacred wisdom of pacha mama
- Tobacco: offering to the sky father
- Sage: purification, banishment of the negative
- Anise: celebration, sensuality
- Berries: rewards, fruits of labor
- Cedar: wisdom of the forest
- Corn: a gift of the earth, sustenance
- Cornmeal: offering to the earth mother
- Cotton: dreams, clouds, mountain snows
- Figs: ancient mountain spirits
- Flowers: the beauty of nature, the power of light, reproduction and fertility
- Garlic: absorption of the negative
- Grains: sustenance, abundance
- Lavender: purity, purification
- Laurel: sacredness, victory over adversity
- Leaves: honoring nature spirits
- Lima Beans: sacred places, huaqas, power spots
- Liquor: high energy, honoring the spirit world, our ancestors
- Peanuts: caves, places for elemental spirits
- Raising: offering to the dead
- Rice: offerings to the spirit world
- Sweets: fertility, beginnings, potential
- Sugar: sweetness, feeding the spirits
- Vegetable oil: our connection to the nourishing power of nature
- Red Wine: honoring the mother, menstrual blood
- White Wine: honoring the moon, fluids of purification, urine
- Gold: masculine, the sun, insight
- Silver: feminine, the moon, intuition
- Agate: acceptance, emotional and physical balance, raises consciousness
- Amber: protection, memory, calming
- Amethyst: higher knowledge, insight, grounded psychic growth, courage, self-esteem
- Aventurine: joy, mental clarity, positive attitudes
- Bloodstone: blood and heart healing, vitality, courage, higher states of consciousness
- Calcite: astral projection, balances yin/yang qualities
- Citrine: successful relationships, letting go of addictions, self confidence
- Copper: the earth’s gift, conductivity
- Diamond: removes blockages, balances the mind, sexuality and power
- Fluorite: practicality, getting things done, ability to perceive higher levels of reality
- Garnet: circulation, stimulates imagination, self-esteem and willpower, calms anger
- Hematite: protection, aids astral projection, increases self-esteem
- Herkimer: cleanses subtle bodies, past life memory, clairvoyance and dream work
- Iron: strength, persistence, endurance, direction
- Jade: good luck and prosperity, strong immune system, divine love, protection
- Loadstone: the power to attract and bind together
- Moonstone: receptivity, intuition, sensitivity, clairvoyance
- Obsidian: removal of obstacles and negativity, prophetic vision
- Opal: protection, cosmic consciousness, intuition, emotional balance
- Peridot: clarity, patience, clairvoyance, positive emotional outlooks
- Pyrite: material realization, good fortune, eases anxiety
- Clear Quartz: purity of perception, purity of intention
- Rose Quartz: love and romance, purity of feeling, confidence, expression, creativity
- Smokey Quartz: purification, elimination of shadow aspects, fertility, creativity, joy
- Rutilate quartz: breaks old patterns, childhood blockages, ease depression
- Rhodochrosite: cleansing of subconscious, self-identity
- Ruby: spiritual balance, heart healing, confidence, flexibility, vitality, leadership
- Salt: protection, boundaries
- Sapphire: communication with spirit guides, clairvoyance, telepathy, expression
- Tigers Eye: works on mass consciousness to separates desire from need
- Tourmaline: dispels fear, negativity and grief, promotes balance, eases compulsiveness
- Turquoise: fresh starts, offering to the ancestors, strength of entire body, protection
- Animal shapes: honoring our relatives in the animal kingdom
- Fat: purest form of energy
- Bone: our inner core, structure, connection to animal relatives
- Coral: the power of the sea, the subconscious
- Egg shells: the unborn, purity, healing
- Feathers: connection to the ether and sky
- Human hair: honoring our connection to the animal world
- Milk: connection to the mother, honoring trees
- Pearls: infinite wisdom and purity
- Shells: depth, faith, flexibility
Like any harmonious, balanced and thriving relationship, cultivating a deep connection with Spirit requires a healthy dose of giving. Always be generous with your offerings and abundant with your action towards Mother Nature.
At the end of your ceremony, the energy of intention that is captured and contained within the despacho is released back into the universe, where its message of reciprocity and gratitude can reach the most appropriate form of manifestation. The result is renewed harmony and balance in ordinary life.
May all our prayers be heard with sweetness and sincerity from the pure and innocent place from which they stem, for the highest good of all.
Photos by: lonerwolf ©