Speaking with the Ancestors at a Cusco Huaca

Plaza de las Armas, Cusco, Peru

Click here to learn more about Cusco Huacas

One of the benefits of connecting with the Earth and with sacred sites is connecting with the ancestors.  When I visited Cusco, Peru, I had a conversation with one of my ancestors, but before I tell you about it, I must provide a little background to that experience.

Before going to Cusco, Peru, I had a difficult 2 months with a health problem.  I had been planning this trip for over a year and was nervous about being well enough to go out of the country.  During this challenging time, I had the love of family to help me through in addition to something else that may be considered unorthodox to some–psychic communication with the spirits of my grandparents and mother.  During this time, I had noticed that my grandfather’s spirit was absent and spirit communication was primarily with my mother and grandmother.  But, once I was on a plane to Peru, I felt a stronger connection with my grandfather’s spirit.

One of the most amazing experiences I had in Cusco was at the Plaza de las Armas, which is in the center of Cusco.  As I approached the fountain in Plaza de las Armas, my grandfather’s voice grew louder and louder.  I turned around and saw a dog trotting past me towards the fountain.  The closer the dog came to the fountain, the louder I heard my grandfather’s voice saying, “Hello!  You made it!”  I thought in my head,  “Where have you been the last few months?!”  He replied, “I’ve been hanging around here and waiting for you!”

Bear in mind that while I have many psychic communications with my ancestors, this particular communication was unique in that it was so vivid that I felt as if my ancestors were alive and in human form.  My curiosity was piqued as to why did I have such a communication in the middle of the town plaza of Cusco?

  1. One possible reason is because the fountain at the Plaza de las Armas is a huaca.  What is a huaca?  A huaca is “a sacred natural setting or burial site, or shrine along a seq’e line”(Williams, p.162).  A seq’e is “the system of lines and corresponding shrines radiating out of Cuzco”(Williams, p.165).
  1. How did I determine that the fountain at Plaza de las Armas is a huaca?  According to John E. Staller, “Even as such things as tombs, altars, temples, offerings to the Sun, fountains, canals, and corners in houses were termed huacas….”(p.371)
  1.  Since the fountain at the Plaza de las Armas is a huaca located along a seq’e line, functioning as a portal to other dimensions, I assumed this was the reason for such an intense and vivid psychic communication with my grandfather’s spirit.  I verified this assumption with this quote from Anthropologist Garth L. Bawden:   “The ancestors are often associated with special places – caves, springs…” (Bawden, 2003, para. 12)

It’s true that Cusco is a magical city as I’ve described from my experience at the fountain at Plaza de las Armas.  A deliberate and intricate design of seq’es and huacas in Cusco acting as dimensional pathways to the ancestors allowed psychic communication with my own ancestors.  I am convinced we are all connected.

References:

Bawden, Garth. (2003). University of New Mexico Anthropology 324: South American Archaeology [Syllabus]. Retrieved from http://www.unm.edu/~gbawden/324-syll/324-syll.htm & http://www.unm.edu/~gbawden/324-shamanism/324-shamanism.htm

Staller, John (Ed.). (2008). Pre-Columbian Landscapes of Creation and Origin.  New York:  Springer Science & Business Media.

Williams, J.E. (2012).  Light of the Andes:  In Search of Shamanic Wisdom in Peru. (n.p.) Irie Books.

 

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It All Starts With Pachamama

(Q’ero Paqo Shaman Don Sebastian Pauccar Flores, video courtesy of http://www.takiruna.com)

In our western society, having a relationship with the Earth is a rare topic of discussion or thought. Perhaps, due to technology, we have distanced ourselves so that now we are being challenged to renew our relationship with the Earth. It is a challenge well worth pursuing as I have discovered in my learning about the indigenous Andean teachings of the Q’ero people.

For the indigenous Q’ero of the Andes, I have noticed that it all starts with Pachamama.  In J.E. Williams’ book Light of the Andes: In Search of Shamanic Wisdom in Peru, he describes Pachamama as “the earth mother in space-time, the all creative cosmic mother”.  Pachamama is very important to the Q’ero and they frequently make offerings to her. When they say, ‘Gracias Pachamama’, you can hear their heartfelt gratitude echoing through each syllable. I have tried to emulate this concept when I offer thanks to Pachamama, whether through a tobacco ceremony or when I am praying to the Mesa (the Andean Medicine Bundle). I have noticed that the more I feel in my heart the love for Pachamama (as one would feel for a loved one), the deeper my connection. This has most certainly led me to a deeper relationship with the Earth.

Stay tuned for the next blogpost about sacred sites or huacas, in Cusco, Peru.

 

#BlackHillsUnityConcert Begins a New Way of Relating to Sacred Sites

 
Oglala Sioux Tribal President Theresa Two Bulls explains:  “We feel that we have a sacred obligation to our people to come together in unity.  We put forth sacred intentions to help our Great Sioux Nation understand these grounds are beautiful and sacred and they are not for sale.”  The Black Hills Unity Concert will start a new way of relating to sacred sites on the Earth.  At the core of the environmental protection of sacred sites, is the need for each person’s spiritual connection to the land, in this case the Black Hills.  The concert is August 28-30, 2015, free admission for those attending.  If you can’t attend but want to donate, go to:  Unity Concert.  Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/08/20/star-studded-black-hills-unity-concert-focus-sacred-161455

 

A Native Wisdom Sampler: World #IndigenousDay

Indigenous Worldviews-August 2015

In honor of World Indigenous Peoples Day, here is a sampler of indigenous wisdom teachings from the Q’ero (Peru) and Onandaga (NY).  Click above to enjoy more videos and quotes in magazine format.

Ayni is a Quechua word meaning reciprocity. Ayni permeates daily life among the indigenous people of the Andes Mountains as it is not just a sustainability principle but is also practiced in despacho (offering) ceremonies to the Apus (mountain spirits), Awkikuna (nature spirits) and Pachamama. To learn more about Ayni, watch this video from Dr. J.E. Williams at Ayniglobal.

Seven Generations Principle  Native North Americans honor the sacredness of all life through the seven generations principle.  “Seven generations ago somebody was looking out for me and that’s why I am here. Seven generations from now, I hope, there is somebody there.”-Oren Lyons of the Onondaga Nation

 

Step Into Their World With Respect: Promoting Indigenous Travel

It is difficult finding indigenous travel experiences that communicate the importance of indigenous wisdom within the tourism framework.  Ayniglobal.org is a great example.  They are “dedicated to preserving authentic traditions and passing on indigenous wisdom.”  Unfortunately, most indigenous travel day trip itineraries are too superficial.  They usually include a dance/artisan display, authentic food, meeting local people and exploring nature; but, many trips usually do not include information about the indigenous group’s spiritual beliefs and practices, their cultural philosophies or even their views about everyday life.

There can be a conscious effort to talk about the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of indigenous peoples’ beliefs even on a day trip.  For example, instead of travelers learning just about food, also talk about the cultural and/or spiritual symbolism of certain types of food.  When out walking through nature, instead of just showing travelers a mountainside important to indigenous people, explain why it is important!  Many indigenous people revere all nature as sacred and certain areas of nature are equivalent to a church or temple.  There is a direct personal relationship to nature and everything in it.  Some indigenous people, like the Q’ero people in the Andes Mountains, “have individual names and uses for all plants, grass, birds and animals” (Williams,100).

When planning indigenous travel, it is important for tourism businesses to learn how to communicate with indigenous communities in a respectful way.  Dr. Susan Guyette, in a webinar about Sustainable Cultural Tourism, suggests asking these questions:

“Are sacred sites being protected?  Are welcoming songs being practiced and documented?  Are indigenous entrepreneurs being assisted, being trained and given promotion?  Is ecological restoration taking place?” Have respect by listening.  Listening is a central aspect of communicating with indigenous community.  Make sure that decisions come from within a community.”

Indigenous travel has the potential to empower indigenous communities economically as well as culturally and spiritually.  If done in a respectful manner, indigenous communities have the opportunity to preserve culture as well as alleviate poverty.  Dr. J.E. Williams from Ayniglobal, shares his thoughts on how social businesses can empower indigenous people:

“A social business for indigenous people gives everyone in the community the opportunity to participate, just like they would in growing crops, in creating the kind of lifestyle they deserve. They have the opportunity to mobilize their innate talents and to employ their creativity and skills for solving their own problems, for determining their own destiny, for banishing poverty from their lives by their own efforts, and freeing their children from the damaging effects of generations in poverty.”

References:

Guyette, S. (2012, November 12). Sustainable Cultural Tourism [Webinar]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/53652132

Williams, J.E. (2005). The Andean Codex: Adventures and Initiations among the Peruvian Shamans. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing.

Williams, J.E. (2013, May 19). Social Business: Not Just a Dream, a Reality – Founding of a Q’ero Run Tour Company [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://ayniglobal.org/social-business-not-just-a-dream-a-reality-founding-of-a-qero-run-tour-company/

Seminole and Miccosukee Tourism: Keeping the Culture Alive in Florida

While researching Florida Native American Tourism, I learned about the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes as well as some of the current cultural tourism businesses.

In the Miccosukee Tribe, Buffalo Tiger was a legendary activist in establishing tribal governance.  He started Buffalo Tiger Airboat Tours, which is family owned and operated where you can see “Tree Island”, Buffalo’s ancestral homeland.

The Miccosukee Indian Village not only has a museum but also artisans demonstrating Miccosukee patchwork, woodcarving, etc.  My sister studied native art in college and she thoroughly enjoyed the level of craftsmanship and authenticity at the village.  To learn more about the Miccosukee Tribe, here’s an interview with current chairman Colley Billie, nephew of Buffalo Tiger.

In the Seminole Tribe, it is Abiaki/Sam Jones who was a legend in Seminole history, but currently the Billie family and the Seminole Tribe of Florida are associated with several cultural tourism businesses, like the Billie Swamp Safari, located on Big Cypress Reservation.  The Seminole keep their culture alive through the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Museum,  offering authentic artisan work both live and in the museum.  To learn more about the Seminole Nation, this interview with Victor Billie provides more details.

The annual Sarasota Native American Indian Festival is also an authentic Native American arts and crafts event usually held at the end of January.  Rex Begaye was instrumental in bringing in authentic artists and musicians to the festival, and his legacy continues on today.

For an overview of Native American Florida, the Florida Division of Historical Resources has an informative guidebook full of historical details, stories, pictures and maps about the Florida Native American Heritage Trail.

Some Thoughts on Responsible Local Travel

While viewing the Responsible Travel and Wildlife Conservation Hangout, I was inspired by Martin Hatchuel‘s conversation with Nombulelo Mkefa where she said, “Sustainable travel is the destination, responsible travel is the journey.”  What are the principles that embody responsible travel?

1. Respect and care for the environment whether it’s land, air, water, animal or plant life.
2. Indigenous culture should be represented in an authentic way so that it is not a commodity, but a celebration of the culture and sacred sites with respect and dignity.
3. In the case of hotels, workers should receive competitive wages, work in a safe and clean environment, and live in the local area.
4. Travelers and businesses are responsible for buying local.

Tourism in the USA has a long way to go to meeting these goals, but with innovation, discussion and action, maybe tourism can work in harmony with the environment.