As briefly explained in a previous post, in many parts of South America, Christian beliefs co-exist with the remains of more traditional, indigenous, and African practices. The Pachamama, for example, or “Mother Earth”, is celebrated in most countries in the North of the continent. Pachamama is an Inca goddess. Rituals to honour her take place throughout the year but especially on August 1st. Although there are a few public events, the rituals mostly take place in the people’s home, where offerings are done to her. I remember once, in a hostel, when, before starting to drink a beer, someone first spilled some on the ground, as a present to the Pachamama. The way I understand it – I didn’t get a course on the subject, I have to admit – is that it is a way of honouring nature, giving her back part of what she gives us.
Another thing I had heard about but without fully understanding what it was, where shamanic rituals and the drinking of a substance called ayahuasca. Blaney was able to enlighten me a bit on that part too. One such shamanic experience is a journey within yourself, which forces you to plunge into your unconscious and face all the things you want to hide from. Generally not a pleasant experience, as facing those demons generates fear. Panic sometimes. Most of the time, it is a life changing experience. You don’t come back the same person from such a trip as you were before.
Here’s an extract from a National Geographic article, written by someone who took the ayahuasca on two occasions in the Peruvian jungle:
“You’re learning about yourself, reconceptualizing prior experiences. Having had a profound psycho-spiritual epiphany, you’re not the same person you were before.” But the curious should take heed: The unconscious mind holds many things you don’t want to look at. All those self-destructive beliefs, suppressed traumatic events, denied emotions. Little wonder that an ayahuasca vision can reveal itself as a kind of hell in which a person is forced—literally—to face his or her demons.
”Ayahuasca is not for everyone,” Grob warns. “It’s probably not for most people in our world today. You have to be willing to have a very powerful, long, internal experience, which can get very scary. You have to be willing to withstand that.”
The best way to understand what it is about is probably to read the full article. But, in short, it seems to be a life changing experience that can probably save you a few years of psychotherapy.
But it’s not only the indigenes who celebrate the Pachamama or want to find a shaman who will guide them through the ayahuasca ritual. You can see many city-dwellers who, if they don’t really make those practices part of their everyday life, have a great interest and respect for them and somehow integrate them as an important part of their South American identity.
And then there are the foreigners of course. Searching for the spirituality they lost at home, I guess.