The Despacho

Photo of a despacho at Paz y Luz in Pisac, Peru.

The ritual of making a despacho is like a communal prayer or offering to Mother Earth and the Apus (spirit of the mountains), a blessing for all the participants. The ceremony lasts about an hour or two depending on how many people are attending. Watching it was like a group meditation. The shamans place a square piece of paper on the floor and carefully put in many elements on the paper in a ritual manner, including flowers, seeds, grains and candies, all with special significance.

Coca leaves, a sacred plant to the Andean people throughout the ages, are placed carefully in the despacho, each representing a special prayer. You will each be given three coca leaves in which to “put” your request or intention. These too are placed into the despacho.

At the end of the ceremony, the bundle is folded and tied shut. Each person then comes forward to be “cleansed” by the bundle. The despacho is wrapped in a manta of Andean woven cloth as the shaman passes it from your head, down each arm, leg, front and back. When the session is over, the group goes outside to burn it in a ritual fire concluding the ceremony.