The value of offerings

I just returned from taking a group to a retreat in Huautla.  Immersing ourselves in the traditional culture of the Mazatecs, participating in sacred medicine ceremonies and in their rituals is like stepping back hundreds of years. At least. The concept of energy exchange is central to  the spirituality of the Mazatecs.  The currency they have used for thousand of years are the cocoa beans, which always held a sacred place in their use, being food for the Gods in ancient Aztecs practices. So, still today, when they want to obtain strength or receive blessings, they walk to  the top of a mountain and place a handful of cocoa beans to Chiko Nin’do, the patron spirit who oversees all the energies of the region who resides there. When they want to enter the gigantic cave system that lies beneath that area, they offer cocoa beans at its entrance because the guardian of the cave is known to be a fierce spirit and requests utmost respect, lest someone could get hurt in the darkness of the caves.  When the healer sees a blockage in someone’s life path, a “pago”, a payment of the local spirits is deemed necessary to receive permission to enter subtle realms of energies which will allow the smooth unfoldings of life. Then, packages of cocoa beans and of several sacred symbolic items are made to help carry the “payment” to these  land spirits. And when the Mazatecs gather in the night and ready themselves to partake in their sacred mushrooms veladas, they place on the plates, next to the pairs of mushrooms, 3 cocoa beans as a respectful offering of the earth to the person engaging into the ceremony. This person is now entering not only a personal inner space of wonder and healing, but also a deep relationship with the sacred spirits of the land.

This form of traditional practices of exchange, protection and permission still practiced in these remote regions, remind us to pay attention to where we step on and to what is our intent.  So, what is your offering? Do you realize that each place on Earth has its own spirit just as you do? How do you acknowledge this? What ritual concretizes this relationship with what surrounds you and how do you create alliance with other forces, even invisible ones?

When I came back home, I looked at the trees out of my window; I felt the ocean breeze; I looked at the large rock near my home; I saw the distant hills. I felt it was time to honor their presence and their spirit. I walked outside my home. I stepped near the tree and place a handful of rice at its base. I walked  few steps to the direction towards the ocean and placed another handful of rice on the ground. I looked at the hills and again placed the rice in recognition of their strength. Then, I stood on the large rock and deposited some rice in its nook.

Strange how clear and radiant I felt inside afterwards. Inhabited, maybe. Held, for sure.

Women in Nature

This last weekend, I organized my bi-annual women’s retreat, and as each time this happens, I was struck how gathering women in Nature always makes for a magical time. There is something profoundly instinctive and ancient about this. Maybe some old instincts are re -awakened. Maybe we remember a feeling of ease and naturalness. Of ancient moves and habits. Was it about weaving of baskets, or gathering dyes for coloring wool, or harvesting reeds for mat making? No matter what brings us into the meadow, near the creek of in the redwood grove, we feel well there. It is strange how our bodies sense this unwinding. our eyes go up a tree trunk or catch a web stretched between branches. Or is it the hawk screeching high that makes us stop and pause and just…be?

I love this place where we all know that this beauty connects us within an experience of fulfillment and richness. It is as if nothing is needed anymore. As if no concerns could obliterate such enchantment. So we just look around, we pay attention to the light, the sounds, the wind, the play of shadows and the textures of all the elements  that holds us. And we join together in grace, knowing that the time we will spend in that place will be filled with beauty and nourishment, for sure.