stories from the field
The candle is extinguished. My eyes slowly adjust to the darkness and the sounds of the jungle that surround me. I am in a maloka, an intricately thatched roof ceremonial dwelling, participating in an Amazon Plant Medicine retreat in Peru. Unsure what to expect but beyond certain that the Universe had done everything to direct me here.
Twenty years ago, one of my University professors spoke to me about a community deep in the heart of the Amazon. She spoke of her many visits there, her connection to the people and how children would walk around with snakes coiled up their arms like pets. I was fascinated by her stories and despite many years of living and travelling in Ecuador I never made it there, until now.
Qoyllur R’iti means “Brilliant Star of Snow”. It’s a spectacular Festival and Pilgrimage known to those living in the Andes but relatively unheard of to the rest the world. It took me 10 years to get there, but I finally made it. This is my experience.
Locals believe that the snow-capped peaks of the Andes Mountains are inhabited by the Apus, Spirits of the Mountains. Each with individual characteristics, Apus are called upon for assistance, blessings, and protection. This my story of one such ceremony.
A Tibetan man living in exile shared his story with me. While he may not be able to cross borders as freely as I can, may his words be carried by the wind like the words on prayer flags into the hearts of people who hear them.