In the summer or 2005 I was invited by Jose Luis Herrera to travel into the high Andes of Peru with a select group of people to sit in Ceremony with the mountain spirits (Apus). I had heard tales about Q’ero Medicine People who were able to summon Apus into rooms. The Apus would manifest as Winged Beings, and would travel great distances, flying through walls. The beings would come for the purpose of delivering messages of healing and well-being. The medicine people who have a relationship with mountains and sit in ceremony with Apus are called Altomesayoks. To be asked to travel with a small group into the Andes with Jose Luis was an honor. This would be the first Mountain Research Mission into Peru with the intent of recording and learning more about the work of the Alto Mesayokes.
The Apus’ caretakers are the Q’ero. Wikapedia defines the Q’ero as:
"The ones who believe they are descended from the Inca and consider themselves the last descendants. According to tradition, their ancestors defended themselves from invading Spanish conquistadores with the aid of local mountain deities (Apu)."
"The religion of the Q’ero is syncretic, consisting of a mixture of European Christianity with elements of the traditional religion of the Andes. Shamans of different levels (Altomesayoq, Pampamesayoq) still have a high reputation. They worship Mother Nature (Pachamama) as well as other mountain (spirits) like Apu Ausangate and other regional gods."
Lore: Mountains (Apu) will fly into darkened rooms when called by ones who hold the power in their medicine bundles (mesas). These winged beings (Apu) come in service and will speak to those present.
Shamanism is a practical affair in Peru. The question always asked: "How can one grow corn with the information given?"
I wondered how I might grow corn from witnessing the sensational embodiment of mountains. I also wondered if attending these ceremonies would deepen my service as a shamanic energy worker. Would the coming of mountains further my understanding of nature, and the world? I was curious about the Apu spirits themselves (their sound of voice); why were they choosing to manifest at this time and what messages have the Winged ones come to impart.
It is nighttime. We are winding our way thru narrow streets and alleys. Children play here. It is late, and on this night small dogs greet and skirt us as we walk. We enter a thick walled concrete house and are greeted by a small smiling faced woman and sleeping chickens. Several guinea pigs dart by as we cross the threshold; this is not an uncommon occurrence in Peru. Families raise guinea pigs for food.
The woman leads us to a room located at the back of the house. A heavy wooden door opens. From the other side of the room, a man with crooked teeth grins and waves us quickly into this small candlelit room. Six metal folding chairs are lined tightly touching each other in a row facing an intricately carved wooden altar. And on one side of the room another six chairs are tightly spaced. There are no windows in this room and only one way in or out. Jose Luis, our mentor and leader on this spirit journey, guides us into the room and asks us to sit. The door is shut. The youngest and most adept Altomaysayok we have been working and studying with will be in charge this evening. He will lead the ceremony where the mountains will come to his mesa. The altar heavy with offerings is centrally located. The Apus' favorite offerings are bottles of pop and beer. All the bottles are firmly capped and lined neatly in one long row. There are many pictures of newer representation of Apus placed on the walls surrounding the altar. These Apus' pictures resemble Jesus Christo. Despatios or (prayer bundles) have already been offered to the mountains we will be calling. The protocols for the evening are spoken. Hold prayer. Hold gratitude. Hold grace. Pray. Keep your hands in your lap, your feet close to your chairs, and your eyes closed.
The door is locked. I feel like I’m in the middle of a National Geographic article. I have witnessed several mountain ceremonies and every time the feelings of anticipation, hesitation, wonder, fear and gratitude mix around me like the palo santo smoke that lingers in the room. The candles are extinguished and we begin. Prayer. Our master shaman squats in the corner praying; calling the names of mountains. He prays half voiced and in whispered tones. Apu’s names, a whispered litany, mantras summoning divine representations of the feminine and masculine in the form of Apus. Apu Asungate. Apu Salkuntay. Apu Sachiswayman. Apu Walke Wilke… on and on. There are many mountains and many names that cross his lips. Apu Jesu Christo.. he prays in Quechuah and in Spanish. And we wait in the pregnant dark and pray… about 15 minutes into the ceremony one by one flapping sounds enter the room from the wall to my right. The bigger spirits will arrive from between time through this same wall throughout the evening. A sweet musky smell enters with the Apus. A smell mixed with fire and wind, and lightning and rain, and unwashed earth; a smell that heralds in something that has not been smelled before. Then sounds of larger wings come. The benefactor Apu of our shaman’s mesa is now here. This Being noisily plops on the altar. We hear him breathing as he greats us with a breathy, come from a-far voice. The Spirits greet the shamans in charge with respect. Each time a spirit enters Jose Luis asks them whom they are and from where have they come. Imposter spirits have entered ceremonies before. Now all who come from the spirit realm are screened at the altar. Each Apu has a distinct voice. The Benefactor Apu who has entered will be ushering in different Apu spirits this evening. They fly in, one after the other, and gift us with simple messages of greetings. Some Apus receive the offerings before they speak; popping bottle caps and guzzling sounds echo in the room.
Santa Tierra or the feminine earth spirits also grace us. They enter thru the ground. Their voices are high and squeaky. Wings flutter from underneath my chair. I jump. Many messages are voiced during this ceremony. I wish I could remember, word-for-word , their wisdoms. Jose Luis is quickly translating Old Quechuah into English for us, and into Spanish for others who sit in this ceremony. His language skills are remarkable. Tonight the Apus are happy with our prayers and study. They would like the energy connections (cekes) of the mountains to be strengthened around the world. They would like us to make and place prayer bundles (despatios) on these Apus to feed and in some cases "waken" the Apu. The mountains are working as emissaries for personal and world healing in the way they know.
The Apu benefactor enters the small room one last time, his job as master of ceremonies complete for this evening. He offers good nights, and blessings and exits through time. The ceremony ends. The smell of Apus lingers awhile in the air. We are grateful for their coming.
How do I "grow corn" from the experience?
Three years have passed since my visit with the Apus. I have begun hiking the mountains in Maine and New Hampshire. Sometimes I go simply to explore, feeling their rugged backs under my hiking boots. And sometimes I go in prayer with bundles and songs lovingly prepared. I always go in wonder. My relationship with the mountains and mother earth (Pacha Mama) grows. My body and spirit are better for the hike. It is with gratitude to the Apus I now re-tell the story. For I realize as I pray and honor the mountains, I am honored by the grace of connection.
Eva Rose Goetz lives in Falmouth Maine. She is a teacher, healer, and artist. Eva is the founder of Pacha Works: A shamanic energy center in Falmouth Maine that has brought internationally known medicine folks to the Portland community. Pacha Works offers classes, and individual and group sessions. Eva is a graduate of Alberto Villoldo's Healing the Light Body School, and of Evelyn Rysdyk's and Allie Knowlton's Core Shamanism program. Presently Eva is collaborating with polarity therapist Gina Mastroluca. They will be offering a weekend workshop called Medicine from the Heart spring of 2008. More information about Eva, her classes or apprenticeship program, may be found at www.pachaworks.com or 207-756-0488.