Earth and Dance

Jorge Luis Delgad called Amantani Island the island of love and said that it worked with the pink (munay) ray. I had to agree that there was something about the place. I felt relaxed and energized at the same time, as if something were about to happen and I was poised for it without needing to think or do anything, really. I could feel my heart reaching out to my host family, even though we shared no common language. They were a bit shy and I felt soft and respectful around them.

After being served a meal, Sandy, Tim (my travel group companions also staying with my host family), and I made our way back down the hill and joined the rest of the group for more ceremony. We had taken part in fire, air, and water ceremony. Now it was time for earth ceremony and it would be led by don Mariano, Jorge Luis’s teacher.

I gravitated towards the Peruvian shamans. I was learning. The Peruvian shamans always managed to find the best place to sit at ceremony and they seemed to do so effortlessly. Perhaps they had some sense about the land that guided them. Or maybe it was just about comfort. I didn’t know, but I was learning to follow their lead.

Only a person or two separated me from don Mariano and I noted, with a bit of amusement, that he carried some of his shamanic supplies in a North Face pack. It was very much like the odd pairings one experiences in dreams. In the sleeping dream state, I might find myself making a dinner for long dead relatives in a mansion that seemed to belong to me. In this waking dream, the very alive–and very revered–don Mariano was pulling shamanic items out of a North Face pack on an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca. No sleeping dream could match that!

But I was also amused because I had long been toting some of my own shamanic items around in a pack my husband brought back from Kosovo. I had needed something practical to transport white sage, a Celtic cross, my Om tuning fork, special stones from special places, candles, scented herbs and flowers for scattering, a rattle, and other items I used when I cleared and blessed homes. My drum and beater, large feather fan, my altar cloth, and many other items didn’t go into the pack, but some of the smaller tools did and while the pack had served me well, I’d always been a bit amused about it. I was not the archetypal image of the female shaman (or shamanista, as my friend Melisa Pearce referred to me) and my pack was certainly not the archetypal image of what a shaman would carry tools in. But here was don Mariano pulling shamanic tools out of a North Face pack. I loved that we shared that bit of practicality in our work.

Jorge Luis spoke to us about earth energy and suggested that we practice looking at the distance between ourselves and a tree or mountain, then feeling the energy. I knew what he meant, or thought I did. I’d long practiced softening my eyes to see the auras of trees and I often allowed the tug of energy between me and a mountain or lake or tree or boulder to inform me and open me to communication with the spirit of it.

As with the other ceremonies, coca leaves were involved. A small fire pit (cold) was used in this ceremony. Four people at a time brought their k’intus (fan shaped arrangement of three coca leaves) to the pit, one person taking each of the cardinal directions. We then blew our intentions into the coca leaves, touched the earth, and put the coca leaves into the fire pit.

Earth Ceremony--Offerings at the Fire Pit

It seemed a simple enough ceremony, but it was a powerful one for me. When I made my way to the fire pit and kneeled, I blew my intentions into the k’intu and was drawn to bend down and kiss the earth three times before placing my coca leaves in the pit. And as I did, my crown chakra began to vibrate. I was immediately in an altered state of consciousness. I could not give words to it in the moment, but my later sense of it was that I was feeling myself as a bridge between heaven and earth, in love with both and at the service of both. My crown chakra continued to vibrate for some time and, later, it began to vibrate again.

Once the earth ceremony was complete, we all drifted towards a large square that seemed to serve as a local gathering place. There was a sense of waiting for something and I could guess what that might be: the dreaded dancing in costume. I was weary from the day’s activities and so were Sandy and Tim. We were also concerned about finding our way back to our host home. And the sun was sinking. I wanted to get the heck out of the Amantani Island version of Dodge before the festivities began. We made our way down the path, but didn’t get far before being hijacked by Paulo and Juan Carolos.

View from the Square

We attempted to communicate through motions and words we knew they would not understand that we wanted to head back to their home. But Paulo had come bearing a pile of clothes and was intent on dressing us in them. Let me be clear: The will of the Aymara on Amantani Island is a force similar to that of the tides or the wind or the sun, itself.

We surrenedered and Paulo pulled traditional clothes–all of which appeared to bleong to members of her family–over our heads. These were not castoff clothes, but beautifully made and embroidered. Over my head went an embroidered blouse and it was accompanied by a bright green skirt. These went over the hiking pants and knit top I’d been wearing. Then Paulo wrestled with my body until she had two cloth belts tightly cinched around my waist. Interesting. I had already wondered how I would dance at this altitude. Now I saw that I would be expected to dance pretty much dressed in the Peruvian version of what Scarlet O’Hara wore to balls. Over skirt and blouse, Paulo placed one of the most beautiful embroidered shawls I have ever seen.

Tim and Juan Carlos

We were led back to the square where we saw that we could relax because all of our peers looked, for the most part, as ridiculous as we did. The women in the group, no doubt, were as breathless in their cinched belts as Sandy and me. I was beginning to understand that breathlessness in women, while once highly praised, was actually produced by clothing that would not allow them to breathe. While I knew about corsets and the like, this had never really hit home . . . until now.

Melanie and Kay Mott in our Peruvian Costumes

Of course, I would soon discover just how breathless a woman can be. The sun had set, a bonfire had been built, and the dancing began. After avoiding it for a time, I was eventually pulled in by Paulo or Sebastiana (I cannot quite recall) and surrendered to it. (An explanation of that surrender will be found a few paragraphs above in my reference to the will of the Aymara people.)

I’m exaggerating a bit about the tightness of the belts and the quality of breathlessness I experienced, but I will say that I was happy that I work out on a regular basis–both cardio and weight resistance training–because it supported me in dancing wildly at an elevation that was challenging even for me, a Coloradan.

As it happened, it was good training for the hike up the mountain the next day. But that, as they say, is another story.

Copyright 2010 by Melanie Mulhall

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8 Responses to “Earth and Dance”

  1. Gail Storey Says:

    You look charming in your Peruvian clothes! Fascinated by the connection between you and the trees, and crown chakra tingling.

    Like

    • Melanie Mulhall Says:

      Gail,

      Sandy’s comment about me in the getup was that I looked natural in them. My assessment was that my short stature made me look like many of the other Peruvian women.

      If you have never seen tree auras, give it a try. Dusk is a good time to do this. Relax and soften your eyesight a bit as you look in the general direction of a tree far enough away from you that it isn’t right on top of you. You will eventually see a soft field of energy–often whitish in color–around the tree.

      I’ve got another way to see auras I’ll share with you sometime. Just ask me about it.

      As for the tingling–crown chakra opens, crown tingles a bit.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Like

  2. Laurel Kallenbach Says:

    I love the photo of you in Peruvian dress! And I laughed out loud at the reference to it being like Scarlett O’Hara’s ball gown regalia–corset and all! But think how that garb shifted you into a different state of ecstatic dancing! How rewarding…and worth a bit of hard breathing!

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  3. Cindy Morris Says:

    Every time I red your blog posts I am amazed at the draw and commitment to this sacred ceremony by all these white folk. It always feels like each of you had been there before, done that before, and returned to do the rituals yet again. It has a delicious feeling of continuity and connection.
    And you, Melanie, look so at home there.
    Cindy

    Like

    • Melanie Mulhall Says:

      Cindy,

      Yes, a group of committed people were drawn to be in Peru at this time–me among them. I felt then (and still do) that some of us were there when the Solar Disc was brought to Lake Titicaca and agreed to return for its activation five hundred years later.
      And, yes, Peru feels very familiar to me.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Melanie

      Like

  4. Kathy Kaiser Says:

    I love your descriptions. I especially like the idea of the earth energy. I’ll want to try that exercise some time.

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    • Melanie Mulhall Says:

      Kathy,

      Earth energy is powerful. It keeps us grounded–and without groundedness, we cannot really connect with the divine in a way that is useful right here on planet Earth.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Melanie

      Like

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