Many people when they travel through the Andes listen to this word many times: Pachamama.
A word use in rituals, traditions, explanations, legends and even in a song!
But what does it means? What is it? Actually the question is Who is She?...
Pachamama means World Mother…in Quechua and Aymara, traditional languages from the Andes, has this meaning. So in a few words is a divinity, a fertility goddess who presides over planting and harvesting, embodies the mountains, and causes earthquakes. She is also an ever-present and independent deity who has her own self-sufficient and creative power to sustain life on this earth. Her shrines are hallowed rocks, or the boles of legendary trees, and her artists envision her as an adult female bearing harvests of potatoes and coca leaves.
It seemed to be important…of course she was and still she is!
Even today many traditional curanderos or shamans are performing ancient rites, called pagapus to bring good luck or the good will of the goddess, such as sacrificing guinea pigs or burning llama fetuses…( yes llama fetuses, and you can see many of them if you go to the Witch market in la Paz, for example).
Even more in a lot of places her main celebration is on August, just before the sewing season. Andeans believe that they must be on very good terms with Mother Nature to keep themselves and their fields healthy and protected. So families perform cleansing rituals by burning plants, wood and other items in order to scare evil spirits who are thought to be more abundant at this time.
Now something interesting is that even the colonial time and Catholic evangelization she was still there but under a new shape, if you realized when you see paintings from those times in South America the Virgin Mary or Madonna has a particular shape and symbols that make her completely different from European’s ones. The body shape is like triangle with refers to the mountain, the Apus, the land; headdress with feathers, means that she is coming from heaven, from the upper world, from the Hanan Pacha; and something else, we cannot see her feet most of the time because she is a being from the Heaven and terrene.
So next time you make a trip to the highlands of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia or North area of Argentina and Chile, stop a while , breathe deeply, say thank you and toast to her honor so she will protects you and let enjoy the trip on her lands…