“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” – Eckhart Tolle
If gratitude is a superpower (and I believe it is) then the Despacho ceremony is one of the most beautiful ways I have come across to connect with that power. In the ceremony, we feed our highest love and gratitude into each and every ingredient of an offering as we co-create a “gift” into the form of a beautiful mandala.
The Despacho ceremony is a ritual that has been handed down from the Q’ero shamans in the high Andes in Peru — literally a gift to spirit, or the organizing principle of the universe. The Q’ero shamans believe that saying thank you and honoring things as they are creates a type of spiritual reciprocity that brings us into a state of “ayni” (right relationship) with life. They believe when we come back into that state of right relationship with nature, we come back into balance and are more open to blessings and synchronicity.
While specific shamans traditionally performed these rituals, they have made it clear that now is the time when all people are invited to bring this ritual into their lives.
The despacho ceremony is a powerful medicine that can be used for an infinite number of reasons and desires — to heal from a loss, to bless a new baby coming into the world, to set the foundation for a marriage, to honor a holiday, a change in season or the full moon, to experience physical healing, to call in love, to start a business, to honor a birthday… and the list goes on and on.
The ceremony can be short and simple or quite lengthy. The foundation of the prayer is always the same — you say thank you… and then you keep saying thank you until you feel like you could say thank you for hours! Notice any resistance to gratitude or a desire to want it to be over so you can move on to the next thing. Give yourself permission to take some space for gratitude and notice unfolds in your life.
How to create your own Despacho Ceremony
- Gather your ingredients, a piece of paper and string and get what you need to make yourself comfortable for about an hour (a cushion, tea, water). You can do this ceremony alone or together in a group.
- Call in sacred space – this could be a prayer to the directions, a mantra or an invocation in your belief system that calls in the energy of the divine. Choose a way to create sacred space that resonates with you — this could include lighting candles, burning incense, singing a sing, beating a drum, etc.
- Begin by folding your large piece of paper into thirds one way and thirds the other way so you have 9 sections. You’ll be placing your offerings into the center section.
- Add your ingredient by making a prayer (silently or out loud) and first blowing your breath into the item to inform the offering of your prayer. Below is a list of possible ingredients — use what you have available and remember: the heartfelt nature of your prayer is more important than having the perfect item(s).
- When you feel complete, invite everyone to close their eyes and open their hands to receive a blessing from the despacho. Then wrap the offering like a gift, keeping it upright.
- Ceremoniously offer it to the earth, a fire or flowing water like a river or lake within a reasonable amount of time
- Close Sacred Space.
Ingredient Suggestions and their possible representations:
Begin with Sugar – represents sweetness and love. In the tradition of the Q’ero shamans, the sugar also represents the snow that is on the mountaintops which marks the highest point of wisdom where heaven and earth meet. You can have the sugar create a cross for the four directions, a circle for oneness or a pile in the center. Follow your inspiration.
Quintu’s – Typically in Peru the Q’ero place 3 sacred Coca leaves together to create what they call a “Quintu” which carries the prayers to the three worlds: the lower world, here on earth and the heavens. You can use 3 small leaves from your garden or neighborhood, from flowers you gathered for the ritual or you can use Bay leaves, which resemble coca leaves. Put groups of three leaves together and blow prayers into them. On top of the group of 3 leaves, you can also have one red and one white petal from a carnation or any other native flowers– traditionally red represents the earth and white the snow on the mountains reaching toward the heavens.
Once you have your Quintu, blow your intention for the prayer into it and place it on the despacho. If there is more than one person doing the ritual, place them in a circle around the center. If you are doing it alone, you can place one in each of the four directions or even do the traditional 12. Cover these with a little more sugar – Representing even more love and sweetness.
One open shell – placed in the middle of the prayers it represents the womb of the earth, our source and birthplace. This holds us and nourishes us, and provides opportunity and safety.
Rice – fertility and abundance, to bring your prayers into fruition.
Lentils – vibrant health.
Nuts – sustenance.
Beans – for protection, abundance, power places, and the springs that nourish us.
Corn – sustenance: a gift back to the earth for what we have been given, community.
Raisins and dried fruit – spirits of our ancestors.
Animal Crackers – for animal spirits who hold certain pure energies on the planet for us.
Black licorice – protection and safety
Candy – Candies, Candy hearts, sweet gum drops, candy corn etc – sweetness of everything we are in relationship with.
Lots of chocolate – “Pachamama” or mother earth LOVES chocolate.
Loose sage or other incense – to feed the elements of the earth.
Gummy or candy frogs – messengers, envoys to carry our prayers; cycle of waters.
“Play” money, one piece – ensure successfulness of the despacho.
Cotton balls unraveled – clouds; represents aware time and dream time.
Confetti Stars – connection to the stars.
Colorful candy or sprinkles – to celebrate all life.
Flower petals – for healing.
While these are all great ideas for items to carry your prayers, let yourself be creative and inspired by what you have available to you. These could be natural elements such as leaves and stones or whatever you have in your house like popcorn, dried fruit or chia seeds. It’s less about what you add and more about your attention and intention to come into harmony and right relationship by saying thank you.
Once you have said all your thank you’s, you’ll probably be able to feel the sensation of gratitude in the air around you like you can feel the chair you’re sitting on right now. That’s the point of the despacho! When the gratitude is tangible, soak it up like a sponge and take it forward with you, noticing what in your life adds to the feeling and what takes away from that feeling of gratitude.
To close the despacho… create one last Qintu (the 3 leaves with the white and red petal) and silently blow into the Qintu all that you are welcoming into your life, all that you dream of, long for, hope for… all that you are wanting to co-create with the divine. Then place it on the despacho if you are doing it alone. If you are with a group, invite each person to pass their Qintu to the right and silently blow the energy of these words: “Please hear my brother/sister’s prayers” to bless the dreams of each person until they have all gone around the circle.
After you have added any final ingredients, open your hands and hearts to the despacho to send gratitude and receive blessings and any insights or wisdom. Then fold the paper, wrapping the center offerings like a gift, being careful not to flip it over so that the prayers are sustained. Tie it up and make it pretty.
You can choose to offer the despacho by burying it (for slow, steady results), burning it (for quicker transformation) or feeding it to the waters (a flowing river or lake) immediately or within a few days to a week after you create it.
If you burn it in a sacred fire, participants are invited to look away or walk away until after the offering has burnt. The Q’ero say that the spirits are shy… and it also symbolizes non-attachment to the outcome of the prayer and releasing all claim to that which was given away.
Finally, close sacred space.
~May all our prayers be heard with love and sweetness and may they benefit the highest good of all~