Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Day the Condors Flew

It is the last day of our 3 day Shamanic Mingo Tour. Yesterday we visited a village where the people are attempting to develop eco-tourism. Today, some of these villagers are taking us, along with their Yatchak to Lake Cuicocha. This lake is part of a large reserve, and until ten years ago, the indigenous people were forbidden to use this sacred lake to perform any of their special ceremonies. Now they are able to travel to a narrow beach, where a waterfall tumbles down the high cliffs and flows into the "Lake of the Gods'. This powerful site is our destination.

At the dock, we all pile into two of the tourist boats used to tour the lake. T
he village's musicians are in our boat, and as we begin our voyage, they play and sing us on our way. Lake Cuicocha is a crater lake with two large islands in its centre. The crater walls stretch up almost vertically on all sides. We head off around the islands, to the far side of the lake.

As we beach and clamber out of the boats, most of us set off exploring up the small creek. We help gather dry wood for a fire, and look for special stones in the water's edge. With a fire crackling, the Yatchak sets up his tools - over 70 powerful stones from many of the power sites in Ecuador, the tobacco and alcohol used in the ceremony, and the offerings of foods for Pacha Mama. This is to be an Equinoxal ceremony, giving thanks to the Earth for its bounty and care, and also asking for hope and prosperity for all of us - both North and South Americans.

We sit in a circle around the Yatchak, and he begins his ceremony quietly and with great dignity. His chants call on the gods - of the earth, the water, fire, and air, and also the Christian god. His prayers are for prosperity for these villagers, and for the hope that their efforts to develop a better life will succeed. He includes all of us in his prayers. He then leads us to a small depression under the water, in the shallows. We carry offerings of foods and seeds, returning to Pacha Mama some of her bounty in thanks, and then our offerings are covered with stones, a cairn to the gods. All of this is done with dignity and great ceremony, and it is very moving.

As we return to the fire, and start to dry our feet, I hear a voice say, "Hey, look - the eagles are flying!" We turn to watch, and as the two birds circle above us, we see that they are not eagles at all, but Andean condors - those magical and rare birds. They swoop and soar above us, circling and turning, and finally settle on the cliff side high above us.

What a completion to our ceremony! This is a sign that excites and thrills us all, but most of all, it thrills our Yatchak. It is a sign that the Gods have heard us, a sign of favor and hope.