Pachamama Raymi: August 1 Ceremony

The Festival of Mother Earth, Pachamama Raymi, takes place on August 1 and is a day to celebrate the bounty, blessings, and support of Mother Earth. For paqos, however, it is a day of ceremonial significance.August 1 calendaar I have written about this auspicious day in the past (posts of July 1, 2015 and July 9, 2019) and today I write again, with additional suggestions for how to work the energies of this energetic and ceremonial “New Year’s Day” for paqos. It’s a kind of New Year’s Day, because it is said that it is the day the Earth (Mama Allpa) and the mountain spirits (apus) are “awakened” most attentively to our ayni, intentions, and offerings. However, our offerings are not only to Mother Earth and the apus, but to the all-encompassing Pachamama, the Mother of the Manifest World, and to the Kawsay Pacha, the living universe.

On August 1, we set aside some personal time to do a deep hucha clearing and then to drop into our Inka Seed and move our energy in the spirit of kanay, of who we really are as spirits and as souls (as “divine” energetic beings and as earthly human beings). We act with khuyay (a deep, sincere engagement) and speak with rimay (expressing with integrity and power our personal experience and sense of beingness).

In this post, I am not going to repeat the ceremonies detailed in the other two posts, but will offer additional ideas for how to make this a deeply personal and meaningful day of reverence and connection both within and without the self. However, I do urge you to look at the past posts, especially the July 9, 2019 post, to review what I consider an essential part of the work of this day: the stating of intention for the coming year using the “I am what I speak, not what I have spoken” rimay statement from the late Q’ero don Julian Pauqar Flores.

The work of this day is that of mast’ay, a reordering or restructuring of the self. It is also a conscious Flowering compressed AdobeStock_30430837renewal of the self. As we do our daily mystical work, such as saminchakuy and saminchakuy, we are, of course, restructuring and renewing ourselves. On this day, however, we are going deeper to embrace more consciously our connection to our Inka Seed so that we can express ourselves back out in the world with greater grandeur, beauty, and power. We also nurture our potential—the fullness of ourselves as held within our Inka Seed—and empower our capacity to continue our journey up the qanchispatañan, the stairway of the stages of human development, prepping ourselves to one day express the sixth-level state of being, that of an enlightened human being. Or even reaching the seventh level, which is ranti with Taytanchis: god expressed in our human form.

Beyond the work I describe in the previous posts, you may choose other practices to revisit on this day, choosing according to your state of being and the condition of your life as they are right now. Remember, we don’t do ceremony for ceremony’s sake. We don’t work through the whole menu of practices just because they are available. We drop into ourselves, clarify our intention and ayni, and then choose specific practices according to our needs at the moment. In addition, it is the quality of our ayni that matters, not how many practices we do. As don Juan Ñunez del Prado once said, if you are seated in your Inka Seed and flowing in integrity with your ayni, then there can be more power in a single k’intu you make and offer than in an entire elaborate despacho.

The suggestions below are all practices from what I call the “Foundation Training” in Andean mysticism. If you have not taken that training, some of these practices may be unfamiliar to you. Once again, the practices discussed below are ones you might consider for your Pachamama Day ceremony that go beyond saminchakuy and saiwachakuy, working with your misha, offering a despacho, using rimay to state new intentions (using don Julian’s incantation), and recapitulating the past to rebirth yourself as a whole, healed human being situated anew in the present moment (wachay) and other practicesFran another despacho cropped mentioned in the previous posts.

Chunpi Away and Ñawi K’ichay: Pachamama Day is a great time to reweave the chunpis and reactivate your ñawis. The chunpis are energetic “belts of power” that surround our physical body and “hook up” the mystical eyes, our ñawis, into an interconnected whole and integrated system. The belts do not exist until we weave them, and their power is not inherent in themselves but in their capacity to wire together our ñawis. That is their primary function. In contrast, everyone is born with a mystical body, including the ñawis, although most people don’t know about, and thus don’t learn to use, their mystical eyes. The chunpis fade over time, so we are wise to reweave them at least once a year. This helps keep the interconnections among the ñawis strong and vibrant. At the end of the practice, when your wasi (poq’po and body) is filled with the violet energy of the cosmos, sit in ayni with the living universe free of all seqes to anything or anyone outside of yourself, drop into your Inka Seed, and remember who you really are, which reenergizes your kanay for the coming year.

Yanapakuna: During the Foundation Training, in the work of the left-side, we choose eight helper spirits as prototypes of the seven stages of the qanchispatañan. They help tune us to these levels. They hold the space for those potentials that lie in wait within us to be developed. During your ceremony on Pachamama Day, work through the practices of tuning with your yanapakuna, moving them down through the ñawis in the series of practices we do in the lloq’e training to tune our qaway (three upper eyes capacity), rimay (kunka ñawi capacity), khuyay (qosqo ñawi capacity), and atiy (siki ñawi capacity). Or, work with one or more of your helper spirits to tune and charge yourself in specific ways: choose the spirit at the level of consciousness development that you most need to be empowered by at this time of your life. You can even invite that helper to sit in the seat of your Inka Seed and speak its wisdom to you, guiding you to solve a problem or providing insight into how to fulfill a dream or desire. Finally, be the tusoq and have some Pachamama Raymi (festival) fun by dancing and singing your helpers, allowing them to tune you as you embrace them in the spirit of playfulness (pukllay).

Inka Muyu and Sonqo: Revisit the left-side practice of activating your Inka Seed, filling yourself with the Heart energy human compressed AdobeStock_110062650nectar of its sami. Then stream this sami up to connect with your sonqo, and as your will and your feelings integrate through munay, reexperience the profound sense of the “real” you. Feel the munay and claim it as your love for yourself, as the way your Inka Seed/Spirit and Creator love you just as you are right now. Allow the integrated munay of your Inka Seed and sonqo to fill you, and allow your Inka Seed—the wisdom at the center of your Self—to counsel and advise you.

Other practices to consider are the Mallki practice, by which you build the sacred tree and tune yourself to and touch your sixth-level energy potential. Or, the Tawantin practice whereby you align your cool and warm energy centers, integrating them in masintin pairs through the sami of Mama Allpa, and then integrating them as yanantin pairs to generate the wondrous tawantin energy, the energy of harmony and wholeness. Use that tawantin energy to integrate all aspects of yourself and touch the energy of your tawantin potential for inner and outer wholeness. You can even infuse the two spinning disks you have created from the energies of these centers with an intention that you project out into the living universe as you turn yourself into a living despacho. As a final suggestion for a practice, you could revitalize your connection to your Amaru, raising your power and reinvigorating yourself through your personal karpay.

In the fourth-level way of practicing as a paqo, we are not energy technicians, but energy artists. We each can honor our uniqueness as a Drop of the Mystery by creatively expressing ourselves in our own way during this day of ayni ceremony. We each have a different karpay and so must discover the best way to reach forward in time and space to touch (and own) our personal potential.

No matter which series of practices we decide to incorporate into our Pachamama Day ceremony to let go of our personal hucha and foster our continuing development, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that it is a day of ayni with the spirit beings who are always there to support and guide us. So, in addition to doing our own work, let us incorporate into our ceremony a sweet ayni exchange with the Earth, the apus, and other spirit beings for all the blessings they bestow upon us.


A Paqo’s Approach to Resilience

When we do our daily practice of saminchakuy, we are releasing our heavy energy and refining our ability to more perfectly absorb sami, the light living energy. When we add in saiwachakuy, we are allowing Mother Earth to support, strengthen, and empower us with her sami. According to don Juan Nuñez del Prado, one benefit from among the many benefits of both practices is that we increase our capacity for resiliency. We become more flexible in our response to troubling outer circumstances and our own inner dissonance. We can bounce back from challenges, external and internal, more quickly. Energetically and emotionally, we are able to be more like martial artists: no matter how severely buffeted we are by traumas and turmoil, we are not thrown badly off balance, but instead land in alignment with our center.

Resilience, in this sense, is dependent on qaway, on our ability to see reality as it really is, which means with some measure of equanimity. There are two common definitions of equanimity: “mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation” and “an ability to recover from oralone- Cropped Pixabay ga78d69bf7_1920 adjust easily to misfortune or change.” Through qaway, we acknowledge the “reality” of what is happening “out there” and “in here,” without distorting it or denying it, and through that clarity we achieve a measure of energetic detachment that allows us to choose a nimble, efficient, productive, and appropriate response. Sometimes that appropriate response is choosing to be non-reactive and logical, or displaying self-restraint and tempering our emotions, words, and actions. Sometimes it is expressing our will by forcefully establishing a boundary and saying “No!” or it is giving ourselves up to our grief or despair and allowing ourselves to feel this excruciating moment of our humanness. Qaway lets us be who we really are and see others and the world for who and what they really are—admittedly not so easy a task since we so often are operating from our psychological shadows and being triggered or are projecting onto others—and resilience allows us to deal what is and not be resistant to it or slayed by it.

I have been thinking about resilience lately in light of world events, from global issues such as the ongoing pandemic and the war in Ukraine to national tragedies such as the plethora (epidemic) of gun violence and mass murder in the United States. The poet and novelist Maya Angelou, now deceased, lived in the next town over from me. I read her works in school, but I observed her demeanor in person. The few times I interacted with her or observed her, I was always aware of an aura of calmness and centeredness about her. She had a difficult life, and one of her most quoted lines comes from her lived experience and her resiliency to life experiences: “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” Those two sentences capture the essence of what it means to be resilient.

A closely related view was expressed by Helen Keller, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” We certainly can overcome things, sometimes in truly amazing and nearly unbelievable ways. It’s an achievement to be a “survivor,” which is different from thinking we are “victors,” although overcoming something surely is its own kind of victory. We can survive and be reduced and still not have lost ourselves or a sense of our kanay, of who we really are and of the potential of our Inka Seed. But without resilience—the ability to recover and adjust—it seems almost impossible to overcome any significant challenge or tragedy with our humanness intact, or at least significantly unscathed.

I think the underlying struggle many of us face when we reflect upon the many difficult and even tragic world and national events occurring right now is not the struggle to reconcile good and evil or right and Celebrating you compressed cropped AdobeStock_73874996wrong, but the challenge of keeping conscious our choice for resiliency over resignation.

When we frame difficulties and even traumas in terms of resilience, which keeps resignation at bay, we can see that what we are witnessing in our world represents more of the energy of “overcoming” than of “succumbing.” What is the world rallying around in the Ukrainian people if not their incredible displays of resilience? Why are we praying for the parents of murdered school children except that they can marshal their resilience in the face of such heartrending loss? When we choose to do saminchakuy every day, or even hucha miqhuy, what are we seeking more of except the personal power to follow the inner compass of our Inka Seed, which directs us through our dark nights of the soul to the light of our greater capacities, even of our human grandeur?

The human world—the kay pacha—is a world of both sami and hucha. We are beings of both sami and hucha. And yet we have within our mystical body two centers of pure sami: our Inka Seed (the seat of our will) and our sonqo ñawi (the eye of our heart/feelings). Through them we both feel and we choose. At the two extremes, we feel despair or hope, and we choose defeat or we strive. Together, I think, they are the source of our resiliency: through their power we navigate the in-between spaces, where the bulk of life plays out. Together, as the source of our resiliency, they are what pull us up, up, up no matter what is trying to pull us down, down, down. They are what allow us to marshal our personal power and declare, once again quoting Maya Angelou: “You may shoot me with your words, / You may cut me with your eyes, / You may kill me with your hatefulness, / But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

Announcing Shamans Directory: One Fire, One Medicine

Healers and teachers from around the world. You are invited to step up and step in!

It is time to bring our collective healing Fire Imageand spiritual wisdom together from all corners of our precious planet. Humanity needs our medicine now more than ever for global awakening and transformation.

Shamans Directory is a new online portal for services that bridge the ancient, sacred, shamanic, and mystical arts. Whether you call yourself a medicine person, ceremonialist, shamanic or mystical practitioner, healer, energy worker, teacher of the sacred arts, priest or priestess, or plant medicine ethnobotanist, you are invited to share your medicine with others.

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– Angaangack Angakkorsuaq, Ice Wisdom, Greenland
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– Don Gino Cocchella, Chaka-Runa, Peru
– Diana Beaulieu, Sacred Woman Awakening & Soulrise, Spain
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– Elio Geusa, Aya Healing Retreats, Peru
– Elizabeth B Jenkins, Global Paqo School, Hawaii
– Imelda Almqvist, Pregnant Hag Teachings, UK
– Joan Parisi Wilcox, Qenti Wasi, USA
– Jocelyn Star Feather, We Are Sacred Planet, USA
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– Jyoti Ma, Mother Earth Delegation & The Fountain, USA
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Apus as Sources of Power

In my last post (April 8), we took a look at how not all apus are mountains and not all mountains are apus. In this post, we will consider how both mountain apus and non-mountain apus can be sources of power for us, aiding us in our personal conscious development.

Let’s start by acknowledging that we are not Andean paqos. We are American, French, Spanish, British, mishas compressed IMG_4625Thai, Swedish, Mexican, South African practitioners of the Andean mystical tradition. The concept of apus as paqos who after their physical death inhabit mountains to serve as guides and teachers to human beings in one sense is purely cultural, a concept indigenous to the Andes. In another sense, the apus can be “translated” into a concept that is universal, as just about every tradition or culture recognizes that natural formations can be “sacred” sites. We can make a literal equivalence to the concept of Andean apus as mountain spirits and sources of power by identifying those mountains in our area or country that have historically been recognized as being special, sacred, or otherwise called out in some uncommon way. If we trace the history of the First Nation peoples in our area, we will likely find that they related to certain mountains (and other natural formations) in ways distinct from other natural features. That’s a clue that they in some way venerated that mountain (venerated as in “esteemed” rather than “worshipped”). If that is the case, then we, too, can establish a relationship with that mountain as a source of power. From the Andean perspective, there is no issue of cultural appropriation, as sources of power are available to all human beings. We use our Andean energy dynamics to access that power, rather than appropriating the rituals of the local cultural group who might be most associated with that mountain or sacred site.

What do I mean by a “source of power”? In terms of the Andean tradition, this mountain or natural formation is a source of sami, of the life-force energy. From the Andean mystical perspective, everything in nature is sami, but “sacred” sites, including apus, are considered to be collectors of sami, so they concentrate sami and can act as runa micheqs, or shepherds of human beings. We can work with them as particularly robust generators of sami and also as beings who can teach and guide us.

Let’s look briefly at mountain apus as guides for human beings. Don Juan Nuñez del Prado says, “The apus are real beings. You can talk with them. They can talk to you. They can teach you.” How do we connect with a mountain apu as a teaching or guiding spirit? The same way we develop any relationship, by establishing a personal connection with it. We introduce ourselves and allow the apu to relate back to us. Don Juan explained this to me in very direct terms: “How do you do it? You meet me and I meet you. After I meet you [and spend some time talking with you], I can say I know who Joan Parisi Wilcox is!” The Andean energy dynamics are that simple and direct. We don’t need to do elaborate rituals; we just needNew Apu wilkanusta Veronica to be ourselves and establish a personal ayni relationship with the spirit beings, including with apus.

From the fourth level of practice, however, the apus are more than literal mountain spirit beings. An apu can be any source of power—a temple or sanctuary, or a statue or other physical symbol of importance in the development of a place, people, and culture. We are always absorbing sami, and we can “charge” ourselves and increase our well-being by taking in the sami that is especially concentrated through this form of “apu.” Taking in this concentrated sami helps us to release our hucha (heavy energy) more quickly, and it strengthens and invigorates us. The more sami-filled we are, the more easily we can progress up the qanchispatañan, the stairway of the seven stages or levels of human conscious development. This less literal kind of apu can serve as an engine of power for our personal development. Remember, the fourth-level approach to practicing the tradition is based on the view that our poq’po, our energy body or energy bubble, is more than energy—it is an information field that can be equated to our psyches, our minds. Our energy work is all about restructuring ourselves, improving ourselves, stepping up the qanchispatañan of consciousness.

Don Ivan Nuñez del Prado beautifully explains the more abstract way we can think about what we are doing when we connect with either an actual apu or with the less literal form, such as a sacred site or other non-mountain structure (or even a person). “[When I think] of the relationship between us and the earth, with places of power and so on—for me, this is your projection, as those places are going to stimulate some part of your psyche. They will be symbols, many times archetypal structures outside the self that represent the energies projected from inside yourself. . . . You are working with those power places . . . but you are actually dealing with your inner world and energy. It’s like a big despacho—the world is like a big despacho—and you are relating with the parts and adjusting it, and these energies are going to organize the self.”

One way we work this outer source of sami as fuel for our inner development is to relate first to the “apus” of the place where we live, and then move from the local to the regional to the national, expanding our range energetically and, we hope, developing ourselves in greater ways as we do. So, we would start by working with an “apu” Brunswick sculpture-gb0b848dbd_1920that is an important carrier of the information and energy of the place where we live. This “apu” is our energetic ancestor, not in the sense of our personal bloodline ancestors, but as one of the ancestors of the place we find ourselves at currently, of our physical location on the back of Mother Earth. These “apus” are geographical and cultural ancestors, because they are creators of the poq’po—the energy bubble—of the place where we reside. We might not like the place we live right now; it might not feel like home. This emotional discomfort may have its roots in an energetic disconnect. So, we can shift that emotional state by using our will and intention to establish an ayni relationship with the bubble of that place. We can take action by working with one or more of these local “apus,” who can help us feel at home right where we are, more fully and deeply grounded with that patch of Pachamama. The connection creates an inner equilibrium so that we can work energetically without distraction or discomfort. Once we connect with the “apu” of our town, we can then work outward, expanding the energy bubbles (“apus”) we work with to our state or province and then to our country. By forming ayni relationships with these sources of power, we can enlarge our karpay (how much of our potential we are actually accessing), which helps us progress up the qanchispatañan.

Don Ivan explains the concept of the apus as energetic ancestors in this way: “You need to build a healthy relationship with the ancestors. We all need to do that. So, if you are related with the apus at different spheres and levels, you are relating with the actual people who built that bubble as an energy field. You need to have a healthy relationship with the ones who established the foundations of the bubble where you live. That is the ayni relationship with your ancestors. If you develop a healthy ayni relationship—and you know ayni is about giving and receiving—you are going to have something to offer and you are going to get something from them.”

At this more abstract level of “apu,” what is the source or engine of power? Anything that represents and connects you to the originating imprinted information and energy field. In your town, maybe there is a statue of the founder. That statue would be your “apu,” the doorway through which you connect with the founder as a source of power. (Doing research is a good idea, because maybe the founder of your town was more hucha-filled than sami-filled. If that’s the case, you can shift to working with a different local “apu.”) Once you have established a relationship with the ayllu (local) “apu,” you can then reach out and access a laqta (regional) “apu,” which would be something or someone venerated in your state orStatue-of-liberty-g20260399d_1920 province. Finally, you can connect with a suyu (national) “apu.” We can connect with people of the past because when human beings die, their spirit returns to the hanaq pacha but their soul (experience and knowledge as a human being) is imprinted in the Earth. Through that information imprint, we can access people from the past and their wisdom.

Don Juan explains this concept of working an increasingly larger scale of “ancestor apus” as follows: “If you were [born or currently live in] in Texas, who can be your [llaqta] apu? It could be Davy Crockett! Who could be your suyu apu? Thomas Jefferson. Or John Adams or any of the founding fathers of the nation. This is the kind of ancestor we work with. We can relate with a whole scale of people who [have done] something important in your tradition; this is relating with your ancestors in the Andean way. You don’t try to use the apu structure literally, as the [physical] mountains of North America. If you follow don Benito and how Manuel Pinta was made an apu, it means every apu is an expression of the development of the tradition [the energy of the people within the tradition who helped develop it]. In that way, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are suyu apus. They each have a character that can teach you something. Every apu has a character: Washington was a general, Jefferson was a philosopher. This is the way you work. Your [culture] didn’t develop a system like the apus [as mountain spirits] in the US. But you can make a translation. Apu Ausangate can be seen as Thomas Jefferson! The source of power can be Monticello. Washington can be your apu, and the Washington monument a source of power. You can connect with them [each] as an apu. You need to translate, but every one of them has a certain kind of property [that can teach and guide you].”

Following this path of translation—which focuses not on the literal outer representation of an “apu” but on the energy exchanges we can make with it as a source of sami and power for our personal development—just about anything that has meaning for you can be your “apu.” From a small-town statute to a national symbol to an international wonder such as Stonehenge or the Giza Pyramid. We start local, at the ayllu level, with an apu that helps us become grounded and connected right where we are, comfortable and at home. This is essential for our cultivating the inner state by which we can then consciously develop ourselves. Then we work up to greater sources of power. At the llaqta level, we are being guided by a power source of our state or region. Then we will be ready to relate to a suyu apu, a repository of power for our country and our larger culture. Finally, if we have advanced our development, we may be able to cultivate an ayni relationship with a teqse apu, a universal apu. Traditionally, these are the nature “apus” of the Sun, Moon, Wind, Waters, and Earth. But we can also take as our teqse apu a person who has lived with a capacity for enormous personal power or from great wisdom (called hamuta in Quechua) and so has influenced the development of all of humanity. A few examples of people of the stature of teqse “apus” are Jesus Christ, Siddhartha Gautama, Mohammed, the Dali Lama, Amelia Earhart, Isaac Newton, Madame Curie, Albert Einstein, and Mother Theresa. Working with mountain apus is one form of walking a path of personal development, and when we get beyond seeing the apus (or the female equivalent, the ñust’as) as literal mountains only, then our work with these sources of power goes deeper and becomes richer.

What Makes an Apu an Apu?

For most people who study the Andean sacred arts, the answer to the question posed by the title of this post seems fairly obvious. The apus are the sacred mountain spirits that guide, counsel, and protect the people who live within their range of power. However, if you have read my blog posts for any length of time, as you may expect, my answer is going to take us beyond the obvious.

Apu is a Quechua word that means “Lord,” or in some other translations retaining the sacred nuance, it means “Honored One.” More generally, it means chief, mighty one, boss, powerful, rich, and wealthy. It was a title or rank within the Inka royal court and also may have been within the military hierarchy of the Inka Empire. Within the spiritual tradition, we retain the meaning of Lord of a Mountain (for a female mountain spirit, the term usually is Ñust’a, meaning “Princess”).  For don Bentio Qoriwaman, an apu is a runa micheq, a shepherd of human beings.

What may come as a surprise to some people is that, as I tell my students, not every mountain is an apu, ausangate-pixabay - resized gc28f8cf4f_1920and not every apu is a mountain. Some mountains are just geographical formations: they are not inhabited by a powerful spirit who can guide and protect human beings and communities. And there are other “honored ones” whom we call apus: for example, the seven teqse apukuna, or universal spirit beings: Jesus/the diving masculine principle, Mary/the divine feminine principle, Tayta Inti (Father Sun), Tayta Wayra (Father Wind), Mama Allpa (Mother Earth), Mama Una (Mother Water) and Mama Killa (Mother Moon).

But what of those mountains who are apus? Who exactly is inhabiting them? Who are the “spirit beings” that turn a mundane mountain into an apu? And how did they happen to inhabit a mountain? We don’t know exactly how this transformation happens, but we have clues.

Our first clue is that there is a ceremony, the Wasichakuy, in which upon the death of a master paqo, his apprentices and the local people him (or her) to stay with them in the form of an apu. (Wasi means “house,” “body,” or “temple”; chakuy means “to make.”) In this context, wasichakuy means to make a home or offer a home, and the ceremony involves three generations of a master paqo’s students coming together in ceremony to petition the paqo to take up residence in a local mountain and remain available to them that way. That paqo’s “aya” or soul (aya also means “ghost”) stays on Earth, in the kaypacha, to serve his or her students and the community at large.

Our second clue is that we know this ceremony was actually done for the apu that oversees Wasao, a town about thirty minutes outside of Cuzco. This is the Apu Manuel Pinta. The paqo Manuel Pinta is part of our Cuzco Wachu, or paqo lineage (if you study in the two lineages of don Juan Nuñez del Prado). This paqo lineage goes from don Juan, back through don Benito Qoriwaman and don Melchor Desa, to their teacher don Julian Chhallayku, and to his master don Manuel Pinta. We don’t know the lineage any further back than that (except that its founder was Waskar Inka). Manual Pinta was a real person, a widely respected fourth-level paqo. When he died, his apprentices and the people asked him to stay, and apparently he did, taking up residence in the local mountain, which was renamed for him, Apu Manuel Pinta. That remains its name to this day.

Is there any other evidence of how apus become apus? Well, there is some evidence from a legend, and this legend involves the two highest ranked apus of the region: the suyu apus Ausangate and Salcantay. The legend also explains how another mountain became the Apu Wayka Willka, known through the Spanish Conquistadors as Veronica. (There are at least a half dozen spelling variations of this apu’s name, including Waikawillka, Hunayawillca, and Waynawillca).

The legend goes something like this: At one time Cuzco was experiencing a severe and prolonged drought, and the people were starving. Two brothers, Ausantage and Salcantay, decided to leave Cuzco in search of food to help the people. Austangate went south, to the highlands, where he found greatSalcantay cropped - Stevage, Wikipedia Commons bounty. He brought back all kinds of food, which helped save the people of Cuzco. Salcantay went north, toward the jungle. In his wanderings, he came to the land of the Anti people, who had a reputation as great warriors. He spent time there, where he met a princess, Waynawillca. They fell in love and were to be married, but the Anti people disapproved. They did not want their princess to marry an outsider and leave their land. So, they banished Salcantay. But he and Waynawillca would not be separated, and they fled together, heading back toward Cuzco.

The Anti warriors followed them, seeking to return with Waynawillca. When they caught up with the two young lovers, there was either a fight during which Waynawillca was killed or they deliberately sacrificed her rather than let this stranger take her from them. The Anti warriors fled back to the jungle.

Salcantay was both grief-stricken and enraged. He returned to the land of the Anti and took his rage out on them in a killing spree, nearly exterminating them. The Gods, seeing all this bloodshed, were not happy, and they decided to turn Salcantay into a mountain so that he could not wreak any more havoc. (Interestingly, “salka” is a quechua word that means many things, among them wild, free, invincible, uncivilized, and undomesticated, and it also can refer, in the sacred work, to the human condition: to our lower nature, to our survival or animalistic impulses, which we seek to “tame” and refine to higher levels of expression.)

That’s where the legend ends, at least in the versions I have found of it. But this version is enough to verify for us that an apu is a mountain enlivened by the spirit of a human being. We can surmise, and certainly imagine, that Ausangate, the savior of the people of Cuzco, was also turned into an Apu, an Honored One. And, as the companion to Salcantay, that the princess Waynawillca was as well.

This hypothesis, if borne out, allows us to see the apus through new eyes. They are not ambiguous nature spirits, but the souls of past paqos and others who contributed to the good of the local people. (Salcantay might be the exception, turned into an apu because of his bad behavior.) When we develop a “relationship” with an apu, we are in a very real sense developing a sacred but “human” relationship. That has been my experience with the Q’ero paqos. They admire, respect, and honor their tutelary apus, and they feel a personal bond with them. In most cases, the apus are their friends. The master paqo whose soul inhabits the mountain is, as the Andean paqos and we recognize, more developed than we are, which is why that apu can serve as a guide and mentor to us. But overall, at least for me, the apus become less about being mysterious nature spirits and become more understandable and approachable.

One last piece of possible evidence about an apu being the “home” for a paqo’s soul: just like a human being, each apu has its own characteristics and gifts. For instance, when we offer a haywarisqa (despacho) to an apu to request something, according to my teacher don Juan Nuñez del Prado, we would direct the Wayka Willka - Edubucher Wikipedia, creative commons licenseoffering to a specific apu who has it within his or her power to respond in ayni to that request. We wouldn’t offer a haywarisqa requesting help with our health to an apu whose specialty is improving family relationships. There is disagreement among paqos and the local people about the specialties of each apu. For example, some people say that Salcantay is the apu to call upon for healing requests, whereas others say that he is more about helping increase freedom and with the loosening of something stuck or blocked within; still others associated Salcantay with an untamed feminine energy or with more generalized unformed, wild, and even chaotic states of energy. The general point, however, is that, according to don Juan, if we have a specific request in our haywarisqa and don’t know which apu can answer that request, then we should direct that offering not to an apu at all but to Taytanchis, or the metaphysical God. To make our request to someone, in this case an apu, who can’t fulfill it is unproductive to say the least! But in our exploration of how an apu becomes an apu, it makes sense that if individual paqos when they are alive have specialties and particular personal skills and gifts, so would the apu they have become.

Not all apus may have been created this way, and not all apus who were created this way retained the name of the paqos who reside within them. Still, for me, and I hope for you, it’s both a delight and a comfort to know that the greatest paqos and others who were deserving, such as Ausangate, whose munay (feelings/love) and atiy (initiative) saved the people of Cuzco, live on in the kaypacha and are available to us in the form of apus.

[Photos in order from top of post to bottom: Apu Ausangate (“WaSZI,”, Apu Salcantay (“Stevage,” Wikipedia Creative Commons), and Apu Wayka Willka (“Edubucher,” Wikipedia Creative Commons). All photos are copyrighted and not to be used without permission and/or attribution.]