The Q’ero are known around the world for their spiritual teachings. Their unique spirituality is integral to all aspects of Q’ero life. Living and farming in harsh conditions at high altitudes for centuries has ensured that these small communities have evolved inseparably connected to their environment and each other. Life revolves around their relationship with Pachamama, our mother earth and the cosmic feminine, and to all people, plants, and animals.
Ayni (eye-knee) is the fundamental principle of Andean life. A form of sacred reciprocity between individuals, families, neighbors and communities, ayni is a pay-it-forward model in which one gives without an expectation of something in return, knowing that all beings live in an interconnected web and everyone’s needs will be taken care of. Ayni also recognizes that Pachamama, or Mother Earth, provides food, water, shelter, and all the essentials to one’s survival and wellbeing through plants, animals, lakes, clouds, and other aspects of nature. In return, one gives back to Mother Earth through prayers, appreciation, gifts, and stewardship.
The leaf of the coca plant is traditionally chewed by adults, who also use them to offer prayers to the apus, or mountain spirits. Coca leaves aid in maintaining Q’ero wellness by providing necessary nutrition and assistance with life at high altitudes. The leaves are considered sacred for ceremonial purposes.
The despacho ceremony is one of the most important rituals performed by the paq’os. The Q’ero use this ceremony to communicate and interact with Pachamama and their apus in order to express gratitude and reinforce sacred balance, or “ayni.” An act of great spiritual love, a despacho is a portal enabling them to enter into the living energy of nature – and the universe.
Q’ero people also celebrate seasonal events such as plantings and harvests and honor their llamas for their loyal service hauling heavy loads of potatoes from the fields, and for their gifts of dung used as fertilizer for crops and as fuel to cook food.
The special responsibilities of the paq’os, the Q’ero term for a mystic or spiritual leader, include diagnosing health and spiritual problems, and creating balance and harmony amongst individuals, families, animals, crops, the community, and the universe.
Experiencing Q’ero Spirituality
Many westerners are drawn to Q’ero spiritual practices for their beauty, seeking the loving connection to nature and the cosmos that Andean spirituality offers; however, our own western paradigms of language, thought, and context can constrain our understanding of Andean cosmology. Many westerners find that experiencing rather than learning about Q’ero spiritual practices opens doors to the loving connection with nature and the cosmos, to an uplifted consciousness, and to personal change.
The vocabulary of the ancient heritage language of the Andes that expresses Q’ero cosmology cannot be adequately translated into western vocabularies because the essence and meaning of these practices are integral to Andean social and cultural life and are grounded in the geographic context of the Andes mountains.