If the greatest form of prayer is gratitude for what we already have, then a Peruvian Despacho gives rich form to a message of thankfulness bound for the Infinite and returned instantaneously.
The prayer bundle of a Despacho is sent to spirit via fire, water or earth. Everything can be included: offerings to the elementals, animals, minerals, plants, mountains, the sea, the stars, and Pachamama herself. This takes the form of rice, sugar, flowers, leaves, spices, lama fat … even beer can sanctify the ground beforehand. Each ingredient builds on the last until the bounty of the entire world is tied with a rainbow string and ready to be dispatched.
Our own wishes are not secondary but essential. Fire delivers the prayer immediately, water carries it gracefully, the earth decomposes it – mulching all the constituent elements over time – with a slow haste. Yet a Despacho ceremony invites us beyond time, to that place where all prayers in existence have already been answered. What if that great spirit didn’t want our piousness, but our celebration?
There is grace to this form of prayer; we are ennobled and uplifted by sharing space with the spirits of all things. There is no sense trying to teach a starving man how to meditate. That’s not going to put food in his belly. Our desires are not wrong. It’s OK to want worldly things. Spirit and matter are gradations of consciousness, not diametrically opposed. All we have to do is ask.
Have you buried your dreams? Is it unholy to ask for stuff, for jobs, money, relationships? Despacho asks where have the things of this world been downgraded, as spiritually impure or as part of a long-vanished dream. It’s time to reanimate our vision with the richness of earthy life. Yes, once the prayer is dispatched we must be open to the form of its answer. It doesn’t always match the vision, but that’s because the vision was too limited.
Prayer is a form of communion. If it appears our prayers have not been answered, then we haven’t recognised communion as the answer itself. At that table, there is only bounty. Here, we can pour out all our desperate longings. The Earth groans and swoons with us. When we come into right relationship with the things of this world, nothing it too much.
Photos: McKay Savage