Contemplating Autumnal Gratitude Through the Heart of Ayni
In the land of the Andes, there is a guiding principle that the communities and people live by called “Ayni.” To accomplish Ayni (pronounced “eye-knee”) within the “natural world” is paramount within the Andean culture and everyday life. Ayni is the exchange of energy that creates sacred reciprocity and interchange. It is balance and equilibrium amongst all of life, including people, animals, and nature and the cosmos.
Ayni is a Quechua word, Quechua being the original language of the ancestors of the lands. The everyday ritual and concept of Ayni states “today for me, tomorrow for you.” This ritual practice of reciprocity continues to be ingrained generation after generation, passed down within the family and community, informing their fabric of life. Ayni creates daily harmonious living, for everyone offers and receives, always mindful of creating & maintaining balance.
The reverent importance of creating Ayni within the natural world is maintained through the continued traditional rituals and ceremonial observances of Andean culture. Prayers, gratitude, and rituals gifted to Pachamama, the Earth Mother, and the venerated mountain spirits – the Apus – are a common occurrence in Andean daily life. Just a few examples of common ceremonial practices include the despacho, and coca leaf rituals.
Ayni Through Ancient, Sacred Rituals Practices
Prayer bundles known as “despachos” are ritually assembled in a sacred ceremonial setting, then burned or buried in the Earth Mother, from which all life is birthed. Despachos specifically honor the natural world, cycles and seasons, and Pachamama’s lifeforms. Each ritual ingredient symbolizes a part of the whole in the fabric of their lives, including grains, livestock, home life, the ancestors, the elements of nature, sun, stars, galaxies, clouds, and rainbows in the sky. Births, marriages, new homes, jobs, pilgrimages, and death, passing of the calendar year of traditional festivities, moon cycles, solstices and equinoxes, as well as planting and harvesting times are just some of the despachos gifted in ayni – in sacred reciprocity.
Another powerful common practice is the ritual offerings of the sacred “coca leaves.” Coca has been a staple in the Andean world since people can remember. It sustains the body in high altitude, is full of alkaloids, vitamins, and minerals, and was ritualistically used in ceremonial practices by the high Incan priests. Prayers are blown into the leaves, usually in a grouping of 3 referred to as a kintu, representing the cosmology of the 3 worlds of our existence: The inner world, the waking world of life, and the upper world of spirit.
Traditionally this has been done forever. The spirits “recognize” the sacred act of the coca leaf offered ritualistically at sacred sites for the ancestors and Pachamama, the sun god Inti, and given to the Apus, to offer gratitude for their tutelary guardianship and connection to the spirit world. Coca leaf ceremonies and divination are common practices in the Andean life, asking the spirits that the offering maintain harmony within the family and community, good health, a generous harvest. Life in this way is animated, in each moment connected to nature, not separate.
Building Upon Tradition to Create Ayni Today
Here in the modern world we strive, sometimes so desperately that we miss the point, to connect with our spiritual nature, with harmonious balance, and everyday joy and celebration. In fact, it is gratitude for each moment, each aspect of life, including celebrations and challenges, creates Ayni.
As we approach Autumn of the yearly cycle here in the northern hemisphere (the Fall Equinox is on Wednesday, September 23), with our harvesting of crops and the “seeds” of life (in all ways) that we planted in the spring, remember to offer daily gratitude and approach the concept of Ayni to maintain balance and reverence for your life, family and community. Pachamama naturally aligns us with our universe and cosmic balance in each Equinox as we experience nature offering the balance of night and day, the Stars and Moon, and the Sun. A perfect gift of Ayni from our cosmic origins in the heavens!
In each moment, in each breath, in each thought,and in each action, create Ayni in in your own sacred ceremonial way. Take a walk in nature in your neighborhood and bless each breath from the plant life around you, the sun & clouds in the sky, the chirping of bird songs and each sound of nature, the sight of each gift of Pachamama’s creatures, down to the tiniest ant or worm, flower and insect. All are creations from our Earth Mother and maintain nature’s balance.
Why wait for Thanksgiving to give thanks, why wait for the Fall Harvest, when you can ceremoniously offer your ayni every day of the year! Here in the Americas, a small offering of tobacco or cornmeal is a “gift” for the ancestors of this land, recognized ritually from our original people that lived in harmony and in Ayni upon Pachamama’s belly. Why not create your own ritual of Ayni, by doing a shamanic journey and asking the land that you live on and near how it desires to maintain reciprocal relationship? Is it a prayer, a song, a greeting to the elements, a contribution to alleviating environmental concerns in your community?
In that journey also ask what is out of balance for your personal life and make adjustments to nourish and balance what you are shown. In my Shamanic Wisdom Series, I teach shamanic journeying, and “listening” and journeying with the lands in your community. From my personal experience, this brought the blessings of a stone cairn or apacheta to the Center for Human Development in Hollywood, Florida! This is now a permanent ritual placement on Pachamama’s belly for the community at large. You can read more about it here. These practices of ritual and ceremony can and will have a profound effect on your life, and create happiness and harmony in your life in many ways.
Blessings of AYNI and on your Fall Equinox Ceremonies!!
“Walk softly on Pachamama and Be Her PRAYER.” ~ mona rain
~~~ Would you like more information on Ayni? Bonnie Glass-Coffin Ph.D., co-author of Lessons in Courage – Peruvian Shamanic Wisdom for Everyday Life, with don Oscar Miro-Quesada, talks about her lessons in Ayni here. ~~~