Peru: Celebrating a Traditional Shamanic Wedding
While visiting Peru I got to film a traditional shamanic wedding in the mountains of Cusco. This was one of the most interesting and beautiful experiences that I’ve witnessed.
The young couple had already been married in Cusco, but they were also having a traditional shamanic ceremony in order to get more good fortune in their marriage. Essentially, this was like a second wedding for them. I felt very lucky to be hired for this and to get to be part of such a beautiful ceremony.
The ceremony was lead by a Peruvian Shaman with his group surrounding him and playing music. They started the ceremony by playing music and singing. Most of the ceremony is done in the Quechua language, which is the language of the Incas that originated in the Andes region.
Ancestors of the area used to worship some of the surrounding mountains as gods and bring offerings to them in order to get good fortune in their lives. The mountains that are considered gods are called Apus.
Considered one of the holy protectors, Pachamama -which means mother earth in Spanish- is the most important god. People have been coming for hundreds of years to these holy places in order to pray and make offerings to Pachamama as well as the Apu gods.
As the group was playing flute and tam tams, everyone sat around as the shaman started the ceremony. They placed food offerings on a plate which included a lot of herbs, cookies and candies positioned in the form of a heart. They blessed every offering with prayers.
At some point during his ceremony, the shaman blessed coca leaves.
The coca leaves represent the dimensions of mother nature as well as the three protector spirits; the condor, the puma and the snake. When prayers are made in sacred places, they always use three coca leaves that are usually left under a rock after a few prayers.
Once the offering is ready, it is wrapped together in paper and a scarf to be offered to the Salkantay mountain, the highest mountain top of the Andes standing at 6271 meters, also considered one of the gods or Apus.
The shaman goes to each person around and blesses the offering. He recites prayers as he takes the offering on your head, your chest and then ask you to blow on it three times.
He recited long prayers for the groom and bride and then did the same process for everyone surrounding the ceremony.
After the prayers, a fire is lit.
Then, they burn the offering. If the fire takes and the offering burns, it means that pachamama has accepted the offering and that she bestows good luck upon the newlyweds in their marriage.
After building a fire and blessing the offering, the shaman started to burn the package. It was raining so I was afraid it wouldn’t burn that easily but they poured gas on it to make sure it would burn well.
We sat looking at the offerings burning and then, as it was burning, each person went one by one over the fire. We would take a sip of wine while also dropping a little on the ground for pachamama.
By the time everyone had taken a sip from the wine, the fire was burning strong.
The shaman and his group started playing music and celebrating. Everyone stood up and started dancing around the fire while sharing a drink in order to warm up.
There was a light rain and the weather was getting colder and colder, but the shaman and his assistants kept on playing music. Dancing to the sound of flutes and tam tams, we drank around the fire until it was completely burnt.
Pachamama and the Apus had accepted the offering and given their blessing.
Despite the cold, the groom kept on dancing with his beautiful bride.
Many of the pictures in this article were taken by my friend Gedeon Richard. All pictures were edited by me.