Apus, Pachamama, and Healing

A soft rain is falling. Although we have had rain every other day, the soil and plants are dry. Today has been oppressively humid, and we have accomplished little. We did have a lovely siesta in the afternoon, when the heat and humidity were at their most oppressive. As the rain falls, Pachamama seems to breathe a sigh of relief, opening herself to the cool and wet.

Pachamama, Mother Earth, has many faces and innumerable moods. She is one being with a multitude of clothing styles. Her peoples learn to appreciate the wardrobes she wears for them. I have walked her rain forests and deserts, her plains and mountains. She is, of course, all of these and more. She is our rivers, lakes and oceans. Her presence is everywhere, yet she is not the only presence. Each ecosystem, mountain, and stream seems to have an innate consciousness and intelligence. These spirits often reach out to us. These Apu and spirits are eager, engaged teachers, if only we ask for their aid. They also have high expectations for us.

Some Andean shamans ave the term “Apu” for the spirits of high mountains. Others use Apu to refer to any powerful spirit presenting as a major geological feature or process. Still others refer to these spirits as Pachamamas. The soft rain is such a spirit. So are the hard winter rain, the thunderstorm, and the blizzard. Or rather, within each is a great being. Once, when I was just beginning to work with the spirits, the Spirit of snowstorms reached out to me in a dream. In the dream there was a great snow. I awoke knowing the snow would come in two days, Christmas Morning. Christmas Eve came and I attended Midnight Mass. The cathedral was abuzz with spirits, more than I had ever felt or seen in one place before. The mood was joyous! The forecast was for an inch or two of snow by morning, but as I left the church there was nary a flake in sight. I awoke once or twice to look out the window, to search for the promised snow. There was nothing.

I planned to have brunch with friends on Christmas morning. I awoke to deep, deep snow, and snow continued to fall late into the morning. Roads were impassable. I stayed home, elated and disappointed. The Spirit of snow had kept the promise, and, as a result, I had been unable to celebrate the holiday with friends.

The rain has lessened, and there is a hint of clearing to the west. We may need to water the gardens tomorrow, as the rain was too brief to bring the soaking the plants need. Being midsummer, the sun dries the earth quickly, and even frequent brief showers are not enough to protect the plants from thirst.

Like a protracted gentle rain, contact with the Apu is a deep drink for the soul. Time with Pachamama and the Apu refreshes and heals, allowing us to anchor ourselves firmly in the natural world. It reminds us we are never truly alone, and our actions always impact others. Contact with the spirits encourages us be compassionate and thoughtful, and to be grateful for our lives. No wonder fostering connection with the Apu, Pachamama, and the Creator is understood to be a profoundly healing therapy in many First Nations cultures.

Do you have stories to share of healing contact with these beings?

P.S. There are many websites where you can read more about  the traditional Andean understanding of Apu, including: Planeterra and Labyrnthina.  These sites provide striking photos along with thoughtful text.

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