To Explore: Offerings to the Earth

This week, two ideas for connecting with the earth more deeply—the first a simple tobacco offering, the second a more complex despacho:

Make a Tobacco Offering

time to do this: about 30 minutes

In the indigenous traditions of the New World, tobacco is renowned as a sacred plant that grounds, protects, and connects. Tobacco absorbs prayers, then carries them up to Creator with its smoke. To make an offering, you can use natural additive-free tobacco, or the potent Amazonian tobacco known as mapacho. You may have encountered mapacho in your ayahuasca work in South America—it's said that the plant spirits really love its energy.

Find a plant, rock, or place you wish to develop a relationship with (trees are excellent). It can be in your garden, a nearby park, or a forest, meadow, or river you visit.

To connect with your place, sit in meditation for a few minutes, breathing in a full and relaxed way and grounding down into the earth. Now, take a pinch of tobacco between your first three fingers. Make a brief prayer (it can be personal, or for the benefit of Nature/the world), and let the tobacco drop to the ground. You can also scratch a small hole into the earth and bury it, or place it beneath a stone. Consciously offer the tobacco as a sacred substance that directly connects you to the spirit realm, and the earth.

Here’s another good practice to cultivate: If you take something from Nature (a flower, a feather, a stone), ask permission first, and leave a pinch of tobacco with prayers for the protection of that particular realm or element.

Do a Despacho Offering

time to do this: 1 hour+

Make a full-on despacho, a sacred offering to the earth made by the Quechua people of the Andes. This ritual creates balance and harmony, helping you enter into conscious relationship with the earth and all the elements. It’s a beautiful way to consciously connect with Pachamama, the feminine spirit of the earth.

1. Clarify your intention for the despacho: it can be to express gratitude to Pachamama or a particular location you wish to bless, to create harmony and balance, to make a new beginning, or to ask for mental or physical healing.

2. Gather together the ingredients you’ll use, starting with a large sheet of paper (white paper, the inside of wrapping paper, or a cut-open paper bag all work). There are many possibilities for offerings: herbs, sugar, rice, grains, corn/cornmeal, tobacco, coffee, dried fruit, flower petals/blossoms (especially red and white), seeds, colorful small sweets, chocolate/cacao, incense, sage, leaves, nuts, coca leaves, crystals, minerals, red/white wine, confetti, sprinkles, coins. See what you have on hand, and choose what makes your heart sing. If you’re not burning the despacho, be sure all items are biodegradable.

3. Open a sacred space, using prayer, smudge/incense, music and invocation. If you happen to have coca leaves, blow your intention into groups of 3 leaves (kintus), and arrange these at the base.

3. Offer the ingredients one at a time, using breath and intention to consecrate each, and layering them in a pleasing pattern, creating a beautiful mandala.

4. When you’ve completed the offerings, sit with open palms and closed eyes for a few minutes, meditating and generating gratitude and thanks towards the earth, and expressing any request you may have.

5. Fold the corners of the paper in towards the center to make a neat square packet. Tie it together with ribbon or string.

6. Offer your despacho with more prayers, by burning it. If the items are biodegradable, you can also bury it or disperse it in flowing water. You can also dispense with the paper, build your offering directly on the ground and leave it in nature (again, make sure everything will decompose naturally.)

More on the practice of despachos:

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