Andean Full Moon Ceremony on Sacred Ground

On the 24th of October, the Alma Amor staff and guests participated in an Andean full moon ceremony led by our ceremonial expert Christian. It led us to reflect on the power of gratitude, prayer and blessing, and taught us about the magic of a ceremonial fire.

 Mamma Killa, “mother moon”, the Moon Goddess in Inca mythology.

Mamma Killa, “mother moon”, the Moon Goddess in Inca mythology.

Celebrating the movements of the celestial bodies through the sky is maybe the oldest and most universal way to mark the passage of time, the changing of the seasons and give meaning to our life journeys on this earth. No wonder the Andean cultures that we are surrounded by here in Ollantaytambo and that inhabited this valley for thousands of years before us, have ceremonies to celebrate them. The Inca spiritual tradition provides a wealth of symbolism and ceremonies involving the sun (Inti), the moon (Killa), the earth (Pachamama) and the four elements. The moon, as in many traditions, represents the intuitive, mystical female energy that speaks to our subconscious and rules our emotions.

A moon cycle represents a cycle of energy and activity. Just as nature reacts to the pull of the moon, so do we. The moon rules an energy cycle for us too that we can put to our advantage if we tune into it. The waxing moon is a time of fresh inspiration and energy, of building up new things and starting out with new ideas. These new energies and ideas come to a culmination point at full moon when energies are high and breakthroughs or big leaps are experienced. When the moon is waning, results in these areas of your life should become visible and the time comes to close some projects or let ideas, activities, relationships, or emotions, go. New moon is a moment of rest and introspection before the new cycle starts.

The high and vibrant energy of the full moon can be used to recharge ourselves and give an extra push to the things in our lives we would like to cultivate. But also, because this energy is so powerful, it can be used to accelerate a transformation you would like to happen in your life. By giving up old patterns, habits, ideas or themes in your life and meditating on what you want to replace them with, you can use the night of the full moon to put this process in motion and make a commitment to the change you want to see. Confirming for yourself what you want to change and actually committing to it, to doing what it takes, can make all the difference in the world and the full moon is the perfect moment to do it.

So here in Ollantaytambo we gathered with likeminded people during the full moon in October to experience an Andean full moon ceremony and go on an innner journey release what no longer served us in our personal lives. We set out from Alma Amor to the land of our guide and ceremony leader Christian, who had prepared a beautiful fireplace and ceremonial space for us. I for one was already taken in and intrigued by the fact that we were sitting on an original Inca terrace; an ancient stone wall on one side and a beautiful view of the Sacred Valley on the other. We were welcomed with tea and were invited to write down what we were going to release on a piece of paper.

 Fire is a sacred element in Andean tradition. You can understand why when you feel the transformational power of trusting a paper with something you want to release, to the fire and watching it go up in smoke.

Fire is a sacred element in Andean tradition. You can understand why when you feel the transformational power of trusting a paper with something you want to release, to the fire and watching it go up in smoke.

Next we sat down around the fireplace and each took a piece of wood as our contribution to the fire we were going to make. In the Andean tradition fire is a very sacred power and starting a ceremonial fire takes a moment of prayer and blessing, as well as putting your intention and energy into the wood you are going to burn. Each of us contributed by charging his own piece of wood with his personal intention and adding it to the fire. Christian said a prayer thanking the fire, thanking the moon and the sun and the universe, and asking them all to receive what we wanted to release and to accept our prayers for a good new moon cycle.

Andean rituals seem to be abundant with prayers and ways of giving thanks. Not only do people say thanks for what they received and ask for new or more things (which is maybe the most basic form of prayer as we know it in many traditions) , but they say thanks for what they are going to wish for, as if it was already received. This invoked a feeling of wonder in me. I would say with this people show their trust in the universe. They show their faith in the power of prayer and their faith in whom they pray to. I think this doesn’t necessarily mean people expect that their prayers will come true to the letter, but that they have so much trust in universe that they say thanks for whatever will come, without having to know first what it is. It shows a level of surrender to what is and what will be, that is totally alien to many of us Westerners who are used to resisting and changing our reality to fit our wishes.

Next we gave our pieces of paper with what we wanted to release, to the fire one by one. For me it felt like a genuine moment of letting go; the fire absorbs and transforms what you give to it and releases its energy back into the cosmos. It is an act of purification. While we individually meditated on what this release meant for us and what we want to cultivate instead for the month to come, Christian started to prepare an offering that we were going to burn. The first part of this elaborate ritual was that we each took three coca leaves and put them together in a certain way; this is called a Kintu. We each brought our Kintu to Christian with our individual intention. He put all of it on a piece of wrapping paper and next started to prepare the offering.

 Our fire and the offering.

Our fire and the offering.

This is a very elaborate and delicate process, because the offering is made up of small amounts of at least forty different kinds of grains, seeds, nuts, flour, cookies, candy, money, and other things that represent parts of our lives and things we are thankful for. We watched as he put these things together one by one and explained to us what they meant. It struck me how meaningful it is to pay attention to each and every part of your (daily) life in this way. The smallest things, the most insignificant little parts of human existence, were all represented and symbolically given back to the universe in a humble gesture of gratitude. When everything was wrapped together in the paper, all of us together charged the offering with our positive energy and our gratitude.

Before the offering was burned in the fire, we all received a blessing from it. Christian pushed it against our chests and thus recharged our hearts with the energy of this beautiful metaphor of all that is good and valuable in our lives. It was a powerful act of blessing and sharing, a sacrament coming not from a divine source, but from our own gratitude. Next we burned the offering on the fire and closed the ceremony by standing in a circle and listening to the vibrations of the ceremonial drum that Christian circled us with.

This full moon experience was a powerful first encounter for me with the traditional Andean ceremonies as they are still performed today. What stands out when looking back is that it is the universal themes of gratitude, trust, letting go and recharging, and the passage of time that are at the core of a ceremony like this. It is only the words and the acts that differ in each tradition, but the things that are commemorated and celebrated are similar all over the world. This ceremony showed us how these themes are represented and depicted here in the Sacred Valley. It is the Andean way of celebrating and commemorating our connection with the universe, a connection that we all nourish and celebrate in some way, some time.

Interested in our full moon ceremony after this story? Join us for the next full moon on Friday the 23rd of November! You can find more information on our Classes & Events page.