The Power of Despacho Ceremonies

Gabrielle Lucci

The Q’ero, a Quechua-speaking indigenous people of south central Peru, believe that everything in nature is animate and in the concept of ayni, or reciprocity.  Andeans practice this principle within their communities, as well as in their interaction with the energies of nature.  The two major energies of the natural realm are the Apus, the spirits of the mountains, and Pachamama, the spirit of the Earth.  The Q’ero call upon the Apus for guidance and assistance, and rely upon the Pachamama for sustenance and livelihood.  One of the ways the Q’ero reciprocate the generosity and guidance given them by a nature spirit is through a despacho ceremony, a perfect expression of ayni.

Despacho bundles, or kits, contain all the ingredients one needs for creating this prayer offering -sacred items-wrapped in small pieces of paper including candy, cookies, seeds, stones, plant material, llama fat, tiny squares of metallic paper, starfish arms, metal charms, and more.  The bundles are prepared for both general and specific purposes, such as attracting love or prosperity or for healing.We can make our own despachos, or prayer bundles by substituting similar items from our own culture. Simply choose items that hold special significance for oneself.

What You Need

Select items that represent your intention for the despacho.  For example, include photographs or representations of people you maybe praying or setting intentions for, a bit of soil from a place that is special to you, or a sprig of rosemary because it holds personal symbolic meaning.  Include herbs, flowers, and other items related to the purpose of your despacho. Select a piece of paper sized to accommodate your despacho.  You can also make a tiny despacho that can be carried in your pocket, enclosed in a card to a friend, or released to the wind on a mountaintop.

Creating Sacred Space

Light a candle, smudge the area, or say a prayer.  Prepare yourself mentally to be completely present and intent on what you are doing and why.

Assembling the Despacho

Place a sheet of paper in the center of your work area.  You may want to write your wishes or prayers on a piece of paper that you place in the despacho.  You may also want to use images that embody the intent of your despacho. Make it beautiful—Andean despachos are natural works of art.  Allow yourself to be creative.  Use handmade or printed papers, powdered incense, or flower petals. Arrange the items in an aesthetically pleasing pattern. You can also lightly sprinkle the despacho with wine, perfume, or another liquid that is meaningful to you.

Completing the Despacho

When you are finished, wrap the paper around the contents and then tie the package with string or yarn, colorful thread or a band made form a thin strip of paper. Add a sprig of sage, feather, or other item to the outside of the despacho bundle. You might want to seal the despacho with sealing wax and a seal related to your intention.
Releasing the Despacho

Once you have completed your despacho, decide how you want to release it. Does it feel right to burn it, bury it, let the wind carry it (if it is very small), or the water take it? Choose what feels right for the intent of your despacho. Placing it in the earth can represent gestation, releasing it to the water can be purifying, and burning it can be transforming. Whatever method you choose, always be conscious of the environment and safety. Finally, release your expectations about how your prayer or intention might be answered. The universe works in mysterious ways and rarely do things happen in the exact way that we envision.

Q’ero performing ritural cleansing with despacho (left). Q’ero preparing to burn the despacho (right) on Apu Ausangate.


Adapted from Sacred Rituals: Connecting with Spirit through Labyrinths, Sand Paintings & Other Traditional Arts by Eileen London & Belinda Recio appearing on  

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Gabrielle Lucci - Blog Post Author

Gabrielle Lucci

Gabrielle – Long-time student of Native American and Peruvian Shamanism, and Seeker on the Path. Gabrielle has worked at Shamans Market for many years with intimate knowledge of our products in her role as product listing specialist, writer, photographer, and major contributor to the Shamans Market newsletter. She is an avid nature and animal lover and a proud companion of a Peach-faced Lovebird.