When I was in Peru, I was in a pensive mood. After Machu Picchu, the Nacza Lines, and a go at bungee jumping, I was almost restless. A cacao shop in Cusco offered up great hot chocolate and cake, and I started to be a frequent customer. A lot of the talk was in anger against the USA’s policy on the cocoa leaf. Perhaps that is why a flier for having a cocoa leaf reading caught my eye. The shop referenced in the flier was on a second floor and offered a varied menu. I selected a reading and a spiritual cleansing. The latter involved renting a car and a chauffeur, and I opted for a translator too. I was to return the next day to begin at 9:00 a.m.
I arrived on time and waited for someone else to show up too as the door was locked. Slowly, everything started to come alive and my translator showed up. She explained we were awaiting a priest who would read my leaves. A disheveled man in his 30s wearing a poncho arrived. He seemed so relaxed. In return, I tried hart to disengage from my irritation with all the delay. He spoke some English so the translator left us. We both sat on the floor. He took cocoa leaves out of his pouch and put them in different patterns on the floor. His pouch was made of what I understood to be the fetal pouch of a goat that had been turned inside out and it looked very soft. He would spill out some leaves and then take those in certain positions to make a diagram using the leaves in the order which seemed to correspond to where they fell. So he would put some in a line and then he would put some in a circle; after each set was placed, he would suggest what it meant for me. What I gathered is the cocoa leaf consultation was to provide you with an individualized but general diagnosis. That was interesting.
After that, the translator escorted me to a sedan where a driver was already behind the wheel. She explained the cleansing ceremony would be done in the mountains near a river. We drove on. After about 30 minutes, we stopped and all disembarked. The overlook onto the wide mountains was magnificent and so much took my attention that I didn’t at first notice there was a person standing at the side of the road. I was introduced to an elderly, wizened man wearing a poncho and carrying a sack. He was the priest who would perform the spiritual cleansing. He seemed ever so calm. We returned to the car and continued for another 30 minutes until we reached what seemed to be a retreat house. The cook greeted us. I was given a tour and then a bed to rest after the journey from town. In a bit, the translator told me all was ready for the cleansing, and I followed her outside.
A ways from the house, the priest was waiting. Once I arrived, he busied himself making a clearing. I got to use (sounds like alley-ah-men-tay or “may I help you?”) one of my few phrases in the local Quechuan language). He faintly smiled and slightly shook his head no. Then we sat facing each other, and he started taking things out of his sack and placing them on a clothe, all the while reciting. (The translator said she couldn’t translate those words as they were sacred! But it was my idea to have a translator, and I appreciated having another female along for that long car journey.) After some time, a great assortment of beans and shells and whatnot were heaped in a pile. Then he folded the clothe around it. I stood up and firmly stomped on the pile 3 times, emphatically casting out my negative thoughts and fears. The priest then burned the smashed pile and picked up the ashes and left. The translator explained he was taking the ashes to the river below to let them flow freely away. When he returned, there was a similar process, but this time, the goal was to offer up thanks to Mother Earth.
Before leaving the mountains, we all joined the cook for lunch. Upon our departure, I thought the adventure was winding down but there was more. As the priest stayed on at the “retreat house,” our car had room to take the neighborhood’s trash to the dump. The translator explained it would just sit there for weeks if we didn’t take it. So we drove to a bunch of trash cans and heaped at least a dozen bags of trash in the trunk. Then driver took us in a zig zag direction upwards to the local dump. We all emptied the car of its trash in a huge rush to escape the attacking swarms of flies. I was relieved to get away safely. As I sat in the back seat on that return to town, I recalled the day’s beginning. Perhaps the cocoa leaves said I was a person who can feel and emanate serenity if she so chooses, or maybe they just said I could use a bit more self-reflection in my life.
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