To the Q’ero, death is natural Rite of Passage: Pachamama receives the body and through ceremonial propitiation and prayer she releases the spirit to the Hanaq Pacha.
Don Mariano explains: “When we lose a loved one, whether a family member, a close friend or a member of our community we understand it is a part of nature, yet it is a sad time for us”.
Understanding that at death the physical body is no longer, the Q’ero send the energy of the loved one to the earth and their spirit to the Hanaq Pacha. In their tradition, they bury the person within two days of passing although it could be longer if need be so relatives can be reached to be invited to the funeral. This assures that there are no misunderstandings that may require exhumation of the body as that would create anger and confusion which in turn would release hucha (negative energy) to the community.
The Q’ero community at large supports mourners at the funeral but only close family members console the family in private. The immediate family spends eight days in mourning and in that time they don’t perform any work like weaving or tending to the land. After the eighth day the family gets permission from Pachamama to do a special despacho ceremony to petition the release the spirit of the deceased to the heavens.
The despacho ceremony is a marker of sorts and the mourners resume their daily work and activities with the understanding and acceptance that death is part of nature and life. Yet, they do remain sad pretty much like all of us but they don’t continue talking about it.
Don Mariano and Mama Rosa have not been immune to loss and sadness. In their life they suffered six miscarriages. In a small community where every person is integral and important to their survival a miscarriage represents the loss of promise of life. Don Mariano remembers their losses and yet he and Mama Rosa are grateful for their beloved son Santiago who survived and for the four grandchildren and the many great-grandchildren they have.
Every year they remember their loved ones by celebrating All Souls Day with a despacho ceremony in their honor.
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