One of the more beautiful acts of Andean shamans is the preparation and offering of a despacho or ahaywarisqa. These offerings demonstrate the reciprocity (ayni) and maintain harmony between the spirits and those of us who dwell in Kay Pacha, "this earth". They help align personal energies with the cosmic ones.
The word despacho literally means "dispatch or shipment" in Spanish and is a word that has been borrowed by Quechua speakers. In the Andean traditions of Peru, a despacho is a ceremonial offering to Pachamama, or Mother Earth, and the Apu, the Spirits of the Mountains. A despacho is a focused and formal way to "dispatch" or "ship" your intentions or prayers off to Spirit.
Despacho ceremonies can be performed for something as grand and noble as world peace, to something as down to earth as offering thanks for a bountiful harvest, to something as personal as relief from arthritis pain. A despacho can be narrowly focused on one intention, or could be performed simultaneously for world peace, thankfulness for a good harvest, and pain relief. Despachos can also be performed for one person, a group of people, a village or city, or the world as a whole.
A shaman, to prepare a despacho, gathers a variety of symbolic offerings such as wine, sugar, incense, gold and silver threads, red and white flower petals, grains, seeds, shells, and candies. The items are selected both to be pleasing to the Spirits and also to represent the intention of the participants in the despacho. The items are carefully arranged on a large sheet of paper with great care and intention. In essence, the items form a three-dimensional mandala. Prayers are blown into small bundles of leaves called kintu (branch of flowers) and added to the offering as well.
Once completed the bundle is folded closed and tied up. Then the shaman will run the whole bundle over the bodies of the participants to draw out any heavy energy (hucha) that they may have. Once this has been done the whole bundle is ceremonially burned, much like incense is burned in some traditions to take prayers to heaven. At this stage the participants turn their backs on the fire to allow the spirits to "eat" the offering in peace.
The smoke of the offering takes prayers and intentions to Pachamama and to the apus. Heavy energy is turned to ash in this process and is consumed by Pachamama, who turns the hucha in to compost thus making the ground more fertile for new endeavors.
I'm Dr. Dave, an eclectic shaman. I lived and worked in Bolivia and Peru for over six years, where I and was trained by Andean Shamans, and today practice eclectic shamanism.