Mothers come in many forms, whether they are birth or adoptive mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and those motherly figures that have supported and nurtured us as we have grown up…And every year on Mothering Sunday, we come together to celebrate them.
Although Mother’s Day has largely become a capitalistic holiday that has survived through greeting cards and department stores with mother’s day deals, one mother, in particular, has been overlooked…Pachamama!
For hundreds of years rituals and holidays celebrating mother’s and fertility have existed around the world. During the Inca Empire (which was situated around South America) the Inca people worshiped a mythological goddess, known in the Quechua language as Pachamama, which is quite literally translated into ‘World Mother’.
In ancient cultures and civilisations, the many translations of ‘World Mother’ or ‘Mother Earth’ have been central to their culture, with the worshiping of Gaia (Greece), Magna Matter (Anatolia – Modern Turkey), Tellus (Rome), and Pachamama, being present across the globe.
The Inca people worshiped and held Pachamama at the core of their cosmology, claiming that the goddess was the prime origin of the four cosmological principles:
Drawings and paintings dating back hundreds of years depict Pachamama as an entanglement of the mountains, rivers, trees, and plants. However, when people become greedy, Pachamama takes the form of a dragon beneath the mountains, causing them to shake, reminding the people not to take too much from her as her resources are limited.
Much like our own mothers, who provide us with everything that we have and nurture us as we grow, everything we consume from food, water, and raw materials comes from Mother Earth. We often overlook how our existence can negatively affect the Earth, as we have dug deep mines to extract precious minerals and metals, torn apart pristine ecosystems for oil extraction, and deforested millions of acres of land for economic development.
In order to receive, one needed to give back! Ayni is a Quechua and Aymara word that refers to the concept of reciprocity and mutualism, and it is considered the most important of the five core principles of Andean life:
- munay (to love)
- yachay (to learn, know, remember)
- llan’kay (to work)
- kawsay (life)
- ayni (reciprocity)
As a result, the Inca people worshiped Pachamama through sacrifices and offerings of llamas, coca leaves, and the burning of elaborate miniature garments in hopes of protection and a great harvest season.
And despite the attempts of the Spanish colonists, who wished to eradicate these traditional indigenous beliefs, there remains a solid connection to Pachamama and a heavy intertwining of ancient principles into the culture of the indigenous peoples of the Andean region.
For example, Pachamama continues to be celebrated with offerings of coca leaves, huayruro seeds, and chicha throughout the year.
Celebrations are particularly plentiful during August (due to it being the coldest month and right before the snow season) as it is thought that this is the month where the Earth is open, and offerings are given to Pachamama in hopes of good health, wealth, and to find love. Offerings are done with families, friends, or with the help of traditional healers through a mesa, a table of offerings that is then burned and placed in the Earth so that Pachamama can receive it.
“The Earth does not belong to us, but we belong to it, because we are her sons and daughters. Who owns the land? Pachamama is our mother and in this home we live as humans, animals and plants.”
–René Machaca, a local primary teacher living in the Argentine Andes
We celebrate Pachamama to remind us of our collective responsibility to respect and promote harmony with nature. This year, let us honour and appreciate our mothers by helping the Earth that sustains us and everything we love about our mothers.