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Side by Side
I love how life works sometimes. For the past week I have been thinking about a new writing project: exploring the Sacred Feminine within the Andean spiritual tradition of Peru. Yesterday I began writing. My first daft was stilted and a bit angry.
Then Shauna and friends who are staying here at my Paz y Luz Center, decided to make a ceremonial fire and invited me to join them. Shauna has worked with Native American Indian healers and has a new peace pipe she wanted to inaugurate.
During the fire meditation I was thinking more about what I want to birth, in this new project of mine. The log-cabin stack of 20 logs or so had burned down to coals as we passed the pipe and engaged the fire. I put a large split log face down on the hot coals to keep the fire going. Despite its size, I knew it would catch and it did. After some time I felt the urge to turn it on its side. Sure enough the flame got bigger and brighter. The message from the fire was “turn something on its side and it provides more light and warmth.”
This is what I want to do with the Andean spiritual tradition – expose the underside, the feminine side, to provide more light and warmth. Turn it on its side so both the feminine and the masculine are visible, partnered, bright – side by side, equal and different.
This shift began in 2006 with the inauguration of the Peace and Light Center and our first Interspiritual Gathering. It was the birth of something new, a turn in the road on the Andean spiritual path, a turn toward the Sacred Feminine. Like all newborns, it took a while to develop. 2007 was the separation phase, claiming its own identity separate from mom and dad – or in this case, dad and dad.
My journey on this spiritual path began when I came to Peru in 1998, to attend a gathering of shamans in Cusco’s Sacred Valley. There I met two Andean Masters, Kamaq Wageaq, (Regis) and Hatun Runa (Sergio) who changed the course of my life. I moved to Peru in June of 2000 to manifest a vision that Regis shared with me a year before, of a multi-faith spirituality center.
Regis, Sergio and I have done many workshops together in these past nine years, sharing with hundreds of people on four continents the simple yet powerful spiritual tradition from ancient masters of the Andes. I received five levels of initiation from them and learned many life-transforming things from their teachings. They are wise and powerful masters and I am very grateful for all they taught me.
Despite their vast knowledge of the tradition, this new path I have chosen is something they can’t teach me because they don’t know it themselves. The Sacred Feminine within the Andean spiritual tradition has been underplayed, sometimes buried or hidden for many years by hierarchy and masculine power models that tend to be vertical rather than circular, patriarchal rather than mutually empowering.
My sense however is the Andean spiritual tradition itself embodies the Sacred Feminine and was simply overlaid with vertical priestly levels and some dogmatic beliefs diminishing the power of the feminine. This tradition pre-dates the Spanish Conquest and Catholic missionaries in the Americas. But its practice today is consciously and unconsciously mixed with the dominant Catholic culture.
Therefore, it is not surprising that Andean women “priests” are fewer in number than their male counterparts. My teachers learned from male masters who taught them, for example, that women could be initiated in the tradition but could not initiate others. Only men, according to them, can pass the energy transmissions.
I learned recently that Q’ero Indian women “priests” living today in the high Andes, do transmit the energy “karpays” to others. When I mentioned this to Regis, he responded by saying that the Q’ero communities are only one small part of the tradition.
“The Sacred Andean Tradition is a compilation of teachings and practices from communities all over the Andes from Ecuador to Patagonia”, Regis said. I am sure that is true since the tradition is mostly oral, passed down from master to apprentice for thousands of years.
So my question became, who compiled these teachings and practices? What makes certain community’s practices a valid part of the tradition and other’s not? Who eliminated women from passing the karpays (energy transmissions) and when? Who codified the hierarchy and priestly “levels”? How do these things serve us in our connection with the elements of nature and the divine creator?
The Inka prophecies talk about 2012 and the taripaypacha, which is the new golden age of peace, harmony, balance and unity. This time is very close at hand. In fact, things are already shifting. In a speech that Hatun Runa gave at the conference where we met in 1998. He spoke about these changes saying, “In this third millennium, love will transcend everything. … Yin and yang, heaven and earth energies will be balanced. Women will have a privileged role. They will be able to develop all their capabilities. They will be like the chalice, containing all wisdom, from which we can all drink.”
My interest is not in debating the validity of the certain practices over others in this tradition but rather to discover and reclaim for all of us – male and female alike – the power of the Sacred Feminine within this spiritual path. Perhaps by doing so, it will enable us to enter the taripaypacha with more light and warmth, side by side with one another, drinking from the same cup.
About the author:
Diane Dunn is a healer and master in the Andean spiritual tradition. After a career in theatre, she attended Union Theological Seminary in New York City graduating with a Masters of Divinity degree. In the 1990s she worked in South Africa just after the liberation of Nelson Mandela developing a church-based community outreach program for homeless and unemployed people in downtown Johannesburg. In 2000 she moved to Peru where she built and runs Paz y Luz (Peace and Light) Healing Center and B&B in Cusco’s Sacred Valley. She also organizes workshops and mystical tours of the Inka sites.